Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to do something special and celebrate your love. Cards and gifts may be fleeting, but the creation of memories with your loved one will last you a lifetime. So in honour of this, we’ve jotted down a few of the best international and closer-to-home locations to spend your Valentine’s Day this year.
1. Reykjavik, Iceland
One of the most spectacular and unforgettable sites you could ever hope to see, also a wonderful experience to encounter with someone you love. The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis are most visible when the skies are fully dark making February a promising month for sightings. Sadly we can’t vouch for the weather and there is a chance that pesky clouds will obstruct your view. What we can suggest is you check the Icelandic Met Office website, they have a page dedicated to the Aurora Forecast to help you predict the best night for viewing.
There’s an abundance of boutique hotels and package holidays based around sightings and if you’re unlucky with the weather, there are many other awe inspiring attractions in Iceland including volcanoes, waterfalls and a blue lagoon.
For those seeking adventure, Iceland’s rugged landscape offers a tempting opportunity to grab a 4x4 and explore. If you’re travelling around in a normal car hire vehicle though beware of potentially tricky terrain and weather while driving in Iceland. Read our guide to driving in Iceland for more info.
2. New York City, USA
Visit ‘the city that never sleeps’ for tons of opportunities to make Valentine’s Day memories that will last a lifetime. There are hundreds of hotels and restaurants geared up to celebrate the date. Times Square (AKA ‘the crossroads of the world) is a particular hot spot for all things love related and is often elaborately decorated in a Valentine’s theme. It is especially well known for Valentine’s Day proposals. Even if you’re not ready to pop the question yourself, the experience will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Our personal favourite of the many Valentine’s Day attractions offered in New York comes from Hayden Planetarium Space Theatre. Here you can experience an afterhours Valentine’s Day soiree - a night of celestial entertainment where all you need to do is cosy up under the stars. Enjoy ancient stories of heavenly romances in their space stadium with access to a bar and snacks while you relax.
Another great New York tradition is the yellow cab. We definitely recommend flagging one down to get around the city as Valentine’s Day is likely to be a busy one on the roads. If you do decide to hire a car however, be prepared for some serious city driving! Read our guide on driving in the USA for a few more pointers.
3. Rome, Italy
Celebrate your eternal love in the Eternal City! In Rome, Valentine’s Day is called ‘La Festa Degli Innamorati’ (sounds cool right?). As well as being a tad warmer in February than the rest of the destinations on our list, Rome is known as a city of love and offers a whole host of incredible sights to see. If you’re worried about fitting it all in you can purchase an OMNIA card. Helping you achieve a VIP experience of the city, this card allows you queue jump entry to some of the top tourist destinations. It has some great reviews online so worth a look before you travel.
In past years there has been a trend of locking padlocks to bridge railings and throwing the key in the river. This thanks to the best-selling book I Want You by Federico Moccia. However, we wouldn’t recommend it, the Italian authorities have banned ‘love locking’.
Driving in Italy can be a challenge. If you are driving around yourself, expect a lot of honking, not much indicating and a whole lot of ‘Italian passion’ from other drivers. If you don’t fancy the sound of that, the attractions in Rome are reasonably close together so you’d do just fine to travel around in taxis or on public transport.
4. Bavaria, Germany
Hire a car and take a cruise down the romantic road in Bavaria, Germany. This route runs from Wurzburg to Fussen and is loosely based on an old Roman route. Most importantly, it’s jam packed with romantic scenery and places of interest. In fact there are castles, craters, rolling hills, vineyards and picturesque villages to name a few.
There are a few sights we particularly recommend; Neuschwanstein Castle screams romance with its enchanting silhouette set in amongst a beautiful natural landscape, the town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is fascinating for its historical value but is also insanely pretty and, if you spot them, try Schneeballen (snowball) pastry - deep fried pastry coated in sugar and often dipped in chocolate.
The main appeal on this route is you can plan something really individual based on what you will both enjoy doing.
Before setting off on your romantic drive, it’s best to plan your route including stop offs so that you can concentrate on the roads and travel safely. Of course, if you’ve got more time on your hands you could get the ferry across to France or the Netherlands and drive all the way down or, car hire will be available at most major airports. If you're driving in Germany, it might be worth taking a look at our guide to driving in Germany.
5. Seville, Spain
Escape the chilly February weather of Britain with a trip to sunny southern Spain - more precisely, the Andalusian capital Seville. It's a beautiful city filled with Moorish architecture and plenty of sights to see - including Seville Cathedral (the largest Gothic cathedral in the world) and its accompanying bell tower La Giralda.
Catch some local culture with authentic flamenco dances, or wander down Barrio de Santa Cruz for hidden treasures of shops and eateries. If you're tired of walking, you could take a dip in the Arabic Baths, located in the Jewish Quarter of the city and offering chocolate massages and wine baths!
