Why is Paris the City of Love?

I am French and I became passionate about travelling when I turned 18. With each new encounter, I hear the same thing: “Oh, you come from Paris?! The city of love! …”. Why and how did we obtain this international reputation, so dear to the hearts of foreigners who come to visit us in Paris? I have visited almost all capitals of Europe, and some of them have made more of an impression on me than Paris, such as Rome, Budapest or Prague. I admit that I have always lived in Paris … but still.

Whether you are French, Parisian, foreigner, on a business trip or there by chance, Paris remains one of the city that shapes the definition and imagination associated with romance and love.

So to do well and before writing this article, I took the time to do my research and walk around the city with a neutral view of my environment. And with one question in mind:

Why is Paris the city of love? Paris became the city of love during the 19th century, thanks to the Romantic movement, the famous poets and artists of the period. Later, with the increasingly frequent visits of foreigners to the capital of love, Paris’ fame was confirmed thanks to its architecture, cinema, gastronomy, paintings, cabarets, and picturesque districts such as the marshland, where penniless painters, writers and poets met in cafés and bistros to remake the world.

If you’re interested in knowing a little more about how (and why!) Paris became the city of romance, follow the following sections…I’ll take this opportunity to give you some good addresses or ideas during your visit on how to express your love 😉

I invite you to download the MAPSTR application and add our we.are.alfred account. We put all our addresses there. For those given below, select the category “Paris In Love”.

The artists and writers who made the romantic reputation of Paris

The literary beginnings of Parisian Romanticism

It was during the 19th century (Romanticism period) that French writers made the reputation of Paris.

The distinguished pen of our famous writers such as Alphonse de Lamartine, Victor Hugo, George Sand, Chateaubriand, Lamartine, Alexandre Dumas, Jean Cocteau, Honoré de Balzac, Charles Baudelaire, Alfred de Musset (and many others) sublimated the feeling of love and laid it down on paper in a melodious, passionate and melancholic way.

At that time, the bourgeoisie was fond of literary evenings. Texts were read in their original version, even to foreign populations. This is how the French language was exported to many European countries. And words such as “je t’aime”, “chéri”, “amour”, “Rendez-vous” or “Fiancée” entered the common vocabulary of our English-speaking neighbours.

Here are a few quotes to illustrate some of the jewels of the language of Love :

  • Victor Hugo: “You spend half your life waiting for the ones we will love, and the other half leaving the ones we loved”.
  • Alexandre Dumas: “What makes you unhappy in love is less not to be loved when you love than to be loved when you love more“.
  • Honoré de Balzac: “Love is the only passion that suffers neither past nor future. Love is not only a feeling, it is also an art. A few simple words, a precaution, a nothing, reveals to a woman the great and sublime artist who can touch her heart without withering it”.
  • Alfred Musset: “Come on my heart, let yours feel it beat. Love is a wafer that must be broken in two at the foot of an altar, and swallowed together in a kiss.”

At one point in their careers, writers, poets and artists met as a rite of passage, in Parisian bars and cafés to talk about the world. Between the fumes of smoke and alcohol, they invited many of their peers such as Oscar Wilde, Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hémingway to their table. Over the years, Paris has become a Mecca for meetings, inspiration and creativity, nurturing its growing reputation as a city of light and romance.

Mythical Parisian places to visit for lovers of literature

If you wish to immerse yourself in the bohemian Paris of the 18/19/20th century, then you will have to visit the bistros and cafés that inspired lovers of this subtle art: The Language of Love.

Closerie des lilas (171, boulevard du Montparnasse, 75014): this place is first on the list for a good reason. It is legendary. It has seen great names parade through the decades. Thus, the walls of this café have seen regulars such as Emile Zola, Paul Cézanne, Théophile Gautier, Paul Verlaine, Guillaume Apollinaire, Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Henry Miller, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett and Jean Paul Sartre leaning against its bar.

Le Café de Flore (172, boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006): it is in the very beautiful district of St Germain des Prés that you can sit in this café, close to Jean-Paul Sartes and Simone de Beauvoir hearts, who used to come penniless to spend their day warm by the stove, for the modest price of a coffee. The place also welcomed Albert Camus, Boris Vian or Jacques Prévert. And many other thinkers or philosophers who came here to take part in debates around existentialist or progressive ideologies.

Le Café de la Paix (5 Place de l’Opéra, 75009): located on Place de l’Opéra. It opened its doors in 1862. It is after the inauguration of the Opéra Garnier that its influence widened. Among its clientele of famous people, we once again see regulars such as Émile Zola, Guy de Maupassant, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, André Gide and Ernest Hemingway.

