February is fast approaching, which means Valentine's Day on the 14th. The celebration of love can be an excuse to leave the ordinary behind and jet off to swoon-worthy destinations across the UK and Europe to woo your beloved on a romance-filled city break – not that you need a special day to do that, of course.
From a classic lover's retreat to Paris to a quirky weekend in Amsterdam, a mountain sojourn à deux in the French Alps or a back-to-nature break on a wild Welsh island, here's how you can make memories during your time away plus, – perhaps most importantly – where to stay.
Best for beachy escapism: Comporta, Portugal
All lime-green paddy fields, pine-backed sand dunes, wildflower meadows and cork tree forests, this series of mellow, beachy villages an hour south of Lisbon in Portugal’s Alentejo rank highly in the rustic charm stakes.â¯ Comporta’s long sands, including pretty Praia da Comporta, can be explored on foot or by horseback, guided by Cavalos na Areia. The main village has a clutch of hippy-chic design shops to exploreâ¯ – including Rice for baskets and Lavanda for soft linens – while in nearby Troia, resident bottlenose dolphins can be spotted gliding through the Sado Estuary, with eco-experts Vertigem Azul.
Where to stay
Sublime Comporta has A-frame cabana suites and villas with all-white decor, billowing gauzy curtains, driftwood touches and egg-shaped bathtubs set in dappled woodland. At its bohemian restaurant, Sem Porta, Chef Hélio Gonçalves serves a riot of local dishes in an atmospheric former rice barn.
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Best for stylish scenery: Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen combines canals, cobbled streets, brightly-coloured houses, a skyline zig-zagged with twisting spires, world-class design museums and more artistic New Nordic eateries than you shake a stick at. No matter what gets your hearts racing, the Danish capital’s got it covered.
Appealingly easy to navigate – by foot or by bike – highlights include Tivoli Gardens for fairytale kitsch and retro funfair rides, and the ultra-stylish Danish Design Museum. Foodie couples will be in heaven too, whether you’ve managed to bag a booking at The Alchemist, Rasmus Munk’s 50-course dining experience, or you’re just tucking into Hart Bageri’s double-baked croissants.
Where to stay
The 87-room Manon les Suites, close to the lakes and central square, was created by the team behind Ubud’s Jungle Fish “no beach” beach club. It serves up tropical thrills with its foliage-wreathed swimming pool, giving the feel of a dip in the forest, surrounded by dangling plants in terracotta pots and Balinese penjor poles.
Best for historic grandeur: Bath, England
Packed with heaps of history and heritage, from 2,000-year-old steamy, columned Roman Baths to curves of honey-hued Georgian architecture, Bath does supercharged romance with aplomb. Lovers can ‘take the waters’ while enjoying skyline views from the spring-fed rooftop pool at Thermae Bath Spa, step back in time at the Jane Austen museum, or opt for bird’s eye views from the top of Bath Abbey’s tower. For trad diners, there’s Afternoon Tea at the Georgian Pump Room, while for 21st-century British flair, Beckford Canteen has walls dressed in jade green Wedgwood cabbage plates, Czechoslovakian pendant lights and a menu featuring the likes of pean and mint soup and rarebit with pickled onions.
Where to stay
In a prime location on Bath’s Royal Crescent, the 45-room Royal Crescent Hotel has a lovely spa – the highlight being the 12m relaxation pool which sits by Bath stone brick walls and arching cathedral-style windows. The swankiest bedrooms have ornate plasterwork, chandeliers and four poster beds, and a new garden-bar-dining experience, Montagu’s Mews, offers relaxed dining with sophisticated seasonal menus.
Best for classic romance: Paris, France
Synonymous with romance the world over, Paris, with its boulevards, classical monuments, pavement cafes, atmospheric bistros and late-night jazz bars, never fails to enchant. Make for Saint-Germain-des-Prés to stroll through the tree-lined Jardin du Luxembourg and for sultry nightcaps at Bar Joséphine, a sexy spot with Romanesque frescoes on the walls and punchy vodka, Champagne and St-Germain cocktails. Architecture fans can ogle the Arc de Triomphe, Grand Palais and Montmartre’s cobbled streets and windmills, not to mention the Eiffel Tower, which sparkles golden each evening. Best of all? Fuelling up on the world’s best patisserie – don’t miss Pierre Herme’s macarons and chocolate-pistachio escargots from Du Pain et des Idees.
Where to stay
Hotel Rochechouart sits in the arty Pigalle neighbourhood, within sight of Sacré Coeur. From its attractive crimson and gilded Art Deco facade to its earthy-toned bedrooms and revamped Le Mikado club – where DJs spin disco and funk on Friday and Saturday – the vibe is belle epoque hedonism at its best.
Best for arty quirk: Amsterdam, Netherlands
An attractive compact city, crisscrossed by canals lined by crooked townhouses, and a host of world-class museums, Amsterdam suits arty couples down to the ground. A roll call of masterpieces can be found in The Museum Quarter, with Rembrandts at the Rijksmuseum, Warhols at the Stedelijk, and Sunflowers on show at the Van Gogh Museum. Pootling alongside the waterways by bike or floating along them by boat is another pleasant way to pass the time, as is visiting the indie boutiques and Albert Cuypmarkt in trendy De Pijp. It’s worth taking time to settle in for a pint at a traditional ‘bruin café’ (brown cafe, these homely spots are a bit like the Dutch equivalent of an old-school neighbourhood pub) to best experience the slow charm of the city’s gezellig–â¯or convivial – atmosphere.
Where to stay
Spread through 25 historic canal houses in Nine Streets, Pulitzer Amsterdam’s playful bedrooms have bar carts, peaked gable-inspired headboards and bathrooms with Le Labo toiletries. Top suites are extra whimsical; one has a book archway, another,â¯ a wall hung with trumpets. Plus there’s modern Dutch grub at Restaurant Jansz and a cute courtyard garden.
