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A quick guide to European honeymoon destinations

02 Jun 2011

A quick guide to European honeymoon destinations

IF your budget won’t stretch to a Caribbean cruise or a Singapore fling, or if you simply don’t have the time to jet off on a long-haul honeymoon (due to work or having children at home) a romantic break in Europe is ideal.

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Image gallery

Most of these destinations can be reached in less than three hours, and there is so much culture and glorious architecture to experience in European cities.

Here is a short guide to a few of the most popular hotspots for newlyweds.

Paris

THE city of love - Paris is synonymous with romance and conjures up images of couples walking hand in hand along the Seine and wining and dining in the city’s bistros.

A really accessible city, Paris is reached either via direct flights to Charles de Gaulle airport or by the Eurostar service.

This cosmopolitan and chic spot is navigated via its districts, known as arrondissements, each with its own atmosphere, sights and quirks.

To get around buy yourself a Carte Orange as this will allow you several journeys on the efficient Metro system that lies underneath the heart of the city.

Or hop onto one of the many boats on the river - a wonderful way to see Paris, especially at night time.

So, what should you get up to on your Parisian escape?

Well, start off as most tourists do by seeing the iconic Eiffel Tower, travelling to the top if you dare.

Wander past the striking gothic structure of Notre Dame on your way to dinner on the multicultural Left Bank.

And take in the breathtakingly pure beauty of the Sacre Coeur, picking up pastries and tartlets from one of the many artisan patisseries in the surrounding area on your way.

If art is your thing then a trip to the Louvre is an absolute must. Reached via its strikingly modern (and controversial) pyramid, the Louvre is an expanse of seemingly endless exhibitions of art from all eras.

Particularly impressive are the Grecian statues in their glossy-floored gallery, the gargantuan Egyptian walls and, of course, the Mona Lisa.

But if it is modern art that floats your boat then head for the Pompidou centre, where the contemporary works there will get your creative juices flowing.

After all of that sightseeing, spend a day or two hitting the little boutiques and independent department stores that Paris is so famous for - it is one of the fashion capitals of the world after all.

Boulevard Hausmann is where you’ll find destination shops such as Galleries Lafayette alongside other stores you will have heard of. But for a fashion treat take the Metro to Le Marais and Boulevard Saint-Germain or visit one of the popular Parisian flea markets.

You simply cannot visit Paris without eating out. The city is abundant with fine eateries embracing every possible culture and food style.

Most restaurants will offer a prix fixe menu where you will get two or three courses for a set price, which normally offers excellent value.

And if you tire of French fare visit Rue du Rosiers where there are plenty of ethnic and eclectic eating places to choose from.

Venice

VENICE is not actually one place, it is a clutch of islands atop of a lagoon bound by romantic and ancient bridges.

One of the most visited and feted cities in the world, even today Venice retains the same charms it possessed 600 years ago.

Fly to Marco Polo airport to get to the Venice area - avoiding visiting in summer time when it is extremely hot and crowded.

Venice is pedestrianised so don’t expect to be driven around on your travels - this is one place where you have to walk to see all of the sights.

Otherwise use the water buses to be ferried around. ACTV runs the vaporetti water buses and other services and you can purchase a blue card from the company which will allow unlimited travel, free use of the staffed ACTV toilets and discounted tickets for some of the museums.

Don’t be romanticed by pre-conceived images of Venice into choosing gondolas to travel.

Taking a gondola is extremely expensive, and a venture on one of these vessels should be a special treat, not an everyday part of your itinerary.

You can haggle with the gondoliers in hope of a better deal, but be wary as the less you pay, the less of the sights they will show you and you’ll be none the wiser.

Once settled into your hotel you’ll find that Venice is a really easy city to walk in, and there is something to see or somewhere to eat around every winding corner.

Top spots to visit include the Basilica di San Marco on the famous Piazza San Marco, which is a true gem. But remember that when visiting churches in Italy you must have your legs and shoulders covered and big bags and rucksacks are not allowed inside.

The queue for the basilica can be several hours long, for a visit that lasts all of around 10 minutes so to make the most of your time in Venice reserve your visit in advance.

This costs nothing but will save you precious time - who wants to queue on honeymoon?

Another must see is the Jewish Ghetto.

This district of the city is timeless and is renowned for being the first ever ghetto in the world. Bare in mind though that on Saturdays everything in this quarter will be shut as the residents observe their religion.

Do not forget to pay a visit to the Rialto Bridge. One of the world’s most recognisable bridges, the Rialto has been featured in films and travel programmes for decades.

This piece of ancient engineering is more than 800 years old, and is the perfect place to stop, take a breath and have a little honeymoon smooch.

There are also plenty of fantastic eateries in this area, with specialties including polenta, risottos and seafood.

A particular feature in Venetian cooking is cuttlefish ink, which is found in pastas, risottos and polenta and will be found marked on menus as ‘nella sepia’ or ‘nero di sepia’.

Eating out in Venice can be quite expensive, especially if you sit down. So eat on the go at lunchtimes to save cash for a romantic sit-down rendezvous in the evening.

There are plenty of lovely little souvenirs to be found to take home if you hit the shops in Venice, with glass, masks and marbled paper being made locally and available widely.

For stunning bags and accessories go to Venetia Studium where velvets and silks of all the colours of the rainbow are transformed into exquisite gifts.

Or go to Atelier Marega for the best and most unusual masks.

If you are a foodie though make a beeline for Tre Mercanti, a food market and gallery where you can buy and try Italian artisan-made foods including more types of pasta than you can shake a stick at.

Dublin

DUBLIN is a wonderful city with a great nightlife, impressive shopping districts and a lively and vibrant atmosphere.

Get there by flying to Dublin airport or reach the city’s port via boat from a selection of services from England or Wales.

Dublin is separated into two parts by the long-stretching River Liffey.

To the north of the river lie many of the main shopping areas, while to the south there are attractions such as Trinity College and St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Dublin is easy to walk, but there is also a good bus service that will take you pretty much everywhere you’ll want to get to.

As it’s not the typical place honeymooners choose to visit, not many people know where to start on a trip to the city.

Excellent attractions include The National Museum, The Bram Stoker Museum and Kilmainham Gaol where the 1916 rebels were executed.

Another famous place to trek to is Phoenix Park, a magnificent enclosed green area with its own polo field and zoo. This is a refreshing breath of air and one of the best urban green sites in Europe.

If you’re up for a laugh then get wet on a Viking Splash Tour, or head to Dublin Castle at sundown and have The Zozimus Experience - a fabulous theatrical ghost tour.

Of course, a trip to Dublin wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the place where the city’s famous black brew is made.

The Guinness Storehouse will show you the illustrious past of Guinness, with a free pint on offer to everyone paying to tour the building.

Talking of booze, Dublin has more than 600 pubs to entertain you in the evenings.

Pubs in Ireland are so much more laid back and easygoing than in England, so let your hair down and enjoy great music and the ‘craic’.

Before you leave, make sure you do a bit of shopping, including a trip to Dublin’s answer to Harrods - Brown Thomas.

Go south of the river for boutique chic.

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