It may be the most critical question you'll ever ask. So do it right.
Whether perpetually single or a Nicholas Sparks-esque romanticist, we’ve all fantasized about the day our loved one gets down on one knee and asks four of the most dually magical and overwhelming words in the English language: “Will you marry me?” The proposal is a monumental (and, let’s face it, often necessary) step between dating and engagement.
However, that misconception of “go big or go home” often leads to grandiose and unnecessary planning at an overdone proposal site. Sophy Singer, a San Diego-based professional matchmaker, is frequently doling out advice for clients about more innovative yet intimate proposals. Singer believes choosing a location where there could be hundreds or even thousands of people around—think big-screen at an NFL game—could potentially make your sweetheart feel anxious or panicked. “That’s the last thing you want during that particular moment,” she says.
The truth is, our proposals don’t need extra cheese (unless, of course, they’re paired with a glass of Bordeaux, some Bublé, and a post-proposal bubble bath). And while we can’t guarantee your partner’s positive affirmation, check out our professional recommendations for where to pop that game-changing question.
Top Picks for You
Don't: The Charles Bridge
WHERE: Prague, Czech Republic
Instead: The Four Seasons Prague’s Miru Terrace
With its stoic castles and ornate pastel buildings, Prague is often considered one of Europe’s Romance Capitals. And while this superlative leads many to propose on the idyllic Charles Bridge (which you’ve undoubtedly seen on postcards and t-shirts), it’s much more hectic IRL. But luckily, we have a much more romantic spot for you: The Four Seasons Prague’s bespoke fifth-floor Miru Terrace. (“Miru” is Japanese for “view.”)
A secret to the masses, this four-table Japanese-Italian culinary escape boasts panoramic views over the capital, including Prague Castle, the Parliament, and even, yes, the Charles Bridge. Pop the question as the sun sets, and afterward, relish in your love (and multiple bites of Wagyu beef) as the city illuminates.
INSIDER TIPBook a night’s stay at the Four Seasons Prague post-proposal to celebrate with your beloved. One of the most lavish hotels in the Old Town Square, you’ll enjoy soaking in the hotel’s spa and…er…sleeping in the plush king-sized beds, with views of the city below.
Don't: An Overwater Bungalow
WHERE: The Maldives
Instead: Anantara Resort on Banana Island, Doha, Qatar
Yes, the Maldives is something out of a Windows 95 screensaver. And while we agree that romance is as prominent here as the underwater wildlife, your beloved may think you’re being fishy and guess the proposal surprise. “Tropical locations like the Maldives and Hawaii lend themselves to the expectation of a potential engagement,” explains Singer. She believes that the element of surprise is almost more important than the plan itself.
Instead of a could-be-cheesy candlelit dinner in the Maldives, opt for an exclusive stay at Anantara Resort on Banana Island, just outside Qatar’s capital of Doha, where your beloved likely has little idea what’s about to go down (literally). This verdant refuge, a mere 30-minute boat ride from the metropolis, surprises even the most discerning travelers, primarily because many folks associate Qatar with skyscrapers, oil, and camels. In reality, it’s all about natural diversity.
The best part? The resort boasts overwater villas with a striking resemblance to the Maldives. So while your love is marveling at the island’s unique banana shape, get down on one knee, and voila! Afterward, spend time reveling in your love at the resort’s onsite spa, taking the jet skis out for an epic adventure, or even booking a couple’s spa or hammam for a post-proposal soak.
INSIDER TIPBanana Island adheres to local culture and is a dry resort, so be aware that you’ll be celebrating with mocktails, not champagne.
Don't: Cinderella's Castle
WHERE: Disney World
Instead: Rollins College Campus, Winter Park, Florida
Let’s face it: whomever you marry should already feel like royalty. But proposing in front of Cinderella’s castle, undoubtedly swarmed in sweaty crowds and selfie sticks? So not royal-worthy. Luckily Orlando is buzzing with something more than tourists in fanny packs: it also happens to have many little-known proposal locations that don’t make us wince.
Just 45 minutes from Orlando is Rollins College, in the cultural and cosmopolitan Winter Park. Ranked the most gorgeous college in the nation by the Princeton Review, Rollins is saturated with distinctive Spanish and Mediterranean influences in its architecture. Between its rose gardens and red-brick facade, this sprawling 80-acre campus is not only postcard-worthy but will make a stunning backdrop for your surprise proposal pictures.
