Honeymoons, anniversaries, ‘baby moons’ and saucy weekends a deux… Our pick of European minibreaks will put the oomph back into any relationship, whether you and your other half prefer Michelin-starred dining, long romantic forest walks, couple massages – or all-night parties. Not to mention that each hotel is less-than four-hour flight away. Take your pick and get ready for a summer of love.
Old-world opulence in Paris
The grande dame of Paris hotels, the building dates back to 1925 and its signature red-and- white awnings and liveried waiters hark back to a bygone era. Its bar is a hot spot for chic Parisians; if the wood-panelled walls could talk it would divulge tales of Charlie Chaplin, Rita Hayworth and Josephine Baker, all sipping its cocktails. Book dinner at Epicure - the macaroni stuffed with black truffle, artichoke and duck foie gras, made by four Michelin-star chef Eric Frechon, is the stuff of legend, or head to the sun-dappled Le Jardin Français, a genteel courtyard with 5.30pm cocktail hour, where the hubbub of nearby Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré melts away. The rooms are classically elegant, but the USP is up on the roof, where the swimming pool evokes the feel of an ocean liner from the golden age of travel.
Stella loves: Le Bristol’s resident cat, Socrate, a master of studiously ignoring you.
Out and about: The hotel is based in the shopping epicentre of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, near the Grand Palais and Place Vendome. The flagship Hermes store and other luxury boutiques are less than a 10-minutes walk away. The pretty public garden, Jardin des Tuileries, is also a short accordion-accompanied amble away. And you can reach Musee D’Orsay, known for its collection of 19th and early 20th-century French art, in under 30 minutes.
How to do it: Rates at Le Bristol (oetkercollection.com/hotels/le-bristol-paris) start from £1,284 per night, room only.
By Stephen Doig
Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria
An Italian city break far from the madding crowds
On a hilltop with panoramic views of the ancient city below, this tranquil slice of Rome oozes class. Genuine masterpieces line the walls, stylish clientele decorate the grand lobby and the super-plush bedrooms are thoughtfully designed (and stocked with enough toiletries to last a Roman siege). With three swimming pools in its perfectly manicured grounds and a luxe spa, this sprawling property is the only resort hotel in Rome yet only a 20-minute hop to the centre in the free shuttle.
Stella loves: the stunning terrace of the L’uliveto restaurant, where you can enjoy the groaning breakfast buffet.
Out and about: the sites are too many to mention but The Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Piazza Nevona are among the most famous. Wander the cobbled streets on foot and you’ll discover other architectural delights on every corner. The Colosseum and Forum are worth seeing with a guide.
How to do it: Rooms at Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria (romecavalieri.com) start at £200 per night in the low season.
By Naomi Greenaway
Spa time in Madeira
This imposing hotel is striking in its appearance – the curved architecture resembles a giant ocean liner, moored on the shores of Funchal. Our room had glorious views of the gardens below – there are plants from around the world, all sourced by the hotel’s owner. Staff were warm and attentive – there’s more of a personal, informal touch here than at many hotels of this size. Meanwhile the futuristic-looking spa has won numerous awards – it’s a sprawling space with 11 treatment rooms – but the swimming pool is its jewel in the crown. And pool-side service was never more than a foot away.
Stella loves: The rooftop Jacaranda lounge and club, which serves cocktails in Tiki mugs.
Out and about: Follow the old levada irrigation and tunnel network through the Laurisilva forest, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the largest surviving areas of laurel forest, Porto Moniz natural swimming pools, formed from volcanic lava and filled with seawater, make for a good daytrip (visitmadeira.com)
How to do it: Rooms at Savoy Palace (savoysignature.com/savoypalacehotel) start at £215 per night in the low season and from £345 per night in the high season.
By Krishna Sheth
Divani Apollon Palace & Thalasso
Incredible views near Athens
Divani Apollon Palace & Thalasso admittedly has a somewhat conference hotel feel to it on first impressions, but inside it has everything you need for a respite from the bustle of the capital. Just under an hour’s drive from the city centre, its award-winning restaurant serves plates of fresh seafood to gorge on while overlooking views of the Athenian Riviera. There are two pools that are drenched in sunlight most of the day, meaning you can spend almost 12 hours sipping on cocktails from the pool bar, while lolling on a pillowy sun lounger. The All Sea View suites are split into two sections, with a balcony on each giving views of the coastline, perfect for watching the sun set or rise.
Stella loves: the enormous spa and thalassotherapy centre is the biggest in Europe, consisting of several pools, treatment rooms, a huge gym and even a hairdresser.
