Ah, look, where else for couples but the Eternal City. You might say the same for many other cities in Italy, but Rome beats everything else hands down. The most popular destination in Italy, Rome is, in essence, a living and breathing UNESCO World Heritage Site that is as inspiring as it is utterly romantic. Every corner you turn, you will see history and beauty staring you in the face. You will see one trattoria and osteria after another that are older than your great-grandparents, and then you will see the person you are with and wish to return to Rome again and again.
Another no brainer for people who are in love, who hope and want to fall in love, who are friends no matter what. Similar to Rome, Paris has history seeping from its pores and architecture that demands your awestruck attention. It’s an expensive city, but what price can anyone put on the kind of experiences and romantic cultural landscapes that the City of Light can offer? Here is a city of secret gardens, compelling historic districts, cruises on the Seine boutique hotels, and well love in all of its many guises.
The bounce of the heat, the vibrancy of the art, the warmth of the people, the range of food, the hustle/bustle of the night and the relaxed vibe of the day – Barcelona has everything you need for several days of what Monty Python once termed ‘something completely different’. The bohemian characteristics of the city are justifiably renowned, and even if you’re not necessarily an art lover you will be intrigued (at very least) by the works of Antoni Gaudi that are unmistakeably dotted throughout the city. And lest we forget, there is the so-called Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic), the epicentre of the old city, which needs to be fully experienced while holding hands.
Referred colloquially as ‘the Venice of the North’ (because of its many 17th-century canals, which have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site), Amsterdam is the urban equivalent of a hug from a mate with a multicultural and open-minded smile on their face. It has all a city can offer for a get-together with friends, and by that we don’t just mean great bars, cafés, and nightlife – the city has a wealth of museums, including those focusing on specific artists (Van Gogh) , modern art (Stedelijk) and the world’s largest collection of classical Dutch art (Rijksmuseum).
Not too far from Amsterdam is Ghent, a port city and the third-largest in Belgium (after Brussels and Antwerp). At about half the size of Dublin, it is effortlessly easy to get around, and even more so when you realise the center is officially car/vehicle free. The ease of access is enhanced by the extraordinarily well-conserved medieval architecture that generates a truly historic sensibility. And yet because of its intimacy, Ghent’s compact, persuasive dimensions make it perfect for friends to relax, trade thoughts, share notes and swap memories.
Yes, it’s a city that has a reputation for football and music, so if you’re a lover of either then you will no doubt be familiar with the UK with the best accent in the world. As many people know, there are many connections between Liverpool and Dublin, but this doesn’t mean it’s a home-from-home. Rather, Liverpool’s distinctiveness sets it apart, as does the casual friendliness of its people. In other words? Pull up a seat with your bestie, your brother, your mother, your sister – you are all very welcome here.
Has any city been honored with so many soubriquets? Ranked many times as the most beautiful city in the world, Venice (aka Queen of the Adriatic, The Floating City, La Serenissima) is an astonishing blend of history, architecture, art and landscape that rests on almost 120 tiny islands connected by over 400 bridges It is, without doubt, an incredible place for the kind of occasion that you will never forget. Will you get lost amidst the 120 islands and 400 bridges? Silly question. You have to – it’s part of the appeal!
A compact port city in southwestern France, Bordeaux is the world capital of wine, and if that isn’t special enough for you then we don’t know what is. The region has sprawling vineyards and majestic castles, of course, while the city is home to one of Europe’s largest 18th-century architectural urban areas. This makes it a magnet for tourists that want to be surrounded by a level of cultural and historic beauty that is impossible to ignore (only Paris has more historical monuments). Words of warning: you will leave Bordeaux wanting to return. Resistance is futile.
We all love London, don’t we? It is, after all, a truly global city with World Heritage Sites, historic landmarks, museums, galleries, sports grounds, entertainment venues, theaters and the world’s oldest rapid transit system (aka The Underground). And yet with all of these in situ, it never feels jaded. There is a reason for this, of course, and it pertains to every progressive city: London moves and changes, swings and sways, continuously. Between the London Eye and Sea Life, between Buckingham Palace and the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, between Madame Tussauds and Shrek’s Adventure!, there is more to see in this grand metropolis than you have time for. Let’s ask that question again: we all love London, don’t we?
The entertainment and cultural focal point of Spain (as well as being the actual capital city of the country), Madrid is where you bring your family if you want a warm, welcome and the kind of good times that are essential to share. From amusement parks, ABC Arcade, the Robot Museum, zoos and shopping to aquariums, wildlife, Escape Rooms and the Museum of Illusions, the little ones will be so highly amused for so long they will forget to ask for food (maybe).
TOP TEN PLACES IN EUROPE FOR… by Tony Clayton-Lea
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