Admit it — you almost forgot. Don’t panic! You can still save V Day in a big way with a spontaneous escape to one of Europe’s most classically romantic cities. There’s something for everybody’s boo, whether it’s an exquisite dinner à deux with a sunset backdrop, a kiss stolen on a famous footbridge or a boat ride to a secret hideaway. No matter your love language, gifting a spontaneous hop across the pond means amore.
The capital of Italy’s Veneto region is at its most alluring in winter. Come Valentine’s Day, the Carnival revelers have gone home, but the spring and summer hordes haven’t arrived. Sharing a gondola ride with your loved one is a no-brainer — ask your gondolier to point out Casanova’s house and other buildings associated with the infamous Venetian libertine. Other romantic boat rides will take you to the islands of Burano, with their pastel houses and lace shops, and Murano with its glassblowers. But more than anything else, Venice is a city to simply amble around in, getting pleasurably lost in its labyrinthine alleys, sharing an aphrodisiac bowl of spaghetti alle vongole, and watching the sunset over St. Mark’s Square.
You’ll struggle to find a more fitting place for a lovers’ stroll than the bohemian cobbled lanes of the Czech capital’s Baroque Malá Strana district at the foot of the castle. Take a padlock to leave as a lasting symbol of your union on the footbridge on charming Kampa island. The iconic Charles Bridge is another popular spot for walking and for securing love padlocks. More intimate is Petřín Park on former vineyards, with a rose garden, a statue of romantic poet Karel Hynek, and heart-stopping views. Other great ways to woo in Prague include a city tour by vintage car, a canal cruise, and an evening at the opera.
The Austrian capital is another place to swoon to an operatic performance with your partner, but another sure-fire clincher is a boat trip along the Danube, past vineyards, ancient castles, and abbeys and through the Wienerwald (Vienna Woods) to the otherworldly Seegrotte cave-lake. Alternatively, snuggle up in a two-horse fiaker for a carriage ride around the city. If your romantic coup comes off, there’s no better place to propose than a private pod of the Riesenrad Ferris wheel in the Prater amusement park, with the city’s lights glittering around you. If you’re feeling confident, you can even book a candlelit dinner aboard.
“Paris loves lovers,” wrote Cole Porter, and your delicious decision is where to start among the French capital’s romantic nooks and crannies. Classic spots to wander hand in hand are the banks of the Seine, the natural island of the Ile St-Louis, or the Canal St-Martin. Stroll the lovely parks: the Jardin du Luxembourg with its boating lake, Jardin des Tuileries with its statuary, Parc Monceau with its rotunda, or Buttes Chaumont with its hilltop temple. The cobbled streets and squares of Montmartre retain their power to charm. (Don’t miss Le Mur des Je T’aime with “I love you” written in languages from around the world.) And dinner at the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower or a stroll by night around the illuminated courtyards of the Louvre can’t fail to set hearts aflame.
The river is the romantic heart of Hungary’s capital, especially after nightfall, when the buildings are gorgeously illuminated. The towers and terrace of the Fisherman’s Bastion in the Castle Quarter have the best panoramic views, or take a boat ride or a stroll along the Danube itself. Perfect for a Valentine’s treat is a private hot tub and sauna experience at the historic Gellért Spa & Thermal Baths with its original Art Nouveau furnishings, stained-glass windows, mosaics, and sculptures.