Valentine’s Day, also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is celebrated annually on February 14. Originating as a Western Christian feast day honoring one or two early saints named Valentinus, Valentine’s Day is recognized as a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and romantic love in many regions around the world, although it is not a public holiday in any country.
Valentine’s Day customs developed in early modern England and spread throughout the English-speaking world in the 19th century. In the later 20th and early 21st centuries, these customs spread to other countries, but their effect has been more limited than those of Hallowe’en, or than aspects of Christmas, (such as Santa Claus).
Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many East Asian countries with Singaporeans, Chinese and South Koreans spending the most money on Valentine’s gifts.
Although love does not understand dates, Valentine is the ideal excuse to make a special getaway and creating unforgettable memories with the person you love the most. And for that, there is no shortage of places in the world to unleash passion.
Sun or cold, city or countryside, close or far … choose the option that best suits your tastes and start making plans for Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day Trip Offers in Europe
Valentine’s Day is the perfect occasion for finding and checking into that perfect room or suite. Pop the question on Valentine’s Day, celebrate an anniversary and enjoy romantic moments together at one of these unique hotels, resorts and inns. Whether you love beaches, islands, golf or city destinations, the properties that made our list offer exceptional accommodations that will make your trip fun and memorable. Here are some of the best Valentine’s weekend getaways.
Perfect getaways for Valentine’s Day
Snowflakes blowing across the Charles Bridge, music recitals in candelit churches, underground bars, firelit restaurants serving huge plates of comfort food and fine red wines… How could your lover fail to be won over? Forget worries about rampaging stag parties – Prague has withstood far worse in its 1,000-year history, and its charms remain undiminished. Sip cocktails among the beautiful people at Tretters (V Kolkovne 3), or plunder the impressive wine cellar at Monarch (Na Perstyne 15), before dinner at Nostress (Dusni 10), an elegant fusion restaurant.
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor used to escape to this beautiful Croatian city for a bit of holiday loving, and it still has the right atmosphere for a glamorous romantic break. The centre of the compact walled town is full of gorgeous boutiques and unusual jewellery stores (in case gifts are in order), pretty cafes with flower-filled gardens (should the Mediterranean sun make an appearance) and tiny bars with plenty of private nooks and crannies.
Exotic, frenetic and and utterly unique, Istanbul is European Capital of Culture in 2010 (en.istanbul21010.org), meaning that as well as the beautiful mosques and chaotic bazaars, there’s a whole range of new exhibitions, shows and galleries to explore. The city can be hectic, so to slow things down and keep a romantic feel, stay on Heybeliada, one of the Princes’ Islands that lie just a short ferry ride from the centre of the city. There is no traffic on the island so the best way to explore the stunning Byzantine monasteries and Greek Orthodox churches is by bike or horse-drawn carriage. Stay at the Karamanyan, a mansion converted into four stylish apartments.
There is something hugely romantic about disappearing through an unmarked door in the medina into a coolly elegant hotel or ornately tiled cafe. Many of the riads in Marrakech have roof terraces where you can laze together, glass of wine in hand, watching the sun set over the rooftops, while the hustle and bustle carries on in the streets below. Stay at the elegant Riad Kniza. The owner, Mohammed Bouskri, has 50 years of guiding experience, and hundreds of tales to tell.
Coffee, cake, coffee, more cake – there are plenty of opportunities to spend time gazing into each other’s eyes in Vienna’s elegant coffee houses. Going for a February weekend means you’ll have a good chance of snow, but that will just add to the romance. If you’re a couple who thrive on intellectual discussion, drop into Café Central (Herrengasse 14), preferred hangout of Lenin and Trotsky in their pre-revolution days, or for more basic stimulation try a hot Buchtel (jam-filled bun) at Café Hawelka (Dorotheergasse 6).
One of the best things about Valentine’s Day is that it’s a good excuse for a glass or three and a slap-up supper after a parsimonious January. The Shropshire town of Ludlow is a great place for foodies – though getting a table at Mr Underhill’s, last week named best restaurant in Britain by the Harden’s restaurant guide, might be tricky. Instead, you could follow the sausage trail to the six butchers in town (perfect for a Valentine morning’s fry-up), pick up some yummy cheeses at the Little Big Cheese Shop, and stop for pastries at De Grey’s coffee shop. .
Medieval Bruges must be one of the most romantic and beautiful cities in Europe, just made for slow strolls with a lover along canals and cobbled streets, and with dozens of lovely warm restaurants for a few hours of Belgian beer-fuelled heart-to-hearts. You can’t visit Bruges without having a plate of moules marinière, follow it up with handmade chocolates and sipping a cup of hot chocolate at De Proeverie (Katelijnestraat 6) and trying one (or several) of the many beers at ‘t Brugs Beertje (Kemelstraat 5).
Italians love their food, and if you’re after a foodie break on a budget, Turin – the country’s capital of the aperitivo – is the ultimate treat. Starting at about 6pm, the grand old cafes and bars in the central grid of streets lay on sumptuous buffets to accompany early-evening drinks… and best of all, they’re free (just don’t tell your date that). Make sure you try the famous grissini (breadsticks). Mingle with the locals at Caffè Roberto at Via Po 5 and Caffè San Carlo on Piazza San Carlo, then, if you’re still peckish, head for dinner at one of the city’s elegant world restaurants, serving Piedmonte’s specialities, such as porcini mushrooms and (when in season) white truffles.
