24 Things We Did on Our Romantic Weekend in Paris
Updated: Apr 28
Our experience as a couple in the City of Lights (and Love).
On the occasion of Rene's 26th birthday, which conveniently coincided with the UAE National Day public holidays this year, we spent an idyllic long weekend in Paris. Given that Christmas preparations tend to commence early in most European cities, this also enabled us to experience the unique festive spirit that we might otherwise have missed in the Middle East. In this post, we write about what we were up to over our romantic long weekend in the City of Lights.
1. After picking up Rene from the airport, we arrived to our tiny but very cosy hotel room in the 9th arrondissement. There I surprised Rene with a delicious birthday cake from one of the many Parisian bakeries. Needless to say, we managed to finish the cake by the evening of the same day.
2. Having checked in, we decided to go for a walk around the area nearby the hotel, which was only ten minutes away from the very famous Galeries Lafayette department store. This gets extra crowded over December due to the many people shopping for the holidays. Standing in the queue was, however, completely worth the wait as the enormous Christmas Tree inside the atrium was magnifique indeed and left both of us feeling nostalgic about experiencing Christmas in Europe.
3. After admiring the Christmas tree, we climbed to the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette to see the Eiffel Tower just as it lit up in sparkles. The view is priceless and did not fail to impress us. There is also a tiny ice-skating rink on top of the department store (which we decided to save for another trip in the future).
4. No Christmas-season experience in Europe is complete without visiting a Christmas Market, so we chose to go to the one in the Tuileries Garden, not too far away from Galeries Lafayette. There, we had a glass of mulled wine (first of many) to keep us warm as we were strolling around the market.
5. Another little surprise I had prepared for Rene for his birthday trip was finding a heart-shaped lock with our names engraved in it. After visiting the Christmas Market in the Tuileries, we walked to the Pont des Arts, where we found a perfect spot for our lock. Our future challenge on our next visit to Paris will be to find our lock (we did our best to memorise the exact spot as we threw the key in the Seine).
6. On to the biggest highlight of the evening! We teamed up with Rene's parents to surprise Rene with a marvellous birthday dinner on one of the highest rated dhow cruises on the Seine. We arrived to the boat with Rene being still completely confused about where exactly we were heading. We were greeted at the entrance by our waiter who led us to our table on the upper deck of the boat. The five-course candle-lit dinner we had at Le Calife was a true five-star French cuisine experience. We spent the evening cruising on the Seine, admiring some of the most famous landmarks in Paris, enjoying French wine, and indulging in foie gras. It was so memorable and if we had to choose one recommendation on what to do on a long romantic weekend in Paris for a once in a lifetime experience - this would definitely be the one.
7. With me being still full from the day before and Rene being jet-lagged, we slept in and took the morning to relax in our tiny room. We started our second day by grabbing a bite at Buvette, a cosy café near the place we stayed at. This is a perfect spot to have something light before exploring the city.
8. A short walk away from the café we found the iconic Le mur des je t’aime, a wall where "I love you" is written in different languages. We were able to find the phrase written in Italian, Hungarian, and even Estonian (clearly not the most commonly spoken language). After a couple of photobombed pictures, a Korean gentleman managed to take a good shot of us.
9. From there, we hit our daily workout target as we climbed up the stairs to reach Montmartre. We first stopped by the Place du Tertre where we noticed the many painters working on their portraits, then ventured into a small contemporary art gallery on the square. From there, we headed to the Sacré Coeur Basilica to witness the beautiful. architecture and catch a panoramic view of Paris during daytime.
11. From here, we walked to the metro to reach our next destination. Many first-timers choose to go up the Eiffel tower, however we decided to climb the Arc de Triomphe instead. As it turns out, there is (not surprisingly) no elevator inside the monument, so we completed another workout by walking up the narrow stairs. Once we reached the top, it was rather cold and windy (average Paris weather in the fall), however, the view certainly made up for the weather and the stairs.
12. Once we took a satisfactory number of touristy photos, we hopped on another metro towards the stylish Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighbourhood, our favourite one in Paris. We warmed up with some more mulled wine and spent our afternoon in the iconic Café de Flore, one of the oldest coffeehouses in Paris, where many writers and philosophers used to meet in the past. We really enjoyed the traditional ambiance of this place, with its elegantly dressed waiters and people around us reading newspapers or books rather than checking their smartphones.
13. From Café de Flore, we walked towards the Jardin du Luxembourg, one of the most beautifully maintained parks in Paris. This Garden and its Palace were commissioned in the 17th century by Marie de Medici, who wanted to reminisce her Italian childhood in Florence by having an Italian-style palace built.
14. Right by the Jardin du Luxembourg, we accidentally noticed the Hungarian Institute of Culture. We popped in and ended up randomly exploring an interesting exhibition by a Hungarian photographer.
15. At this point, it was evening already. For dinner, I took Rene to Pizzeria Popolare, which is my favourite Italian restaurant in Paris. Most of the waiters in the restaurant are Italians and the food is likewise authentic. As a sign of its reputation in town, we had to stand 30 minutes outside in the queue -- the long wait in the cold Parisian winter temperatures was completely worth it though. We were especially impressed by the Tiramisù for dessert, which was served straight from the tray. This was a lovely way to end our second day in the city.
18. By this point, you will probably have noticed that we are people who like to sleep in. Worry not - we won't disappoint this time either. We started our last day in Paris around noon and decided to have a quick brunch at Café Charlot, a very easy-going café nearby the Marais Neighbourhood.
19. From there, we walked around Le Marais, a fashionable district where you will find many art galleries, hipster boutiques, and gay bars. We also checked out the leafy Place des Vosges, which is the oldest planned square in Paris, surrounded by trees and red brick houses.
20. After visiting the Marais, we started walking towards the Place Vendôme, where all the greatest jewellery and luxury brands can be found. From there, we continued to the Place de la Concorde and crossed the bridge to reach the Rive Gauche, the left bank of the city. We enjoyed so much the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighbourhood the day before that we decided to go back and try another literary café, Les Deux Magots, which was visited by intellectuals such as Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre.
21. The sun had already set by the time we left the café, so we decided to end our last night by walking towards the Eiffel Tower. We passed by the Musée d'Orsay, walked through the Quai d'Orsay and the Pont Alexandre III, and finally took a turn on Rue de L'Université. At the end of this long street there is an amazing spot to take photos right under the Eiffel Tower.
22. Once we took enough photos, we crossed the bridge to the other side of the city and passed by the Trocadéro. It was a windy and cold night, yet the Eiffel Tower illuminating in sparkles made us sit there and admire the view for a good while.
23. From the Trocadéro, we began to walk towards the Champs-Élysées which were entirely lit up in red Christmas decorations. We noticed a Vapiano there, so we decided to take it easy and have a quick salad, after indulging five-star dining experience on the first day.
24. Salad aside, we felt like celebrating our last night in the city, so we walked over to Avenue Montaigne to a fancier restaurant well-known to many celebrities. There, we had a lava cake and a glass of wine, before walking back to our cosy hotel and saying goodbye to the City of Love, which treated us so well.
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