Five romantic city breaks: From Paris to Kyoto
Dine at a double-Michelin-starred restaurant or stay in an elegant 14th-century palace
There are few better ways to explore the sights, sounds and even smells of a city than on a glamorous whirlwind city break with a loved one. A controlled mess of noise and energy, the cosmopolitan bustle of commuters, tourists, culture, food and drink is second to none at creating a wonderfully arresting backdrop for romance.
So if a city break is the perfect kind of holiday with a loved one, which destinations are the most synonymous with love? Here are the top five most romantic cities on Earth:
It's perhaps a cliché to even mention how clichéd Paris's connection with romance is, but no list of this kind can escape the romantic associations that go hand-in-hand with the French capital.
Whether it's a leisurely walk along the lamp-lit banks of the Seine, gazing out over the city from the ancient, cobbled streets of Montmartre or people spotting from one of the city's most irresistible boulangeries, Paris has it all.
Tucked unassumingly between the Champs-Elysees and Ave George V, you can use the Hotel Barriere Le Fouquet's exquisite five-star lodgings as a base from which to explore the City of Love. With the gastronomic prowess of the French being no secret, be sure to book a table at the double-Michelin-starred Restaurant le Meurice Alain Ducasse for a candlelit feast.
New York City
A towering testament to the industry and ambition of the New World, New York City's reputation as a churning megalopolis of ceaseless activity may at first put off couples in search of a lovey-dovey city break.
Yet with its extremes of urban aesthetics, from the classical to the uncompromisingly brutalist, just walking the streets of Manhattan can be madly romantic.
After feasting on a set menu of Japanese delicacies at the exclusive 26-seater Masa restaurant, amble down W 58th St to the world-famous Plaza Hotel, whose plush interiors have accommodated everyone from world leaders to rock stars.
This one is for only the most intrepid of couples, but believe us when we say that Kyoto is a goldmine of untapped romantic potential. Far from the draining chaos of Tokyo, the ancient capital of Kyoto stands alone as a bastion of tasteful serenity in a country famed for the intensity of its cities.
Charming cobbled streets and ramen-ya restaurants are interspersed with landscaped parks and Shinto shrines, while every year the astonishing spectacle of the cherry blossoms draws couples from all over the world to bask in the romance of this ancient, exceptionally lovely city.
Nothing about the city feels rushed, so take a leaf out of Kyoto's book and treat yourself to a lazy stay in the Flower Room at the tiny Hotel Mume, one of the city's smallest and prettiest hotels.
A medieval wonderland of neo-gothic church spires, town squares and beer houses, Prague is one of the most romantic cities in Europe. The opulent architecture of the opera house and national theatre successfully mingles with Prague's Bohemian atmosphere in a city where history and culture spill out from twisty, cobbled lanes and palace windows.
Charming antiquated trams glide through the city's side streets and along the Vltava river, carving a way through the hoards of tourists sipping on local pilsner or sampling the country's traditional trdelnik dessert. While the beautiful Old Town and Charles Bridge are notoriously busy at all times of year, you can escape the crowds at the Iron Gate Hotel & Suites, buried deep in the Old Town, yet still secluded enough for a peaceful night of luxury.
The following day, dine in splendor at the La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoise. Despite its French name, this innovative Michelin-star restaurant serves up some of the finest Czech food in Prague, using recipes dating back to the 19th century.
It's difficult to think of many cities more closely linked to classical romance than Verona; a link immortalised by Shakespeare upon the release of perhaps his most famous play, Romeo and Juliet.
Yet Verona is a city where ancient conflict and renaissance culture blend seamlessly as one unified history. The castles that once saw brutal fighting sit side by side with opera houses that once housed the premieres of works by Vivaldi. As a result the city has plenty to offer cultured couples who want to explore Verona beyond the fabled Romeo and Juliet balcony.
Housed in a 14th-century former palace, there is no better place to get cosy than the elegant Hotel Due Torri, complete with shuttered windows from which you can receive a proclamation of love from below. Head downstairs to the hotel's own Due Torri Lounge & Restaurant – here you can dine on delicious regional cuisine under 700-year-old brick arches in an intimate, classy setting.