Paris is one the world’s great romantic destinations which is why many people choose to spend Valentine’s Day here. But February isn’t necessarily the best time of year to visit a northern European city. To ensure that you make the most of your visit to Paris, here is a list of the things you should avoid doing. Plus some ideas about what you could do instead.
1.Don’t go outside
You know those incredible-looking boulevards? Great avenues built wide enough for an army to march up? The wind whips right up them in winter months. You’ll freeze your bum off, don’t do it.
What to do instead: Stay inside. It’s Valentine’s Day. Do I need to spell it out for you?
2. Don’t go up the Eiffel Tower
You’re basically queueing in the cold to be even colder, but with a view. Does this sound like fun to you?
What to do instead: Seeing Paris from on high is a must for any visitor but there is a way to do it that is warmer and involves more alcohol. Tour Montparnasse is famous for being Paris’ tallest and ugliest building. Go to the very top, have a (spendy) drink in Ciel de Paris, and wonder at the vista. The best bit? You get the Eiffel Tower included in the view.
3. Don’t have your photo taken on a bridge over the Seine
I used to cross Pont Neuf to get to work and every Valentine’s you’d see couples posing for pictures against the gorgeous backdrop of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower or the Conciergerie and Notre Dame. Unfortunately, they were generally sporting rictus grins as they fought chattering teeth and shivering limbs because of the exposed spot over the river. Inevitably the ladies had it worst because they’d dressed for Paris in springtime and generally would be shivering in a cute but inappropriate skirt.
What to do instead: Go to the nearby Latin Quarter for your photo sessions. It’s one of the few areas left in Paris with the original medieval street plan, which means lots of narrow winding streets – terrible for fires or catching plagues, but great for avoiding the wind. And ladies, if you won’t wear trousers then at least wear thick woolly tights, like 300 denier.
4. Don’t take a boat trip up the Seine
This is one of the best and most relaxing ways to see some of the major Parisian sights. But many of the bateaux mouches have open top upper decks which is unthinkable at this time of year. Yes, there is the option of sitting below deck but frankly it’s not much better.
What to do instead: Book yourself a trip with lunch or dinner on one of the fancy boats. It costs significantly more but you’ll be warm inside eating delicious food and getting mildly sozzled, accompanied by live dinner jazz (music which is only tolerable when mildly sozzled).
5. Don’t pop into an art gallery
This seems like a very Parisian sort of thing to do: casually catch a bit of art on the fly. Don’t be fooled, this is a terrible idea because you will queue and queue and queue. (I spent easily 90-120 minutes queueing last time I tried this at le Centre Pompidou.)
What to do instead: If you’re going to go to one of the big galleries or museums, book your tickets in advance. That way you can skip the ticket buying queue, and only need to do the security queue. If French ticket websites are confusing or scary, then go to the gallery first thing in the morning. Never go after lunch expecting to just walk in. Alternatively, visit a more offbeat museum.
6. Don’t put a love lock on a bridge
Nothing to do with Valentine’s, just don’t put locks on the bridges because they damage them.
What to do instead: If you’re determined to put an everlasting mark of your love, get a tattoo. That way the damage is to yourself
when if it all goes wrong.
7. Don’t go to a restaurant
Nothing to do with Paris. I just think going to a restaurant at Valentine’s is a tad cringe. Nope?
What to do instead: Get tipsy in a bar and eat takeaway on the way home. Have your fancy restaurant meal on the 15th instead and congratulate yourself on beating the system. SOCK IT TO THE MAN.
8. Don’t visit Montmartre
Gorgeous winding cobbled streets, fine bars and restaurants, the
Taj Mahal Sacré Cœur and the whole Amelie vibe – Montmartre is a place I always take visitors to Paris. But Montmartre is also on a hill. (The clue is in the “Mont” part of the name.) Hills are exposed and cold.
What to do instead: Visit the Catacombes. Sure, being surrounded by the skelteons of hundreds of thousands of Parisians in an underground tomb might not immediately seem like the most romantic way to spend Valentine’s but love and death are intrinsically linked –nothing gets the blood racing faster than the fear of impending mortality. Don’t believe me? What about all those babies born after WW2? And yes, you’ll be protected from the weather.
9. Don’t walk in a park
Paris is full of beautiful parks like the Jardin des Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg. The problem here is that they were designed for being promenaded in by ladies wearing enormous dresses. You won’t find winding pathways or shelter from the wind and the rain here.
What to do instead: Go to either of the woods that buffer Paris from originally wolves and now unspeakable banlieues. Both the bois de Boulogne and the bois de Vincennes are beautiful green spaces – far more natural than the precision planning of their city counterparts – plus you will also be protected from the worst of the elements by the trees.
Sidenote: both of these woods were notorious for prostitution and you can still find ladies and gentlement plying the world’s oldest trade, should your Valentine’s not be working out how you had planned.
10. Don’t fail to propose
A visit to a city synonymous with romance like Paris has a way of setting up certain expectations. And if you’re visiting at Valentine’s, these are only going to be intensified. What I’m saying is that if marriage is on the cards then this is a good opportunity to ask your lady to do the deed, or risk ruining the trip and possibly your entire relationship.
True story: During a flight from Paris to Edinburgh a nervous male passenger asked his girlfriend to marry him over the intercom. Cue much cheering for the passengers. Only a little later, concerned air stewards were hovering around the couple. I overheard one explain to a curious passenger that the girl was upset the proposal hadn’t happened in Paris. She was still there wiping away her tears on Easyjet napkins when we landed 90 minutes later.
What to do instead: Either propose straightaway or be so deliberately unromantic that your significant other realises that a proposal of marriage is not going to happen. Pretend you are colleagues on a business trip. Sleep in twin beds. Talk about breakout sessions, visit strip bars in Pigalle and high-five her over breakfast croissants.
Do you agree with this list? Are there other places you would avoid at Valentine’s? Or do you have any recommendations of things that are romantic AND season appropriate to do in Paris? Finally, thank you for visiting Paris <3 and please share if you’ve enjoyed! 🙂