If you’re looking for Valentine’s Day city breaks that will put you in your partner’s good books, we’ve got you. Cheap flights? Tick. Romance on lock? Tick. Experiences to show you’re butter together? Tick. Here’s our rundown of the best city breaks for the looming 14th February celebrations. Word of warning – don’t go forgetting…
With over 9 million tourists visiting Barcelona every year, it’s one of Spain’s most popular destinations for singles and couples alike. Famous for its eclectic Gaudí buildings showcased throughout the city, the rainbow-coloured mismatch of Barcelona is a museum within itself.
Arguably the most famous of all is La Sagrada Familía, a unique Roman Catholic temple designed by Spain’s most talked-about architect, Antoni Gaudí, almost 135 years ago. La Sagrada, meaning “sacred”, is still awaiting completion with the expected building work to be finished by 2026. Although unfinished, the religious temple has earned a UNESCO World Heritage Site title and already dominates the Carrer de Mallorca area, and on completion will be the tallest church building in the world. Other highlights of Gaudí’s famous architecture include Casa Mila, Casa Batllo and the Jardins Artigas.
Walking the city of Barcelona may be a treat for the eyes but definitely not for the feet so the hop-on hop-off tourist buses that venture city-wide can be a cheap and easy way to uncover the best of the city. Taking you from the Barceloneta beach into the depths of the city, you’ll be provided with either an audio or live guide for commentary. Other highlights include the Picasso Museum, the Gaudí Museum and the Zoo, just ten minutes from the bustling harbour by Las Ramblas.
Architecture offerings aside, Barcelona has a thriving food and drink scene in the heart of the city centre. Traditional tapas bars line the main streets offering Spanish delicacies like patatas bravas and alioli, golda, huevos rotos and migas, accompanied with Sangria. Try Quimet I Quimet for passata and black olive pâté or the foodie favourite, Bar Canete for Galician baby scallops.
This popular Dutch city, known as a “home away from home”, is the perfect couple’s getaway destination. With its long winding canals weaving their way throughout the city, blossoming flower beds lining the sidewalks and ancient cobbled paths that lead you into the hidden depths of the Red Light District; what Amsterdam lacks in size, it makes up for in experience.
The Heineken Experience
If you’re looking for a classic tourist attraction to treat your loved one, the Heineken Experience is a great option. You’ll get to learn all about the birth of Heineken, one of the world’s most popular beers, how it came to market, how it’s produced worldwide and even how it tastes (as if you didn’t know already) with a free sample at the end of your tour. On the door tickets cost 21 Euros but online discounts can be had if booked in advance.
Amsterdam isn’t struggling on the romance front either with its river cruises. From night-time candlelit food cruises to daytime sightseeing tours, the boat rides showcase the best of the city free from the many cyclists that dominate the small streets!
The Van Gogh Museum
Art and culture are vibrant in the Dutch capital, especially with its most famed artist’s museum nestled in Museum Quarter. The Van Gogh Museum showcases Vincent van Gogh’s most recognisable artwork including Sunflowers, The Bedroom, Self-Portrait with Straw Hat and Gauguin’s Chair. Artwork from the likes of Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Henri Gabriel Ibels and Utagawa Kunisada also feature. Online tickets cost 19 euros and you must select a time slot to book.
Rio de Janeiro
This out of Europe city break may be an 11-hour flight from London but it’s a popular tourist destination for a reason. Wrongly known as the capital of Brazil (it’s actually Brasilia for all of you now confused), Rio de Janeiro has the perfect mix of vibrant city life and idyllic beach vibes you’ll find in many seaside resorts. Most famous for its 35-metre-high monument, Christ the Redeemer, Rio attracts around 3 million international tourists every year and is the perfect Valentine’s Day break for a fun-seeking couple.
The colourful Rio has an unrivalled party scene, with flamboyant bars and eccentric nightclubs that open the party as early as 2pm in the daytime. Try the Lapa area for live shows or try your moves at the local Samba clubs, or if you’re looking for something a little more edgy, try the Santa Teresa area. The most popular of party places is undoubtedly the Copacabana, with its beach, rooftop bars, many clubs and overall good vibes. If you’re not looking for rowdy and want more sophistication, the Copacabana has lots of hotels that host luxury cocktail evenings. Try the Belmond Copacabana Palace and enjoy the piano bar entertainment as you sip margaritas in the lounge.
Stood at nearly 400 metres above ground level, the Sugarloaf Mountain is a towering peak in Rio de Janeiro. Sat on the bottom of Guanabara Bay and rising high into the Brazilian skies, it is one of the most famous mountains in South America. If you want to see how the city looks from its great heights, you can enjoy panoramic views by taking a cable car to the top.
