• Paris – the Great Outdoors

    by  • February 14, 2014 • Architecture, City Breaks, Nature, Paris

    We couldn’t let Valentine’s Day pass without a little homage to the City of Love. Here’s my own personal round-up of romantic, outdoor hotspots for Paris, a perennial short break favourite.

    Relaxing en plein air amidst the verdant landscapes of the French capital’s parks has to be one of my all-time favourite Parisian pastimes. Whether you opt for the grassy Champs de Mars at the foot of the imposing Eiffel Tower or the beautifully tranquil Jardin du Luxembourg, the lesser-known Buttes-Chaumont in the 19ème arrondissement with its 30-foot waterfall, bluffs and bridges or the sprawling Bois de Vincennes on Paris’ eastern perimeter, affectionately referred to as ‘Paris’ lungs’, a romantic picnic complete with bottle of wine, baguette and the freshest camembert takes some beating.

    Paris is renowned for its flea markets and many a romantic hour could and should be spent browsing and bargaining amidst the shops and market stalls of its marchés aux puces. The biggest and most renowned has to be Clignancourt, reputedly the largest antiques market in the world, situated in the north of the city. Known also as les Puces de Saint-Ouen, Clignancourt actually comprises a collection of markets centred round the Rue des Rosiers: the Marché Antica specialises in paintings and Chinese furniture whilst the Marché Vernaison is popular with those looking for a bargain. For those serious about antiques and furnishings meanwhile, try the Marché Dauphine for period furniture, paintings and tapestries, or the Marché Biron. Alternatively, on the south side of the city, the Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves is worth a wander.

    A Parisian pre-requisite, there’s nothing better than a Seine-side walk arm-in-arm, passing from Left Bank to right across some of the most romantic bridges in the city. Adorned by nymphs and cherubs and named after the Russian Tsar as public recognition of the French-Russian Alliance in 1892, the Pont Alexandre III is unquestionably one of the most romantic bridges in Paris whilst the Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris, offers spectacular views of many of Paris’ key landmarks – the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Institut de France to name but a few.

    The Pont des Arts (also known as the Passarelle des Arts) serves at times as an exhibition space for painters, artists and photographers but what’s particularly special about this bridge is the sheer volume of padlocks attached to its railings, upon which romance-infused tourists have engraved their names, shut the lock and thrown the key into the Seine as a grand symbol of eternal love. The Pont du Carrousel is also well worth a romantic pause to take in the magnificent sights whilst the Pont de la Tournelle, connecting Ile de la Cité with the renowned Tour d’Argent restaurant offers a fantastic rear view of Notre Dame.

    And finally, I couldn’t finish without a mention of two very special quartiers. The Latin Quarter remains an eternal favourite with its timeless cafés, antiques stores, bookshops and quiet passageways. Here, you’ll find the Panthéon, Hôtel de Cluny (housing the Musée National du Moyen Age) and the aforementioned Jardin du Luxembourg.

    The Marais District meanwhile is one of Paris’ oldest and most visually stunning areas, often overlooked for its more centrally-located and better-known neighbours. Check out the Hôtel de Sens, the Place du Marché Sainte-Catherine and the charming Saint-Paul village, not to mention the striking Hôtel du Sully and the magnificent Place des Vosges, arguably Paris’ most beautiful square.

    About

    With a French grandmother, childhood holidays on the continent and a degree in French and Spanish, a love of languages and travel has always been in my blood. Fresh from university with an unfettered enthusiasm to show off my linguistic ability and first-hand knowledge of the world beyond the UK, I entered the travel industry and, 16 years on, I’m still there! With several years spent in the luxury sector planning escorted holidays across Europe for the American market, followed by an even longer tenure designing short breaks with a difference in the must-see cities of Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Amsterdam, Madrid, Prague, Florence, Brussels, Venice, Salzburg, Milan, Krakow and Berlin (to name but a few), it’s fair to say that Europe is my passion! Today my travels have taken me far beyond the boundaries of Europe with so many destinations still to discover, yet the continent abounds in such a wealth of treasures – historical and architectural, cultural and musical, gastronomic, artistic and linguistic – that its appeal, for me, will be eternal.