Magazine

5 Cultural Valentine’s Day Ideas

Travel Inspiration

Valentine's Day is approaching as quickly as a winged cherub. If you've left plans to the last minute, why not whisk your partner off to a romantic weekend retreat in these delightful cities where everything from Michelin-starred restaurants and opera to exotic adventures await. By Trisha Andres

1. Istanbul

Exotic and disarming, Istanbul is an eclectic melting pot where east meets west and the new intermingles with the old.

Hop on a Şehir Hatları ferryboat to spy the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. Then walk over to the cathedral-like Basilica Cistern and explore the subterranean structure before heading to House Café in Beyoğlu for a cup of coffee. For fans of the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk, visit his captivating Museum of Innocence, named after his book, which tells of a Turkish man and his lost love. For the main event, tuck into local fare at the Maiden's Tower overlooking the Bosphorus then take a romantic ferry ride back home.

2. Marrakech

Hypnotic Marrakech has lured many a visitor with its exotic charms. Take in the beautiful city and wander its labyrinth streets filled with souks piled high with spices, lanterns and leather.

For a romantic escape, take a mule ride up to the beautiful Kasbah Du Toubkal then tuck into a feast of tagine and couscous while gazing at the wondrous Atlas Mountains from the terrace. On the way back, stop by Les Bains de Marrakech for a hammam experience and a couples' massage before heading back home to a Moroccan feast prepared by your very own chef and laid out in the garden by the pool.

3. Paris

Arguably one of the most romantic cities in the world, there's plenty of reasons to fall in love with Paris from its cobbled streets and outdoor cafes to its stylish inhabitants and endlessly fascinating galleries.

Avoid the tourist clichés and head to Le Marais for a bohemian rendezvous. Start off at the rue des Francs-Bourgeois and meander till you reach Cour d'Honneur, the dazzling courtyard of the Archives Nationaux. Grab a takeaway coffee then walk towards place des Vosges and sit on a bench to admire the picturesque square. For dinner, head closer to home and dine in the fabulous Epicure for French fare while looking out into the courtyard gardens.

4. Florence

The Renaissance capital has more on offer than just ancient monuments. With a slew of new museums, inspired eateries and an easier-to-navigate centro storico, Florence has proven itself to be a timeless beauty.

Begin your journey at the Uffizi and marvel at the astonishing collection of works by Boticelli, Caravaggio and Leonardo. Leisurely wander down to the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, the Palazzo Medici Riccardi and the San Miniato al Monte and explore the stunning architecture as well as the frescos and murals within. After a long day of sightseeing, head to the terrace at the Four Seasons' Il Palagio restaurant and tuck into Florentine cuisine as you gaze at the city's exquisite beauty.

5. Vienna

Once considered a sleepy town despite its grandiose setting, Vienna has managed to recapture its cool, artsy spirit. It remains elegant as ever, and the arrival of new bars and restaurants has given it a new lease of life.

Visit the incredible Hundertwasserhaus and admire the apartment block's wild contours and vibrant colour scheme. Then head to Museum Moderner Kunst and explore 20th-century works by Picasso, Miro, Magritte and Kandinsky. Pretend you're royalty for a day and wander the Belvedere, the most opulent palace in Vienna built for Prince Eugene of Savoy. For dinner, dine at Steirereck and sample Viennese dishes as you admire the views of Stadtpark. Finally, a box seat awaits at Theater An Der Wien, one of the city's finest opera houses.

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