Whilst I’m not really one to fawn over grand romantic gestures, I have taken up the challenge to get into a romantic mindset for the purpose of this blog post. By putting myself in the shoes of a hopeless romantic, I have highlighted a selection of places to visit in Europe for that lovin’ feelin’!
Despite my lack of romantic tendencies, I can definitely get caught up in the romance of exploring new cities and the possibilities of the unknown. I often find myself in some of these unfamiliar places thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to share this moment with somebody?’. For me, and for others, romance lies heavily in discovering new things and forging memories together.
Whatever you’re into; Gothic architecture, classic literature, sumptuous cuisine, art galleries, grand palaces or tiny little pubs, there’s so much romanticism to found in Europe.
Scotland’s capital city is the very picture of romance with its castles, fine-dining, elegant architecture and Arthur’s Seat, described by Robert Louis Stevenson as ‘a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design’. In other areas of the city, you’ll find a myriad of cobbled streets lined with pretty stone buildings, medieval tenements and cosy-looking bars. If that were not enough, the Scottish accent will surely make you swoon for more.
Few places can compare to Venice, a city surrounded by water and submerged in so much beauty it could make an old dog weep. Make waves on a gondola ride through the canals, walk hand in hand down one of the many hidden-away bridges, enjoy a stroll down the piazzas and St Mark’s Square, or experience world-famous art at the Peggy Guggenheim museum. Basically, anywhere in Venice is perfect for romance!
Not the most obvious choice when we have Barcelona, but there’s something incredibly charming about Spain’s 3rd largest city. A place where historical buildings merge beautifully with modern architecture, and where the heart of this city truly lies in its appetite for good food. In a city that’s considerably overlooked, it’s easy to feel like you’ve stumbled across something that has just been created for the two of you. Make sure you try out a cosy taberna for dinner.
I remember sitting in Krakow’s main square, surrounded by a feast of elaborate architecture once intended for the aristocracy. Horse drawn carriages trotted past, lovers entwined passed me by, young girls climbed on the monument of Adam Mickiewicz – Poland’s greatest Romantic Poet – and took photographs whilst a man playing his guitar could be faintly heard. The simple pleasure of sitting and watching the world pass by filled me with so much satisfaction I didn’t want to move. If you come here on a romantic getaway, you’ll end up enchanted with Krakow even if you’re not enchanted by each other!
A list of Europe’s most romantic cities without Paris wouldn’t be a list worth reading, right? A city where so many poets and artists have been inspired and called their home. Where you can kiss the grave of Oscar Wilde and give Victor Noir a rub or two with your hand, cruise along the river Seine, dance under the Eiffel Tower, stride hand in hand down the Champs-Élysées, admire Rodin’s sculptures and shed a tear for Camille Claudel. But perhaps the best thing to do in Paris is just relax and watch the world go by over a glass of red wine.
Castles, cathedrals, cobbled streets and colourful houses make Prague one of the prettiest cities in the world. But whilst it’s pretty, it’s also dark and Gothic – where pretty pastel houses sit side by side with decorative gargoyles – creating an interesting schism between the beautiful and the monstrous. Speaking of monstrous, Hitler was said to have loved Prague so much that it was spared destruction and instead its preservation was ordered. Surely that nugget of information describes the power of Prague’s emotive beauty, eh?
Stockholm’s old town, Gamla Stan is a picturesque neighbourhood, perfect just to wander around whilst imagining the likes of Greta Garbo pottering around from a bygone era. Don’t miss the chance of getting a panoramic view of the city from one of its vantage points. You could climb up the spiral staircase of the bell tower by the City Hall to see Stockholm in her entirety, brimming with bridges, water and bold Baltic architecture.
London’s romance lies in its bursting sense of life. No two days are the same, there’s always something to see and do, which gives rise to doing things on a whim – the romantic movement of impulse. If that’s not enough, head to Hampstead Heath and imagine John Keats writing one of his lyrical masterpieces, potter through the winding alleyways of Soho which was William Blake’s old haunt, or the French House where Dylan Thomas and Francis Bacon used to head for a drink. If your night isn’t over, venture to South Bank and walk along the Thames and see the sky filled with city lights.
Located in the heart of Europe is the imperial city of Vienna. It is famous worldwide as one of the most romantic cities in Europe because of its trotting white horses, imperial palaces, lush gardens, chandelier-lit coffeehouses, and fine wines. A city where Gustave Klimt and Egon Schiele hang from the walls, showcasing human emotion in its rawest sense, often naked and exposed for the audience to see.
Budapest is often mentioned as the Paris of the East, but it holds its own among Europe’s most well-loved cities. Indeed, the 19th century elegant architecture, the bustling city life, dimly-lit restaurants, streets lined with cafes, the house of Parliament in all its Gothic glory, and last but not least, the sights of couples holding hands along the River Danube ensure you’ll get swept up in the romance of Budapest.
Stunning views, quaint promenades, charming architecture and crumbling tiled facades will take you back in time when visiting Lisbon. Its combination of beautiful architecture and little cafes and cosy restaurants really make Lisbon stand out as a city filled with romance. If time permits, catch the 45-minute train journey to Sintra where you’ll find several palaces in various architectural styles, and which Lord Byron lamented “palaces and gardens rising in the midst of rocks, cataracts and precipices; convents on stupendous heights . . .”
While you might associate it with a rather spicier type of “amour”, Amsterdam certainly has a softer side that can be found as you explore the city on foot or bicycle (what’s more romantic than journeying through a new city by bike?). With its boutique hotels, romantic restaurants, canal-side strolls, heaps of cheese and wine, as well as its cheeky side, Amsterdam is the city to go to for unlimited amounts of fun together.
Growing up in Yorkshire, this city has had a reputation for being romantic for as long as I can remember. It’s a place you go when you’re dating or want to treat your partner to a special day out. Few cities in the world can rival York for history and charm, with a picturesque river, huge cathedral and medieval city centre encircled by a stretch of ancient walls. Don’t miss The Shambles (pictured) known for its timber-framed buildings dating back from the 14th century.
Saving the best for last is Petersburg, a city so beautiful it’ll make you weep. At one point in my life, I may have given the title of Europe’s most beautiful city to Venice or Paris, but I couldn’t possibly say that now I’ve been to St Petersburg. Elegant yet statuesque, if St Petersburg were a woman she’d bring even Casanova down onto his knees. Steeped in mysticism, the city transports you to another world belonging to some of the most dramatic periods in European history. The sense of grandeur left behind from the Tsar Empire is omnipresent, for Catherine the Great was a woman of high extravagance. She made it one of her life’s missions to project St Petersburg as a sight of intense beauty, and it’s safe to say she succeeded alright.