Romantic showdown: Venice vs Seville

Romantic showdown: Venice vs Seville

The gloves are off and the romance is heating up – but which European city will win our romantic showdown?

Venice

Famed the world over for its labyrinth of canals, pretty palazzos and enduringly passionate spirit, Venice is undeniably a romantic heavyweight; where even the most hardened of hearts will melt in this unique and captivating city.

What to do:

1. The Rialto markets

Start your day early and head to the banks of the Grand Canal, where the famous Rialto Bridge spans across its width and houses the atmospheric markets. Watch as burly Italians unload market goods from barges and locals haggle animatedly with stallholders. The tourist haven atop of the bridge gets jam packed with people vying to get snaps of the panoramic view - it's worth braving the throng to get a picture, just make sure you arrive early.

2. Take a gondola ride

Despite being a terrible cliché and outlandishly expensive (around €80 for a 40 minute ride) gondola rides still top most people's wish lists in the floating city. For something a little different, avoid the barrage of barges around the Grand Canal and head to the less busy, but just as beautiful area of Campo Santa Maria Formosa. This peaceful piazza is the perfect place to board a gondola and explore the leisurely back streets of Venice. Choose a quieter time of day and you will probably be able to negotiate a better price - make sure you bring a bottle of wine and some glasses for the ultimate honeymoon experience.

3. Eat at a fairytale restaurant

There's an overwhelming choice of places to enjoy a candlelit dinner in Venice, but it's easy to fall into the tourist pitfalls. Avoid paying an extortionate amount of money for poor quality food and instead, head to La Zucca  close to San Giacomo Square, and a bridge straight out of a storybook. With a door that opens onto the canal, visitors can step inside straight from a boat, making La Zucca the epitome of a rustic, romantic hideaway. Booking ahead is essential, as is ordering the pumpkin flan - you won't be disappointed!

4. Get lost

Venice is the most pedestrian friendly city in the world. With its waterways working as roads, the crooked streets and shadowy nooks and crannies are the perfect place to lose yourself on foot. Grab your partner's hand and head-out on a walking adventure: see if you can find the famous St Mark's Square, which lies at the foot of the impressively tall St Mark's Basilica (and is frequented by oodles of pigeons); hunt out the Santa Croce district and feed your tummies at Majer - a delicious pastry shop selling swan-shaped cream puffs; then in the evening sip a cocktail in the interestingly themed Bacaro Jazz where hundreds of bras hang from the ceiling.

5. Island hop

Venice is spread over 118 different islands that compromise the Venetian Lagoon, meaning there is much to see and explore on a trip to the city. Jump on avaporetto(Venice's water bus) and visit Murano, known for its beautiful glass products; Burano, famous for its Venetian lace and Torcello, a quiet and sparsely populated island that offers an intimate refuge from the tourist crush. Travel costs from €7 (your ticket can be used for up to one hour) or €30 for a 48-hour travel card.

When to go:

Avoid the peak season of July and August when tourists literally feel as though they've been shoehorned into the city. Instead, soak up the last of the balmy sun in September/ October, or for a unique glimpse at a different side of the city, visit in January and take advantage of the many coffee shops to warm up in.

Seville

Home to the 'world's greatest lover' Don Juan, Seville has serious utopian credentials. The city has a woozy, heady feel - there's a constant whiff of orange blossom scenting the air - and with its warren of narrow streets and whitewashed walls, Seville is a strong honeymoon contender.

What to do:

1.Scale the heights

Nothing says romance like a panoramic view over a seductively beautiful city, and Seville certainly offers many opportunities. Climb to the top of the Giralda Tower, accessed through the Cathedral, for the most fantastic look out point on the tower's belfry. With a 360-degree view that stretches for miles on a clear day, you can easily spot some of the main landmarks such as the Real Alcázar (Royal Palace), Plaza de Espana (famous for its red brick and ceramic tiles) and Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza (the historic bullring of Seville). The Cathedral itself claims to be the home of Christopher Columbus' remains.

2. Enjoy some tapas

Head to the Barrio Santa Cruz, the old Jewish quarter, which extends from the Cathedral to Plaza Alfalfa and is awash with Andalusian patios, artisan shops and of course, tapas bars. Despite being quite a touristy area, the food here is good and visitors and locals alike enjoy hopping from one bar to the next, sampling a dish or two as they go. 

Las Columnas offers a great choice of traditional tapas and cold beers. The chairs and tables spill out onto the street, which make it perfect for people watching and the bartenders tally your food and drinks by marking slashes with chalk on the bar in front of you.

3. Get off the beaten track

To get a feel for the true Seville (and for a more romantic experience) head away from the hordes of tourists and seek out some of the lesser-known sites:

La Alameda de Hércules

The Alameda, located in the north half of the city's historic centre, has a distinct bohemian feel and a visible hippy culture. Built in 1574 as a public garden, it was once surrounded by Alamo trees, which gave the plaza part of its name. There are two giant Roman pillars crowned with statues of Hercules, the mythological founder of Seville, and Julius Caesar, which welcome you to the plaza. It's a great place for an early morning coffee or late night beer.

Plaza del Cabildo

Every Sunday morning this square is abuzz with coin and stamp enthusiasts selling their wares. It might not sound like the most romantic activity for a Sunday morning but the plaza itself, small and semicircular in shape, is beautifully constructed and the atmosphere is lively and exhilarating.

4. Visit a convent for a sweet treat

Perhaps one of the quaintest and unique traditions in Seville is buying sweets ordulcesfrom nuns at their convents. Usually you ring a bell, place your order with the nun and place your euros in a lazy Susan in the wall - the nuns remain concealed the whole time as they have to avoid direct contact with the public. Each convent specialises in a different type of sweet and there are also jams and marmalades to buy.

5.Catch a Flamenco show

Nothing says Spain quite like the red-hot, passion-fuelled dance of the Flamenco.

La Casa de la Memoria is the Flamenco Cultural Centre of Seville and organises a huge amount of concerts and shows. Housed in an 18th century palace, all the shows take place on the patio. Their iconic show "An Evening of Flamenco" offers traditional flamenco performances including singing, dancing and guitar playing. Performances run everyday at 7:30pm and 9pm and cost €16 per person.

When to go: April is the perfect time of year to visit Seville for a romantic trip. The weather is pleasantly warm (unlike the hot and sticky summer months of July and August) and the orange blossoms are in full bloom.

The verdict

Both Venice and Seville are romantic and beautiful in their own ways, but with its laid-back, whimsical charm and being situated in the country that practically invented love, Venice reigns champion in our honeymoon standoff. 

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