Explore alternative cities of love with Stena Line

When it comes to cities of love, visitors always seem to think of the same few hotspots – Paris, Venice, maybe Florence. Why not look further afield this Valentine’s Day? Here are some quirky alternative cities that will also pack a romantic punch.

Utrecht (70 minutes from Hook of Holland)

The quaint medieval city of Utrecht is a must for couples seeking a slower paced destination. Utrecht is a great city to roam around in where travellers can even discover the old town in a canal boat or on bike. For those who didn’t bring their bicycles by ferry they can hire one from all over the city but the easiest place is from the tourist board, where visitors can cycle to the beautiful Utrecht Castle or stay local and pedal through the city. In addition, the city takes visitors to new heights with its beautiful Dom Tower – 465 steps later and visitors find themselves at the top of the oldest and tallest bell tower in The Netherlands. A canal cruise at night starts from €14.50 (£12) per person. Seeing the city by boat or Venetian-style gondola is not only romantic but a great way to see the city’s history and architecture.


Ideal for Galentine’s, Utrecht’s contemporary scene is also great for its grand array of shopping outlets all selling the city’s famous tulip baskets. What’s more there is a wide selection of coffee bars, like Bar Breton which serves up Utrecht’s best coffee beans to customers. A vibrant café and music scene top off this picturesque city and make it an unmissable spot to visit. The historic architecture yet modern culture is what makes this hidden gem a charming loveable Dutch favourite.


Couples stay at:

Mother Goose Hotel, which oozes character and style. Offering amazing views of Utrecht Dom Tower and located right next to the canals, each room is individually designed and the perfect place to end a beautiful day. Prices start from €99 per night based on two sharing.


Galentines stay at:

The funky Mary K hotel is Green Deluxe Certified and comprises nine luxurious suites. Situated in a canal house on the Oudegracht – Utrecht’s most famous waterway – it’s right in the middle of the action. Medium rooms start from €133.92 for two. https://www.marykhotel.com/


Antwerp (90 minutes from Hook of Holland)

Right in the heart of Antwerp is a real hidden gem, Vlaeykensgang. The picturesque alley next to Grote Markt is possibly the smallest cobblestoned lane in the city. The alley looks as it has since the Middle Ages, when cobblers and clock ringers lived there. The alley ends in Pelgrimsstraat, where loved ones can capture a spectacular view of Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Cathedral. Lovers and groups of friends alike can head here on a Monday night when the carillon concert is pealing from the cathedral. The street gets its name from the Flemish word for a local kind of pie (a vlaai), and those looking for this authentic Flemish cuisine should head to Sir Antony Van Dijck restaurant to savour a dish. A three-course lunch menu starts from €42 (£35). www.siranthonyvandijck.be/home-en


Couples: stay at

Stay at De Matelote, a modern luxury hotel with a blend of 16th century architecture – a short walk from Grand Place and the cathedral. Prices start from €130 (£105) including breakfast, based on two sharing. www.hotel-matelote.be/


Galentines: stay at…

The quirky Hotel Pilar is situated in the trendy ‘t Zuid neighbourhood, packed with fashionable bars, restaurants and cafes.  Prices start from €125 for two, with breakfast for an extra €15 per person.

Bruges (2hr 44minutes from Hook of Holland)

The charming medieval town is a perfect destination for a weekend visit to explore the historic churches and buildings as a couple or even as a group of friends. Known as the Venice of the North, the beautiful city has been captivating travellers for years and is a mecca for travellers and culture-buffs alike. Boasting a maze of winding, cobbled alleys, intimate canals and bustling squares.  Couples can enjoy a canal cruise down Spiegelrei towards Jan Van Eyckplein or meander through the historic Markt, a large open square flanked by medieval-style buildings and bustling with horse-drawn carriages and open-air restaurants. The markets are also a great way to savour the local flavours, including moules frites and aromatic coffee. Bruges is famous for its beer, chocolate and waffles so lovers and friends should pack their appetite. There is also an array of master chocolatiers in residence across the city, including Dominique Persoone who owns The Chocolate Line, one of only three chocolate shops in the Michelin guide. Those who prefer liquid nectar should head to the Brewery De Halve Maan. Guided brewery tours last approx. 45 minutes and starts at €11 – including a free a Brugse Zot Blond beer.


Couples: stay at…

Hotel de Castillion located in the heart of Bruges is a great option for visitors looking to explore the city, and is a stone’s throw away from the Market Square. Prices start from €142.50 a night for two people. https://www.castillion.be/


Galentines: stay at…

Grand Hotel Casselbergh Brugge, with a leading spa and fitness centre, friends can grab a massage after a long day exploring Bruges’ wonderful markets. Prices start at €118 a night for two people plus breakfast, a welcome glass of cava and access to the wellness centre https://www.grandhotelcasselbergh.be/