Romantic City Getaways
What do Paris, Venice, San Francisco, Rome, Florence, Vienna, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, New York, and Sydney have in common?They're made for love. Watch palazzi drift by from a gondola, try a tango in a steamy Argentinean dance hall, or view a bustling harbor from a seaplane—any way you go about it, a sexy city getaway gets the pulse racing.
ROMANTIC APPEAL The French don't just talk about l'amour, they live it. There's the art, the architecture, the restaurants; meander along the Seine and you'll fall in love with this city.
WHERE TO STAY At the nearly 400-year-old Pavillon de la Reine (28 Place des Vosges, Third Arr.; 33-1/40-29-19-19; www.pavillon-de-la-reine.com; doubles from $410), the oldest rooms have beamed ceilings; several overlook a Japanese garden. A former boulangerie, L'Hôtel du Petit Moulin (29-31 Rue de Poitou, Third Arr.; 33-1/42-74-10-10; www.hoteldupetitmoulin.com; doubles from $180) has been reborn as a hotel, with interiors by Christian Lacroix. The all-white suite No. 403 has a sleek seventies vibe.
TABLE FOR TWO Cuddle by the fire at Le Coupe Chou (9-11 Rue de Lanneau, Fifth Arr.; 33-1/46-33-68-69; dinner for two $79), run by the same owners for 45 years. The 164-foot Don Juan II (Port Henri IV, Fourth Arr.; 33-1/44-54-14-80; www.yachtsdeparis.fr; dinner for two $583, including wine) plies the Seine and elevates the dinner cruise to haute cuisine, courtesy of chef Jean-Pierre Vigato of L'Apicius.
SEXIEST SHOP An Alice in Wonderland aura imbues Baccarat (11 Place des États-Unis, 16th Arr.; 33-1/40-22-11-22), a combo boutique, museum, and restaurant.
STEAL A KISS Watch the sunset from the iron Pont des Arts; as the last rays gleam through the glass roof of the Grand Palais and bathe the Île de la Cité in a golden light, you can't help feeling that Paris belongs just to you.
ROMANTIC APPEAL A backdrop for assignations since long before Casanova's time, Venice has fairy-tale palazzi, gondola-filled canals, and who-cares-if-you-lose-your-way winding streets.
WHERE TO STAY Splurge on the new Dogaressa Suite, with floor-to-ceiling views of St. Mark's Square, at the Cipriani (10 Giudecca; 39-041/520-7744; www.hotelcipriani.com; doubles from $756). In an alleyway near the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, DD724 (724 Dorsoduro; 39-041/277-0262; www.dd724.it; doubles from $267) has seven intimate rooms with modern Asian touches.
TABLE FOR TWO Mingle with the locals over aperitifs at Muro Vino e Cucina (222 San Polo; 39-041/523-7495; dinner for two $122), then head upstairs for fish with lemongrass and ginger. For a meal with a view of the lagoon, take the free speedboat to Cà dei Frati (1 Isola San Clemente, San Marco; 39-041/244-5001; dinner for two $244) at the San Clemente Palace hotel. Leave the jeans behind; a jacket and tie are required.
SEXIEST SHOP Buy a bottle of Alcova—the so-called perfume of desire—from La Speziarìa de Venezia (3525 Dorsoduro; 39-041/522-2576).
STEAL A KISS Hire a gondola to drop you at the recently restored Teatro La Fenice (39-041/786-580; www.teatrolafenice.it), an opulent and operatically dramatic theater, where you can listen to Verdi and Puccini in their home country.
ROMANTIC APPEAL Even as the City by the Bay welcomes an ultramodern era, its vintage hallmarks—the camera obscura at Cliff House, the WPA murals in Coit Tower—continue to impress.
WHERE TO STAY If the dimly lit Clift (495 Geary St.; 800/ 606-6090; www.morganshotelgroup.com; doubles from $225) is about glamour, the Hotel Vitale (8 Mission St.; 888/890-8688; www.hotelvitale.com; doubles from $269) is about relaxation: there are complimentary yoga classes and soaking tubs.
TABLE FOR TWO The menu at Quince (1701 Octavia St.; 415/775-8500; dinner for two $100) gives the provenance of every chop and bean. On the other side of the spectrum is hot chef Dennis Leary's minuscule Canteen (817 Sutter St.; 415/928-8870; dinner for two $85), in a 20-seat former luncheonette.
SEXIEST SHOP Pick up some baubles at Jeanine Payer (762 Market St.; 415/788-2417), a jeweler who engraves sweet sayings on her pieces.
STEAL A KISS Climb a series of steep stairs to the Filbert Steps high on Telegraph Hill. Gardens line the way as the breathtaking views of the city spread out before you.
ROMANTIC APPEAL La dolce vita gets updated as a clutch of hip bars and boutiques put their stamp on the baroque Eternal City.
