Who Needs Paris for Passion?

Can you believe that Valentines Day is only five months away? If, like me, the most you can look forward to from your significant other is a meal out (and a bunch of flowers if you’re lucky), maybe they need some delicate persuading this time around. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to honour the most romantic date in the calendar by coming up with my own list of passion magnet cities, where romance is never far behind whatever the time of year – after all it’s not where you go, it’s who you go with!

1. Cologne, Germany

This is one of those amazing cities where the past and future combine to provide a fabulous holiday experience. Notch up the romance-o-meter by strolling around Cologne’s vibrant old town, visiting the beautiful Cathedral (which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site) and finishing off your trip sampling a few of the local beers or by paying a visit to the Chocolate Museum. Then take a few treats home with you (or back to the hotel room).

2. Budapest, Hungary

Its very existence exudes romance as the two halves of the city (Buda and Pest) combine to make one. Plus it’s considered the most beautiful city in central Europe. Treat your loved one to a romantic ride in a retro Trabant (the most popular car of the communist period), enjoy a traditional Hungarian meal and see the delights of the vibrant Great Market. Take a romantic cruise along the mighty Danube, take a walk along the beautiful Elizabeth Bridge or perhaps go underground and explore Pálvölgy Cave.

3. Moscow, Russia

Moscow is a bit out there when considering romantic breaks away especially if you consider how cold it is, but what better excuse do you need to snuggle up to that special someone in your life? There are so many sights to see whilst in Russia’s famous capital city such as The Kremlin, Red Square and the colourful St Basil’s Cathedral – possibly the perfect backdrop for a romantic photo for your family mantle-piece. Finish off your romantic breakaway with an evening at the Bolshoi Theatre to enjoy the ballet.

4. Oxford, England

There are lots of cities in England that are probably just as romantic and you’re probably wondering why Oxford features so high on the list? I’ve chosen Oxford because I spent a fabulous weekend with the girls here last summer and I think you’ll enjoy a short break here too. There’s so much for couples to see and do, like punting along the River Cherwell, admiring the famous spires, taking a walk around Magdalen College, following the trail of Inspector Morse or enjoying a picnic (with a bottle of champers) in the local gardens/parks. Don’t forget your woollies if going in winter!

5. Sydney, Australia

Grab your partner and head over to Australia for one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences. Kayak under the mighty Sydney Harbour Bridge or wave at the beautiful Opera House as you ride a ferry across the harbour to Manly. You could learn to surf at the famous Bondi Beach, climb the span of the Harbour Bridge, lose yourselves in the cobblestone cul-de-sacs of The Rocks or explore the colourful local markets. No trip to Sydney would be complete without catching a performance at the infamous Opera House and a romantic stroll across the harbour to finish off the evening.

6. Reykjavík, Iceland

If you really want to get down with nature, why not visit the adventure playground that is Iceland with its boiling mud pools, spurting Geysers (ooh er), glaciers and waterfalls to explore. This is the country where the sun dips down to the horizon but never actually sets and the colourful Northern Lights – a beautiful mix of green, blue, yellow & pink lights take over the night sky. Indulge yourselves in a thermal steam bath such as the Blue Lagoon, play golf at midnight, spot whales on whale-watching tours, go glacier trekking and finish off with a sumptuous meal in one of the many restaurants to be found in this cosmopolitan city.

7. Havana, Cuba

Top up your tan (and passion) with a visit to this alligator-shaped island full of mountain ranges, stunning beaches, amazing culture and vibrant nightlife. Follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway who liked to sample daiquiris at La Floridita or enjoy a Mojito (Little Monkey) at La Bodeguita del Medio and then write your name on the walls that already boast scores of signatures from the Literary World – both past and present. It’s romance on every level.

8. Oslo, Norway

Visit the Viking capital of Norway on romantic breaks to Oslo. I believe there is no other city like it where you can go skiing, kayaking, join island excursions or go ice-skating without ever leaving the city. Go cultural with visits to the Munch Museum or The National Gallery where you can see works by the artist Edvard Munch. Enjoy views of the Oslo Fjord from the medieval fortress Akershus or check out the traditional wooden houses in Damstredt and Telthusbakken. Visit one of four Michelin rated restaurants for a romantic meal and perhaps finish the evening with a performance of Swan Lake at the new Opera House or listen to the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra at the Concert House. You could even snuggle up together on a sleigh ride too!

9. Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik is quite possibly one of the most attractive destinations on the Mediterranean – actors Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton certainly thought the same when they came here to escape the cameras for some ‘alone time’ when they were courting. Unlike them, you’ll not need to escape the pursuing paparazzi, so you’re free to enjoy the city to the full by taking romantic walks along the city fortification walls or by visiting the award-winning Old Town or Banje Beach – recently voted one of the best beaches in Europe. For something a little different, try diving and see why French Oceanographer/adventurer Jacques-Yves Cousteau said that the underwater world of Dubrovnik is perhaps the most beautiful in the world.

10. Monte Carlo, France

Not only is Monte Carlo a haven for celebs, it’s also famous for featuring as a backdrop to many blockbuster films such as the James Bond movies, Iron Man 2 as well as being the setting for the Monaco Grand Prix. For something a little different, perhaps go medieval with a trip to Monaco-Ville and wander around the cobweb of streets and passageways where some of the previous century houses still remain. Catch the changing of the guard ceremony outside Palais Princier (Prince’s Palace). Hop aboard a catamaran for a tour with a difference where you can see the seabed (without getting wet) or maybe join the Azur Express (fun tourist trains). A visit to the amazing Grand Casino is a must, where you can either just gaze at the amazing interior or get the tuxedos and cocktail dresses out and see if the cards/dice are lucky for you.