Nine Alternative Romantic Getaways in Europe

From a canalside Belgian city to a poet-adored Portuguese hill town, here are nine alternative Valentine’s destinations for those wishing to avoid Paris

Whether we're talking newly ignited sparks or ever-enduring flames, choosing a swoon-worthy destination to take your significant other to can prove challenging. When the tried-but-tired staples are non-runners and inspiration is waning, the temptation to pack it all in (the trip, hopefully not the relationship) becomes difficult to avoid. To diffuse such situations, we've penned a foolproof shortlist of romantic outposts for a weekend away.

European affairs: nine Valentine's Day weekend getaways

Sintra, Portugal



In 1809, Lord Byron declared this lost-in-time Portuguese enclave as "the most beautiful [place] perhaps in the world", so enamoured was he by the fern-frilled forests and fairy-tale palaces dotted across its rolling hills. Located in the foothills of Portugal's Sintra Mountains, the curious town is a designated Unesco World Heritage site on account of its whimsical architecture. The 19th-century Pena Palace is considered the city's jewel. Surrounded by extensive parkland, the yolk-yellow, Moorish-influenced fortress, complete with checkerboard-floored cloisters, entirely azulejos-tiled bedrooms and grotto-filled gardens, provides a crash course in 19th-century decadence. Just a 40-minute train journey from Lisbon, Sintra is a great option for a classically romantic break.

Where to stay: Tivoli Palácio de Seteais

Verona, Italy



As the original city of star-crossed lovers, it seems apt that Verona continues to entice lovers to its sun-burnished streets. Visiting couples tend to leave amorous letters at Casa di Giulietta (Juliet's house) as a sign of their everlasting love. Beyond the city's literary value, though, this is a date-ready destination with a restaurant scene fond of a candlelit table for two, and a compact historic centre made for dusk strolls (and street-corner kissing). Dine on rich ragù pasta plates and regional risottos at rustic osteria Al Duca, then take a seat in the opulent opera house for an evening performance. If you find yourself biting your thumb at swooning sweethearts filling the streets of the centre, head across the Adige River to Veronetta, a quieter, cosier neighbourhood that's free from crowds. Local legend suggests that lovers who find each other in the labyrinth within the 16th-century Giardino Giusti gardens, a masterpiece of Renaissance landscaping, are destined to stay together to "timeless end".

Where to stay: Boutique Hotel Trieste

Marrakech, Morocco



We've pegged Marrakech as a destination to watch in 2023 and it's largely down to the opening of Rosemary, a new romantic riad from the designer behind city homeware brand LRNCE, later this year. Book in when it opens and you'll have the perfect base from which to explore the romance of the Red City. Start by exploring the ruins of El Badi Palace, before setting your sights on the Musée Yves Saint Laurent - adjacent to Le Jardin Majorelle. For those with a few days to explore further afield, Marrakech is a great base for day trips. Set out on a camel trek across the Sahara; enjoy an intimate dinner in a traditional Berber tent; go on a day excursion to the Atlas Mountains; or head towards the sea to explore the coastline of Morocco and the creatively inclined Essaouira.

Where to stay: Until Rosemary opens, we're bookmarking the beautiful El Fenn

Hamburg, Germany



If Paris is too gauche, and Berlin too try-hard, head to Hamburg. Despite its initial business-first appearances, the German port city has an unheralded bohemian side - just look at it's football fans. Anti-fascist, social justice-loving St Pauli supporters eschew hooliganism of any kind and that same distinctive fringe culture ripples through the city. Home to a multicultural population, it has a restaurant scene both innovative and continent-hopping - and a cultural line-up to match. The museum mile takes in five major galleries: the Deichtorhallen and the Kunsthalle - home to one of Europe's largest art collections - are both worth pinning on your Google Map. Spend Sunday exploring the weekly market that sprawls along the Elbe; pick up some distinctive travel gear (think, bags, belts and water bottles) for your next adventure from gorpcore shop Property Of; then scout out the harbour-side venues housing the city's distinctive electronic-music scene for an early-hours rendezvous with your other half.

Where to stay: Side Hamburg



The world's most northerly capital sits cheek-by-jowl with some of the world's most dramatic landscapes. With its multitude of geothermal lagoons, glacial and volcanic marvels, it's easy to recognise Iceland's allure, and Reykjavík's proximity to the countryside makes it a no-brainer if you're the kind of couple whose love language involves compasses and carabiners. Skip the crowds heading off to the popular sites of the Golden Circle - a route that takes in Iceland's dramatic natural wonders - and set your satnav closer to the city. The hour-and-a-half Kerid Crater lake hike is where local lovebirds go to spend quality time together. A short hike around the 3,000-year-old volcanic crater offers 360º views of its nearly-neon blue waters.

Where to stay: Sand Hotel

Bruges, Brussels



A weekend in Paris? Too obvious. Bruges offers much more romance than the French capital. Belgians may not have the sizzling reputation of their Gallic neighbours, but they're dab hands at crafting amorous infrastructure. With its cobblestone streets, boat-dotted canals, cosy brewpubs and a cornucopia of chocolate shops, the West Flanders destination is a ready-made romcom set. Add in the Lover's Bridge across Minnewater lake and we're cheerily bidding goodbye to our Parisian plans. Avoid the naff carriage rides and take to the medieval streets on foot to explore the soaring towers, gothic churches and historic corners of this photogenic city. The views from the 12th-century belfry are worth climbing the 336 steps for, although those au fait with the plotline of In Bruges might want to give it a miss.

Where to stay: Hotel de Orangerie

High Tatras


Brave of heart, listen up. This one's a make-or-break option that will put your couple compatibility to the test. Hike from one mountain cabin to the next, following the fuzzy peaks of Slovakia's High Tatras range, or pack a tent and follow the Tatranská Magistrala trail, a majestic but little-known route that takes about four days to complete. This is the Alps as they might have looked 100 years ago; no tourists, plastic pollution or chain hotels in sight. If you're willing to put in the leg power, expect to be rewarded with outrageously awe-inspiring views of crystalline lakes cradled by uncultivated wilderness. Post-hike, book a room at the historic inn Doma u Nás, in the mountain town of Poprad. It's a surprisingly slick stay, with an exceptional restaurant.

Where to stay: Doma u Nás

Stockholm Archipelago


A round-trip of the 24,000 islands in the Stockholm Archipelago might be a little much to ask of your partner, regardless of whether they're a new beau or contractually bound spouse. Instead, head for either Landsort or Gällnö. Both of these isles offer lakes for dipping, crags for climbing, beaches for lounging and an endless array of cottages for cosying up in come evening. Visit in high summer, and there's seemingly endless daylight hours in which to relish the islets' natural bounty.

Where to stay: Archipelago House

Isles of Scilly

United Kingdom

They may be located 45km off England's south-west coast, but on a good day, the Isles of Scilly look like one of the Caribbean gems found on the other side of the Atlantic. Life here, as with its far-flung doppelgangers, runs on "island time", which makes it a strong option for couples who want to get away from city stresses. Pootle about St Mary's, a stony coastal village plucked straight from the pages of an Enid Blyton book, explore the overgrown shipwreck within the Tresco Abbey Garden, or simply pack a rucksack and spend the day skimming the remarkable azure coastline either on foot or by boat.

Where to stay: The New Inn

This article was updated on 3 February 2023. It contains affiliate links, which means SUITCASE may earn a small commission if you click through and book.

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