This February, avoid clichés and think outside the box with these hotels for romantic breaks in Amsterdam, Vienna, Dublin and beyond …
Have you ever noticed how days seem longer when you travel to somewhere new? It’s a phenomenon known as the “oddball effect” triggered as your brain devotes resources to taking in novel sights, smells and sounds. While there is nothing wrong with returning to places we love, trying somewhere new might help us feel more relaxed and invigorated, believes radio presenter and wellness advocate Clare McKenna. “Hedonic adaption, the process by which the positive response we get from an experience diminishes with every repetition, suggests we should vary our choices when it comes to travel.” I concur with this view, especially when it comes to romantic breaks. There’s nothing wrong with the classic destinations of Rome, Paris or Venice for some dolce vita, but in my experience, low-key expectations of romance yield more positive results. Vienna is a personal favourite for its regal Hapsburg-era palaces, modernist architecture by Otto Wagner and Josef Hoffmann, and ubiquitous Gustav Klimts.
Stay in the polished, pretty Hotel Motto, in the fashionable 6th district, accessible to the Museums Quartier and the charming, cobblestone streets of Spittelberg. Like Vienna itself, Motto’s decor is a mash-up of glamour and fun with Parisian accents (including a chandelier from The Ritz, Paris). It also has a bakery, Motto Brot, spa and restaurant Chez Bernard. When in the city, I make a beeline for foodie haunts, the Naschmarkt and Demel café, its fabulous National Library, and Do & Co Restaurant on the top floor of the eponymous hotel which serves up great views over St Stephen’s Cathedral. Former resident Aerin Lauder stocks up on Tyrolean sweaters and slippers from Loden Plankl and recommends Zum Schwarzen Kamel (The Black Camel) for Weiner Schnitzel. www.hotelmotto.at
Amsterdam’s Pulitzer hotel also sparks fond romantic memories. This Dutch masterpiece, set in 25 interconnected houses within the UNESCO protected Canal Ring, is a warren of passages, stairways, courtyard gardens and a great art collection. Rooms come in all shapes and sizes – one of which featured in the heist film Ocean’s 12 – most with canal views and Le Labo Santal 33 toiletries. Breakfast in Restaurant Jansz is a highlight, while cocktails in the Pulitzer Bar draw the city’s cool crowd. www.pultizeramsterdam.com.
Finally, wandering around Georgian Edinburgh tops my list for a low-key getaway. On my last visit, I stayed at The Dunstane Houses, a short hop from the airport. Keep The Hoxton Edinburgh on your radar – its opens later this year in the Haymarket area. Other new Hox outposts for 2024 include Dublin and Vienna. www.thehoxton.com.
The Shelbourne, Dublin: If you’ve never stayed in The Shelbourne this is definitely the year to do it as the grande dame is celebrating her 200th birthday. Special overnight rates, available Sunday to Thursday, until February 28 cost from €200 per person sharing, including car parking and breakfast. www.theshelbourne.com
The Club Hotel at Goffs, Co Kildare: This equestrianinspired boutique hotel is a great base from which to explore the Irish National Stud, and Japanese Gardens, Palmerstown House Estate, and Kildare Village. Fabulous food is guaranteed, created by chef de cuisine, Derry Clarke and head chef, James Sheridan. Book a west-facing room with private balcony overlooking the paddock. Flowers, chocolates, dinner, bed and breakfast for two costs €320. www.clubhotel.ie.
Breac House, Co Donegal: Heather is a new standalone room in the garden at Breac House which has a private terrace and beautiful views of Muckish. It’s a favourite for longer stays, and costs €395 per night. Do sign up for news about upcoming guest chef nights. www.breac.house.
Tubbrid Castle, Co Kilkenny: This restored 15th-century castle, now an Airbnb, may appeal for groups. It offers three bedrooms, an idyllic setting and a fascinating backstory which will intrigue history buffs. www.tubbridcastle.com