Fairytale romances need fairytale settings and Bruges doesn’t disappoint. With its handsome 17th century mansions and whitewashed almshouses overlooking wide canals and market squares, it’s a medieval dream. Evocative cobbled alleys, neo-Gothic buildings, pretty bridges and quaint churches make it picture-perfect for exploring by foot, bike, horse-drawn carriage or from the canal. Celebrated for its excellent restaurants, the atmospheric city is packed with world class museums and is just a short jaunt from the breezy beach and dunes of Zeebrugge, the city’s old sea port. Head for the romantic Minnewater or Lake of Love, climb the Belfry tower for amazing views or check out the wonderful Flemish art at the Groeninge Museum.
Lovers' lodgings: Bag a bed at the glorious Van Cleef boutique hotel (hotelvancleef.be), a personality-packed new four-star by the waters’ edge. hotelvancleef.be - visitbruges.be
Palaces and princesses; music and museums; coffee houses and cakes; Vienna’s rich imperial history makes it a magical setting for honeymooners. But don’t believe for a minute that it only offers old-fashioned appeal. The powerful Hapsburg monarchy and a gaggle of world famous composers may have put the impossibly handsome city on the map, but the Austrian capital offers more than architecture, boulevards and history. Packing serious contemporary style credentials, from the impressive Museum Quarter to the edgy modern architecture, cool new restaurants and funky boutiques, even the revival of the hip coffee houses, it’s unashamedly romantic yet the poster child for European cool.
Lovers’ lodgings - Hipster haven, the Grand Ferdinand, is a modern bolthole oozing attitude and designer luxury. In a prime location on the Ringstrasse boulevard, it offers exquisite design, three restaurants, and a cool rooftop pool with stunning views. wien.info
With the majestic Danube River running through its heart, Buda and Pest were separate towns until 1873, and each retains a unique atmosphere and identity. The magnificent Habsburg architecture sets the tone for a glamorous and culturally-rich honeymoon. From dreamy Baroque, Neoclassical and Art Nouveau confections, the Pearl of the Danube is a city to explore on foot and get lost in. Lovers should explore the World Heritage sights of Buda Castle and the Castle District, bathe in the thermal waters of the Art Nouveau Gellert Baths, stroll the river banks and take a sunset river cruise and a climb up to the Fisherman’s Bastion for the best views of the city. Factor in the traditional coffee houses, cool wine bars, Michelin-starred restaurants and huge food market of Nagycsarnok and you’ll find romance around every bend.
Lovers’ lodgings - Minutes from the Danube, in the heart of the city’s cultural and shopping district, the new Ritz-Carlton, Budapest, is a fitting choice for this opulent city (RitzCarlton.com/Budapest). Modern and elegant it offers spacious rooms and super facilities. budapestinfo.hu
Prague, Czech Republic
Straddling the majestic Vltava river, the bohemian city of Prague is like a mesmerising fairytale land of history, culture and breathtakingly beautiful architecture. From Romanesque to Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque to neoclassical and Art Nouveau, the labyrinthine historic quarter is a dream. Worthy of so much more than a weekend break, the impressive bridges that link the city almost creak beneath the weight of its once turbulent history. From the iconic Charles Bridge leading to the ancient fortress of Prague Castle, the thousand-year old Town Square to the vaulted beer halls, the city is as romantic as she is beautiful. Walk, cycle, explore and hang out with a picnic in leafy Letensky Park, a beer at Bredovsky Dvur, a stroll along the Royal Way or take in heart-stopping views from the top of Prague Castle’s golden stairs.
Lovers’ lodgings - The minimalist style of BoHo Hotel is the perfect antidote to the historic quarter’s ornate grandeur (slh.com/boho). A member of Small Luxury Hotels, the former post office is a temple to modern design, with sleek spaces, bold aesthetics and super comfy bedrooms. A chic spot for stylish honeymooners. prague.eu
Venice didn’t need George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin’s wedding to bring glamour to its streets; beloved as one of the most romantic cities in the world, the watery citadel was once one of the most powerful cities in the Western hemisphere. A collection of 117 islets, Venice is criss-crossed by a tangle of sparkling canals that make it feel magical and otherworldly. With no cars in the city the pedestrian is king, and with romance, riches, history, works of art and delicious food over every bridge – not to mention the designer shopping and luxury accommodation – it is an unforgettable place to start married life together.
Lovers’ lodging - A restored 16th-century palazzo on the vibrant Grand Canal with its own jetty, Aman Venice is where George and Amal Clooney tied the knot (amanvenice.com). This lavish and intimate hideaway offers beautiful interiors, luxury service and two private gardens – a rarity in Venice. en.tourismovenezia.it
Few cities can rival Paris’s romance credentials. From leafy cycles along the Seine to riverbank picnics in the gardens of the Tuileries, from art gazing in the Louvre to sipping wine in Montmartre, from scoffing pastries at a pavement café to browsing the antiques markets for a honeymoon souvenir, love is everywhere. Soak up the atmosphere, the style, the architecture and boulevards hand-in-hand while exploring the treasure trove of world class museums, gourmet restaurants and colourful markets.
Lovers’ lodgings - Imagine life as a well-to-do Parisian in La Réserve, a unique hotel with its exclusive 19th century Haussmann apartment style. The intimate bolthole, just off the Champs-Elysées, has a private club vibe that’s lavish, luxurious and utterly beautiful. Complete with bar, spa and indoor pool La Réserve Paris Hotel (lareserve-paris.com) serves contemporary cuisine as well as divine afternoon tea. en.parisinfo.com
The wine producing Douro Valley of Northern Portugal put Porto on the map, and the picturesque old town by the river remains delightfully unspoilt by modernisation. Though not Portugal’s most famous city it is arguably Iberia’s most romantic. Today the original waterside neighbourhoods remain stacked high on a hillside in a charming jumble of cobbled alleys, colourful rooftops, narrow houses, fascinating port lodges, stately bridges and tiny seafood restaurants by the water’s edge. The wider city offers modern European attractions, but a drive north along the pristine valley is the ultimate road trip, taking in breathtaking views of vast vineyards, coastal drama and pretty villages in this idyllic and unspoilt corner of Europe.
Lovers’ lodgings - Offering sensational views over captivating Porto The Yeatman makes a special setting for an indulgent honeymoon (the-yeatman-hotel.com). With its Michelin-starred restaurant, award winning wine cellar, vinotherapy spa with treatments inspired by the vine. The Bacchus Suite, with its copper Jacuzzi, private terrace and rotating bed is the room to book! uk.visitportoandnorth.travel
Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor can it be explored in one. The ancient history, the locals, the culture, the sights and designer shopping make it a magical place to explore together, with the promise of sublime food around every corner. Rich with landmarks, from the Colosseum and Roman Forum to the Spanish Steps and Vatican, there’s beauty and history at every turn. Mix up the main attractions with visits to the peaceful parks, like exquisite Villa Borghese or hang out in boho Trastevere. Stop often to sip espresso, dine al fresco and stroll hand-in-hand eating gelato, and you’ll soon fall under Rome’s romantic spell.
Lovers’ lodgings - Luxurious and exclusive, Rome Cavalieri is an opulent resort overlooking the Eternal City (romecavalieri.com). With jaw-dropping views and Rome’s only three-Michelin starred restaurant, three spectacular outdoor swimming pools, a huge spa and tennis courts, it’s the kind of hotel fit for an emperor. turismoroma.it