It goes without saying that Paris is full of romantic spots for dinner and drinks. But if variety is the spice of life, it’s the bread and butter of dating — and switching between bars and restaurants doesn’t necessarily cut it when it comes to keeping things fresh, especially in those delicate early days.
So, in honour of Valentine’s Day, I’ve compiled a short list of slightly more “creative” ideas for dates in the City of Love. They’re all tried-and-tested, winter-friendly, and should set you back less than a three course meal for two (certainly one where there’s wine involved). You’re welcome.
Not your regular hot
Nothing says Valentine’s Day quite like chocolate; score some brownie points (pun intended) for ingenuity by presenting yours in liquid form. No, I’m not suggesting you leave the Lindor next to the radiator. Much better: take your date to longstanding literary café, Les Deux Magots, to sample The Greatest Hot Chocolate In Paris (And Quite Possibly The World). Did I just award it that title myself? Yes. Did I extensively research the subject matter, online and in person, before bestowing the accolade? Also yes.
Seriously, their chocolat chaud à l’ancienne is absolutely outstanding — so thick you could practically stand your spoon up in it, and richer than the mythical Parisians living in those magnificent apartments by the Champs de Mars. You know, the ones with the chandeliers and stuff. A former haunt of such notable names as Hemmingway and Picasso, Les Deux Magots is a win for culture vultures, history geeks, and anyone who appreciates good old-fashioned Parisian café culture. It’s also located in the quaint Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighbourhood, where you’ll find a plethora of winding streets and cute cobbled ruelles for a romantic post-indulgence stroll.
Taking joint-second places for hot chocolate heaven, you could also try Café de Flore (Flore -> flora -> flowers -> more Valentine’s Day creativity), which is just a stone’s throw from Les Deux Magots, or Angelina, on the famous Rue du Rivoli. Of these two gourmand go-tos, I’d say the former wins from a history/legacy perspective (similar to, and closely intertwined with, that of the neighbouring LDM), whilst the latter’s beautiful Belle Époque salon comes out on top from an aesthetic perspective.
Museums and galleries can make for enjoyable dates, but they’re admittedly a little on the dry side for some tastes. Not the Atelier des Lumières. The exhibitions at the “Studio/Workshop of Lights” (slightly clunky translation) are truly stunning audio-visual spectacles, fusing the artwork of celebrated painters with music and technology in an immersive experience bound to entertain and impress even the most discerning date. Check their website to find out which artist(s) the Atelier is currently showcasing (and to make sure there’s something currently running), and book online as far in advance as possible, especially for weekend visits. No knowledge, or even particular appreciation, of art needed. Just trust me, it’s incredible.
NB: The Atelier is actually closed on the 14th Feb this year (of course *eye roll*), but reopens on the 18th — so definitely still an option for a belated Valentine’s date…
If you thought my list of alternatives to your typical dinner-and-drinks dates wasn’t going to feature much in the way of food, you’re clearly new to my blog. Welcome! We like food here.* A lot. Happily, there’s plenty of the stuff at La Felicità (which, fittingly, is Italian for “happiness”). Located on the southern side of the city, the cavernous food-market-cum-restaurant is filled with bizarre and eclectic decor — from the enormous, luminous orbs suspended from the lofty ceiling, to the Persian rugs scattered haphazardly across sections of the floor; from fairy lights strung between actual full-sized train cars, to the art deco-style bar illuminated by hundreds of brightly-coloured bottles. It’s split into what can best be described as “zones”, each one with its own food and/or drink offering, so you can choose your meal from a generous variety of mostly-Italian-inspired dishes (all completely delicious, as far as my extensive experience on the subject can tell), and your seating area according to your preferred aesthetic. Download the app before you go to order and pay without jeopardising your hard-won table (it gets pretty busy at peak times).
Heart and Soul
Low lights and smooth tunes; what could be more romantic than a jazz soirée in the City of Love? A quick Google search will reveal myriad bars and clubs, some hailing from Jazz Age Paris, others more recent additions to the city’s music scene, and each with their own quirks and backstories. Some of them — Le Caveau des Oubliettes and Le Caveau de la Huchette, for example — have welcomed a litany of legendary musicians in their time, whilst the latter might be familiar to fans of La La Land…
Prices vary widely between venues and concerts, but as promised, this date doesn’t have to break the bank: 38 Riv hosts a regular jam night with an entry fee of just 4€ on top of the price of your first drink (which you have to order at the door). Don’t let the modest price fool you into thinking you’re compromising on quality of experience, either. The tiny underground venue with its vaulted ceilings, stone walls and lamplit bar was everything I imagined a Parisian jazz club should be, and the musicians most certainly didn’t disappoint. Check the website for concert lineups and ticketing information.
Winter in France is synonymous with the likes of raclette and fondue savoyarde — basically feasts of hot, oozing cheese accompanied by plennnty of carbs. But apart from being insanely tasty and just so. damn. satisfying, one of the loveliest things about these dishes is that they’re not just meals — they’re whole social occasions. Both are simple dishes to prepare at home if you have the right equipment, or you can try one of the numerous specialist Alpine-style restaurants, such as Les Fondues de la Raclette. Just don’t expect to be doing any hand-holding across the table; most of these places have built-in grills to keep your cheese nice and melty whilst you eat… and wrist burns probably aren’t what your other half had in mind when you invited them on a “hot date”.
A game for two
“Fun food” not fun enough for you? Show your playful side at one of the city’s increasingly numerous board game bars/cafés! Or your crazy competitive would-rather-die-than-concede side. I don’t know.
Le Dernier Bar Avant la Fin du Monde (a pleasingly geeky reference to 2013 Sci-Fi comedy, The World’s End — look up the literal translation), Player One and Le Nid — Cocon Ludique are all popular spots, but again, refer to Google for a plentiful selection across the city. A couple of years ago, a guy I’d just started seeing proposed we go to Le Dernier Bar, and although I thought it was an unusual suggestion to begin with, I quickly decided it’s actually a fantastic “early date” idea. Apart from the relaxed atmosphere and the fun of doing something a little different, trying a cooperative game can provide surprisingly good insight into how well you work together, whilst a logic/strategy-type thing can tell you a bit about the way your new flame’s mind works. Worst-case scenario, you discover they’re a HORRIBLE LOSER with a tendency towards fits of implacable rage, and cut your own metaphorical losses ASAP. Byeee.
So whether you’re looking to shake up the routine of your longstanding relationship, want to get off the beaten track on your parisian getaway, or just can’t face the raised eyebrows and barely-concealed smirks** when you bring yet another one-time Tinder date to your local go-to bistro… I hope this blog has brought some inspiration.
And of course, none of these activities are restricted to dates. Do them with friends. Do them by yourself. Do them with your mum. As I made abundantly clear last Valentine’s Day, I am diametrically opposed to the idea of saving all of life’s special moments to enjoy with a Significant Other. It’s just that “Creative Ideas for Dates or Outings With Your Mum” didn’t have quite the same ring to it… y’know?
Happy Valentine’s Day!
*There’s no “we”. It’s just me. And I really like food.
**Okay, maybe the funny looks are just in your head. But maybe they’re not.