As a recently single woman, I’m not particularly looking forward to Valentine’s Day. Where can I go to escape the love fest – or perhaps even find a little love for myself?
Whether you’re single and looking for love, or whether you just want to get away from all those loved-up love birds, try one of these destinations.
If you want to meet someone, New York has one of the most lively dating scenes in the world, where you can strike up conversation with a stranger in a bar and not be branded a weirdo. If, on the other hand, you just want to have fun, it’s a great place to hang out too.
Places to avoid over Valentines? Central Park will almost certainly be invaded by smooching couples, and so too will the classic photo opportunity stops like the Empire State Building and top of the Rockefeller Centre. Instead do what the locals do – head to the Meatpacking District where there’s bound to be less take up of commercialised slush.
The High Line may attract the odd fashionable couple strolling hand-in-hand, but the former elevated rail track is worth a visit for a brief and beautiful view of one of the city’s most fashionable districts. Below it, there’s plenty to discover. Wander around Chelsea Market at 75 9th Avenue and stock up on nibbles and cookware, or just take a pew and have a coffee at Ninth Street Espresso. If shopping is more your thing, there are countless edgy boutiques and independent stores in the Meatpacking District. Try Ten Thousand Things for jewellery and trinkets, Scoop for clothes, or the Earnest Sew Company for denim.
The restaurant options are countless – Pastis is a favourite French bistro among New Yorkers for brunch, including oatmeal, eggs with ‘homefries’ and French toast. Or there’s Fusion south-east Asian cuisine at Fatty Crab, where the crab dishes make far too much mess to be considered a romantic meal choice. New York evenings should always end, or start with cocktails, and in this part of town the Living Room, the bar of the Standard hotel, which straddles the High Line, serves some dreamy concoctions alongside a live DJ soundtrack.
Avoiding couples in New York’s hotels is no easy task over Valentines, but the shared bathrooms in some of the rooms at The Jane should put them off. Don’t let it put you off though – this fashionable, budget hotel is done out in the style of retro railways carriages, has the superb Cafe Gitane for breakfast and costs from £70 a night. Find flights to New York
You can rest assured that Stockholm is well off the romantic cities radar thanks to the cold weather at this time of year, which leaves you to explore this beautiful city and its beautiful people with mates, or even on your own.
Warning – it will more than likely be below zero, but if you go prepared and wrap up warm, there’s plenty to enjoy. Start indoors with the Bonniers Konsthall art gallery, a striking glass building on Torsgatan with lots of thought-provoking modern exhibits. Be sure to pop into the new cafe, Spetsen, which compliments the art with a modern take on Swedish food.
The hip area of Sodermalm should be relatively tourist-free, and has a cracking cafe culture. Warm up over coffee and cake at Cafe String, famous for its furniture (which is all for sale if something takes your fancy). It hosts regular gigs, theatre and poetry nights. If you’re a fan of vintage, head to Beyond Retro on Åsögatan, for its cool clothes and live music on Sunday afternoons.
For lunch and dinner, head over to Östermalm for a huge choice of restaurants. The food hall is great fun for lunch and you can taste local food like cloudberries without having to commit to an expensive plate of one thing in a restaurant. There are plenty of cafes nearby if you need a hot drink stop. If it’s early, Cafe Foam on Karlavägen is highly regarded for its breakfast and brunch.
For the evening try East on Stureplan for its fusion Asian cuisine and sleek interior. The couple-magnets are likely to be Sturehof, a restaurant on Sturegallerian that’s known for oysters, the food of love, and Och Himlen Därtill on Skatteskrapan, a restaurant with stratospheric views and cherubs on the wall.
One of the most fashionable new hotels in Stockholm is Hotel Skeppsholmen (www.hotelskeppsholmen.com), a 17th century building on the island of the same name. Next door is the Moderna Museet, National Museum and Opera House. It is a beautiful hotel and for that reason may attract some love birds, but it’s worth suffering their smooching.
Much of the original features remain and the breakfast is legendary, as is the "fika", a traditional snack of coffee, lemonade and a choice of cakes and cookies. Furthermore, the restaurant encourages "social dining", where hotel guests mix with locals, which should add a bit of ambience. Rooms cost from around £170 a night. Find flights to Stockholm.
If those two cities are a little chilly for your fingers and toes, perhaps Seville would suit you better, where it could get up to the high teens in degrees C at this time of year.
The city’s most popular site, Alcazar, has to be seen to be believed, a collection of lavish royal palaces built at various stages in Andalusia’s history. Make time for a quick stop at the Baths of Lady María de Padilla beneath the Patio del Crucero, reminiscent of Istanbul’s Basilica for its dramatic lighting and the echoey quality of these former water reservoirs.
Seville’s cathedral in Plaza Virgen de los Reyes is worth a visit for its intricate Gothic features and the curious remains of the building’s former life as a mosque – a minaret and courtyard planted with orange trees. It’s the third largest cathedral in the world after St Peter’s in Rome and London’s St Paul’s.
Also wander the Moorish quarter, Santa Cruz, next to Alcázar, for its narrow streets, suggestive balconies and the cafes of Los Venerables. If you’re in town on a Thursday, head to the flea market on Calle Feria in the afternoon to rifle through the bargain antiques and flamenco memorabilia.
Dining is Seville is great fun, loud and lively, with diners picking at small tapas dishes until late into the evening. Taberna Colniales on Plaza del Cristo de Burgos is an affordable and modern tapas bar – a far cry from quiet romantic haunts. Another good spot is Bar Eslava on Calle Eslava, which is busy at 9pm (which is early for Seville) and serves great tapas, including the popular honey-coated ribs. Avoid Casa Robles in Barrio Santa Cruz, one of the city’s most famous restaurants, but always popular with couples and a touch over-priced.
One of the city’s most charming places to stay is Casa No 7, a six-bedroomed guesthouse close to the Santa Cruz district. It is elegant, with antique furnishings, white linen and a pretty central courtyard. Rooms cost from £150 a night including a hearty and delicious breakfast. Find flights to Seville.
Answer by Ginny Light – TimesOnline travel editor
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