Split a stack of pancakes at Breakfast in America
Brunch is the perfect low-pressure date meal: no one needs to get dressed up and even if one or both of you get a little sloshed on mid-morning mimosas, you have all day to sober up and make up for any slurred compliments. Parisians have jumped on the late breakfast bandwagon in recent years, though their version of it does tend to be overpriced and lacking in the reckless abundance that makes it so fun. Instead, embrace the States and share a stack of €7.95 pancakes at Breakfast in America.
Stroll hand-in-hand through the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
You can’t go wrong with a romantic stroll through a pretty park and there are none lovelier than the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. You can climb up to the temple to admire the view of the Sacré-Coeur, explore the waterfalls and grottos, and get carried away on the scents of the exotically planted forests. In the summer, take a blanket so you can chill out on the grassy slopes and take advantage of 24-hour openings with a picnic under the stars.
Shop for a home-cooked meal at the Marché d’Aligre
Going for a three-course dinner at a chic restaurant is all well and good but nothing says, ‘I love you’, like a home-cooked meal. There’s also nothing quite like bonding over a successful (or failed) exchange with a local merchant at the Marché d’Aligre, where you’ll find super-fresh produce for a fraction of the price you’d pay at the supermarket. You can even spring a bunch of flowers on your special someone if you’re feeling generous.
Sip coffee in the courtyard of the Petit Palais
As with brunch, Paris’ coffee scene has exploded in the past few years and there are lots of cool places for a casual day date. However, nowhere has the same wow-factor as the Petit Palais, whose courtyard garden is particularly beautiful in spring when the cherry trees are in blossom. The permanent collections of the museum are also free to visit and they stay open late on Fridays until 9pm.
Row around the Lac Daumesnil in Bois de Vincennes
The Bridget-Jones-Daniel-Cleaver-Mark-Darcy love triangle inspired a whole generation of young lovers to take to the incredibly still waters of parkland ponds and you can get in on the boat rowing action between 10am and 7pm on any day of the week except between November 15 and February 15. Boat hire coasts €12.80 for an hour and a slow row around the lake shouldn’t take you any longer than 45 minutes. (You’ll also need €20 for a security deposit.)
Play ping pong in the Square du Temple
A good active date that’s a little bit more up-tempo than a park-walk and less life-threatening than a bike ride with Parisian drivers is ping pong. There are free-to-use tables in parks and gardens all over the city but the Square du Temple is one of the most attractive and historic. You can pick up a set of two paddles and three balls from Decathlon for €9.99. This also works well as a double date idea.
Discover the Romantics at the Musée de la Vie Romantique
What museum could be a more appropriate museum for a date than the Musée de la Vie Romantique? Obviously, there was a lot more to Romanticism than falling in love but you can learn all about this while you walk around the former home of Dutch painter Ary Scheffer, a charming 1830 hôtel particulier hidden down a street in South Pigalle. As a City of Paris museum, entry is free to the permanent collections.
Listen to buskers on the steps of the Palais Garnier
A night at the opera isn’t going to do your bank account any favors but that doesn’t mean that the Palais Garnier has nothing for you. As well as being a fascinating building with a long list of admirers, it’s also a popular spot for street performers. Even if no one’s playing when you arrive, the stairs on the Place de l’Opéra are a great place to watch the world go by while you wait to be serenaded.
Stifle a giggle at La Pointe du Groin
As well as a hilarious name, La Pointe du Groin has one of the most affordable menus and, without question, the strangest payment system in the city. This rustic Breton restaurant asks that you trade in your euros (€40 should be more than enough) for some of the house’s groins before ordering. Regional desserts like the chocolate kouign amann and the far Breton are a must and the boxed wine isn’t too bad either.
See free short films at La Péniche Cinéma
La Péniche Cinéma, a floating theater on the Canal de l’Ourcq, is the best place to see free films all year round. Their showings of short pieces and documentaries that you won’t see elsewhere are followed by discussions with writers, actors, and directors. The Parc de la Villette, in which La Péniche is berthed, also hosts the city’s largest open-air cinema between mid-July and mid-August, where the grass is free and a deckchair costs €7 to rent.
Share a bottle of wine by the Canal Saint-Martin
For the price of one glass at a typical Parisian wine bar, you can easily get yourself a top-shelf bottle to share from your local cave. While drinking it on a park bench might take the edge off this minor victory, savoring it by the side of the Canal Saint-Martin, with the lights of the city’s most vibrant neighborhood glittering on the water’s surface, will only make it taste that much sweeter.
Dance the night away at Le Bal Swing
The Roaring Twenties are being kept alive and very much kicking in Paris thanks to dance associations like Shake That Swing. Their balls, held once or twice a month at locations across the city, are free to everyone. Even if your Charleston and Lindy Hop are a little rusty, the big band is sure to keep your feet tapping all night long.
P.S. If you had hoped to see ‘Clip a lovelock to a bridge’ on this list, you must have missed the news that this romantic tradition has been outlawed. Don’t worry, though, it’s still doing some good in the world.