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Romantic Paris: off the beaten track

February 2014

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It's a Paris city break, but not as you know it. If you've already enjoyed the Eiffel Tower, lingered at the Louvre and marvelled at the Moulin Rouge, you may need to delight your amour with something new. Lucy Thackray offers some inspiration
The Parc des Buttes Chaumont is the laid-back lover's choice in Paris
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THINGS TO DO

A picnic at Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Not quite the heights of la Tour Eiffel, but this is the locals' favourite park to relax in at weekends. Take a fabulously low-maintenance picnic of baguettes, cheese (the much-praised Fromagerie Secrétan is nearby) and wine and check out the views of the city from the viewing post at the top. If you don't want to self cater, the park's chilled-out Rosa Bonheur café has picnic benches and small plates.

Get pampered at an urban spa
Paris is one of the world's best cities to simply wander, but a pit stop at one of its sensual spas will break up your pavement pounding nicely. Le Bains du Marais has a hammam and café as well as offering massages, manicures and hair services, while L'Echappée is a lantern-lit warren of stone tunnels in the trendy 11th arondissement.

Explore Les Berges sur Seine
A new cluster of riverside venues on a pedestrianised area of the Left Bank, Les Berges is one of Paris's newest hot spots. Marvel at its floating gardens, locals doing tai chi and cafés to stop at for an al fresco coffee. There are even 'relaxation pods' — converted shipping containers in which you can pause for a nap. 

FOOD AND DRINK

Le Bar at L'Hotel 
L'Hotel, close to the Seine and arty Left Bank area, has a secluded bar and restaurant patronised largely by Parisians. Old Hollywood types such as Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra have also graced its bar, which has curved velvet chairs, ornate columns and drinks named after Oscar Wilde, who died in the building and whose works are dotted around it. 

Dans le Noir
The first dining-in-the-dark concept, before it spread to London, New York and beyond. With the venue's encouragement of patrons touching and feeling each other while they dine and mobile phones banned lest they ruin things with their neon glow, this is a thrillingly intimate experience for couples willing to open up their other senses. 

Patisserie hopping
Sweets for your sweet? Macaroon maestro Pierre Hermé is the classic, but for a more modern Parisian sugar fix try Sébastien Gaudard, where the master patissier breathes new life into French classics, or Sadaharu Aoki for a touch of Asian avant-garde.

Mosquee de Paris
This café in an old Paris mosque is one of Alain Ducasse's off-the-beaten-track favourites — think carved wooden arches, Moorish décor and mint tea out on the intricately tiled patio. 

Le Petit Zinc
Set in a quiet street in historic Saint-Germain, traditional French brasserie Le Petit Zinc will give you your traditional cuisine fix but keep you off the main tourist track, and you're bound to love the quirky Art Nouveau décor and Paris Metro-style façade. Look out for its live jazz nights twice a month.

Septime La Cave 
You may have heard of classic Parisian restaurant Septime, usually to be found on the World's Best Restaurants lists, but chef-owner Bertrand Grebaut opened this little sibling in an old cobbler's shop just last year. With wines by the glass from €5, tapas bites and small surfaces to lean on, what's not to love? Find it on Rue Basfroi, a stone's throw from the original.

Silencio
Filmmaker and artist David Lynch's nightclub is the place to be for a late night drink with your love. Look out for the club's gastronomy nights featuring some of the city's coolest chefs.

HOTELS

Hotel Design Secret de Paris
This boutique hotel has 29 rooms, each with design touches hinting at local landmarks from the Musée D'Orsay to the Opéra Garnier. It was TripAdvisor traveller's choice for romance 2013 and is walking distance from historical sights like the opera house, several of the smaller museums, including the Perfume Museum, and the shops of Boulevard Haussman.

Le Royal Monceau Raffles 
This 1920s classic was revamped in 2010 by avant-garde designer Philippe Starck and is definitely the choice for stylish, cosmopolitan couples. With two Michelin-starred restaurants, the largest swimming pool in Paris and sumptuous design features, this one has 'special occasion' written all over it. Read our full review.

Hotel Pavillon de la Reine
Hidden in the Place des Vosges, thought of as one of Paris' loveliest addresses, Pavillon de la Reine is a more peaceful way to experience the city. Not only are the cool boutiques and romantic bistros of the Marais district on your doorstep, but there's low lighting, fireplaces in the rooms and a small-but-perfectly-formed spa to enjoy. For maximum romance, ask for a room that overlooks the courtyard. 

Hôtel Londres Eiffel
This independent boutique hotel is a few minutes' walk from the Eiffel Tower (if you must) and the Seine, and has petite, themed rooms — the Poets' room is wallpapered with sheet music — cosy communal areas and a hotel dog, Samba. 

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Posted by Lucy Thackray

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Paris, romance, weekend-break, things-to-do, food-and-drink, culture

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