When it comes to the most romantic places in the world, Paris and Venice likely top everyone’s list. And sun-seekers looking for a romantic getaway surely think of the Maldives or Bali. Sure, the Eiffel Tower has probably seen more proposals than anywhere else in the world, and those tropical bungalows look nice, but the sheer number of people at these top destinations sucks some of the romance out of the air. On top of killing the mood, overtourism also seriously damages these destinations. Instead, you and your SO can head to one of these alternative romantic destinations, or one of Europe’s other hidden gems, to avoid the crowds and enjoy a more intimate experience.
If you were planning on Paris, you’d probably sip a glass of bubbly at some point, so why not toast to each other in Champagne? The ancient city of Reims is undoubtedly the crown jewel (literally: for 1000 years the French coronation was held here) of the famed wine-making region, and serves as a fantastic alternative to Paris. Home to 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, like the towering Notre Dame cathedral and lavish Bishop’s Palace, Reims has plenty to keep the culture-curious couple busy during the day. Then there are the many prestigious champagne houses based in the city, which offer tours of their facilities – including a walk through the chalk tunnels where champagne gets its fizz. And of course at night you can expect that French je ne sais quoi while you enjoy a romantic dinner and glass of locally produced champagne.
The beauty of Bruges isn’t exactly a secret, but if you’re looking for canals and romance, skip Venice for this charming medieval city. After all, Bruges might be the only place in Europe that has a movie about how it’s so absolutely amazing that it should be the last place you see before you die. Take a walk hand-in-hand down quiet cobbled lanes lined with medieval houses, watch pairs of swans paddle down the canals, and seal your love with a kiss at the Lake of Love – a visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site is like living in your own fairy-tale.
Yes, Prague has plenty going for it, but with the hordes of tourists who descend on the city every year, that romantic walk across Charles Bridge you’ve been dreaming of is likely to turn into a frustrating nightmare. Instead, try the Belle Epoch beauty of Budapest. Walking hand-in-hand down Budapest’s UNESCO-recognized waterfront, you can enjoy the splendid view of the Royal Palace, Sándor Palace, and high-Gothic Matthias Church atop Castle Hill when you’re not gazing into each other’s eyes. Then there are the city’s countless Belle Epoch buildings, and the famed The New York Cafe, considered ‘the most beautiful cafe in the world’. And unlike any other European capital, Budapest is filled with thermal springs! That’s right, this is more than a beautiful spa town, it’s ‘The City of Spas’, where you can soak up amazing sights, and then go for a soak! And if you head to one of the historic spas, like the neo-Classical Széchenyi Thermal Bath, you can do both at the same time!
The Amalfi Coast, Italy
Italy has quite a few colorful coastal regions, but the UNESCO-listed Amalfi Coast might just be the one to visit for a romantic getaway! Yes, Positano can get packed in peak season, but there are plenty of smaller villages dotting this UNESCO-listed landscape that let you enjoy a romantic stay on the coast without the crowds. Regardless of which town on the Amalfi Coast you choose to visit, the colorful houses and villas tumbling down precipitous mountains into the Mediterranean are guaranteed to take your breath away. Throw in a candle-lit dinner with some fresh seafood and limoncello, and that’s amore. Even if it’s not where you stay on the Amalfi Coast, be sure to take your beau to the beautiful gardens at Villa Rufolo in Ravello, which have been attracting romantics for centuries.
If your love is hot and wild, and you need a locale to match, forget about the Maldives or Bali – head to Phuket, Thailand instead! People often write off Thailand’s largest island as a romantic destination because of Patong’s wild parties, but get out of the city and there’s an overwhelming variety of options for lovebirds. Get pampered at a luxury beach resort in the north, or if you’re an adventurous pair, head down to the more jungled south. The island-hopping excursions along the dramatic karst-coastline, dense jungle treks, and cultural-packed Phuket Town provide plenty of active lovers. And Phuket’s fusion of Thai, Chinese, and Malay cuisine will have you putting your own far-eastern spin to that scene from Lady and the Tramp daily.