Manhattan: made for romance

by Amanda.Statham

Candlelit dinners, stunning skyline views and luxurious rooms... prepare to have your heart captured all over again with a romantic trip to the Big Apple

New York might not be the USA’s political capital, but it’s the first city for fashion, nightlife and romance. Consequently, it makes a magical place for a romantic weekend, honeymoon or even a wedding! So grab your man and cross the Atlantic for a trip to remember.

Romance factor

Manhattan makes a super-romantic spot year-round. Summer is time for picnics in parks, cocktails on terraces and boating in Central Park; winter brings ice-skating at the Rockefeller Center, amazing Christmas window displays and cosy bars to snuggle up in.

The city’s iconic landmarks are a must-visit for newlyweds whatever the season. The top of the Empire State Building (www.esbnyc.com) remains a magnet for couples in real life and on the silver screen (it has starred in everything from An Affair to Remember to When Harry Met Sally). In the evening, take a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge to see the city’s skyscrapers light up, and for the best views of Manhattan by day, take the 'Romance Over Manhattan' 15-minute helicopter ride (Liberty Helicopters: www.libertyhelicopters.com). A ferry trip to Ellis Island (www.ellisisland.org), home of the Statue of Liberty, is another must-do.

When it’s time to dine, there are hundreds of restaurants with cuisine from around the world to choose from. For a special treat, head to Asiate, high up in the Mandarin Oriental, which serves spectacular modern Asian cuisine. When locals want to impress a date, they book a candlelit table at Park View at the Boathouse in Central Park for its romantic atmosphere and yummy seafood. For a glam night out, head to the Salon de Ning rooftop bar at the Peninsula Hotel and then go to see a show on 42nd Street and Broadway. 

Tying the knot

If you’re thinking about getting married in the city, then you’ve picked a top spot: thanks to an abundance of romantic venues, the Big Apple is one of the most popular places for Brits to marry abroad.

It’s best to get your wedding booked up before you go to avoid any red tape. Most of the city’s swish hotels have staff to arrange a ceremony. Alternatively, if you want to marry in a specific place in the city, try a UK tour operator. Virgin Holidays (www.virginholidays.co.uk) offers ceremonies in Central Park’s private Conservatory Garden or Strawberry Fields. You can also tie the knot on the 55th floor of the Empire State Building through Kuoni (www.kuoni.co.uk), or even on the famous Brooklyn Bridge.

You could even buy your wedding bands in the Big Apple too - nothing more romantically glam than a spending spree à la Audrey Hepburn at Fifth Avenue’s Tiffany & Co (www.tiffany.com)!

Top hotels

If you want to be in the heart of the action, a Midtown hotel is for you. I love the Kitano New York Hotel, a calming cherry-wood-decorated hotel with a strong Japanese influence, situated on Park Lane. It’s a perfect base for couples who like to get out and about and see a lot, as well as shopaholics drawn to the emporiums on Fifth Avenue. To set the mood, ask for a honeymoon or wedding suite on the upper floors - they have great views over the city, including the Chrysler Building. Go along to one of the jazz events in the mezzanine bar (you'll see them advertised in the lifts): a cocktail or two and high-class musicians give you a memorable experience by candlelight. Book an early session and you can go out for dinner afterwards - Grand Central Station with its oyster bar is only a few minutes walk away. And if you like having leisurely baths, this is the hotel for you - Japanese design means you get a lovely big tub in every room.

If you’re after something larger and glitzier, check in to the Jumeirah Essex House on Central Park, just a short stroll from many of the city’s major attractions. Behind its classic Art Deco lobby, the recently revamped bedrooms include some of the comfiest beds you could wish to find and there are state-of-the-art controls for everything from the lights to the music. In the summer, speak to the concierge about renting bikes for a ride round Central Park.

If you want to escape the bustle of Midtown, twin your stay with a hotel in the plush blocks of the Upper East Side. You couldn't hope for a more romantic, historic and luxurious place to stay as a honeymoon couple than The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel, haunt of presidents, UK royalty and Woody Allen's jazz band (they play there on a Monday night). Afternoon Tea in the Gallery is a delight - cosy velvet seats in a room decorated as a Turkish palace feels super-plush. Bemelmans bar is a superb place to have a pre-dinner or post night out cocktail; but be prepared to stand at the bar, as seats fill up early. Choose one of the newly decorated rooms or suites, which feel light and modern without losing the Deco-style heritage of the building. Indulge in a spa bath with Kiehl's grooming products, and feed late-night hunger pangs with sumptuous room service - the omelettes and Carlyle burger are especially good, but do come in huge US sizes! The luxury Sense spa opened in the hotel recently, styled with an old-world charm that feels very relaxing compared to a lot of sleek city spas. If you can manage even one night here on your US honeymoon it's worth doing so to feel utterly spoiled.

Top tip

Invest in a City Pass ($74; www.citypass.com): it saves you 50 per cent on six major attractions, lets you jump the queues and gives you extras such as a free audio tour of the Empire State Building.

Amanda.Statham

Travel editor of Cosmopolitan and You & Your Wedding magazines, plus freelancer for various national newspapers and magazines. Author of the Brit's Guide to New York and The Globetrotter's Guide (out in May 09); keen photographer and addicted to travel. Aside from roaming the planet, I love cocktails, surfing, sunshine, reading and flip-flops. Favourite places? It's soooo hard to whittle it down. My perfect morning would be waking up to sunshine and the call to prayer in Marrakech before having breakfast on Riad Tarabel's rooftop, with views of the whole city. Lunch would be a long and lazy affair sitting with friends at the huge al fresco table at Villa Fontelunga in Tuscany, while an afternoon surfing at Hana in Maui or Florianopolis in Brazil would be hard to beat. For sundowners, it has to be a gin & tonic on an African safari, and for a night out, New York, New York, or Jamaica's remote Pelican Reef bar. Built by owner Floyd from mangrove sticks, it lies on a sand bank one-mile offshore from Treasure Beach, can only be reached by boat, and is the coolest bar on the planet.