Europe has a certain je ne sais quoi that has attracted honeymooners for generations. Paris, Rome, Milan and the Riviera are famed for magical architecture, historic sites and unbeatable cuisine. But all that popularity can bring hordes of tourists, high prices and (gasp!) less-authentic experiences. However, couples who love these jewels don't need to abandon the Continent in search of a more private honeymoon. There are still a few destinations that provide a treasure trove of charm, romance and la dolce vita, yet have fewer visitors. Here are four options that may suit you perfectly.
Newlyweds looking for a delightful European honeymoon filled with sun-soaked, beachy days and romantic evenings will no doubt think first of the Italian Riviera, long the playground of those who are quite rich, famous and partial to the good life. Not far east, however, is an alternative to the crowds and costs the much-loved Italian playground is notorious for.
Many Americans associate Croatia with the region's early 1990s violence and bloodshed, but more than a decade later, the country has become an ideal getaway, with dramatic coastal and mountain scenery, rich culture and history and the appeal of being relatively undiscovered.
By Day: No trip to a Riviera-esque destination would be complete without a dose of sun and sea, so check out Zlatni-Rat, considered one of Croatia's most beautiful beaches. Located on the southern coast of the island of Brac, near the harbor town of Bol, the beach, which is set against a striking mountain backdrop, is a triangular peninsula that juts out into the Adriatic.
If you tire of sunbathing, you'll find no shortage of water sports at Zlatni-Rat, where opportunities to windsurf, jet ski, scuba dive and parasail abound. Various outfitters offer equipment rentals, windsurfing lessons and diving excursions (Big Blue Sport; big-blue-sport.hr.)
At Night: Carpe Diem, on the lavender-scented island of Hvar, has a large terrace, outdoor bar and the perfect backdrop for enjoying après-beach cocktails as the sun sets. Sip a watermelon martini, a bellini or the special house sangria before grooving to the sounds spun by one of the club's several resident DJs. Steal some kisses, take a break from dancing and get into a hammock together (Riva Promenade; carpe-diem-hvar.com).
Where to Eat: Croatia has a large variety of fresh seafood cuisine, and Macondo—on Hvar—is a favorite fish restaurant among locals. Located a short walk from Hvar Town's main square on a narrow back street, the restaurant's menu features regional wines and dishes, such as marinated olives, seafood risotto and octopus salad. Sit at a table on the cobblestone walkway and watch the neighborhood's comings and goings.
Stroll around the town piazza, Trg Sv Stjepana (St. Stephen's Square), considered to be one of the most beautiful plazas in Croatia, then check out the view from a 16th-century fortress that sits on a hill above the town (tzhvar.hr)
Where to Stay: The charming walled city of Dubrovnik, on the country's southern coast, is a must-see. Just 110 yards from its historic center, called Old Town, the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik is an ideal base for city sightseeing, and offers spectacular views of the nearby Adriatic Sea. Visitors rave about the large, well-decorated rooms, which feature marble bathrooms and high-speed Internet access, as well as the friendly and accommodating staff. After you've relaxed by the hotel pool, take a walk along the city's medieval wall. The 1.25-mile path is notable for its bird's-eye view of Old Town's landmarks, ancient fortresses and the Adriatic.
Ask the concierge about area activities, which include horseback riding, sailing, snorkeling, wind surfing, scuba diving and water skiing. Before heading out for the night, enjoy live piano music and a glass of the local Rakija brandy at the Hilton's bar, or check out the hotel's Porat restaurant, which serves international and Croatian fare, such as lobster spaghetti and Adriatic sea bass (dubrovnik.hilton.com).
— Mary E. Morrison