Valentine’s Day may inspire a visit to the 5 most romantic sights in Paris
Since its inception in 496AD, St. Valentine’s Day has been a day for lovers to celebrate their affection with the exchange of gifts. February 14 is considered the most romantic day of the year and Paris, the most romantic city. When you think of Paris, the iconic visits that come to mind may be the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame Cathedral, but the City of Light has so much more to offer. For a unique look at the city, take a trip through Paris’ top 5 most romantic sights.
- Cimetiere de Pere-Lachaise Pere-Lachaise is the resting place of several famous romantic figures. Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Frederic Chopin are a few of the more famous, but the story of Heloise and Abelard is by far the most romantic.
During the 12th century many aspects of life were dominated by the church. Peter Abelard was an independent scholar and philosopher, who dared to question Church doctrine. He set up a school on the Left Bank that would later become the University of Paris. Heloise was the niece of Notre Dame’s powerful Canon Fulbert. A very intelligent young woman, Heloise needed an education so Abelard was hired to give her private instruction. Their intellectual connection grew and soon they could not resist the power of their physical desires. The laws of the time would forbid such a relationship and when Heloise became pregnant, they had to flee Paris and marry in secret. When the news reached her uncle, he was enraged at the humiliation they had brought on him and sent a team of thugs to punish Abelard by castration. Disgraced, Abelard retired to a monastery and Heloise to a convent, never again to live as husband and wife. Their passion never died and was carried on over the next two decades in a series of love letters, perhaps the most famous correspondence of its kind in history. After death, they were buried at Heloise’s convent, but were exhumed and laid to rest in Pere Lachaise in 1817 by Josephine Bonaparte.
- Pont des Arts At one time the two riverbanks of the Seine were like different cities, royalty on the right and commoners on the left. In the 19th century Napoleon commissioned a metal bridge crossing the Seine, now known as Pont des Arts. It has always been a pedestrian bridge and a popular meeting point for lovers. Today, couples come here to declare their love by fixing padlocks to its metal side-grilles and throwing away the key. The city government periodically removes them, as they are not so in love with this practice.
- Square du Vert-Galant This tear-drop-shaped park was created as a tribute to Henri IV, who was known for his passionate affairs and whose statue overlooks the park. This centuries-old romantic hot-spot is still the place where lovers come for romantic strolls along the Seine and quiet picnics. It’s also conveniently located near the Pont Neuf or “new bridge,” which is actually Paris’ oldest standing bridge and the pier for the Vedettes du Pont-Neuf Seine cruises.
- Musee de la Vie Romantique The building that now houses The Museum of Romantic Life was once the home of painter Ary Scheffer (1795-1858). His friends Frederic Chopin and George Sand were among many influential artists that influenced this period. George Sand was a liberated woman and great novelist, who managed to successfully divorce her husband and keep control of her children in a time when such actions were unheard of by a woman. She had many lovers, including Chopin and she was the love of his life. Chopin’s music plays in the gardens where you can enjoy tea in the greenhouse.
- Basilique du Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) While the five-domed white church has the look of a 12th century Byzantine church, it’s construction was not begun until 1875. It was a kind of penitence by the French after a siege by the Prussian army. The interior features an impressive mosaic, where Christ exposes his sacred heart, burning with love and compassion for humanity. A climb 260 feet up the spiral stairs to the top of the dome gives an unobstructed panoramic view of the city of Paris.
A visit to these romantic sights will make you fall in love with Paris all over again.