I’m not a romantic. But Europe has made me feel romantic.
The right environment can send you to the lofty heights of enrapture. There are places that move you from exhilaration to exhilaration, sweeping up everything in your wake, blasting through the town without barely stopping for a breath. I don’t think there’s a greater feeling. But I also love moving through a place slowly; lazing under the summer heat, exploring back-streets, and relaxing in a spot with a good book.
We all know there are many facets to the word ‘romantic’ that I could be here all day trying to colour them all in, so instead here’s my list of Europe’s 5 most romantic cities and why:
Castles, cathedrals, cobbled streets and colourful houses make Prague one of the prettiest cities in the world. But whilst it’s pretty, it’s also dark and Gothic – where there’s colourful pastel houses, there’s also decorative gargoyles nearby that create an interesting schism between the beautiful and the monstrous. And speaking of monstrous, Hitler was said to love Prague so much that it was spared destruction and ordered that it must be preserved. Surely that nugget of information describes the power of Prague’s emotive beauty?
To experience the romance of Prague I suggest exploring the city at night also – take a walk across Charles Bridge and let the tall, imposing lamps dimly accentuate the cobbled pathway and view of the river Vltava; it’s like you’re walking onto the setting of a period drama. And when the darkness absorbs the details of the architecture, the only thing you’re able to make out is a horizon filled with arches, domes and spires that are softly highlighted by the moon.
I remember sitting in Krakow’s main square, people-watching with my boyfriend, surrounded by a feast of elaborate architecture once intended for the aristocracy. Horse drawn carriages trotted past, lovers entwined passed us by, young girls climbed on the monument of Adam Mickiewicz – Poland’s greatest Romantic Poet – and took photographs whilst a man playing his guitar could be faintly heard. Then the gentle chime of the church clock turned 9 O’ Clock, and we realised we had been sitting on the bench for an hour and it reminded us that we should already be in a restaurant filling ourselves to the brim with good food, drink and conversation. But, instead the simple pleasure of sitting and watching the world pass us by had filled us with so much contentment that we didn’t want to move. The minutes that passed could have been seconds or even hours, and I would not have been able to distinguish between the two. I guess when you’re so absorbed in the moment, everything else becomes indefinable.
Nightfall with bats swarming above in Krakow’s main square – Europe largest medieval town square
London’s romance lies in its bursting sense of life. No two days are the same, and the possibilities that lie in these days give rise to doing things on a whim – the romantic movements of impulse. It’s difficult not to let your imagination run away as you explore the south, east, north and west of London. Some people reading this may not agree that London should be in a list of romantic cities, but just head to Hampstead Heath and imagine John Keats writing one of his lyrical masterpieces, and whilst romancing with one Londoner we should not forget to invite the others – William Blake, Samuel Pepys, Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin and E M Forster.
Explore London at night and head to Hyde Park with a bottle of wine (but avoiding any park drunks). So many romances must have started in this place – a stroll around the lake and settling down under a weeping willow tree for a sneaky kiss couldn’t be any more idyllic. It’s surprising that in a capital city of eight million people you can still very much feel like no-one else is around. If your night isn’t over, then head along the Thames and see the sky dressed by city lights. The water, the bridges and the lights really do look pretty, and if you’re feeling decadent then maybe splurge on a river cruise – sometimes clichés really do work the best.
Ok, ditch the wine and swig on beer! Couples enjoy a picnic in Hampstead Heath.
The Venetian Lagoon is coated with flakes of pearls as it catches the reflection of the moon. As we begin to walk into the circuit of narrow alleys our pathway is dimly lit by old fashioned oil lamps that lead to a courtyard of cosy looking cicchetti bars. The huge crowds that appear through the day have completely dispersed, and Venice has turned into a ghost town. We huddle closer together and walk over bridges that overlook canals shimmering from the night sky….
Perfect setting for a Gothic/Horror movie – anyone watched ‘Don’t Look Now’ set in Venice?
The Italian’s lust for food is only rivalled for their appetite for beauty – and Venice is no exception. This is a city that has more artistic masterpieces per square metre than any other place in the world. There’s a museum dedicated to Leonard Di Vinci – the master of creating ‘ideal beauty’. On this occasion, the museum is more science based than art based, but nevertheless it’s one of the many places in Venice that gives people a taste of beauty in all its forms: people, food, architecture, art, gondola rides, history and landscape. So even if you don’t fall in love in Venice, you’ll fall in love with Venice.
You didn’t think a list of Europe’s most romantic cities would be complete without Paris did you?
Remember when I said some places move you from exhilaration to exhilaration? Well I was talking about Paris. It’s a city filled with hedonistic pleasures; wine, food, fashion, art, architecture and music fills you with a vivacious lust to experience it all. A night in Paris begs for a romantic rendezvous, but maybe I’ve been watching too many old French films, and my penchant for Marlon Brando in The Last Tango in Paris is at a life-time peak.
Kiss the grave of Oscar Wilde, glide and send your arms swinging to-and-fro down the Champs-Élysées, hold hands under the Eiffel Tower, fall in love with the sculptures of Rodin and weep in the misery of his melancholic relationship with Camille Claudel (I told you I’ve been watching too many French films!).