As Valentine’s Day rolls around again, which of these best describes you:
- Prepared with something already up your sleeve?
- Unprepared with a last minute rush ahead?
- Single and couldn’t care less?
- You think Valentine’s Day is so contrived that you’d rather do nothing on February 14th, and instead carry out random and sporadic acts of love all year round? Or at least, that’s what you tell your friends.
This year, rather than squeezing into a busy restaurant with everyone else, why not save the money and put it towards a romantic break away later in the year?
Well, we’re taking a look at some of the most romantic destinations in Europe – some of them classic romantic destinations, others a little more off the beaten track.
Florence, Italy CLASSIC DESTINATION
Set in the stunning Tuscan hills, this place is seeping with culture. The birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence was the inspiration for the likes of Michelangelo and Brunelleschi – the man behind the towering Duomo. The old streets have retained their charm, free music to enjoy, amazing food – try a Florentine steak – and striking sunsets. It’s a charming place.
FACT: Florence was the first city in Europe to have paved roads. So all roads don’t lead to Rome then.
Ljubljana, Slovenia SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Never considered Slovenia? No, most people haven’t. But Ljubljana’s worth a look. It’s underrated and very romantic, and boasts a great selection of restaurants lining the Ljubljanica river. There’s the beauty of the Dragon Bridge and the history of Ljubljana Castle, plus the buzz of the city market.
FACT: In the Middle Ages, cheating bakers were dunked in Ljubljanica from Cobbler’s Bridge.
Paris, France CLASSIC DESTINATION
Alright, alright. So it’s a bit of a cliché, but it really is so romantic, and a must-see city, if you haven’t already. From the views atop the Eiffel Tower to the stroll up the Champs-Élysées and the village within the city that is Montmartre. Throw in the art and the style, and it’s a real treat. Can be pricy though.
FACT: It’s illegal to kiss on train platforms in France.
Budapest, Hungary SOMETHING DIFFERENT
You’ll love the calm, relaxed atmosphere of Budapest. Margaret Island is perfect for a romantic walk, packed with flowers and chilled out bars. Then take it easy in one of Budapest’s famous thermal baths – the Szechenyi Baths are especially welcoming and warm. End the day by watching the sun set over Chain Bridge, which separates the western and eastern sides of Budapest, Buda from Pest.
FACT: Touching the pen held by the Statue of Anonymous makes you a better writer. Better give that a try…
Vienna, Austria CLASSIC DESTINATION
With its collection of meandering cobbled streets, historic palaces and superbly preserved homes from the early 1800s, you’ll enjoy your stroll through the streets of old Vienna. Check out Schonbrunn Palace and St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and get about in style with a boat ride on the Danube. Evenings get even more romantic with a variety of balls, if dancing’s your kind of thing.
FACT: Those seen feeding pigeons in Vienna are fined €36 – what a very precise amount.
Reykjavik, Iceland SOMETHING DIFFERENT
The best of all worlds – sea, city and mountains. Do a spot of whale watching at the harbour, head to the flea market, take the lift up to Hallgrimskirkja Church on Skolavorduhaed Hill – long words, cracking view – and relax at the end of it all in some great restaurants. Up for a party? The nightlife’s pretty special. And if you’re lucky enough to get your timing right, you’ll get to see the incredible aurora borealis – that’s the northern lights to you and me. Winter’s your best bet.
FACT: Two degrees south of the Arctic Circle, Reykjavik’s shortest day gets only four hours of sunlight. But during the summer, it’s light for nearly 24 hours.
Nice, France CLASSIC DESTINATION
Back in France, and another place I love. A really chilled out vibe, with buzzing bars, a vibrant nightlife and wonderful food that draws from nearby Italy. There’s great shopping to be had, culture in the form of the Matisse Museum and Royal Palace (Le Palaise de la Prefecture). If the weather’s good, you can even head to the beach, and you simply must see the dancing fountains at the Promenade du Paillon, which are all lit up at night.
FACT: Elton John, Bono, Keith Richards and Tina Turner have homes in Nice.
Krakow, Poland SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Krakow features a proud and heady mix of history, Renaissance architecture and romance. There’s the beautiful old town – which was undamaged by the Second World War – and a collection of castles and cathedrals. It’s not all history though; there’s great nightlife in the New Square and romantic settings – Planty, the park around the old town and Wawel Hill, a castle from which you can see the whole valley.
FACT: Legend has it that the name Krakow came from a ruler named Krakus, who built the town above a cave lived in by a hungry dragon.
Baku, Azerbaijan SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Don’t like the idea of battling the hordes in places like Paris, Prague or Amsterdam? Introducing Azerbaijan. A rich history and a vibrant culture awaits. The people are friendly and the food – Turkish and Asian influenced – is excellent. The architecture ranges from the modern – the waves of the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center – to the historic – the Temple of Fire “Ateshgah”. Walk the seaside boardwalk, explore the mud volcanoes and see the Flame Towers lit up. Loads to do.
FACT: Seven Beauties is a competition which sees seven girls given different colored threads. The winner is the one who crochets the best quality stockings in the shortest time.
If you’re heading to any of the places above that use the euro (France, Austria, Slovenia, Italy), you’re in luck, with the dollar gaining on the euro. Just two months ago, $1,000 was worth €795. Now it’s worth nearly €877. The difference should fund a nice meal!
So what more reason do you need?