Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and all over the world people are racking their brains for inspiration on where to take their loved one, to pop the question or just make sure of a super romantic day. I’ve thought back over the 47 countries I’ve visited so far and picked out what I think are the 10 most romantic destinations.
I’ll admit that no one actually proposed to me at any of these romantic travel destinations but I wouldn’t have minded! I’ll tell you at the end where I proposed to my husband and my pick of the most romantic place in the world (where we chose to get married).
So here are my top 10 best places to propose in the world (and my tips for how to maximise the romantic effect):
1. The Taj Mahal, Agra, India
This is an obvious and classic romantic travel destination and the site of many romantic proposals but no less worthwhile for all that. Standing at the entrance to watch the dawn light diffuse the beautiful stonework is hard to beat but you’ll be sharing the moment with hundreds of other people. The Princess Di-style bench seat at the central hub may also be a bit too public for many. No problem. Once you have experienced the dawn moment, wander into one of the four quarters of the traditional Islamic paradise gardens, enjoying the shade as the sun strengthens, find an ornate park bench to sit on (or kneel beside) and away you go. Make sure you’re out of there before 10am when the tour buses from Delhi start to arrive!
2. Romantic Paris, France
It’s difficult to imagine how you could go wrong with a romantic weekend in Paris but, let’s face it, the weather can be unpredictable, the queues to attractions off-putting and all of us have had a distressing dining out experience where you accidentally order pigs trotters served on a bed of mustard, or slice open a sausage to release the smell of, well, poo. But with a bit of planning, you can pull off that perfect romantic weekend in Paris. Find a cosy local bistro for the romantic meal – we enjoyed Vins des Pyrenees on Rue Castex in the Bastille neighbourhood. Then give yourself up to the beauty of the city’s architectural riches, including Notre Dame reflected in the Seine. The many bridges offer perfect proposal opportunities, or the quiet little park on the point of the Ile de la Cite?
3. Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is an exciting and romantic city for a holiday with great restaurants, impressive scenery a vibrant and various culture. My pick for a romantic moment is to climb the Lion’s Head at sunset. You’ll have golden views across to Table Mountain and the 12 Apostles, as well as down to the Battery and the lights of the city. There will be other people there, locals and tourists, but it’s easy to find a rocky outcrop for some privacy.
4. Udaipur, India
Another unbearably romantic travel destination in India. There are so many romantic options here in the White City (one of Rajasthan’s coloured cities). Palace hotels, the Sunset Palace up on a nearby hill, a boat cruise to an island on the lake, restaurants with private balconies overlooking the lake and palaces… Just make sure the proposal takes place beneath one of the many scalloped archways, and that you can see the lake.
5. The Loire Valley, France
There are probably a thousand places in France that would be perfect for a romantic proposal or Valentine’s Day treat but, aside from Paris, my top pick is the Loire Valley. Full of romantic chateaux such as the Chateau Azay-le-Rideau, which is just perfect for one princess: “Moi!”. The big chateaux see multiple bus loads of tourists every day = not romantic. But the Loire Valley has over 300 chateaux and I discovered a quietly beautiful corner of the Loire Valley that is perfect for a romantic holiday. A gorgeous and hospitable chambre d’hote with great food, set in lush, undulating countryside. Perfectly placed for classic driving tours and also some off-the-beaten-track attractions.
6. Romantic Budapest, Hungary
Beautiful Budapest has romantic opportunities to die for. Spend some time indulging at one of the famous Belle Epoquebath houses such as the Art Nouveau Gellért Baths or the Széchenyi Baths in the CityPark. Then wander the castle district and enjoy the famous cafes and cake shops. In the evening hire a box at the splendid Opera House, get dressed up and have a glamorous night out for a fraction of the cost in western Europe.
7. Hoi An, romantic Vietnam
The city of Hoi An easily takes the cake for the most romantic destination in Vietnam, possibly in south-east Asia. With its markets, charming Chinese shop houses and pretty riverside setting, it is perfect for a romantic few days. Enjoy a delicious meal at one of the riverfront restaurants – the ones with their verandahs festooned with vines and fairy lights – and then take a stroll beside the water. Buy some paper candle boats, light the candles and set them to float away on the river, then pop the question while you’re both watching mesmerised.
8. The Lake District, Cumbria, United Kingdom
The most romantic place I’ve ever stayed in the United Kingdom was in the Lake District at the traditional yet chic Wild Boar Inn. It has a cosy fireside pub and restaurant, delicious food with tasting menus and a strong wine list, a pretty setting amongst woodland, and romantically decorated rooms. I enjoyed fantastically scenic day walks in the Lake District – in the Langdale Valley and up above Lake Windermere – but by far the most romantic thing about the weekend was the bath tub. A huge, free-standing, copper tub in a prettily decorated bathroom, this was definitely the best bath I’ve ever had. The copper retains the water heat incredibly well so you can soak for hours. Bliss.
9. Romantic Havana, Cuba
Havana is an incredibly romantic city, with its faded colonial architecture, fascinating history and arousing musical scene. Enjoy a magnificent (and cheap) lobster dinner and then walk along the Malecon waterfront as the sun goes down. Once the proposal has been successfully made head back in to the old town for a celebratory drink at the rooftop bar at the Hotel Ambos Mundos, where Hemingway frequently stayed.
10. My most romantic travel destination: Orvieto, Italy
When I chose to propose to my beloved I didn’t have the benefit of any of these romantic destinations to hand. The timing just wasn’t right. In fact I proposed on a ski holiday in France at the top of a mountain lookout. But when it came to the wedding it just had to be Italy. Even more so than France there are millions of romantic spots in Italy but the one we chose, and that lived up to all expectations, was the hill town of Orvieto in Umbria.
Rising from the green Umbrian countryside on a tufa-stone volcanic outcrop, Orvieto boasts one of Italy’s most beautiful cathedrals, even more divine food and drink, and a quiet charm that rewards a lingering visit.
By Natasha von Geldern