WHERE TO STAY At the top of the Spanish Steps is the luxurious Hotel Hassler (6 Piazza Trinità dei Monti; 39-06/699-340; www.hotelhassler.com; doubles from $639), where the owner often greets guests at the door. Art Deco furnishings, a birdcage elevator, and old-fashioned bicycles have transformed the Hotel Locarno (22 Via della Penna; 39-06/361-0841; www.hotellocarno.com; doubles from $210, including breakfast) into a popular cinematic backdrop (directors love it here).
TABLE FOR TWO Heinz Beck, Rome's best chef, presides over La Pergola (Rome Cavalieri Hilton, 101 Via Alberto Cadlolo; 39-06/3509-2152; dinner for two $380). Try his spectacular fried zucchini flowers. Rome's fashion set adores the simple fare and outdoor terrace at the Santa Lucia (12 Largo Febo; 39-06/6880-2427; dinner for two $80).
SEXIEST SHOP Sweep down the red-carpeted staircase past evening frocks and dizzyingly high-heeled pumps at Valentino (13 Via dei Condotti; 39-06/679-5862).
STEAL A KISS Grab a spot on the edge of the Trevi Fountain while snacking on a chocolate-rum cone from Il Gelato di San Crispino (42 Via della Panetteria; 39-06/679-3924), a shop that's run by intellectual ice cream-making brothers Pasquale and Giuseppe Alongi.
ROMANTIC APPEAL The Big Apple can't be beat for dramatic moments: shopping on Madison Avenue, strolling hand in hand through Central Park, or basking in the megawatt glow of Times Square.
WHERE TO STAY After sipping champagne on the terrace, ask your bellman at the Lowell (28 E. 63rd St.; 800/221-4444; www.lowellhotel.com; doubles from $575) to light a lavender-scented blaze in the wood-burning fireplace. The view of the park from the Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park (50 Central Park S.; 800/241-3333; www.ritzcarlton.com; doubles from $650) is feng shui for your heart.
TABLE FOR TWO The hottest toque in town is soon to be Joël Robuchon, who will open L'Atelier (57 E. 57th St.; 212/758-5700; dinner for two $250), an haute branch of his Paris restaurant, at the Four Seasons Hotel. When you want a low-key dining room with a high-concept menu, head downtown to Tocqueville (1 E. 15th St.; 212/647-1515; dinner for two $90) for poached Maine lobster and seasonal game.
SEXIEST SHOP Share the sweetness at Vosges Chocolates (132 Spring St.; 212/625-2929), which has blissful truffles.
STEAL A KISS Skip the overpriced carriage ride through Central Park and take a $1.25 spin on a hand-painted wooden horse at the 100-year-old carousel, at 64th Street near the middle of the park, close to the Dairy and Sheep Meadow.
ROMANTIC APPEAL While Renaissance art, history, and a stunning riverside location remain the city's main draws, a slew of hot hotel and bar openings has added a 21st-century buzz.
WHERE TO STAY For a steamy sojourn, check into the panoramic Brunelleschi or Signoria suites at the Hotel Savoy (7 Piazza della Repubblica; 39-055/27351; www.hotelsavoy.it; doubles from $589)—both come with private Turkish steam rooms. The 11 quirky chambers at Casa Howard Florence (18 Via della Scala; 39-066/992-4555; www.casahoward-florence.com; doubles from $196) have individual themes, like the Hidden Room, with erotic prints and a sunken bath.
TABLE FOR TWO Dine on squab with white-grape sauce at Florence's most romantic restaurant, Alle Murate (16R Via del Proconsolo; 39-055/240-618; dinner for two $86), in a 14th-century palazzo with spectacular frescoes. Book a table on the terrace overlooking the Arno at the Ferragamo-owned Borgo San Jacopo (Hotel Lungarno, 62R Borgo San Jacopo; 39-055/281-661; dinner for two $61), where chef Beatrice Segoni serves an aphrodisiac fish and prawn soup.
SEXIEST SHOP On a quaint hillside street, florist La Rosa Canina (1R Via dell'Erta Canina; 39-055/234-2449) displays offbeat arrangements, such as bouquets of wildflowers and berries.
STEAL A KISS Walk off dinner with an evening stroll to the tranquil hamlet of Bellosguardo, 20 minutes from the city center. Sit on the crumbling medieval walls to soak in the amazing views of the Duomo and the Church of San Miniato.
ROMANTIC APPEAL Vienna is a magical European wonderland, with its amorous frenzy of architecture and coffeehouses serving up Kaffe mit schlag and cherry strudel.
WHERE TO STAY Built in 1845, the 35-suite Palais Coburg (4 Coburgbastei; 43-1/518-180; www.coburg.at; suites from $566, including breakfast) appeals to all sorts of tastes, whether they run to rich silks and Empire furniture (in the Imperial suites) or Art Deco dark woods and silvery satins (in the City suites). Across from the opera house, Staatsoper, the traditional façade of Le Meridien Vienna (13 Opernring; 43-1/588-900; www.lemeridien.com; doubles from $437) belies the 249 high-tech rooms, decorated with playful colors and fabrics, within.