Le Procope (13, rue Ancienne Comédie, 75006): this is one of the oldest cafés in Paris (1686), and its reputation precedes it. It is imperative to make a reservation to eat there. This café is known for the concentration of great thinkers who came to stay there from the 18th (the Age of Enlightenment – Voltaire, Diderot or Rousseau) to the 20th (we can mention Paul Verlaine, Victor Hugo, Alfred de Musset, or Honoré de Balzac). It is also in this café that you can find the last correspondence of Marie Antoinette. Or the original declaration of the human rights (on a parchment), that is to tell you her historical imprint! On the tables, you will see plaques engraved with the names of famous people who used to sit at tables. You will find contemporary names like Marc Lavoine, who continue to climb the already UP hill of this historic café.

La Rotonde (105, boulevard Montparnasse, 75006): La Rotonde is one of those Parisian cafés that made some painters migrate from the Montmartre district to the Montparnasse district. Later, it was illustrious regulars who continued to perpetuate its reputation. Among them were Guillaume Apollinaire, André Breton, Louis Aragon, Jacques Prévert, Hemingway and Raymond Queneau. It is an address that cannot be ignored when talking about artistic Paris!

If you love reading and want to immerse yourself in the French universe in the language of love, then here are some recommendations.

The French and foreign films that have made the reputation of Paris and that you must see

Since its beginnings, French or international 7th art has been interested in Paris. And it offers a romantic vision of the French capital.

French cinema made its entry into mainstream culture in the 1895s. At that time, films were only one minute long and showed mainly burlesque and silent scenes.

It is only from the 1915’s that French films began to gain momentum with feature films approaching 2 hours in length and focusing on the subject that most fascinates the human race: love. One of the first feature films, L’Enfant de Paris, for example, depicts the adventures of Le Bosco, an orphaned teenager who fell in love with a brotherly love for little Marie-Laure, taken from his rich family by an abominable thug.

France, at that time a pioneer in the field, will be one of the main contributors to films in the world. The First World War slowed down the development of French cinema, leaving the way open for Hollywood cinema to impose itself and export its vision of the world.

For American cinema, Paris is synonymous with elegance, romanticism, fashion and the French art of living. The mass distribution of its Hollywood productions featuring Paris at the heart of romantic intrigues will make its reputation as the Capital of Love in the eyes of foreign tourists.

To illustrate this, below are a few films that you can watch one evening as a couple over a glass of wine or by sharing an ice cream:

The best romantic films shot in Paris

  1. Amélie (2001) – French
  2. The Bourne Identity (2002) – American, German, Czech
  3. Hugo (2011) – American
  4. Charade (1963) – American
  5. Before Sunset (2004) – American
  6. An American in Paris (1951) – American
  7. Moulin Rouge (2001) – American
  8. Gigi (1958) – American
  9. Midnight in Paris (2011) – American
  10. Paris, je t’aime (2006) – French, Swiss, German, Liechtenstein
  11. French Kiss (1995) – British, American

Neighbourhoods in Paris where romantic films were made or which contributed to the capital’s reputation

  • Pont Bir-Hakeim – Inception
  • Saint-Sulpice Church – Da Vinci Code
  • Les deux Moulins Café – Amélie
  • Le café de la Paix – The Aristocrats
  • L’hôtel de Soubise – Marie-Antoinette
  • Bistrot La Renaissance – Inglorious Bastards
  • The quays of the Seine : Paris, je t’aime, Everyone Says I Love You and Midnight in Paris 

The most romantic corners, districts and monuments of Paris

In the collective imagination, Paris is :

  • Walk along the bank of Seine. Discover second-hand booksellers and stroll hand in hand without worrying about the time;
  • A picnic one on one on the hill of the sacred heart overlooking the city on a sunny day;
  • Its terraces teeming with people, where all styles and ages mingle around a coffee or a glass of rosé while looking at each other lovingly;
  • A kiss given in front of the Eiffel Tower. Or a candlelit dinner on a river boat to discover the city in a different way;
  • Or a glamorous evening in the mythical Moulin Rouge cabaret…

And it is true that these moments of French life, although ordinary for us humble residents, are truly a source of romance when looked at more closely.

If you want to live these romantic experiences in your turn…here is my personal selection from all the possibilities that Paris has to offer. Perhaps you will be inspired to propose there, who knows? If so, send us a photo 😉.

