Paris, with its sturdy stone Haussmannian architecture, evocative lighting and old-world charm, is the world’s most romantic city par excellence. If you're planning to pop the question in the City of Lights there are plenty of places to choose from that don’t involve a clichéd bridge and love lock...
1. The sure bets
The most iconic landmark of Paris is without a doubt the Grande Dame, the Eiffel Tower. It’s also the most popular backdrop for marriage proposals in the city. You could opt for a gourmet dinner at French Michelin star chef Alain Ducasse’s famous Jules Vernes restaurant right at the top of the tower, which affords magnificent 360° views of the city. However, the disadvantage is that you can't actually see the Eiffel Tower from here.
For Eiffel Tower views, have a picnic on the banks of the Seine (in warmer weather), or pop the question at the top of the Arc de Triomphe or Notre Dame Cathedral. The best views of the entire city are at the viewing platform of the Tour Montparnasse. For full-length Eiffel Tower shots, the Trocadéro is ideal. Otherwise for more of an experience, have dinner or aperitif at the Hotel Raphael’s terrace, or the Shangri-La (book in advance).
2. Charming squares
Square Jean XXIII
Paris is full of secret spots that lie off the tourist track. Some of our favourites include the Square Jean XXIII on the Ile de la Cité (one of two islands in Paris) by Notre Dame under the Cherry Blossom tree (blossoms in spring) or Le Square du Vert Galant also on the island but at the other end right at the tip. Wonderfully romantic especially at sunset, it is surrounded almost completely by water and has beautiful views of the Seine River. It is also usually quite peaceful as most tourists tend to be visiting the cathedral at the other end. Just make sure to check the opening times of the square.
Otherwise choose to step back in time and pop the question in Montmartre, Paris’s hilltop village. With its winding cobbled streets, anywhere here is guaranteed to charm your loved one’s socks right off. However, the square close to Abesses metro station has a whole wall ‘le mur des je t’aime’ dedicated to love and is said to bring luck to young couples.
3. Hidden gardens
Musée de la Vie Romantique
Needless to say that Paris has many gardens to stroll like the Jardin du Luxembourg and Jardin des Plantes. However, for something tucked away from the bustle, the Jardin du Palais Royal, past French artist Daniel Buren’s striped black and white columns, is a beautiful garden surrounded by boutiques hidden away in arches. Although centrally located, few people stop here, making it an ideal secret to keep up your sleeve. Not too far away, there is also the garden of the Musée de la Vie Romantique, which is a must in summer even if you go just to have a cup of tea at the café. Otherwise there is also the 18th-century Parc de Bagatelle with its chateau, which lies under the radar, or the Jardin des Archives Nationales right in the heart of the delightful bohemian-bourgeois Marais neighbourhood. The gardens surround the Soubise and Rohan mansions, which started being built in 1371, as well as a house and a museum.
4. On the Seine
The Seine River
Forget leaving a love lock among the millions of other locks only to be taken away by the local council. Opt for a private house boat or a cruise dinner instead. There are hundreds of companies to choose from but for a spacious boat that’s just as good as a gourmet restaurant, try Yacht de Paris – they also have yachts like the Cachemire, with a sun deck, perfect for sunbathing while gliding passed the Eiffel Tower in summer. The Paris Luxury Boat company also offers vessels with cosy rooms on board so after your loved one says yes, the evening doesn’t have to end there.
5. At a chateau
Chateau de Versailles
While Paris has its fair share of hôtels particuliers (mansion houses) that have been turned into actual hotels, restaurants and museums, there aren’t any castles strictly speaking. However, a true French fairy-tale experience lies just an hour away at the Domaine de Chantilly, Parc de Sceaux, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Fontainebleau or the Chateau de Versailles. All have spectacular gardens with Chantilly and Versailles being prime examples of 17th-century star landscape gardener André Le Nôtre’s work. The chateaux and their gardens can be visited throughout the year and provide plenty of perfect spots for popping the question, from empty fruit orchards to fountain gardens.