Ice skating in Budapest City Park is a romantic, active option in February.

Ice skating in Budapest City Park is a romantic, active option in February. (iStock)

With Valentine’s Day falling on a Tuesday in 2023, chances are good that romantically inclined pairs will be seeking fun close to home on the day that’s synonymous with love and affection. But with many winter weekends still to come, exploring some of Europe’s most romantic destinations remains an attractive option in the near future. With fewer visitors, a less frenetic pace and bargains to be had, low season travel can be a sweet deal. While Europe’s list of romantic cities stacks up higher than the Eiffel Tower, we’ve narrowed it down to three cities where romance lurks around every corner.


Hungary’s capital has both fun winter activities and great ways to warm up after spending hours out in the cold. The day could start off sportily with a visit to the City Park Ice Rink. What’s billed as the largest outdoor skating rink in Europe is overlooked by the majestic Vajdahunyad Castle. To take the chill off, order a warm drink at the kiosk, or better yet, make way to one of Budapest’s sumptuous coffee houses. For crystal chandeliers, polished wood furniture and plush velvet, the New York Café at Erzsébet krt. 9-11 is hard to beat. Time your visit right, and the tinkle of live music will fill your ears.

For gorgeous, sweeping vistas of the town, ascend Castle Hill by means of the funicular and upon reaching the top, make way to the Fishermen’s Bastion, a seven-towered terrace offering views across the Danube and the eastern part of the city, Pest.

It’s now time to get hot and steamy. With over 100 springs bursting forth, Budapest offers countless options in terms of thermal baths and spa complexes, from the vast Széchenyi Baths to the fantastically art nouveau Gellért Baths. Both complexes offer couples’ massages.

Options for the evening hours abound. A handful of boats offer two or three-hour cruises along the Danube, with or without dinner; no less panoramic are the views to be had from rooftop bars such as the LEO Rooftop or the St. Andrea Wine & Skybar. Bring the day to a close with a visit to one of the city’s so called “ruin bars,” abandoned buildings transformed into hip and quirky watering holes. Szimpla Kert, the original ruin bar, continues to rank amongst the best of such venues.


With museums, coffee houses and elegance galore, lovers will be in their element in Austria’s capital and largest city. For early morning bling, make way to the baroque and utterly massive Schönbrunn Palace. The former summer residence of the Habsburg imperial family has a total of 1,441 rooms, 45 of which can be visited. Should time allow, explore other parts of the complex, including the world’s oldest zoo and palm house. Back in the city center, take in a mélange or other warming beverage and a pastry or two at one of Vienna’s famous coffee houses. Café Central or Café Schwarzenberg might be worth the splurge.

Devote the afternoon to art and culture by stopping in at any one of Vienna’s some hundred museums. The Belvedere Palace Art Museum is home to Gustave Klimt’s famous work, The Kiss, while the Kunsthistorisches Museum dazzles with its collection of works by Breughel, Titian, Raphael, Caravaggio and others. The Weltmuseum Wien, a showcase of treasures from around the world, could serve as inspiration for the next big trip.

Once the sun has set, take a tour through town on a horse-drawn carriage known as a Fiaker. Book in advance or make way to Stephansplatz, Albertinaplatz or the Hofburg, where drivers in period costume await customers. For the ultimate in date night, put on your dancing shoes and head out to a ball. Ball season in Vienna starts in November and peaks in February, and you don’t have to be a member of Viennese high society to enjoy waltzing the night away. Unsure of your steps? The Elmayer Dance School offers group waltz dancing lessons on Saturdays from 4 p.m.-5 p.m.; preregistration is not required.


For the ultimate romantic destination, the watery dreamscape of Venice is unparalleled. Slightly surreal at any time of the year, adding carnival festivities to the mix makes it otherworldly.

Start the day with exploration by foot and get lost in some of the less-touristed neighborhoods such as San Polo or Canareggio. More than 400 bridges criss-cross the city’s canals; of these, don’t miss the Bridge of Sighs, said to be named for the sorrowful utterances of prisoners as they were sent off to their cells, and the Rialto, a Renaissance-era engineering marvel. To take in views of the city from on high, head to the terrace of the nearby Fondaco Dei Tedeschi building. Entry is free, although reservations are essential.

Gondola rides are something special, but if their 80-euro starting price is a bit rich, consider splitting the fare with a second couple; alternately, quickly cross the canal aboard an identical craft known as a traghetto, which will set you back only a couple euros.

As late afternoon melts into early evening, perhaps it’s time for a tipple. Hole-in-the-wall wine bars known as bacaros offer not only tasty local wines but cicchetti, snacks akin to tapas, free of charge. Once the commuters have thinned out, hop on board the Vaporetto’s Line 1 for a tour along the Grand Canal.

Should your visit coincide with carnival season, which runs through Feb. 21, try to take in one of the daily shows of carnival dresses and costumes at Piazza San Marco; these are free of charge. Another special event is the Feast of the “Maries,” a procession in which 12 beautiful young women make their ways from the Church of San Pietro di Castello to Piazza San Marco from 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 11.

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