Alfred’s Top 15 and romantic places to take the love of your life :

For a beautiful Photo to share or for a declaration of love

  1. Visit the Passerelle Debilly, 75007 Paris, at night, to see the Eiffel Tower illuminated in a unique setting. The lights of the Eiffel Tower sparkle for 5 minutes at the beginning of each hour. To make the most of the view, make sure you choose an evening when the sky is clear.
  2. Rue Crémieux, 12th arrondissement of Paris, close to Gare de Lyon (Metro 1 or 12). You will find an atypical street, with colourful facades, numerous wall decorations and trompe-l’oeil on some street corners. It is an exceptional street for both amateur and professional photographers. If you are brave enough, continue your walk until you reach the Chantier passage, still in the 12th arrondissement, which is a street known to insiders for its history. It is a pretty street, populated by former antique dealers and cabinet makers, with a bohemian setting guaranteed.
  3. A stroll in the Jardin Belleville on the 11th Arrondissement will give you a romantic moment together and opportunities to capture your shared passion.
  4. Top of the Pantheon: this monument built in the 18th century, in the heart of Paris in the Latin Quarter, is dear to the hearts of the French. After the Revolution, it became a place to honour French personalities with exceptional careers. Entering the Pantheon is a supreme honour in French culture. I can only invite you to visit this place. Like most of our historical monuments, it offers you a very beautiful Neo-classical architecture, with sublime decorations from floor to ceiling. At the end of your visit, you will be able to observe Paris from its summit.
  5. Top of Montparnasse tower: if the tower is known, the possibility of climbing it is not. You will have a breathtaking view of Paris. You can go up to the 56th floor, where there are regular exhibitions and you can have a coffee. On the 58th floor, there is a 200m2 glass terrace with a 360-degree view of the capital. On the other hand: the rate is high…18th for adults. It still makes you think about it but if you want THE best view of Paris, with less people than in other tourist places to declare your love, this is a good place…
  6. American cemetery in Suresnes to dominate Paris and La défense: This is not the neighbourhood or the place we spontaneously think of…But the American cemetery in Suresnes, in addition to being a high place of memory for the Americans, is also a high place of memory for the French resistance, where many resistance fighters were executed there. At the end of a visit that is full of emotion for our ancestors, you will have the opportunity to enjoy a very beautiful view of Paris at the end of your visit. The only real viewpoint from the west of Paris, with a panorama of the largest European business district (La Défense – alone concentrating 10% of French GDP), the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. For the trouble, because it is finally quite far from the centre of Paris (nevertheless very accessible), you will have the pleasure to enjoy this visit without tourists. In fact very few people know this place.

To dine (without breaking the bank!) in a romantic setting

  1. A candlelight dinner on a Bateau-mouche with rates between 90 and 130 (Boarding: Pont de l’Alma, 8e).
  2. Dinner at the Crazy Horse or Moulin Rouge. My preference is Crazy Horse. It’s not as mythical as the Moulin Rouge. However, the artistic proposals are more varied and are likely to appeal to foreign clients.
  3. Dinner in a semi-gastronomic restaurant, such as :
    • Italian: East Mama, the best Italian restaurant in town but beware: no reservation possible, you have to go there on an empty stomach (…) and early enough or else be patient.
    • French: Chez Pitou, a very affordable gastronomic restaurant that will leave you with a budget for champagne or a good bottle of wine. http://chezpitoumontmartre.com
    • Classic: Les Pinces, 29 Rue du Bourg Tibourg, 75004 Paris. ATTENTION: this restaurant does not take reservations, first come, first served. The concept: a menu at 25 euros, with 4 courses on the menu including a whole Lobster! A must for the locals who will have to try it.
    • Crêperie : Crêpes de Louise Marie (1, Rue de l’Arbalète, 75005 Paris France). This restaurant is a classic of French cuisine, a must!
    • Trendy and romantic: Kong, 1 rue du Pont Neuf 75001 Paris. This restaurant is nestled at the top of a superb Haussmann-style building. Quite stilted and more expensive than the previous proposals, you will have an absolutely unique setting. Indeed, the restaurant is at the top of the building, under a glass roof. A romantic dinner is guaranteed.

Have a drink with your lover

  1. Stop for tea at the Paris Mosque and its terrace. A little corner of paradise to stop and take a sweet from the shop just a few steps away. Or even a chicha!
  2. Bar Secret 8 of the Buddha-Bar Paris. The cocktails are quite expensive but incredible (count 17 euros). To access them, you need a password (which is the answer to a riddle posted on their Instagram account). And you have to make a reservation. The bar is accessed through a hidden door.
  3. Roof Top: Two addresses, because I couldn’t choose…Holiday Inn in Paris Notre-Dame (4, rue Danton, 75006). And The Shed at the Hôtel des Grands Boulevards (17, boulevard Poissonnière, 75002 Paris).

