For couples who like activity, culture, food, recreation, and respite -- all rolled into one destination -- cities are an apt choice. Cities are also ideal if you prize spontaneity and find yourself bored easily. We've picked some popular possibilities for honeymooners seeking all kinds of stimuli for their once-in-a-lifetime trip.
New York: (tel. 212/484-1200; www.nycvisit.com) We'll resist the urge to stress that you must go to the top of the Empire State Building (thanks, Affair to Remember), unless you have never done it before. But beyond the obvious destinations, New York is an ideal place for city-loving honeymooners who want constant activity and a variety of possible activities, and want the whims of what they encounter to guide their experience. Must-see and must-do destinations and activities, weather pending: ice skating at Rockefeller Center (www.rockefellercenter.com) or in Central Park (www.centralpark.com) followed by a ride on the Staten Island Ferry (www.siferry.com), which is free and gives you a unique vantage point of the city; a leisurely stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge to its park (www.brooklynbridgepark.org). Or opt for an organized tour from the Big Onion Walking Tours (www.bigonion.com), which takes you through some of the city's historic districts and ethnic neighborhoods.
In terms of accommodations, Library Hotel (www.libraryhotel.com) -- whose floors are devoted to separate subject areas that correlate to the Dewey Decimal system -- often runs romance/erotica packages. Stereotypically fancy luxury experiences can be had at the Carlyle, Plaza Hotel, Ritz-Carlton, and Mandarin Oriental, whereas modern luxury can be found at London NYC and Bowery Hotel; you can find links to these hotels right from the city's tourism site. Dining experiences run the gamut from the Rainbow Room (www.rainbowroom.com) at the top of Rockefeller Center to any hole-in-the-wall tiny French bistro in the West Village. After a dinner in the village you can stroll to Magnolia Bakery (www.magnoliabakery.com) for its famed cupcakes and wait in line, or satiate your sweet tooth elsewhere, at The Buttercup Bake Shop (run by an ex-Magnolia partner; www.buttercupbakeshop.com) further uptown. Speaking of food: if the season allows, make sure you check out the Union Square Greenmarket for snacks or an informal meal to eat right in the park.
San Francisco (tel. 415/391-2000; www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com) Tony Bennett famously sang that he left his heart in San Francisco. My father not so famously says he left his wallet in San Francisco, but like New York there are plenty of free experiences. And like New York the diversity the city by the bay offers newlyweds experiences from baseball games to strolls through Golden Gate National Recreation Area (www.nps.gov/goga) and across the Golden Gate Bridge. You can still visit landmark City Lights Books (www.citylights.com), known for its progressive bent and historic link to Beat writers. Food, beer, and wine lovers have no shortage of indulgences, from nibbling on sourdough bread or Ghirardelli chocolate by Fisherman's Wharf, immersing yourself in San Francisco's enormous Chinatown, or touring Anchor Brewing Company (tel. 415/863-8350; www.anchorbrewing.com). And who can forget the cable cars, the views, the Crookedest Street, Alcatraz, and the architecture?
Where to stay? The charming and relatively inexpensive Italianate San Remo Hotel (tel. 415/776-8688; www.sanremohotel.com) makes for a certain kind of European-styled experience and is within walking distance of cable cars and many attractions. Another unique place to rest, Hotel Boheme (tel. 415/433-9111; www.hotelboheme.com), is in Little Italy and designed to reflect the culture of San Francisco in the late 1950s -- the heart of the Beat Generation. Other pieces of history come to mind in York Hotel, which reopened in December 2008 as Hotel Vertigo (tel. 800/553-1900; www.hotelvertigosf.com),an homage to its role in the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name. The boutique hotel boasts design by Thomas Schoos and a restaurant by celebrity chef Tyler Florence.
It's no surprise that Montreal (tel. 877/BONJOUR; www.tourisme-montreal.org), the Paris of North America, makes the list. From its food, beer, and wine offerings to its museums, antiques, and charming cobblestone streetscapes, Montreal offers honeymooners plenty of activities. It's also accessible by train from the northeast U.S., and perhaps there's nothing that speaks of old-school romance more than arriving in your honeymoon destination by train. Choice locations and activities honeymooners will want to experience include walking through Old Montreal, in particular St. Paul Street by the Bonsecours Market and checking out the art galleries, or taking an evening tour by a horse-drawn carriage.