TABLE FOR TWO Overlooking the Grabe, the elegant pedestrian shopping street, Julius Meinl (19 Graben; 43-1/532-3334; dinner for two $158) serves dishes such as crayfish with grapes and cauliflower. Art-lovers and foodies are wild for Do & Co Albertina (1 Albertinaplatz; 43-1/532-9669; dinner for two $147), in the Albertina gallery. Dine on wienerschnitzel and sushi while gazing at the super-sized Egon Schiele prints.
SEXIEST SHOP Bring back a piece of prewar Vienna from Marcel Wang Antiques (25 Spiegelgasse; 43-1/512-4187), which carries jewelry and decorative objects from the Vienna Secessionist and Jugendstil eras.
STEAL A KISS Watch the twinkling lights from your luxury cabin on the Giant Ferris Wheel (90 Prater; 43-1/729-5430; $120 for the first half hour) in the Prater amusement park.
ROMANTIC APPEAL Described by a Catalan poet as "the great enchantress," Barcelona has been the muse to artists Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, and architect Antoni Gaudí.
WHERE TO STAY The beachfront Hotel Arts (19-21 Carrer de la Marina; 800/241-3333; www.ritzcarlton.com; doubles from $485) is a 44-story tower of glass and steel. The new Zen-like Hotel Omm (265 Carrer Rosselló; 866/376-7831; www.hotelomm.es; doubles from $375) puts a luxurious spin on minimalism.
TABLE FOR TWO Take your tapas in the wood-beamed Vinotinto Parrilla (27 Carrer Aribau; 34/93-451-1027; dinner for two $60). Or have a late meal of Asian-accented Mediterranean fare at the Carpe Diem Lounge Club (32 Paseo Maritim; 34-93/224-0470; dinner for two $70).
SEXIEST SHOP A nesting emporium, Vinçon (96 Passeig de Gràcia; 34/93-215-6050) is packed with whimsical goodies for the design aficionado.
STEAL A KISS Grab a bottle of Rioja and head over to Bogatell, the hottest beach in town.
ROMANTIC APPEAL Home to the ﬁery tango and the passionate culture that invented it, Buenos Aires has a soul that's wonderfully lost between Europe and South America, between the past and present.
WHERE TO STAY Pass your time in deep luxury at the Alvear Palace Hotel (1891 Avda. Alvear; 800/223-6800; www.alvearpalace.com; doubles from $550), an opulent, marble-laden place. On a quiet street in the Palermo district, Bo-Bo (4882 Guatemala; 54-11/4774-0505; www.bobohotel.com; doubles from $110) has seven themed rooms that run from Deco to techno.
TABLE FOR TWO Head to the neighborhood of La Boca, famed for its colorful houses, and have a plate of transcendent lasagna at Il Materello (517 Martín Rodríguez; 54-11/4307-0529; lunch for two $35). To see the city's lustier side, swing past the gigantic brass doors and gargantuan flower arrangements to the over-the-top Casa Cruz (1658 Uriate; 54-11/4833-1112; dinner for two $100).
SEXIEST SHOP Pick up butter-soft carpincho leather gloves and belts at Casa López (640 M.T. de Alvear; 54-11/4311-3044).
STEAL A KISS Tango your way to La Calesita (1350 Avda. Comodoro Martín Rivadavia; 54-11/4743-3631; $2 for entry, $1.75 for lessons; Saturdays starting at 9 p.m., November-March), an open-air dance party in the Nuñez neighborhood.
ROMANTIC APPEAL Sydney's siren song is a carefree lifestyle, secret beaches, a dazzling harbor, and endless summers.
WHERE TO STAY Watch the yachts sail in at the waterside Blue (6 Cowper Wharf Rd.; 800/025-5250; www.tajhotels.com; doubles from $862). Check into the Park Hyatt (7 Hickson Rd.; 800/233-1234; sydney.park.hyatt.com; doubles from $425) for discreet service and some of the city's best Opera House views.
TABLE FOR TWO The Japanese-French fusion cuisine at Tetsuya's (529 Kent St.; 61-2/9267-2900; dinner for two $265) is presided over by master chef Tetsuya Wakuda. As ringside seats go, nothing beats Guillaume at Bennelong (Circular Quay; 61-2/9241-1999; dinner for two $133), in the Opera House.
SEXIEST SHOP Indulge your romantic side at Collette Dinnigan (33 William St.; 61-2/9360-6691) with dresses and lingerie in the designer's lacy, feminine style.
STEAL A KISS The 15-minute tour from Sydney by Seaplane (61-2/9974-1455; $200 for two) takes in the Sydney Harbour Bridge as well as South Head, with views along Bondi and Brontë beaches.