With the temperatures dropping and the light dimming, winter in Paris might not seem like the most romantic time of year. In many ways, however, it can actually be a lovers’ paradise, even ifyou’re not skating hand in hand in front of Hôtel de Ville, strolling the streets brightly decorated for the holidays, or huddled together sipping vin chaud. Here are five fun ideas to warm up (and spice up) your couples’ outings in the chilly city of amour.
One of the most romantic items associated with winter are fireplaces, and the largest quantity of these in Paris could well be at Le Carnavalet, the Museum of the history of Paris (16 Rue des Francs Bourgeois, 75003 Paris, 01 44 59 58 58). The hundreds of rooms of the two former private mansions that make up the museum are dotted with fireplaces once used to heat these vast private homes. In addition to the original ones, dozens of other cheminées were brought here from other buildings as examples of different eras and styles of Parisian design. Wandering through the maze of rooms with your amoureux, you can have fun tracking down massive medieval hearths, delicate rococo mantles, and Art Nouveau masterpieces, all the while learning more about the city’s history.
Once you’ve admired the range of historic fireplaces at the Carnavalet, it’s time to snuggle up with your cheri(e) over a warm drink by one of these fireplace bars. Considering the amount of fireplaces, in service or decorative, that are found in Parisian apartments, they can be surprisingly hard to come by in Parisian cafés. If you’re looking to cozy up by the fire in the afternoon, grab a table in the back room of Le Quincampé tea salon (78, rue Quincampoix, 75003 Paris, 01 40 27 01 45), where a toasty fire and a delicious array of teas will keep you heated. They also do a unique “Oriental” brunch during winter. For a hip cocktail, head to the trendy Jules et Jim hotel, where a fireplace warms up the courtyard bar. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the contemporary art featured in temporary exhibits in the hotel’s public spaces. Many other hotels have lovely fireplace bars that unfortunately aren’t always kept lit, but you can usually bet on finding a fire crackling at the Left Bank’s Hotel Montalembert(3 Rue Montalembert, 75007 Paris, 01 45 49 68 68) in its “Salon Gallimard,” named after the famous French publishing house located next door.
Tantalize your Palate with Grand Cru Hot Chocolate
Are you an Angelina or Café de Flore hot chocolate lover? Perhaps Un Dimanche à Paris has won you over? This winter take this debate with your lover a step further at two new rivals to these hot chocolate institutions. Skip the queue at Angelina’s and head around the corner to Jean-Paul Hévin’s Chocolate Bar, located above his shop at 231 rue Saint Honoré, where you can tickle your taste buds with his heavenly grands crus de cacao or the envies parisiennes hot chocolates. Or if you’re wandering in the Marais (possibly after fireplace hunting at Le Carnavalet) you can get a cup to go at his new Chocolate Bar(re) shop (41 rue de Bretagne, 75003). The supremely sweet-toothed will love the amazing chocolate creations of macaron master Pierre Hermé, who has molded a sophisticated and tempting menu of cocoa delights at his own “Bar Chocolat” which is taking over Le Bar Long of the decadent Le Royal Monceau (37 Avenue Hoche, 75008 Paris, 01 42 99 88 00) from 3-6 pm until March 31, 2015.
Nothing spells out French winter food more than Alpine specialties like raclette or fondue. These are also fun dishes to share, and thus great for couples. Ski clear of the tourist traps in the Latin Quarter, though, and aim for one of these best venues in town located slightly off the beaten path. Don’t let its bright sign deter you; once inside the Chalet Savoyard (58 rue de Charonne 75011), you’ll cozy up to an impressive array of après-ski options and creative varieties of fondues such as Roquefort and walnuts or, perfect for lovers, the “pétillante de savoie” made with sparkling Savoyard wine. Alternatively, go for a raclette at Les Fondus de la Raclette (209, boulevard Raspail 75014 Paris 01 43 27 00 13). The sides your amoureux chooses to drape with hot cheese might be quite telling of their personality: potatoes, pickles, or charcuterie? Lastly, if you’re torn over which cheesy specialty to select, head down to the quaint Chalet d’Avron (108 rue de Montreuil, 75011 Paris, 01 43 71 18 62), which serves up both very well. Dining in its mountainous ambience, you’ll forget you’re still in Paris.
Stay warm, take in some culture, and be romantically inspired at one of three current romantically themed exhibits. The Pinacothèque(28 Place de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris, 01 42 68 02 01) is hosting two of these: The Kâma-Sûtra, Spirituality and Erotisme in Indian Art (on through January 11) and In the Time of Geishas (through February 15). If you can’t pick one, you can actually see both for a joint half-priced ticket. Or for something a little different, stop in at the little-known Letters and Manuscripts museum (222 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75007 Paris 01 42 22 48 48) to peruse its collection of famous love letters. You’ll need good French to be able to read the romantic prose, or better still, have your Parisian copain or copine recite these to you.