Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have noticed how much I dislike the plague of padlocks that is spreading across Paris like a slowly-rusting mould. The so-called lovelocks are left primarily by tourists who believe it romantic to attach a lock to a Parisian bridge, write their names on the lock with a Sharpie and then throw the key in the river. However, in recent months the lovelocks have spread from the Pont des Arts where they first appeared in 2008 and can now be seen on the Eiffel Tower, the Pont Alexandre III and many other historic monuments in the city. The Pont des Arts has been damaged, the river is full of rusting metal and the use of hoarding to cover the damage has encouraged an increase in graffiti. The truth is, what might have once been a romantic concept is now just dirty vandalism.
So, to anyone planning to go to Paris who is thinking about putting a lovelock on a bridge or monument, here are my top five suggestions for other things you could do that are a much more lovely way to be in love in the City of Lights.
1. Take a walk along the river.
Pop your Sharpie back in your backpack and look up. You’re standing on the Pont des Arts, one of just a few pedestrian bridges across the Seine. You may have travelled hundreds or thousands of miles to get here so take a moment to admire the view. To the east you can see the spires and towers of the Notre Dame and to the west lies the Eiffel Tower. This view is one of the most privileged in the world. Instead of trying to write your name on it, why not pick a direction, either direction and walk. See how the river curves and bends to reveal new architectural delights and iconic monuments as you go. Unlike other major city rivers, the banks of the Seine have been designed and constructed so you can walk right by the water’s edge. Hold hands with your loved one as you go and celebrate being in the most beautiful city in the world.
2. Have dinner at the Grand Palais.
I recently discovered the Mini Palais, a restaurant on the first floor of the Grand Palais museum at the bottom of the Champs Elysées. Some of the menu is a little pricey but you can get a main course for 15-20€ so it’s not much more expensive than a corner brasserie. Why not save the money you would have spent buying a padlock from a dodgy street vendor and enjoy a couple of hours in the luxurious surroundings of one of the most stunning buildings in the city? I’d suggest booking in advance if you want to sit on the terrace and I definitely recommend the cheese board.
3. Spend an afternoon in the Tuileries Gardens.
The gardens that run from Place de la Concorde up to the Louvre Museum are internationally renowned for their elegance. They are just a stone’s throw from the Pont des Arts and, decorated with statues, fountains and tree-lined alleys, are a favourite with tourists and locals alike. Pull up a chair by the edge of a pond and watch the world passing by. There are very few parks as romantic as this.
4. See the monuments by night.
You only need to be in Paris for one night to understand its alias, the City of Lights. For every building, square and monument becomes its own glimmering edifice once the sun goes down. From the Sacré Coeur looking down from Montmartre to the hourly sparkles of the Eiffel Tower, Paris by night is a vision you will never forget. A great way to enjoy the lights is by taking an after-dark boat ride and you can do this for as little as 10€ per person.
5. Visit the Opera Garnier.
My favourite building in Paris is the Opera Garnier. Famed for tales of ghosts and underground lakes, the reality is more gilded than ghoulish. It costs 10€ to visit as a tourist (considerably more if you want to see a show) and is home to the capital’s major ballet performances. The public areas of the building are as impressive as the sets you’ll see on stage and the visit includes the permanent museum collection, a temporary exhibition (most recently on the Swedish Ballet) and the chance to roam around the unbelievably lavish reception rooms. I was lucky enough to get a peek at the most famous of these while it was empty (below) and can tell you it is well-worth the 10€ ticket. Take your lover here and you’ll make them feel a million times more special than you will by asking them to drop a key in the Seine.