With some of the most dramatic scenery on the continent, and far fewer tourists than France and Italy, Central Europe is in the midst of a renaissance. Go while the secret is still safe.
Hire a car in Frankfurt and, after a quick blast down the Autobahn and take a meandering 300km drive from Wurzburg to Fussen at the base of the Bavarian Alps.
You’re driving on the aptly named Romantische Strasse (Romantic Road) and it’s one of the most breathtaking drives in the world. Almost every town is reminiscent of a fairytale - the walled city of Rothenburg is complete with cobblestone streets, half-timbered homes and ancient buildings, Dinkelsbuhl is surrounded by a moat, Nordlingen lies in the centre of a ten-million-year-old meteor crater and is the town shown in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Everything about Prague makes it the perfect place for a romantic honeymoon: Prague castle, the dual spires of the Church of our Lady before Tyn – even just saying the name Prague feels exotic.
The best way to appreciate Central Europe’s most charming city is to walk the Charles Bridge at sunset. The gentle arching span, punctuated by antique lamp posts and noble sculptures, provides the perfect vantage point to view the castle and the other hundred golden spires Prague is known for. If you can’t take a postcard-worthy picture here, you should give up photography. Walk up to the castle from the bridge after dusk, when all the tourists have gone.
Often referred to as the Monte Carlo of the north, the Polish town of Sopot experienced a hedonistic heyday in the 1920s, after which it went into mothballs for about 50 years. The golden sand beaches stretch on and on, and the seas are unerringly calm. But there’s a better reason for a stroll on the sand. The region is also known as The Amber Coast after the semi-precious gem, which is found here in abundance. It floats on the incoming tide, so a gentle walk can yield a handful of gems. The best pieces have prehistoric insects trapped inside and make the ideal honeymoon pendant.
It might be hard to tear yourself away from Croatia’s medieval capital, Dubrovnik – its ancient ramparts, fortresses, Roman ruins and the cafe-lined Stradun are certainly ideal for honeymoon memories. But you’ll be rewarded if you do. Catch a ferry or charter a boat to one of the thousands of islands that dot the nearby Dalmatian Coast. Croatia boasts sparkling waters with many private hideaways.
One of the most romantic honeymoon getaways is Lopud Island, which has no traffic, apart from the occasional pushbike, and lush green gardens fed by natural spring water. Hvar is an island community with cool bars, great beaches, old castles and fields of lavender. It’s also the perfect place to take a day trip to one of the Pakleni Islands, which are lacking two key ingredients: people and swimsuits. In Croatia, skinny-dipping is a way of life.
This might be the land of Mozart and The Sound of Music but the hills are also alive with the sound of wedding bells ringing out among bucolic scenery. In spring and summer the Austrian Alps are verdant green and Tyrolean farmhouses sport window boxes overflowing with flowers. Hire a tandem bike to ride around the lakes in the Salzkammergut district, or row to a secluded beach or lakeside village. Don’t worry if you fall overboard – the lakes are so pure you can drink from them.
Splurge on a night or two in a 1450s hunting lodge, Hotel Schloss Fuschl. Stay among $70 million worth of paintings by 17th century grand masters then choose a classic Bugatti or Rolls Royce from the garage to drive around the lakes.
Budapest, Hungary’s capital, is made up of two ancient cities divided by the Danube River: Buda is said to be the female side and Pest the male. It’s also home to the most magnificent spas in the world with high vaulted ceilings, stained glass and castle turrets dating back to the Ottoman Empire. One of the most historic, the Gellért Bath, shimmers with crystal chandeliers and water nymph murals and is also a hotel. The Király Bath has a high domed ceiling perforated by beams of sunlight that filter down to meet the rising steam. In summer you can enjoy a game of chess in the ever-popular Széchenyi Bath in the centre of town.
The ominous sounding Lake Bled, located high in the Julian Alps (think the Swiss Alps without the maddening crowds) is home to one of the most beautiful churches on Earth.
The Assumption of Mary’s Pilgrimage Church is perched on a tiny island in the centre of the lake, and is served by small gondola-style rowing boats known as ‘pletna’. The tradition is to take a pletna to the church to ring the wishing bell.
Qantas operates daily return services from Melbourne and Sydney to Frankfurt, Germany and 28 services a week to Heathrow, London.
Looking for the perfect honeymoon package? Find it on the Bride Directory.