Forget Heart-Shaped Candy. Instead, Find (All Kinds of) Love in 6 Unexpected PlacesBy Jenny Shank
Love is universal, but people around the world celebrate it in unique ways. If heart-shaped candy and convenience-store roses don’t express the depth of your affection, look to these six travel destinations for inspiration.
As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.
Barcelona, Spain: Diada de Sant Jordi
Bustling Barcelona inspires love all year round with its beaches, Catalan cuisine and architectural marvels ranging from the modern Torre Glòries to its ancient Roman walls.
But if you visit on April 23, you’ll be swept up in romance as Barcelonans celebrate Diada de Sant Jordi, when women present books to their favorite guys, and men give roses to the women in return.
According to legend, Barcelona’s patron saint, Saint George, killed a dragon to save a princess. A rosebush sprang from the ground where the dragon’s blood fell, and he plucked a flower for the maiden.
But … Saint George’s feast day happens to be the day William Shakespeare died in 1616, and Spanish literary icon Miguel de Cervantes died just a day earlier.
Barcelonans have combined all these ideas into a bookish love fest in which people bedeck balconies with roses and decorate with dragons, authors give readings, sorbetto shops offer rose-shaped treats, and book and flower peddlers sell their goods from street-side tents, tables and displays.
South Korea: Every 14th Is for Love
In South Korea, people celebrate different holidays promoting love, togetherness and displays of affection on the 14th of every month. The festivities kick off every year on January 14 with Diary Day, when people give blank journals to their partners to encourage them to write their thoughts and make plans and goals for the coming year.
On February 14, women give candy to men, and on March 14, known as White Day, men return the favor. Singles have their moment on April 14 for Black Day, when they celebrate their freedom (or lament their state, depending on their mood) by wearing black and eating delicious jajangmyeon noodles in black bean sauce.
Hugging Day closes out the love-themed year on December 14 with people embracing in public and sweethearts exchanging the gift of warm socks.
Wales: St. Dwynwen’s Day
St. Dwynwen, a fifth-century princess, is the patron saint of lovers, and the Welsh celebrate her feast day on January 25. According to legend, Dwynwen swooned over a Welsh man named Maelon, but her father refused to allow them to marry.
Heartbroken, Dwynwen instead became a nun, founding a church on the island of Llanddwyn. People still visit the remains of the 16th-century reconstruction of this church, whose picturesque ruins are a popular selfie spot.
Locals celebrate St. Dwynwen’s Day in much the same way Valentine’s Day is observed elsewhere, but the Welsh Language Board encourages citizens to Welsh-ify their romantic gestures through cards written in Welsh and an exchange of love spoons carved with symbols of affection that have signified amorous intent in Wales for centuries.
Verona, Italy: Romeo and Juliet
Things didn’t work out so well for Romeo and Juliet, but people still flock to their hometown, Verona, Italy, to commune with the setting that produced the star-crossed lovers.
Scholars debate whether Shakespeare based his famous tragedy on a true story, but the Montagues and Capulets were indeed high-status Verona families, and travelers still visit Casa di Giulietta, Juliet’s house, where it’s believed the Capulet family lived. The home is now furnished with Juliet’s bed and other props from Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film.
Visitors can climb up to the storied balcony, and many leave love notes in the courtyard. The San Francesco al Corso monastery is now a museum where visitors can see the purported inspiration for the final scene of the play in Juliet’s crypt.
County Clare, Ireland: Matchmaking Festival
For travelers still in search of their special person, every September, the town of Lisdoonvarna in Ireland hosts a multi-week matchmaking festival. The festival is inspired by the town’s long tradition of fixing people up, still carried on by Willie Daly, who is the third generation of his family to take pride in making couples out of singles.
Tens of thousands of people flock to the town in County Clare for weeks of dancing, live music, drinks at The Matchmaker Bar and a chance to find a kindred spirit. While setting up people the old-fashioned way is the intent, the festival does include some nods toward the contemporary dating scene, including a sponsored “Tinder Tent.”
Washington State, USA: Bicycle Love
Sure, people are nice, but what if your true love is your two-wheeled transportation? For the annual Gigantic Bicycle Festival in Snoqualmie, Washington, every summer, bike enthusiasts don helmets and peddle on organized rides through the Pacific Northwest that culminate in musical performances, film screenings, art displays (including an enormous bicycle sculpture), plenty of beer and camaraderie with fellow cyclists.