There are ways to indulge your sweet tooth with your sweetheart, whether it's a breakfast stop at Premiere Moisson Bakery at the Atwater Market (www.marchespublics-mtl.com) or chocolates at the boutique lounge Suite 88 (www.suite88.com). Rest your weary legs at the end of the day at the intimate and historic Auberge Bonaparte (tel. 514/844-1448; www.bonaparte.com), situated in Old Montreal or Chateau Versailles (tel. 888/933-8111; www.versailleshotels.com), located in the Golden Square Mile. It's a completely renovated property dating to the 19th century; some of its rooms have fireplaces
Australia (www.australia.com) offers honeymooners the laid-back Sydney, where you can have an urban beach honeymoon. Stroll around Darling Harbour at night -- take a ferry to Manly Beach -- both of which provide shopping experiences and great views. Or take another kind of walk along the seaside trail from Bondi Beach, full of surfers, to Coogee Beach. It wouldn't be a trip to Sydney, though, without walk across the Sydney Harbor Bridge -- if you're daring you can take a Bridge Climb across its ladders and catwalks for an unparalleled view of the city and harbor.
Culture lovers, especially those fond of opera, might enjoy a performance at the instantly recognizable architecture of the Sydney Opera House (tel. 61/2-9250-7777; www.sydneyoperahouse.com). Flowers are romantic, so a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens (www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au); if you honeymoon in the summertime, movie are shown at the outdoor cinema. Day trips are also easy, as you're within a drive of Hunter Valley's wineries, whale and dolphin-watching near Port Stephens and the cliffs and gorges of the Blue Mountains. After all that walking, wine drinking and sightseeing, Shangri-La Hotel Sydney (tel. 800/801-088; www.shangri-la.com), a large, modern five-star landmark hotel with Asian influences, offers guests fantastic views; just make sure you ask for a room on the 20th floor or above in order to take it all in. It's located in the historic Rocks district. For a seaside stay, the Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach (tel. 877/2-CROWNE; www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/cp/160/en/hd/sydcb). Those in search of a smaller-scale experience should book early for the 12-room Simpsons of Potts Point (www.splendia.com/en/simpsons-of-potts-point-sydney.html), a boutique bed and breakfast in a 19th century Victorian mansion. It's situated in vibrant suburb within a 20-minute walk of the city.
It's inevitable that a discussion about urban honeymoons include Paris (tel 514/288-1904; http://us.franceguide.com). How could we overlook the City of Lights? We know the Eiffel Tower is lovely, and so is the Lourve Museum, the Champs-Elyssee, not to mention all the great wine and cheese and all that. One does not have to do much of a sell job to explain why Paris is a choice location for honeymooners.
In terms of accommodations, one might argue that just being in France and staying in a small hotel with wrought-iron bedposts and squeaky floors qualifies as romantic and therefore no further research is required, but to each his or her own. One might select Hotel Bel Ami in the St. Germain district (www.hotel-bel-ami.com), a stylish hotel near the Louvre and Notre Dame and many restaurants, galleries, and shops. For the unconventional, left-of-center sort, the award-winning Hotel du Petit Moulin (www.paris-hotel-petitmoulin.com), might suit. It's housed in a former bakery in a building with 17th century architecture, was designed by Christian Lacroix. It's not far from the Picasso Museum, the Carnavalet Museum, and the Hotel del Ville.
For those looking for some guidance, Discover France (tel. 800/960-2221; www.discoverfrance.com) has walking and cycling packages, in addition to Paris hotel packages and tours. The company's romantic evening in Paris option starts by being picked up at your hotel in a private car, with a cruise on the Seine, a typical French dinner, and a nighttime tour of the city, complete with a bottle of champagne, priced at $330 per person. Another, more involved option is the company's honeymoon package that is self-designed but starts with four nights at the Hotel Duquense Eiffel, which dates back to 1798 and features rooms with a balcony and a view of the tower. The package also includes daily breakfast, hotel taxes airport transfers, a three-day museum pass, and more. The best rates are found November through March.