Travel is an inalienable part of romance – especially if you select a break that intrigues and entertains you both, while also ensuring that you spend time together. These 50 escapes are sure to do all these things – whether they involve a country walk in Dorset, a mini-break in Paris or a private island in the Seychelles. They are not Valentine’s breaks (though some of the choices would work for late-booking lovers), nor are they specifically honeymoons (though plenty of them would work as such). These are getaways simply for those in love. And there’s no time like now.
Decorated with endless Gaudi flourishes, Barcelona simply sings as a venue for romance. Its Mandarin Oriental hotel joins in with its Fall In Love With Barcelona package, serving up a chilled bottle of sparkling wine, breakfast in bed and late checkout, from €529 (£458) a night. The glitzy five-star also has a rooftop terrace for broad views and swimming-pool dips.
Madrid also knows how to call down Cupid, perhaps at the Only You Hotel Atocha, a boutique retreat that opened in December. It’s located at Paseo Infanta Isabel 13, ideal for a dash to the Prado for an art fix. But it also lends itself to mornings in bed by having its own bakery producing raspberry croissants (€2.50/£2.15) and puff-pastry “blueberry bretzels” (€3.75/£3.23). Doubles cost from €152 (£131) a night in April (room only).
Verona is the setting for Romeo and Juliet – and knows it. Its Casa di Giulietta, where a balcony has been added, is a tourist trap. Visit it, but pay better tribute to Shakespeare’s tragic teenagers by exploring a city whose narrow streets and fine eateries are a joy. Kirker Holidays (020 7593 1899; kirkerholidays.com) offers three nights at Hotel Due Torri from £598 per person (flights, transfers and breakfast).
4. Croatian cruise
Croatia has 1,104 miles of coastline speckled with pretty isles and ideal for a seaborne trip with a significant other. Voyages Jules Verne (020 3811 6790; vjv.com) runs a regular seven-night Dalmatian Island Explorer small-ship cruise that visits not only Split and Dubrovnik, but also the outcrops of Hvar and Vis. From £1,845 per person with flights.
Mythology has it that Ancient Greece’s goddess of love was born not in Greece but in Cyprus. Aphrodite “emerged” from the sea at Paphos, the west-coast city that is one of the European Capitals of Culture for 2017 (pafos2017.eu). The Annabelle hotel occupies a waterside position and has a spa and six acres of gardens. A seven-night stay in April starts at £487 per person, including breakfast (but no flights).
In Rome, they called the same deity Venus and April was her sacred month (the Veneralia festival was celebrated on April 1). She is still there. The Temple of Venus Genetrix lingers in the Forum of Caesar. Less than a mile away, Palazzo Manfredi is a five-star oasis in a 17th-century palace, with doubles from €320 (£275) a night (from €455/£391 in April), room only.
7. Vineyards of Languedoc
Nothing kindles a weekend like a bottle of something softly red or white. All the more reason to visit Chateau Les Carrasses (0845 686 8067; lescarrasses.com), a 19th-century winery near Narbonne in Languedoc. Abandoned from 1998 to 2011, but now back to full health, it produces its own vintages, has regular tastings and a restaurant, and charges €140 (£120) per night for doubles, room only. BA (ba.com) flies to Montpellier in summer.
Wine Tourism Spain (0034 91 014 5375; winetourismspain.com) is a viticultural specialist that allows its guests to drink while someone else drives. It sells a Ribeiro del Duero & Rioja Private Tour that explores two of Spain’s most vineyard-laced areas. This three-day trip from Madrid starts at €880 (£758) per person, including hotels with breakfast, gourmet lunches, at least five tastings per day and the services of a guide-chauffeur. No flights.
The inclusion of Paris in this feature needs no explanation. Nor does the prospect of a sojourn at the Castille hotel (00800 0022 0011; castille.com), a boutique five-star in the 1st arrondissement close to Place de la Concorde. Its Romantic Getaway In Paris package incudes double room with breakfast, sparkling wine and strawberries, is available until the end of the year and costs from €405 (£348) per night.
Ibiza is perhaps best known for dance floor thrills, but also does refined breaks for grown-ups. Cas Gasi, a rustic hideaway near Santa Gertrudis, comes with a spa and first-rate restaurant serving the likes of slow-cooked lamb with parsnip cream. Doubles in April for €365 (£314) per night, with breakfast.
