The World's Most Romantic Cities
This past month, Paris Hilton had the surprise of a lifetime when her boyfriend, actor Chris Zylka, bent down on one knee and popped the question while the two were skiing in Aspen, Colorado. Photos of the proposal show the happy couple kissing atop a snow-capped mountain, with the famous ski resort in the distance.
And while not everyone can expect a $2 million ring the next time they’re in Aspen with their lover, they can expect a fair share of romance according to Travel + Leisure readers, who voted the Rocky Mountain town one of the world’s most romantic cities.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping and, among others, how easily these destinations charm travelers with their romantic atmospheres.
In this year’s survey, English-speaking Aspen proved an outlier among winners for romance. Readers showed a clear preference for cities where the locals speak, well, romance languages. Seven of the top 10 cities for romance are Spanish-, French- or Italian-speaking. Other common threads found in the cities who score well for fueling the flames of love? Historic charm, scenic vantage points (a good kiss needs a good backdrop, after all) and plenty of date night options.
Consult this list of the world’s most romantic cities, and align those vacation days so you and your Valentine can experience them together.
10. Aspen, Colorado
Travelers enjoy mile-high romance in Aspen, an ultra-posh resort town in a remote corner of the Colorado Rockies. After a day on the slopes (during which skiers, including A-listers like Kate Hudson, Orlando Bloom, and Jessica Alba swish down a breathtaking 4,000-foot vertical drop) couples converge for one of the best après ski scenes in the United States. Book a room at the historic Hotel Jerome, a Victorian-era boarding house reborn as a playful but swanky lodge from Auberge Resorts, or the ski in/ski out Little Nell, which boasts marble baths and roaring en suite fireplaces.
9. Quebec City, Canada
Quebec City offers travelers the joie de vivre of Europe without the transatlantic flight. T+L readers head here for a romantic getaway just north of the border, thanks to the cobblestone streets, 17th- and 18th-century row houses, and historic citadel ramparts. Lovebirds enjoying a trip to Canada can admire the natural scenery, too, with a photo opp at the towering Montmorency Falls or a stroll along the St. Lawrence River. Above it all, the landmark 1920s-era Fairmont Le Château Frontenac dominates the skyline from its hilltop position.
8. Rome, Italy
Ancient birthplace of the term Latin Lovers, The Eternal City is a dream destination for countless couples, and for good reason. Walking up the Spanish Steps, sharing a refreshing scoop of gelato, and throwing coins into the Trevi fountain together have all become rites of passage for paramours visiting the Italian capital. For romantic digs worthy of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier's honeymoon, reserve a room at the Hassler Roma.
7. Charleston, South Carolina
T+L readers voted Charleston the No. 1 city in the United States in this year’s World’s Best Awards survey, and gave it particularly high marks in the romance category. Was it the Antebellum architecture and pastel-colored houses that did it? Or the ever-present aromas of wisteria and magnolia blossoms? Maybe it was the buzzy food scene and abundance of date night spots, like newcomer Felix Cocktails et Cuisine on King Street, with its marble bar and Parisian-inspired menu.
6. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
In 1916, Carmel-by-the-Sea’s original settlers set out to create “a village in a forest overlooking a white sand beach” for their artist colony. More than a century later, the beach town has stayed true to its bohemian roots — while also becoming the most romantic city in America. Storybook houses, quaint inns, and a vibrant arts scene makes this coastal enclave a favorite for culture-seeking couples.
5. San Sebastian, Spain
When the Bonapartes of France built their summer palace in Biarritz, Spain’s Bourbon monarchs followed suit in San Sebastian, transforming the sleepy coastal village into a royal beach retreat. They tore down the old town’s walls and built a slew of villas, hotels, and palaces that all hugged the sandy shores of La Concha Bay. Today, the picturesque town still attracts sun-seekers, but it’s become more famous as a bastion for culture as well, with a prominent film festival and a seriously innovative food scene. Couples will have to allot enough time to visit the city’s many Michelin-starred date spots. One not to miss: the triple-starred Arzak, a family-owned restaurant that’s redefining Basque cuisine from atop one of San Sebastian’s numerous hills.
4. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
It’s hard not to feel the romance in San Miguel de Allende: a colonial-era city in central Mexico that’s preserved its historic charms. In the UNESCO-protected center, bougainvillea drapes like a curtain from 17th-century haciendas and cathedrals, all painted in cheerful hues of red, pink, and yellow. In the 1950s, North American artists discovered San Miguel’s charms, and in the ensuing decades it’s become a booming arts colony. Venture together to see some of the city’s leading galleries inside Fábrica La Aurora, a former textile factory converted into a cultural hub, before sharing a few made-to-order tacos from any of the carts scattered across the city.
3. Florence, Italy
T+L readers voted Italy’s oh-so-scenic hub for art and fashion the third most romantic city in the world in this year’s survey. From its serene setting straddling the banks of the Arno River, Florence pulled Europe out of Medieval times and into the Renaissance, and its wealthy art patrons left behind a city filled to the brim with architectural masterpieces. Lovebirds congregate for a sunset kiss at Piazzale Michelangelo, which overlooks the terracotta-roofed cityscape and has a postcard-perfect view of the multicolored Duomo cathedral across the river.
2. Venice, Italy
With its dense archipelago of pastel palazzos and piazzas, all connected by winding canals busy with gondolas, Venice is something of an indisputable choice for romance. It’s also extremely crowded during the day, when cruise ship passengers spend a manic five hours flitting around the top attractions. For couples looking for a more intimate experience, avoid the main routes between the Rialto bridge and Piazza San Marco during in-port hours altogether. Opt instead for the shockingly less-traveled side streets, each one leading to a hidden corner or blissful view seemingly meant only for the two of you.
1. Paris, France
Mais oui, T+L readers gave the City of Light top marks for romance in this year’s World’s Best Awards survey. And how could they not? The modern metropolis is home to countless activities for lovers. Spend the day exploring the Louvre, meandering the cobblestone streets of Montmartre, and taking in the views from the Sacre Coeur, popping into boulangerie after boulangerie for buttery pastries, or walking hand-in-hand through the manicured Tuileries Gardens. It’s all romantic. Don’t forget to save time for the ultimate Parisian couple’s activity: a simple, but très chic picnic for two along the Seine, sharing a bottle of wine, a fresh baguette, and brie.