Out and about: The hotel’s private Apollon beach that sits across the road (you can also get to it via a secret underground passage, direct from the hotel) is so charming, you don’t need to go much further. The white sand and straw sun umbrellas are kept immaculate by a friendly team of staff, who can mix up a strong fruity cocktail or pour you a nice glass of crisp Greek white wine. A short walk down the coast leads to a small row of local restaurants serving typical Greek dishes featuring fish from the nearby waters. Garbi restaurant is always packed with locals and tourists tucking into dishes like courgette fritters, fresh octopus and whole grilled Barbouni (red mullet), while tiny island cats wait patiently for scraps.
How to do it: Rooms at Divani Apollon Palace & Thalasso (divaniapollonhotel.com) start from £220 per night in the low season.
By Helen Gibson
Castello di Vicarello
Remote romance in Tuscany
This former noble family home atop a hill, overlooking the sprawling Tuscan countryside, is a veritable tick-list of Italian idyllicism. Cobbled courtyards, olive groves, vegetable and herb gardens, two swimming pools and nine beautifully designed suites, as well as the astonishing views of the hillside, make for a Dolce Vita experience. The castello is run by the family that owned it for decades before launching the hotel, the limited number of rooms ensure that the pool is never crowded, while food and wine is locally sourced and explained in fascinating detail. Beware, those Super Tuscans pack a punch. Dinner is a particularly special affair, served on the grassy roof of the castello. The moon is the only accompaniment you’ll need to the digestifs.
Stella loves: The homely feel amid the grandeur, and the informal wine education as you sip.
Out and about: Feeling energetic? You can hike, bike or horse ride through the rolling Maremma hills, have lessons with a local chef, truffle hunter or leather worker (he’s been featured in the New York Times, no less), or earn your keep by helping out with the grape and olive harvest.
How to do it: Stays at Castello di Vicarello (castellodivicarello.com) start from £880 per night, including breakfast, during the high season.
By Jessica Doyle
Party vibes in Paris
In the heart of Paris’s former red light district, a stone’s throw from the Moulin Rouge, Le Pigalle is cool with a capital C. The foyer is an Instagram-friendly café meets co-working space that’s a party hotspot by night. Its vinyl record library and Anissa Kermiche ceramics draw an arty crowd – and a stylish one, thanks to the Ultrafragola mirror that’s almost impossible to pass without taking a selfie. Space is always at a premium in Paris so the rooms are on the bijou side, but make clever use of space. With a turntable and a well-stocked minibar featuring pre-mixed cocktails, it seems to demand you bring the afterparty upstairs. The king-size bed and luxe linen will take the edge off your next-day hangover.
Stella loves: The custom-made Le Labo bathroom products and 1 Euro coffee in the ground floor café.
Out and about: Paris is a glorious city to walk around but at Le Pigalle, you don’t have to go very far before you stumble upon some destination shops and restaurants. Head to Buvette or Frenchie for the in-crowd’s favourite French comfort food, Retro Chic for vintage fashion and Spree for a tasteful edit of designer pieces. Maison Kitsuné sells Japanese-inflected French wardrobe classics, check out Nous for beautifully understated ceramics and Bonton is a one-stop-shop for chic childrenswear.
How to do it: Rooms at Le Pigalle (lepigalle.paris) are priced from £215 per night.
By Tamara Abraham
The Merrion Hotel
A touch of class in Dublin
With its tree-lined internal courtyard, tranquil spa, cocktail bar and two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, you’d be forgiven for not setting foot out of this Georgian hotel once you check in. The less formal The Garden Room restaurant, set beside bubbling fountains and a copper Leopold Bloom engraved with excerpts from Joyce’s Ulysses, is also worth stopping by – it’s an all-day affair and serves a super Irish breakfast.
Stella loves: Lavish afternoon tea in the drawing room, complete with fine china and miniature sweet delicacies inspired by the works of JB Yeats and art of William Scott.
Out and about: Dublin’s charms are best discovered on foot, so potter around the Trinity College grounds – book ahead to see the Book of Kells (an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin) – then head to Temple Bar. Swerve the tourist traps in favour of independent boutiques with homewares, books and art, including April And The Bear (for funky interiors buys) (aprilandthebear.com) and The Gutter Bookshop (gutterbookshop.com), then end your day at The Lucky Duck for a restorative Cobblestone Punch cocktail after all that hardcore shopping (theluckyduck.ie).
How to do it: Rooms at The Merrion Hotel (merrionhotel.com) start at £270 a night on a bed and breakfast basis.
By Miranda Levy