INSIDER TIPThe stylish and historic Alfond Inn is the ultimate retreat post-proposal, just three minutes from Rollins campus. Make a dinner reservation at the hotel’s restaurant, Hamilton’s Kitchen, for their intimate Chef’s Table experience (and come hungry, as it’s a five-course menu!).
Don't: The Empire State Building
WHERE: New York City
Instead: The Williamsburg Hotel, Brooklyn, New York
While An Affair to Remember idealized the iconic Empire State Building proposal (“the closest thing to heaven in this city”), we all sadly aren’t Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. And this stoic New York City landmark has since become the location for cliched proposals. But here’s a secret: they aren’t actually enjoying the New York City skyline when proposing on the Empire State Building.
For that, we suggest you pilgrimage to Brooklyn—and the iconic Williamsburg Hotel. Though humble in size at eight stories, this hotel fuses Williamsburg eclecticism with Manhattan suave. And more importantly, the proposal experience is unique: the hotel’s crown jewel, The WaterTower Rooftop Bar, is the only water tower venue in the city that you can book privately. The romance lies in the intertwined Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines; few venues offer two iconic New York vistas.
INSIDER TIPSinger tells us this would be a prime spot for an undercover photographer to capture the moment—and optimally return for the engagement shoot.
Don't: The London Eye
WHERE: London, England
Instead: The Budapest Eye, Budapest, Hungary
Ferris wheels are undoubtedly a picturesque proposal: you’ll have pristine views and adrenaline rushes propelled by emotions and gravity. While many choose to propose on the peak of the London Eye, one of the tallest Ferris wheels in the world, the reality is you’ll be competing with hordes of crowds, inevitable wait times, and—let’s be honest—it’s also pretty overdone.
However, adrenaline-seekers should not fret, as we have the perfect Ferris wheel alternative for you: the Budapest Eye, the 213-foot spectacle standing tall in Hungary’s zestful capital at Erzsébet Square. Not only is this (quite literally) uplifting experience generally cheaper and less crowded than the London Eye, but the panoramic views of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Hungarian Parliament, and UNESCO World Heritage Site Andrássy Avenue make it a no-brainer. It’s open until midnight, so we suggest proposing in private at night, as the Hungarian capital radiates from below.
INSIDER TIPThe area surrounding the Budapest Eye is ideal for exploring hand-in-hand with your lover post-proposal. Stroll the Danube, and spend the night at the city’s five-star Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest. And to seal the deal with your partner, treat them to the hotel’s Hungarian-Viennese menu at ÉS Bisztró.
Don't: A Hulking Ocean Liner
WHERE: The Ocean
Instead: A Sunset Cruise on Sri Lanka’s Walawe River
We’re not discounting those massive ocean liners that are basically a city at sea for all occasions. They are perfect for 80-person family reunions (and trust us: everyone knows you’re part of that crew when sporting matching “The Browns put the FUN in dysfunctional” tees by the pool). But for a proposal? Yes, cruise ships would rank high on the corny meter.
But don’t discount a boat proposal entirely. For a memorable ask, we suggest you first head to a unique river cruise location, such as Sri Lanka’s Walawe River. Book a romantic stay at the Shangri-La Hambantota, where you can replace the corny cruise boat mini-golf with an 18-hole championship golf course and relax at their famed spa, featuring exceptional Ayurveda treatments.
The best part? The resort will organize a boat tour on the meandering Walawe River as the sun sets. And while we all desire privacy when popping the question, if the company includes tropical birds, langur monkeys, peacocks, and other exotic wildlife along the mangrove, we can make an exception.
“This type of quaint, thoughtful, and perfect proposal trumps anything you could ever get away with on a large cruise line,” says Singer. “Let’s be honest, do you really want your special moment to be shared with a bunch of 20-somethings who are getting wasted for their Spring Break in Mexico or the Caribbean?”
Don't: Central Park
WHERE: New York City
Instead: Cave Point County Park, Door County, Wisconsin
Central Park is the stuff of Hollywood rom-com montages: When Harry Met Sally, Enchanted, and Tootsie, just to name a few. But the sheer masses of foot traffic, the soliciting by hot dog vendors, and overpriced horse-drawn carriages are enough alone to deter us. While Central Park is one of the most overdone spots one can propose, we have a few more subdued ideas for the nature-aficionado in your life.
