Kaid Benfield Archive


What do the world's most romantic cities have in common? (reprise)

Kaid Benfield

Posted February 14, 2011 at 1:30PM

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  Rome (by: Ed Yourdon, creative commons license)

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

  Rome (by: Ed Yourdon, creative commons license)  Paris (c2008 FK Benfield)

Prague.  Venice.  Rome.  Paris.  These are some destinations that perennially make "ten-most-romantic cities” lists.  I just looked at three such sites, and all four cities were consensus picks.  Vienna and Lisbon each made two of the lists.

What are some of the things they have in common?

  • Strong sense of place anchored by historic preservation
  • Lively, 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
  • Welcoming to people of diverse cultures  

Sound familiar?  These are the characteristics of smart growth and sustainable communities, exactly the elements we want more of in America’s towns and cities.  My NRDC colleagues and I just concluded a sustainable communities planning retreat, and these were among the concepts that came up repeatedly.

People fall in love with these cities, and in them, in part because they are so conducive to nourishing the human spirit.  And, as I have pointed out on more than the odd occasion, these characteristics support environmental sustainability, too.

So today, let’s celebrate romantic places, and make more of our cities and communities more worthy of the label.

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

Move your cursor over the images for credit and license information.  This post was adapted and updated from one I wrote last year, featuring a slightly different list of cities.