Europe’s most romantic cities


By Christopher Beanland

Photography by StevanZZ/Getty Images

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Updated December 2018

What is it that makes city breaks so romantic? Find a special corner of these romantic European cities to call your own. We've picked our top five – perfect whether you're in the first flush of romance, or celebrating an anniversary ending in '0'.

Lisbon

Portugal’s capital is the perfect place for food, fun and fashion, with bars, restaurants and boutiques galore – and it’s also one of Europe’s best value capitals. Its hilly locale creates some dramatic backdrops for romantic selfies a deux.

Stay

PortoBay Marques is a relaxed, attractive hotel that is perfectly situated to explore Lisbon’s historic nooks and crannies. It’s also a welcoming place to come back to after a long day on the city’s tiled streets.

Eat

Quintessential Lisbon eatery Cervejaria Ramiro is a cervejaria – a charming Portuguese beer house. It’s cute, small, packed with locals and, crucially, serves amazing food that is sure to impress your other half. Expect Portuguese tapas dishes such as salt cod, pork and beef sandwiches, and local cheeses that match perfectly with a beer or a glass of Duoro.

Do

Head down to the city’s regenerated waterfront for a taste of true Lisbon. The magnificent Ponte 25 de Abril bridge celebrated 50 glorious years in 2016. You might think you’ve taken a wrong turn because it’s unmistakeably a homage to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. There are marvellous views of the Tagus River and the city behind it as you cross to the south side. Don’t miss a day trip to the fairy-tale hillside town of Sintra, with its pastel-coloured villas and palaces, followed by the beachside Estoril and the delightful harbour of Cascais, which is home to dozens of fantastic fish restaurants.

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  • Lisbon’s Ponte 25 de Abril bridge offers spellbinding views of the Tagus River © Hilary Morgan / Alamy

    In suspense

    The suspension bridge that connects the Portuguese capital to the municipality of Almada has a striking resemblance to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

    Book a Lisbon tour
  • Langoustines are served at Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisbon © Paulo Barata

    Try it for yourself…

    Cervejaria Ramiro serves traditional Lisboan food. It's closed on Mondays, but any other day of the week you can visit for a langoustine-heavy lunch or dinner.

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  • Lisbon is one of Europe’s best value capitals © PEC Photo/Getty Images

    Did you know...

    Lisbon has one of the mildest climates in Europe. The city receives up to 3,300 hours of sunshine a year, which is more than the South of France and the Greek islands. Fly from London to Lisbon from:£44 each-way

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Venice

What can be said about Venice that hasn’t already been said by the great writers and artists who visited the city? With its unparallelled watery surroundings, this is one of the most remarkable cities in the world. And it can be surprisingly intimate and quiet if you venture away from Piazza San Marco and towards one of its many hidden corners.

Stay

One hidden corner of the city is the amazing interior of Ca'Sagredo Hotel, with its be-frescoed walls. Stay here if you want a room with gold leaf and a chandelier.

There's no better place for romance than the Sina Centurion Palace. It really is a former palace, with a gothic revival facade, luxurious rooms, and a hidden courtyard garden. Try and grab one of the canal-facing rooms: so you can be reminded that you're sleeping in the most romantic city in the world.

Eat

For a special anniversary, head to Dopolovaro. You'll board a boat at Piazza San Marco and be swept to a private island, where the restaurant, part of the JW Marriott Venice, sits in splendidly seductive isolation. Awarded a Michelin star in 2016, it serves exquisite Italian food. It’s worth noting that it’s open seasonally (April to September), and is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Do

Another unexplored corner of this magnificent city lies out in the lagoon – the islands of Murano and Burano. Picture-perfect views of shambling streets and creaking buildings will warm your heart, and you can take home locally blown glass as a present.

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Prague

Prague’s beguiling combination of Gothic buildings and communist modern marvels is a delectable proposition. Second-hand bookstores, literary heritage and hearty food tops off this Mitteleuropa capital’s classic offering.

Stay

A romantic setting (just six minutes from Charles Bridge) and a modern luxury interior make the Mandarin Oriental Prague a classy choice. Expect underfloor heating in your bathroom and a cloud of goose-feather duvet on your bed.

