Europe’s most romantic cities


Por Christopher Beanland

Photography by StevanZZ/Getty Images

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Enero 2017

El atractivo romántico de Europa es innegable, ya sea por su majestuosa arquitectura, su grandeza de mundo antiguo o sus coquetas calles alejadas de las multitudes. Estas cinco ciudades encantadoras le devolverán esa sensación de romanticismo (y le convertirán en la envidia de sus amigos).

Lisboa

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.

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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.

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Quintessential Lisbon eatery Cervejaria Ramiro is a cervejaria – a charming bar that only Lisbon can do. 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 – which might have something to do with the fact it was built by the American Bridge Company, who constructed the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

    Explore Lisbon
  • Langoustines are served at Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisbon © Paulo Barata

    Pruébelo usted mismo...

    Tuck into tasty Portuguese tapas dishes at this quintessential Lisbon eatery. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 12:00-00:30, and on Sundays from 12:00-midnight (closed on Mondays).

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  • Lisboa es una de las capitales europeas más económicas © PEC Photo/Getty Images

    Sabía que...

    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.

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Venecia

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.

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With boutique style and refinement in spades, the chic Lagare Hotel Venezia Mgallery Collection has all the ingredients for a classy and romantic stay. Set in a dramatic former glass foundry on the famous island of Murano, there are plenty of cosy nooks and crannies.

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Book a table at Dopolovaro for a truly unforgettable dining experience. It starts by boarding a boat at Piazza San Marco and journeying over to a private island that used to be home to a hospital. There, you’ll be served exquisite Italian food featuring produce grown in the on-site garden. No wonder it earned a Michelin star in 2016. It’s worth noting that it’s open seasonally (from 7 April until October 2017), 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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Praga

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.

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Mixing history with modernism, the Hotel Cosmpolitan Prague is the perfect base for a romantic weekend in Prague – not least because it’s walking distance from the Charles Bridge. Its art nouveau exterior and cosy bar make it feel refined and stylish.

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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. Join a walking tour of the Old Town, which takes in Charles Bridge and the Vltava River, winding through the passageways of the old Jewish Quarter near to where Franz Kafka once lived, and up towards the castle.

Budapest

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.

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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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You won’t go home hungry after a meal at hip Menza. The cooking has plenty of hearty elements of traditional Hungarian cooking but with contemporary touches – think homemade tagliatelle with artichoke, sun-dried tomato and ricotta, and grilled ostrich fillet with sweet potato and mango chutney.

  • 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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Do

Visiting a spa is a must in Budapest – the city 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. Follow your day of pampering with a romantic Danube river dinner cruise, to see both sides of the city by night, followed by a dinner of Hungarian classics, such as paprika chicken with stuffed cabbage.

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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

    ¿Sabía que...?

    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

    Forget Valentine’s Day – 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, which is reciprocated by women giving men a book as a token of their eternal affection.

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H10 Marina Barcelona is most famous for its hip rooftop pool, which has graced hundreds of Instagram profiles. Slap bang in the middle of the pleasant Olympic Village, where the athletes stayed for the 1992 games, the hotel is right next to the Port Olimpic and the lovely, wide eastern beaches. The rooms are chic, modern and comfortable, with a classy nautical white-and-blue colour palette.

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Comer

The very best meal you can have at Arola is SVT – Sunday vermouth and tapas, a blitzkrieg of beautifully crafted Catalan small plates backed up with heady vermouth cocktails. 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

Move on from Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter to see the city’s cool east side past Barceloneta, where the beaches are quieter, the promenades are less crowded, and the gardens of Port Olimpic are ready for romantic strolls. Or you could do it on two wheels.

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