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Kaid Benfield’s Blog

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

Kaid Benfield

Posted February 14, 2011

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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.

Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page

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Fritz BesharFeb 14 2011 09:45 AM

Pleasant cities also have adequate sanitation systems, refuse removal, and clean water and air. These are the basics, so easily assumed, so desperately noticeable in their absence.

Tim KovachFeb 14 2011 10:38 AM

Great point, Kaid. Cities that are dense, walkable, have accessible and vibrant public spaces, and have a vibrant mix of independently-owned businesses are the most enjoyable places to visit - and to live. It is at the intersection of these features where real neighborhoods and a sense of livability is created. These cities are also strong, have committed populations and diverse economies, and can survive many challenges. In essence, they are not only beautiful and livable, they are resilient.

Cleveland is working to realign itself to this model as a part of the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 plan. Hopefully we can continue to take strides in the right direction to make this region more vibrant, thriving, and resilient to the challenges we face.

- Tim Kovach,
Product Coordinator, Energy Programs at COSE

Dustin UrbanFeb 14 2011 06:00 PM

Thanks for continuing to beat the smart growth/ urbanism drum, Kaid! Excellent points.

ShaunFeb 14 2011 06:11 PM

I can certainly make my own assumptions, but is it any wonder that these same characteristics help make a city more tolerable for those of us without a romantic partner?

Big Time JonesFeb 14 2011 06:57 PM

They have more than this in common. They are all primarily white, European cities. They are all also relatively wealthy (at least these days). However, they are not welcoming to people of diverse cultures -- not even remotely. And for me, Prague is beautiful, but far from romantic as overrun as it is with tourists.

Kaid @ NRDCFeb 15 2011 10:19 AM

Big Time, what cities would you cite as being romantic and more "welcoming to people of diverse cultures"?

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