Romantic getaways often tell the same story: you might think that gliding down the Grand Canal on a gondola or taking photos in front of the Eiffel Tower are the ultimate in city-break romance, and why wouldn’t you? Paris is nicknamed the ‘City of Love’ after all, and Venice often tops lists of the world’s most romantic escapes. And yet, there are plenty of romantic destinations in Europe you probably haven’t ever thought of jetting off to, for a break from the tourist-filled chart-toppers without compromising on the love factor.
With its myriad cobblestone streets and abundance of candlelit rooftop restaurants for intimate meals, Bologna should definitely be on your romantic radar. San Luca Hill is an exquisite spot to watch the sunset (and pop open a bottle of Italian red), and be sure to visit Palazzo de Podesta’s Il Magico Voltone, an arched vault that magically transmits sound from one side of the room to the other – the perfect way to whisper sweet nothings to your paramour. Even The Two Towers of Bologna have a romantic tale behind them: some say that a penniless farmer’s son built the Asinelli Tower by hand in order to secure a woman’s hand in marriage.
Lake Bled, perched next to an alpine lake in Slovenia’s mountains, is nothing short of idyllic. Plucked straight out of a fairy tale, this quaint town still maintains centuries-old traditions and remains picturesque and unspoilt. Nothing is more romantic than a trip to Bled Island, perched in the middle of the lake and once home to a sanctuary giving worship to the Slavic goddess of love, Ziva. Float across the serene lake in a traditional Pletna boat, with a jaw-dropping mountain backdrop, then wander hand in hand up to the island’s church. As legend has it, if you ring the bell three times, your greatest wish will come true.
When planning a romantic trip to France, most travellers don’t feel the need to look any further than Paris. And though Paris is beautiful, amour is in the air all over France – particularly in the pastel-hued alpine town of Annecy. Lake Annecy is a sanctuary for couples if ever there was one, and some say that if two lovers kiss on Pont des Amours (Lover’s Bridge) then they will be together forever. After you’ve secured your future beau, wander along the canals of the River Thiou at sunset, admiring the colourful houses and canalside flowers.
Full of beautiful churches, Gothic architecture and lively-coloured buildings, Innsbruck is overlooked by the picture-perfect Alps and is a fascinating amalgamation of cultures. Be sure to bring a lock with you and hunt out the pretty wooden river bridge by the River Inn, a small homage to Paris’ fallen love-lock bridge, before sitting streetside with a coffee and watching the city go by. Alternatively, take a ride on the Nordkette Cable Car for stunning vistas all the way to Italy in the south and Germany to the north.
Granada is a little- known gem, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in southern Spain. With a pink and orange-hued, alpine sunset behind it, Granada’s hilltop fortress, The Alhambra, makes for stunning evening viewing straight out of a fairy tale. The riverside old town street of Carrera del Darro is no less picturesque, thanks to its cobblestone paving, lush vegetation and Renaissance architecture. For an authentic flamenco experience, head up to the Roma gypsy district of Sacromonte for an atmospheric and spirited evening watching the magical dancers in a traditional cave home – and maybe even giving it a go yourself.
Famous for its breathtaking mountain views, Bergen is nature at its finest, surrounded by dramatic landscapes in every direction. Bundling up with your boo to explore the myriad alleyways of the Bryggen Wharf, or cruising to Sognefjord to marvel at the neon blue waters should definitely be on your to-do list. For the ultimate in sundowner romance, catch a cable car to the top of Ulriken, the highest of Bergen’s seven mountains, to watch an unforgettable sunset from above the city.
With one of the oldest and best preserved Medieval centres in Europe, Tallinn is a hub of culture and history that makes the perfect unique city break. The Kohtuotsa viewing platform offers sweeping views of the city, while the Kadriorg Japanese garden is a beautiful setting for an arm-in-arm wander. A trip up Kissing Hill is also a necessity for any lovebirds out there, where a romantic atmosphere is aided by the overhanging trees and tweet of birds in spring and summer. To put the icing on the cake, wrap up warm and potter over to Harju Street’s ice rink – the ultimate in romantic winter fun.