Best for mountain charm: Megeve, France
Set in the heart of the Mont Blanc massif, this trad wintersports resort is a favourite for powder-mad couples. The region has 400km of pristine pistes and snow-topped mountains to admire (ski season runs from mid-December to mid-April), as well as a picturesque medieval centre packed with artisan shops, including ski favourite Allard and perfumier Mizensir whose fragrances are inspired by the pine-filled mountain air. Slopes aside, lovers can clop through the village square by horse drawn carriage, or dine at the likes of Flocons de Sel, where Chef Emmanuel Renaut serves up dishes inspired by his love of the Alpine region, or farmhouse-chic La Ferme de mon Père which has vaulted lounges and the likes of truffle risotto and traditional ‘taste Tatin’ apple tart on the menu.
Where to stay
Recently renovated, plush Beaumier property L’Alpaga has chalet-style bedrooms with velvet headboards, botanical artwork and wood-panelled touches, not to mention breathtaking views straight onto the slopes, and one Michelin-starred restaurant La Table de L’Alpaga.
Best for music lovers: Vienna, Austria
Wandering through Vienna’s winding lanes and arcade-lined courtyards, past Baroque palaces and Spittelberg’s beautifully preserved Biedermeier period houses, is hugely atmospheric. Its rich musical heritage – Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert all hail from the city – can be experienced today at a slew of world-class musical venues, including home of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Musikverein, and the ritzy Staatsoper opera house. Art-wise, Klimt’s The Kiss sits on permanent display in the Upper Belvedere palace. One of the city’s extra special ways to explore? When the moon is full, discover the meandering Danube by lantern-lit canoe; the scenery of the Old Danube is even more beautiful when bathed in gentle moonlight.
Where to stay
Combining 1920s Parisian opulence with contemporary Viennese-meets-Scandi sensibility, Hotel MOTTO’s sumptuous bedrooms have golden lamps and brass cocktail carts. At glass-domed Chez Bernard, dine on Austrian meets north African dishes under hanging planters, or the roof terrace is an appealing spot for Grüner Veltliner toasts.
Best for wild-at-heart nature: Anglesey, Wales
Wales’ largest island, off the northwest coast and separated from the mainland by the dazzling Menai Strait, this windswept isle might be best known for tongue-twister pub trivia favourite Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch village. Far more interesting, however, is its 125-mile coastline – all rolling dunes, wildflower-topped cliffs and mudflats teeming with birds – much of which is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beaty. Beach picks include the stretching sands of Red Wharf Bay, Porth Dafarch for rock pooling and Rhosneigr for windsurfing. As well as over 100 ancient monuments, including Bronze Age burial chambers, there’s medieval fortress Beaumaris Castle and stately home Plas Newydd to explore. Another highlight? A walk through Newborough Warren’s dunes to tidal island Llanddwyn, where high-drama lighthouses and the ruins of the Church of St Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, await.
Where to stay
An abundance of turrets and towers on the shoreline, Loire Valley-inspired Chateau Rhianfa has fairytale good looks – a panelled banqueting hall, grand lounges with period furnishing, and 27 characterful bedrooms – plus killer views across to Snowdonia.
Best for set jetters: Dubrovnik, Croatia
With its Unesco world heritage listed Old Town, riot of Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance monuments and whitewashed terracotta-roofed buildings which tumble down to the teal waters of the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is as handsome as they come. Couples can play Game of Thrones bingo – the city had a starring role as King’s Landing, with the likes of Fort Lovrijenac doubling up as the Red Keep and the 15th-century Rector’s Palace as Qarth – as they walk the historic walls. Aside from seen-on-screen good looks, other highlights including the cable car whizz to the top of Mount Srd, lazing at Banje beach, and wandering along photogenic stone alleyways draped in tendrils of hot pink bougainvillea to stumble upon candlelit seafood restaurants. For something a little different, the fascinating Love Stories museum features sentimental items which bring to life real-world romances.
Where to stay
Soak up the views at calming cliffside retreat Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik, which looks out to Miramare Bay. As well as restful rooms – some with balconies – there’s an incredible spa and freshwater pool and Michelin-recommended Vapor restaurant for blowout fine dining.
Best for culture: Oslo, Norway
Ringed by mountains and the sea, this easy to navigate city offers urban culture – at the likes of the new MUNCH museum and National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design –â¯ and natural beauty, thanks to its waterways, fjords and parks. These include Frogner Park, home to 200 Gustav Vigeland bronze and cast iron sculptures. As well as plenty of hopping cocktail spots – including Norway’s first bar court, Posthallen Drinkhub, which has 10 venues under one roof, and Svanen, where Aquavit Negronis are served in atmospheric old-apothecary surrounds – couples can also turn up the heat, by embracing Oslo’s booming sauna culture. At Bjorvika’sâ¯ Oslo Badstuforening, made from recycled driftwood, there’s a hatch for straight into the fjord dips, while Kongen Marina’s “Miami Vice”-style beach club brings together palm trees, DJ sets and a glass-domed floating sauna. Eco-minded lovers will also appreciate the public transport system; it’s set to go all-electric by the end of 2023, with fjord boat trips already powered by electricity.
Where to stay at: Sommerro
Sure, a former electrical HQ might not sound sexy, but new kid on the block Sommerro, part of the swish Preferred Hotels & Resorts portfolio, has transformed Oslo Lysverker’s old HQ into a whirl of Art Deco pizazz, with a beautifully-restored swimming pool, Vestkantbadet, and 1930s-style brasserie, cocktail and jazz bar Ekspedisjonshallen.
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