Off-the-Beaten-Path Romance

I have to laugh when I see things like “rented” swans, petal-strewn hotel beds, and string-quartet serenades. While truly fine hotels will go to great lengths to help you plan memorable romantic experiences (they might even secure those swans for you if you insist), I’m more interested in simple, authentic alternatives.

That’s why I asked 10 concierges in some of my favorite cities what they would recommend to the most discerning of guests for a night of off-the-beaten-path romance — whether it’s Valentine’s Day, a wedding proposal, or simply a much-needed date night.

A Rose-Colored Walk in Buenos Aires
With more than 15,000 rose plants, the Paseo del Rosedal in the heart of Tres de Febrero Park is as good as it gets when it comes to simple romance. Marcela Capellino, assistant manager of guest services at Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt, loves the Andalusian patio in the garden, which was donated by the city of Seville in 1929. “It’s a quiet secret place,” she said. “The peaceful sound of a water fountain, mixed with the singing birds and the smell of roses make this spot my favorite.”

A World Away from London
The Waterside Inn, about an hour’s drive from the West End of London, is a place where you can completely disconnect. On the banks of the River Thames, this restaurant, which offers 11 rooms and suites to stay in, played host to Prince Philip’s 90th birthday dinner. “The ceilings are low and the walls are covered with accounts of prestigious events, dinners, gatherings, and awards,” said Corrado Bogni, head concierge at The Connaught in London. But don’t let the celeb cred intimidate you: “The decor is just like how the venue opened over four decades ago, and the feel is cozy and familiar,” he said.

A Quiet Meal in Singapore
For a superb Mediterranean menu and a selection of exotic cocktails, the ECO Gourmet Cafe is a romantic pick for Kamisah Abdul Rahim, chief concierge at Raffles Hotel Singapore. “Sitting in the belly of Labrador Nature Reserve, ECO Gourmet Cafe is quiet, romantic, and away from the hustle and bustle of Singapore’s city life,” he said.

A Secret Beach in Cape Town
Dirk Jacobs, head concierge at Relais and Chateaux’s Ellerman House, suggests choosing Bakoven beach over Cape Town’s more popular surf-side locales like Signal Hill and Table Mountain. “No one really knows about this little beach, and it is always quiet with the most amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean,” he said. “It’s also secluded from the wind, and can make for a perfect picnic on the beach.”

A Full-Day Fantasy in Istanbul
It was difficult for Burak Aydin, concierge at the Four Seasons Istanbul, to choose from among his favorite romantic places, so he picked three. His recommendations include Anadolu Kavagi, “a charming little village on the northern end of the Bosphorus, with dazzling remnants of a Byzantine castle,” The Maidens Tower, “a fairy-tale like tower in between continents,” and watching the day draw to a close from the Pierre Loti hotel (“Some of the most prominent writers and poets have watched the sun set over the Golden Horn at Pierre Loti”).

A High-Altitude Escape in Florence
I can tell you from personal experience that Fiesole, perched atop a hill in Florence, boasts one of the most romantic views in the world. Ruggero Vannini, head concierge at Hotel Savoy, couldn’t agree more. According to Vannini, highlights there include “a beautifully kept Roman amphitheater surrounded by olive groves and cypress trees,” the Duomo di Fiesole, and San Francesco monastery. But, he says, if you like walking, take the steep, old Vecchia Fiesolana road down to Florence, where “the city is always at your feet with its cobblestones, secluded gardens, and flowered balconies.”

An Under-sung Park in Barcelona
The Hotel Majestic‘s concierge team, Mario Montero and María Sabates, recommend checking out the city’s oldest historical garden, Parque del Laberinto de Horta — a local favorite they say is unknown to most visitors. When you’re finished exploring the park, they suggest taking the Arrabassada scenic highway up to Mirabé restaurant. “There is a spectacular balcony from where you and your other half can enjoy a beautiful sunset with a cocktail or dinner with Barcelona at your feet,” they said.

A Cinematic Stroll in Paris
At the refined Le Bristol hotel in Paris, Head Concierge Assistant Sonia Papet is often in charge of arranging romantic days for guests. For a unique experience, she suggests taking a private Midnight in Paris walking tour “to go where the actors and actresses were in the movie” or, if it’s the weekend, checking out Les Puces de Saint-Ouen flea market. Whatever you choose, they say, think about spending some time at the Place du Tertre in Montmartre, where you can visit the Musée de la Vie Romantique (Museum of Romantic Life).

A Scenic Sail in Mumbai
If you’re looking for a moment of quiet in this otherwise overwhelming city, Tushnamaiti Dastur, concierge at The Oberoi Mumbai, says the place to be is the Mumbai Harbor. Add some romance to the experience by taking a champagne cruise, where you can enjoy the silence and scenic beauty in a completely undisturbed setting. “You’re cut off almost completely from the chaos of the city and daily life,” she says.

A Romantic Respite in Beijing
The Aman Resort is located next to Beijing’s Summer Palace, with a “secret door” to the highly trafficked, once-royal park. The area near the palace’s main gates can get crowded, so Tim Weiland, the resort’s general manager, suggests exploring the serene Garden of Harmonious Interests. “From there,” he said, “you can take the little footpaths through Longevity Hill‘s forests and completely forget you’re surrounded by a multi-million-inhabitant city.” He also recommends visiting the temple of Four Great Regions, “a lovely spot to take in the sweeping views after a leisurely climb up the hill.”

What’s your favorite spot for off-the-beaten-path romance? Share your local expertise with the Intelligent Travel community by leaving a comment below: