It’s time to end the City of Love’s monopoly on romance. It’s not that Paris hasn’t earned its reputation as a couples magnet; it’s just that the world is full of cities that could have been designed by Cupid himself, and it’s about time they get the recognition they deserve. Between major metropolises that have been overlooked by honeymooners for far too long and small, storybook cities that’ll make anyone go full-on soppy, these romantic destinations are perfect for lovebirds.
1. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an aerial shot of Mostar is worth the Complete Nicholas Sparks Collection. Smack dab in the city center is the Stari Most bridge, a reconstruction of a 16th-century Ottoman bridge that spanned the Neretva River until it was destroyed during wartime in the 1990s. Despite its conflicted past, Mostar is stunning, a hodgepodge of old Turkish houses, European architecture, cobblestone streets, bazaars, shops, and cafes where you can sip coffee or wine, both of which Mostar does well.
Should you and your significant other want to take a day trip, a half-hour drive will get you to the Kravica Waterfalls. There, you can can swim beneath cascades or paddle a small boat during the colder months while admiring this particularly lush slice of the Bosnian landscape.
2. Viña del Mar, Chile
Viña del Mar is a seaside resort on the west coast of Chile just north of Valparaíso. The name translates to “vineyard by the sea,” so it makes sense that two of the most popular pastimes here are wine tasting and lounging on the beach. Casablanca Valley is the heart of Chile’s wine country and only 45 minutes from Viña del Mar by car. Reputed for its chardonnays and sauvignon blancs, the valley has enough wineries to keep you busy for a full weekend, not to mention restaurants serving up toothsome Chilean fare with unbeatable views.
Fresh seafood is available up and down the coast in Viña del Mar, which is just about the only thing that’ll convince you to uproot yourself from your Reñaca Beach post sunbathing. To take in the Pacific views from a different perspective, journey to Castillo Wulff, a former residence and current heritage center perched above the sea. Then head to Quinta Vergara, home to a gorgeous green park, the palatial former home of the city’s founder, and an amphitheater where the International Song Festival takes place every February.
3. Cape Town, South Africa
Travelers to Cape Town come back waxing poetic about the view from Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, the Stellenbosch Wine Routes, horseback riding on the beach, and hot air ballooning, all while describing the most perfect dates imaginable without even realizing it. Couples traveling to this part of the world can also enjoy the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden followed by dinner and a show, be it open-air theatre or a movie night under the stars with Galileo Open Air Cinema. Sunrise and sunset hikes are sure to take your breath away — not just from the workout — and even more scenic lookouts await at the end of coastal drives, including the cruise down to the Cape of Good Hope.
4. Budapest, Hungary
Budapest is bisected by the Danube with Buda, the ancient capital, on the west bank and modern, buzzing Pest to the east. The two are connected by a series of bridges, the most famous being the Széchenyi Chain Bridge where passersby have a habit of leaving love locks. Walk across the bridge and around Buda, following cobblestone streets to striking landmarks like Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, and Matthias Church, then stop for a glass of Tokaj, Hungary’s star wine.
Thermal baths are another highlight of Budapest, a great outing for couples. The sumptuous Gellért Bath is your best bet on the Buda side while the Széchenyi Bath in Pest is larger and more varied. There, you can book a couples massage, get steamy in the sauna, or even soak in a beer spa built for two. Come meal time, stick to the east bank for the most romantic restaurants, but leave one evening free for a dinner cruise on the Danube.
Budapest is beautiful all year long, especially at night when the castle glows a fierce gold, but nothing beats Christmastime when the city becomes a canvas of twinkling lights, dusted snow, and festive markets. Late summer comes in a close second with its chocolate and wine festivals in September and the St. Stephen’s Day fireworks on August 20.
5. Antigua, Guatemala
With its pastel Spanish colonials, cathedrals and church ruins, busy plazas, and grand monuments arranged on stone streets under the watchful eye of three volcanoes, Antigua has to be among the most romantic cities in Central America. There are several intimate boutique hotels in town with amenities like swimming pools, spas, and gardens, and the restaurant scene is ripe with spots for wining and dining in the open air. To satisfy your sweet tooth while getting in a cultural couples activity, head to the ChocoMuseo where you and your significant other can learn all about the history of Guatemalan cacao and even learn how to make your own.
6. Quebec City, Canada
A swoony way to get acquainted with Quebec City’s Old Town is to take a horse-drawn carriage tour of the major sites, such as Parliament Hill, the Citadelle of Quebec, and Chateau Frontenac. Calèches du Vieux Québec and Calèches Québec both offer rides designed for couples, including wedding, proposal, and general romance packages.
Dedicate some time to exploring on foot, as well. Start with the Musée de la Civilisation in the Old City, then link arms and mosey on over to the trendy Saint-Roch neighborhood for foodie fixes and killer cocktails. On a different day, visit the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec in the Plaines d’Abraham historic area. Winter is a particularly romantic time in Quebec City, with activities like ice skating in Place D’Youville, but summer is the best time to add the breathtaking Montmorency Falls to your itinerary.
7. Osaka, Japan
Osaka’s reputation revolves around three things: shopping, eating, and drinking. It’s a city made of concrete, not cobblestones, whose romantic side often gets overlooked amid the big-city buzz. But the third-largest city in Japan is swarming with date night spots, from the Tombori Riverwalk promenade to Spa World, and onsen-style bath house. Choose between the European Zone for medicinal Greek, open-air Spanish, or jacuzzi-style Roman baths and the Asian Zone for traditional Japanese baths, indoor or outdoor, as well as Balinese- and Persian-inspired baths.
Of course, no date night is complete without a lovey-dovey dinner. Enter the Ura-Namba neighborhood, the culinary heavy hitter in a food-obsessed city. Share savory delicacies like okonomiyaki, fluffy pancakes filled with vegetables and additions like seafood and pork, and takoyaki, fried octopus balls made with dashi-flavored batter, green onions, and ginger. Then hang around the neighborhood for a nightcap.
All that said, if there’s one thing Japan is famous for that’s immeasurably romantic, it’s cherry blossom season. Soft pink sakura blooms blanket the cherry trees in Osaka between late March and early April, particularly around the Osaka Castle, Banpaku Memorial, and Ryokuchi Park.