Called by some the City of Light, but better known as the City of Love, Paris has cast a shadow over the many other romantic gems that Europe has to offer. But perhaps taking a photo with your significant other with dozens of other couples in the background is not your scene, or maybe you find the romance Paris sells too contrived. If either of those are the case, here are some great alternatives for a romantic getaway that doesn’t feel like the restaurant from First Dates.
- Girona, Spain
Girona’s picturesque houses, gothic architecture and excellent museums make it the perfect Spanish alternative to Paris. There are actually a few references to the great City of Love throughout this small Catalonian town, first and foremost with a map of Paris painted on the ceiling of the tourist office, as well as the Pont des Peixateires, whose design is inspired by the Eiffel tower. But if you’re looking for something more local, check out the riverside social hub at Rambla de la Lliberat, host to shops, charming cafés and even a flower market on Saturdays. In addition, this city has an incredible food scene, with the Michelin star El Cellar de Can Roca having a 12-month long waiting list. However, if you’re not able to plan a whole year in advance, the Roca brothers have a Willy Wonka style gelato shop just around the corner, which allows you to enjoy their award-winning creativity for a fraction of the price.
- Seillans, France
If you want Paris without the overcrowding, this small French provincial town is a prime location. Surrounded by lush greenery, the charming labyrinth of narrow streets winds through historic churches and quaint local shops. With the cobbled streets and the breath-taking views, you would be forgiven for thinking you were on the set of Luca Guadagnino’s next romantic film. The gastronomy is delightful, with the local restaurants producing delicious seasonal food from the surrounding area. If this quiet getaway was good enough for Liz Taylor and Hugh Grant, then it’s certainly good enough for the likes of us!
- Salzburg, Austria
Home of Mozart and The Sound of Music, this is the best city break for those wanting to re-enact their own great period romance. Lose yourself in the highly decorated churches, see the city from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage, or perhaps climb up into the hills to do your own version of ‘The Hills are Alive.’ The only thing more dreamy than the city itself is the beautiful love story between Captain Georg von Trapp and Maria Kutschera.
- Tromso, Norway
Tromso is a slightly colder destination, so make sure you’re bringing someone you want to share a sleeping bag with! This city promotes itself as the largest northernmost settlement in the world. This inevitably comes at the price of long nights and cold weather. But with these long nights comes an incredible display of the northern lights which will make even the most reserved lovers swoon. In addition, this city hosts the administrative centre of its municipality as well as innovative architecture and design. If you’re looking for somewhere cool with a difference, this is the place for you.
- Ljubljana, Slovenia
Perhaps slightly lesser known, but by no means any less beautiful, Ljubljana will take your breath away. You wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that you were in the fairy-tale kingdom of Far, Far Away, as the pristine streets evoke Fiona’s famous hometown. In true fairy-tale style, Ljubljana boasts an incredible castle with amazing views of the city below. To really feel like a royal couple, eat at the castle’s restaurant which is set into the old archers’ towers and which overlooks the city’s sparkling skyline. But if you’re looking for an activity with less hill-climbing, drop in to the Central Market, where you will be able to find the best local produce for amazing prices — ideal if you’re planning to cook a romantic meal for two.
- Prague, Czech Republic
Quickly becoming Europe’s hot new destination, Prague’s culture and beautiful surroundings will sweep you off your feet. This capital city has it all: parties, food, culture and museums, thus making it the perfect destination for those looking for a varied and exciting trip. In addition to the rich culture, it’s cheap, allowing you to make grand gestures for half the price. For an extra dose of romance, visit one of the cosy local taverns selling the country’s trademark Pilsner, or just wander around trying not to fall more in love with the architecture than with your significant other.
- Budapest, Hungary
Better known for being a group holiday destination, this cheap and beautiful city is full of romantic gems which will truly charm you. As this city is also known as the capital city for spas, visiting the baths is one of the most obvious and romantic things to do. Must see baths include the Rudas Baths, which remains one of the oldest in the city at almost 500 years old. Or, pay a visit to the Gellert Baths, renowned for its stunning Art Deco interiors. Take your love of water further and see the city by boat down the Danube river, or, if you’re really wanting a bit of Parisian romance, you can lock in your love on Budapest’s very own padlock bridge.
- Sintra, Portugal
Midway between Lisbon and Porto, Sintra is a picturesque town with a rich history. The verdant landscape adds a sense of intrigue to the cobbled streets, whilst the hilly nature of the town provides breathtaking views along with your daily dose of rigourous exercise. For a bit of sightseeing, head to the Pene Palace, which looks down over the town — although be warned, this is not for those with a fear of heights. Wander back through the leafy forest and be transported to a time before cars or technology. The food this town has to offer is magnificent, with tapas bars serving the local delicacies on small and affordable sharing plates. This charming location provides all the culture of Portugal without the crowds of some of its larger cities, making this a scenic destination to remember.