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Eat

If there’s one reason to forgo Prague’s hearty cuisine, it’s the Italian food at Divnis. Run by Czech TV super chef Zdenek Pohlreich – one of the city’s most famous restaurateurs – it’s an impossibly romantic dinner spot where you can both play out that scene from Lady and the Tramp. Order spaghetti if you’re feeling in the mood for ostentatious PDAs.

Do

One of the most surprising and fascinating sights to see is the 1960s Zizkov TV Tower, which you can glimpse from all around the city. Take to the top for a great sunset view or just admire the weird art works on the side. But no trip to Prague is complete without learning about its rich history. Book a sightseeing trip, and a bus will take you to Prague Castle, St Vitus Cathedral, and across the Vltava River.

Budapest

  • Unwind in Budapest’s Gellert Bath Spa

    There’s something in the water

    The spring waters of Gellert were discovered in the 15th century. Legend has it that the geothermal waters have natural healing powers. Why not try it for yourself?

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Budapest is a true city of two halves: the hilly, craggy and ancient Buda sits on one side of the Danube River, while the handsome, storied and formal Pest graces the other. The Danube is the important artery running through the city, which is famous for its natural thermal springs and unparralelled spas.

Stay

Budapest’s Hilton has all the essentials for a romantic weekend away – big rooms with great views and a nice bar to relax in with a glass of wine before you head off to dinner.

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Eat

The fantastic Menza restaurant helps you really get to the heart of Hungarian cooking. It's brilliantly retro interior is an instant talking point, and a hoard of waiting staff mean that you'll want for nothing – whether you order a second cherry strudel at the last minute, or want to ask about their extensive coffee menu.

Do

The Danube unravels through Budapest like a satin ribbon, and a daytime cruise of its beautiful blue waters is a must. Afterwards, a visit to a spa is in order. Budapest sits on a network of almost 125 thermal springs, and bathing in the mineral-rich waters has been a unique way of life here that since the Roman times. A day at the famous Gellert Bath Spa will leave you relaxed and re-invigorated.

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Barcelona

Sun, sea, city and sand… Barcelona has got it all. There’s the Gothic splendour of Gaudi, the all-night bars, the pretty squares with cobbled streets, the fishing villages, the mountains, the other-worldly modernist architecture and, of course, food to die for.

  • Head the beaches east of Barceloneta to escape the crowds in Barcelona

    Did you know… ?

    There were no beaches in Barcelona until 1992, when the city hosted the Olympic Games. Seven artificial beaches were created on the formerly industrial 4.5km coastline of the city – which are now voted as some of the best city beaches in the world by National Geographic.

    Fly to Barcelona
  • Cover more ground in Barcelona on two wheels © Morsa Images/Getty Images

    Move up a gear

    Joining a cycling tour is the best way to soak up the sights and different neighbourhoods of Barcelona – including La Sagrada Familia, Vila Olimpica and Barceloneta beach. The half-day ends with a break at an outdoor beach bar – so pack your swimsuit for to take a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean.

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  • Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia © Getty Images

    Loved up

    Saint George Day (or Dia de Sant Jordi) is Barcelona’s day of love. The tradition is for men to give a rose to women as a sign of love. Fly from London to Barcelona from:£29 each-way

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Stay

Skimming the seafront, the W Barcelona is right on Barceloneta, Barcelona’s main beach. You’ll feel like a power couple when you pop up from your room to the roof terrace, where they serve enormous G&Ts. There's also an adults-only pool.

Eat

Try incredible tapas at Arola located in the classy Hotel Arts Barcelona. Chef Sergi Arola’s creative a la carte menu also makes it ideal for a dinner date (not least because of the gorgeous sea views). Be sure to order a pre-dinner cocktail – the ingredients are grown in the garden that surrounds the dining area and put together by the mixologists with the utmost care.

Do

Once you've cherry-picked your way through Barcelona's key sights, move on from Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter to see the city’s cool east side. Past busy Barceloneta, the beaches are quieter, the promenades are less crowded, and the gardens of Port Olimpic are ready for romantic strolls. And you could tour the city on two wheels with ease on a bike tour.