Yes, of course, we’ll always have Paris. But why stop there? Beyond Europe’s most popular, big-city destinations, there are dozens – if not hundreds – of smaller cities and lesser-known places for couples to enjoy their romantic getaway.
Our lengthy (but hardly exhaustive) list of 10 romantic European cities that are off the radar for most travelers is a good indication that Europe remains the place to be for couples who like a bit of urban fun and cultural activity mixed in with their more amorous pursuits. There’s so much to see and do in between your cuddles and coos.
Located in Central Portugal about two-and-a-half hours north of Lisbon and 45 minutes south of Porto, this lovely little coastal town is home to compact and brightly-colored fishermen’s houses, canals, boutiques, cafes specializing in local pastries, seafood restaurants, and wine bars, as well as the rich legacy of Art Nouveau architecture, historical gardens, and access to sandy beaches.
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About an hour’s drive inland from Porto, this quaint town in the heart of Portugal’s Vinho Verde wine country is an ideal setting for quiet walks along the Tamega River. There’s also a mandatory, Instagrammable stop along the picturesque Ponte de Sao Goncalo with the Renaissance-era Church of Sao Goncalo as your backdrop. Share a bottle of local wine at a candlelit tavern, head off into the hinterland for walks in the forest, and leave your cares far behind for at least a few days.
Antwerp offers an amazing array of hotels, restaurants, and cultural attractions for such a pint-sized city. It’s in the perfect location for jaunts to other cities: Brussels is less than an hour away by train, Amsterdam is about an hour and a half away by train, and Paris can be reached in just over two hours by train. This Belgian town is also famous for being the hub of the global diamond industry (hint hint).
One of Spain’s most beautiful towns, Cáceres in Southwestern Spain feels like a city lost in time – specifically the Middle Ages. Contained within its 12th-century Moorish walls are cobblestone lanes and a dramatic skyline of Gothic and Renaissance towers (the tops of which mostly serve as nesting spots for storks). The city is one of two main towns in Spain’s Dehesa de Extremadura, a vast area of rolling countryside dotted with oak trees and famed for producing the country’s prized jamón ibérico.
There’s no shortage of romantic settings on the island of Sicily, but one that is often overlooked is the city of Caltagirone. For hundreds of years, the city has been a production center for ceramics. Homes, churches, and even street signs are covered in ceramic tiles. One of the city’s most popular tiled attractions is the Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte and the 142 ceramic-tiled staircase which connects the upper and lower parts of town. For some amazing souvenirs, be sure to head to the artisan ceramicist shops. Dramatic views of the sea and an amazing range of restaurants add to the charm of this city near Sicily’s south coast and is just over a half-hour drive from Catania.
Arguably Poland’s prettiest city, Gdańsk is a historic port on the Baltic Sea with a thriving food scene and plenty of quirky and cozy independent bars and cafes. Old Town is a smart starting point for explorations, but you’ll want to make time to see the city center shops – including those selling amber (since Gdańsk is the world hub for the amber trade) – and head to the nearby beaches.
La Seu d’Urgell, Spain
Set among the rugged Pyrenees Mountains near the border of France and the tiny principality of Andorra (and under a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Barcelona), the town of La Seu d’Urgell is a wonderful little city for a scenic and relaxing Catalan break. There’s plenty to see and do from spa-hotels with panoramic vistas to age-old street markets full of produce, artisan food, crafts, and some of the region’s most important Romanesque structures. The city serves as an excellent gateway to a variety of places for outdoor activities such as hiking, whitewater rafting, skiing, and other winter sports.
This ancient fortified city on Brittany’s northern coast was once a haven for corsairs. Saint-Malo is renowned for its seafood, especially locally-sourced oysters. There’s no shortage of restaurants, bistros, and bars. However, if you visit during peak season, you may find a shortage of available tables at the most popular eateries. It’s best to book your cheap plane tickets ahead of time to avoid disappointment. Within a short drive of Saint-Malo are some of France’s most gorgeous (and often empty) beaches. Must-see Mont Saint-Michel is only about an hour away and well worth a visit!
Trento is home to some of Italy’s most delicious sparkling wine, Trento DOC. When having a drink there and admiring the snowcapped Alps surrounding the city and nearby vineyards, be sure to not let the bubbles go to your head. In town, the commanding Buonconsiglio Castle with its late-Renaissance frescos, beautiful churches, and historic landmarks beckon sightseeing couples. Outside of town, there awaits a wonderland for couples who love the great outdoors or need to hit the slopes.
Once the key port for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, this dignified seaside town on Italy’s far eastern Adriatic shores (you’re essentially in Slovenia) is a fascinating crossroads that’s undoubtedly Italian but seasoned with elements from a variety of other cultures. With its unique history and location, this city of only around 200,000 residents has an impressive number of highly regarded restaurants, cafes, and bars.
Indeed, Trieste is a particularly good spot for coffee lovers, with some of Italy’s most esteemed cafes and coffee bars within a short stroll of each other. Equally accessible are the views of the sea, walks along the beach, and canal-side meanders. The lovely Friuli wine region is close too. Venice is less than two hours away by car.
Got a favorite romantic getaway you’d like to mention? We’d love to read your recommendations in the comments section below!