A vibrant street life, stunning visuals, food and drink that sweeten your lips. The world's most romantic places seem to share these traits. But there is something more: a sense of style and spirit, a pace that's almost musical. Here's a list of ethereal places -- some expected, some not -- that can easily capture your heart.
Sydney Opera House at dawn. (Cameron Spencer / Getty Images)
Most romantic season: Winter, perversely
Where to set the mood: Newton Bar, back-dropped by German photographer Helmut Newton's "Big Nudes"
What to wear: Something that's fun to take off
— Susan Spano
Havana: You can fly across the ocean, but you won't get farther from American ways than the casas and cafes of Old Havana. Browse through vintage photos of Fidel and Ché at the Plaza de Armas, then walk up Calle Mercaderes, ducking into the panaderías and perfumeries. Order a Bucanero beer (or a mojito) in the Plaza de la Catedral; it's such a great people-watching spot, you might even stay for dinner. After the sun sets, there's music everywhere. Link arms and make your way down the Malecón, Havana's legendary waterfront promenade. The old man with the patched-up guitar doesn't ask for money, but his soft rendition of "Bésame Mucho" is as beautiful as any music you will hear in Cuba. Breathe the warm sea air as you gaze north, across the Straits of Florida, toward a continent that seems as distant as the setting moon.
Most romantic season: March-April
Where to set the mood: Have a frozen daiquiri at El Floridita, and grin tolerantly at the tourists having their pictures taken with the bust of Ernest Hemingway.
What to wear: Light cotton; a dashing (or fetching) hat.
— Jeff Greenwald
Vienna: On the surface, there's something orderly about Vienna; it does not smack of spontaneity or sudden urges. And yet.... Consider a drive to the vineyards on the outskirts of the city just before sunset to watch the lights begin to sparkle. During the October grape harvest, couples park by the side of the narrow roads and roam the vine-covered hills in search of some privacy. Could be contagious. Back in town, stop at the Secession Building and gaze at Gustav Klimt's "Beethoven Frieze," an artwork that celebrates the human form and erotic love. Vienna has other well-known temptations: coffee and chocolate. The historic inner city boasts scores of shops that will sate your caffeine and sugar needs, especially powerful at breakfast time. It's a meal that will prepare you for anything, at least for a couple of hours until the need for real food kicks in.
Most romantic season: Autumn
Where to set the mood: The Sacher Eck cafe with Sacher-Torte and café mit schlag.
What to wear: Sunglasses and a scarf
— Alice Short
Barcelona, Spain: Where the locals resemble Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz, nobody goes out to dinner before 10:30 p.m., and the streets teem with so much fantasy-fueled Gaudí architecture it leaves you breathless. It's easy to succumb in a city that has a beach lapping its southeastern edge, where even the ham — procured from black-hoofed pigs fattened on acorns — is a sensual experience. Start the day at Mercat de Santa Catarina, eyeing ripe figs and fleshy peaches. Then slip into Cuines Santa-Catarina and devour oily sardines and garlicky bread smeared with succulent tomatoes. Afterward, siesta at Hotel Omm, where the minimalist aesthetic won't get in the way of your own Gaudí-inspired fantasies.
Most romantic season: Summer, when it's hot and sultry
Where to set the mood: Rowing on the intimate boating lake in Parc de la Ciutadella
What to wear: Something that makes you look as if you just rolled out of bed.