With Valentine's Day around the corner, many will be en-route for a break somewhere they hope will bring all the romance that the day demands.

Where are the best places to go? I am probably the worst one to ask. I tend to be something of a contrarian – so if I arrive somewhere much-hyped for its romantic potential, the chances are I’ll feel anything but.

That said, some places I’ve been are so affecting you would have to have a heart of granite not to be moved in some way by them.

These are my top destinations where I’ve been touched by the romance of the place:

South Wales Argus: HANDSOME: Merchants' houses in old Gdansk

1. Gdansk – Not usually listed in these kind of charts, but here goes. The heart of this much-maligned city is full of avenues of handsome Hanseatic town houses; it was the cradle of a revolution which saw off communism and it was the first place I saw padlocks being chained to a bridge as a symbol of everlasting love.

South Wales Argus:

2. Bilbao – Again, not always the prettiest of places, but its unlikely rebirth had a touch of romance about it. From a despondent docks town to European cultural hub, thanks in part to its eye-catching Guggenheim gallery, it stole my heart.

South Wales Argus: Croatia Escape - Jelacic statue, Zagreb

3. Zagreb – A friendly, Cardiff-sized capital, it had re-created a ceremonial guard, dressed in medieval uniforms, which changes outside a Ruritanian president’s palace. Its avenues are broad and striking in a Mitteleuropan way – which always helps I find.

South Wales Argus:

4. St Petersburg – Having visited the former Russian capital in December, I saw it at its wintry best. The canals and the River Neva were frozen, but with its people swathed in furs and boots, its beautiful architecture and tragic history, it is heart-rending and striking in many ways.

South Wales Argus:

5. Tuscan hill town. The last is the most conventional. San Casciano In Val di Pesa is not in itself particularly romantic, but it is chosen as representative of the Tuscan hill town. Tuscany for me is place where everything – from the design of an old town house, to the way a trees are planted, to how women dress is as beautiful as it is possible to be; and that is in itself romantic.