Go that little bit further
11. Los Angeles and La La Land
Trace the choreographed footsteps of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in the Oscar-nominated film La La Land by twirling together at Griffith Observatory – and chase your happy ending at the nearby W Hollywood, with its rooftop pool and spa. A one-week stay, leaving Heathrow for Los Angeles on April 15, costs £2,035 per person through Virgin Holidays (0344 739 8347; virginholidays.co.uk).
12. Botswana safari
Absent from the Academy Awards list, but arguably just as affecting, A United Kingdom tells a tale of love across the racial divide in the prim Forties. Skip the division and focus on the love with a holiday in the movie’s prime setting, Botswana. Rainbow Tours (020 3131 4845; rainbowtours.co.uk) has an eight-day Botswana by Sanctuary Retreats private trip that provides a deluxe take on the wildlife of Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta. From £4,040 per person, with flights and transfers.
13. An affair in Long Island
Now into its third series, The Affair has proved compelling viewing with its portrayal of unbridled passions in the sleepy context of Long Island. Steer clear of the infidelity and the messy divorces, but trap the spark in Montauk, the photogenic end-of-the-highway New York seaside town that acts as the show’s centrepoint. It features in the one-week NYC & The Hamptons break offered by The American Road Trip Company (01244 342 099; theamericanroadtripcompany.co.uk). From £1,199 per person, with flights.
14. New York
For some New York is forever associated with F Scott Fitzgerald’s hopeless romantic, Jay Gatsby. Of course, The Great Gatsby does not end well for its titular dreamer. But you can make a better fist of a stay at the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue, spurning the apocalyptic row but keeping the mint juleps flowing in the Rose Club bar. A one-week room-only stay, leaving Heathrow on May 14, costs £2,043 per person with British Airways (0344 493 0787; ba.com/holidays).
15. Hip Seattle
On the opposite coast of the United States, the biggest city in Washington state is another emblem of enamourment, through the feelgood factor of Sleepless in Seattle and the feel-naughty factor of Fifty Shades of Grey. Whichever is your bag, Seattle is a city for intimate chatter at some hip restaurant and a stop on the 14-night Best Of Oregon & Washington road trip with America As You Like It (020 8742 8299; americaasyoulikeit.com). From £1,988 per person including flights, car and hotels.
16. India and the Taj Mahal
Often mistaken for a temple, the Taj Mahal is a tearful love letter, a mausoleum built in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, who had died giving birth to their 14th child. Always busy, yet serene among the crowds, Agra’s classic sight will be part of the 19-day Essence of India journey that is scheduled by Wendy Wu Tours (0800 1445295; wendywutours.co.uk) for March 17. From £5,190 per person, including flights.
Few songs capture longing with sunny timelessness quite like The Girl From Ipanema who “when she walks, [is] like a samba that swings so cool and sways so gently”. Head for the scene of this spectacle – though perhaps keep your eyes on your beloved – with the Taste of Brazil tour offered by Cox & Kings (020 3733 1828; coxandkings.co.uk). This 11-day private trip spends three nights in Rio, then leaps to Iguazu Falls and on to the beach at Buzios. From £2,495 per person, including flights.
Ever in love with love, the poet Pablo Neruda called his Santiago home “La Chascona” in tribute to the red hair of his (third) wife Matilde Urrutia. You can see the house (fundacionneruda.org) on the 11-day Southern Chile tour offered by Last Frontiers (01296 653000; lastfrontiers.com), from £3,480 per person with flights.
The former royal capital of Burma inspired Rudyard Kipling to write his poem “Mandalay”. Might it move you to verse in modern Myanmar? Steppes Travel (01285 601 758; steppestravel.co.uk) will provide opportunity on its 10-day Irrawaddy River Cruise, from £2,595 per person including flights.
20. Sweden and the Icehotel
There is, of course, a joy to cuddling up in the cold, perhaps in the Icehotel at the foot of Mount Kebnekaise, the highest peak in Sweden. Simply Sweden (01427 700 115; simplysweden.co.uk) offers a four-day escape that sees travellers snuggle up under reindeer skins and sleeping bags in a room at -5C. Breaks are available until March 31, from £1,370 per person with flights and breakfast.
