10 romantic European getaways for Valentine’s Day

Couple on beach at sunset.
Couple on beach at sunset.

10 romantic European getaways for Valentine’s Day

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

When it comes to romance, what are the features that give a place that certain edge? From frozen alpine landscapes to twisting cobbled lanes leading to age-old castles, Europe has no shortage of vistas seemingly scattered about for the sole purpose of inspiring couples to declarations of undying love. While no list could possibly include all the places where history, beauty and charm combine to create the perfect backdrop to amorous intentions, here are some picks that are sure to make lovers’ hearts beat faster.  

Annecy, France: This small city in the Rhône-Alpes region, just an hour’s drive from Geneva, sits aside a turquoise lake surrounded by snow-capped peaks. Meander the streets of the Old Town, pausing for photo ops in front of the 12th-century Palais de l’Ile. For views from above, visit the Château d’Annecy, a large fortress overlooking the town.

Suggested activity: Steal a smooch from your sweetheart while standing upon the Pont des Amours, or Lover’s Bridge, a pedestrian bridge arching over a canal.

Bruges, Belgium: Canals and cobblestone streets wind through this perfectly preserved gem straight out of the Middle Ages that’s best known for its chocolate and lacework. Between sightseeing and photo-snapping, dine on local fare such as “preisoep,” a potato and leek soup, or “chicons au gratin,” endives wrapped in ham and smothered with cheese.

Suggested activity: Tour the city by horse-drawn carriage. Your driver awaits you in the bustling market square. An hour-long jaunt through the city will acquaint you with Bruges’ most important landmarks from belfries to breweries.

Chioggia, Italy: Touted as Italy’s Little Venice, this fishing town is also found along the Adriatic Coast and crisscrossed by canals. Boat tours of the town and surrounding lagoon depart from Piazza Vigo. Just outside town, the sandy Sottomarina beach invites lovers to take a stroll or feast on seafood as they gaze out over the sea. A visit to the city’s lively fish market is another must.

Suggested activity: Wander from bar to bar, sampling the region’s fine wines accompanied by “cicchetti,” light fare meant for snacking.

Delft, Netherlands: This canal-ringed city charms with its galleries and antique shops, as well as its signature product, Delftware, the characteristic blue and white pottery sold throughout the land.

Suggested activity: Make way to the Royal Delft Museum for a workshop offering the chance to try your hand at painting your very own tile or plate.

Grindelwald, Switzerland: While it’s nearly impossible to select the cutest town in the Alps, Grindelwald offers a colossal mountain backdrop and plenty of bars and restaurants to warm up in following chilly outdoor pursuits from skiing to snowshoeing.

Suggested activity: Take the Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe tour, which includes a ride on the Eiger Express cable car and a journey by train on Jungfrau Railway, whose terminus is the highest railway station in all Europe.

Lake District, England: This area of northwest England is known and loved for fabulous landscapes characterized by steep mountains and deep lakes. With rambling opportunities galore, it’s an outdoor lover’s paradise. Drive through the villages of Kendal, Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, Hawkshead and Dent, and just try to decide which one exudes the most charm.

Suggested activity: The area’s secluded valleys and remote peaks give it some of the darkest skies in all England, making it perfect for a night of stargazing.

Matera, Italy: This ancient town in the heel of Italy’s boot is carved into a mountainside. One of the world’s oldest cities, its caves known as “sassi” provided homes for the poor until the 1950s. Many of these spaces have been thoroughly renovated and now serve as boutique hotels. Churches and monasteries hewn into the rock and decorated with frescoes also warrant exploration.

Suggested activity: Dine on rustic, simply prepared local cuisine bursting with flavor while gazing across this wondrous jumble of a town from afar. Be sure to try Matera bread, made with a special grain and a natural yeast that contributes to its distinct, almost sourdough flavor.

Porto, Portugal: This city perched aside the Douro River offers taverns serving freshly caught seafood, ancient churches begging for exploration and the elegant, palm- and pine-lined Promenade Foz do Douro, leading to views of the mighty Atlantic Ocean.

Suggested activity: Take a guided tour of any of the large port wine “caves” found in Vila Nova de Gaia, most of which will conclude with a tasting.

Quedlinburg, Germany: Of countless German towns that ooze romance, this 1,000-year-old town on the edge of the Harz Mountains wins visitors over with its plethora of half-timbered homes and Romanesque and Art Nouveau architecture. The Renaissance castle perched high on a hill is its crowning glory. Take time to visit the Fachwerkmuseum, which explains all you ever wanted to know about the construction of half-timbered houses through the ages.

Suggested activity: Take in panoramic views of the UNESCO-listed town from the Sternkiekerturm, a tower that’s reached by means of a steep, winding stairway.

Vienna, Austria: Delight in the cultural heritage of this city by visiting its world-class museums, elegant coffee houses and tile-roofed St. Stephen’s Cathedral. By evening, take in an opera or symphony concert.  

Suggested activity: Tour the Schönbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the Habsburgs, which dazzles with its over-the-top Baroque architecture and furnishings.

Still hesitant to travel during these uncertain times? The places listed above are pretty special year-round, so they’ll still be there waiting for you when you’re ready to hit the road again.

Which European city do you most associate with romance and charm?

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