Our Top Alternative Romantic Destinations in Europe

Our travel style is a little alternative. Having lived in remote places and holidayed in some lesser known gems, we wanted to share our favourite romantic destinations in Europe.

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Who wants crowds when you’re looking for a romantic long weekend away with your other half, or a whole week if you have the time!

You want serenity, bottles of wine as you while away the time and to gaze longingly into each other’s eyes ignorant to the mosquitoes circling above your head… (It is summer after all – there are certain downsides!).

Assisi street Pinterest graphic - Alternative European Romantic Destinations
All loved up?! Pin this for inspiration!

All recommendations are our own personal opinion and there are no affiliate links.

1. Umbria, Italy

Everyone flocks to the Italian Riviera or Tuscany, but in the middle of the country you’ll find a region full of hilltop towns, vineyards, pilgrimage sights and most importantly, a slice of real Italia without the tourists (or so many tourists).

Jen standing outside of St Francis' Cathedral in Assisi  - Alternative Romantic Summer Destinations in Europe
Assisi (hilltop town)
Rolling green hills with sunlight - Alternative Romantic Summer Destinations in Europe
The gorgeous rolling hills of Umbria!

We lived here for four months over the summer, and fell so much in love with the place that we’ll be heading back this year to see more. Visit St Francis in his grand cathedral in Assisi, eat Italy’s best chocolate and catch a show in the cultural centre of Perugia. Then walk around quaint hilltop towns such as Spello or Orvieto and definitely taste some wine in Montefalco.

You’ll even find a beach with cocktails and an opportunity to swim in Lago Trasimeno (outside of Perugia – the capital city of Umbria).

Best Romantic Spot in Umbria

We stayed in the intimate Borgo Dei Sapori – a secluded vineyard with a hotel and spa offering the perfect romantic getaway. They have rooms with access to their spa, which has a cave like setting and a cascading waterfall pool.

Henry and an olive tree - Alternative Romantic Summer Destinations in Europe

Wine bottle on a table - Alternative Romantic Summer Destinations in Europe
Get wined and dined after a day in the spa!

With saunas, steam rooms and a hot tub, plus space for treatments and drinks on request you can easily while away your time in here. The outside pool is open in the summer, and the small resort offers cycling, hillwalking and golf.

The food is sublime and if you get a bottle of the local wine, send one our way! We would also recommend a trip to Citta Di Castello, a nearby walled historical city and swing by our favourite restaurant Fez for the best steak of your life!

2. Porto, Portugal

This is fast becoming a popular tourist destination, but we still think it’s up and coming enough to make it on to our list of alternative romantic destinations!

Tea, coffee and pastel de natas - Alternative Romantic Summer Destinations in Europe
Pastel de nata date with port tea!
Colourful buildings and blue sky - Alternative Romantic Summer Destinations in Europe
The colourful Ribiera district on the Douro River

We instantly fell in love with the city of Porto when we visited, a sea of orange tiled rooftops that rise up from the Douro River and historic buildings covered in the famous Azulejo tiles.

The best places to see the tiles are at (Porto Cathedral), São Bento Train Station, Igreja do Carmo church, Capela das Almas chapel, and the Santo Ildefonso church, it makes for a romantic afternoon exploring the city.

Another recommendation is a visit to the Jardins do Palácio de Cristal , the perfect place to take in some views across the Douro in the company of some wonderful fountains (and your other half, of course!).

The blue tiled walls of Sao Bento Train Station - Alternative Romantic Summer Destinations in Europe
The beautiful Sao Bento Train Station
The Douro River - Alternative Romantic Summer Destinations in Europe
The Douro River from Vila Nova Di Gaia

Very much a tale of two cities, Porto sits on one side of the Douro River with another city, Vila Nova de Gaia over on the other side of the impressive Dom Luís I Bridge. You can find a waterfront bar to sip port, or try our favourite libation a ‘Port and Tonic’.

A port sangria for two will also add a little fun to date night!

If you can also take the opportunity to do a boat tour and perhaps even go to the Douro wine valley or do a port house tour back in Vila Nova de Gaia.