Door County, Wisconsin, the accessible natural peninsula just a few hours from Chicago, is brimming with natural nooks prime for proposing. And though not as renowned as Manhattan’s famous green space, Cave Point County Park, revered by perilous adventurers and leisurely walkers alike, feels like it could be the setting of a thriller movie. The park is a maze with jutting cliffs and winding trails leading to rocky beaches, so finding privacy without distraction is uncomplicated. As you’re down on one knee, Lake Michigan’s waves crashing alongside, you’ll be glad you chose the less cheesy and corny option (even in a state that cherishes both these things).
Don't: The Eiffel Tower
WHERE: Paris, France
Instead: Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, Paris, France
Ooh, la la! One more cheesy (or shall we say…fromage-y) proposal at The Eiffel Tower and even Emily in Paris will eye-roll. If the crawling crowds and selfie sticks alone don’t deter you, the fact that you’re sharing your unique moment with about a dozen other proposals likely will. However, don’t discount the City of Love in its entirety. The winding backstreets of Paris remind us of countless novels, and finding an authentically unique proposal location here is as easy as finding a baguette.
And, speaking of novels, we have just the location for you. Shakespeare and Company, that Parisian bookstore literally a part of the city’s chapter books, is the perfect place to propose to the bookworm in your life. James Joyce, Hemingway, and other literary icons would often socialize at this Latin Quarter staple (and, you know, brainstorm some of the most remarkable prose of all time). For added creativity, get in contact with the bookstore’s owner pre-proposal and inscribe the question on the inside cover of your lover’s most beloved book. C’est bon, non?
Don't: Reunion Tower
WHERE: Dallas, Texas
Instead: Tallinn TV Tower, Tallinn, Estonia
Go big or go home in Texas. That’s what the architect of Dallas’s 561-foot Reunion Tower must have been thinking when he designed one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. But perhaps he was too successful in his endeavors because now hundreds of proposals take place here each year, flocking to commemorate love. While we understand that a proposal paired with panoramic bird’s-eye views sounds alluring, we have the better solution for you.
And that’s why we have to direct your focus east: to Estonia, that tiny European country cusping the Baltic Sea. And just outside of Tallinn, Estonia’s dynamic capital melding history and modernity, stands the Tallinn TV Tower, at 1,030 feet. The tower was initially built for public broadcasting but soon became one of the most critical symbols of Estonian independence. Today, it’s also known for its Walk on the Edge experience while allowing intrepid guests to walk the rim (harnessed, of course!) and enjoy views.
Laura Peetrik, who works atop the TV tower, remembers one proposal that defied gravity, quite literally. “I remember there were two base jumpers who came to Tallinn TV Tower to parachute down from the edge,” she says. “Just before the jump, one of the jumpers proposed to his beloved. She said yes, and then they jumped over the edge hand in hand.” Let’s just say there was more than one “leap of faith” taken that day.
INSIDER TIPThe guides will ask you to make sure pockets are empty before walking the edge. Make sure you ask explicit permission to keep your ring with you prior, or you may be SOL.
Don't: The Brandenburg Gate
WHERE: Berlin, Germany
Instead: Kreuzberg Side Streets, Berlin, Germany
While Berlin may not be traditionally romantic, it is undoubtedly seductive. A haven for street kebabs, tangible (and often dark) history, and general debauchery, this German capital is often associated with all-night parties and cutting-edge culture. And though the 18th-century Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor), Berlin’s physical reminder of Cold War division, is a crucial part of history, it’s not the ideal proposal location. After all, it is by far Berlin’s most famous monument, with an average of 12 million tourists passing through annually.
Instead, we suggest sharing your heart’s truth to your love in Berlin’s own pulsating heart: Kreuzberg. Long famed for its diverse cultural and arts scene, this neighborhood is the ultimate proposal backdrop if your lover is a bit alternative (or at least doesn’t scoff at a bit of urban grit). The neighborhood boasts many winding side streets, many that aren’t heavily trafficked, and all of which are decorated with graffiti.
INSIDER TIPPost-proposal, we suggest booking a room at the dually ornate and historic Orania Berlin, a property whose genuine hipness (and Steinway piano) has attracted Berliners and foreigners alike since its inception in 1913. While here, make sure to try the cosmopolitan Orania Restaurant’s four-course Peking-style duck à la minute, Quack, quack, indeed.