Why propose in this city? Paris is almost a synonym for “love,” from the scintillating Eiffel Tower at night to the (now former) locks on bridges representing endless unions. It’s an open, liberal society where you’ll feel free to hold hands, kiss, and otherwise celebrate your new engagement. It’s easy to get to and around in, with countless airlines flying nonstop from the U.S. and other parts of Europe, and an extensive and relatively inexpensive public transportation system. Plus, the food, art, and culture are unparalleled anywhere else on the planet.
Tip 1: Despite stereotypes Americans have about Paris and the French, you’ll mostly be able to get by with spoken English and your usual traveler’s gesticulations in the City of Light, though learning a few key phrases will go a long way with your Gallic hosts.
Tip 2: You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a good bottle of wine (or bread) in Paris. Follow our suggestions to go grocery shopping like a true Parisian for that all-important picnic of a lifetime under the Eiffel Tower.
Paris is widely considered to be the world capital of love, which means that, in a sense, if you’re opting for a Parisian proposal, you can’t go wrong. But the city’s reputation for romance also poses a particular challenge when it comes to creating a unique and personal romantic experience. To propose in Paris is to walk the fine line between fantasy and cliché, so follow these tips to make sure you do it right.
Essentials for a Perfect Paris Proposal
For one, don’t be shy about getting cozy in public. The stereotype of Parisians kissing in the street exists for a reason — PDA is very culturally accepted in France, and people may even gaze at you warmly, sigh, and say something like, “Ah, les amoureux!” Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily extend as far to same-sex couples, especially when it comes to older Parisians and certain areas where traditional religious and cultural mores are more entrenched. That said, there are many LGBTQ-friendly places in Paris, most notably in the Marais.
Food & Drink
Paris has incredibly relaxed public drinking laws — it is essentially always legal except after midnight in certain locations during the summer months, but even then they are rarely enforced. What that means is that a picnic is always a cheap and romantic option — the word does, after all, come from the French “pique-nique,” which literally means to “peck at trifles” and was first applied to diners bringing their own wine to a restaurant. You can buy everything you need in a grocery store, but to take it up a level, get cheese from a real fromagerie, bread from a boulangerie and wine or Champagne from a caviste. This will make the most difference when it comes to the baguette because, contrary to popular belief, bad boulangeries do exist.
To get the best baguette wherever you are, ask for a “tradition” — it’s slightly smaller and a tad more expensive than a regular baguette (usually about $1.23 or 1.10 euros as opposed to 90 cents) but it’s guaranteed to be made on site without freezing and will have that rustic, crunchy crust and soft interior. The advantage of going to a wine store is that it weeds out the bad bottom-shelf options and the wine sellers can give recommendations. As a general rule, anything over 10 euros ($11) will be decent, and you can even go as low as 5 euros ($6) if you’re not picky. Bottles of Champagne, meanwhile, start at a little over 20 euros ($22). The advantage of a Champagne picnic is that not only is it festive, there’s no need for a bottle opener.
When you do dine out, be aware of France’s mealtimes. Many restaurants stop serving lunch at around 2:30 p.m. and don’t serve dinner until after 7 p.m. Conversely, if you’re just looking to get coffee or a drink and it’s peak lunch or dinnertime, many restaurants won’t seat you or will only seat you outside or at a table near the door. Once you’ve finished your meal, most waiters won’t bother you by bringing the check until you ask for it — the phrase you’re looking for is “L’addition, s’il vous plait!” (“The check, please!”). Tipping is never expected in France, but it is a nice touch if you’ve had a good time somewhere. You can start with 1 euro per person for a cheap meal, although more never hurts.
Travel & Getting Around
The best way to get around Paris is by walking or taking the Metro (which is incidentally the perfect place to practice your PDA). If you’re sporty types, you can rent bikes via Jump bike through the Uber app or the city’s bike-sharing system. There’s also the option of electric stand-up scooters, although that won’t make you particularly popular among Parisians. Just try and be responsible, use the street or bike lanes, follow traffic signs, and don’t leave them lying in the middle of the sidewalk when you’re done.
If you’re looking to embrace your European side by driving a real scooter, Paris has a scooter-sharing system called City Scoot. The scooters are rented via an app and you must be authorized to drive a 50 cc scooter, but if you were born before 1988 they won’t ask to see your license. If you were born after 1988, you’ll either need an EU permit or a French translation of your driver’s license.
There is no ideal time of year to visit Paris, since every season has its charms. In summer, it’s bike rides, picnics, and rosé, while in winter, it’s glittering lights, Christmas markets, and mulled wine. Though milder weather makes it easier to spend time outdoors (as many of these recommendations entail), know that Parisians sit outside at all times of the year, and most restaurants cover up their terraces and install heat lamps to make this possible.
