The City of Lights—or of Love, depending on who you ask—is hands down the most classic of all honeymoon destinations. Paris, France, has a reputation for being where countless love stories started, and it’s one of the most romantic cities in the world to propose. So it’s only natural that it should be where couples retreat after saying “I do.” If a destination wedding in Paris isn't in the cards, a French honeymoon in the city is just as romantic and never goes out of style.
You've had your Parisian-inspired wedding and now you're ready to get jet-set with your honey for the real deal. But where do you even begin? We spoke with travel editor Susan Moynihan of The Honeymoonist to get the scoop on how to plan your honeymoon like a true pair of Parisians. "Get out and explore," she says. "Paris is a city of neighborhoods (called arrondissements), each one distinct from the next." She suggests couples book walking tours to get the most out of the unique city, "You’ll see a neighborhood with new eyes when being shown around by a local."
Even after you've mastered the climb up the Eiffel Tower, spotted the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, and footed every mile of the Golden Triangle, Moynihan suggests taking the quick 45-minute train ride just outside of the city to the Champagne region. Or, set out to another neighboring city, Rheims, for "a day of tasting tours at historic producers like Taittinger, Pommery, and Ruinart; most tours include transportation from Paris." To slow down the pace, "combine a city stay with nights in a country hotel like the Napa-meets-France-style Royal Champagne resort and Spa."
Meet the Expert
Susan Moynihan of The Honeymoonist is a longtime travel editor and writer who started her Virtuoso-affiliated travel planning company seven years ago. She's visited 60 countries and sent clients to six continents.
When to Visit
As anyone who’s been to Paris knows, there’s really no bad time to go.
Sure, it’s cold in the winter, but that only gives you more excuse to cuddle up with your honey while you sit beside the Seine with a baguette and a bottle of wine and more reason to hold hands as you stroll under the Arc de Triomphe, to Notre Dame, or around the Latin Quarter or Le Marais.
The summer is perfect for picnics and taking advantage of the sunshine, like at the pool of the iconic Hotel Molitor. Of course, there’s also the shopping so good it could actually make you drop—and you should probably find an opportunity to play petanque, too.
If you're really into shopping, Moynihan says to visit during "sale season," which is held for a few weeks every January and June. "It’s when everyone from department stores like Printemps and Galeries Lafayette to small boutiques clears out inventory. You’ll find crowds but you can get some great deals."
Ask your hotel about air conditioning if you're visiting in the summer as it's not a given and it can get very hot.
Where to Stay
First-time visitors often look for places in an area called the Golden Triangle, which is near the Arc de Triomph and Champs-Élysées. "But the city becomes so much more intimate if you stay in a smaller neighborhood," says Moynihan. "I love the Marais, for its beautiful historic squares, Saint-Germain-des-Prés for its cool boutiques and great food, and Montmartre, a peaceful, artsy enclave with amazing views looking down on Paris." Paris is home to some of the most luxuriously clad boutique hotels you can dream up.
J.K. Place Paris
"J.K. Place Paris is the hottest spot in Paris," says Moynihan. "The first J.K. hotel outside of Italy, it has a chic cult following and lowkey celeb clientele." The Florentine architect, Michele Bönan, who designed all four J.K. Place hotels furnished the elaborate space with Parisian flea market finds.
"Grand Powers is a beautifully redone 1920s hotel set in a Haussmann building right off the Golden Triangle, but with much better rates than its larger, fancier neighbors," says Moynihan. The Grand Powers offers a mix of the 1920s heritage with modern luxury, boasting preserved moldings and antique fireplaces with a timeless, cozy, and bright atmosphere.
The Four Seasons Hotel George V
The Four Seasons Hotel George V's ornate but tasteful, bursting with the most sublime floral arrangements that seem to perfume your entire stay. (Their newer L’Orangerie eatery is now Michelin-starred, too.)
Cour des Vosges
A five-star luxury château, "Cour des Vosges is an eclectic romantic hotel set on the exclusive Place du Vosges, in Marais; it feels like a secret," says Moynihan. As per the hotel's website, "Cour des Vosges instantly invites you to immerse yourself into the life of a noble French family dating back to the 16th century."
Arguably less grand but no less gorgeous is Les Bains design boutique hotel, which attracted the likes of Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger decades ago and now seems the perfect solution for couples drawn to intimate hotels (it has just 39 rooms) with an outsized taste—think private terraces, vintage crystal, and a hammam.
The Peninsula Paris
No conversation about jaw-dropping hotels is complete without The Peninsula Paris, a dreamy option with some of Paris’ most spacious rooms and best views, steps from the Champs-Élysées. It’s appealing enough to just stay on the property—especially if you’ve booked the Garden Suite duplex with its own rooftop garden terrace—but their concierge can also book memorable experiences such as a picnic on the grounds of Versailles, 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II ride to dinner, or a helicopter trip to Champagne (remember, it’s a place, not just in your dreams!).
Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel
The legendary Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel, underwent a four-year renovation that updated the building commissioned by King Louis XV in 1758 to pristine historical state-of-the-art status. Honeymooning in a glorified palace would be enough, but just imagine swimming in a pool lined with thousands of gold scales, or sleeping in a suite designed by Karl Lagerfeld. After all, you’re in Paris, but you may not want to leave the room—and that’s completely acceptable, too.
What to Do
While it might be hard for some to let go and just see where your stay takes you, the best things in Paris just seem to pop out of nowhere, and for that reason, it’s a place where no itinerary is sometimes the best itinerary. It’s the kind of place you want to get lost, especially when exploring farther-flung arrondissements.
Moynihan says that walking tours are a must. "I Love Paris is led by an American expat chef and longtime Paris resident, with great food tours." She also recommends the scholarly, intensive small-group tours from Context Tours. They offer experiences centered on particular subjects, from art to World War II Nazi occupation.
Musée du Louvre
Certain things might be worth taking a look at beforehand, like museum opening hours if you are dying to find Mona Lisa inside the Louvre or check out the Musée de l’Orangerie’s expansive Monet water lilies. Both of which make an ultra-romantic and memorable French honeymoon date.
Les Caves du Louvre
For wine lovers, Les Caves du Louvre is a tasting experience in the wine cave under the Louvre. The cozy setting is even more romantic when sipping on Parisian wine with your partner.
The Eiffel Tower
For popular, must-see sights, like the Louvre or Musée d'Orsay, Moynihan suggests booking a tour with fast-pass tickets to avoid the long lines.
Where to Eat
An outsized budget isn’t necessary for having a candlelit dinner to remember. Cléo turns out gorgeous, refined food at less-than-outrageous prices and the charming and dimly lit Viola is another with beautiful food at reasonable prices.
Café des Musees
"You have to do a classic French bistro, like Josephine Chez Dumonet or Café des Musées," says Moynihan, "both with Belle Epoque roots and classic dishes like beef bourguignon and sole meuniere (the dish that made Julia Child fall in love with French cooking)."
If you want dinner to take you on a little ride—literally—hop on board Le Bustronome, an actual bus with a restaurant inside that allows you to see Paris all lit up as you dine. And of course, there are multitudes of options on the river as well as beside it. Bottom line: It’s almost impossible not to feel seduced by the after-dark scene in the historic city.