Whether you travel for anniversaries (like we do) or want to surprise your loved one with a romantic escape, Europe offers a treasure trove of destinations to choose from. As a result, it is incredibly hard to choose and write about the best European romantic destinations.
But, there is always a solution: ask fellow travel writers about their favorite romantic places. And that’s exactly what I’ve done. Their answers are compiled below.
Trieste, the Italian city I can bet you haven’t heard anything about, but after a peak, you will want to visit and even take into consideration for Valentine’s Day! And let’s not forget this is the place where Illy coffee has been established in 1933, thus allowing yourself to fall in love not only with each other but also with the coffee.
Only two hours away from Venice, Trieste is a low-key town, not overly touristic, that will offer the comfort and privacy of a smaller city while having also a lot of activities on hand for a long weekend.
From a tour of the San Giusto Castle where, if you are lucky, you will have the chance to participate in a classical music concert, to a walk along the sea with a stop with a bottle of wine on the Molo Audace for a charming sunset, Trieste is a most romantic city you will never forget (I sure know I won’t). Other things you don’t have to miss: the long list of gelaterias in the pedestrian area, Miramare Castle (one of the most beautiful places there are), the Grotta dei Giganti waiting to be explored (sometimes concerts are held here), trekking or mountain biking in the Val Rosandra, one night at the Opera.
And if you think you had enough of the city, just head one hour and a half away from the city for a day of relaxation at the thermal baths of Arta, nestled in the middle of nature, in the Carnic Alps
Kinderdijk, The Netherlands
Almost three years have elapsed since I visited Kinderdijk in the Netherlands. To me, it is possibly the most romantic place in Europe. It was also one of the first places that I saw in Europe in general, but it is one memory that I hold really dear. Romance is just one factor. The ambiance is the other.
Kinderdijk is a UNESCO heritage site and is located in the south of Netherlands and is very close to Rotterdam. Kinderdijk is a windmill complex and while windmills are very popular across the Netherlands, this one is particularly special. The windmills here were used to drain the land of water in the Middle Ages. The drained land was fertile, and which was good for agriculture. The old windmills have now turned over their job to other modern mechanisms. The Dutch, however, keep all the windmills in functioning order. You can even climb up a windmill and see how the people lived way back in the Middle Ages.
The canals, the windmills, and the lush green surroundings make Kinderdijk a perfect spot for a picnic. It is romantic, quiet and peaceful. We wandered around the place for hours and took a lot of cheesy shots but hey… We had fun. Would I go back again? In a heartbeat!
Tarifa is in the province of Cadiz in Andalucia. It is widely known as a wind and kitesurfing destination, which is perfect for adventure-seeking couples. However, for couples that aren’t particularly adventure junkies, it carries plenty of romanticism. Walks on the soft sandy beach are a given, along with various little cafes that are small and quaint enough for you to enjoy. Start your morning in the mercado, where you can buy hot churros and coffee for breakfast, get fresh flowers and walk on to the stunning Castle of Guzman el Bueno that lets you see across the horizon all the way to Africa at just a glance. Rent a little boat with a glass bottom and revel in the rich aquatic life or even go dolphin, turtle and whale watching. Do yoga together on the beach at minimal prices. Walk around the whitewashed city, which is full of character and visit the beautiful old church of San Mateo. You will also find hints of Roman history throughout the city, including the Puerta de Jerez. In the evenings, head into a tiny restaurant and enjoy the local catch along with wine at reasonable prices. Seafood is, after all, an aphrodisiac.
The Azores, Portugal
The Azores islands in Portugal are a perfect place for a romantic getaway, tucked away themselves in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. A two-hour flight west of Portugal, you’ll find nine different islands to explore. Its rather remote destination means the Azores are a secluded paradise with plenty of privacy for you and your lover to enjoy.
