Love birds take heed, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite destinations for a romantic weekend away. So if you’re looking for a spark of inspiration for Valentine’s Day or a landmark anniversary you’ll find plenty of free advice right here. And if a stork brings you a present nine months later, just be sure to name them “Urban Travel Blog” in our honour…
So you’re looking for a romantic city break and all you came up with Paris. How original! It’s true that walking arm in arm along the banks of the Seine puts the seal of approval on any relationship, but have you seen the queues to get in Le Louvre recently? And whilst those fantasies of running into Romain Durais reading Le Monde in a Montmatre cafe, or spotting Emmanuelle Beart, dressed in Dior, shopping in the 8th Arrondissement are alluring indeed, let’s face it your chances of being targeted by a pickpocket or shouted at by a haughty Madame for not speaking perfect French are infinitely larger. Besides these modern Citroens just don’t look as cute as they did in the 60s and 70s. No mes amies, Paris is passé for lovers. Let’s consider then instead some of Urban Travel Blog’s favourite alternative cities for an amorous weekend away…
|1. Verona||2. Seville||3. Ljubljana||4. Vienna|
|5. Timisoara||6. Prague||7. Krakow||8. Vilnius|
|9. Venice||10. Stockholm||11. Paris (after all)||Tips on booking|
And if money is an object, then you might also want to consider our favourite budget break destinations.
1. Vital Verona
Verona may be the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but the love-struck teenager’s balcony is far from the most romantic feature of this atmospheric Italian town, which is just an hour or so away from Venice. Rather the beautiful landscaped Giardini del Gusto, or the sun-glazed Ponte Pietra across the river Adige or the bustling Piazza Erbe stake better claims for that honour. Offering a lazy Italian pace of life in a low-rise town of terracotta roofs, unspoiled by tourism, Verona is a quiet contender for the most amorous destination in Europe… it even has its own Festival of Love centred around – you guessed it – the 14th of February. Check our Long Weekend guide for a closer look.
2. Sultry Seville
If you’re looking for a hot and sensual weekend away, what about Spain’s passion capital, Seville… a city where, to quote from our own city guide “fiery emotions are forever bubbling behind dark, expressive eyes”? Get dressed up and join these passionate people for a promenade along the river Guadalquivir or spend an afternoon waltzing around the sensational Alcazar Palace, the one time home of the region’s Moorish kings. Of course Seville is the spiritual home of flamenco, an art form based on the ardent yearnings that Spaniards call duende. Check out our Secret Seven guide for some recommended flamenco social clubs – much more authentic (and cheaper) than the touristy tablaos! Finally, Seville has been championing an intimate culture revolution that should appeal to paramours.
3. Lovely Ljubljana
Ljubljana is so cute, you might want to fold it up in your pocket and take it home with you. At 275,000 or so people, it’s one of Europe’s smallest capitals, and its small stature means not only can you walk everywhere but you can comfortably “do” the city in two or three days. Very much built along the river, prepare to settle into a slow pace as you order a glass of surprisingly good Slovenian wine (they don’t make enough to export!) and watch the world go by. If you are in sightseeing mood then there’s a small hilltop castle offering great views over the city, the sprawling Tivoli Park and a picturesque Old Town that owes much of its unique aesthetic to architect Joze Plecznik – a kind of Slovenian Gaudi if you like. During warm weather months keep your eyes out for the charming “pop up” Libraries Under The Treetops that appear in quiet spots around the city and add even more to the city’s cute allure. You should also factor in a day trip to the breathtaking Lake Bled… as ever check out our Long Weekend guide for more tips.
4. Inviting Vienna
If you’ve already seen the movie Before Sunrise then you won’t need us to tell you that Vienna is one of Europe’s most romantic cities. In fact it only took one night in the Austrian capital for Julie Delphie and Ethan Hawke to fall in love, so if you’re still in the wooing stages of your relationship perhaps this is the getaway that can help you seal the deal with your sweetheart! Epic architecture is the name of the game in Vienna, along with a palpable sense of nostalgia for the days when the grand Austro-Hungarian empire set the political tempo in Europe and gentlemen with empirical moustaches danced in dashing uniforms with baronesses who hid their powdered features behind gilded masks at extravagant balls. In fact the balls still exist, and you’ll find plenty of info about them in our city break guide to Vienna, along with a few tips on the burgeoning alternative scene, if you want to add a touch of hipsterity to your lovers’ vacation.
