International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
The world’s most alluring city – with its tree-shaded boulevards, lamplit bridges, exquisite cuisine and cafe terraces lined with wicker chairs for people watching – seduces whatever the time of year or day.
It would apparently take nine months to glance at every artwork in the Louvre but following a self-guided themed trail makes it more accessible. Lovers should follow ‘Mighty Aphrodite, Mythical Love Stories’, a 1½-hour circuit depicting the amorous torments of famous literary figures, such as Eros (download the tour online; closed Tue; admission £9).
The Seine and its banks are Paris at its most seductive. From the Louvre, stroll along the river’s edge to the islands, the Île de la Cité and the Île St-Louis. Then cross the Seine at Pont de l’Archevêché (Archbishop’s Bridge), the narrowest road bridge in Paris and one of several bridges covered in padlocks – the locks are attached by couples who throw the key into the Seine as a symbol of eternal love.
Île St-Louis is famed for Berthillon ice cream – the glacier was founded here in 1954. Choose from 70 flavours, such as pear sorbet and salted caramel at Maison Berthillon (29–31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île), or at outlets around the island such as Le Flore en l’Île, where you can sample a croissant and coffee as well (42 Quai d’Orléans; two scoops of ice cream £7, pastries from £2).
The father of French romanticism lived at Musée National Eugène Delacroix, a courtyard studio off a shaded square in the 6ème arrondissement, until his death in 1863. Although his famous works are housed at the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, here you’ll find intimate pieces such as An Unmade Bed (6 Rue de Furstenberg; closed Tue; entry £4, free with Louvre ticket).
Build up an appetite for lunch by taking a stroll along Rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter – it’s filled with market stalls and food stores. At fromagerie Androuet cheeses can be vacuum-packed to take home, while luscious macaroons in flavours such as raspberry and blackcurrant can be found at Mococha light, alongside divine chocolates. You can stock up on cute homeware at Mouffetard Folie’s (51 Rue Mouffetard).
Well hidden in the Latin Quarter but known to Paris expats, Le Coupe-Chou is a maze of seven candlelit rooms snaking through a vine-clad 17th-century townhouse and is overwhelmingly romantic. It has beamed ceilings, antiques and serves dishes such as beef bourguignon that capture the essence of the French countryside. As in the days when Marlene Dietrich dined here, you’ll need to book ahead (9 & 11 Rue de Lanneau; closed for lunch May–Aug; mains from £14).
Before the sun sets, head to Musée de la Vie Romantique, a small museum and garden at the end of a cobbled lane at the Hôtel Scheffer-Renan. It’s devoted to the life and work of novelist Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin (better known as George Sand) and her intellectual circle, and is full of paintings and objets d’art (16 Rue Chaptal; closed Mon; permanent collection free).
Chocolate is an art form at Chocolaterie Joséphine Vannier, an extraordinary shop in the Marais. Edible creations including musical instruments (saxophones, pianos, violins and electric guitars) and shoes (high heels, flats and brogues) look too good to eat. At weekends there’s a delicious collection of cookies available (4 Rue du Pas de la Mule; closed Mon; 100g of chocolates from £7).
Finish your evening at the bistro, Le Vieux Belleville at the top of Parc de Belleville. It’s an atmospheric venue for chansons – heart-felt, lyric-driven music typified by Édith Piaf – featuring accordions and an organ grinder. Songsheets are available but it’s not a tourist trap, rather a favourite with locals, so you’ll need to book (12 Rue des Envierges; performances 8pm-2am Thu-Sat; three-course dinner from £20).