Kaid Benfield Archive


What do the world’s most romantic cities have in common?

Kaid Benfield

Posted February 14, 2010 at 1:20PM

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  Amsterdam (by: dutchamsterdam.nl, creative commons license)  Paris (c2008 FK Benfield)

  Prague (c2010 FK Benfield)  Venice (by: Ian Britton, creative commons license)

Venice.  Amsterdam.  Prague.  Paris.  These are some cities that are making "ten-most-romantic cities” lists.  I just looked at three such sites, and Venice, Prague and Paris were consensus picks.  Amsterdam was on two of the lists, as were Rome, Edinburgh, and New York.

What are some of the things these cities have in common?

  • Strong sense of place anchored by historic preservation
  • Vibrant, walkable, diverse downtowns
  • Compact development patterns
  • Extensive and well-used public transportation
  • Great public spaces for lively human interaction
  • Parks and quiet places mixed in with urbanity
  • Great traditional neighborhoods with a strong sense of community 

Sound familiar?  These are the characteristics of smart growth, exactly the elements we want more of in America’s towns and cities.  People fall in love with them, and in them, in part because they are so conducive to nourishing the human spirit.  And, as I’ve been pointing out in this blog, they are good for the environment, too.

Here are some places that didn’t make a “most romantic” list:  Phoenix, Houston, Kansas City, Riverside (the last of those earning the dubious distinction of being America’s “most sprawling” metropolis, according to relevant research), just to name a few.  Now, I’m sure the citizens of those fine places can point to many of their terrific attributes and be right about them.  I can make a case for romantic Washington, too, which can be a wonderful place to live and love if, like most natives, you don’t get too caught up in the political stuff.  But these also-rans still didn’t make anybody’s top-ten list.

So, today of all days, let’s celebrate the ones that did, and make the others more like the winners.

To read the three “most romantic” lists, click here, here, and here.