The Big Apple is a popular couple’s hot-spot, with something to offer even the most jet-lagged visitor. Known as a concrete jungle, it’s bursting at the seams with glassy city skyscrapers and department stores the size of small cities. As the bustling hub of US city life, New York has been the location for countless films and TV shows including the cult-classic, Friends. Relive some of your favourite onscreen moments in Central Park, by the Empire State Building or under the illuminated lights of Times Square.
Times Square has been dubbed “the Crossroads of the World” and it’s not surprising why; over 300,000 people whizz through it daily. Famous for its ball dropping and theatres, it’s a must-visit for couples and singletons alike.
The Square is home to some of Manhattan’s best-loved attractions. You can walk the red carpet and mingle with all your favourite celebrities at Madame Tussauds, test your levels of perception at Ripley’s Believe It or Not or immerse yourself in the family-friendly National Geographic Ocean Odyssey.
Valentine’s Day Food
New York isn’t short on restaurants, nor is it lacking in Valentine’s Day celebrations so why not combine the two? Head to Radio City Music Hall and try Le Bernardin for delicious fresh seafood or if you’re around the West Village, get a taste of Italy at Olio e Piu and try the Pollo Arrosto or Diavola pizza. If you’re just looking for a small romantic snack, there’s plenty of gorgeous places to stop off for Valentine’s Day afternoon tea. Alice’s Tea Cup cafes are fairy-tale-inspired tea rooms serving handmade cakes and plenty of scrumptious teas in multiple locations across the city or you can try the Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel’s afternoon tea for something more sophisticated (and expensive!).
Second only to Paris as the love capital of Europe, Rome oozes sensuality and romance in equal measure. Its beautiful fabled buildings paired with its delicious traditional foods attract around 9 million tourists every year. There’s no guessing why people from far and wide have Rome on their bucket-list, especially as it’s one of the only cities in the world that makes you travel thousands of years back in time without the need for a time machine. The city takes you on a voyage back to Ancient Rome when the gladiators fought in the Colosseum and the Pantheon hosted services for hundreds of Roman Catholics back in 125AD. Tickets to the Colosseum vary but tend to be around 16 euros and cheaper if you are a European citizen.
What most people don’t realise is that Vatican City is a country in itself. Although it sits in the heart of Rome, Vatican City is independent and is home to the leader of the Catholic church, Pope Francis. Stand at the top of the towering stairs by St Peter’s Basilica and take in the vast expanse of St Peter’s Square and head into the Basilica for some of the most incredible architecture in the world.
Vatican City isn’t the only place that showcases Rome’s rich history; throw a euro over your shoulder into the Trevi Fountain and see if all your wishes come true. Climb the Spanish Steps, follow in the footsteps of the Romans at Castel Sant’Angelo or walk the Ancient ruins of Roman villages at the Roman Forum.
Food and drink in Rome
From handmade pizzas to fresh spaghetti pasta, there’s so much Italian goodness to eat that there’s never enough time to try it all. Some of the must-try foods include lasagne, polenta, risotto, carbonara and Fiorentina steaks.
Known as the city of love, Paris is the obvious destination for loved-up couples. Romanticised in almost every classic novel ever, the French capital has a reputation of making people fall even deeper in love than when they first arrived – will it work for you?
Things to do in Paris on Valentine’s Day
Climb to the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower and spot Paris’s most famous monuments in the landscape. From 376 feet above ground level, you’ll get the best panoramic views that the city has to offer. See if you can spot the Sacre-Coeur, the Arc de Triomphe and the Les Invalides!
If you’re looking for more cultural offerings, you can’t go to Paris and not visit the Louvre Museum. You can take guided tours every day at 11am or 2pm or have a wander for yourself but be sure to leave at least a few hours aside to explore. Most excitingly, if you beat the queues, you’ll get to come up close to Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece – The Mona Lisa. Other highlights include Rembrandt’s The Supper at Emmaus, Baltasar de Castiglione by Raphael and The Fortune Teller by Caravaggio.
For evening entertainment, get seats at the world-famous Moulin Rouge or take yourself for dinner at Montmartre. Shopping on the agenda? Champs-Elysees as an eclectic mix of high-street and designer fashions but be sure to spot the Arce de Triomphe!
Read more on what to do in Paris in our travel guide.
Whichever city break you choose to go on this Valentine’s Day, make sure you give a pizza your heart to the city of choice! Get cheap flights to all of these destinations and save your credit card for the trip.