Outdoor enthusiast couples will particularly appreciate the natural offerings of the Azores. From the beaches bordered by sandy cliffs to hour-long hiking trails that lead you past waterfalls and secret valleys without seeing another couple, and geothermal hot springs with low mood lighting, you’ll never run out of romantic backdrops for your adventures.
When you’re tired of outdoor excitement and you need a romantic evening, you’ll find some exceptional dining options in the Azores. Local wines and cheese paired with the freshest of seafood and the expert Portuguese touch make any meal special, and there are plenty of places to put on your nice attire to wine-and-dine each other. A lesser-frequented destination, the Azores will feel like your own little paradise.
Naples is a lovely city by the sea in the South of Italy. Best known for its delicious pizza and for the espresso coffee, Naples is one of the most romantic and underestimated destinations in the Bel Paese. Especially at night, it sparkles with romance for both the locals and the visitors.
Places like Lungomare Caracciolo, a promenade by the sea that lets you walk next to the Gulf of Naples, are perfect for the undying romantics. At night, with the Moon shining on the sea and the tiny fishermen boats already sailing away to get their catches for the following morning, this area is crowded with couples. While the public park is closed, people still like to walk hand in hand with their significant other on the Lungomare Caracciolo, often to dine with a delicious pizza or a “cuoppo” (a cone of paper filled with deep fried fish or other goodies).
Walking down on Lungomare Caracciolo, after the public park, there’s a very classy area where all the expensive hotels are located, right in front of “Castel dell’Ovo” (Egg Castle). This castle, also known as Yellow Castle, has always been important for Neapolitans. The legend states that Merlin the wizard hid an egg under the castle, situated on a tiny island and linked to Naples through a stone bridge. Should the egg break, Naples would fall. This very important landmark, and especially its stone bridge with the vintage street lamps, has seen the highest number of proposals ever, for couples from every part of the world!
Couples, in fact, love to walk down its beautiful bridge, hand in hand, towards the Borgo Marinaro, a tiny fisherman’s town under Castel dell’Ovo. Here there are some of the best and most romantic fish restaurants in Naples, where lovers can have a candlelight dinner away from the crowds.
Last year, together with my boyfriend decided to spend Valentine’s Day in Andorra, the 16th-smallest country in the world. After all, I can’t imagine anything more romantic than sharing hot chocolate with my partner on top of a snowy mountain peak. We are both very outdoorsy people, we love nature and adventure. Andorra has a world-famous ski resort, so there was no doubt we would hit the slopes on this special day. Grandvalira has 210 km slopes and 67 ski lifts offering something for all abilities. I and my boyfriend really enjoyed all the slopes and were amazed how big the ski resort was. We enjoyed a nice meal for lunch with great views over the mountains. For us, skiing in the mountains was the perfect way to spend Valentine’s Day. Andorra has a lot to offer for the outdoor lovers. You can go mushing, snowshoeing or tobogganing. If you prefer to have a more relaxing day with your loved one you can visit one of the many spas or stay in the Igloo Hotel in Encamp. In the summer the country is a great place for hiking, bird watching, hot air ballooning or horseback riding. Andorra doesn’t have an airport, so we flew to Barcelona and took a transfer bus to the ski resort. This is a good way to combine your romantic ski holiday with a city break as well.
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Fuerteventura, The Canary Islands
For my Valentines last year, I was looking for a destination which was secluded from the hustle-bustle of the city life and which could have promised more of ‘us’ time, of course, a good view, a tinge of an adventure and a warm sunny beach was mandated. Well, in no time I found the place I was looking for. Fuerteventura, a part of Canary Islands situated farthest south in Europe pledged to make my dream come true and offer me a perfect romantic destination.
We hired a small sunshine car with a sunroof to enjoy the best of the island. A picturesque beauty of sand dunes on one side and the ocean on the other, added romance in the air as we hopped across beaches and pubs. We also did Scuba diving, couple massages, windsurfing, beach basking- just indulged ourselves in all the perfect ingredients of a romantic destination.
