The shops are filling up with fluffy, fuchsia paraphernalia, but for us, Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to fall in love with a new European city – or to rekindle a romance with an old flame!
Whether you want an all-out, luxury spend-a-thon, or a gorgeous getaway on a shoe-string, we’ve sourced some of our favourite city hotspots to inspire your inner Cupid. Just add roses.
Gordon Ramsay’s York & Albany in Camden offers great-value DB&B rates; perfect for a special occasion without any financial guilt. The food is fabulous, the gastro style reflecting the chilled-out neighbourhood with bistro classics, wood-fired pizzas, even a house burger. Upstairs, super-comfortable beds in elegant rooms await; there are only 9, so book yours pronto.
By day, grab hot chocolates to-go and amble up Primrose Hill in nearby Regent’s Park for stunning (and free) panoramas of the city. Or wrap up warm and Tube over to Colombia Road flower market to pick out a pretty token of affection for your other half (we love peonies). And for a quintessential London experience, head to the Princess Louise pub in Holborn, where Victorian Art Nouveau architecture mingles with proper pints at proper prices!
Blow the budget
Stay in the very heart of theatreland, at the fabulous Haymarket Hotel. Rooms are cool, quirky and sumptuously spacious, plus it’ll take no time at all to reach the private box at your favourite West End show.
During the day you can pop down to Old Bond Street and treat your beloved to some exquisite jewels, or gift her fashion and beautiful trinkets at Liberty, on Regent Street. For the ultimate in London romance, you can’t do better than a private pod on the London Eye – go at dusk for a Valentine’s chocolate & champagne ride. Alternatively, try the Haymarket’s decadent chocolate afternoon tea; chocolate-chip scones, marshmallow brownies, even a chocolate martini.
For dinners, we love Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s (there’s a delicious Valentine’s menu), and afterwards, taxi to the Oxo Tower for cocktails and dazzling views of the city lights. True romance!
Peaceful and oh-so private, Pedrera Boutique Apartment is a perfect city bolthole. Vintage and designer pieces mingle beautifully in the authentic Spanish building, plus you get a gorgeous kitchen and a private terrace overlooking Gaudi’s famous La Pedrera building.
Plan your own walking (or cycling) tour of the city; we’d definitely include Gaudi’s surreal architecture (the nearby Pedrera and perhaps Park Güell with its beautiful elevated views), as well as the city’s beach, the Magic Fountain and the bustling Las Ramblas parade – a tree-lined hub of shops, cafes and street performers. For added culture, the Museo Picasso offers free entry on Sundays after 3pm.
When hunger strikes, shop for fresh ingredients at La Boqueria market if you’re planning to dine in or drink G&Ts on your apartment’s terrace then walk to Modisco for dinner – the more-affordable sister of the Michelin-starred Moo restaurant.
Blow the Budget
Throw caution to the wind and stay in the Penthouse at ABaC on Tibidabo Hill. You’ll get acres of space indoors and an enormous terrace where you can gaze across the city skyline from your outdoor Jacuzzi.
Fine dining doesn’t get much better than ABaC’s world-class, 2-Michelin starred restaurant. Expect amazing combinations, terrific presentation and an exquisite depth of flavour in every dish. Of course, if you do stay in the Penthouse you can always choose to enjoy such culinary delights on your private terrace, instead.
After all that indulgence, the only way is up! Climb the tower of Gaudi’s iconic Sagrada Familia (pre-book to skip the queue) or take the 19th-century wooden Tram Blau to the top of Tibidabo for a sunset view over Barcelona. Then return to the hotel to relax in the spa – book a 1-hour slot in advance and you can have it all to yourselves.
Funky Hotel Verneuil sits in the centre of the Parisian action, and over the Valentine’s period, i-escape guests receive an exclusive 10% discount on the rates. It shares its street with the home of the late Serge Gainsbourg; a Parisian icon, whose epic romance with Jane Birkin (“Je t’aime… moi non plus”) is world famous. His house remains untouched but for the colourful, devotional artwork of his fans.
Most Parisian activities feel romantic, but here’s a little inspiration in case you’re struggling: stroll along the Seine, attach a padlock to the Pont des Arts bridge, play with tiny sailboats in the Jardin du Luxembourg, browse the Shakespeare and Company bookshop, and, of course, visit the Eiffel Tower (ideally at night to see the dazzling hourly light display).
Between site-seeing you can sip coffee under café awnings, and picnic on boulangerie bread and cheese. In the evening, dine on light classics like French onion soup and crepes, or relax in Chez Germaine, a great-value bistro (rue Pierre Leroux). Later, unwind in an informal jazz café.
Blow the Budget
The magnificently opulent Hotel Lancaster sits just off the Champs Elysées; choose a suite with a balcony for stunning views, or perhaps the Presidential Suite where you get your own grand piano – perfect for paying a musical homage to your beloved! Downstairs you can dine in the Michelin-starred La Table du Lancaster restaurant, where guests are offered a creative, elegant menu based around 6 delicious culinary themes.
Beyond the hotel, your days can be spent shopping at the Palais Royal or in the iconic Chanel store, before taking a luxurious private boat tour along the Seine – we love the ‘River Limousine’, a beautiful wooden launch imported from Venice. To make your Paris break extra special, visit the Cafe de la Paix for oysters and champagne, then see ballet or opera at stunning Palais Garnier.