Cities of romance

Forget the heavy hitters, some of the world’s most underrated cities punch well above their weight when it comes to style, charm and, most importantly, an air of romance. If a Caribbean or Indian Ocean island retreat is too much of a stereotype – or a budget buster – then how about a honeymoon city escape? And, no, we’re not talking the usual suspects of Paris, Rome or New York. We’ve gone in search of some of the world’s unsung urban heroes.

Charm and warmth in Scotland’s “Other Capital”

Gone are the days this city was overshadowed by the capital to the east, a grey industrial heritage and a reputation for tough neighbourhoods – and even tougher bars. Glasgow today is a preening city, justifiably proud of its rich architectural, cultural and artistic heritage while, at the same time, setting an impressive benchmark when it comes to stylish accommodation, much talked-about young chefs and trendy nightspots. Some claim it’s also friendlier than “pretentious” Edinburgh but we, of course, wouldn’t dream of making any such comparison!
How? www.easyjet.com and www.ba.com fly to Glasgow from £75 return.
Where? Blythswood Square Hotel (www.blythswoodsquare.com) combines classic architecture with modern, stylish flourishes, a spa and fine dining all within a grand Georgian building. Rooms start from £250 a night.
What else? Less than an hour from Glasgow, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park – offering some of the most romantic natural beauty in Scotland – make for a great day trip out of the city.
• For more information, visit www.visitscotland.com

Grab yourself some hygge in stylish Aarhus

Yes, we know Copenhagen is wonderful but Denmark’s second city isn’t too bad either. It’s a place where education and academia mix with art and architecture, fine new Nordic cuisine and good shopping. Wander cobbled backstreets (especially the picturesque Latin Quarter), pay a visit to the 12th century cathedral, relax in the city’s beautiful botanical gardens and stand back and marvel at the quirky apartment complex fashioned to resemble a series of icebergs.
The Danes are regularly cited as the world’s happiest nation, so if you’re in the market for a little hygge (too complicated to explain here but go look it up) then small but perfectly formed Aarhus offers a charming slice of Scandinavian style.
How? www.ryanair.com flies to Aarhus from £70 return.
Where? The historic Hotel Royal (www.hotelroyal.dk) has junior suites from £200 a night.
What else? Some of the best beaches in Denmark are to be found around Aarhus and, in summer, long evenings see Den Permanente (10 minutes by bike from the city) become a haven for trendy locals enjoying seaside bonfires and barbecues.
• For more information, visit www.visitaarhus.com

Bountiful Bologna

The capital of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, Bologna’s claim to fame is its food. And in a country in which the quality is generally of world-beating standard that’s quite a claim.
This city of Medieval and Renaissance structures, atmospheric cafes, arched colonnades and the majestic Piazza Maggiore as its centrepiece is noted as the one that gave us tortellini, tagliatelle and lasagne, fabulous veal meat balls, waistline-destroying pastries and desserts (enjoy, you’re on honeymoon!) and, of course, superb wines.
How? www.ba.com and www.ryanair.com fly to Bologna from £80 return.
Where? If money is no object then the stunning five-star Grand Hotel Majestic già Baglioni (www.grandhotelmajestic.duetorrihotels.com) is about as good as it gets. Rooms start at £330 a night.
What else? If your passion for food is matched by one for fast cars then how about a day trip that will take you from boutique producers of Parmesan cheese, Balsamic vinegar and Prosciutto to the world famous motor museum in Maranello where you can test drive a Ferrari or Lamborghini (www.amazing-italy.com)?
• For information, visit www.bolognawelcome.com

Divine Providence

You could just stay in Boston. And why wouldn’t you? The US eastern seaboard city is a gem. There is, however, a slightly more unusual but equally interesting option less than 50 miles south in the shape of Providence. Cutting-edge art galleries, a revitalised waterfront, sophisticated dining and a thriving cultural vibe has seen this small Rhode Island college town gather something of a reputation as an underrated gem. Whether you want to enjoy cocktails in friendly dive bars, browse vintage stores or discover works by emerging new artists, Providence stands proud as one of the oldest cities in the US, but one that also packs in plenty of modern charm.
How? www.delta.com and www.virginatlantic.com fly to Boston
from £400 return.
Where? Named one of the 10 most romantic American inns, the luxury Jacob Hill (www.inn-providence-ri.com) is an historic bed and breakfast but offering much more than a B&B tag might suggest, from swimming pool, tennis court and large jacuzzi in many rooms, all set within a peaceful country estate. Rates start from £150 a night.
What else? New York is just three hours by train (www.amtrak.com) from Boston, making a Big Apple/New England combo a perfect honeymoon choice.
• For more information, visit www.goprovidence.com

Glorious Galway

There’s nothing quite like Ireland’s stunning west coast for a spot of relaxation and reconnecting with nature – not to mention wonderful local food, plenty of outdoor pursuits, cosy places in which to simply cuddle up and, of course, a welcome amongst the warmest you’ll find anywhere in the world. And the rugged natural beauty around these parts also comes with an irresistible air of romantic charm.
How? www.ryanair.com flights cost from £60 return to Shannon which is around an hour from Galway.
Where? The Cashel Bay Hotel (www.cashelhouse.ie) is a classic country house retreat on the Wild Atlantic Way. Family-run for almost half a century, this 19th century home nestles in 50 acres of peaceful gardens and woodland and is perfect for enjoying walks, exploring deserted beaches, fishing, golf and horse riding. Rooms start from £80 a night.
What else? It’s a three-hour drive from Galway but if you’re hiring a car and are a couple of foodies then check out TV chef Rachel Allen’s acclaimed Ballymaloe Cookery School (www.cookingisfun.ie).
• For more information, visit www.tourismireland.com

Lisbon – City of Contrasts

Museums, golf, art galleries, excellent restaurants and cafes, nature and adventure, beaches and watersports, Lisbon is also a city full of historical stories to tell, bags of authenticity and respected customs – and a place where the sun shines 290 days a year. This Portuguese gem is also proud of its mix of culture and hi-tech innovation and its gastronomic heritage but, above all, its reputation as a city that loves to welcome visitors and where your under-pressure pound goes further than it does in certain other European haunts.
How? www.monarch.co.uk flies to Lisbon from £100 return.
Where? There’s a feel of a New York town house to the Hotel Valverde (www.valverdehotel.com). This boutique property boasts just 25 rooms overlooking the city’s trademark red roofs while, behind the stunningly preserved 19th century facade, is bags of elegance. Rooms start from £225 a night.
What else? Take a day trip to explore (and, of course, taste) two of the best wine producing regions in Portugal – Alentejo and Setubal Peninsula (www.winetourismportugal.com).
• For more information, visit www.visitlisboa.com