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5 Most Romantic Student City Breaks

Tom Crosby

Ah, we all remember our first Erasmus love. That Polish girl who ignored us at the bar and then continued to ignore us for the rest of the year.

Great times.

But, the second Erasmus love, on the other hand… That’s the one who sticks. In love and wishing for a short escapade? Here are five cheap and easy romantic destinations to take that lucky boy or girl for a student city break:

1. Edinburgh, Scotland

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Calton Hill (via Flickr: Raphaël Chekroun)

Not the cheapest of the five but probably the most beautiful, Edinburgh is an ancient city that was almost totally rebuilt around 250 years ago.

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Old Town

Now one of the UK’s most visited destinations and home to three separate UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it’s a land of castles, incredible views and some brilliant whiskys, gins and craft ales.

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Forth Rail Bridge (via Flickr: strevo)

5 things to do:

  • Find a pub and drink anything you’ve never heard of before, especially any “cask” ale.
  • Take the train to Queensferry or North Queensferry and take in the views of the Forth Rail Bridge and the estuary.
  • Visit Inchgarvie Island for an exploration of its abandoned prison and sample its incredible views.
  • Climb the extinct volcano of Arthur’s Seat (only takes about an hour and no specialist equipment is required).
  • Visit Tom Riddle’s Grave — it’s in Greyfriars Kirkyard and said to be an inspiration for Lord Voldemort’s name in “Harry Potter”.

Keeping costs down:

  • Take the public bus No. 35 from the airport into town for just £1.60.
  • Stay at an Airbnb. Most locals rent out for the cheapest rates. Otherwise, hostels are okay.
  • Make use of the SANDEMANS New Europe free tour to see the city.
  • Try haggis (which is lovely) on a burger or breakfast, not on its own.
  • Walk everywhere — Edinburgh is a walker’s city and too beautiful not to.

2. Dubrovnik, Croatia

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Dubrovnik Old Town (via Flickr: Ivan Ivankovic)

King’s Landing might not sound too romantic, what with all the dragons and public shaming going on, but its setting, Dubrovnik, on the Dalmatian coast, is essentially a beautiful hot Edinburgh.

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Croatian beach (via Flickr: Leonardo Shinagawa)

The beaches and lagoons are pretty good too.

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Dubrovnik beach (via Flickr: Dimitri Gasulla)

5 things to do:

  • Canoe or kayak around the city’s battlements.
  • Explore! There’s enough churches, fortresses, fountains and tiny restaurants to keep you going forever.
  • Visit the local islands on boat trips, especially Kolocep (here’s The Guardian’s guide to island hopping).
  • Banje Beach Sunsets. Although they’re incredible anywhere in the city.
  • Climb Mount Srd. It’s free after all or there’s a cable car if you’re lazy.

Keeping costs down:

  • Book full holiday apartments through hostel sites; it’s very common as it is a holiday destination.
  • Nearby campsites have cheap accommodation that’s not always in tents.
  • Avoid the summer peak season, especially August.
  • Ask for marenda or gablec lunchtime specials at restaurants.
  • Make it a long weekend. The longer you stay, the cheaper rooms can often get (by up to 30%).

3. Lake Bled, Slovenia

A castle built over a clear blue lake complete with a monastery isn’t the everyday destination, but, if anything, it’s getting a little too famous these days.

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Lake Bled

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Bled Castle (via Flickr: Bryan Pocius)

The fact that’s it’s close to the equally lovely capital of Ljubljana also helps.

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Ljubljana (via Flickr: Lorenzo Magnis)

5 things to do:

  • Rent a boat and row to the central monastery.
  • Go on the weird rail sled thing (they have one on the Great Wall of China too).
  • Hike in the nearby Vintgar Gorge.
  • Go tubing or rafting — this will cost a little but it’s well worth it.
  • Canyoning is also available for less cash (basically it’s jumping from waterfalls into lagoons).

Keeping costs down:

  • Avoid restaurants. Many local inns or hostels actually provide food for their guests.
  • Slovenia is small, so local buses are often just as good as the trains for getting from point A to B.
  • Eat street food, especially burek, a filled pastry made of a thin flaky dough.
  • Grab as many views as you can. The walks are free and if we’re talking romance here, they’re the best option.

4. Iceland (all of it)

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Iceland is home to beautiful waterfalls

Iceland is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination, and thankfully flights are becoming cheaper, at least from London (low cost fares start at €75/£64 from Luton or Gatwick). The country itself isn’t exactly affordable, but there are plenty of cheat codes available that let you get away with it.

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Iceland’s Blue Lagoon

The incredible Blue Lagoon, for example, can be visited for a knockdown price without having to use its nearby spa.

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Reykjavik

Likewise, getting out into the countryside can be the most romantic thing you’ve ever seen.

5 things to do:

  • Visit the cheap fisherman’s café The Sea Baron where the soup is fishy.
  • Visit the national museum. Actually a cracking day out in a modern and jam-packed set of halls. The early Viking artifacts are especially interesting.
  • Get into the countryside. This can be hard, but we recommend couchsurfing somewhere out of town, if possible.
  • Go on the golden circle tour. It may be generic tourist stuff, but it gets a lot of spectacular stuff done in efficient fashion (best booked via hostels).
  • CAUTION: Whale and Northern Lights Trips — as romantic as they are, the chances of seeing either can be slim, so it could be a total waste of cash.

Keeping costs down:

  • Couchsurf, if you can. Airbnb or hostels if not. Vital!
  • Many pubs have happy hours where drinks can be as cheap as €3-3.50.
  • Buy as much liquor as you can at duty free. You’ll thank me later.
  • If you can, cook at home or at the hostel.
  • Eat fast food from the plentiful hotdog vendors.

5. Budapest, Hungary

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Budapest (via Flickr: Kamil Porembinski)

The twin cities of Buda and Pest have had a huge tourist renaissance of late, especially with the nearby Sziget Music Festival going from strength to strength in August.

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Szecheny Bath House (via Flickr: adrigu)

The bath houses and spas range from vast open air affairs to tiny cave-like joints underneath mountains. Some of which even host late night parties.

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5 things to do:

  • Visit a spa. There are a ton of decent ones at all sorts of prices and styles. The Lonely Planet put together a decent guide.
  • Visit the very ambiguous World War II museum. With Hungary fighting for the Axis powers in the war, it’s hard to work out who this museum thinks the good guys are.
  • Visit the ruined bars. The Szimpla Kert is the most famous but there are plenty of other interesting spaces that have also been reclaimed.
  • Boat trips along the Danube River are a little expensive for what they are, but simply walking the banks does the same job.
  • Climb the hills for the views. This is hard not to do, as most the sights are on them, but just walking the city is gorgeous and cheap.

Keeping costs down:

  • Take bus 200E or the Metro M3 from the airport to save on taxis.
  • A number of free walking tours are available from companies like Original Europe Tours or Free Budapest Tours.
  • Many bars operate happy hours that are worth taking advantage of.
  • Budapest cards get free transport and free bath entry and are actually worth it.
  • Make use of the all-night buses rather than taxis.

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Planning on taking your loved one somewhere this Valentine’s Day? Let us know in the comments. And remember: if you need student accommodation in Europe, you’ll find the student home you’re looking for on Uniplaces.

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