There are few places more romantic than Venice, where lovers can glide down canals on gondolas or get lost in a labyrinth of lanes, or Paris, where you can stroll the elegant boulevards and picnic in parks or on the banks of the Seine. However, think beyond the traditional cities of love, and there is a wealth of places to propose, tie the knot, celebrate an anniversary, or spend time alone. The sandy beaches at Cape Town and Costa Rica, where the locals have perfected the art of doing nothing, are made for slow hand-in-hand strolls. When it comes to sultry destinations, late night cities such as Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, and Mexico City cannot be beaten.
Getaways do not get more romantic than a long weekend from Cape Town to the bucolic wine regions of Paarl, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch. Unless you are escaping chaotic Marrakesh to the wide, windswept beaches and whitewashed old down of Essaouira, or getting away from the mania of Mexico City to the languid streets of San Miguel de Allende. In San Miguel, you may even be lucky enough to witness one of the lively weekend wedding parties that take over the old town’s squares and streets.
Hotels might immediately come to mind for most when planning romantic getaways, but we think holiday rentals offer couples more privacy, freedom, and flexibility. Want to sleep in and eat breakfast late? No problem. Don’t feel like answering the phone or letting the house cleaner in to clean? Fine. The most romantic properties we stayed in on our grand tour. A beach house in Costa Rica just steps from the sand, a traditional Balinese villa with infinity pool, a palazzo apartment on Venice’s Grand Canal, and this romantic riad in Marrakech where staff scattered rose petals on the bed and a fountain tinkled in the courtyard.
One of the world’s most romantic restaurants must be Dar Yacout in Marrakech, where the experience is made special from the moment you arrive and are escorted down an illuminated alleyway by a handsome man carrying a lantern to post dinner drinks by the still pool. Don’t believe us? Look at this short atmospheric slideshow. For foodies, a decadent meal of oysters and côte de boeuf at a traditional Parisian brasserie or a tasting menu of contemporary Catalan cuisine at one of Barcelona’s elegant bistronomics is hard to beat.
If your relationship is young and your style fun, then you’ll probably prefer the sexier options of cocktails at a dimly-lit New York speakeasy, a late night tapas bar crawl in Madrid, or a ‘boteco’ bar hop, feijoada, and heady cairparinhas in Rio de Janiero.