So Valentine’s Day is approaching. Whether you think it’s a bit of a cliche or whether you genuinely use it as a time to show your love for someone, there’s no denying it’s a boom time for travel.
If you fancy a bit of a last-minute getaway, we’ve found 15 destinations that should provide something either traditionally romantic, a trip with a cool twist, or something a little more off-the-wall.
Five places for a classic romantic getaway
Where else to begin? Of course. The City of Love. The French have always had a reputation for l’amour, and if you’ve never been to Paris, now should be the time you remedy that.
Okay, it’s not the absolute romance-fest that films and literature would have you believe – it suffers from the same problems as any huge city – but there is something about strolling along the river at night, the bateaux-mouches sliding quietly past lit up with fairy lights, that ticks a fair few boxes.
And then? Well the Eiffel Tower, of course. The Musée d’Orsay is home to a wonderful collection of art (in a choice between this and the Louvre, I’d have to go with this), and the Rodin Museum is a hidden treasure.
Walk around Montmartre at night as the area buzzes with lights and life. Splash out on a posh meal in an intimate restaurant. If you’re going to do Paris, you might as well do it properly.
Another city whose name is synonymous with romance. Find me someone who never wanted to ride a buzzing Vespa through 1960s Rome like a character in a Fellini film, and I’ll find you a liar.
There’s just something about its infectious energy that’s passionate and inspiring; top that off with some of the world’s most iconic buildings and you’ve got a recipe for passion.
Even more than Paris, Rome is a city that rewards going off the beaten track. I think this is a question of geography; Paris is, after all, a relatively planned city, with boulevards and ring-roads giving it a sense of order. Rome has just spent a couple of millenia growing tentacles.
The Monti neighbourhood is the place to be for tiny, family-run restaurants and bars, while the Jewish ghetto on banks of the Tiber is a Rome that tourists often miss. If you want all the excitement of a major capital, coupled with history, stories, romance and the sense that just around the corner might be a tiny trattoria that you’ll remember as “yours”, Rome is the place to be.
New York City, USA
New York City, romantic? Sure. How many films and TV shows have shown the trials and tribulations of couples struggling to make it in the noise and bustle of NYC? It’s the very epitome of modern romance.
Again, like Paris, if you’ve never been to New York, it’s worth spending a bit more money for the experience. Other boroughs may be cheaper and cooler, but there are still places to stay in Manhattan that won’t eat up your entire budget – plus, there’s nothing that ends a romantic evening quicker than a long, dirty, noisy, late-night subway ride out to some distant hotel, when you could take a 5-minute taxi journey instead.
NYC is not a place in which to linger anyway. You’ll be swept up in the pace of life, and you’ll love it. Hungry? Share a slice of amazing pizza or two while walking through Little Italy.
Need energy? Bang, a swift cappuccino and you’re on the go again. Spend an evening bar-hopping around Canal Street and the Bowery. Go to the top of Rockefeller Center for the best views over the city. Walk through the Park before seeing the wonders of the world at the Met. Whatever you do, you’ll only fall more in love.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Argentina is home to the tango, so these people know a thing or two about passion. True, but they also know about elegance and charm as well, and Buenos Aires is a fabulous combination of all three.
After you’ve taken in a dance show – or even taken part in classes! – keep your legs moving by walking through one of the city’s many parks. The Rose Garden is not so much a garden as it is a romantic enclave, containing a boating lake, statues, fountains and ornate white trellises, often occupied by courting couples.
Alternatively, get a taste of the Far East in the Japanese Gardens – walk, meditate, partake in a tea ceremony or feed the fish swimming in the ponds.
In a nod to another city of romance – Venice – the Puerto Madero (a popular area around the dockside) offers gondola rides lasting around one hour. After that, as evening draws in, join both locals and tourists as they enjoy the fine dining, clubs and bars that surround the area.
When darkness falls, finish off by walking across the beautifully-lit Puente de las Mujeres, the city’s iconic bridge, designed to resemble a dancing couple.
If you want an almost stereotypically romantic city break, Bruges is the place to be. Cobbled streets, fairytale buildings, horse-drawn carriages and chocolate are all the order of the day.
The city is comfortably walkable, so the ideal way to see the city is to wrap up warm and then just lose yourself in the winding backstreets, ducking into a coffee shop or pub here and there for a warming cup of hot chocolate or a glass of delicious Belgian beer.
The main market square is where most tour groups congregate (and where everything costs far more), so give that a cursory glance and plunge further into the side streets.
