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Whether it’s newly ignited sparks or ever-enduring flames, choosing where to romance your significant other 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 an ever-nearing reality. To diffuse such situations, we’ve penned a fool-proof shortlist of romantic outposts for a weekend away.
11 alternative romantic destinations for modern lovebirds
Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden
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. On both of these islands you’ll find lakes for dipping, crags for climbing, beaches for lounging and an endless array of cottages for cosying up in the evening. Should you visit in high summer, you’ll have seemingly endless daylight hours in which to revel in the islets’ natural bounty, though you’ll likely have more of the islands to yourselves in spring.
Isles of Scilly, UK
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. Much like its transatlantic sisters, Scilly runs on “island time”, which makes it a strong option for lovebirds who want to get away from city stresses. Pootle about St Mary’s, a stony coastal village plucked straight off 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 remarkably azure coastlines either on foot or by boat.
Lord Byron came here in 1809 and declared it “the most beautiful [place] perhaps in the world”. Located in the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains, this romantic city is studded with pastel-coloured villas and palaces. A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 19th-century Pena National Palace is considered the city’s jewel. Surrounded by extensive parkland, the Moorish fortress – known for whimsical design and sweeping views – is one of the finest examples of fairy-tale Portuguese architecture. Just an hour from Lisbon, Sintra is a great option for a classically romantic break.
The fourth most visited city in Italy, Verona’s lasting appeal is in largely thanks to Romeo and Juliet. Couples visiting the city have been known to leave amorous letters at Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s house), a sign of everlasting love. But beyond the city’s literary value, Verona’s romantic weekend candidacy is stronghold. With a dynamic restaurant scene and a compact historic centre, the city is best explored in summer. Wander among frescoed churches before dining on Piazza Bra (the largest piazza in Verona) and take in an opera at the Arena – conveniently located on the same street.
Abuzz with activity, the red city is the ideal location for couples with varying interests. Take a hot-air balloon at sunrise and plot the weekend ahead from the skies. Start by exploring the ruins of the Badi Palace, before setting your sights on the Musée Yves Saint Laurent – adjacent to Le Jardin Majorelle – followed by a couples’ hammam spa treatment at Terre Resort and Spa – the only hammam in Marrakech that allows simultaneous treatments. 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 charming beach in Essaouira.
As the choice location of Chanel’s 15th Métiers d’Art (and the birthplace of Karl Lagerfeld) Hamburg’s present is an exciting one. Teeming with multicultural eateries and architectural marvels, including a shimmering new Elbphilharmonie concert hall, Germany’s second city is a hybrid of new and old. A strong contender for practical pairs, the city is easy to navigate and nonchalant in pace. With a compact centre, Hamburg’s museum mile takes in five major galleries; the Deichtorhallen houses contemporary art and photography and the Kunsthalle – home to one of Europe’s largest art collections – are both worth dog-earring in your guidebook. Spend Sunday exploring the weekly market that sprawls along the Elbe and scout out the harbour-side venues that house the city’s distinctive electronic-music scene. An ideal spot for couples who find Paris gauche.
The world’s most northerly capital is home to some pretty dramatic landscapes. With its multitude of geothermal lagoons, glacial and volcanic marvels, it’s easy to recognise Iceland’s allure. Reykjavik’s proximity to the countryside makes it a the best option for explorers to base themselves. The Golden Circle takes in Iceland’s key natural wonders, including the Gullfoss waterfall and the geothermal area in Haukadalur. Come in winter and cuddle up in a hot tub while watching the northern lights or visit in the summer and dive between tectonic plates in Silfra.
A fairy-tale medieval town, Bruges’ picturesque cobbled streets and mystical canals are the things of dreams. Start your day among the bells at the top of the Belfort and take in a panoramic view of the city below. Contained within a ring of canals – the prettiest being the Green Canal – the historic centre is best explored on foot. Split your time between ogling over the city’s imposing churches and visiting some of the city’s 50 chocolate shops.
From the palazzo-packed baroque town of Perast to Tivat’s super-yacht marina, Montenegro is experiencing a rather lavish revival. For a romantic escape to the Adriatic, the butterfly-shaped bay of Kotor a top contender. The UNESCO-protected town is a medieval maze of museums, churches and café-strewn squares. Come nightfall, the majestic streets of the walled town are abuzz with bars, live music and castle-top clubs With the anticipated arrival of the Chedi to Lustica Bay and similarly sleek five-star hotels, Kotor’s popularity is set to grow exponentially over the coming year.
High Tatras, Slovakia
Brave of heart, listen up. This one’s a make-or-break option that will really put your compatibility to the test. Hike from one mountain cabin to the next following the fuzzy peaks of Slovakia’s High Tatras mountains or follow the Tatranská Magistrala trail, a majestic but little-known route that takes about four days to complete. 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. It’s the Alps as they might have looked 100 years ago: no tourists, plastic pollution or chain hotels in sight.
St Petersburg, Russia
Constructed out of marshland by Peter the Great in 1703, the sheer grandeur of Russia’s imperial capital never fails to amaze. With colourful onion-domed churches, musical prodigies, gilt subways and caviar-laden blinis for every meal, St Petersburg is a lexicon of culture. The former home to great romantics Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky, no trip to the “Paris of the North” is complete without a visit to the historic Mariinsky theatre. Don’t miss a trip to the opera or ballet, a magical spectacle that will add to your general warm glow.
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