Driving in Spain is different from driving in the UK - new roads are built next to old ones instead of on top, which can confuse unfamiliar drivers when planning routes. Make sure you take a look at our guide to driving in Spain before you go - the tolls on some roads can be quite high and you don't want to be caught by surprise!
Staying Closer to Home?
1. Llanddwyn Island, Wales
Off the coast of Anglesey you'll find Llanddwyn Island, the final resting place of St Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers - basically the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine! On the island you'll find the ruins of St Dwynwen's Church, as well as Tŵr Mawr, a lighthouse dating from 1873.
Enjoy gorgeous views across the Irish Sea and take a stroll along the beach at sunset - the island has been awarded Blue Flag beach status in recognition of the cleanliness of the sea and the beaches.
2. Edinburgh, Scotland
Take a trip north to one of the most romantic places in Scotland - the city of Edinburgh. Climb the hills known as Arthur's Seat - famously featured in the romance novel One Day by David Nicholls, and suggested as a possible location for King Arthur's Camelot - or take a wander on Portobello Beach. Check out the stunning views of the city atop Calton Hill, and explore the countless independent bookshops and cafes.
Just outside the city you'll find Craigmillar Castle - known to have hosted Mary, Queen of Scots after the birth of James I of Great Britain. In nearby Roslin sits Rosslyn Chapel, a church dating from 1456 with some mysterious features including carved cubes known as "music boxes" and designs inspired by Celtic mythology.
3. Bath, England
Named for the Roman baths that still attract thousands of visitors a year, this Somerset city was also once the home of romance writer Jane Austen, who lived in the city for five years. The architecture of Bath is widely considered to be some of the best examples of Georgian design in the country - you might recognise locations used in films such as The Duchess and Vanity Fair.
This city loves to celebrate all things typically English, so there's no shortage of tea houses - you'll find both modern and traditional eateries where you can enjoy afternoon tea and cream cakes. While you can't take a dip in the Roman baths themselves, you can get a luxurious experience at the Thermae Bath Spa, which includes a dip in the New Royal Bath - using the only natural thermal hot springs in Britain you can bathe in - with fantastic views of the city.
4. Portmeirion, Wales
Find a little taste of the Mediterranean on the north coast of Wales - Portmeirion is a Welsh village designed in the style of an Italian village. Built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975, you'll find hotel rooms, shops, a cafe, tea-room and restaurant, as well as gorgeous gardens.
You can book to stay for several nights or just visit with a single day admission charge. The village has boasted visitors such as Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Jools Holland, Gregory Peck, Ingrid Bergman, Noël Coward, and many others.
5. Dublin, Ireland
Lastly we recommend the home of Valentine’s Day, Ireland. In Dublin on Whitefriar Street, Carmelite Church houses the shrine of St Valentine and many visitors flock there to pay respects each year. Not just that but there is a great deal of poetry and literature on the subject of love, all attributed to this great city.
On Valentine’s Day itself, there are an abundance of activities you can take part in from romantic themed tours to prom style parties and taking in some classic films at the Lighthouse Cinema.
You can’t beat a castle for some romance, right? Clontarf Castle is an ideal place to stay - just ten minutes from the heart of Dublin. The rooms are decadent and dressed with stylish furniture that suits the overall setting to a tee.
One final word on driving in Ireland, they drive on the left just like here in the UK so that makes life ten times easier! However, for a few more tips on driving in Ireland, read our guide.
Want a Classic City?
Dating back to 1209, Cambridge is the perfect escape from reality. Home to the world-famous university and quintessentially British from top to toe.
Stop by and listen to the Choral Evensong performed by Cambridge University students, take a walk along Queens Road for gorgeous sites of the city or go punting on the River Cam.
Located only an hour journey west from London, Oxford is another city in the UK famed for its stellar university, but that’s not all it has to offer. Explore the cobbled streets and you will find world-class museums, famous bookshops and lively pubs.
If you love history, then spend the afternoon in Oxford Castle learning about the Norman Medieval times or if it’s a nice day you could go out and enjoy the botanic gardens.
A wonderful walled city in northeast of England, in York you’ll be spoilt for choice for things to do.
Bask in the medieval cityscape, visit York Minster, walk the cobbled streets of Shambles or take an afternoon to learn about the history of the railway in this city at the National Railway Museum.
From the Roman walls to the riverside, canals to cathedral there is so much to see in Chester. Situated in the northwest of England this city has plenty of character, history and style.
Perfect for a couple’s retreat, take a boat trip down the River Dee or you could even venture outside the city to visit Chester Zoo.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
About the author
This is a marketing article from insurance4carhire by our car hire excess insurance business unit director, Adam Summersby. Adam is a respected leader with 11 years’ varied experience in niche personal and commercial lines insurance, including caravan, site operators and excess reimbursement, with proficiency in leadership, sales and account management.