Romantic showdown: Monte Carlo vs Rio de Janeiro

Romantic showdown: Monte Carlo vs Rio de Janeiro

In our second romantic showdown it’s the battle of two very lively cities, but which one wins big in the passion stakes?

Monte Carlo

Sitting grandly on the craggy shores between the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea, and with more billionaires per capita than anywhere on earth, Monte Carlo is the epitome of glamour. It might not be a budget break, but with its old-school romantic vibe and hillside setting you'll easily be seduced.

What to do:

1. Roll the dice

It's impossible to visit Monte Carlo without experiencing the glitz and excitement of the Monte Carlo Casino. Its extravagant façade and legendary reputation has earned the casino appearances in numerous James Bond films, making it the perfect excuse to put your glad rags on. Channelling the heady feel of the Roaring Twenties, visitors can simply enjoy the atmosphere or have a flutter at the gaming tables.

If gambling isn't your thing, the casino is still a great place to visit to get a sense of the city - the surrounding square eagerly hums with the engines of countless Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentleys and Rolls Royce. Take a seat outside the adjacent Café de Paris, soak up the atmosphere and imagine yourself driving off in a classic car!

2. Experience floating luxury

Monte Carlo is a playground for the rich and famous, and while that might mean the city isn't the cheapest in the world, it does mean there are more yachts around than you can shake an anchor at. Consider chartering one from Port Hercule, Monte Carlo's main harbour, for a bit of private romance and spend the night floating on the water.

If your budget doesn't allow, you can still enjoy some time at sea - hop on The Taxi Boat and take an excursion up and down the glistening French Riviera. A great way to see the coastline, the service stops off at Menton, Monaco, Beaulieu, Villefranche and Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, meaning you can take in some other towns along the way.

3. Picnic in the park

Escape the busy streets and spread your rug among the olive trees and vibrant bougainvillea of Princess Antoinette Park. Known as the 'Kingdom of the Sacred Olive Trees' for its abundance of the plant, the park is situated on The Boulevard de Jardin Exotique and is beautifully well maintained. There are plenty of shady spots to relax in, or if you feel like competing with your loved one, challenge each other to a game of mini golf.

4. Ogle at high fashion

The elaborately carved buildings of Boulevard des Moulins are a fashion lover's dream - they're home to a dizzying array of haute couture boutiques. Unashamedly chic and eye-poppingly expensive, the area is an enclave of well-heeled visitors and locals, but it does make a great people (and fashion) spotting stroll. The Renaissance style St Charles church, which sits just off Boulevard des Moulins near Hotel Alexandra, is also worth visiting - the church has 19 stained glass windows and an ornate, gilded chandelier.

Rio de Janeiro

Although famed for its beaches, steamy tropical heat and samba spirit, there's more to Rio than Copacabana, caipirinhas and carnival.

What to do:

1. Watch the sun set on a mountain

Head to Urca, the starting point for all ascents to Pão de Açúcar, also known as Sugarloaf Mountain. When it comes to getting to the top, there are two choices: cable car or on foot. If you're feeling adventurous, walk through the forest up to Morro da Urca then hop on a cable car to the summit; only experienced climbers are advised to hike up the second half of the mountain. Alternatively, take the cable car all the way up for incredible views of Copacabana, Flamengo and the city.

If you want to escape the tourists, visit the mountain at dusk. You'll have no trouble finding a quiet spot to watch the sun go down together, the perfect time to say, 'Eu te amo' as you watch the city glow.

2. Escape to Bohemia

Nestled in the hills overlooking Rio lie picturesque cobbled streets, crumbling mansions and colourful colonial buildings - this is Santa Teresa and a whole different side to Rio. Home to artists and beatniks, the neighbourhood is much less touristy than the rest of Rio and has a completely different atmosphere: more edgy arts than in-your-face revelry. Take the bus to Largo dos Guimarães, the small square that forms the beating heart of Santa Teresa. Plenty of carnival street parades meet here and it's a short stroll to nearby restaurants and drinking spots.

Largo das Neves is another square not to be missed while in Santa Teresa, its white-washed church and laid-back atmosphere makes the perfect place to share a romantic afternoon sipping a beer and people watching.

3. Sunbathe away from the crowds

Copacabana and Ipanema are synonymous with Rio but to spend a beach day without jostling other sun seekers for space, head to the soft white sands and sparkling seas of Recreio in Rio's West Zone. Although the beach gets busy on the weekend, it is relatively quiet during the week and benefits from a lack of high-rise buildings, meaning the views are pretty stunning. The beach is popular with surfers - Canto do Recreio and Posto 10 are the main surfing sites. Head to the beach at sunset for an intimate and magical experience.

4. Take the stairs

Tucked away off a side street in Lapa lies the Escadaria Selarón, a wonderful mosaic staircase featuring an assortment of coloured tiles gathered from all over the world. Created by Chilean Jorge Selarón, the staircase reflects the vibrant character of the city and is a must-see when visiting Rio.

Start from the bottom at Rua Joaquim Silva and gradually make your way up towards Santa Teresa. Admire the intricate detail of Jorge's masterpiece, often referred to as his labour of love, which he worked on for 20 years until his death in January 2013.

Verdict:

Coastal, animated and extravagant, both cities offer plenty of opportunities to get romantic with your partner. But with its undiscovered secrets and fervent Latin passion, Rio de Janeiro wins our second romantic showdown.

 

 

Image: Rio de Janeiro, Dreamstime

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