As most tourist guides will tell you, the French like it when you make an effort to speak a little Français. It doesn’t have to be a lot — just starting a conversation with a simple “”Bonjour Monsieur” or “Bonjour Madame” and ending with a “Merci, au revoir” should do the trick.
You’ll definitely want to practice these phrases on your proposal trip to Paris:
- fiançailles – engagement
- Bague de fiançailles – engagement ring
- Demande en mariage – proposal
- Je t’aime – I love you
- Veux-tu m’épouser? – Will you marry me?
Most lovers of Paris have particular images that come to mind when they think of the city. You know your chérie better than anyone, so if their dream is to see you on bended knee under the Arc de Triomphe or they’re such a pastry fiend you want to have the ring baked into a croissant at their favorite boulangerie, by all means, do what you have to do. But if you’re in need of some inspiration, here are some recommendations to suit various Parisian reveries.
“Le Chic Classique” Proposal
The Eiffel TowerEiffel Tower, Paris, France
If you want the Eiffel Tower as the backdrop for your big moment, and you realize that this is the single most clichéd visual you can choose, you have numerous options. Due to the bulletproof glass walls and metal fencing put in place in the wake of terror attacks (not to mention the multitude of tourists) proposing at the foot of the Eiffel Tower is a no-go. For the best proximity, the Champ de Mars (the grassy public park stretching behind it) is a great picnic spot. You may come across a few rats, but they tend to avoid the open field, so if you stay away from bushes and benches, you should be fine. If you do see one, try and think of it as Remy from “Ratatouille.” (Photo courtesy of Bomdiaemparis)
Proposing at Place du TrocadéroPlace du Trocadéro, 75016 Paris, France
The most stunning view comes from across the river at Place du Trocadéro. It’s often crowded with tourists and illegal vendors selling Eiffel Tower statuettes, but at night you can usually find a quiet spot. (Photo courtesy of Sathish J)
Restaurant Proposal27 Quai Branly, 75007 Paris, France
Restaurants overlooking the Iron Lady are pricey, but if your priority is feasting on the view, either Girafe or Les Ombres is your best bet, particularly if it’s nice enough to sit outside. Girafe is right on the Place du Trocadéro and has a seafood menu that includes oysters and caviar. For dessert, if the caramel salted butter tart sounds too intense, you can always go with the café gourmand — a feature of many French dessert menus, it includes a coffee and a selection of miniature sweets. Les Ombres, meanwhile, is on the Left Bank, in the middle of the garden of the Quai Branly Museum, and has a 104-euro tasting menu that comes with a glass of Champagne. (Photo of Les Ombres courtesy of theofficialalejandra)
Centre PompidouPlace Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France
For a more panoramic Parisian view, there’s also Georges at the top of the Centre Pompidou. The museum’s glass-walled escalator is basically a clear tunnel of love, gradually transporting you into the skies above the city’s slate rooftops. (Photo courtesy of Georges)
During a Dinner CruisePort des Saints-Pères, Paris, France
If you really want to go all out, the best option is a Seine dinner cruise. Even the most jaded Parisians are never immune to the magic of being on the river at night. Smaller boats like Le Calife will feel more intimate and less touristy. Their menus start at 67 euros and include a glass of Champagne. Bottles of wine start at 40 euros. Local tip: The Eiffel tower sparkles for five minutes every hour on the hour, so make sure you get your timing right. Seine cruises will usually get the timing right for you, stalling in front of the tower as she glimmers. (Photo courtesy of Le Calife)
“La Bohème” Proposal
Au Pied de Fouet3 Rue Saint-Benoît, 75006 Paris, France
If your partner’s Paris fantasy is more chain-smoking cigarettes and drinking red wine while talking philosophy on the terrace of a dingy cafe, the Latin Quarter could be the way to go. Classic bohemian haunts Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore are too upscale to fulfill this fantasy nowadays (as is almost all of Saint-Germain-de-Près), but you could wander to nearby neighborhood bistrot Au Pied de Fouet on rue Saint Benoît, which is cozy, delicious, and still has prices from another era. If you’re feeling adventurous, get a tartare de boeuf — raw beef. Depending on their menu that day, the magret de canard (duck breast) is delicious and something you’re less likely to see on a menu outside of France. (Photo courtesy of Warszawskaparisienne)
Le Bistro des Augustins39 Quai des Grands Augustins, 75006 Paris, France
There’s also local institution La Palette, or Le Bistro des Augustins on the Seine between Pont Neuf and Saint Michel, another typically Parisian spot that’s both charming cheap. (Photo courtesy of Le Bistro des Augustins)
Place de la ContrescarpePlace de la Contrescarpe, 75005 Paris, France
If you want to go a bit further from the Seine towards the Sorbonne and the Pantheon, Place de la Contrescarpe was one of Ernest Hemingway’s typical haunts and maintains its local, bohemian allure. (Photo courtesy of Ferda Hejl)
Ile Saint LouisÎle Saint-Louis, 75004 Paris, France
Aside from the Metro, there’s no place more Parisian to make out with a lover than along the banks of the Seine, particularly surrounding Ile de la Cité and Ile Saint Louis. On the Left Bank in the shadow of the Notre Dame Cathedral, Quai de Montebello is the walk made famous by the Gene Kelly classic, “An American in Paris.” If you’d like a quieter spot, try the banks of Ile-Saint-Louis — Place Louis Aragaon on the tip of the island is particularly lovely. (Photo courtesy of Luc Mercelia)
At a Boat BarPort des Célestins, Quai de l'Hôtel de ville, 75004 Paris, France
If sitting on the ground isn’t your thing, take a seat at one of the river’s many boat bars or péniches, sometimes referred to as “guinguettes.” There are a number of nice ones on the right bank in the vicinity of Ile Saint Louis, including Péniche Marcounet. It also has comfy seating on the quai next to the boat, so you can get that riverside feeling without getting seasick. In the summertime, you’ll see most people drinking bright orange Apérol spritzes, a refreshing alternative to the classic rosé.
