Cupid’s wings are fluttering for the most loved-up month of the year. With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, why not leave the roses at the florist and take your other half on a mini break!
Travelling doesn’t mean you have to go to the other side of the world. You can experience all the thrills of a holiday by jetting off to Europe—somewhere that’s just a couple of hours away! So pack a weekend bag and whisk yourself away to some of the EU’s most romantic cities on a mini break this Valentine’s.
Travel time: 4h 30m
Almost unchanged since the renaissance, the narrow and winding streets of Florence just ooze romance. There is a lot to explore here, so you’re going to have to plan your weekend carefully or risk getting lost in just one magical place. Visit one of the countless art galleries featuring works by the great Leonardo DaVinci and Michelangelo; wander around the architectural wonders of the cities countless squares, or try something a little different this Valentine’s Day.
For a more subdued visit, wander around The Oltrarno in Florence’s Southbank area. A recent focus on tourism has elevated a once forgotten area into an indie travel destination. The square that used to reside itself as a car park is now a hotspot for artisan trade, offering trinkets and workshops. Ceramicists, carpenters and jewellery-makers sell their crafts alongside beautiful historical buildings, now repurposed as unique bars and restaurants.
Sample the region’s delicious wines and get love-drunk on one of Italy’s most captivating and romantic cities.
Make time to: watch the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo. This place is a key piece of any romantic itinerary. Do as the bronze cast of Michelangelo’s David does and look out to the centre of Florence while the sky darkens. Share a pizza and a bottle of wine, finish with a gelato on the riverbank and unleash your inner romantic on this Valentine’s mini break.
Prague, Czech Republic
Travel time: 3h 30m
The gothic architecture of the historic Old Town area of Prague has given it the nickname “The Town of a Hundred Spires”; and a backdrop that could rival even Paris in the romance stakes.
To get the best experience of Prague, stick to the Malá Strana (Lesser Quarter), Staré Město (Old Town), and Nové Město (New Town). Each of the areas has a distinct charm for you to fall in love with.
It’s the Staré Město that most people think of when you say Prague. The main attractions (Old Town Square, The Astronomical Clock and St. Nicholas Church) are popular amongst tourists looking to learn about the city’s rich 700-year history. If you’re looking to party, then head to Nové Město. During the day, pedestrians wander Wenceslas Square, but at night it’s awash with party-goers.
Cross over the Vlatava River via the Charles Bridge pedestrian crossing and you will find The Malá Strana. This is the diplomatic quarter, so expect grandiose buildings, lavish restaurants and peaceful gardens. The lack of traditional tourists makes the area more intimate and relaxed. Don’t forget to make the most of this calmer vibe and pop into a traditional beer house!
Make time to: learn about all that Prague has to offer is to take a vintage car tour. Cuddle up to your nearest and dearest in a 1920’s Czech-made vehicle and let your guide show you the sites, such as the Old Town, Jewish Quarter and Prague Castle.
Travel time: 5h 40m
This UNESCO World Heritage Site looks as if it was taken from a postcard. The medieval fort town’s whitewash walls and terracotta rooves are framed on one side by an ancient 2km wall; and on the other, the crystal clear water of the Adriatic Sea.
Romance is rife in this alluring city. Stroll through the historic streets, let the smell of lavender guide you through the local markets or catch the cable car to the top of the hill of Srdj to enjoy its unique vistas.
The obvious draw of this city is the beaches. While it’s a little chilly in February (around 5 °C), the pure white sand and azure waters are still an amazing place to spend a mini break with someone you love on Valentine’s Day.
Make time to: see the ocean from a beachside restaurant. Most of the beaches in Dubrovnik have their own beachside bars and restaurants. Being right by the sea, you have to sample the fresh seafood in front of where it was caught. Lovers of shellfish should opt for a Buzzara, or shellfish cooked in white wine, garlic, olive oil and parsley through the Croatian brodet (fish stew) is equally as delicious.
Travel time: 4h 50m
Lisbon is the hilly capital of Portugal, a place where the beach frames a relaxed, café-culture lifestyle. Classical bleached white limestone buildings are home to contemporary museums, wine bars and restaurants.
For those of you who like to spend your evenings out-on-the-town then head to the Bairro Alto district. This urban expanse is home to over 100 bars and restaurants, filled with the finest wines and Portuguese delicacies—at an affordable price. It’s a tradition to grab your drinks in the bar and then head outside to drink and converse. Take your night a step further by visiting the Largo de Santos, Docas and Av. 24 de Julho street areas, where you can find a club and dance the night away.
Climb up the winding hill paths to see Cristo Rei, a statue of Jesus placed with fantastic views of the city below. Travel further towards the city’s edge and you’ll find endless stretches of forest and vineyards—a great place to have a picnic.
Make time to: see the oldest district in Lisbon, The Alfama. Hop on the famous Tram 28 and take a tour of the oldest neighbourhood in Lisbon. Stood in the shadow of the mediaeval Castle of São Jorge, the snaking medieval alleys and cobbled squares hold a lot of history that’s just waiting to be discovered.
Travel time: 1h 20m
Perhaps the most traditional Valentine’s mini break on our list is Paris, The City of Love. Rather than attaching a love-lock to one of the cities main bridges, or climbing the Eiffel tower, why not create your own romantic adventure?
Escape the crowded tourist hotspots by getting active and hitting the water. While a boat tour of this great city is available, paddling yourself around is way higher on the romantic scale. Places like Lac Inférieur offer paddle boats for two to hire and are usually less crowded.
For those who would rather explore the city, Paris is renowned for its retail scene. Those who are drawn to the pedestrian or designer goods must visit the Avenue des Champs Elysées, but for those looking for a more boutique experience, then the emerging Rue de Charonn would be a better bet.
If all that rowing/shopping has made you hungry, then sample another of France’ss greatest triumphs— its cuisine. Countless cafes, brasseries and boulangeries—to name a few—can be found nearby, no matter your location.
Make time to: enjoy a meal, Lady and the Tramp-style. Create your own meatball moment by visiting one of Paris’ many side-alley restaurants. Though we’d stay away from onion soup if you plan on getting amorous this Valentine’s!
Are you planning to go on a mini break this Valentine’s? Let us know in the comments.