Ten Offbeat Romantic Destinations
Havana: the name conjures impressions of lingering cigar smoke, pounding dance beats, and a rich, long and layered history. The city's romantic atmosphere is palpable, from Habana Vieja's enchanting colonial monuments to its thriving late-night cabaret scene.
Begin by exploring the city's colonial heart: Habana Vieja. Founded in 1519, Old Havana was built around the natural port of Havana Bay. Wandering through its narrow streets you can soak up the colonial atmosphere while visiting such grand buildings as the Catedral de San Cristóbal, La Cabaña Fort and Castillo del Morro. When you're ready for a drink, our local guides can recommend the best place for a refreshing Mojito - perhaps at one of the bars Hemingway used to frequent.
Stunning hilltop forts and glorious palaces from days gone by dot the landscape in India's first royal city. Known as the Pink City, today's Jaipur is a fascinating affair, and a truly exotic city to explore with your partner.
Stroll around the city's traditional artisans' quarters at Johari Bazaar, where you can shop for colourful local souvenirs, or sample food from the many vendors. Visit the magnificent palace of Hawa Mahal and witness the Rajput artistry at Jaipur's most distinctive landmark. Sample rich Rajasthani cuisine at Gulab Mahal restaurant before witnessing a spectacular sunset from atop the Amber Fort. Jaipur makes an impression, and will leave you with memories that linger for years.
Heidelberg is one of Germany’s most romantic cities; ask anyone who’s visited and they’ll likely rhapsodize about the charming Altstadt, the Renaissance castle looming over the city, and the delightful landscapes beckoning around every corner.
Visitors can take advantage of how bicycle-friendly Heidelberg is and cruise around the city on two wheels. If you are feeling adventurous, ride out into the countryside (also on excellent, safe cycle paths) and sample some of the delightful local countryside and peaceful nature.
Take a gentle stroll along the famous Philosphenweg, the walking path where well-known philosophers drew inspiration, and enjoy the superb view of the town from the other side of the river. Or maybe a languid cruise up-river on a tasteful tour boat to get reacquainted with real 'romance in the city'. In the evening, savour a glass of the internationally renowned local Riesling.
Edgy, cosmopolitan and with a dash of European flair, Montreal is a vibrant and eclectic Canadian city, with more than a pinch of romance folded into the mix.
Begin your day with a stroll through the charming cobbled streets of Old Montreal. See street performers and artists lining the square in Place Jacques Cartier. Take in the beautiful domed Notre Dame Basilica, then window shop along Rue Sainte Catherine. Wander through the stone buildings of historic McGill University campus as you slowly climb to the top of Mount Royal for breathtaking views of the city below. Montreal's nightlife is legendary, so be sure to ask your local guide to recommend a great spot for live music - or perhaps a romantic wine bar for a late night glass of red.
Porto has a long history as Lisbon's rival to the North, but this enchanting Portuguese city holds its own as a tourist destination. Sitting pretty among the hilly landscape at the mouth of the Douro River, Porto welcomes visitors looking for history, culture and an extremely good glass of port wine.
Porto's historic centre is the Ribeira district, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed area. Start your day with a wander through its medieval streets, pausing for a cup of coffee and pastel de nata at one of many cosy cafes. Walk across the 19th century Ponte de Dom Luis Bridge to visit Porto's other half - the port-soaked Vila Nova de Gaia. Here you can tour one of the many ancient port wine cellars, learn about the beverage's history and sample some of the rich red liquid for yourself. Want to get even closer to the source? Take a peaceful boat ride along the Douro River to soak in the serene views of tumbling hillsides and terraced vineyards…of course with a glass of port to share.
Zanzibar. Say the name and you can almost smell the scent of spices blowing on the gentle trade winds. This exotic port off the coast of Tanzania offers travelers the hedonistic pleasures of white sand beaches and lapis waters, along with a fascinating fusion of culture and history.
At the heart of Zanzibar is Stone Town, with its labyrinthine streets and bustling bazaars, reflective of its rich multi-cultural history. Persians, Arabs, Portuguese, Germans, British, Indians and Africans have all left their mark here. Out of town, you can visit sparkling beaches, spice plantations, or perhaps one of the island's unique animal sanctuaries. Take a sunset cruise on a traditional dhow for a perfectly romantic end to any travel day.
Sometimes referred to as the "new Tuscany," Istria is a beautiful peninsula in Northern Croatia, whose history and present day are infused with Italian influence. Along the Istrian Coast lies Rovinj – an enchanting town that seems designed for couples in the mood for romance.
A leisurely wander through Rovinj is a must: this late medieval town is imbued with Venetian overtones, and the architecture and picturesque harbour setting combine to make it one of the most romantic villages you'll see on your travels. As the sun prepares to set, pull up a cushion and order a cocktail from one of the bars that line the stone steps down to the ocean. A magical end to the day.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
The lakeside town of Bled in Northwestern Slovenia beckons with its stunning mountain setting, magnificent castle and picturesque church, sitting snug on a tiny island in the middle of the lake. The surrounding region is also magical; rolling hills become dramatic mountains, medieval villages and wineries dot the landscape.
Bled's magnificent cliff-top castle is the quintessential fairytale fortress, complete with towers, ramparts, moats and spectacular views over the surrounding countryside. For more brilliant views of Bled's emerald lake and island church, you can walk along the shore then climb up to Osojnica viewing point. Pack a picnic of fresh bread, local cheese and a bottle of flavourful Zelen from the nearby Vipava Valley to enjoy by the shores of the lake.
Hoa An, Vietnam
Hoi An’s Old Town is one of Vietnam’s most romantic destinations. Nestled along the banks of the Thu Bon River, this graceful, ancient city has been remarkably well-preserved. Chinese temples, ancient tea warehouses, historic and tottering Japanese merchant houses all create a marvellous atmosphere for exploring. And then a short bike ride from the city takes you through rice fields to quiet beaches.
For a special meal in Old Town, the Secret Garden’s glorious French-colonial garden setting makes this hidden gem (it’s literally tucked away amidst a maze of narrow laneways) one of the prettiest places you’ll dine in Asia.
So while it’s probably the least “offbeat” travel destination in the world, we can’t leave Italy off a list of romantic destinations! But forget Tuscany, Venice or the Amalfi Coast. How about visiting the setting for one of the great love stories of all time…Verona?
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene... The chorus that opens Shakespeare's great tragedy makes it impossible to separate Verona from the love story of Romeo and Juliet. And the cries of the Capulets and Montagues may well ring out in your imagination as you wander through this small city’s enchanting streets. In the summer months, take advantage of Verona's spectacular open air Opera House (a 1st century AD Roman Arena) to listen to live performances under the stars. And don't forget the wonderful riverside Castelvecchio! Verona is a treat – and way less crowded than its big name neighbours.
So there you go – surprise someone you love with a trip that showed you put some imagination into the planning. And know that you really can’t go wrong…if you’re traveling with the person you love, you’ll find romance in any destination.