Lovers’ walk

  1. Jardin du Luxembourg: it is a garden with many activities, not only can you enjoy a nice walk, but you can also stop to watch the joggers, tennis players, see children riding a pony for the first time, have a drink, stop to watch time go by on a bench or in the grass…
  2. Parc Monceau: enter a space-time bubble at marc Monceau… It’s my favourite, as the landscapes take you far from the city.
  3. Jardin des Tuileries: A historic site, you will have the opportunity to visit a French garden, around the fountains and perfectly arranged geometries.
  4. Buttes Chaumont: If you are in the 19th century, climb to the top of the Buttes Chaumont belvedere for a breathtaking view. Photos and romantic moments guaranteed!
  5. The Pont des Arts, also called the “lovers’ bridge”, is a place where it is customary to come and make a wish with your lover and kiss each other.
  6. The streets of Montmartre and the Sacré Coeur. So yes, one falls a little into the cliché but the streets of this district are magnificent. Don’t follow itineraries, let yourself go according to your desires and try to avoid the big tourist places. It is common to come across some rather famous French actors in the bistro or cafés nestled in the deserted streets of tourists. However, take good shoes, the streets are paved and look like a roller coaster in places. Also, Montmartre, is known to be one of the most romantic places in Paris. The “mur des Je t’aime” at the level of the rue des Abbesses, in the Jehan-Rictus park is a prime example. Take a walk there.
  7. Passage des Panoramas. It is one of the oldest streets in Paris, absolutely magnificent! You will certainly be seduced by the architecture and its decorations of yesteryear.
  8. Canal Saint Martin district. This district rises and gets richer over the years. It is a rather trendy place, where you can walk along the canal and admire some works of Street Art here and there. If you fancy a drink, stop by the Headquarters. It is a bar with a very atypical architecture (colonial house) and frequented by Parisians. A nugget of Paris but difficult to spot in the street. Look for a bicycle hanging on the wall and go into an alley to catch a glimpse of the entrance.

It is the world-famous attractions and images that maintain the myth of our beloved capital. But what about the locals? What are the things we do or the places we frequent to seduce?

The romantic habits of the French

Romanticism is undeniably lost. But where there is a Frenchman, there is still hope. Faithful to our reputation, French men still hold some fragments of our culture. Here are the things that Parisian men do (still) to seduce us … Beware, it’s a cliché:

  1. A candlelight dinner, cooked by monsieur of course.
  2. To walk you home, no matter what time of day, 1) because you never know what might happen? 2) because they show you that they want to prolong the shared moment as long as possible. And it is important to know that the Parisian is very good at recognising whether or not a kiss is necessary. They know how to take you home without trying anything. Because they appreciate the games of seduction and know how to be patient. A delight of romantic suspense the French way.
  3. Even if it is becoming increasingly rare, the French (of the thirty-something generation and over) like to write a few lines in romantic rhyme and pen to seduce.
  4. Paying the restaurant bill sneakily so you don’t have to discuss who pays what at the end of a dinner. Romantics adapt to the independent women that we are and who insist on paying our share on the first night.
  5. You take your hand in the restaurant, looking you straight in the eye and telling you how beautiful you are. The French are not managed to be demonstrative in public, and to declare their flame. A feeling of love is shared because deep down, it also belongs to the loved one. And there must be no embarrassment in expressing it.
  6. Have flowers delivered to your workplace, accompanied by a kind word.
  7. Prepare a surprise evening or day, punctuated by unusual activities or romantic moments.
  8. To open the door for you and let you pass by. A great classic that always works.
  9. Remembering and celebrating all the important dates that may have punctuated your relationship. For instance your first date, or the day of your first kiss…
  10. Treat yourself to breakfast in bed, with croissants and freshly squeezed orange juice….

Conclusion: Paris, city of love

If I had to summarise how Paris became the city of love, I would say this: our culture of seduction (transmitted through the classic literary works of the 18th and 19th centuries), of impossible love (love intrigues in the French bourgeoisie of the Renaissance period), of admiration for women (sublimated and counted by the painters and poets of Montmartre), has always existed and is part of our DNA.

But finally, I understand from my research that it is through the prism of Hollywood films that our reputation comes to us and has been transmitted to the world. Without a foreign interpretation of what love is or romanticism pushed to the top of its art (as La France et Paris seems to be), we would not have this reputation. The criteria of romanticism have been shaped by Hollywood interpretation. And in this context, yes, Paris is a city with a strong romantic culture, that needs to be visited urgently with your second half.

Charlotte

Charlotte is born just outside Paris and has been living in the French capital for more than 10 years. Charlotte loves books, scuba diving when traveling abroad, and having a glass of wine with her friends in the Latin Quarter – her favorite Parisian district. When home Charlotte likes playing guitar or entertaining her very active dog.

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