Notre-Dame at sunset.
“I love Paris in the springtime/ I love Paris in the fall/ I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles/ I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles/ I love Paris every moment/ Every moment of the year/ I love Paris, why oh why do I love Paris/ Because my love is here.”
When Ella Fitzgerald wrote the lyrics to this wonderful song, which was made equally famous by Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra, she knew what she was talking about. Not only is Paris the most romantic city in the world, but it is the city that immortalized the loves of the world’s most famous couples, including Heloise and Abelard, George Sand and Frédéric Chopin, Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine, Aristotle Onassis and Maria Callas, Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky.
My favorite quartier remains the Marais, which boasts the largest number of listed historic mansions in all of France (more than 150), starting with the stunningly perfect Place des Vosges, where mansions of red brick and white tufa stone overlook one of the most charming squares in Paris. You may decide to amble over to the charming Victor Hugo Museum, where you can learn about the intriguing and productive life of the man who penned The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Les Misérables.
Take time out to explore the upper Marais around the Musée Picasso (the museum itself is closed for renovation through 2012). Stroll along the rue Vieille-du-Temple, known for its cutting-edge galleries, fashion boutiques and charming café-restaurants. I also love rue Charlot, rue de Poitou and rue de Bretagne, with its nifty vintage stores, sexy clothing boutiques and atypical accessory designers.
My second-favorite part of Paris is the left bank, which includes the Sorbonne; the city’s second-oldest church, l’Eglise St.-Germain-des-Prés; and two of the world’s most famous literary cafés—Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore.
A guided trip of the area would take you to the haunts of Hemingway and the splendid 14th-century Museum of the Middle Ages (Musée de Cluny), which claims the only extant Gallo-Roman baths left in Paris. Be sure to admire the museum’s breathtakingly beautiful Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, which illustrate the five senses as well as the art of love.
No day in Paris is complete without a romantic walk at sunset in the left bank’s Luxembourg Gardens, which were originally conceived by the Italian queen Marie de Médicis. By now, with all the walking you have done, you are probably yearning for a delicious cup of tea and a treat. It is hard to resist the mouthwatering pastries in the window of master baker Gérard Mulot on the rue de Seine, or the jewel-like chocolates of Pierre Marcolini, on the same street.
If you prefer to save your calories for dinner, you have lots of choices on both the left and right bank. You could sit at Jack Nicholson’s table at Le Grand Colbert—the bistro that became famous through the movie Something’s Gotta Give, starring Diane Keaton.
Still, my favorite restaurant in Paris remains Christian Constant’s Le Violon d’Ingres, on the left bank; his gourmet menu is one of the best values in town.
If you have time, you might want to schedule a champagne or wine and cheese tasting. My favorite wine bar in Paris is Tim Johnston’s Juvénile’s; my favorite champagne bar is Dokhan’s.
And for those of you who want to take romance to another level, be sure to admire the jewel-filled windows on the Place Vendôme, opposite the celebrated Ritz Hotel. Even if you don’t buy a thing, just for a moment you will feel the romance of Paris all the more keenly, in all its dazzling facets of light.
47, rue de Richelieu, in the 1st.
01 42 97 90 73.
Rachel Kaplan is the author of six books, including Little-Known Museums in and around Paris (Harry N. Abrams) and Best Buys to French Chic: The Savvy Shopping Guide to Paris. She is also the president of French Links Trips and France Wedding Planner.