My best memory is of Valentine’s Day itself. I carried candles with me and on one of the beaches, under the stars, I lit those candles in a heart shape and ordered some food and wine for us, thus concluding a perfect romantic evening. Added background music on my speakers and the day just stood there for a divine celebration of love.
Rhine Valley, Germany
The UNESCO World Heritage portion of the Rhine Valley, located between Koblenz and Bingen in Germany, is a storybook waiting to be explored. Visiting the Rhine Valley is like stepping back in time to a fairy-tale world filled with castles and picturesque German villages. Cruising down the Rhine is the perfect way to start exploring this great area. Hillsides dotted with medieval castles are surrounded by beautiful vineyards everywhere you look. Passing idyllic villages with half-timbered houses and Gothic churches, couples will be in awe of the German landscape.
After cruising, couples should choose one of the charming towns to book a room in and spend a night or two exploring. (Of course, if it were me, I would opt for staying in a castle!) Bacharach is a charming town right on the banks of the Rhine and makes a great home base for this area. Overlooked by Stahlberg Castle (which is now a hostel), this small town offers quaint accommodations, wonderful wine tastings, and amazing food. Couples might also like exploring the town of Braubach, with its crooked old streets and half-timbered houses overlooked by Marksburg Castle, which was built in 1117! While there, be sure and take your loved one to tour this awesome castle.
The Rhine Valley is true storybook Germany. Whether you love history, wine, or great German food, the Rhine Valley has them all and is definitely a romantic place for couples to visit!
Venice, Italy is a city of rich history and cloaked in romance, and one many travelers dream of setting eyes on some time in their lives. Whether you are drawn to visit Venice for its canal living and resulting unique architecture, collections of famous art, Italian food and culture, or for centuries of history ripe with drama, intrigue, battles, betrayals, and grudges that stand to this day – you will not be disappointed.
The most common place to get a bird’s eye view of Venice is the famous Campanile, right in the heart of St. Mark’s Square, and if it is your first time in Venice, being in St. Mark’s is pretty much a necessity. However, on my most recent trip to Venice, my goal was to explore the back streets and quieter areas of the city and avoid the mobs which are mostly centered around St. Mark’s, as much as possible. I highly recommend taking a little more time than the average visitor and getting off the beaten path in this amazing city.
This off-the-beaten-path goal led me to seek out the Scala Contarini del Bovolo, or Contarini’s stairway of the snail. I mean, how great of a name is that? The Scala is an exterior, stone staircase, originally built on the private residence of the Contarini family in the 15th century to impress the neighbors and improve the family’s standing. The stairs were also used in an Orson Welles’ Othello, if you are a fan. Today, if you seek out this architectural gem near Campo Manin, for 7 euro you can climb the five stories to the top for a beautiful view of Venice. A view that instead of being from the Campanile, includes it, along side the golden domes of St. Mark’s Cathedral, as both rise out of a tumult of terracotta roofs.
Krakow has a unique atmosphere. The many wonderful cafes and bars around the Old Town Square attract lovers from around the world – how many other places can you sip a freshly brewed cup of coffee with historical buildings for your view and the famous Trumpet Call from St. Mary’s Church Tower as your soundtrack? And then there’s Krakow’s Royal Castle, which has such incredibly romantic views it’s become one of the city’s best attractions.
Off the tourist trail, Krakow is also home to mazes of fascinating, small streets – this is where to go for the coziest atmospheres at night. The area near Kazimierz, especially, offers lots of inviting cafés and restaurants along its charming cobbled streets, surrounded by monuments of Jewish culture.
In a mark of their love, sweethearts can lock padlocks on the famous love bridge “Kładka Bernatka”, which is a must-visit place on the map for Valentine’s Day. February 14th is also the perfect time for a romantic cruise on a small gondola on the Polish river Wisla, or, if you want a view that few can rival, why not embark on a balloon flight to admire the city from above? Then end the day with a romantic dinner in an amazingly authentic Polish restaurant before taking a carriage ride around the Old Town.