In love with luxury
Cloaked in Lost-World foliage and with dreamy beaches, the Seychelles feature highly on fantasy honeymoon lists. In the past six years, North Island has hosted the post-nuptials of both the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and George and Amal Clooney. If you want to follow them, the private island’s 10 Presidential Villas cost from €5,835 (£5,030) per night, the lone Villa North Island from €9,185 (£7,915). Prices cover all meals, drinks and activities, plus a spa treatment.
22. The Maldives
Sprinkled like gold dust on gentle waters, the Maldives are another option for post-I-do endeavours. Soneva Fushi was given a 10/10 rating in the Telegraph’s “Most Romantic Hotels in the Maldives” feature last November, and with good reason. Attractions include an open-air cinema on the beach, treetop yoga sessions, and a personal butler for each villa. From £1,383 per night.
Bob Dylan had never been to the place when he wrote Mozambique, his 1976 song about a country where “it’s nice to stay for a week or two and maybe fall in love”. But his lyrics have come to hold weight, thanks to 1,430 miles of shoreline and a burgeoning array of beach retreats. Expert Africa (020 3405 6666; expertafrica.com) offers a seven-day Benguerra Beach Holiday in the über-luxe 13-room Benguerra Lodge, from £6,134 per person full-board, including flight from London.
A woozy Caribbean afternoon is always a context for mutual enchantment, and the west coast of Barbados, ever facing the sunset, excels on this Technicolor score. Elegant Hotels (0800 917 3534; eleganthotels.com) has six resorts on the island. Each offers an Ultimate Romance Package: candlelit dinner on the beach; strawberries and champagne in the room; a couples massage. A one-week stay at the Colony Club on this basis, checking in on March 18, costs from £2,348 per person with breakfast but not flight.
25. Caribbean cruise
If one Caribbean island feels insufficient for an amorous holiday, dip toes into the shallows of several with SeaDream (0800 783 1373; seadream.com). This small-ship specialist offers yacht-style voyages on SeaDream 1, which holds a mere 112 passengers. It has an eight-day Marigot-to- Bridgetown cruise scheduled for March 27, which will ebb from St Martin to Barbados via St Barts, St Kitts, Guadeloupe, St Lucia, Bequia and Grenada. Full-board cabins are still available for £2,832 per person, excluding flights.
The Caribbean’s tender ambience even affected Horatio Nelson, who met Frances Nisbet at Montpelier Plantation on Nevis and married her amid its swaying trees on March 11, 1787. The 17th century estate is still there as a chic retreat. A seven-night stay in April costs from £773 per person, including breakfast and access to the hotel’s private beach. British Airways flies to nearby St Kitts.
If the soothing murmur of sails in the breeze is your sort of serenade, Bermuda will be in focus this year as the venue for the America’s Cup (June 17-27; americascup.com). This will be a prime time to see a sun-soaked country that deals in romantic rapture all year. Elegant Resorts (01244 897 991; elegantresorts.co.uk) provides escapes to Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa, an adults-only idyll on the west coast at Somerset Village, from a basic cost of £1,200 per person, including breakfast. Flights cost extra.
28. The best of South America
“Money can’t buy me love,” Paul McCartney sang in 1964. Put his assertion to the test by taking your intended on the Grand South American Journey offered by Prestige Holidays (01425 480600; toursprestigeholidays.co.uk). This 21-day trip takes in Rio, Iguassu Falls, Buenos Aires, the Falklands, Easter Island, Machu Picchu, the Galapagos and Havana – via private jet, with Sir Ranulph Fiennes as a guide. From £34,995 per person, with five-star hotels throughout.
29. Portuguese palace
A fairytale needs a palace. So what about the Tivoli Palacio de Seteais (00351 219 233 200; minorhotels.com), an 18th-century wonder near Sintra, the former playground of Portuguese royalty, comprising 30 guestrooms plus a wealth of ballrooms, salons and tapestries? Prince Charming can clutch the glass slipper here from £207 per night, with breakfast. Alternatively, he and Cinderella can hire the entire property for £25,200 a day.
Lovers at Royal Mansour, in Marrakesh, can hide out in riad-style suites, doze by a vast pool, and eat at La Table – the main restaurant, where chef Yannick Alleno holds court. Seven nights in April cost from £5,120 per person including breakfast but not flights.
Vietnam is still a fledgling destination for luxury, but be a trailblazer of the heart by flitting to The Anam (0084 583 989499; theanam.com) – a five-star all-villa retreat, on the south-east coast near Nha Trang, which has just unveiled its new Sri Mara Spa. A seven-night sojourn with breakfast, arriving on March 27, costs from £483 per person (not flights). Spa packages are reduced by 32 per cent until December 20.
