A romantic getaway means heading to Venice or Paris, right? Well not necessarily. While these destinations can be lovely places to spend time with your other half, they have become somewhat clichéd. You can still have a really special time with your loved one this Valentine’s Day without sitting in a gondola or taking selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower. Here are four February 14th swaps to make memories that are truly your own.
Swap Paris for Lisbon
While the Eiffel Tower may be a symbol of romance, Lisbon has its own connection to the great iron craftsman. After studying under Gustave Eiffel, Raul Mesnier de Ponsard returned to his homeland of Portugal to put his own stamp on its capital. Lisbon now boasts the Santa Justa lift, which transports people between the Baixa neighbourhood and Largo do Carmo.
As well as being a very handy way to travel between these two locations 45 metres apart, it is also a stunning piece of architecture. The impressive structure features neo-gothic arches and the two cabins are lined with polished wood and mirrors, complete with shiny buttons and dials.
With capacity for 29 passengers, plus the driver, inside the lift may not be the intimate affair that you imagine, but the views from the viewing platform at the top of the Santa Justa lift are certainly romantic. The whole of the city of Lisbon is spread out in front of you and if it’s the evening it will be a sea of glittering lights.
You’ll also find yourself in the Largo do Carmo Square, which is particularly picturesque, with its trees and historical buildings. You’ll then be able to explore the streets of the Bairro Alto, where there are some wonderful bars and restaurants. Be sure to try ginjinha, a cherry liqueur that has been the official drink of Lisbon since the 17th century.
Swap Amsterdam for Dubrovnik
If you want to make your love feel like a khaleesi then there’s only one thing for it – take her to Dubrovnik. Instead of wandering along by the canals of Amsterdam, you could be walking round the old city walls and looking out across a mass of terracotta roofs and stunning buildings. Yes, it has become popular since it was used as a filming destination for Game of Thrones, but its beauty and allure are timeless.
Really impress your valentine, by leading them by the hand through a tiny little doorway in the walls to one of the best located bars anywhere in the world. Buza sits on the cliffs looking out towards Lokrum and provides the perfect setting for a romantic drink and a chance to relax before doing more exploring.
There are so many fascinating sights throughout Dubrovnik’s old town, the best thing to do is set out on foot and see what you come across. Start on the main street, known as Stradun, and take in the impressive palaces, Baroque churches and interesting exhibition spaces you come across. Attractions such as the Rector’s Palace, Maritime Museum and War Photo Limited all portray different elements of Dubrovnik’s history and show how the city has become what it is today.
Dubrovnik is not short of places to eat and you will stumble across many gems down the little streets of the old town, as well as waterfront places serving up seafood. While fresh fish is plentiful, much of Croatia’s cuisine is influenced by Italian, so there should be familiar options to please even the fussiest of eaters. The more adventurous should not miss the opportunity to try the local delicacy of squid ink risotto, which is such a deep black in colour it hardly looks like food.
Swap Venice for Faro
Venice has long been associated with romance, but the city of Faro in Portugal’s Algarve could be just as wonderful to spend time together. The old town is easily walkable and features a stunning cathedral and beautiful square, where you can sit and enjoy a meal or drinks without any of the crowds that tend to flock to the Italian alternative.
In fact, it’s easy to spend a lot of your time in the picturesque part of town, which was once fully encased by walls. Wander in through the Arco de Vila, which is one of the gates that still stands to this day. As well as the cathedral and the eerie bone chapel, explore the Municipal Museum and find out about the periods of history that have helped to shape Faro.
If you have been dreaming of enjoying a gondola ride with your loved one, why not take a boat trip to Barreta Island in the Ria Formosa National Park? Also known as Ilha Deserta or Deserted Island, it is home to some of the most pristine beaches in the area and exploring them hand in hand is perfect for Valentine’s Day. You may also stumble across the driftwood monument highlighting you’re at the most southerly tip of mainland Portugal.
Many people like to visit Italy because of the food, but in this regard, Faro more than punches above its weight. This coastal city has a fine reputation for seafood and the prices are astonishing in just how long they tend to be. Forget risotto, what you should share with your Valentine is a seafood cataplana. This large copper pot is used to cook all kinds of fish, clams and prawns in the traditional Portuguese way, with the lid clamped down to seal in the flavour.
Swap Rome for Tel Aviv
Fascinating history, stunning architecture, world-class art galleries and restaurants serving up a delicious selection of food. No we’re not talking about Rome, but Old Jaffa, the ancient port that can be found in the vicinity of Tel Aviv. Just take a stroll along the promenade from the city’s main beach and you’ll find yourself in this deeply romantic area of Israel.
If you’re planning to propose or your Valentine’s Day trip coincides with your honeymoon then there’s something particularly special you should know about Jaffa. The city’s nickname is the Bride of the Sea, making any connections with love all the more pertinent.
Despite a wide selection of attractions to be found in Old Jaffa, one of the nicest things to do is simply wander its cobbled streets and see what you find. There is a strong tradition of arts and crafts in the area, with studios and informal exhibition spaces set up within the domed buildings and in every nook and cranny. Clues to the multi-ethnic nature of Jaffa, with its Christians, Jews and Muslims can also be seen with the tops of underground churches, synagogues and mosques sticking out of walls and the streets.
They say that love is blind and a meal at the BlackOut Restaurant in Jaffa will test this principle. Eating in the dark is said to enhance your sense of taste and the experience will help you to understand what it’s like for the waiters and waitresses who have all lost their sight. It’s likely to be a date you’ll never forget.