When we think of romantic European destinations, bustling cities such as Paris, Venice and Vienna typically spring to mind, but are these really the best places for an intimate getaway? With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, couples across the UK prepare for the most romantic day of the year. From a night spent under the stars to a meal in a romantic restaurant, finding the perfect place to celebrate is key.
Valentine’s Day is traditionally associated with decadent dinners and indulgent drinks. For foodies, not every destination is created equal. From Cassoulet in Carcassonne to scallops in Santorini, choosing the perfect location can be difficult for even the most discerning of food critics.
With this in mind, travel experts at European Waterways present their round-up of Europe’s most romantic towns and cities for food and drink lovers this Valentine’s Day.
Europe’s Top 10 Most Romantic Towns and Cities for Food and Drink Lovers: Data Breakdown
1. Avignon, France: Number of romantic restaurants: Ranked 7th, Number of fine dining restaurants: Ranked 7th, Number of Michelin stars: Ranked 5th, Number of wine bars rated 4 and above: Ranked 5th, Number of tours and wine tasting: Ranked 5th, Number of wineries and vineyards: Ranked 6th.
2. Carcassonne, France: Number of romantic restaurants: Ranked 9th, Number of fine dining restaurants: Ranked 10th, Number of Michelin stars: Ranked 6th, Number of wine bars rated 4 and above: Ranked 7th, Number of tours and wine tasting: Ranked 7th, Number of wineries and vineyards: Ranked 1st.
3. Bordeaux, France: Number of romantic restaurants: Ranked 14th, Number of fine dining restaurants: Ranked 11th, Number of Michelin stars: Ranked 8th, Number of wine bars rated 4 and above: Ranked 4th, Number of tours and wine tasting: Ranked 3rd, Number of wineries and vineyards: Ranked 5th.
4. Narbonne, France: Number of romantic restaurants: Ranked 9th, Number of fine dining restaurants: Ranked 14th, Number of Michelin stars: Ranked 16th, Number of wine bars rated 4 and above: Ranked 4th, Number of tours and wine tasting: Ranked 6th, Number of wineries and vineyards: Ranked 4th.
5. Positano, Italy: Number of romantic restaurants: Ranked 1st, Number of fine dining restaurants: Ranked 1st, Number of Michelin stars: Ranked 16th, Number of wine bars rated 4 and above: Ranked 4th, Number of tours and wine tasting: Ranked 2nd, Number of wineries and vineyards: Ranked last.
Once home to the Gallic tribe of Cavares, Avignon, a beautiful city nestled in the heart of Provence, has always been lauded as the perfect destination for a romantic getaway. Steeped in history and culture, Avignon boasts medieval architecture, winding cobblestone streets, quaint cafés and independent boutiques. The imposing Palais des Papes, or the Palace of the Popes, has been formally recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Unsurprisingly, Avignon is home to a whole host of beautiful religious buildings, most of which can be explored.
Stroll through Place Des Carmes, packed with theatres and restaurants, or visit Rocher des Doms for breathtaking panoramic views of the city. With a definite foodie scene, Avignon is packed with award-winning restaurants, many of which are Michelin-starred. For an unforgettable dining experience, book a meal at Le Lapin Blanc, La Rose des Sables or Bistrot Steak House. Restaurant La Violette – which is situated in an 18th century mansion house, boasts its own art collection. Provence itself has a rich culinary tradition. Try traditional ratatouille, or indulge in pastis. The surrounding vineyards of the Rhone Valley make Avignon a fantastic choice for wine connoisseurs.
Home to fairytale architecture, charming bistros and medieval wonders, Carcassonne is a fantastic choice for couples hoping to escape the hustle and bustle of city life this Valentine’s Day. Enjoy a leisurely wander along the canal, or indulge in a boat ride. Carcassonne is surrounded by lush, quintessentially French countryside complete with rolling hills and vineyards
Independent bistros abound in Carcassonne. Here, visitors can sample delicious local cuisine, from regional wines to local foods. It’s the home of the French stew – Cassoulet – a famous specialty featuring a combination of haricot beans, duck, and port, is a particular favourite. Decadent truffles, muscat de rivesaltes and picpoul de pinet are also popular in the Languedoc region. Michelin-starred restaurants include Comte Roger, which offers traditional French classics, and La Table de Franck Putelat, which is a perfect choice for those looking for something more modern. Head to the lower town for outdoor cafés, tree-lined avenues and vibrant market squares. There are many delicacies on offer at Carcassone’s markets. Sample speciality ham, aromatic goats cheese, and freshly baked pastries. The Cathar castles, meanwhile, provide ample opportunity for exploration for couples hoping to see more of southern France.