5. Tender Timisoara
A date with Dracula might not sound that romantic, but whilst Timisoara is for many the gateway to exploring Transylvania, it is also a wonderful city (Romania‘s third largest) for lovers to spend a couple of days in. The Secessionist architecture hailing from its days under the Austro-Hungarian empire have lent it the moniker “Little Vienna”, whilst the multitude of parks and green spaces have earned it another nickname: “The City of Flowers”, and you can expect to discover a mesh of manmade and natural beauty about town. Your time is best spent wondering around the centre, admiring the churches and synagogues and possibly poking your head in the odd art museum, or perhaps hiring a bike and taking a spin along the Bega Canal. Just outside the city you’ll also find the Recas wineyards, where a few glasses of Romanian wine may stoke the fires of passion to new heights. Find plenty more tips and things to do in our Timisoara travel guide.
6. Passionate Prague
Pretty as a postcard, this city of 100 spires makes for a perfect weekend getaway for lovebirds, especially those who enjoy architecture – the Czech capital is dressed in a mix of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau styles, and even has a couple of eye-catching modern beauties to behold, such as its famous Dancing Building. Summer can see the city turn into a outdoor museum for the many tourists that descend on it, so best take our advice and visit during the colder months, when the hearty Czech cuisine and delicious beers taste even better and you’ll have more space to explore this Bohemian beauty by yourselves. More information in our Prague weekend guide.
7. Classy Krakow
Not quite as pretty as Prague maybe, Krakow is a stunner in her own right, and with fewer tourists and more locals working and socialising in the centre, there’s a more “lived in” vibe about Poland’s culture capital. Whilst girls in summer dresses and eating ice cream on the Royal Way are boons of summer, there are yet more romantic seasons in Krakow. Autumn for example welcomes back the students who walk and cycle around the Planty gardens that surround the Old Town on their way to lectures, signalling the start of a new academic and cultural year as the leaves redden. Whilst winter is all about huddling (and maybe cuddling) in one of the city’s famous Bohemian cellar cafes with a glass of grzaniec (mulled wine), hot beer or vodka. Adding some extra romance to winter there’s the Christmas markets on the main square during December, which, with a bit of luck, will enjoy a light powdering of snow (the toe-blackening freeze of deep winter doesn’t tend to hit until January and February). Lots more tips in our Krakow city break post as well as our tips on secret and unusual things to do.
8. Welcoming Vilnius
For an unusual romantic weekend abroad, it would be hard to beat Vilnius. The Lithuanian capital oozes a quirky charm, and wandering around its cobbled streets admiring the magnificent churches and colourful facades of formerly grand mansions is time well spent. Nowhere is more charming than the oddball district of Uzupis, a small residential zone cut off from the rest of the city by a tributary of the Neris river, which has its own rather zany constitution that states “Everyone has the right to appreciate their unimportance” and “Everyone has the right to die, but this is not an obligation” amongst other imperatives. An organically brewed beer at one of Uzupis’ charismatic cafes is a timeless pleasure. Meanwhile a glut of hip bars and eateries have started to open in unusual spaces – such as Peronas, which occupies one of the central train station’s disused platforms – adding a welcome cutting edge to the Vilnius bar scene and making the city almost as trendy as it is beguiling. Check out our full travel guide for more.
