romantic paris

5 Famous French Romances to Inspire You this Valentine’s Day

Paris’ reputation as the City of Love is well-earned – many lovers have called the French capital home. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here are just a few of our favorite love stories throughout the ages that have left their mark on Paris

1. Héloïse and AbéLard

This Medieval couple is the subject of a beautiful epic poem by Alexander Pope, and though their story is not the happiest, it is certainly filled with love.

Héloïse met Abélard when he was hired by her uncle to be her private tutor, and quickly, the two fell in love. When Héloïse became pregnant, she was forced to leave Paris in shame, and her uncle (for reasons that are still disputed by scholars) had Abélard attacked and castrated. The couple decided to take Holy Orders were thus separated for twenty years – but they kept up a famous correspondence of beautiful love letters that so enchanted Josephine Bonaparte that she had their remains moved to Père Lachaise cemetery, where they are buried as though they had lived as man and wife.

2. Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir

Sartre and de Beauvoir were the intellectual power couple of Paris’ literary scene in the 1950s and 60s. While their love story was far from traditional – they never lived together and famously had an open relationship – De Beauvoir said that her union with Sartre “made a superfluous mockery of any other bond we might have forged for ourselves,” and there’s something rather romantic about that.

3. Frédéric Chopin and George Sand

The romance between Chopin and Sand bucked the gender binary long before it was common: cigar-smoking, pants-wearing, Revolutionary novelist Sand and shy, sickly, discreet Chopin seemed a strange pairing at first, but they spent almost nine years together. When they finally separated, Chopin’s illness (tuberculosis or, some muse, cystic fibrosis) worsened, and while Sand had always promised he would die in her arms, there is no proof that this actually happened. While their love story did not finish happily, it was, many say, the inspiration behind many of Chopin’s most beautiful compositions.


4. Henri II and Diane de Poitiers

King Henri II was married to Catherine de Medici, but that didn’t stop him from keeping up a several-decade relationship with Diane de Poitiers, 20 years his senior. Diane was an extremely intelligent noblewoman who was instrumental in many of Henri’s political successes and earned great power in the court. She was immortalized in Henri’s engraved signature: an H and two interlaced Ds (which originally more closely resembled Cs, for Catherine), and when Henri died in a jousting match, he was flying Diane’s favor rather than that of his wife.

Diane’s presence and influence is most evident at the Loire Valley chateau of Chenonceau, where she lived, but you can also see elements of it at the King’s Parisian palace, the Louvre.

5. Quasimodo and Esmeralda

While these lovers are fictional, their presence in Paris cannot be denied. Two of the main characters of Victor Hugo’s opus Notre Dame de Paris are the eponymous (in the English translation, at least) hunchback and the gypsy Esmeralda. While Esmeralda never held Quasimodo in her affections, the ending of the novel (far darker than that of the Disney film) shows just how much Quasimodo loved her.

eiffel tower

3 Romantic Ways to Spend Valentine’s Day in Paris

It’s no secret that Paris is the city of love – which makes it the perfect place to spend Valentine’s Day with that special someone! Here are three of our favorite ways to make the day special.

1. Walk Along the Seine

Walks along the Seine are a bit damper these days, but the river running through Paris is still a lovely spot to wander arm-in-arm. In the past, lovers would go to the Pont des Arts and padlock their love to the city. While this is now frowned upon (lest the bridge sink – not super romantic!) the Pont des Arts, Pont Alexandre III, and Pont Neuf are all beautiful places to soak up the views of central Paris.

2. Stroll Père Lachaise Arm-in-Arm

A cemetery visit might not seem like the most romantic way to spend Valentine’s Day, but Père Lachaise is actually home to a host of famous couples: from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas to the medieval Héloïse and Abélard (sometimes dubbed the French Romeo and Juliet), you’ll have more than your share of lovers to inspire you.

3. Enjoy a Candlelit Dinner

Paris’ gastronomic prowess is no secret, and what better day than Valentine’s Day to enjoy a delicious, romantic meal with your partner?

Since spots that take reservations tend to fill up pretty quickly on the 14th, here are a handful of our favorite spots that don’t take reservations; show up early (at 7pm) or late (at 9:30pm) to avoid the crowds.

  • Café Constant offers a reasonable, seasonally-inspired prix fixe not far from the Eiffel Tower –  the perfect place to stroll once you’ve finished your meal of heartier fare from the French Southwest.
  • Frenchie bar à vins is the wine bar outpost of Gregory Marchand’s famous Frenchie restaurant; the small plates menu makes for a delicious shared dinner. Just be sure to show up early – folks start to line up at 6:30 to score a seat.
  • Le Relais de l’Entrecôte is a Parisian classic; the family-owned restaurant serves only one dish: steak-frites. When your waitress appears tableside, she’ll just ask you how you like it cooked (and what wine you’d like to enjoy alongside it!)