Mr Hudson on 10 romantic mini-breaks from European capitals
Been meaning to get away but just can’t seem to find the time (or motivation) to make it happen? Fear not, urban city folk, here are a few close-to-home mini-break suggestions that will give you a well-deserved (and much needed!) respite from the rat race that is modern life.
From London: Isle of Wight, UK
Just 1.5 hours from London by train, this tranquil island offers the weary weekend traveller a wealth of options for a romantic escapade away from the hustle and bustle. Gorgeous sand beaches, rolling hills and quaint villages all conspire to transport visitors back to the postcard-perfect Victorian era, albeit with a hint of modern whimsy. For the best of both worlds, book a stay at the chic, cliff-side The Hambrough, boasting just seven seaside rooms and a Michelin-star kitchen.
From Madrid: Segovia, Spain
Old-world charm radiates from this UNESCO fairy tale town nestled atop a hill overlooking the Guadarrama Mountains not far from Madrid. An ideal location for leisurely strolls and reflection, history buffs will also appreciate the sights and folklore; rumour has it Hercules discovered the surrounding lands and Walt Disney was so taken by the enchanting Alcàzar that he modelled Sleeping Beauty’s Castle after it. Whatever the truth may be, a luxurious stay at the 5-star Convento Capuchinos (a former convent minutes from the Plaza Mayor) provides the perfect excuse to linger.
From Berlin: Bad Saarow-Pieskow, Germany
A mere sixty minutes from Berlin, this scenic spa town seduces visitors with the splendour of Mother Nature. Situated at the base of the serene Scharmützelsee Lake, leisure activities include lakeside boat rides, forest hikes and for the winter months, soothing spa therapies for the body and soul. Villa Contessa, a cosy cottage by the lake, provides an idyllic setting for intimate encounters.
From Prague, Kutná Hora, Czech Republic
Boasting a 12th-century medieval centre virtually unchanged through the centuries, this former mining town is home to a few quirky remnants of the past. The gothic St. Barbora Cathedral dramatically hovers over the horizon like a middle ages spacecraft while the hair-raising “bone” church offers a graphic account of the country’s great plague; over 40,000 bones are piled together to form a macabre diorama. Fortunately, your honey can provide a cuddle at the eclectically elegant Chateau Kotěra a short driving distance from the centre of town.
From Rome: Tivoli, Italy
The jaw-dropping Italian countryside always presents a great excuse to venture outside the capital. Tivoli, a tiny town in the Lazio region, boasts two of the most visually stunning historic sites in the country. Hadrian’s Villa is a lavish retreat featuring 30 ancient structures including theatres, baths, temples and even the private quarters of 2nd century Emperor. While equally impressive, Villa d’Este is more of a garden lovers’ paradise, offering a labyrinth of fountains, flora and sculpted statues. For your own storyed adventure, check into the chic 15th century Residenze Gregoriane.
Tivoli Italy | Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
From Lisbon: Casçais, Portugal
Once the glitzy summer playground of Portugal’s glam kings and queens, cool Casçais remains a haven for sun-loving revellers who enjoy a little culture with their beach frolicking. From quaint museums to a mosaic-tiled pedestrian-only old town and outdoor eateries, this teeny town near Lisbon offers all you need for a weekend to remember. Opt for a stay at the ultra-mod Farol Design Hotel for posh furnishings (the matinee idol chairs are a blast) out-of-this-world seafood and brunch spreads and arguably the most amazing lounge views of the Atlantic Ocean.
From Paris: Reims, France
Regal and sparkling, much like the high-end bubbly produced in this part of the Champagne region, the ginormous gothic cathedral is the golden heart of Reims. This is a lovely weekend stop from Paris for casual promenades, al fresco Michelin-star dining at stylish art-deco eateries and, of course, tasting suds at the great champagne houses in the area. For those with contemporary sensibilities, book a stay at the lovely La Demeure des Sacres guesthouse, which artfully combines post-war art deco with a fresh, modern décor.
From Stockholm: Uppsala, Sweden
The thought of travelling to a rambunctious university town close to Stockholm might seem unappealing to some, but the pristine beauty, romantic cobbled walkways and landmark-filled centre might just be enough to change their minds. Curious visitors will appreciate the 13th-century cathedral, said to be the largest in Scandinavia, the botanical gardens and 6th-century old town featuring an ancient burial ground among other artefacts. And at the end of a long day exploring, the Grand Hotell Hörnan is a great place to put up your feet in a space that follows Sweden’s famed minimalist aesthetic to a T.
From Amsterdam: Leiden, The Netherlands
Pretty as a picture with its tree-lined canals, green areas and brightly coloured houses, Leiden is a charming town celebrated for its ethereal beauty, and only a short train ride from Amsterdam. Walk the peaceful streets to spot centuries-old windmills, a 16th-century church and most notably, the world’s oldest astronomical observatory. For the ultimate memento, end a morning stroll with a boat ride down the oh-so-dreamy canals. And at the end of the day, indulge in spa treatments and sleep like royalty on the plush furnishings of the fabulous 17th-century De Barones Van Leyden hotel.
From Bern: Lucerne, Switzerland
Snow-capped mountains, sapphire blue waters and storybook houses in a rainbow of colours are just a few of the scenic details that make this marvellous town a must-see destination. A great starting point for skiing and hiking in the neighbouring Rigi Mountains, Lucerne is just as ideal for exploring, whether in and around its 14th century old town with its covered bridges or the beautiful waterfront walkways. Upscale accommodations abound, but for a comfy stay with a funky-fabulous flavour, book a room at The Hotel just a stone’s throw to the vibrant historic centre.
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Segovia, Spain | Photo: Arian Zwegers
The Hotel Lucerne, Switzerland
Residenze Gregoriane Tivoli, Italy
Leiden, The Netherlands | Photo: Filippo Diotalevi
Reims, France | Photo: Sebastien Faillon