I’ve been on a lot of first dates lately. Being a free and independent femme d’un certain âge, Paris is my oyster.

However, it’s not all love and roses in the City of Lights. Sometimes it is stormy. There’s dog poop everywhere (proverbial and literal). Sometimes you miss your bus and lose your wallet and eat yogurt on the couch for dinner, feeling sorry for yourself. That’s just life.

That’s dating, too. By my observation, most single people in their fifties hadn’t planned to be single in their fifties. We’ve all seen some shit. We’ve got jagged edges and secrets and recently healed wounds and messy relations with our exes. But we still want to love and be loved.

Left: a couple kissing outside a cafe in Paris. A photo of rue de Belleville in Paris on a sunny morning.
Top: @lespuristes / @davidignaz. Above: @marie.devivies / @l.r.e

How do we get there?

None of my nice Parisien friends has a nice brother or interesting neighbor to introduce me to. I was never a pick-up-guys-in-a-bar type of girl (and COVID has changed that vibe now, anyway). Besides, I like to be home in PJs by 9 pm.

So, what to do? We use the apps. Here we are, a bunch of unexpectedly single middle-aged people throwing our cute photos up on Bumble and putting our best feet forward, looking for love. Go, us! We are brave and hopeful and willing to take a risk.

There are a lot of first dates in the world of online romance. Here are some of my recent first-dates. I have listed them in order of personal preference, starting with the “meh.” And leading up to my favorite option…

Left: a photo of a couple on a park bench in a garden in Paris. A photo of a couple walking together in Jardin de Tuleries, Paris.
@erika.kostialova / @emilytaubert

The Park

My least favorite. Some men chat you up online, showing no red flags, seeming like regular guys, but then they invite you to meet them in a park. I don’t like that for several reasons.

1 If we sit on a bench, I don’t know what to do with my hands.

2. He’s not investing even two euros to buy me a coffee—is he invested at all?

3. No matter how pretty the Paris parks are, walking on a circular path, dodging ponies and dogs and kids on scooters does not make it easy for us to get to know each other.

4. If the park date led to a drink or dinner, that would be nice. But once some guy and I just wandered around until it got dark and then he said, “So can we go back to your place now?” Um, no.

Recommended parks for a park date: For me, none. For those who like it, try the Luxembourg Gardens or Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. They’re both big enough to offer lots of wandering options, and they both have places to stop for a drink.

Left: a photo of a cafe terrace in Paris by a metro station. A photo of a couple drinking along the Seine in Paris during summer.
@deareverest / @l.r.e

Morning Coffee

This can work, because an espresso takes thirty seconds to drink if you’re not feeling it, or an hour if you are. I hesitate, though, because mornings in cafés are pretty quiet, and I need a busier atmosphere to size the guy up.

Recommended café for morning coffee: Try any tabac, found by the red neon sign. They’re active places, with people coming in to buy lottery tickets and other necessary items. You can even drink your coffee standing up at the bar for about half the price of table seating, which can be handy if you aren’t sure of the guy.

Left: a photo of a bar's terrace in Paris. Right: a photo of a couple kissing outside a metro station in Paris.
@deci_dela / @vutheara

Lunch or Dinner

In my opinion, this is too much commitment for a first date. You’ll know within twenty seconds if he’s got potential or not, and if he doesn’t, you’ve got to make conversation for an hour and a half. Too risky. Still, if you’re feeling lucky, go for it! To minimize risk, go somewhere busy and mid-priced. 

Café Montorgueil near Les Halles works. You can chat, people watch if the conversation dries up, and split when you’re ready. Or stick around. Your call.

Left: a photo of a couple on a terrace in Paris. A photo of an elderly couple on a park bench in Paris.
@deci_dela / @erika.kostialova


This is my favorite first date. The British have tea, the French have apéro, or a late-afternoon drink and snack. If you don’t vibe, you can gulp your rosé and leave. If you hit it off, the date might stretch into dinner and hubba hubba who knows what else?

Recommended cafes and restaurants: Le Dôme in the 17th is a classic—busy, good people watching, close to a metro, friendly staff. Le Sèvres Raspail near the Bon Marché is a good option too—busy, vibrant neighborhood, close to the metro for quick escapes if things go south, lots of good dining options if things go well. Your choice.

Personally, I find a successful first date in a vibrant setting where we can easily chat, lets me meet the guy, and see if he’s how he billed himself online. I make sure to have a drink and a snack to fiddle with, and an exit strategy. An apéro date is just that.

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Written by Yvonne Hazelton for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long or short term, or buy in France? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out our marketplace shop and experiences.


Yvonne Hazelton

Yvonne is an American writer living in Paris. She blogs at Escaping the Empty Nest.

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