Best Romantic Spot in Porto

For something more isolated then we suggest a quiet picnic on the beach! Think Danny and Sandy at the beginning of Grease…

Take an old fashioned tram from the city centre (Linha 1 to Foz) and sit in one the beachside bars and watch the wave’s crash against the rocky coastline. The tram ride itself is also quaint with its wooden interiors and views of the river.

Yellow tram in Porto - Alternative Romantic Summer Destinations in Europe
Hitch a ride on the historic tram!
Sea and beach - Alternative Romantic Summer Destinations in Europe
Have the beach to yourself…

It’s a lovely escape from the city and with our picnic we found some secluded spots surrounded by rock pools to sit and watch the sunset with our feet in the sand.

If you’re feeling adventurous get off at Gás which is the tram stop for the ferry to Afurada. This small town is untouched by tourism and it only costs € 1.50 return on the ferry.

3. Graz, Austria

The city of Graz, located in the south of Austria is well known for its Mediterranean climate and you would be forgiven for thinking you had stepped into Italy as you take in the delightful architecture in its historical centre.

Henry and Jen standing in a beautiful courtyard - Alternative Romantic Summer Destinations in Europe
Schloss Eggenberg is a dreamy place!
Hen standing on a rooftop overlooking Graz - Alternative Romantic Summer Destinations in Europe
The view from the department store on to Graz’s famous clock tower

Famed for its clock tower, the River Mur and UNESCO world heritage status, it’s a wonder not many people make the effort to come here – we adore this hidden delight. Make your way to the oldest department store in the city, Kastner & Oehler for its rooftop bar and views up to the clock tower and take a stroll along the River Mur and stop by the Murinsel floating island arts venue.

Take the day to visit Schloss Eggenberg, a palace on the outskirts of Graz where you can get a tour around its gorgeous Baroque and Rococo interiors including the impressive Planetary Room.

Jen walking in a park with a palace in the background - Alternative Romantic Summer Destinations in Europe
A walk in the park is such a romantic setting!

Then roam the extensive gardens with the estate’s peacocks and peahens and find your way to the archaeology museum, a rose garden mound, planetary garden and a picturesque pagoda.

You are also in the best location to visit the Styrian wine region where you can visit traditional ‘buschenschank’ wine taverns who offer hearty meals alongside your wine.

Best Romantic Spot in Graz

The famous Schlossberg Mountain boasts a 28 metre tall Uhrtrum, the landmark of Graz. You can get a funicular or a lift if you want to save your legs the climb and there’s a slide INSIDE the mountain back down again for the fearless.

Clock tower and flowers - Alternative Romantic Summer Destinations in Europe
The famous clock tower is surrounded by lurvely gardens
City view of Graz - Alternative Romantic Summer Destinations in Europe
Sunset views over Graz

On top is a series of exquisite gardens, the clock tower, another pretty pagoda and you can get a lovely meal with the best city views!

Either take your own picnic and booze and sit in the gardens or choose to eat in one of the eateries, of which you’ll find a couple. Nothing beats sunset up on Graz’s mountain in the middle of this small metropolis.

4. Kylesku and Durness, Scotland

For a more adventurous take on a romantic break, take a two hour drive from Ullapool and land in Durness – Scotland’s surfer’s paradise at the top of the country. It’s also quite handily on the newly mapped out NC500 route which passes Kylesku.

Jen and Hen in front of a waterfall - Alternative Romantic European Destinations
Chasing waterfalls near Kylesku
Sunset over a loch in Scotland and red skies - Alternative European Romantic Destinations
Sunset views over the loch in Kylesku

During the drive you’ll want to take in the views on every corner – mountains, lochs, frolicking deer, but beware there are some tricky switchback roads. Although Kylesku and Durness are an hour from each other they give a complete Highlands experience.

We recommend staying in the small fishing village of Kylesku on the stunning sea loch – Loch a’ Chàirn Bhàin and stay in our old workplace The Kylesku Hotel or the Scandinavian style Kylesku Lodges and take advantage of freshly caught seafood and the award-winning service.

Oysters on a plate - Alternative European Romantic Destinations
The freshest seafood at Kylesku Hotel!

Cross over the photogenic Kylesku Bridge and drive up towards Durness. On the way stop at Handa Island (a nature reserve only accessible by boat) for a chance to see puffins perched on towering cliffs and sit on white sands.