According to local legend, crossing the Minnewater Bridge with your partner means you’ll stay in love forever. When the sun goes down, take a stroll around the canal quays of Gouden-Handrei and look at the golden lights reflecting on the surface of the water, before heading to ‘t Zwart Huis, an atmospheric jazz and blues venue to catch an intimate gig.
So you want somewhere a bit cooler? A little less obvious? Step right this way…
Bath is an elegant place. It’s come and gone in and out of fashion throughout history, but seems always to have coincided being in focus with an era of architectural good taste. From the Roman baths to its avenues and crescents of Georgian houses, it’s handsome without being flashy.
If your idea of romance is hiding your face coquettishly behind a fan while claiming that you’re abashed and no little perturbed by your partners advances, you can follow in the footsteps of Jane Austen by visiting Sydney Gardens.
The only remaining 18th-century pleasure gardens left in Britain, they’re home to cast-iron pagodas, and bridges over the canal that runs through. If you’re feeling more adventurous, the Skyline Walk is a six mile lap of the city, stopping at some of its most picturesque spots.
Finally of course, why not do what Bath has always been known for? The Thermae Bath Spa has couples’ spa treatments that will indulge and relax you both, then afterwards you could stop by the Lush cosmetics shop to buy a Sex Bomb bath bomb filled with age-old aphrodisiacs…
New England, USA
More of an autumn thing, I grant you, but New England’s pastoral charm has been attracting visitors for hundreds of years. Cape Cod, wild though the weather may be at this time of year, offers loads of cosy bed and breakfast places and great restaurants that, while packed in the summer, will be places to sit and savour the fine food without people rushing around.
Aphrodisiac food may well be the main order of the day, in fact. Oysters are a speciality in this part of the world, many of the region’s vineyards produce delicious sparkling wine and, just to check everything off the list, you could visit Herbert’s Chocolate Mansion in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts to get some freshly-made chocolates.
Oh, and let’s not forget New England’s famous covered bridges, like the one in Jackson, New Hampshire. Known as the Honeymoon Bridge, generations of lovers have carved their initials into the wood. We don’t recommend you do this, but if you start feeling amorous, at least you won’t be seen!
Bordeaux is a supremely good-looking city, with its river, Gothic cathedral and avenues of stately 18th- and 19th-century buildings, but it is, of course, widely known for something else.
Wine. That’s the first thing I’m going to suggest. Take your beloved on a wine tour of the city whose name is synonymous with the good stuff. A few companies such as DMj Wineworks can organise things like this, or if you fancy going full-hipster, 20h33 has a tour that’ll drive you round in a VW camper with a moustache painted on the front.
If you feel like doing something a little more cultural – not that wine isn’t part of French culture, of course – try visiting the Utopia cinema. It’s in an old church which inside is now a cool cafe with a beautiful artsy cinema as well.
If you’d rather be outside (and slightly more active), from 7pm the roof terrace of the Grand Hotel de Bordeaux becomes an outdoor bar – and, later in the evening, a club – allowing you to dance the night away fueled by cocktails and enjoying a night-time view of one of the grandest cities in Europe. Maybe that’s not such a brilliant idea for February, but still…
With its reputation for rain, it shouldn’t really matter when you visit this corner of the USA, so why not go there for Valentine’s Day? Despite the weather (or maybe because it’s so mild, I don’t know) it’s a very outdoorsy sort of place, so after you’ve had a coffee (obviously), you could take a romantic, windswept walk around Discovery Park.
Overlooking Puget Sound, two beach trails and nine miles of footpaths are the perfect excuse to add a bit of nature to your city break.
For a wider view of the whole cityscape, including the beautiful Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier, take the ferry out to Bainbridge Island. It’s only a 35-minute journey, and once there you’ll be confronted with more beautiful forests, cycle paths and nature reserves.
Back in the city, enjoy more amazing views by going upward, either in the world famous Space Needle or, to take photos of the tower itself, in the Seattle Great Wheel, a ferris wheel that operates year-round.
When the Great Outdoors becomes too exhausting, head on over to Pike Place Market, a Seattle institution containing not only the Farmers’ Market, but bookshops, a record store, antiques, clothing and more besides. Then, of course, more coffee.
So you want to go to Italy for its grand, romantic soul, but Rome is too obvious and Venice is too crowded. I present to you Lecce.
Sometimes known as the Florence of the South, it positively drips in everything you’d expect from an Italian city, but with almost no tourists in sight.
Local produce can be found in every shop or restaurant, and due to the fact that the south of Italy was traditionally the poorest region – therefore tended to live off the land – the local foods such as rustico leccese (a pastry filled with tomatoes, mozzarella and bechamel sauce) tend to be widely available, simply made, and delicious.
More than anywhere on this list, Lecce is a place that rewards the simple virtue of doing very little other than indulging yourselves in food, wine and the local scenery.
