Sneak away with your sweetheart to these secret spots in the City of Love.
Paris earns its reputation as one of the most romantic cities in the world thanks to its alluring cobblestone streets, postcard-perfect views, and quintessential cafés. However, it’s hard to enjoy a romantic moment at the city’s top sites while submerged in a sea of tourists. You can escape the crowds and discover where the heart of the City of Love truly beats, at these secret and perfectly romantic places hidden around the French capital.
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Arènes de Lutèce
A hidden passageway along a row of buildings on the edge of the Latin Quarter leads you to one of the few remnants of Roman Paris. Built in the 1st-century A.D., the hybrid arena-theater could seat up to 17,000 spectators for a range of events from theatrical plays to gladiator battles. After the fall of the Roman Empire, most of the building’s blocks were gradually repurposed, with the remainder being filled over in the Middle Ages. It was rediscovered in the 1860s during the construction of the adjacent Rue Monge and saved in part thanks to the efforts of writer Victor Hugo. Now a public park, lovers can savor its peaceful setting on the terraced seating or on benches tucked away in the surrounding greenery.
Square Saint-Gilles Grand-Veneur
It’s impossible not to fall under the spell of this bewitching secret garden tucked away in the Marais. Originally the private gardens of l’Hotel du Grand-Veneur, the 17th-century private mansion provides a regal backdrop to the pretty park. Entering via the quiet Rue Hesse guarantees the surprise effect as the captivating green space instantly envelops you. Its small lawns, benches, and trellises of climbing roses create the perfect setting for romance.
Passage de l’Ancre
This equally colorful ancient passageway is a stone’s throw from the bright and busy Centre Pompidou. Nestled between Rue de Turbigo and Rue St Martin, the lane dates back to the 1630s when it hosted Paris’s first carriage rental business. It was later named Passage de l’Ancre Royale due to an anchor-shaped sign found in the laneway. The “Royale” ending of its name was guillotined during the Revolution. Lined with potted plants and a rainbow of painted facades, slip in here for a quiet lover’s break after visiting the museum or exploring around the Les Halles-Sentier neighborhood.
INSIDER TIPBefore visiting the lane, grab a takeaway café at Loustic, a hip coffee shop found down the street.
Hotel de Soubise
Dodge the crowds at Versailles by tracking down this little-visited glitzy palace, hidden in the heart of the Marais and built for one of Louis XIV’s mistresses. Commissioned in the early 1700s by the Prince and Princess of Soubise, the wow factor begins as you step into its majestic courtyard, bordered by a curvaceous colonnade. Although the building was converted into the French National Archives by Napoléon in 1808, the Prince and Princess’s apartments were fortunately saved. The interiors were redecorated in the 1730s by the Soubises’ eldest son to help woo his much younger second wife. The opulent series of rooms on the ground and first floor are decked out in gilded mirrors, crystal chandeliers, and seductive paintings of lovers from Roman mythology.
INSIDER TIPDon’t miss the secret gardens accessed via a doorway on the right side of the courtyard, where you’ll find cozy alcoves, pergolas, and romantic benches.
Garden Tearoom, Hotel des Marronniers
The Saint Germain area is synonymous with cafés; however, you can avoid the other tourists at the over-popular famous ones by finding this secret garden café instead. This romantic tearoom faces and spreads into the interior courtyard of the Hotel des Marronniers. Its traditional white iron garden tables and chairs are encircled by an array of plants, flowers, and elegant statues. As one of the most charming garden cafés in the city, it’s a well-kept secret. If lucky, you might even have it all to yourself!
A large wall near Le Bon Marché conceals this verdant hideaway. It was once the garden and vegetable patch of the Filles de la Charité convent, whose 17th-century buildings still flank one side of the park. Today, the peaceful park’s roots live on via its “pedagogical” garden, fruit trees, and long vine-draped pergola, which seems made for hand-in-hand strolls.
INSIDER TIPOn your way, pick up some treats to enjoy in the park on nearby Rue du Bac, home to some of the city’s best chocolate and pastry shops.
