If there was ever an appropriate day to celebrate love, it’s Valentine’s Day. Originating from the Roman holiday ‘Lupercalia’ – a festival which marked the coming of spring and included fertility rites, according to Encyclopedia Britannica – it has a fascinating history… and dozens of traditions to its name, particularly in Europe. From Norway to Slovakia, countries across the continent have created their own romantic rituals to honour the day – so when you’re able to fly again, why not take part in a few? Sashay into culture with your sweetheart on a future February 14 by trying out these international Valentine’s Day traditions – followed by a stay at one of our most romantic hotels, of course…
Birdwatching and Dalen Hotel in Norway
Most of Norway’s Valentine’s Day traditions are bound to be familiar to you. Gifts are exchanged, meals are enjoyed and champagne glasses are clinked across tables. Along with these rather typical tropes, however, locals are known to go birdwatching, too. As with Lupercalia, February 14 is often associated with the coming of spring, so heading to the hills in your best walking boots to spot winged creatures is a pretty popular way to pass the time with your partner. (That’s avian amore.)
What about staying over? True romantics will revel in Dalen Hotel’s many delights. Locally referred to as “the hotel from fairytales”, this remarkable dragon-style property is the perfect place for couples to kick back and relax. The hotel’s spa is of special note: based in the middle of Bandak lake, it looks like a glittering jewel against the scintillating shores.
Swoon-worthy gestures and Villa Bergzauber in Austria
With its astonishing architecture, captivating countryside and chic cities, Austria feels custom-built for romance… and the locals know it. Valentine’s Day is something of a big deal, here, and the staple celebrations of the holiday – sending flowers and gifts and enjoying delicious food – are ramped up to the next degree. Loved-up couples send and receive stunning scarlet bouquets, along with special heart-shaped cards and boxes of fine chocolates (because you can’t go wrong with chocolate!). Those who take their Valentine’s Day traditions extra seriously may even partake in a classic dance or two. According to The Local, many Austrians learn how to waltz in school!
Away from the hustle and bustle of city life, Villa Bergzauber is a private paradise for both tourists and locals alike. Completely renovated in 2016, this pearlescent property contains comfort and class in droves while retaining its original charm. Based on top of a hill, the views aren’t anything to smirk at, either. You’re surrounded by a tapestry of trees, mountains and parkland on all sides.
Legends of love and Fernhill House in Ireland
Themes of epic love and heartbreak are interwoven with the Irish arts. The country is home to some of the world’s most famous romantic poets – including Oscar Wilde and W.B. Yeats – as well as several legendary love stories, notably, that of Tristan and Isolde. So is it any wonder that Ireland loves its Valentine’s Day traditions, too?
Along with typical Valentine’s gestures, travellers are likely to stumble across plenty of matchmaking events during their Irish escape – and those who stay for a while during a leap year may be lucky enough to witness a proposal or two! In Ireland, the leap year is traditionally when women propose to their partners: a custom that arose from yet another love-inspired legend (that of Saint Bridget and Saint Patrick).
If you’re pulling out all the stops on your Valentine’s Day trip, you’ll want to consider staying at Fernhill House. This property has an incredible amount of awards to its name, including Best Wedding Venue, Top 10 4* Hotel in Ireland and Most Community-Minded Business. Its food is particularly divine. Based in West Cork, the hoteliers have easy access to local fish, meat and artisan producers: allowing them to craft fresh, traditional meals that you’ll remember long after you’ve flown back home.
Pilgrimages and Manowce Palace in Poland
If you’re thinking of celebrating Cupid’s favourite occasion in Poland, be prepared to put some miles in! A bit of road tripping is required to see the best of what the country has to offer on Valentine’s, but the travel is totally worth it.
Begin with honouring what’s arguably the most popular of Poland’s Valentine’s Day traditions by heading to Chelmno – “the lover’s city”. Locals often pilgrimage here to pray at the relics of Saint Valentine himself, preserved for centuries in the local parish church. It’s a remarkable (and extremely poignant) way to see in the day.
If you can fit Krakow into your holiday schedule, make sure you visit the Bridge of Love, as well. Here, you can show your commitment to your partner by writing your names on a lock, clamping it onto the bridge, and throwing the key into the Vistula River. How’s that for a grand gesture?
Even grander still is Manowce Palace: a heavenly hotel that’s been winning hearts for decades. Located in northwestern Poland and decorated gorgeously from head to toe, it’s nothing short of a dream destination – particularly if you’re travelling in a duo. There are several couple-friendly activities available here, including horseback riding and sunbathing. You might be interested to hear that they offer wedding packages, too…
Love tokens and Gino Park Hotel in Slovakia
Now this isn’t one of Europe’s oldest Valentine’s Day traditions, but it’s certainly one of the most innovative! In 2018, a Slovakian village opened up the world’s first “love bank”, aptly naming it the “Epicentrum of Love”. Couples are encouraged to “deposit” their tokens of affection here (typically love letters) in one of the bank’s 10,000 drawers – a unique way to celebrate your special someone.
During your Slovakian adventure, make sure to spend at least one night at Gino Park Palace. Its historic rooms are ideal for getting cosy in – complete with original vaulted ceilings, a minibar and leisurely breakfast the next day. The hotel’s President Suite even has its own living room and walk-in wardrobe, for couples really looking to kick things up a notch. Choices, choices.
View more romantic hotels across Europe.
Interested in one of these pairings but not able to travel for Valentine’s Day this year? Head to our Gift Store and explore our collection of travel vouchers. They’re eligible for five years from the date of purchase at participating properties across Europe, including the ones listed above.