Three Romantic European Cities Couples Will Love
We're falling for these three beautiful cities
Its known as one of the most romantic, and most visited, cities in Europe but there’s so much to fall in love with here – you’ll discover something different each time you visit. From ticking off iconic bucket-list destinations like the Eiffel Tower and climbing up the steps to the Sacre Coeur and watching the caricaturists drawing their comic sketches in neighbouring Montmartre to wandering the medieval streets of the Marais neighbourhood and exploring the Left Bank, there are surprises around every corner and great cafés on each one.
The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou may be Paris’s most popular museums but there are 150 other museums and monuments to visit. Walk the streets and pick up a croissant from the bakery, sip coffee in the corner café and watch the world go by or stop by a Latin Quarter bistro for raclette.
You can easily spend days exploring the small boutiques in trendy neighbourhoods such as the Marais and Canal Martin, weekly pop-up street markets and lively pedestrian-only market streets, almost-hidden antique villages, historic glass-roofed arcades, and treasure-filled cookware stores near the old Les Halles market area.
Where to stay: Relais Christine is a boutique hotel in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Pres. On a quiet street, the 17th century mansion has retained much of its original charm and many rooms have their own terrace leading out on to the hotel’s walled garden.
Where to eat: For fish head to Vive where the bright interiors and excellent cooking under David Le Quellec and his two-Michelin star wife Stephanie, make up the power-couple’s latest venture. Bloom is where you’ll find the best plant-based sushi and Alfred is a must-visit for classic French dishes with a totally modern twist under chef Alexia Duchene.
Where to shop: The Champs-Elysées and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré are home to the biggest luxury brands and if your wallet won’t stretch to shopping here, at least take the time to wander along and people watch. Head to Boulevard Haussman for prestigious and dazzling department stores including world-famous Galeries Lafayette, but The Marais district is where you’ll find stylish independents, handcrafted jewellery and antiques.
Don’t miss: A scenic cruise up Canal Saint-Martin under quaint bridges and past charming cobbled streets, glide past the famous landmarks and pass through the mile-long underground vault dimly lit by light holes.
Known for its culture and other-worldly natural beauty, Iceland’s capital city is compact and very chic. Quaint streets of multi-coloured houses muddle in with more contemporary lanes lined with independent boutiques and restaurants. In downtown Reykjavik café culture rules supreme but as night falls visitors start to fill the many famous foodie destinations found here, where local seafood and wild game appear on the innovative menus. Dill is where you’ll find fermented foods you haven’t tried before, whilst Bæjarins Beztu Pylsu is the place for Iceland’s best hot dogs. You’ll want to order one with everything: crispy onions and fresh onions on the bottom, and their special brown mustard, remoulade and ketchup drizzled on top.
A city of many contrasts, Reykjavik’s both boldly cosmopolitan but also small-town sophisticated and full of history worth exploring. Don’t miss Harpa Concert Hall with its vast glass facade down by the seafront, and the iconic Lutheran Hallgrimskirkja Church which looks like an up-ended aeroplane. Just outside the city, but very visible, is Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower which shines light beams heavenward.
The Northern Lights are what bring many visitors to Iceland and whilst they are rarely strong enough to outshine the city’s lights, you don’t need to travel far as there are plenty of parks and reserves in the surrounding areas free of artificial lights. The costal walk to Grotta reaches the tip of Reykjavik’s peninsula and takes an hour from the city centre (the Icelandic Met Office issue helpful daily forecasts for Aurora activity).
Where to stay: The Sand Hotel on the main shopping draw of Laugavegur is an interesting mix of Icelandic minimalism and Art Deco flourishes and behind the hotel you’ll find the city’s best and oldest artisan bakery, Sandholt, and the cosy cellar wine bar Vinstukan Tiu.
Where to eat: Mat Bar is a must for experimental cuisine, or head to Skal and grab a seat at the counter for local dishes designed by head chef Thomas Lorentzen.
Where to shop: Aftur is where you’ll find high-fashion Icelandic design teamed with sustainability so you can support local and the planet, whilst Spuutnik is the go-to for sought-after vintage items.
Don’t miss: The Blue Lagoon. Just 50 miles south of the city you can swim in the famous geothermal blue waters which reach 40 degrees and slather yourself in the mineral rich mud. Go early to avoid the crowds.
From its ancient monuments to world-class art, the Vatican City and fantastic eateries around every corner, there’s over 3,000 years of history and so much to love about this city, which is the capital of what was one of the most powerful empires in the world. It’s a city built on layers. Ancient ruins give way to modern piazzas, cobbled streets turn into sophisticated shopping districts punctuated by world-class restaurants and everywhere there is a sense of wonder at what was. You can’t help but be awestruck at the sheer scale and architectural prowess which built the Colosseum and the Pantheon, gaze in wonder at the Sistine Chapel and throw your lucky coins in the Trevi Fountain. Legend has it that throwing three coins into the fountain (with the right hand, over the left shoulder) will guarantee your return to Rome, a new romance and marriage. Go in the evening to see this baroque edifice when some of the crowd have dispersed and you can enjoy an Aperol in one of the nearby bars, or head to the Piazza Navona near the Pantheon and pick a piazza-side seat perfect for people watching and some street entertainment.
Where to stay: Palazzo Ripetta is a 17th century baroque treasure. Once a convent, its ancient facade hides a secret garden in the centre of the city and is surrounded by some of the finest museums, shops and restaurants. Grab a drink and soak up the peace on the patio, hidden away from the hustle and bustle of Rome all around you.
Where to eat: Apart from the many backstreet bakeries and neighbourhood trattoria all of which are worth trying, we’d head to Marzapane where chef Tommaso Tonioni is not afraid to present unusual pairings and each dish is cleverly crafted with unexpected flavours. Baccano, near the Trevi Fountain is an all-day restaurant with an ambitious menu and it’s the place to sample some off the best pasta dishes in Rome.
Where to shop: The Italian capital is crammed with everything from designer boutiques to trendy independents. Monti’s narrow streets are lined with boutiques and studios and it’s where the locals go for something different. They also love the Via del Governo Vecchio, renowned for its cluster of vintage shops, and Via Cola di Rienzo for its fashion-forward high street stores.
Don’t miss: Pre-book a visit to Vatican City, the smallest state in the world, to avoid the queues who all want to see the iconic St Peter’s Basilica and St Peter’s Square, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and a whole host of art and sculpture.