Traditionally, this is the time of the year when lovers express their affection with greetings, special invitations to restaurants, gifts, promises or the ultimate treat: a trip to a romantic destination.
This year, the pandemic is forcing everyone to reimagine Valentine’s Day and not let Covid-19 spoil the romance. The challenge is to keep cool, take a deep breath and, as USA Today recommends: “Repeat after us: ‘There’s still time to find the perfect Valentine’s Day present.’”
Ok, this may not seem the best of times to offer your loved one a romantic trip for Valentine’s Day to a special destination for lovers. But what if it were precisely the contrary: an opportunity to plan a perfect trip in advance and have something to look forward to together?
In other words, consider an I.O.U. this Valentine’s Day.
“You can go to classic romantic cities like Venice, Budapest, Prague, Paris,” suggests European Best Destinations (EBD), which is part of the European Commission’s EDEN Network (“European Destinations of Excellence”) working to promote sustainable tourism on the continent.
“But you can also surprise your loved one with a more original and authentic romantic getaway like going to one of the most beautiful islands in the world, fly over heart-shaped islands in Croatia or declare your love walking along the heart-shaped road through the vineyards of Slovenia.”
EBD has unveiled its ranking of the 16 Safest and Most Romantic Destinations for Valentine’s Day in Europe:
Porto Santo, Madeira Islands, Portugal
Lush vegetation, exotic fruits, sumptuous hotels and outdoor activities in unspoiled nature. That is Madeira.
Shopping in the old town center of Funchal, spending lazy afternoons on the most beautiful beaches of Madeira or making mini-road trips to discover the archipelago’s most beautiful viewpoints is what you can do in Madeira.
In addition to your romantic stay on one of the most beautiful islands in the world (World Travel Award), you can plan something extra for your loved one: a romantic stay in Porto Santo, the smallest inhabited island in the Madeira archipelago.
You arrive on the island by direct flight or via ferry or plane from the main island of Madeira. Porto Santo is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean’s turquoise waters and golden sand beaches. It’s also renowned for its high-quality hotels with Spa & Wellness and their Porto Santo sand treatments that are said to have rare therapeutic properties.
On Christophe Colombo Island, you can spend your days walking on the beach, swimming, enjoying meals on terraced restaurants and thrilling to the magnificent sunsets. “Come and discover an island where tranquility reigns supreme!” recommends EBD.
Opatija, Kvarner region, Croatia
The fashionable coastal resort of Opatija is one of the gems of the Kvarner region, with a long tourist tradition stretching back to the 19th century.
“Opatija is unique in its mix between Geneva (for its classy elegance), Monaco (for its beautiful hotels and Habsburg-era villas) and Lake Como for its magnificent “Lungomare” promenade that snakes along the coastline,” according to EBD. “Unique villas and hotels surrounded by exotic gardens and the contrast of sea and mountains, green parks and blue ocean bring a sense of harmony in Opatija and makes it a great destination for a romantic getaway.”
Opatija is also world famous for its chocolate makers.
Shaped Heart Route, Spicnik-Stjerska Region, Slovenia
Slovenia combines nature, gastronomy and breathtaking landscapes.
“On your arrival at Ljubjana airport pick up your car, a little red convertible that roars like your beating hearts, and go on a road trip through the romantic roads of Slovenia.,” advises EBD.
Only 90 minutes by car from the capital, Ljubljana, and 20 minutes from the pretty town of Maribor, it’s one of the most romantic places in Europe: the Štajerska region, known for its beautiful vineyards and the quality of its exceptional wines.
Špičnik is a dispersed settlement in the western Slovene Hills in the municipality of Kungota in northeastern Slovenia, next to the border with Austria.
To explore this heart-shaped road you will stop at the following address: Špičnik 1 Vina Šerbinek, 2201 Zgornja Kungota.
You’ll have the chance to taste local wines along the road while enjoying the exceptionally romantic panorama.
Burano, Venice, Italy
Venice is the city of love but if you want a romantic gem away from the crowds (but not so far), the place to go is the island of Burano. “If Venice seduces lovers from all over the world for its extraordinary architecture, its sumptuous palaces and monuments, Burano is made for those who do not need so much gilding to love each other,” explains EBD.
The former fishing village is colorful and charming. The island’s fishermen once painted their houses with the paint remaining from their boats. The chosen colors were often very showy for safety reasons. They had to be visible from afar when thick mists enveloped Venice and its surroundings.
And the custom survives.
Dinard, Brittany, France
Brittany is well known as a romantic destination in France. “That is even more true for the Breton coasts and the very popular town of Dinard,” says EBD.
Dinard, the “most British of Brittany’s” with its wellness & spa hotels and its thalassotherapy offers, makes for a preferred getaway for lovers who want to be pampered for Valentine’s Day.
Located on the Emerald Coast, Dinard enjoys a mild climate throughout the year, magnificent beaches, perfect for a romantic stroll and many good restaurants by the sea.
Walking around Dinard, with its Belle Époque villas and striped beach tents, is like taking a trip back to the 19th century. Popular with families attracted by the sandy beaches and coastal walks. Nearby Saint-Briac and Saint-Lunaire are also worth a visit.
Galesnjak Island, Pasman Canal, Adriatic, Croatia
Croatia is cradle to many perfect destinations for a romantic holiday.
If Hvar is renowned as one of the best destinations for a honeymoon in Europe, the heart-shaped island of Galesnjak ranks among Europe’s best places to propose.
Located near Nin, another Croatian destination listed among the best romantic destinations and best sustainable romantic destinations in Europe, Galesnjak and its surrounded seem to call for love.
