11 Fairytale Minimoon Escapes in Europe

Lake Bled, in Slovenia, has become a popular minimoon destination
Lake Bled, in Slovenia, has become a popular minimoon destination | © Chon Kit Leong / Alamy Stock Photo

Editorial Manager

The honeymoon experience is an impossible dream for many couples at the moment. Culture Trip explores a viable alternative that has gained popularity in 2020, with some ideas for European destinations you need to consider as travel returns. Whether you dream of strolling along the streets of Paris, or taking a boat on Lake Bled, Slovenia, here are the 11 most romantic places to escape to when travel allows.

Romance is guaranteed on a boat ride around the islands of the Lac Inferieur, Paris

For more inspiration, also check out Culture Trip’s recent guide to the most beautiful cities in the world.

What is a minimoon?

The term “minimoon” is admittedly not all that imaginative. It’s a play on “honeymoon”, which itself comes from an unknown origin with one dubious claim stating that it relates to the first month of a marriage as it is the “sweetest.”

Honeymoons are however a traditional part of most cultures. Couples often spend as much time (and money) planning their romantic first few weeks together as they do on the wedding itself. As such, a depressing number of people have had to cancel or postpone their luxury trips away together, as long-haul flights have been cut during the global pandemic.

A romantic gondola ride around the canals is a popular activity in Venice

Minimoons offer a cheaper alternative. Usually lasting no longer than a week, the short breaks are designed around domestic or continental travel. The plan is still to have a romantic escape from your home town and do all the things newlyweds do, but without the stress and expense of a long-distance flight.

Get creative with your minimoon choices now, and you can still plan a belated, traditional honeymoon after, once you’ve checked out our top romantic destinations for your postponed honeymoon.

Romantic places to stay in Europe

Here’s our list of some old favourites mixed with unheralded treasures that you should think about when planning your minimoon. These places also work if you’re several years into a relationship and just want a nice break away together, as well.

Paris, France

Let’s start with an old favourite. Arguably the most romantic city in the world, Paris has claimed the title of City of Love for many years now. There is a sense of drama and sweeping passion in everything the city has to offer – from the food to the fashion. Everything has to be delivered with style, and although sometimes daunting, it’s definitely worth all the effort. One thing that is easy is getting to Paris, as the city is one of the best connected in the world. This is the perfect place for a short weekend away for all couples, and ideal for a minimoon, too.

Care to get a taste of Paris’s culinary scene? You have to join this Paris Food Tour.

1. Paris J'Adore

Hotel

Paris JAdore
Courtesy of Paris J'Adore / Expedia

Smart and sassy perfectly describes this fabulous hotel in the heart of Paris. The rooms have an eye-opening variety of options to spice up any stay, including ensuite jacuzzi and private terrace overlooking the city. Some rooms even come with a swing!

Toulouse, France

Nicknamed the Pink City, Toulouse, in southwest France, has a unique charm that is hard to define. The soft coral colours of the rooftops and shops that give the city its nickname add a touch of whimsy. The local accent is one that even the French think is the sexiest in all the land, so if nothing else, you’re in for an aural treat in Toulouse. That said, the gourmet restaurants and local delicacies are some of the best in the world, too – remember to try these delicious dishes when you’re next in town. For film lovers, there’s even a hotel hidden behind the façade of an old movie theatre.

2. Hôtel la Flanerie

Hotel

The ivy-clad exterior of Hôtel la Flanerie, with flowers next to the entrance and trees along the river in the background
Courtesy of Hôtel la Flanerie / Expedia
This hotel reflects the calming ambience of Toulouse. We’re pitching this city as a clever option that’s within easy reach for a short break and won’t break the bank – La Flanerie meets the romance on a budget criteria, too.

Istanbul, Turkey

About as exotic as a European holiday can get, Istanbul is a vibrant city with an alluring mix of attractions. The art scene is booming, combining modern influences with traditional styles. This heady mix of cultures is evident across the city everywhere you look, and if you’re looking for somewhere to transport you away from the drudgery of everyday life for a few days, then Turkey is an outstanding choice.

3. A'Jia Hotel

Boutique Hotel

If you’re anything like us, you’ve already taken the 3D tour on the hotel website and decided to stay here as soon as possible. This award-winning boutique hotel is on the banks of the Bosphorus and is styled around a traditional Ottoman mansion.

Venice, Italy

Venice is usually the first place most people think of when planning a romantic holiday. Many great movies are set here, and it’s steeped in literature and music, so there’s plenty to inspire you to book a short getaway at any time of the year. Visitor numbers were unsurprisingly low during the pandemic, so come quickly for the chance to explore the canals and narrow streets while they’re less crowded.

4. Ca Maria Adele

Hotel, Guesthouse

Ca Maria Adele
Courtesy of Ca Maria Adele / Expedia
Ca Maria Adele, in the art district, often features in many images of Venice. Its façade is part of the world-famous view from Piazza San Marco, but it’s the interiors that actually make it one of the most romantic places to stay in the world. The opulence is a throwback to the city’s heyday, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more perfect minimoon destination in Europe.

Rome, Italy

Florence almost made the list, in fact this entire list could easily be just a selection of Italian cities, but we’ve gone with Rome as the other entry from Italy. The Eternal City is full of history and culture wherever you look, and the relaxed attitude of the locals will quickly put you at ease. The city is fizzing with energy, but it’s so big that you can easily find your own spot here. The must-try food, wine and candlelit plazas are a must for minimooners.