Thailand is equally viable for that combination of Far Eastern warmth and doe-eyed days together. Perhaps at Amari Vogue Krabi, which takes a sticky path to romance with its Honeytouring Package. Available until October 31, it includes dinner on the beach, honey-themed spa treatments and, oddly, a trip to a bee farm. Book this as part of a seven-night stay arriving on April 9, and pay £753 per person.
Home is where the heart is
33. Chatsworth House
Chatsworth House, the 16th-century stately home in the Derbyshire Dales, has long been seen as the inspiration for Pemberley – Mr Darcy’s abode in Pride and Prejudice. In the 200th anniversary year of Jane Austen’s death (janeausten200.co.uk), modern Elizabeths can live a Georgian fantasy in one of the Chatsworth Estate Cottages (01246 565379; chatsworthstays.co.uk). The Grade II-listed Gardener’s Cottage costs from £755 for a four-night midweek break, or from £1,470 for four nights in July.
34. Hever Castle
A less fictional female icon waits at Hever Castle (01732 865224; hevercastle.co.uk) – the 13th-century pile in Kent, complete with moat, where Anne Boleyn lived while being courted by Henry VIII. That relationship did end badly, but there is a delicate charm to a stay in the property’s “Anne Boleyn Wing”, with its four-poster beds and echoes of a hopeful past. Double rooms cost from £125 per night – including breakfast and castle admission.
35. Stargazing in Alderney
The northernmost Channel Island, a speck of three square miles with practically no light pollution, Alderney (visitalderney.com) is seeking Dark Sky Status – and is a great place to peruse the heavens for the soft twinkle of little stars. A three‑night stay at the Georgian House hotel in the capital St Anne starts at £275 per person, including breakfast and flights from Southampton. Book through Alderney Holidays (01621 734777; alderneyholidays.com).
36. Northern Lights in the Shetland Islands
The firmament can also be alive in the Shetland Islands (shetland.org) – which, as the northernmost fragments of Britain, at 60N, are the most likely context on British soil for sightings of the aurora borealis. A good reason to huddle up closer, the phenomena known locally as the “merrie dancers” are potentially visible between October and the middle of March, depending on cloud cover. Double rooms at the four-star Kveldsro Hotel, in the archipelago’s capital Lerwick, cost from £145, including breakfast (hotelscombined.co.uk).
37. Isle of Wight
Now that Queen Victoria has been restored to romantic youth by ITV’s recent series, there is good reason to visit Osborne House (english-heritage.org.uk), the Isle of Wight home which framed her joyful summers with Prince Albert. At The Royal (01983 852186; royalhoteliow.co.uk), a 185-year-old retreat in Ventnor a Luxury Dine and Stay deal (double room, three-course dinner, breakfast) costs from £150 a night.
38. A Brief Encounter in Carnforth
Unrequited longing has rarely been better expressed than in the clipped drama of 1945’s Brief Encounter – a doomed affair against the backdrop of a suburban rail station. Much of it was filmed at Carnforth station in Lancashire. The ghosts of Laura and Alex linger in the tea room (refreshmentroom.com) where you can echo their conversations (with a happier result). It’s just 24 miles to Windermere Boutique Hotel (01539 444165; windermereboutiquehotel.co.uk), with doubles for £170 with breakfast.
39. Scotland by rail
If the steam train is your idea of romance, you can visit the golden age of travel via Ffestiniog Travel (01766 772030; ffestiniogtravel.com). Its 13-day Western Isles of Scotland rail journey leaves Glasgow on September 7 (later returning to Edinburgh). This will include a nicely archaic ride across the Glenfinnan Viaduct behind the Jacobite steam train – and suitably leisurely progress to the Isles of Skye and Harris. From £2,355 per person, including hotel accommodation.
40. The chocolate hotel
Chocolate and romance are synonymous at the Chocolate Boutique Hotel (01202 556857; thechocolateboutiquehotel.co.uk) – a sugary hideaway in Bournemouth which runs regular workshops (from £46 per person) where participants have to steel themselves not to eat all their ingredients while learning to craft Belgian truffles. Double rooms start at £63 per night, including breakfast.