“You have two options: Discover this heart-shaped island by boat or by airplane with panoramic overflight including Zadar, the island of Love and the Kornati archipelago,” EBD advises.
Oia, Santorini Archipelago, Greece
Oia is one of the most authentic villages of the Santorini Archipelago. With its colorful houses and steep alleys, it’s ranked among the most romantic destinations in Europe.
The houses carved into the rock form a perfect welcoming cocoon. “In the evening, you can enjoy a catamaran cruise to watch the sunset, sip champagne and say ‘I love you,’” recommends EBD.
Oia Castle is also a great place to watch romantic and unforgettable sunsets.
Mijas, Andalucia, Spain
For a sunny Valentine’s Day, there is Mijas, one of Spain’s most romantic destinations.
“This small village, located 30 minutes from Malaga, in the Costa del Sol, is one of Andalusia’s best-hidden gems, on the heights of Torremolinos, in the south of Spain,” EBD explains.
The most beautiful part of this typical Andalusian white village (Pueblo Blanco) is the old Mijas, “Mijas cidade velha,” with its white facades hung with thousands of geraniums. A very Instagram-friendly place.
Polperro, Cornwall, England
This small fishing village in Cornwall is becoming a popular destination for lovers of all kinds: art, nature, gastronomy and, of course, for those who want a Valentine’s Day facing the sea.
Many artists have lived in Polperro and painted its quiet roads and peaceful life. You will certainly meet a few, painting outdoors or exhibiting in one of Polperro’s many small art galleries.
In short, it’s a picturesque romantic town ranked as one of the best destinations for Valentine’s day.
Varenna, Lake Como, Italy
Lake Como is one of the favorite places for celebrities on holiday. One of them loves this place so much that he got married there. (Guessed yet? George Clooney.)
A picturesque and traditional village located on the eastern shore of the lake in the Italian region of Lombardy, it was was founded by local fishermen in 769 and is an essential stop for anyone wishing to visit one of the most typical and quiet towns of the lake.
“With many four- and five-star hotels, you can be pampered like a Hollywood star and treat yourself to some extras such as spa treatments, boat tours on Lake Como or a private cooking class in Como to discover all the secrets of Italian gastronomy.”
Hidden Heart, Praia da Marinha, Lagoa, Algarve, Portugal
If for a romantic Valentine’s Day you want to avoid the best-known love-struck destinations, think outside the box. You should consider Portugal’s Algarve.
The climate is mild and sunny year round and sandy beaches stretch as far as the eye can see, framed by golden cliffs, virtually deserted islands marking the boundary between Ria Formosa and the sea and small coves sheltered by the rocks.
The ocean, in every shade of blue and mostly calm and warm, invites you for long swims and to indulge in water sports.
The Hidden Heart formed by the rocks in Praia da Marinha in Lagoa is especially romantic.
Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
This small, fortified island is not only one of the most romantic getaway in Europe but has also been ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in the continent and appears among the most beautiful destinations in Europe.
Located five kilometers from Budva and not far from Kotor, the fortified islet has become one of the most exceptional and exclusive resorts on the Adriatic Coast. The resort also has a villa on the mainland and private pink sand beaches for hotel guests.
You can enjoy this idyllic setting without staying on the island. There are high-quality hotels facing the island of Sveti Stefan.
Gdansk & Sopot, Poland
Far from the beaten track and the crowds, there are authentic and charming offers of romantic destinations by the sea in Poland — and at more affordable prices.
Gdansk is the perfect choice for a romantic city break combining extensive beaches, culture, gastronomy, shopping and simple well-being. Its unique location and 1,000-plus years’ history have given Gdansk a romantic, expressive and distinctive character that make it unique among European cities.
For a romantic holiday by the sea, book your stay in Sopot, a seaside resort located a 20-minute drive from Gdansk.
Lagh de Calvaresc Lake Rossa, Hiking Path of Sentiero Calanca, Switzerland
Here’s an idea for a surprisingly romantic gesture: Declare your love during a hike to discover the heart-shaped lake nestled in the Swiss Alps.
This mountain lake is heart-shaped when the water level is especially high (usually in February). Lake Rossa is a municipality of the Grisons and has become a great romantic plan for athletes and nature fans.
Plan on 2 1/2 to three hours for the hike from Rossa through Alpe Calvaresc.
The lake is on the second stage of route no. 712 “Sentiero Alpino Calanca” from Wanderland Schweiz.
Lovers looking for an exceptionally romantic and authentic destination will fall under the spell of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a colorful, picturesque, medieval village with timbered houses that seem to have materialized from a postcard.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is compared with the exceptional city of Colmar in France. Both cities were saved from bombardment and therefore have retained their charming historic centers and their traditional shops practically intact, igving them a unique and authentic atmosphere.
This beautiful medieval town in Bavaria is a must-see destination for travelers on the Romantic Road, a route that runs through the most beautiful destinations in Germany and which has been ranked among the best road trips in Europe.
Preveli Heart Rock, Preveli Beach, Rethymno, Crete
For centuries, and as a way to make your love last, the inhabitants of Crete in Greece come to discover the heart-shaped rock on Preveli beach.
Crete is one of the favorite destinations of travelers searching for sun, hotels and affordable gastronomic restaurants. The Cretan diet is also known as one of the healthiest diets in the world because it’s said to promote longevity and prevent cardiovascular diseases and disorders.
Preveli beach is located in a nature reserve, at the end of a canal where a river flows into the sea. You can choose whether to swim in fresh water or in the warmer sea water.