Giethoorn, The Netherlands
Venice is certainly romantic, but maybe this is a cliché destination. Instead, take a look at the Venice of the Netherlands, or better saying, Giethoorn. This idyllic Dutch village is straight out of a fairytale book.
Imagine sailing on a boat with your partner through this sweet small town, which is only accessible by bike or boat, and is full of houses that are over 200 years old. This mythical small town offers a peaceful destination for couples.
Take the opportunity to have lunch in one of the many restaurants by the water’s edge, or stroll along the canals as you both appreciate the place. The colorful houses, neatly organized gardens, and adorable canals are absolutely enchanting!
In addition, take a look at the Museum Giethoorn, this is a living museum showcasing a 19th-century farmhouse with costumed actors. Such a lovely place! If you’re looking for a special gift for your partner, look for it in the museum’s gift shop! They have delicious Dutch candies and cookies, amongst other very interesting things.
My fiancée and I have chosen this village as Europe’s most romantic destination so far. Giethoorn is a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of big cities, and you will certainly have a more intimate experience of the Dutch culture. Go see it for yourself, Giethoorn won’t disappoint you.
Under an hour from Lisbon, the fairytale city of Sintra is a must for any couples looking for a romantic escape. The area is home to some of Portugal’s grandest and most beautiful palaces, sat within the stunning national park with undulating hills and majestic views all the way to its striking coastline.
The most famous palace in the national park is Pena Palace, with its dazzling colors sat at one of the highest points in the area. Stroll around the ramparts and turrets of the palace hand in hand admiring the splashes of red and yellow, and take in the stunning views back down to the old town and beyond.
If you have the energy to spare after the palace, aim for the very highest point sat just above the palace – the High Cross. Providing phenomenally romantic 360-degree views of the national park, as well as of Pena itself, this could well be an ideal proposal location (no hint intended gentlemen!).
Once you tire of strolling around the hills above the old town, it’s time to head back to Sintra for a well earned relaxing tipple. Head for Dona Maria restaurant just off the main square, which boasts the best terrace views of the town. Grab a table at the end of the terrace to take in the panoramic views across the town together and spot the white peaks of the National Palace whilst enjoying a glass of espumante.
“First, sir, you need to find a woman”. The tourist office, on being asked by my now husband if it was possible for non-residents to get married in Ghent.
While many are seduced by the elegant and refined charms of Bruges, nearby rebellious Ghent has taken our hearts. Ghent is dominated by medieval splendor: glorious architecture and a big brooding castle (containing a museum of torture). You can while away the time, hand in hand, exploring those cobbled streets, stopping off for waffles or chocolate. There’s plenty to do on the waters surrounding the Graslei, described as the prettiest quay in Europe, whether you want to explore under kayak power at your own pace or take a river trip to the nearby artists’ village.
At night, someone set Ghent alight with magical powers. You’ll find ever-changing art installations, like the giant Search and Destroy letters we found one year as a tribute to Iggy Pop. There’s a tree full of glass bluebirds and giant spiderwebs to enjoy as you wander the bars and clubs, enjoying the best of Belgian beer at the Waterhuis or jenever at t’Dreupelkot. Ghent has a big vegetarian scene, riotous street art and a great live music and club vibe, so you’ll never be short of things to enjoy: try Mosquito Coast and the Hot Club of Gent, hidden down a tiny alley. With all those delights, you won’t be surprised to learn that, reader, I married him.
Ljubljana is one of the prettiest cities in Europe but people don’t even know it exists! Slovenia as a country is overlooked for nearby Croatia and Italy, a big mistake as you are missing out on a wonderfully beautiful and breathtaking part of Europe. Pastel colored buildings line the River Ljubljana creating a relaxed atmosphere by day however, Ljubljana comes alive at night, with a lively bar scene and outstanding restaurants offering a fusion of Italian and Croatian cuisine and to top it off it’s cheap!
