Sure, Paris has been the definitive “city of love” for as long as we can remember. But when it comes to romantic getaways, there are plenty more fish in the sea – whether you want castles in the clouds, or oysters on the harbour. Once you’ve ticked off Paris, follow Cupid’s arrow to one of these swoon-worthy European city break destinations …
Have you truly known romance until you’ve reenacted that balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet? Shakespeare may have given Verona more than 400 years of good PR, but the city has plenty to offer lovers beyond souvenir photo opps, with some of northern Italy’s most beautiful architecture and a rich arts and culture scene. Locals are passionately committed to keeping romance in the air; the Verona in Love festival turns Valentine’s Day into a week-long gala of lights, music and events, while the Juliet Club is a group of volunteer agony aunts who personally reply to more than 6,000 letters written by lovelorn tourists to the fictional heroine every year.
At the centre of the city is a vast Roman amphitheatre, the Verona Arena, where dazzling operatic productions are staged during the summer – perfect for a holiday date night, even if your Italian isn’t up to much. Or escape the tourist jostle for Veronetta, the hip neighbourhood across the river, where you’ll find a maze of cobbled courtyards, rustic osterias and bohemian bars to cosy up in. Order a glass of Durello, the local bubbly, and toast to having a lot more luck in love than Romeo and Juliet ever did.
What could be more romantic than a hot tub under the stars? Well, a hot tub under the stars on a rooftop ought to do it. The jacuzzi at Rudas Thermal Bath is one of many naturally heated mineral pools in Budapest (Széchenyi and Gellért are two other favourites), where a steamy evening is guaranteed. Follow up by exploring the fairylit “ruin bars” of District VII, which are usually buzzing with revellers until dawn.
By day, you can cruise the Danube with champagne in hand, split a slice of esterházy torte at the opulent New York Café and curl up in the neo-baroque splendour of the Szabo Ervin library. The Hungarian capital offers no shortage of dramatic backdrops and panoramic viewpoints to justify packing that selfie stick (Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the best, but go early to avoid hordes of competing couples). Perhaps most romantic of all is a trip to Margaret Island, a verdant haven in the middle of the river, where loved-up couples can stroll in the stunning Japanese garden, and magical dancing fountains put on a show in the summer months. Incessant whistling of “the Blue Danube” for days afterwards is the only thing that could possibly kill the mood.
The “Venice of the north” was made for loved-up couples, with endless opportunities to lose yourself in mysterious side streets and kiss on the pretty bridges. If riding a tandem bike sounds like too much effort, take a boat tour around the canals – or even better, captain your own – and then snuggle beneath a blanket outside one of the city’s signature brown cafes (like pubs, only quaint). Café ‘t Smalle is a candlelit classic.
The world-class galleries and museums make perfect date spots when the weather turns, while the Jordaan’s leafy, charmingly wonky waterside streets offer the most romantic strolling. And be on the lookout for hofjes; historic hidden courtyards, tucked away from street view, which are open to the public for a few hours a day. They’ve seen more surprise proposals than you’ve had hot waffles.
If the opening strains of Edelweiss are enough to get you misty-eyed, then a mini-break to Salzburg is sure to be one of your favourite things – whether you spend it high on a hill with a lonely goatherd, or dancing around that famous fountain in Mirabell Palace Gardens. But even if you’re not a Sound of Music super-fan, Austria’s city of culture makes a fairytale destination. Mozart was born here, and music is still part of the city’s DNA; the Salzburg festival runs in May, July and August every year, while legendary venue Jazzit hosts regular jazz and blues gigs, many free, with a twinkly garden in which to soak up the atmosphere.
Those famous Alpine mountains make for spectacular hikes, while the Mönchsberg lift and Festungsbahn funicular railway will whisk you to the most romantic vistas with minimal effort. And back at ground level, Salzburg’s Altstadt district is a Unesco heritage site, containing some of the oldest buildings in the world – including the gorgeously gothic Hohensalzburg Fortress, and Café Tomaselli, where couples have been making gooey eyes over the strudel since 1700.
The largest city on the famously chic French Riviera is very nice indeed – especially for a romantic getaway. The quaintly cobbled streets of the pastel-hued old town are perfect for amorous ambling, with plenty of buzzy Niçoise bars to duck into after the sun’s gone down. The Cave de la Tour is a local favourite, with, crucially, no wifi – all the better to facilitate those longing looks over a glass of full-bodied syrah.
Nice offers the chance to woo on many different levels. Take in the panoramic views from the top of Castle Hill (if profuse sweating is a mood killer, it’s OK – there’s a lift), stroll hand-in-hand along the sweeping Promenade des Anglais, and gaze out at the crystal-clear waters of La Réserve – one of the city’s quietest beaches. After all, Paris has many charms, but a sea breeze isn’t one of them.
If you’re in the mood for a romantic city break, Jet2CityBreaks has the trip for you. Find out more about their hassle-free package city breaks here.