The stone used to build the medieval parts of the city, (pietra leccese for any fans of building materials out there), has a soft, golden colour found almost nowhere else in Italy which lends the whole place an air of delicacy to its stunning churches and piazzas.
Nearby is the town of Gallipoli, a bewildering warren of tiny streets built on a spit of land jutting out into the sea. Find your way through the maze and out onto the seafront to the array of gorgeous, tiny trattoria serving fresh seafood. Back in Lecce itself, finish off the evening with a stroll through the midnight streets, arm in arm, wondering how life could be so sweet.
Romance not entirely your thing? What about these?
Cappadocia Cave Hotel, Turkey
Cappadocia is already on many people’s travel bucket lists. This region of central Turkey is known for its other-worldly qualities; surreal rock formations, sunlight that’s at once harsh but colourful, and lots and lots of caves. Some of these caves have now been turned into places to stay.
Many of the structures carved out of the rocks date back as far as the 5th century, so this isn’t some tourist-trap stunt, this is anthropology. As well as the cozy rooms, there’s virtually a city built into the rocks – stairs, walkways, common areas, even a church. It truly is one of the most beautiful and unusual places you’ll ever stay.
Rotterdam, the Netherlands
We touched on Bruges, over the border in Belgium, as a suggestion above. And in this corner of Europe, most people would probably think of Amsterdam as a place to go – after all, it is attractive, with all the canals, Hanseatic buildings and the like.
But it is also overrun with tourists, so much so that there’s been somewhat of a backlash by locals. It’s not very romantic to have to share your Valentine’s weekend with a bunch of drunken lads.
To the south-west of the capital lies Rotterdam, a much more solid and honest city; one that works hard and plays harder. Jump on tram number 10 for a cheap way to see what the city has to offer.
Kralingse Bos is a forest within the city so you can get your fix of typical Dutch things (windmills, mainly) with a view of the city skyline. Once you’re done with that, why not turn your attention to a couple of things more *ahem* romantic(?) in nature…
Paul McCarthy’s sculpture of a Santa Claus holding what was supposed to be a christmas tree is known locally as the “Butt-Plug Gnome” (Google it very, very carefully).
The Pancake Boat can take you on a 75-minute cruise around the city while you and your partner enjoy an unlimited supply of pancakes, and if you’re looking for a beautiful gift, try the Swan Market where local artists and craftspeople sell their handmade wares.
In the evening, end your day in style with dinner at the Euromast Restaurant. It’s in a skyscraper that gives commanding views of the city and the huge docks that serve it. For such an amazing location, it’s not massively expensive – usually less than 40 euros ($50) for a three-course meal – and their slogan is: “Be on top”. Advice for one of you later, maybe.
If your idea of a perfect Valentine’s Day is just staying in bed, this could be the place for you. Not because there’s nothing to do, but because in February there’s only around six hours of what can generously be called daylight each day. If it gets dark at 2pm, why not just go back to bed? Well, there’s one reason…
Hammerfest is a prime destination for people wishing to see Aurora Borealis – or the Northern Lights, if you prefer – and at this time of day, at this time of year, in this part of the country, they’ll be localised entirely within your view.
If standing outside, bundled up together against the cold with your hands wrapped around a mug of cocoa, watching one of nature’s most spectacular sights doesn’t strike you as romantic, then that’s kind of a shame.
Located on the Caribbean coast in Yucatán, this still relatively undiscovered town is home to the ruins of a well-preserved walled Mayan city. The nearby Parque Nacional (or National Park, if my Spanish is as good as I think it is) is an area of mangrove swamps and cenotes – naturally occurring sinkholes – in which you can swim or snorkel as a way of exploring the cave system they’ve created.
Due to its relative obscurity, it’s still fairly cheap, with beachfront bungalows available for an amazing place to stay without breaking the bank, while most of your food will come from local street vendors selling delicious tacos and the like.
The whole place is an important ecological site as well. The area is home to what’s known as the world’s largest natural aquarium at Xel Ha, where an all-inclusive ticket gets you access to the lagoon area where you can tire yourself out before eating and drinking as much as you can (I said all-inclusive, and I meant it) before falling asleep, exhausted, on the beach. Perfect.
San Camp, Botswana
Camping can be seen as romantic, right? Just you and a loved one, under the stars, like you’re the only people on earth. I get it. Just about.
Anyway, if you feel like going all out, this part of Botswana used to be a favoured spot for people on safari. Nowadays, it’s an exclusive resort, albeit an exclusive resort without electricity or running water. But you do get a tent at least. And you will be charged $1,960 a night.