If you’re looking for a péniche in the 1st Arrondissement, closer to the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysées, there are several near Métro station Invalides. Rosa Bonheur sur Seine will give you a more bohemian vibe in an otherwise more classic part of the city. On the other side of the beautifully illuminated Pont Alexandre III, there’s also Faust for a sleeker, clubbier feeling. (Photo courtesy of Péniche Marcounet)
Pont des ArtsPont des Arts, 75006 Paris, France
Of the 37 bridges across the Seine, wooden pedestrian bridge Pont des Arts is the most associated with lovers. A popular picnic spot, it’s also where couples used to attach padlocks etched with their initials onto the metal barriers. Unfortunately, the weight of all the metal risked making the bridge collapse, so several years ago the city of Paris covered the metal with Plexiglas — nearby, Pont Neuf also got inundated with “love locks” and saw the same Plexiglas fate as Pont des Arts. You’ll still see “love locks” spring up in random places nearby, and if you’d like to add your own to the mix, many tourist shops along the Seine sell them for several euros. Just know that the Paris government, while supportive of love, does not find the practice très amusant. (Photo courtesy of Guilhem Vellut)
Pont de Bir Hakeim75015 Paris, France
Another romantic bridge is Bir Hakeim. Best known these days as the bridge featured in “Inception,” it also boasts an Eiffel Tower view. (Photo courtesy of Bintangbis)
Sacré Cœur in MontmartreMontmartre, 75018 Paris, France
The cobblestone streets and steep staircases of Montmartre make it one of the most charming areas of Paris with some of the best views. Grab a bottle of wine and watch the sun go down from the steps of the Sacré Cœur, where you’ll likely be accompanied by street musicians and carousing groups of locals and tourists. (Photo courtesy of Jorge Quinteros)
Café des Deux Moulins15 Rue Lepic, 75018 Paris, France
While certain areas near the Sacré Cœur (such as Place du Tertre) are overwhelmed with tourists, if you wander off the beaten path to the north and west of the basilica, you’ll find smaller, less congested streets. Rue Lepic is a nice one to follow and will take you past the Café des Deux Moulins, made famous in the film “Amélie,” as well as past Montmartre’s two original wooden windmills. Place Emile-Goudeau and Place Dalida hold classic Montmartre charm and le mur des je t’aime (the “I love you” wall) always makes for a nice photo op. (Photo courtesy of Café des Deux Moulins)
Moulin Rouge82 Boulevard de Clichy, 75018 Paris, France
At the foot of Montmartre across from the Blanche Metro station, you’ll find Le Moulin Rouge cabaret. (Photo courtesy of Le Moulin Rouge)
Comestibles et Marchand de Vins65 Rue du Mont-Cenis, 75018 Paris, France
On the other side of the butte, the neighborhood between Metro stations Lamarck-Coulaincourt and Jules Joffrin is full of nice cafés. Comestibles et Marchand de Vins is a good wine bar with a wonderful terrace. To go along with their vast selection of wines, they have fresh and delicious smaller plates, including truffle croque monsieur. (Photo courtesy of Comestibles et Marchand de Vins)
“Le Royale” Proposal
Château de VersaillesPlace d'Armes, 78000 Versailles, France
If you want to propose the way Louis XIV would have done it, hop on the RER C and head to Château de Versailles. Even more magnificent than the Hall of Mirrors are the expansive gardens that surround it — they are free to enter except on days when there are fountain shows. Wandering in and out of the rows of hedges will make you feel like 18th-century courtiers. (Photo courtesy of Château de Versailles)
Trianon (Marie Antoinette's Estate)78008 Versailles, France
For most of the year (late February to mid-November) you can rent bikes to explore the grounds or a boat to row around the Grand Canal. The gardens of Marie Antoinette’s Trianon Estate (about a 30-minute walk across the grounds from Versailles) are an equally lovely and more intimate setting. (Photo courtesy of Trianon Estate)
Tuileries GardenPlace de la Concorde, 75001 Paris, France
To get the royal vibe without leaving the city, there’s always the Louvre museum (a former palace) and the surrounding Tuileries Garden, the Luxembourg Gardens, or the Chateau and Bois de Vincennes, where rowboats are also available to rent. (Photo of Tuileries Garden courtesy of Carl Campbell)
“Le Hipster” Parisien Proposal
If you want to feel like a cool, modern-day Parisian, northeast Paris is where you want to be. The area is home to today’s bohemians, more often derided as “bourgeois bohemians” or “Bobos” — essentially, they’re French hipsters, although there is some debate about the differences between the two.
The words “marriage” and “fiancé” may come from the French language, but still, the French definition of romance doesn’t really include proposals and weddings — in fact, France tops the EU countries for birth rates outside of marriage — but one place you will sometimes spot Parisian couples taking engagement-style photos is Parc des Buttes Chaumont. Laid across a hillside, the park features winding paths, waterfalls, and a rocky cliff that rises out of a pond and is topped by a miniature Roman temple. It may all be man-made, but you’ll still feel like you walked into a fairytale. If the Temple de la Sibylle isn’t too crowded, it’s the most picturesque spot to pop the question, but there are numerous benches and stretches of grass along the upper ridge of the park that have equally lovely views and glimpses of the Sacré Cœur.
There are also three bars in the park, of which the Rosa Bonheur, perched at the top, is the main local hangout (and sister bar to Rosa Bonheur sur Seine). You can also wind your way down to the ivy-covered Pavillon Puebla, which has two terraces surrounded by lush greenery and is flecked with fairy lights. The group that owns it, Le Perchoir, has other cool spots across the city, including two rooftop bars. (Photo of Temple de la Sibylle courtesy of Sarah Hilka)
Parc de Belleville47 Rue des Couronnes, 75020 Paris, France
Though Buttes Chaumont is perhaps the city’s most picturesque park, the one with the best view is the nearby Parc de Belleville, from which you have a clear shot of the Eiffel Tower. (Photo courtesy of Andrew)
Cruising Down Canal de l’Ourq75019 Paris, France
Another romantic stroll in the northeast of Paris is the Canal Saint Martin. Any of the bridges that arc over the canal would be a lovely place to take a knee. Further north, the water widens into the Canal de l’Ourq, where you can rent a tiny electric boat with Marin d’Eau Douce. The smallest boat costs 40 euros ($45) an hour or 90 euros ($100) for three hours. Alcohol and food are welcome on board, so pack a picnic. You can also buy wine and snacks on site. The only downside is that the driver of the boat is not supposed to drink for safety purposes. If you go far enough up the canal, you’ll pass the sprawling Parc de la Villette and eventually reach the gentrifying industrial area just North of Paris that most tourists don’t see. (Photo of Canal de l’Ourcq courtesy of Annabelle Cra)
Paname Brewing Company41 bis Quai de la Loire, 75019 Paris, France
Once you dock back at the Canal de l’Ourq, there are comfy cafés on both sides of the water. La Bastringue is a local favorite that’s always lively and has solid French classics (like the aforementioned magret de canard). If you’re a beer aficionado, check out the Paname Brewing Company, one of the city’s many microbreweries and undoubtedly the one with the best view. It sits right on the canal in a building that was a storehouse for grains and wine back in the 1800s, when the canal was used for shipping. They make five house beers plus seasonal flavors including raspberry sour and pumpkin ale, as well as a wide-ranging menu that includes pizza and burgers.
Fun fact: The name Paname is actually a nickname for Paris coined in the early 20th century. Some say it’s linked to the scandal of the French failure to build the Panama Canal. Others say it has more to do with the Panama hats worn by the canal’s construction workers that were widely adopted as an elegant fashion statement in the French capital. (Photo courtesy of Paname Brewing Company)
“La Spontanée” Proposal
Anywhere the Mood Strikes, Even on the Paris Metro75014 Paris, France
To return to the founding principle that Paris is the most romantic city on earth, if all else fails, be spontaneous. Keep the ring in your pocket and pull it out the moment the mood strikes. On the Metro, on a street corner, on the balcony of your hotel room or apartment rental, on the terrace of a nondescript café. To be chic is not to be perfect — if anything goes wrong, as the French would say, c’est la vie! (Photo courtesy of hotelmontmartremonamour)