We all need a little romance in our life and Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse for a short break with your other half.
But if you don’t want to travel in February, you can still turn up the romance by planning your trip in front of a warm fire over a glass of celebratory champagne. Or a mug of hot tea, if you prefer!
Here are a few of my favourite destinations for a touch of togetherness…
1. Beautiful Bruges
Start with a glass of fizz at the Champagne Bar in London’s glorious St. Pancras station. With its inviting shops and soaring architecture, this iconic terminus is a dramatic start to any trip.
Then hop on board the Eurostar to Brussels, and change onto a local train for the 75-minute journey to the city of gabled buildings, picturesque canals and quiet squares.
Take a canal cruise to see the winter reflections in the still water; head up the bell tower for a city panorama; and snuggle under a thick rug for a sightseeing tour by horse and carriage.
2. Lovely London
Whether you’re a regular visitor or a first-time traveller to London, you’ll find so many ways to enjoy each other’s company. My tip is simply just to walk and soak up the varied architecture, the beautiful parks, and the buzz of one of the world’s most fabulous cities.
Many Underground stations are close together, so wrap up warm and strike out on foot. Take a stroll along the South Bank to see the eclectic modern buildings alongside Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Share a lofty glass of champagne at The View from the Shard or maybe a sumptuous Afternoon Tea at the fabulous Savoy Hotel. Finish off with a West End show or art exhibition. I’d recommend the amazing Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh, on at the Saatchi Gallery till 3 May.
3. Cosy Cotswolds
Wind down a gear or three with a chill-out break in the Cotswolds. Whether you rent a cute self-catering cottage for cosy coupledom or opt for the amenities of a stylish hotel, this glorious mix of rolling countryside, pretty villages and quaint market towns is guaranteed to put you in the mood for romance.
Wrap up warm, pull on the hiking boots, and follow one of the many marked trails. Or maybe browse the antique shops or visit a heritage property. Then come back and relive your day over a delicious dinner by a roaring log fire.
4. Buzzing Budapest
Hungary’s capital is a stunner in any season, but especially when darkness falls early and you can enjoy the city lights.
Top prize for illuminations goes to the flamboyant Gothic-style Parliament building beside the Danube – best viewed from a river cruise boat when the towers and turrets are bathed in golden floodlights. Book online for a daytime Parliament tour in English. The broad boulevards and imposing squares of Pest lie across the Danube from the old hilltop town of Buda; take the funicular to the lookout terrace of Fisherman’s Bastion and the painted interior of Matthias Church.
Maybe hop on the Children’s Railway, built after WWII to ferry youngsters to an activity camp in the hills. Nowadays, it’s one of the city’s most unusual tourist attractions that is almost entirely staffed by volunteer children (except for the adult driver!)
5. Fabulous Florence
Winter is a lovely time to experience this elegant Italian city at its most authentic, without the tourist crowds.
On bright, blue-sky days, the pink, green and white marble of the cathedral reflects the low-season sunshine, but even on dull days, there are plenty of beautiful places to explore indoors. From lavish Renaissance churches, to world-famous galleries such as the Uffizi and the Accademia (book ahead online to avoid the queues), there’s something for everyone.
Browse the markets for quality leather bags, silk ties and pashminas; shop at the goldsmiths on the Ponte Vecchio; and treat yourself to the city’s signature steak, Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a succulent T-bone cooked over a wood fire. Romance is virtually guaranteed!