Every year, February brings the same dilemma: do you plan a romantic Valentine’s Day getaway, or give an extravagant gift? This year, you don’t have to choose. For the price of an average hotel, you can stay in one of the world’s top romantic destinations and indulge in local treats—from lingerie shopping in Paris to tea for two in London. Some of you starry-eyed Airbnb travelers find romance wherever you go, from Philly to Frankfurt. But we’ve noticed a distinct uptick in Airbnb bookings over Valentine’s Day in five classically romantic global hotspots: Paris, New York, Berlin, Barcelona, and London.
Every day Paris earns its reputation for romance, rolling out of artist’s loft beds for hot croissants at sidewalk cafes. But the City of Lights comes alive by night, with midnight strolls along the Seine and chorus lines and Champagne galore at the Moulin Rouge. While you’re in the neighborhood, pick up some frilly knickers at Parisian lingerie boutiques and perfect your can-can dancing skills at home.
A Paris hotel stay runs US$212 per night*, but for an average of $128**, you could book that Eiffel Tower view room, a luxury Moulin Rouge suite, or an elegant flat in a prestigious neighborhood—and still load up on lingerie.
Back of an envelope math: Hotel = $212 average vs Airbnb selected listings = $128 average. Difference of: $90. Frilly French underwear = about $30, so $90 buys 3 pairs of frilly underwear × 2 nights = 6 pairs of frilly underwear.
Small gestures are sweet for starters—but when you’re ready to go big, you go to New York. Belt out your true feelings on Broadway, make your own movie moment on a carriage ride steps from your Central Park pad, and raise a toast with Empire State views. Hold a loft love-in like John & Yoko, go back in time in a Victorian studio, or smooch on a Brooklyn brownstone stoop like Girls (only less awkwardly we hope).
Hotel tabs also run big here: one night in a New York hotel costs around $295. Airbnb offers many New York love nests for around $100, so you can live large and splash out on top-shelf cocktails in your penthouse. The best way to take Manhattan is with a Manhattan—and with your savings, the next round’s on you. Back of an envelope math: Hotel = $295 average vs Airbnb selected listings = $98 average. Difference of: $197. Manhattan = $12, so $197 = about 16 Manhattans × 2 nights = 32 Manhattans.
Romantics relate to Berlin, united at last after decades of division. Couples stroll through the wildflowers in Mauerpark, a glorious green swath where the Berlin Wall once stood. You are now officially free to follow your bliss: dive into galleries wedged inside WWII bomb shelters from your stylish Mitte apartment, dine under the stars inside KaDeWe’s Winter Garden atrium near your luxury suite, and find your mojo at boho Kreuzberg clubs steps from your artsy guest room.
What’s not to love about Berlin? Maybe hotel prices, which seem artist-unfriendly at $129 per night. For that much, you could stay in a city center hideaway with Airbnb, and take your date to Berlin’s legendary Staatsoper (State Opera). Stay another night in your groovy round Berliner bed, and you could return for an encore tomorrow. Back of an envelope math: Hotel = $129 average vs Airbnb selected listings = $69. Difference of: $60. Staatsoper ticket = $30, so $60 = 2 tickets to Staatsoper × 2 nights = 4 opera tickets.
Your date will understand if you’re distracted by Barcelona’s beauty. This town has all the right curves in all the right places, thanks to Gaudi’s Art Nouveau architecture and creative Catalan tapas invented nightly. Even if you plan to cover Barcelona’s 8 UNESCO World Heritage landmarks, you’ll probably forget where you’re going—just ramble past the cafes of Las Ramblas near your cozy guest room, soak in the artistic inspiration in your charming balcony flat in Gotico, and fall under the sway of palm trees outside your Barceloneta Beach duplex. But when soccer fans blow off a Barça match for a date, it must be love.
Fair warning: Barcelona hotels run $172 a night, which can cramp your dining plans. Stay at an Airbnb hideaway above the Boqueria Market instead, and you can take a tapas tour of the city with the savings. Back of an envelope math: Hotel = $172 average vs Airbnb selected listings = $69 average. Difference of: $103. Tapas for two = about $13, so $103 = about 8 rounds of tapas for two × 2 nights = 16 rounds of tapas for two.
You’re never too late to star in your own time-traveling costume drama in London. Scene one: your knight rescues you from the Tower of London and you escape down the Thames to your stylish hideout. Scene two: you lock eyes in the Victoria & Albert Museum and retire back to your luxury manor house near London Bridge. Scene three: you leave your room near Hyde Park to practice the royal wedding wave atop a vintage double-decker bus. After an intimate high tea for two, you decide to retreat to your converted schoolhouse loft, skip dinner and… polite fade to morning.
Given London hotel prices, you could be in for a rude awakening: expect to pay $217. Stay at a historic hideaway near Big Ben in London with Airbnb instead, and you can enjoy all the tea and scones you, your date, and the cast of a Charles Dickens novel could eat.
Back of an envelope math: Hotel = $217 average vs Airbnb selected listings = $99. Difference of: $118. Tea & scones for 2 = around $10, so $118 = about 12 tea & scones for 2 × 2 nights = 24 tea & scones for 2. No matter where you’re heading, we hope you’re feeling the love this Valentine’s Day—and we hope Airbnb can make it even sweeter.
*Source: Hotels.com’s 2013 Hotel Price Index
**Comparing hotel rooms to Airbnb listings is like comparing apples to a market full of exotic fruits, so we selected a range of 5 romantic listings suitable for couples, covering a range of prices with styles to suit different tastes. Prices vary, listing come on and off the marketplace, our idea of romantic might not be yours, Parisian underwear is not required to be frilly, and we won’t hold it against you if you splurge on an $18 Manhattan. Artwork by Agnes Lee