Beyond Paris: Europe’s 7 most underrated romantic city breaks

Forget Paris, Rome or Venice this Valentine's Day and visit these quieter, loved-up destinations instead. They offer all the charm and romance, but without the crowds...

5 mins

1. Bergen, Norway

The colourful houses of Bryggen (Shutterstock)

The colourful houses of Bryggen (Shutterstock)

Surrounded by mountains and fjords, Bergen is the perfect romantic getaway. Lose yourself in the cobbled lanes and colourful wooden buildings of Bryggen, cosy up for a coffee beside an open fire, or catch the Fløibanen Funicular for panoramic view and hiking trails.

The city is also the gateway to Norway’s spectacular fjords. Cruises to Osterfjord and Mostraumen leave from Bergen harbour, right next to the famous fish markets. Cuddle up for fjords, mountains and waterfalls in one of the most breathtaking corners of the world.

2. Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana in the sun (Dreamstime)

Ljubljana in the sun (Dreamstime)

Slovenia’s pretty little capital seems like it has been designed for lovers  and you'll feel like you've stepped straight into a fairy tale. The glass cable car up to the medieval Ljubljana castle offers panoramic views of the city and a stroll along the banks of the Ljubljanica River is guaranteed to get hearts fluttering.

The river is also lined with quaint cafés and restaurants, each one sophisticated and understated, and perfect for a candle-lit, romantic meal.

3. Aix-en-Provence, France

The bustling cafés of Aix en Provence (Shutterstock)

The bustling cafés of Aix en Provence (Shutterstock)

The twisting medieval alleys and lanes of Aix en Provence are a delight for couples. Each corner reveals an arresting sight — a grand mansion here, a solitary fountain there – and an atmospheric café, with outside tables where you can watch the world go by, is never far away.

Paul Cézanne lived and painted here. The city inspired his highly characterised style and a walking trail celebrates his ties to the Aix, including his childhood home, Jas de Bouffan, and his former studio, Atelier Cézanne.

4. Bruges, Belgium

Bruges' canal during winter  (Shutterstock)

Bruges' canal during winter (Shutterstock)

If chocolate is the food of love then the tiny medieval city of Bruges is its capital. A maze of cobbled streets and canals, the city is dotted with chocolate shops and artisanal chocolatiers, as well as a museum that celebrates this most cherished of treats.

One of the most perfectly preserved cities from pre-motorised Europe, Bruges is best experienced by foot or by boat along its beautiful canals. At night, when the daytrippers are gone, you’ll have the tiny squares and cobbled streets to yourself, with the only sounds your footfall and the occasional tolling of a melodic church bell.

5. Edinburgh, Scotland

The view from Arthur's seat  (Shutterstock)

The view from Arthur's seat (Shutterstock)

Compact and perfectly formed, the Scottish capital makes for an impossibly romantic city break. The cobbled streets and grand stone buildings are a joy to wander around. And a warming dram, served in a cosy pub beside a roaring fire, is traditional for locals and visitors alike.

When the weather clears, head for Arthur’s Seat. After an invigorating climb you’ll enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city, and the opportunity to spot new corners of the city to explore.

6. Vienna, Austria

A horse and carriage outside the Hofburg (Shutterstock)

A horse and carriage outside the Hofburg (Shutterstock)

Vienna is a city for sophisticated lovers, a place of imposing coffee houses, stately palaces and grand city parks. Wander the baroque streets of the Austrian capital, and you can’t help but feel moved by the forces of Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud who trod this path before you. 

Each day starts with a strong dark coffee and a pastry in a high-ceilinged coffee parlour, followed by a romantic stroll along the Danube or a visit  to a gallery to enjoy the work of local artists like Gustav Klimt. A night at the Vienna State Opera, dressed to the nines, is the perfect end to a glamorously decadent weekend.

7. Sintra, Portugal

Pena Palace, Sintra (Shutterstock)

Pena Palace, Sintra (Shutterstock)

The storybook charm of arguably Portugal's most romantic cities is enough to fill anyone's heart with glee. Explore the cobblestone streets on a horse-drawn carriage, immerse yourself in the city's heritage, dine out in the Jewish Quarter, then take relaxing stroll through one of its exotic gardens hand-in-hand.

The highlight of Sintra has to be the city's colourful palaces: Pena Palace looks as if it belongs in a fairytale. This enchanting building is perched atop a hill in the Sintra Mountains, with stunning tiling and wondrous views - it really is as magnificent as it looks, and the perfect setting for a loved-up break.


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