5 Under-the-Radar European Spots for Your Romance Bucket List
Visiting Europe with your significant other and looking for something a little more creative to do? From painting-worthy landscapes to architecture-rich vineyards, explore these under-the-radar sites.
Finding unique sites to discover while traveling with your partner isn't always an easy task. Luckily, Europe has many hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. Whether you love archaeology, secret gardens or scenic sunsets, we've selected five beautiful under-the-radar locations for some fresh inspiration. Read on for spots that will make you want to pack your bags!
Claude Monet’s Garden at Giverny, France
Paris is known for the Eiffel Tower, the Seine and, of course, its delicious croissants and macaroons. But it’s also the birthplace of some of the world’s most famous artists, such as Claude Monet. Born in Paris in 1840, Monet became a pillar of Impressionism recognized for his quick brush strokes and landscape works, mostly created outdoors to obtain their unique renderings of diffused light. Monet settled in Giverny, a village in northwestern France, in 1883, where he lived until his death in 1926.
During his time in Giverny, Monet created an array of beautiful gardens surrounding his home planted with wisteria, delphinium, peonies and lilies. In 1893 he created a pond near the Epte River, which he later called the jardin d’eau (water garden) and filled it with water lilies, feeding his fascination with the play of light — and flowers — on water.
Monet’s gardens in Giverny led him to create various paintings, including The Japanese Footbridge (1899) and his famous Water Lilies series of more than 250 paintings. The garden is open to the public every day and visitors can also book a guided tour. Visiting Monet’s house is also an option. The home features a unique yellow dining room and a blue sitting room, as well as walls filled with reproductions of his works.
While walking through ponds sprinkled with lilies and arches draped with wisteria, visitors can immerse themselves in the atmosphere that inspired some of the artist’s most important works. And what’s more romantic than walking inside a painting?
The garden is just an hour's drive from Paris. And when you return to the city, you can visit the Musée Marmottan Monet, which features more than 300 of Monet’s paintings donated by the artist’s son. Fair warning: You might want to go back to Giverny.
National Palace of Pena at Sintra, Portugal
Known for its vibrant colors and scenic views, the National Palace of Pena sits on a hill above Sintra, a town approximately 30 minutes away from Lisbon by car. In addition to its captivating architecture, the palace’s history is also quite interesting. The fairy-tale worthy castle was once a medieval chapel and monastery dedicated to Our Lady of Pena.
In 1755, the monastery was destroyed in an earthquake that struck Lisbon. The chapel, however, miraculously remained standing, and the king of Portugal at the time, Ferdinand II, acquired it, eventually turning it into the Pena Palace, which served as his summer home. Although it passed through different hands after the king’s death, the castle was eventually purchased by the Portuguese State in 1889 and was named a national monument.
The castle features an eclectic mix of styles, including neo-Gothic and Renaissance elements, making it stand out from the landscape. Some of the site’s highlights include the very romantic Queen’s Terrace, the clock tower and the Manueline-Renaissance chapel.
Situated around 2.5 miles away from the Sintra National Palace, the Pena Palace is accessible by car, bus and train. Although the palace is open daily, the best time to visit is early in the morning, as it usually gets crowded around noon.
Visitors can also walk through Pena Park, an almost 500-acre area that houses exotic trees, secret paths and ponds — all mirroring the king’s curious design palate. From the palace, the Castle of the Moors, which helped defend the area during the 8th-12th centuries and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, can also be seen. Visiting this flamboyant castle and its surroundings can be a great option for couples looking to learn more about Portuguese history while being surrounded by dreamy, fairy-tale-like views. Although you can spend the entire day walking through the palace, travelers usually spend a couple of hours and combine it with other sightseeing options around Sintra.
That said, you might want to stay in Sintra for longer, as this town has other hidden gems like Monserrate, which has inspired writers for years, and the inverted tower at Quinta da Regaleira. If you want more magic, make sure to check out the small bars and mystical pubs such as Casa do Fauno, which features a small shop inside with tarot cards, crystals and other New Age trappings. You might even leave that hidden shop-within-a-bar with a few mystical treasures of your own.
Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, Greece
For couples who love learning about ancient cultures — and archaeology — the Temple of Poseidon might be the ideal location for a one-of-a-kind date as you thread your way south of Athens past some of the most exquisite coastal views around.
The temple is open daily and is located about 90 minutes from Athens (by car), and is a common day trip destination from the city. There is also a bus that takes about two hours and drops you off 2 miles from the temple. The route-by-car offers a scenic drive along the gorgeous coastline and opportunities to stop at atmospheric tavernas for a bite along the way. Below Cape Sounion is a small beach for a secluded dip before or after your visit to the temple.
According to Greek mythology, Poseidon, the god of the sea, was also the ruler of horses and earthquakes. Fishermen and sailors would pray to the god in ancient times, asking him for protection and safety during their travels and duties.
The god’s temple was built from marble around 444 B.C.E. It is located on top of a rocky hill, about 200 feet above the Aegean Sea. Centuries ago, this convenient positioning allowed for a perfect view to detect enemies — and a signal for mariners returning home to their wives. Now, it serves as one of Greece’s top sunset-watching venues with its romance-inspiring view.
The best times to visit the temple are during sunrise or sunset for a view so memorable it inspired British Romantic poet Lord Byron to write a poem, Don Juan dedicated to its majesty. Rumor has it that Byron carved his name into one of the temple’s columns — but don’t spoil this ancient marvel by doing the same.
Marqués de Riscal Vineyard at Elciego, Álava, Spain
What’s more romantic than wine? How about wine with a view? Named the world’s second best vineyard in the world (and number one in Europe) by the World’s Best Vineyard 2021 competition, the Marqués de Riscal vineyard at Elciego, Álava, Spain, also has a hotel designed by renowned architect Frank O. Gehry, whose major works include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.
The vineyard offers three wine tasting tour options that can take between 90 minutes and two hours. The vineyard is about four hours by car from Madrid, but is also accessible via bus or plane.
Other than touring the area, you can also explore the medieval town of Elciego or visit the surrounding areas such as Laguardia and Samaniego. If you are hungry — or thirsty — for more, there are other wineries to explore nearby, such as Ysios and Luis Cañas. Or just spend the day leisurely sampling wine at the Marqués de Riscal, taking in the gorgeous view of the church of San Andrés with your partner.
Burano Island at Venice, Italy
A trip to Venice is part of many lovers’ wish lists — and of course, traversing the floating city in a gondola, or Venetian rowing boat, is a must. One of Italy’s most picturesque places, Venice is defined by its bridges rich with history and its charming small coffee shops.
But Burano, a small island about 45 minutes from Venice, deserves just as much attention for its Old World romantic ambiance. While walking past rows of pastel-colored houses, you may see Italian grandmothers sitting outside making lace, one of the products Burano is famous for. You can also visit Buranelli Biscuits, which was created in Burano, and have some biscuits and ice cream with your sweetheart while exploring this mini — and less crowded — version of Venice.
You can get to Burano by train, by car and even by plane. But the most common option is to travel by boat from Venice on either the vaporetto line, an express ferry or via a more expensive, but more intimate personal tour. Some people also like to visit Murano (known for its glass factories) and Torcello (where the famous Cathedral of Santa Maria Dell’Assunta stands), two nearby islands. Whether you decide to visit Burano or all three islands, a day trip will give you enough time to see it all.
During your visit, you can also visit Burano’s lace museum, Museo del Merletto, and its square, Piazza Galuppi, where you can pick up a lovely, handmade souvenir at one of its many lace shops. The island even has a leaning tower of its own — just like Pisa! But if you want to really bring the romance, enjoy a long, leisurely stroll with your partner and take in all the beautiful architectural details in every window and bridge.