Cosy little villages, mountainsides sprinkled with snow, isolated beaches with powdery white sand, and exotic deserts reflecting the heat and colour of the sun – all well and good for couples looking for Mother Nature, seclusion, and privacy, but what of those of us who like our romantic getaways to be a little more vibrant and urbane? Luckily, there are tender moments to be found in even the busiest of cities – here are what I think are the five most romantic cities in the world.
Turquoise coloured canals, narrow cobblestoned lanes, graceful bridges – Venice is a water city made for promenading lovers, walking hand in hand into the watercolour sunsets that stain St Mark’s Square with golden light. A gondola ride is the epitome of cliched romance here, but there is a reason that the silent, sexy black watercraft are so popular – the beauty of Venice was built to be seen from the water. Toss away the map, reach out for your lover’s hand, go where your feet will take you and steal a kiss or two in the shadow of a canal bridge.
“Love, secrets, darkness and mystery. Venice is everything and nothing all at once; she slips away, turns aloof and cold, warms you with her beauty, delights you as she dances with the moon and light and water.” Read more.
Paris had to be on this list, with the wonderful walks along the Seine, the great love stories that all seem to start or end in Paris, the perfect moments in picturesque areas like Montmatre. In the spring, cherry blossoms flower, the mists obscures the riverside quais into a dreamy haziness, the roses in the Jardin du Luxembourg start to scent the air and it seems like love is in the air, everywhere. Pack a picnic and enjoy your Valentine’s Day with a loved one under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower on the Fields of Mars, then wait for the lights to come on at night. I promise you, Paris is not called the city of love for nothing!
“We head up to Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart), on Montmartre, a confection of creamy white Byzantine and French architecture. It’s a Roman Catholic church, with a huge, glorious mosaiced dome on the inside. The view from the top of the hill is marvellous, stretching across the Parisien skyline; we linger on the steps leading up to to the church and listen while the sky turns grey and raindrops gently fall.” Read more.
The streets of Istanbul are dripping with history and nostalgia. The close, winding streets of Sultanahmet speak of a long ago time of gilded princes, fabulous wealth and beauty in the incredible architecture that has survived to this day. The city is both Asian and European, a heady mix of young and new, cutting edge and traditional. Sample some love tea at the Egyptian Markets, take a sunset cruise on the Bosphorus river, go underground together at the Basilica Cisterns, then top off the day with a private couples Turkish spa experience.
“It is here in historic Old Istanbul that I first feel the city’s magic allure, a mish mash of spells and secrets, possibilities and potential – Istanbul is a city of old dreams and Oriental fantasies, with half a foot in the present and the other in the past. The city is a whirling dervish, the call of the azan in the dawn, the sharp minarets of the Blue Mosque cut like molten gold against a black sky, the heavenly, sweet, soft first-bite of rosewater-flavoured lokum, the mist that curls around the shores of the Bosphorus in the early morning.” Read more.
New York City
The hustle of New York City doesn’t lend itself easily to romance, but the city’s diversity means that there are plenty of activities for the love sick. Share a rising moon over Manhattan from the Brooklyn Heights promenade, cup of hot chocolate in hand. Dine at Chez Josephine, an intimate, velvet lined bistro with sparkling chandeliers and faded menus. Take a horse and carriage ride around Central Park. Whisper sweet nothings to each other through the perfect acoustic arches under Central Station. Share a cocktail, and a New York moment, on a rooftop bar. In New York, the options for romance are endless.
“I lose my heart to NYC, walking in her streets, the first night, within the first hour that I am here. I want to tear into the soul of her, eat into the core of this city, bury my self into this great glittering beast. I want to walk her streets and wear her smoke and shadows like a second skin.” Read more.
The Queen of the Silver River is all sensual passion and seduction. The architecture here is decidedly European and very elegant, with excellent steaks and wine, perfect for a romantic dinner date. The upper class streets of Palermo are also a hub for cool cafes and drinking dens, perfect for either a pick-me-up or an all nighter, whichever way you swing – Te Matare Ramirez, a restaurant specialising in aphrodisiacs, is a good start to the night. Tango, the national dance, provokes desires and reactions – both for those dancing as well as those merely watching – go to a local milonga and dance the night away. Lastly, the melancholic avenues of the Recoleta Cemetery makes for a surprisingly romantic walk – there are tales of lovers even here in this quiet, contemplative place.
“Another blue sky day, and we go to Recoleta Cemetery, filled with Gothic arches, Greek temples and Roman statuary. The cemetery is ornate and dense, packed with plots of the infamous and well known. There are angels aplenty, crosses delineated in sharp shadow against sharp angled arches, and stories of hope and loss. Presidents lie here next to ordinary men; lovers and families share crypts.” Read more.