Europe's most romantic cities are renowned for their unique charm, impressive architecture and decadent food, but pushing your way through the crowds to the Eiffel Tower or Sagrada Familia can take the shine off a loved-up trip.
In line with a new campaign titled Loyalty & Love, Marriott Bonvoy aims to put the romance back into travel by ensuring every getaway runs smoothly. The travel programme lets members earn and redeem points across a portfolio of 30 brands, as well as offering thousands of destination tours and unique Marriott Bonvoy Moments. When members book through Marriott.com, they receive all the perks that come with Elite status, including exclusive member-only rates. Mobile check-in and checkout are also available via the app, leaving more time for romance and adventure.
When it comes to discovering a special place, the hotel staff in Marriott Bonvoy's properties are on hand to help with tips on where to go and what to see, both in person and via the Marriott Bonvoy app. Below, the concierges from a selection of European hotels in some of the most romantic cities share their insider knowledge for tracking down the hidden gems in five idyllic destinations.
Take a break from the cultural and architectural highlights and start your Barcelona city break with some traditional Catalan gastronomy. "My restaurant pick is L'Olive in the Eixample district," says Jordi San Jose, concierge at the W Barcelona. "If my husband and I could only have one meal in Barcelona, we would have it here."
Prince de Galles, a Luxury Collection Hotel
Thery's favourites include the Medici Fountain in the Jardin du Luxembourg and Square Saint-Gilles Grand Veneur Pauline Roland, a pretty green space tucked away in the 3rd arrondissement that is rarely busy. To experience the magic of the River Seine in style, Thery suggests a private luxury boat cruise before heading to the secluded garden of Le Très Particulier bar in Montmartre for a cocktail.
With its medieval monuments, fairytale castles and picturesque Danube Promenade, Budapest offers something to woo everyone, including a number of beautiful parks. The largest of these is City Park, home to the impressive Vajdahunyad Castle and the ideal setting for a heart-to-heart. Krisztian Kovacs, concierge at Budapest's Ritz-Carlton, recommends it for a leisurely stroll or a picnic on the lawn, but it's not the only green space to explore in Hungary's historic capital.
The Ritz-Carlton Budapest
Head to Margaret Island where the city's famous Water Tower stands in the courtyard of an open-air theatre. "After a romantic walk around the island, visit the upper floor of the Water Tower, known as 'The kissing room' by locals," Kovacs says. The Feneketlen or 'Bottomless' Lake, is also surrounded by parkland made for peace and quiet away from the busy city centre.
Beyond the famous landmarks, look to London's secret spots for a memorable day out in the capital. "A romantic walk through the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park offers a unique, Japanese-style landscape, perfect for quiet reflection and relaxation," says Ricky Barlow, head concierge at the nearby JW Marriott Grosvenor House London.
JW Marriott Grosvenor House
Over on the other side of the city in Shoreditch, head to Columbia Road, famous for its Sunday flower market. "The air is intense with the scent of flowers, and delicious breakfasts and coffee on offer from the artisan shops and galleries dotted along Columbia Road to tempt you," Barlow notes. To end an amorous day in London, a sunset boat trip on the Thames gives a whole new perspective to the cityscape.
It might not be lauded as a city of love like Paris and Venice, but the ancient beauty of Istanbul is equally charming. When it comes to a relaxing break for two, a short ferry ride to The Princes' Islands is a good place to start. Erdener Ortakçı, head concierge at the St. Regis Istanbul, recommends Büyükada, the largest in the archipelago of nine islands, where no cars are allowed.
St. Regis Istanbul
"Take a horse-drawn carriage, a walking tour or a bicycle tour along the coast for the best views of Istanbul and the Marmara Sea," Ortakçı says. To truly unwind, try the couple's hammam experience in the St. Regis Iridium Spa followed by dinner at the iconic Maiden's Tower, located on a small island at the entrance to the Bosphorous. "It offers a truly personalised and romantic experience," Ortakçı adds. "The ideal spot for enjoying spectacular views of the Bosphorus and city skyline."
Loyalty & Love is a creative collaboration between British photographer Rankin and Marriott Bonvoy that captures the love stories of 15 couples. With a portfolio of 30 hotel brands, Marriott Bonvoy enables members to explore the world in pursuit of their passions and earn and redeem points as they travel. To read the Loyalty & Love stories or become a Marriott Bonvoy member, visit Marriott Bonvoy.
From Harper's Bazaar U.K.