A little about Lily: Lily Heise left her home of Canada to live in Paris over 15 years ago. She is living a dream I know a lot of you have. She knows her neighborhood of Montmartre better than anyone I know. Ever since her arrival in Paris, she has tried unsuccessfully to stay out of romantic trouble. She wrote two books on the subject. She also writes articles for Huffington Post, Condé Nast Traveler, and Frommer's amongst many other publications.
Paris is undoubtedly one of the most romantic cities in the whole world, thus, needless to say, it’s also one of the most ideal places to propose. The Eiffel Tower might come to mind as the best-known symbol of the city, that said, there are many more romantic, original (and less crowded), places to actually pop the question. You can create a special, memory that will last a lifetime at one of the following ultra romantic, very Parisian places.
Quai de la Tournelle
It’s virtually impossible not to be swept up in the romantic spirit along the Seine River. This particular stretch of the riverside walkway grants you one of the loveliest views of Notre Dame and Ile-Saint-Louis. Moored péniche barges, cobblestones and passing boats all add to the ambiance. During the day it isn’t too busy so you’ll also have privacy to savor the moment which will hopefully include a resounding oui! Which can be celebrated with then sharing a bottle of bubbly and making the moment — and view — last longer.
Pont Alexandre III
Most of the bridges of Paris are picturesque, though it’s awfully hard to not include the city’s most romantic into this list. Completed in 1900 and named in honor of the Russian Tsar, the elaborate bridge is adorned with water nymphs, catskills and aquatic life and is guarded by four columns topped in gilded Fames restraining Pegasus. For the most romantic angle, approach it from the right bank, in the shadow of the Grand and Petit Palais and with the stunning view of the golden dome of Les Invalides straight ahead. At the start of the bridge there is a little alcove, with a backdrop of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower — it might just have been made with proposals in mind. If the traffic is too noisy on the street level, take the stairs down to the riverbank level, which is equally romantic.
Passerelle Bichat, Canal Saint Martin
While the bridges of the Seine are terribly scenic, you may prefer the intimacy and more surprising bridges across the Canal Saint Martin. Immortalized in the early 2000s’ Amélie movie, this hip part of Paris has small designer shops, trendy restaurants, and cool bars, so it’s an excellent setting for those looking for a non-traditional, yet still very Parisian venue to commemorate their eccentric love. The canal crossing with the prettiest view is the Passerelle Bichat, one of the canal’s two raised pedestrian bridges. Climbing up the steps you’ll have the panorama of the gently glimmering water reflecting the tree leaves and colorful storefronts. Blissfully quirky and magical.
Place du Calvaire, Montmartre
Montmartre is incredibly romantic, but all the hordes of tourists are definitely not. You can get away from the masses in this square, found a stone’s throw from Place de Tertre and Sacré Coeur... yet minus the masses. Quintessentially Montmartre in spirit, expect old buildings draped in ivy, stoic lamp posts, zinc and tiled rooftops… and the Eiffel Tower peeking through a gap in the buildings. You can admire this from the steps above the Dali Museum and from the bench parallel to the buildings, the perfect place to pop the question… in fact, it’s even a tried and tested proposal place! Caught up in this exquisitely romantic ambiance, how could she say non?
The historic Opera Garnier is not only one of the most glamorous buildings in Paris, but possibly the whole world. Designed to be the centre of the “new” Paris of the 19th century, the building is decked out in statues extolling the arts, monumental columns and gilded chandeliers — all elaborate show-stoppers, or rather heart stoppers. Take your love’s breath completely away with the shimmer of her engagement ring shining even more brightly in one of the reception salons which can be visited on a self-guided tour of the inside or take her to a performance to build up the moment then surprise her afterwards either in front of the building or on one of the quiet sides.
Rooftop Terrace of Galeries Lafayette
If you want to be encircled by all of Paris’ top sites, the best place for this is on the terrace of Les Galeries Lafayette (or its next door neighbor Printemps). The wows will start as you enter this historic department store and gaze up at its spectacular Art Nouveau stained-glass dome. Your eyes will be on visual overdose as you get to the rooftop and take in the exceptional 360-degree panorama of the city featuring the Opera Garnier, Montmartre, Sacré Coeur and the unforgettable rooftops. Dazzle your heartthrob even further with pulling out a sparkling ring, perhaps presented on the other side of one of the observation viewers. Afterward, celebrate with a glass of champagne at their new Ice Cube Bar (note both the observation terrace and the bar close at 7:30 pm during the week and 6 pm on Sundays).
Palais Royal Gardens
If your sweetheart doesn’t know Paris, this will be a nice surprise. Walking through the passageway from the busy streets around the Louvre and the Opera district, you’ll enter a quiet oasis of columns, arcades, and an elegant garden. One of the best aspects of this as a proposal option is that it’s marvelous all year round so you won’t have to rely on the unpredictable skies of Paris that some of these other venues might require. In addition, it’s rarely packed so you’ll be sure to have the intimacy to cherish the moment.
Temple of Sibylle, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
For a more laidback, but equally lovely Parisian garden experience, venture off the beaten path to the northeastern Buttes-Chaumont Park. A favorite of Parisians, this is one of the various parks built during the second half of the 19th century under the Haussmannisation of the city. Constructed on the site of a disused stone quarry, the terrain shows evidence of this with its hilly slopes, though quite thoroughly remodeled by the park’s designer. Crowning one of these is the Temple of Sibylle, found in the middle of the small lake on Belvédère Island. Inspired by the Roman Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, you’ll have to scale 173 steps to get to the top, but the path is pleasant, passing hidden grottos and waterfalls, plus once at its summit, you’ll be rewarded with an impressive view of the north of the city, including Sacré Coeur, very romantic horizons for your very romantic occasion.
Temple of Love, Bois de Vincennes
For the more adventurous, journey out to the east of the city to the Bois de Vincennes. Built around the same time as the Buttes-Chaumont, this is one of the two expansive woods which flank each side of the city. The vast Bois de Vincennes provides an idyllic setting for romance, especially by renting a little boat on the Lac Daumesnil to reach the l'île de Reuilly. One this little-visited island you can discover le Temple d’Amour. You’ll certainly surprise your chérie with this secluded destination… and you’ll most likely have it all to yourselves for your declarations of amour.
Château de Chantilly
A fairytale romance should definitely involve a castle and the greater Parisian region has many. Sure, Versailles is most famous and the most flashy… but it’s hardly a private place. Instead, travel out to one of the smaller castles of Ile-de-France like the Château de Chantilly. This is probably the easiest to get at only 40-60 minutes from the city centre by public transportation and gives the best all around “castle” feel. It consists of a renaissance Petit Château, dating from around 1560, and the Grand Château, damaged during the French Revolution and rebuilt in the 1870s. A section of the interior houses the Musée Condé, an impressive collection of masterpieces by Botticelli, Raphael, Watteau and Delacroix among others.
After the soaking up the regal and artistic interior, take a stroll in the gorgeous gardens extending over 115 hectares where you can admire a Jardin à la française, designed by Versailles fame Le Nôtre, a more casual English garden and an Anglo-Chinese garden. In the latter, you can find Le Hameau, a restaurant set in quaint cottage-like buildings inspired Marie-Antoinette's Norman hamlet at Versailles. Here you can lunch on local seasonal dishes or sample some of its famous Chantilly whipped cream. Why not slip your ring in her bowl of strawberries and cream… or ask her for her hand on a private, leisurely boat ride around the lake.