9. Venerable Venice
We could hardly pen a post about the most romantic European cities without featuring Venice. This medieval trading town on the water is simply gorgeous, and whilst a Gondola ride along its narrow canals is something of a cliche, it’s also a sure way of impressing your loved one, who will no doubt appreciate the Instagram opportunities it proffers. Otherwise its simply a pleasure ducking down tiny alleyways and over footbridges on an aimless exploration of this Italian labyrinth, stopping for a vermouth or spritzer when you chance upon a pretty piazza – just take our advice and wander just a little off the main streets to leave the tourist hordes behind. And don’t forget, aside from the mesh of canals on the mainland you can cross the larger bodies of water on a vaporetto and explore some of Venice’s islands. Harder to get to = less people, and you’ll even find some nice beaches on The Lido for example. We’ve got plenty more tips for exploring the city in our Long Weekend in Venice guide.
10. Serene Stockholm
Flourishing on an archipelago of 3000 islands, the Swedish capital’s natural setting takes some beating. Indeed, the city was founded on the island of Gamla Stan, and today you can wonder around its beautifully preserved medieval streets, stopping off to visit the Nobel Museum and The Royal Palace, amongst many other cultural attractions. Next to that is the larger and more lively Sodermalm, a hub of bars, cultural centres and cool curiosities. Check out the “Hipster’s Guide” section of our Long Weekend in Stockholm post, written by a local. For me, the most romantic island in the city centre however is Djurgarden. Hire a bike and take a tour of its perimeter, passing wonderful old wooden houses and enjoying serene views out to sea. You could even take a chance on the Abba Museum on the way back…
11. Paris After All!
Oh go on then! We couldn’t resist after all. Paris is not quite as romantic as people say (– ask any Japanese tourist): it’s a gritty urban multicultural city with high prices and famously surly locals… but it’s still Paris! Whether it’s a stroll by the river Seine, shopping in Le Marais district, or admiring Notre Dame cathedral, it’s hard not to feel that frisson of excitement in being in a city as steeped in history as the French capital. Even the cemeteries are romantic here, especially the Pere Lechaise, resting place of such luminaries as Chopin, Oscar Wilde and Marcel Proust. Check out our full guide to a weekend in Paris for more ideas of cool things to do.
Tips For Booking A Lovers’ Break
1. If you’re planning on your holiday for winter, bear in mind that you may be forced to spend more time in your hotel than in summer (if that wasn’t the plan already!), due to inclement weather, or the fact that the days are shorter. In other words, you might want to fork out for a finer palace than usual, preferably one with some onsite entertainment like a pool or spa.
2. There’s nothing too romantic about waiting in line, so you might want to think if the main attractions are really worth it, or if something more off the beaten track would be more fun and original. If the latter, check out the “Hipster’s Guide” section of all of our city guides for some cool tips.
3. Similarly Tripadvisor is a great resource but you can be sure that any restaurant anywhere near the top 25 will be heaving with tourists only, making you feel that bit less special. Consult our “Fork Out” section of our city guides for insider tips or check other guides (and bear in mind that receptionists rarely are restaurant experts, so don’t bank on their advice… cabbies neither!).
4. If you’re staying at a posh hotel, remember to tell them in advance it’s your anniversary or honeymoon and you might arrive to find a chilled bottle of champagne in your room free of charge.
5. Regarding flights, the days of last minute deals are sadly long gone… booking in advance is what will save you the cash. Weekend flights are the most expensive, so if you do have the option try flying midweek (Tuesdays to Thursdays are usually best). If you can survive with just hand luggage you’ll save a lot of money, or else share a hold bag between you. That way you’ll have a little more money for extravagances once you’re abroad.
6. Package deals may not be considered fashionable by some, but the right ones can save you a LOT of money, and hassle. Broadway Travel city breaks typically include 3 nights in a hotel, and return flights, and are really well priced – some around just 125 GBP. You can find most of the destinations on this list on their website. So unless you’re wedded to the idea of a particular hotel, the advantages of booking a weekend package almost always outweigh booking your own separate flights and accommodation.
If you’re not quite convinced by any of these options above, or maybe you’ve already been to them all, then please check out our complete list of city breaks around the world. Between our team, we’ve written in-depth guides to well over 75 of the most exciting urban destinations on every continent… and our next adventure is never far away. Subscribe to keep up with our latest discoveries!