Romantic showdown: London vs New York

Romantic showdown: London vs New York

Both iconic cities, both bursting with romantic experiences; but who will reign supreme, London or New York?

London

Full of iconic palaces and pretty parks, steeped in rich history and yet bursting with life, London is one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Whether you're looking to share an intimate experience or get caught up on the city's vibrant side, there truly is something for everyone.

What to do:

1. Sit down to afternoon tea

An absolute cliché it may be, but you can't pay a visit to London without indulging in one of the country's greatest past-times: The Great British Afternoon Tea. The gluttonous pre-dinner feast has made a big comeback in recent years and there are also a number of quirkier and cheaper places to indulge in a pot of tea and slice of cake. It would probably take a year of gorging in the late afternoon before you tried them all so here's a few places to get you started.

The Sanderson Hotel - This luxury hotel has focused on every detail of the design aspect for their "Mad Hatter's Tea", with bespoke crockery, menus hidden in vintage books and napkins wrapped in riddles. Their menu changes to suit the season with sweet and savoury treats such as smoked Cumbrian ham on sun-dried tomato bread; cucumber and chive cream cheese on spinach bread; and sweet and savoury scones with herb butter and fruit preserves.

Their puddings include a tempting array of strawberries and cream homemade marshmallow mushrooms; a carrot meringue served on a bed of pea shoots; a 'Tick Tock' traditional Victoria sponge clock; and a melting mango cheesecake coated in rainbow-patterned white chocolate.

£35pp (£45 champagne option); 12.30-5.30pm daily.

Gallery Mess - Perfect for couples that like their tea with a side of art, Gallery Mess is part of the Saatchi Gallery in London's up-market and fashionable area of Chelsea. Their menu changes seasonally as they endeavour to use the freshest ingredients. They have daily specials on top of the usual suspects likes scones with cream and, as with all the best afternoon teas, cakes are homemade.

Tea and scones are £9.50 and afternoon tea costs £11.50 or £22 depending on your choices.

Get more afternoon tea ideas.

2. Take a candlelit tour

Planning on decorating your love-nest? You could do worse than to get some inspiration from the house-come-museum of architect Sir John Soane, who designed buildings including the Bank of England and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Soane's magpie collection means you can see the sarcophagus of Pharaoh Seti I, examples of cartoons by political caricature artist Hogarth, and various items of furniture, clocks, gems and statues - all in one house. For the most atmosphere, his collection (bequeathed to 'amateurs and students') is best seen by candle-light on the first Tuesday of each month.

Sir John Soane's Museum: 12-13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, WC2 (Holborn)
Admission free (Tues-Sat 10am-5pm), candlelit tours 6-9pm first Tuesday of each month.*

* Tickets are first come first served so make sure you arrive early as the tour is always very popular

3. Take in the view

Treat yourselves to a view like no other from the highest building in Europe. The View From The Shard takes in the full 360-degree panorama of the city; just imagine being there as the sun sets and evening lights start twinkling.

The View is open Sunday-Wednesday, 10am-7pm; and Thursday-Saturday, 10am-10pm.

4. Preach love in the theatre

London is a veritable theatre lover's dream and if you can't conjure up your own poem to express your love then why not let the playwrights and poets do it for you?

Head to the National Theatre, located on London's marvellous South Bank. The theatre hosts some of the finest productions in London and the shows on offer are a range of classic, modern, and the downright bizarre.

Christopher Marlowe's magnificent and erotic Edward II is currently being performed until 26 October and other productions include The Light Princess and Liolà.

5. Talk a walk

London is famous for its abundance of green spaces, so don your best boots for a romantic stroll. Richmond Park, Hampstead Heath and Regents Park are particularly dreamy but if you fancy adding a regal aspect to your stroll, devise your own Royal Parks Walk: there are five in the centre of London (eight in total) and you can walk across them all in just three hours. Check out the interactive maps on the website beforehand and plan your route.

New York

There's a certain magic about the City That Never Sleeps that you can't quite put your finger on - from its epochal landmarks to its hidden romantic spots you'll fall in love faster than a New York minute.

What to do:

1. Pedicabs and picnics in the park

There are plenty of ways to explore New York's most famous park; a horse-drawn carriage is the stereotypical (and overpriced) option but if you'd still rather someone else do the leg work, a guided pedicab tour is the way to roll. Sit back and relax as your guide pedals you around all the best sites, including Strawberry Fields, The Literary Walk and The Sheep Meadow. 

Head to Grace's Marketplace afterwards (located near the east side park entrance, 5th Avenue, 72nd Street) to pick up a picnic from the large selection of breads, salads, cheeses and meats on offer. Walk back through the park along The Mall, and find your perfect spot to people-watch while tucking into your picnic spread.

2. Make a Grand gesture

The Beaux Arts structure of Grand Central Terminal has witnessed thousands of heartfelt goodbyes and passionate reunions since 1913. Take the (free) Grand Tour to find out more; The Grand Central Partnership is out to educate natives and visitors on the idiosyncrasies of the terminal and its surrounding area every Friday.

Honeymoon highlights include the 'Whispering Gallery' (located downstairs by the Oyster Bar & Restaurant) where you can whisper sweet nothings to each other by standing on opposite corners of the walkway and speaking softly into the wall. And there's the enticingly nicknamed 'Kissing Room'…

3. Breakfast at Tiffany's

Tiffany's, the renowned flagship store of the iconic New York jewellers, is the ultimate stop-off to complete your romantic New York City getaway. Spread out over five floors on glamorous 5th Avenue, you'll be spoilt for choice deciding on the perfect gift to be wrapped up in one of those pristine turquoise boxes.

Although you can't actually have breakfast at Tiffany's itself, if you'd rather window-shop and recreate the famous movie with a pastry and coffee while admiring the display, Norma's (a couple of blocks away) does a pricey but delicious breakfast until 3pm.

4.  There's no business like show business

You can't visit New York without going out on the town. Fortunately, the city has as many live entertainment options as it does skyscrapers! Whether your tastes run to a blockbuster musical on Broadway, a quirky play Off Broadway (or even Off-off Broadway!) or a ballet concert at the Lincoln Centre, you're not going to be short of performance options.

If you're more into music than glitz and glam, catch some incredible live jazz at The Blue Note, an intimate venue with a great atmosphere or the Carnegie Hall, which has dedicated shows covering a range of genres including orchestra and pop. CheckTime Out: New York or theNew York Times for the latest listings.

5. End on a High Line

Built on Manhattan's historic West Side, the High Line gardens have transformed a disused 1930s freight rail line into a gorgeous elevated park and walkway.

High Line runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street between 10th & 11th Avenues, and it's the perfect place for a skyline stroll, with excellent views over the Hudson River and quirky places to stop for a bite or a coffee along the way.

The verdict: Possibly one of the closest calls yet in our Romantic Showdown series; London and New York are both equally exquisite in their own right. But there can only be one winner; and with its long, unique history, exciting back streets and inimitable charm, London takes the crown in this Romantic Showdown.

 

Image: Dreamstime

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