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!).
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).
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.
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!
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 Sé (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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!