Some cities you expect to be romantic; Paris has made billions of dollars on that premise alone. Other cities surprise you though with their ability to charm and to help create those special romantic moments between you and your loved one. Here are some of my favorite cities that may not sound romantic, but really are.
1. Istanbul – I admit it, I was dubious when I first visited Istanbul. In fact, I doubt we would have gone had it not been a stop on a Mediterranean cruise we took a few years ago. Thank God for that cruise though, otherwise we would have missed out on one of the great, and most romantic, cities of the world. It’s cliche, but it’s true, that Istanbul straddles two cultures, the East and the West. It’s position on the Bosphorus has made it a cultural crossroads attracting traders and wanderers from around the world for millennia. That globalism has made Istanbul an exciting and visually stunning city. One of my favorite romantic activities is to stroll around the Sultanahmet neighborhood, window shop a little before deciding on a cafe to spend the evening enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of this ancient town.
2. Prague – After decades of Communist rule one may incorrectly assume that Prague is littered with drab buildings, dour people and general unpleasantness. The last thing that came to mind before I visited was a lovely city with lots of opportunities for romantic moments, but that’s what I found. Since the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Prague has blossomed into not just a nice place to visit, but a hugely popular tourist destination. Sure, there are remnants of its Communist past and yes, I saw a few drab buildings, but the medieval art and architecture more than make up for the design errors of the 1970s. While you won’t be alone, be sure to take a stroll along the Vltava river with Prague Castle looming nearby. I can’t think of a more romantic moment anywhere else in the world.
3. St. Michaels – If you’re a local than this won’t surprise you, but strangers to the DC metro area may not be familiar with the sleepy towns nestled along the Chesapeake Bay. One of the oldest areas of the state, the Eastern Shore has become a popular area to spend a quick weekend, or a longer retreat. I don’t like the term, but the only one that fits the many, small villages in this part of the state is cute. There, I said it, they’re cute – damn cute. One of my favorite towns is St. Michaels, also home to the critically acclaimed hotel the Inn at Perry Cabin. The perfect romantic weekend here starts with one of the Inn’s generously appointed rooms overlooking the water, followed by aimless wandering past the quirky shops lining the main street. Spas are available for those who want to relax and be pampered, and there are plenty of things to do outdoors for the more active traveler. No matter what you do during the day, in the evening head to restaurant 208 Talbot for a great meal prepared in what I call upscale American southern contemporary.
4. Amman – The fact that 1) I knew nothing about Amman before visiting and 2) that I thought it’d be anything but romantic is a conceit of living in the U.S. Our media outlets, all of them, traditionally have not done a great job portraying the Middle East except in terms of war and aggression. At first Amman looks like a lot of other cities in the Middle East. It’s large, somewhat sprawling, and the buildings mostly blend in a blur of brown stone. I think it’s the people that transform this city, their warmth and hospitality make it hard not to love Amman almost immediately. My favorite moment is atop the Citadel, the mountain in the middle of the city and the site of ruins from civilizations long gone. Standing there, the breeze gently blowing, smells of vendors wafting up and the call to prayer rebounding around the hills simultaneously; it may seem unlikely, but that moment is one of the most amazing and romantic you could ever have.
5. Franz Josef – More a village than a city, and a tourist one at that, Franz Josef, at the foot of its eponymous glacier, is the classic definition of mountain romance. The town revolves around the glacier and tourists to the massive Mount Cook, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun place to visit. For the perfect romantic evening, start off with a stroll through the tiny town as the sun sets behind the glacier capped mountains. Wander over to the Glacier Hot Pools for a dip in a private, glacier spa and finish the evening with an intimate dinner at one of the several restaurants in town. No matter what you decide to do, it’s hard not to be in awe of the natural surroundings and to feel more connected with your loved one.
These are some cities around the world that surprised me with their ability to inspire romance. What are some of yours?