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A Little Book of Amazing Destinations

A sublime sunset view, a wild off-road adventure: these are the moments that turn our escapes into love affairs for a new locale. And while there may be myriad cities on your bucket list befitting a fleeting holiday romance, what about the destinations we choose to make a long-term commitment to?

We often have a love-hate relationship with the cities we live in. They may infuriate us at times and have us dreaming of more exotic affairs, but through the make-ups and break-ups we still get butterflies when we think of home. In celebration of these special relationships, our Lonely Planet Locals get to the heart of why they love the cities they’ve decided to settle down with.

Rome, Italy

My type used to be quaint and quiet, but spirited Rome swept me off my feet. Italy’s capital wooed me with its sweeping views and gilded sunsets, best relished from the top of the Gianicolo Hill. Even the most mundane tasks were thrilling – a work commute became a heady adventure brimming with the clatter of coffee spoons, the Colosseum, cupolas. Five years in, the initial passion has ebbed: I’ve seen Rome’s flaws, its traffic and graffiti and noise. Sometimes I’m tempted by Copenhagen’s icy good looks or Glasgow’s hills. But one twilight stroll along the Tiber, and I’m reminded why I stay.

Tel Aviv, Israel

Those of close acquaintance know Tel Aviv by its pet name ‘Hill of Spring’, so it seemed apt that we should meet in April, just as the flowers were blooming and the locals were starting to dip their toes back into the balmy Mediterranean after the winter. Maybe it was the seasonal stirrings of romance in the air, but Tel Aviv felt like an old soulmate. As I delved deeper I discovered a spicy, artistic, musical soul. Like all long-term couples, we’ve had our ups and downs, war and peace – but it’s safe to say things have never been boring.

New York City, USA

I’d long admired New York City from afar. And when we finally became acquainted, I knew it was the beginning of a lifelong romance. Its energy was beguiling, filled with the easy confidence of someone who knows they’re special. As I wandered its cinematic streetscapes, I came to love New York’s electric and unpredictable charms and the way its mood changed in an instant – from chaotic urban scenes set to a cacophonous rhythm of taxi horns, to tranquil, brownstone-lined lanes with cafes tucked away from view, a secret to all but those in the know.

Beijing, China

Whoever said love is blind must surely have meant you, Beijing. Dressed in your gown of prim modernity, girdled with skyscrapers and garlanded with scarlet flags and socialist flowerbeds. Harmonious, civilised, and just a little bit bland. But I see the fire in your eyes that tells of a life richly lived. Triumphs and tragedies, love and laughter, secrets that reveal themselves to those who get close to you. Your winding lanes and willow-lined lakes, temple relics and wall remains, culinary and artistic treasures that survive and thrive. What I’m really saying is drop the act, you’re not fooling me. I love you for who you really are.

Cape Town, South Africa: more than skin deep

It wasn’t quite love at first sight. I mean, I couldn’t help but find Cape Town attractive – how could you not? But it was only after I left that I realised I had fallen head over heels. What followed was a (rather one-sided) long-distance relationship, and when I returned I wondered how I could ever have left. Cape Town gets more beautiful by the day – of course it comes with some baggage, but who doesn’t? After all, it’s Cape Town’s history that makes it such an amazing, soulful place, reminding me that you should never judge a book by its cover.