By Jane Hoskyn
Romantic holidays aren’t just the stuff of new relationships. Why break the budget on a luxury break with a new flame anyway? Far better to rent a room in an airport hotel and lock the door.
Truly romantic holidays are the ones you go on with a long-term partner. Your time away together really is a break from the routine, not a getting-to-know-you experiment. It’s also a great way to relight the spark in your relationship.
Here are our top 10 destinations for getting away from it all together.
This ancient Moroccan city is exotic enough to thrill you, but not so far away that you arrive tired and grouchy. There’s plenty to see and do, from the traditional market (souk) of the old medina to the shops of the modern city. The central square, Djemaa el Fna, bustles with street performers by day and transforms by night into a huge open-air restaurant dotted with food stalls.
Romantic gesture: Book a hot-air balloon flight across the medina at sunrise or sunset. Or both…
Dubrovnik’s fairytale old town may be tiny, but it packs in enough vibrant piazzas, steep cobbled streets and glorious churches to keep you both exploring for days. This Croatian coastal gem comes alive at night with live music, art exhibitions, bars and restaurants. No cars are allowed inside the city walls, so you can stroll at your own pace day and night.
Romantic gesture: Blindfold your partner and take them on a bus ride to the botanical arboretum at Trsteno. Once you’re through the gates, remove the blindfold and see them gawp at one of the finest gardens in Europe.
3. St Petersburg
Pack a cardie for some Russian romance in the Venice of the north. The former capital seems unchanged since the days of Rasputin and the Tsars, and its baroque architecture will take your breath away. Visa restrictions kept daytrippers away until recently, so the city still feels like a hidden gem.
Romantic gesture: Stay up for one of the 20 “white nights”, starting June 21, when St Petersburg scarcely sees darkness thanks to its northerly latitude. Party in the streets with the locals, or stroll hand-in-hand under the pinky blue sky at 2am.
4. New York
In New York City, you can be whatever you want to be. A cosy romantic couple on a horse-drawn carriage in Central Park, a shopaholic couple showering each other with gifts from Fifth Avenue, or a cultured couple touring the museums and galleries. NYC doesn’t come cheap, but it’s an unforgettable place that every couple should visit together at least once.
Romantic gesture: Split up for a couple of hours’ independent mooching, then reunite at the top of the Empire State Building – and hope that you both turn up, unlike poor Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember.
The Catalan capital in northern Spain is a great destination for couples who get their kicks from different holiday styles. One of you could satisfy your culture-lust with the Gaudi architecture and Picasso Museum, while the other shops ‘til they drop or soaks up the sun on the beach. Rendezvous in the Gothic district for a candlelit feast of Cava Catalan and the world’s finest paella.
Romantic gesture: Head for the fabulous Sant Antoni Market to stock up on Catalan picnic fare such as olives, sausage and cheese, and have a picnic in Ciutadella Park.
6. The Lake District
Book a cosy cottage and explore the glorious hills where Wordsworth wandered lonely as a cloud. Even in the summer season it’s easy to feel as though you’re the only two people alive in this wondrous green world. If you’re both walking fans, hike the 68-mile Cumbria Way – and if you’re not, sample the wares at one of the area’s independent breweries or Michelin-starred restaurants.
Romantic gesture: Get the bus! Seriously: the 555 bus runs between Keswick and Kendal passes through the scenery that inspired Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey.
Seduce your partner in the city of Casanova. The architecture is, of course, breathtaking, but Venice isn’t all bricks and canals. Its vibrant cultural life includes operas, carnivals and the Venice Biennale, a contemporary art and performance exhibition that takes place once every two years. Find out more here: www.labiennale.org/en
Romantic gesture: Give your gondolier a few extra euros, and he’ll serenade you with classic Italian songs as you mosey down the Grand Canal. Cheesy but unforgettable.
Paris is a great couples destination, but, well… it’s Paris. Everyone goes to Paris. Don’t you two want something a little bit different? Alsace is a hidden medieval gem on the Swiss border, surrounded by mountains and enchanted forests. Fly after work on Friday and you can be on the Alsace wine route in time for dinner.
Romantic gesture: Toast each other with a wine-tasting session in Strasbourg, then soak up all that vino with a five-course gastronomic blow-out.
You needn’t be a backpacking hippy to enjoy this corner of paradise on India’s Arabian coast. Goa’s environmental laws ban new brick or concrete buildings, so it’s beach huts all the way – and some are truly luxurious. Book the best hut you can afford, and bliss out together on the deserted white sands. There’s now a 10pm music curfew, so your peace won’t be disturbed by the 24-hour trance parties that rocked Goa in the 90s.
Romantic gesture: Treat your partner to some hand-crafted jewellery and a midnight tandoori feast at the all-night market in Baga.
10. New Zealand
The magical hills and forests of New Zealand’s North Island were an obvious choice for the Lord of the Rings films, but amazing landscapes aren’t all this country has to offer. Among the many don’t-miss treats are Napier, the Art Deco city surrounded by wine country.
Romantic gesture: Have a DIY spa for two at Hot Water Beach. Dig a hole, let it fill with naturally-heated waters, then sit back and watch the steam rising from the sea.