5. Crossing Condotti

Hotel

Crossing Condotti
Courtesy of Crossing Condotti / Expedia

A modern hotel in Rome might not instantly highlight the ancient treasures of the city, but that’s the point. This artsy hotel is a small, comfortable, home away from home that makes you feel instantly at ease with your wider surroundings. You’re only a short walk from some of the famed landmarks of the city, so make sure you’ve checked out all the relevant guides to Rome before you stay here, as you’ll have plenty to see and do.

Valletta, Malta

Malta is widely regarded as a great summer holiday destination by many Europeans, but is it really a viable minimoon alternative? The capital, Valletta, divided by ancient walls that surround the Old City, makes an excellent base, but to see the best of the country make sure you plan excursions beyond the city limits. The blue waters around the coast are an incredible sight to behold, and will go some way to convincing you that Malta is a great choice for a romantic break.

6. Casa Ellul

Boutique Hotel, Hotel

A quirky seating space at Casa Ellul with a geometric-pattern rug, olive-coloured seating, and modern art on the walls
Courtesy of Casa Ellul / Expedia
Casa Ellul is a luxury boutique hotel that dates back to the Victorian era. You can identify a multitude of architectural styles as you explore the city, and this hotel reflects those influences, too. Many rooms in Valletta can be described as humble, but there’s nothing restrained here. If you’re really looking to splash out make sure you opt for a suite that comes complete with rooftop terrace.

Budapest, Hungary

The remarkable capital of Hungary is a favourite with European visitors of all ages. Solo travellers love its easy-to-navigate streets, and it has a family-friendly ambience that makes the most of a diverse make-up of neighbourhoods – you can choose your favourite with our neighbourhood guide to the Hungarian capital. There is also plenty on offer for couples, with intimate buildings providing excellent places to stay if you want to hide away from the world outside. Budapest is also one of the best-value places to visit in Europe, so it’s worth considering if you’re saving up for a big trip later on.

7. Four Seasons Gresham Palace

Spa Hotel, Hotel

Four Seasons Gresham Palace
Courtesy of Four Seasons Gresham Palace / Expedia
Showcasing both the historic grandeur and modern exuberance of the city, the Four Seasons is adept at accommodating every type of visitor. For the purposes of the minimooners out there, the spa facilities and wellness treatments on offer are of particular note.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh’s Old and New towns, collectively recognised as a Unesco World Heritage site, offer a glimpse of what Scotland has to offer to visitors, with nods to the past as well as a warm embrace of modern living. The cobbled streets and historic buildings are a pleasure to explore, with new tram networks being added all the time.

8. 21212

Hotel

The dimly lit, stylish restaurant at 21212 in Edinburgh
Courtesy of 21212

At first glance, 21212 is a restaurant with rooms. Actually, that’s exactly what it is and that’s no bad thing! The concept is the brainchild of celebrity chef Paul Kitching. With only four rooms, it has an intimate, homely feel, which is the best way to experience Edinburgh. Live, eat and explore the city like a local with a stay at 21212.

Riga, Latvia

The Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) are growing in popularity with travellers looking to explore Eastern Europe in a safe way. Riga, the capital of Latvia, is the largest city in all three countries. Visitors can explore the traditional squares and markets, which are especially picturesque in the winter months. If you’re travelling with someone who enjoys nature, then the rest of the country is full of incredible experiences that make the most of the great outdoors. Latvia might not be the obvious choice when thinking of romantic destinations, but this unknown treasure is certainly one you should research.

9. Hotel Bergs

Hotel

The main hotel is closed at the moment due to coronavirus, but you can stay at Rumene Manor, which is run by the same owners. What we love about that as an alternative is that it allows you the chance to explore the country in a way that might otherwise be unaffordable.

Lake Bled, Slovenia

If you’re looking for a fairytale destination, then Lake Bled in northwest Slovenia is hard to beat. Just looking at the pictures of the lake and surrounding region is enough to transport you away to a place that looks like it came straight out of a Disney movie. You’re unlikely to run into many crowds here, but Lake Bled has plenty of accommodation to choose from, and is only a short drive away from the main airport in Ljubljana.

10. Vila Bled

Hotel

A table with orange juice, coffee and croissants on the terrace at Vila Bled, with a view of Lake Bled outside
Courtesy of Vila Bled / Expedia

Slovenia is regarded as one of the safest post-coronavirus travel destinations in Europe. At Vila Bled you have direct access to the lake if you’re feeling adventurous, or simply take in the fairytale views from the terrace. The hotel is part of a larger estate, which also includes one of the oldest castles in the country.

Granada, Spain

Located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada is close to the Mediterranean as well as within easy reach of excellent winter skiing. The beautiful city is adorned with well-preserved artefacts from ancient Arabic rulers, with the famous Alhambra Palace dominating many of the spectacular views you can get of the city. Strolling around the delicate walls of the citadel in the hills and the lush gardens that surround it are a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Care to discover the history of Alhambra in just one minute?

11. Parador de Granada

Boutique Hotel, Hotel

Parador de Granada
Courtesy of Parador de Granada / Expedia

Having spoken at length about how magical the Alhambra Palace complex is, why not enjoy a stay within the ancient walls of this modern wonder? Parador de Granada has been built from the ruins of an old monastery in the extended gardens of the palace and is now one of the most exclusive places to stay in Spain. Walking around the fragrant and colourful gardens of Alhambra and Generalife has been a favourite pastime of the rich and elite for centuries, and a stay here will show you exactly why.

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