The small town of Durness lies further north and it boasts breath-taking beaches such as Balnakeil Beach which is where you’ll find Scotland’s hardy surfers and water sport enthusiasts.

Cliffs and wildflowers - Alternative European Romantic Destinations
Handa Island is a bird paradise!
Beach and white sands - Alternative European Romantic Destinations
Yes these beautiful beaches exist in Scotland!!
A mug of hot chocolate - Alternative European Romantic Destinations
Home of the best hot chocolate in the world!!

You have to make an effort to visit Balnakeil Craft Village to go to Cocoa Mountain where you will honestly get the most scrumptious hot chocolate of your life with the chocolate they make on site. There’s also a resident cat!

Best Romantic Spot in Durness

Nothing says romance more than a climb down to a secret cave, carved by nature and Smoo Cave is that place.

It’s certainly bigger than it first appears and you can even take tours inside its vast chambers. If not take the free option and go inside and marvel at the waterfall.

An opening of a cave - Alternative European Romantic Destinations
The secret Smoo Cave!
Inside of a cave wall - Alternative European Romantic Destinations
Explore inside it’s chambers!

We went on a day they were doing hand fastenings – a traditional ceremony and a way to get married in Scotland for a year and although we didn’t take the leap ourselves it was a magical setting.

5. Lyon, France

If there’s a country that screams romance it’s France. Paris is understandably the go to for a lot of couples, and frolicking in the fields of Provence or swimming in the Med is not something to be sniffed at, but we would still choose Lyon for a romantic getaway.

River with buildings and a basilica - Alternative European Romantic Destinations
All views lead to the Basilica!
Roman amphitheatre - Alternative European Romantic Destinations
There’s Roman ruins to explore!

It’s actually the third most populous city in France but somehow it doesn’t feel like it is. It was the centre of the silk trade meaning lots of rich merchant families settled here and it is the food capital of the country.

Coming to Lyon is entering into the French Alps and the Rhône valley so you know the wine is mighty delicious. You can easily catch a train to the mountains from here – we used to visit when we lived near Tignes/Val D’Isere, if you want to hike or be a bit more active.

Street art of a city scene - Alternative European Romantic Destinations
Awesome street art in Lyon!

It’s full of fascinating history, from Romans (there’s a full amphitheatre), its hilltop basilica, it’s also home to the Lumière brothers so has a big film connection and you can visit a huge outdoor market while learning about the silk industry on Rousse hill.

Best Romantic Spot in Lyon

It has everything from riverside drinks to beautiful parks and art galleries but it’s the food we want to talk about in terms of pulling out all the romantic stops!

Lyon has its own traditional Lyonnaise cuisine served at “bouchons” which are restaurants that in the past served the workers so the food is rich and filling. Coq au vin and potatoes are a local delicacy.

Balcony view up to a church - Alternative European Romantic Destinations
The view from our Air BnB in Lyon’s Old Town!
Cat sitting on a chair in a restaurant - Alternative European Romantic Destinations
When you’re replaced by a cat…

If you wander the streets of the old town (Vieux Lyon), you’ll come across old passageways that connect the streets between buildings and a sleuth of restaurants – some Michelin Star, bouchons and everything in between.

The best traditional restaurants can also be found in the Presqu’île area of the city, but either way the food is scrumptious, cheaper than Parisian prices and the wine is magnifique!

Your next romantic getaway is sorted!

We hope you enjoyed our guide based on our own experiences and unique insight from living in a few of these destinations!

Tell us your favourite romantic destinations in the comments below!

5 thoughts on “Our Top Alternative Romantic Destinations in Europe

  1. Wow I could totally use a romantic trip right now! I’ve been to Salzburg, Austria and absolutely loved it! I bet Graz would be just as gorgeous. And Lyon! I’ve been there as well but a girls trip. I would love to go back for a romantic trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this list and how you included romantic spots within each destination! I totally agree that I don’t want to be around crowds on a romantic getaway either! I’m officially using this as a checklist as I wanted to travel to many of these places like Gras and Umbria.

    Like

  3. I love this list and how you included romantic spots within each destination! I totally agree that I don’t want to be around crowds on a romantic getaway either! I’m officially using this as a checklist as I wanted to travel to many of these places like Gras and Umbria.

    Liked by 1 person

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