Spend a day strolling around the beautiful squares and cobbled streets; Stari Trg and Mestni Trg are lined with restaurants, cafes and boutique shops. For views of the city, make your way to Ljubljana Castle, take the Funicular up and walk back down. In the mood for wine, head to Movia for Slovenian wine tasting, a coffee it’s Pritličje, for a pasta dish Julija and to hit the sweet spot, Lolita Café has the tastiest cakes in town! Every Friday during Spring and Summer the delicious Food Market Odprta Kuhna takes place, with pop up stalls from local restaurants, grab a dish of choice, a beverage, find a spot to sit along the River Ljubljanica and let the world pass you by. Bliss.
Have a spare day? Hire a car and drive to Lake Bled, Vintgar Gorge and drive through the Triglav National Park. Slovenia’s landscape is incredible and breathtaking, I promise you will not be disappointed by this captivating country and its charming Capital, Ljubljana.
Ahh, Paris… Can’t forget the city of love when it comes to romantic destinations in Europe. There is absolutely nothing more iconic about France than the Eiffel Tower. And where better to spend Valentine’s Day with your loved one than under the starry night sky in front of this paramount monument!
As you may or may not know, the tower sparkles for five minutes every hour on the dot as soon as night falls. Although it can be seen throughout the different arrondissements, the best spot to admire this beauty is no doubt at Trocadéro.
Be sure to walk over to the actual tower afterwards and bring your date to dine at the famous Michelin-starred restaurant Le Jules Verne. (Remember to book your reservation in advance as early as possible.) For dessert, head on up to the observatory deck for a little eye candy of Paris’s city views at night. (Friendly reminder to purchase tickets beforehand on the official Eiffel Tower website. That way you and your date are not waiting in lines in the freezing cold.)
Depending on the duration of your trip, you may or may not get time to explore the city entirely, but here are some additional activities for your romantic getaway because you know what they say… Paris is always a good idea!
- Morning stroll along the Seine
- Breakfast at a traditional Parisian café
- Get your couples portrait painted at Place du Tertre
- Take a boat cruise tour
- Admire Sainte-Chapelle’s exquisite stained glass windows
- Visit the Edgar Degas exhibit at Musée d’Orsay (or any museum really because Paris is simply full of beautiful artwork)
- Afternoon tea at Angelina
- Journey out to Versailles and enjoy sunset at Temple of Love
Vienna has a wide range of activities for couples looking for a romantic getaway. Austria’s capital is home to a bustling city center framed by elegant Baroque buildings. Hold hands while you walk down the pretty streets and wander into one of Vienna’s cafes for a cup of Viennese coffee and conversation; or head to Café Sacher for some of its famous hot chocolate and Original Sacher-Torte dessert. For a romantic evening in Vienna, get dinner at one of Vienna’s 5-star restaurants, then head to the gilded Vienna State Opera and take in a performance.
Couples who love the outdoors will also find an ideal romantic escape in Vienna even though it’s a big city. Vienna is home to Vienna Woods, a UNESCO-designated biosphere with scenic hiking trails to explore. Vienna is also unique in that it has vineyards within its city limits. Take some pictures of the two you in front of the vineyards to remember your romantic trip.
Where there are vineyards, there are also typically wineries and tasting rooms and Vienna is no exception. After wine tasting, grab dinner at one of the wine gardens located near Vienna Woods. These wine gardens are restaurants reminiscent of a beer garden, but with a focus on wine – and much more romantic. Pffarwirt in Grinzing and Wiengut Mayer am Pfarrplatz Beethoven-Haus are both excellent options. The building Wiengut Mayer am Pfarrplatz Beethoven-Haus is housed in was also once the residence of the composer Ludwig van Beethoven.