Escape noisy Place de la Bastille by jutting into this tranquil vine-ladened lane. Like many of the other passageways of the east end of Paris, this one was also built to house craftsmen and furniture makers. Today, those workshops have been replaced with art galleries, design studios, and L’Atelier de Torréfaction—one of Paris’s oldest coffee roasters in business since 1946. Carry on down Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, where you can still find some passageways with active furniture makers, albeit not quite as picturesque.
Cloisters of Port-Royal
A modern hospital complex near Montparnasse hides one of the most romantic secret spots in all of Paris. Constructed in 1626, the Abbey of Port Royal had a number of well-known aristocratic lodgers, including another mistress of Louis XIV, Marie Angélique de Scorailles, who was visited by the King here. You can enjoy your own couple’s cuddle on the benches in the cloisters, surrounded by roses and manicured greenery. Part of the fun is finding it; go through Cochin Hospital complex’s entrance at 123 Boulevard de Port-Royal, walk along the right side of the first building, and take the second door that will lead you into this secluded garden.
A steep set of stairs near the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont ushers you into this enchanting village, virtually unknown by most Parisians. La butte, or hill in French, earned its name from a former amusement park, Les Folies Buttes, which once spread over the area. In the mid-1920s, narrow streets with pocket-sized houses were added to its summit. Your wanderings will likely take you past its sloping vineyard, le Clos des Chaufourniers, where you’ll find a romantic bench and views towards Paris’s more famous butte, Montmartre.
INSIDER TIPAfterwards, you can stroll through the Buttes-Chaumont Park, get a drink at its Rosa Bonheur bar, or discover more charming lanes around the nearby Mouzaïa Village.
Musée de Balzac
Nestled within the former village of Passy is this magically-set house-museum dedicated to Honoré de Balzac. Fleeing his creditors, the legendary French writer hid here under a different name from 1840 to 1847. In this modest cottage, he edited sections of his opus, La Comedie Humaine, and wrote passionate letters to his various lovers. You can view some of their portraits in the secret cabinet in the kitchen, as well as Balzac’s desk and other personal artIfacts while touring the museum. You can ponder these and admire a spectacular vista of the Eiffel Tower in the museum’s garden café run by hip Rose Bakery.
The bright lights and brashness of Pigalle are easily forgotten by ducking into this verdant pedestrian street. Overlooked by the masses lining up to go to the Moulin Rouge, this alluring cul-de-sac overflows in romance and is the perfect place to steal a kiss. Smooched up, you can then grab a drink at the Bar à Bulles, a secret bar above the Moulin Rouge found atop the stairs at the beginning of the lane.
Take in the charm and views of Montmartre without the crowds packed in front of Sacré-Coeur by visiting this narrow, little-used staircase in the shadow of the Basilica. The stairs have romantic little nooks where you can stop for a cuddle, and the attractive dead-end square at the bottom also envokes romance.
Square des Grès
Situated in another former village on the outskirts of Paris, this lovely square is camouflaged behind the small houses of the Charonne District. Well worth the trek to the northeast fringes of the city, the village is dominated by the Eglise Saint-Germain de Charonne, a church dating back to the 12th-century. Strolling down Rue Saint-Blaise, the old “main street” of the village lined with cafes and shops, you’ll feel like you’re in a small French village. When you reach the Place des Grès, turn left into Rue Vitruve, and at number 57 you’ll see a little laneway that leads into the serene Square des Grès. Hidden by walls, this secret garden has vine-covered arbors, fruit trees, and cozy seating nooks where you can enjoy a serene lover’s moment.
INSIDER TIPThe square is conveniently located near Mamma Shelter Paris East, one of the city’s best rooftop bars.
Belvedere de Belleville
Take in exceptionally great views of the city and the Eiffel Tower by venturing to this plaza in the heights of the hip Belleville neighborhood. If you come during the day, you can visit the Park de Belleville, which has a number of romantic sitting areas. However, the lookout point at its summit is the real show stopper, especially at sunset.
INSIDER TIPAfter you’re done savoring the panorama, grab a table at the Moncœur Belleville, a great local bar found just behind the plaza.