After all the chaos of the Christmas holidays, Valentine’s Day can sometimes creep up on us with little warning, and before we know it it’s too late to book a table at that new restaurant or plan a romantic weekend in the country. You might be surprised to discover, however, that you can still find some great deals for budget-friendly city breaks, even last minute, in one of Europe’s cheaper destinations…
Forget the idea that this is a summer city, there’s no better time to visit Barcelona than during the winter months. Although you won’t find the temperature ideal for lounging on the beach, Barcelona is much better appreciated without the hordes of tourists, sweltering heat and inflated prices. It’s also surprisingly welcoming in the cooler weather, as well as the perfect destination for a romantic getaway. Perhaps the most charming part of the city, the Gothic Quarter lends itself to amorous afternoon walks, with quiet medieval streets and beautiful squares waiting to be discovered. Finish off on Carrer Petrixol, a chocoholic’s paradise, where you can cosy up over a hot chocolate and crunchy fresh churros. Once you’ve discovered Barcelona’s stunning and unusual architecture by foot, take a cue from the city’s inhabitants and soak up the Mediterranean lifestyle. Find yourself a pretty terrace and take the time to sample some of the best tapas – you’ll find a range of restaurants to suit every budget. Much of the city’s cheaper accommodation can be found in this area too, so you can enjoy being right in the centre of everything.
Krakow is the perfect choice for a last-minute romantic getaway, not only because it’s a great budget destination, but also because it’s a magnificent city with a magical atmosphere. Soaring church spires, cobbled streets and medieval castles can all be viewed from the comfort of a city tour in a horse drawn carriage. Take a stroll through the delightful Kazimierz district, the former Jewish Quarter of Krakow, now a mix of old-world charm and the city’s thriving arts scene. Browse the boutique shops and galleries before stopping off in a cosy art café for some Polish cheesecake (a must-try) or doughnuts. In the afternoon, head to Plac Nowy in the heart of Kazimierz, where you can explore the flea markets, bazaars and fresh produce, and perhaps pick up some souvenirs. Eating out shouldn’t set you back a huge amount, with a three-course meal in a good restaurant costing under £20, especially if you’re outside the city centre.
Although the City of Love may not seem the obvious choice for a cheap city break, a stay in this popular European destination doesn’t have to cost the world. With a little forward planning, you can easily spend the most romantic of Valentine’s Days exploring the charms of the French capital. From the iconic views of the Eiffel Tower to the city’s lavish architecture, the best things to see in Paris are completely free. Go for a leisurely walk along the banks of the Seine, take a pause for your morning coffee and a pastry at a stylish café and finish off the afternoon window shopping in the designer boutiques of the famous Champs-Elysees. Stop by at the treasure trove that is the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen and see what you can find in the flea market (just don’t expect a bargain!) or, if it’s raining, take shelter while visiting the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral or the Modern Art Museum – both are free to enter. If it’s the perfect couple selfie you’re looking for, skip the pricey tickets to the top of the Eiffel Tower and pay a visit instead to Montmartre, for the very best views of the city. Restaurants and hotel rooms are the most expensive part of a Paris city break, but if you avoid the very centre you can still get a good deal. The Latin quarter and Le Marais offer some budget hotels within easy walking distance of all the sights, but Paris’ extensive public transport system makes staying further afield hassle-free. When it comes to eating out, our top tip is to make the most of your lunch time, when many restaurants offer a smaller 3 course menu of some of their best dishes at a reduced price.
Beautiful skylines, lots of culture and its rich history makes Budapest a perennial destination for romantic city breaks, but during the quieter winter months you’ll find fewer tourists (and even better prices), making it perfect for a Valentine’s Day getaway. Before lunch, go for a stroll over the Chain Bridge and climb aboard the funicular for a ride up to the Castle of Buda. Once you’re here you can walk along the romantic streets in the Castle district and take in the best views of the city from the Fisherman’s Bastion. Eating out in Budapest is much cheaper than in many other European cities, but if you want to splash out on a fancy restaurant meal then you could still face a hefty bill at the end of the evening. Alternatively, you could try somewhere extra special for lunch, when prices are much lower, and still get a lovely meal in the evening that won’t break the bank, especially if you are outside the city centre. In the evening, why not treat yourself and your other half to a romantic day at the Szechenyi Thermal Baths and Spa. Valentine’s Day is not a hugely popular event in Hungary, so luckily you won’t have to compete with many other couples doing the same. Visit between 6-7pm and the outdoor baths will be quieter, offering you a more peaceful experience – don’t worry, the pools are more than warm enough to keep you comfortable under the starry, open sky.