Paris is passe’ – These 5 new heart-tugging cities will leave romantic travellers spellbound


The hip, waterfronted destinations of Cartagena, Istanbul, Auckland, Tokyo and Udaipur will set the scene for people looking for love, fun and adventure

Move over Paris – there is a host of hip, historical and heart-tugging cities that set the scene for love, fun and adventure, according to experts at the luxury, tailor-made tour operator, Lightfoot Travel.

A charming narrow street in the old Spanish city of Cartagena, in Colombia.

Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena may be an old Spanish port city with Unesco World Heritage status, but it is having a new lease of life.

Located on the Caribbean coast, the pace of life is free, floaty – and a little bit like a fairy tale.

Add colourful bougainvillea, pastel-shaded colonial mansions, salty air, and spices from restaurant kitchens – and spice is also likely to increase between couples, too.

Head into the charismatic Old City where the Clock Tower Gate takes you into the main square, Plaza de los Coches.

Its old-world ambience makes you feel as if you have stepped back in time.

From here, horse-drawn carriages are waiting to take you through the narrow streets, and through bustling markets and leafy tropical parks.

After dark, sip cocktails at Alquimico (www.alquimico.com), a new hotspot set in a former two-storey mansion with great views and dangerously exciting rum-infused cocktails.

Stay: Casa San Agustin in Cartagena is a boutique urban retreat packed with Colombian personality.

Breezy rooms featuring hand-painted tiles, original frescoes, coral walls and palm-shaded patios nod to the colonial history – opt for the Premium Rooms’ private patio and plunge pools for city views and an air of magic.

The lounge area, with its stunning floor-to-ceiling windows, at the Aman Tokyo hotel, in Japan.

Tokyo, Japan
Neon lights. Speeding trains. Flashy billboards. Throbbing karaoke booths.

Tokyo may not conjure up traditional romance, but don’t let its buzzy exterior fool you.

The ancient shrines, quaint tea houses, dainty meals and soothing hot spas make it almost impossible for couples not to feel a bit fuzzy as you throw yourselves into the culture and traditions.

Romantic moments are endless: watch the sunset over the city from the Tokyo Skytree, wander through the Hamarikyu Garden, row a boat down the Chidorigafuchi moat, or get drunk on sake (and each other) at the Kurand Sake market.

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Stay: Aman Tokyo spans the top six floors of a 38-storey skyscraper in the business district of Otemachi.

It is super-sleek, with a fine dining restaurant, sexy spa, natural decor and minimal feel (even the food matches the monochrome decor: think of desserts such as black bamboo meringues, dark chocolates and black sesame scones).

The rooms follow suit, with the floor-to-ceiling windows that make you feel, quite literally, on top of the world.

Oh – wait – did we mention the humungous bathtubs?

The beautiful Waiheke Island, with its white sandy beaches, is a perfect hideaway for couples – only half an hour’s travel by boat from the city of Auckland.

Auckland, New Zealand
It could be the fresh air, the wild nature, or the delicious food and wine that gets your heart beating faster in Auckland.

Combining city with beach scenery, couple-based bonding activities are endless, ranging from paddle boarding to picnics on the sand.

The central area is a developing cultural hub with bustling bars, restaurants and shops, and the famous waterfront is ideal for sailing and stargazing at night.

Climb the magnificent Auckland Bridge for the best views, stroll through the Botanic Gardens or enjoy a scenic helicopter flight.

Alternatively, take the half-an-hour boat ride to Waiheke Island where you can languish on the white sandy beaches, visit the dozens of cool art galleries, or embark on a fun vineyard tour.

Stay: The Boatshed, on Wahieke Island, is the epitome of luxe island living and spot on for couples seeking a chic hideaway.

We love the unusual three-storey lighthouse that is ideal for honeymooners (or indeed, those hoping for a honeymoon in the future) with its beachy ambience, stylish interior and secluded day room.

The Patisserie de Pera at the elegant Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah, which once served elite passengers of the Orient Express, in Istanbul.

Istanbul, Turkey
Mystical, magical and mysterious, Istanbul’s minarets, palaces, bathhouses, ornate mosques and medieval churches set the scene for romance.

Spend time exploring the ancient walled city of Sultanahmet, a Unesco World Heritage area, before heading for the vibrant residential area of Istiklal Cadessi, home to fashion boutiques and upmarket rooftop restaurants, such as 360 (www.360istanbul.com).

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After lunch, take a walk at Akinti Burnu along the Bosphorous strait, sip Turkish tea in an open-air tea garden, or watch the sunset over Golden Horn Bay.

At night head to the Beyoglu district, the epicentre of Istanbul’s nightlife.

Stay: it does not get much more elegant than Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah, which used to serve the elite passengers of the Orient Express and has hosted film director Alfred Hitchcock and thriller writer Agatha Christie.

Ramp up your love levels in the Greta Garbo Corner Rooms with their period furniture, chandeliers and roll-top bathtubs.

If you can bear to leave your room, the decadent afternoon tea in the Kubbeli Saloon Tea Lounge is a must.

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The charming waterfront of Udaipur, which sits on the shore of Lake Pichola,

Udaipur, India
Udaipur oozes a regal splendour and stately aura, and its fantastical palaces, temples, havelis and crooked streets bring an endless charm.

Get lost in the bustle of ancient bazaars to the background of gypsy music, enjoy the traditional and lively arts, and marvel at architectural wonders such as the luxurious Fateh Prakash Palace.

Hit peak romance with a boat ride on the blue hues of Lake Pichola where the marble architecture of the buildings are reflected in the water.

Dudh Talai, perched on the Aravalli hillside of Udaipur, justifies its reputation as being one of the best spots to watch the sun rise.

Those who love adventure as much as each other can hop onto the Karni Mata Ropeway to take in unbeatable views of the city below.

Stay: be treated like a king and queen at Taj Lake Palace, which rises majestically from a four-acre island in the middle of Lake Pichola.

Opulent and elegant, the rooms are decorated with fine silk, coloured frescoes and ornately carved furniture.

For a meal to remember, dine on traditional Rajasthani cuisine, while overlooking the lake.

Note – This story was originally published on SCMP and has been republished on this website with permission.