The Old Bridge in Mostar.
It's the time of year to show your other half just how much you care, and I've decided to take my husband to Europe. We've visited a number of cities before, so, to save you from doing hours of research, I've listed my favourites here. Whatever you want from a romantic getaway this Valentine's Day, these cities are full of all the culture and charm you need to whisk your loved one off their feet!
Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
This city is perhaps one of the lesser known romantic destinations in Europe, but is one of our favourites. Founded in the 15th century, it's divided by the river Neretva, and is surrounded by green luscious mountains. Throughout the old town you'll see wonderful examples of Ottoman architecture, as well as influences from the Mediterranean and western Europe, which make the buildings here really unique.
I recommend you take a stroll over the stunning bridge, known as Stari Most, and pop inside the museum to find out more about its history. The city has its own National Theatre, and art lovers can check out local artists at the Aluminij Gallery. There is also a 300 year old house, Muslibegovic House, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful of its kind in the Balkans, and I have to agree!
Bruges is a wonderful city to explore with a loved one. It's a really easy drive from Calais, but we fancied a break along the way and passed through De Haan, which is a picturesque and welcoming Belgian town - perfect for lunch. When you get to Bruges, be sure to look out for the windmills that sit on hilltops just inside the old town's border.
Bruges canal by night.
When exploring the dozens of churches that the area has to offer, we soon realised that today, many are used to house creative projects, so be sure to look out for any free exhibitions. If you can climb the 366 steps to the top of the Belfry, you'll get some spectacular views of the city. The historic market square is beautiful, but if you're after a bite to eat, walk a little further out for a quieter setting. A canal boat tour is a fantastic way to see the city from a different angle, and we really enjoyed the tour of the De Halve Maan brewery.
Home to the European Parliament, Strasbourg is a celebration of European culture and has a thriving student population, which enhances the city's exciting vibe. The surrounding Alsace region is, of course, the home of some of France's most delicious wine, and you can do some great tours of the surrounding vineyards. You must see Strasbourg's Cathédrale Notre-Dame during your trip; built in 1439, it is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture and is a very romantic place to visit in the early evening, around dusk.
Strasbourg's Cathédrale Notre-Dame.
We visited Strasbourg in the winter, and February is one of the best times to go. The streets are a little quieter and exude a frosty charm that only wintertime can bring. When you've finished exploring the Grande Île (the historic centre), choose one of the many Alsatian taverns and curl up by the fire with some full-bodied wine and cheese.
Heidelberg is Germany's oldest university town, and when my husband and I went, we fell in love with the appeal of the baroque architecture, as well as the famous historic castle. The Altstadt boasts lots of art shops, galleries, and museums that can be perused for hours, all whilst absorbing the area's rich history. Over the years, Heidelberg has been celebrated as a cultural hub, and it has been the home of various academics and important cultural figures.
You can get a lovely view of the castle ruins and the surrounding woods from the Alte Brucke, and there is even a student prison that was built in the 16th century to keep troublesome scholars off the streets! For a scenic walk, follow the north side of the river Neckar up Saints' Mountain along Philosophers' Walk. This will give you stunning views over the city as well as some amazing historical landmarks.
Helping you this Valentine's Day
Whichever city you choose to visit, the journey from Folkestone to Calais is just 35 minutes with
Eurotunnel Le Shuttle
, giving you more time to plan those romantic gestures!
The Old Bridge in Mostar. @ Michael Caven on Flickr
Bruges canal by night. @ Giorgio Galeotti on Flickr
Strasbourg's Cathédrale Notre-Dame. @ francois schnell on Flickr
Heidelberg @ alex hanoko on Flickr