Paris: Romance without the masses

Meg Zimbeck
Sacre Coeur

Valentine's Day may be gone for another year, but Paris is always a good place for romance. The city is filled with the sort of places that make hearts pound and hands hold. A few spots, however, are so over-the-top romantic that they draw millions of couples from all over. Unless overcrowding really turns you on, it’s best to approach these famous sites with a few BT tricks up your sleeve.

The Eiffel Tower The "Old Lady" has been putting people in the mood for more than 120 years. But because of the number of visitors at her base (some 6.5 million per year) she is arguably best seen from afar. My favorite vantage spot is way back on the Champ de Mars, where it's all twinkle and no tour buses. The grassy lawn and wooden benches invite you to spread out with your picnic basket and crack open a bottle of wine. At night, the grande dame goes glittery at the top of every hour, sparkling brightly for the first ten minutes. The Café Constant (139 rue St. Dominique, 7th arrondissement, 01-33/9-75-82-08-07) is a sweet and traditional place to share a drink or a meal nearby.

Sacre Coeur The panoramic view over the city has inspired many a movie scene and many a marriage proposal. Skip the lines to enter the church and instead hop the knee-high fence that protects the front lawn. You’ll see plenty of other couples doing what you'll be doing—cozying up just out of earshot from the crowds to watch the sun set over the city. Café Burq is a nearby dinner destination (6 rue Burq, 18th arrondissement, 01-33/1-42-52-81-27). This neighborhood bistro has sexy low lighting and a menu that oozes amour—and that goes double for the roasted Camembert with honey. Prices are similarly seductive: it’s €23 ($30) for two courses, and the wines are well-priced.

The Seine The fly boats (bateaux mouches) are a great way to see Paris, but the number of videocam-toting tourists also make them less than romantic. For a more intimate appreciation of the river's charms, follow the amorous locals strolling along the north bank of the Seine. A long walking path runs between the Pont de la Concorde (near the Louvre) to the Pont Notre Dame. The latter bridge connects to the Ile Saint-Louis, which offers a heart-pounding view of the backside of Notre Dame. For a truly melting experience, you can pick up one of the city’s best ice cream cones at Berthillon (31 rue St.-Louis-en-l'Ile, 4th arrondissement), then dangle your feet over the island’s western edge while watching the sun set over Notre Dame.

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