41. Cookery in the Cotswolds
The way to a man’s heart might be through his stomach, but there is no harm in showing him how to fend for his nearest/dearest. Glamorous Cotswolds five-star Lucknam Park has a splendid cookery school where day courses with hotel chefs cost £175 per person, including lunch (half-day courses £75). Afterwards, dinner at the in-house Park Restaurant beckons. Doubles cost from £230, room only.
42. Michelin stars in Oxfordshire
If a night of stolen glances has to be gastronomic, you might as well choose Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons – the diners’ delight in Oxfordshire which thrives under the gaze of Raymond Blanc and the gleam of two Michelin stars. The hotel offers double rooms from £572 a night (with breakfast) and seven-course dinners from £159 per person. For further spring amour, it has a Bluebell Walk scheduled for May 3 at Harcourt Arboretum – a day trip with three-course champagne lunch included, for £180 per person.
Leaving it late for Valentine’s Day?
43. Dinner in a castle
East Sussex’s 14th-century Bodiam Castle (0344 249 1895; nationaltrust.org.uk/bodiam-castle), encircled by a moat, is awash with medieval magic. It has candlelit Valentine’s Dinners scheduled for February 11, 13 and 14 (6.30pm; £37.50 per person; booking essential). Tickets include an after-hours tour. The White Dog Inn (01580 830264; thewhitedogewhurst.co.uk), in nearby Ewhurst Green, offers double rooms from £95, including breakfast.
Scotland is just as ready with castle-framed Valentine’s revelry. The Witchery is a mixture of nine grand Gothic suites (with four-poster beds and oak-panelled walls) and dining hotspot, pitched in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, on the Royal Mile. It serves three-course gourmet dinners for £36 per person, and has rooms on offer at its “champagne, bed and breakfast rate” (from £335 per night) during February.
45. London for lovers
The joy of Valentine’s Day falling on a Tuesday is that the weekends before and afterwards are realistic times for dances with Cupid. The people behind K West London – a four-star boutique hotel in Shepherd’s Bush – certainly think so. Its “Saints” package – a bottle of champagne; strawberries; doubles for £219 per night, with breakfast – is available from February 10 to 19. So too is its “Sinners” deal – cocktails and chocolates – for the same price.
46. Cornwall cottage
Its mid-February time slot makes Valentine’s Day an ideal moment for huddling up against the cold. Cornish Gems (01872 241241; cornishgems.com) offers a range of cosy cottages in England’s endgame, and has said that all bookings in February will be complemented by a bottle of sparkling wine and a box of Cornish chocolates. The Round House, a restored stone farm storehouse, by the estuary of the River Camel near Padstow, is available for much of next month. From £400 for three nights or from £500 per week.
A catalyst for Thomas Hardy’s wonderful words, Dorset is also a glorious framework for leisurely romantic strolls in the countryside. Afterwards, drift along to Summer Lodge Hotel, a five-star retreat with spa at Evershot whose Valentine’s Hideaway deal is available between February 1 and 22. Prices start at £440 per night for a double room, including champagne, a seven-course dinner, breakfast – and late check-out.
Switzerland? Staid and unsmiling? Don’t say this to anyone from Geneva, the city whose location on the lake of the same name makes cameras sigh. Better still, the local tourist board is so adamant that lovers will find firm ground here that it has unveiled a Romantic Weekend Package that provides access to several five-star hotels from £122 per person per night (including breakfast, but not flights). This can be arranged until the end of the year at geneve.com.
49. Loire Valley
A region of undeniable beauty, the Loire Valley and its fantastical chateaux offer a Gallic context for Valentine’s daydreaming. Nowhere is the romance more abundant than at Hotel de France (0033 243 444016; lhoteldefrance.fr), an Art Deco property at La Chartre-sur-le-Loir. Catching the mood of the month, its Romance In The Loire package – a three-night stay including dinner; a bottle of a local sparkling wine; chocolates and a wine-tasting session – all for €150 per person – is available until February 28. Ryanair flies into Tours, some 25 miles away, from Stansted.
If you fancy Valentine’s Day overseas, and a welcome burst of sunshine with it, head for Tenerife. There, temperatures reach 18C in February. The Hard Rock Hotel opened in December on the Costa Adeje in the south-west of the island. It has a Rockmatic Package, from February 10 to 19, which will include dinner in one of the retreat’s restaurants, cocktails in the Sky Bar, and a couples massage. A seven-night stay on this basis, arriving on February 12, starts at £928 per person. Flights cost extra.