Bordeaux, renowned for its classic charm and cultural richness, is a popular choice among couples travelling for Valentine’s Day. With an eclectic blend of history, culinary delights and scenic beauty, Bordeaux truly has something for everyone. The city is situated in southwestern France, in the heart of French wine country.
For a cultural excursion, head to the contemporary art museum CAPC, which boasts a diverse programme of performances, exhibitions and educational events. The grand Place de la Bourse, recognised as a masterpiece of classic design, is beautifully reflected in the tranquil waters beside it. This magical landmark is a popular destination for couples.
A paradise for food lovers, there are a number of Michelin-starred restaurants in and around Bordeaux. Lil’Home, Le Quatrieme Mur and Solena are all wonderful choices for a special date – or even a proposal! Bordeaux is also known as “the city of 1000 restaurants” and offers everything from tapas and Singaporean street food to traditional French treats. If you fancy eating like a local, we recommend Entrecote Bordelaise, made with a traditional Bordeaux sauce or Lamproie a la Bordelaise. For a snack, wander down to the Marche des Capucins covered market (aptly nicknamed the “stomach of Bordeaux”) and sample a wealth of delectable tidbits.
The region is particularly famous for its wine. Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are among the most sought after in the world.
Number of Romantic Restaurants & Number of Fine Dining Restaurants: Positano
Positano, located on Italy’s breathtaking Amalfi coast, is home to intimate beaches, cliffside dining and magical landscapes.The area boasts one of the highest concentrations of Michelin stars in Italy. Freshly caught seafood and locally produced wine abounds in Positano. For a truly romantic experience, book a table at one of Positano’s cliffside eateries. Armandino, nestled high among the town’s towering cliffs, is a popular choice for couples searching for something special. The restaurant serves fairly simple (but delicious) food, with recipes inspired by the fisherman’s daily catch. Indulge in deep-fried alici and fresh swordfish steaks.
La Sponda at Le Sirenuse, meanwhile, provides a unique and memorable dining experience. Eat on the terrace and gaze down at the town below while being serenaded by musicians. La Sponda also boasts a varied wine list. For a slightly more affordable fine dining experience, try Da Gabrisa, the restaurant at Hotel Villa Gabrisa. This family-run restaurant features generations-old recipes, a spectacular setting and awe-inspiring views of the Li’Gallu Islands and Fornillo’s Bay
Number of Wine Bars Rated 4 Stars and Above: Positano
Positano, with its wealth of highly rated wine bars, is the perfect destination for wine aficionados. The Hotel Covo Dei Saraceni lobby bar, situated to the left of Marina Grande Beach, is a more traditional bar with fantastic views and grand decor. For something special, book a table at Le Sirenuse’s Champagne and Oyster Bar. With candlelit tables, magical sunsets and signature cocktails, drinking or dining at Le Sirenuse is a truly unforgettable experience.
Number of Wine Tours and Tasting: Santorini
Santorini, renowned for its white-washed buildings, blue-domed churches and crystal clear waters, provides the perfect setting for a Valentine’s Day getaway. Santorini is home to a thriving wine industry, which is deeply rooted in its unique landscape, featuring volcanic soils, ancient vineyards and indigenous varieties of grape.
Book a wine tasting tour and learn about assyrtiko grapes, which thrive in Santorini’s volcanic soil and produce wines with a crisp, citrusy profile. Many of Santorini’s wineries also offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and food tasting menus
Number of Wineries and Vineyards: Carcassonne
Carcassonne is currently home to 20 vineyards and wineries. The Languedoc region, where Carcassonne is located, has a lengthy history of winemaking traditions. Home to a variety of grapes, the Languedoc region is actually one of the largest and oldest wine-producing areas in France. Visitors to Carcassonne can sample red, white and rosé varieties. Those travelling slightly further afield may wish to visit Limoux, which is renowned for its production of Blanquette de Limoux, which is one of the world’s oldest sparkling wines.
O’Vineyards, currently rated 5 stars on Tripadvisor, is a particular favourite among visitors to the region. With dinner pairings and boutique B&B rooms, O’Vineyards is a wonderful choice for couples looking to get the most out of their vineyard experience.
Which Countries Averaged the Most Points?
1. Switzerland (269 Points)
2. France (250 Points)
3. Croatia (244 Points)
4. Italy (200 Points)
5. Netherlands (167 Points)
This year, travelling to another city or town is expected to be a popular choice. For those opting for a romantic getaway, January is a fantastic time to book, with holiday retailers, airlines and accommodation providers offering last-minute accommodation at a lower cost. If you’re in search of fairytale romance, our top pick is southern France but Switzerland, Italy and Croatia are all great choices too!