9. SAN SEBASTIáN
With more Michelin stars per capita than any other city, San Sebastián on the north coast of Spain is a mecca for foodies, and can be lovely at this time of year, with few tourists and mild weather. Work up an appetite with a walk along the palm-studded Playa de la Concha or through the old town, before feasting on pintxos – Basque tapas – in Bar Txepetxa (C/Pescadería 5), known for award-winning anchovies, or Bar Bergara (C/Artetze Jeneralaren Kalea 8), where the pintxos are like mini works of art. Or push the boat out at Zuberoa (00 34 943 491 228; zuberoa.com), a two-Michelin-starred restaurant in a 14th-century farmhouse in nearby Iturriotz.
10. THE ISLE OF WIGHT
The Isle of Wight a gourmet destination? Well yes, actually. Away from the family-filled summer months, the island is blissfully peaceful, with plenty of just-long-enough-to-justify-a-pig-out walking routes, interrupted with unspoilt beaches and excellent gastropubs. Try the New Inn at Shalfleet (01983 531314; thenew-inn.co.uk) or the Red Lion at Freshwater (01983 754925). If you feel like a splurge, book the Valentine’s package at the Hambrough hotel in Ventnor in the south of the island, with a six-course dinner in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant on the Saturday, including langoustines, champagne and canapés, plus a bottle of champers in the room and, yes, more bubbles at breakfast. It costs £230pp, including ferry crossings from Portsmouth to Fishbourne or Lymington to Yarmouth.
If there’s one thing that takes the romance out of a stay in rural Tuscany, it’s falling over other holidaying Brits. Head to the hills in February, however, and you may have this beautiful countryside all to yourself. Stay at Il Ruscello, a beautifully restored watermill for two people, with terracotta floors, beamed ceilings, exposed stone and French doors opening out onto a terrace. The picturesque village of Comano is close by and the surrounding area of Lunigiana is famous for its castles and the ancient Roman town of Luni.
As peaceful retreats for two go, The Orchard, set deep in rural Dorset near Sturminster Newton, ticks all the boxes. Pull back the curtains of this one-bedroom, weatherboarded cottage and you have endless views of open fields and the orchard from which the property takes its name. Don your walking boots for a ramble, visit the nearby towns of Bath, Shaftesbury or Salisbury, and then wrap up warm for a meal on the decked terrace.
British snow is all very well, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the gleaming white mountains of the Tyrol. For an unforgettable Valentine’s break, curl up in your own igloo in the Alpeniglu village in the heart of the Kitzbuehler Alps. Couples ride up the mountain on the Hochbrixen gondola and can then take a torchlit stroll through the forest and have a candlelit supper in the igloo dining room before snuggling up in super-cosy sleeping bags on an ice bed for two swathed in fur. Eat breakfast while watching the sun rise over the empty pistes – then ski down before the crowds arrive.
On a crisp winter’s day the North York Moors are spectacular. Near Osmotherly on the edge of the national park is Mount Grace Priory, a 14th-century monastery. Nestling against the walls of the original manor house is a stunning place to stay: the single-story Prior’s Lodge. Residents have the grounds to themselves before the priory opens to the public at 10am each day. The cottage is ideally placed for romantic walks across the moors and along the Cleveland Way long-distance footpath.
Perched on the edge of Martletwy village and surrounded by rolling fields on three sides, the two-bedroom Tin Bungalow is perfect for an away-from-it-all weekend. When you’re not curled up in the glass sun room lapping up those views, take a walk to the Daugleddau Estuary or to Cresselly Arms at Cresswell Quay, an old fashioned country pub serving real ale, both just two miles away. There’s even a shed for storing bikes.
Britain’s beaches are often at their best beneath sharp, blue winter skies – and the long stretch of sand at Southwold is particularly lovely when there’s barely anyone else to share it with. The area is surrounded by creeks, marshes and reed beds where you can have fun bird-watching or fishing for crabs before enjoying a warming pint by the fire in the Lord Nelson.
17. ILE DE RE
The pretty clapboard houses and cobbled streets of the Ile de Ré – a small island linked to the French city of La Rochelle by road bridge – are idyllic at any time of the year, with long sandy beaches and pine forests to explore on foot or by bike. The island is also home to the fabulous Hôtel de Toiras, a classically French hotel situated at the entrance to the port of Saint Martin de Ré, the atmospheric and historic island capital.
Famous as a location in the book and 1967 film of Far From the Madding Crowd, the graceful, almost circular, sweep of beach at Lulworth Cove is one of the most stunning in the UK. On a wintry February weekend it’s barely recognisable from its summer incarnation as tourist honeypot, and it’s possible to do the spectacular walk over the cliffs to the Durdle Door without seeing another person. The Manor House Tack Room is a beautifully converted cottage in the nearby village of Winfrith Newburgh; its luxurious double bedroom has oak beams and a vaulted ceiling. The Weld Arms in East Lulworth a couple of miles away serves great suppers.
If you really like to make a big thing of Valentine’s Day, there’s only one place to head for – the small town of Camogli on Italy’s Ligurian coast. In the run-up to the big day, the town celebrates its own festival of love: local residents submit love poems to the municipal authority, which chooses 20 to display as posters along the Camogli waterfront. There’s also an annual art competition to find the official image of the “Lovers in Camogli” festival – with all the paintings shown in an exhibition.
20. GRAN CANARIA
If wrapping up warm for wintry romance isn’t your thing, escape for a week in the Canary islands, where winter temperatures are usually around 20C. Gran Canaria, with its rolling sand dunes and lush palm plantations, has a stark beauty and, perhaps more importantly, a smattering of slick spa hotels. The five-star Palm Beach is located in a romantic 1,000-year-old palm garden close to the dunes at Maspalomas, and has a spectacular spa specialising in thalassotherapy treatments.
Valentine’s Day may be over, but we’re always in need of a romantic rendezvous. Whether you’re itching to get holed up all day, or need a breather to see the sights, here are the sexiest hotel rooms in all of Europe for an sweet (or sassy), intimate romp across the pond.