INSPIRATION • January 2019
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, travel writer Alicia Miller finds romance, adventure and oodles of culture in the city breaks perfect for the month of love
You can now fly direct to this port city, home of brilliant beaches, a vibrant, Indian-inflected culture and the world’s tallest swing, which sends you zooming through a World Cup-built stadium. It’s also a jumping-off point for your bucket-list safari - try a bush break from South Africa experts Far & Wild Travel, with whom you'll explore nearby Manyoni Private Game Reserve and, besides the Big Five, tick off historic Durban Botanic Gardens and Durban's best-loved boutique hotel. You'll get the chance to try local dish Bunny Chow, curry served in a hollowed-out bread loaf.
Dream flight: Take BA0041 from Heathrow at 15:45 on Saturday, and arrive into Durban at 05:35 on Sunday morning.
With cobble-lined waterways, creaky old canal houses and cosy pubs, the Dutch capital provides a picture-perfect backdrop for a Valentine’s getaway. Yet it has none of the kitsch – instead of petal-strewn bedspreads you’ll get your own canal boat for a candle-lit dinner, cockle-warming shots of jenever (Dutch gin) in a rickety proeflokaal (tasting room), or a tandem ride along café-studded streets.
Dream flight: Take BA2764 from Gatwick at 18:10 on Friday, and arrive into Amsterdam at 20:30.
The Moroccan capital is at its best in February, when days are sun-baked but rarely sweaty, and nights are refreshingly cool, ideal for downing cinnamon-spiced pastilla and rich lamb tagine. Spend the morning wandering the souks, skipping from sellers hawking handmade leather bags and sandals to those peddling rainbows of silk pashminas (don’t forget to haggle). Afterwards, plunk yourself at a garden-fringed hotel pool – La Mamounia’s, just outside the souk, is one of the most tranquil (pictured).
Dream flight: Take BA2666 from Gatwick at 13:40 on Friday, and arrive into Marrakech at 18:10.
Crowds flock for its Christmas market, but few realise that Vienna does wintry cosiness even better in February. As snowflakes float down, snuggle up over a dense chocolate torte in wood-panelled Hotel Sacher or devour a crisp schnitzel in the coddling embrace of an elegant coffee house. Take advantage of the quiet season to bag the best hotel rooms for less: stylish The Guest House, overlooking the cream-stoned Albertina art museum, is superb.
Dream flight: Take BA0706 from Heathrow at 19:10 on Friday, and arrive into Vienna at 22:25.
Powder-white sands lapped by azure waves, frosted cocktails made from punchy local rum, glitzy hotels – if you want a sultry Valentine’s break, Barbados is hard to beat. Sexy places to stay, from hideaway villas to plush resorts, line its western shores, while seafood-stacked restaurants, such as The Cliff or Cin Cin, are perfect for a sundowner tête-à-tête. The cherry on the cake? Tax-free shopping in colonial Bridgetown – because nothing says ‘I love you’ like a cut-price diamond-encrusted watch…
Dream flight: Take BA2153 from Gatwick at 13:35 on Friday, and arrive into Bridgetown at 18:25.
New York is always busy, but less so in February, a sliver of sleepy season between bumper Christmas and spring. Temperatures may be frosty but it doesn’t matter – there’s plenty to rattle through indoors, from dinosaurs at the American Museum of National History to glitzy new releases on Broadway (book well ahead for acclaimed show Hamilton). Come early in the month and you can celebrate Chinese New Year (5 February) in one of the world’s biggest Chinatowns (pictured) – expect a flurry of red-and-gold parades and steaming dumplings.
Dream flight: Take BA2273 from Gatwick at 16:55 on Friday, and arrive into JFK at 20:05.