The 26 best date spots around the world
Chain Bridge, Budapest. Photo: Laszlo Balogh/Reuters
A global guide to romance—from restaurants to boat rides to chartered planes—just in time for Valentine’s Day
First Published: Sun, Feb 12 2017. 02 39 AM IST
Book a table at… 101 Dining Lounge & Bar at the One&Only Resort on one of Dubai’s three palm-shaped islands. Located in the resort’s private marina, this over-water restaurant has panoramic views of the city’s Marina skyline. Enjoy Mediterranean tapas and cocktails as you watch private yachts pass by and a DJ spins up some chill, electro ambience.
Before dinner, if it’s a weekday… make the most of Dubai’s pleasant winter weather before the summer heat sets in. Take a water taxi—or even better—charter your own boat and cruise through the city’s newly built and aptly named Water Canal. On your way, you’ll pass colourful waterfalls, the famous Burj al Arab hotel. Get off at the Jetty Lounge where you can relax over beachside cocktails.
After lunch, if it’s the weekend… unwind at the palatial Talise Ottoman Spa in the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray hotel. Enjoy a relaxing couples hammam in this opulent take on the centuries-old Turkish bath. When you’re feeling totally destressed, you can head to the nearby Atlantis Hotel—a carbon copy of the original on Paradise Island, Bahamas. Grab some sushi at Nobu before hitting Nasimi Beach Club, where you can party with Dubai’s cool set.
Book a table at… the Sidewalk Café on Vredehoek’s Derry Street. It’s intimate and informal, has panoramic mountain and harbour vistas, and the bistro-style food is eclectic without being overly fussy. Our recommendations: prawns in pastry, a perfect pan-fried steak with Café de Paris butter, and a slice of light-as-air lemon soufflé cheesecake.
After dinner, if it’s a weekday… go whisky-tasting at the Cape Grace Hotel’s Bascule Bar, on the edge of the yacht marina. With 500 bottles on stock, it has one of the biggest collections of whiskey in the southern hemisphere, and the sommelier can select six for you to try. (While it’s still available, ask for the 50-year-old Glenfiddich Bottle No.400—a very limited production that collectors have snapped up for $40,000 a bottle.)
After brunch, if it’s a weekend… take a guided kayak trip off the Sea Point promenade to see the resident dolphins and African penguin. If you’re lucky, you might spot a sunfish—they weigh up to 4,400 pounds and are named for their tendency to sunbathe at the water’s surface. Then head to Clifton for four of the world’s most pristine beaches, each in its own cover separated by boulders: for quieter moments. Climb down to Clifton First, gays and lesbians aim for Third Beach, and style-casters for the Fourth. You may risk hypothermia by rinsing off in the Atlantic, but it’s worth every second.
Book a table at… Borkonyha, a Michelin-starred restaurant specializing in Hungarian wine and local cuisine. The bistro-style restaurant is a two-minute walk from the city’s famous St Stephen’s Basilica and, much like its menu, combines traditional aesthetics (ornate chandeliers, bentwood coat racks) with a sleek, updated quality. As for ordering, don’t be put off: veal brains as a starter won’t ruin your evening.
Before dinner, if it’s a weekday… make your way from work to the Chain Bridge, the most beautiful crossing over the Danube River, and hop on the funicular that takes you directly up to the former Royal Palace. Take a romantic walk on the cobblestoned streets of the Castle District and peer out from the Fisherman’s bastion for one of the best views of Budapest. Then get a pre-dinner drink at the wine bar Divino, which has unbeatable views of the Basilica.
Before dinner, if it’s a weekend… spend some time at the Rudas Bath on the bank of the Danube for some seriously leisurely R&R. Wallow in the thermal waters under the Ottoman-era dome and then head to the rooftop and the recently renovated wellness section and take a plunge in the open-air pool with stunning views of the city. Don’t forget to book a massage (or two).
Book a table at… Restaurante Limosneros, a romantic spot in the city’s Centro Histórico (Historic Downtown), where chandeliers hang from the ceiling, and its thick walls are built from 400-year-old stones. The menu is much more modern, with Mexican dishes such as bean soup with bacon dust and duck with a black cherry sorbet, apples, and raisins. For dessert, share berry-filled tacos in a chocolate tortilla.
Before dinner, if it’s a weekday… stroll through the 16th-century San Idelfonso College, which has been transformed into a museum. In the 1920s Diego Rivera painted murals here, now there’s the chance to view some of his work. Afterwards, grab a capirinha as sweet as the panoramic views from the rooftop bar of the boutique Downtown Mexico hotel in one of Mexico City’s oldest buildings.
Before or after dinner, if it’s a weekend… attend a concert in the nearby Palacio de Bellas Artes. The white marble building’s neo-classical architecture and murals, by some of Mexico’s most famous artists, are worth a visit on their own, but scoring balcony seats to watch a ballet or opera in the concert hall is as romantic as it gets in Mexico City. (For several days in February, renowned violinist David Garret will perform there).
Book a table at… Chou, in the neighborhood of Pinheiros. Set in an old residential building, the vibe is relaxed and homey, with a bright, clean, and modern interior (think white walls, light wood floors) and a back courtyard strung with fairy light. In other words, the makings for the most romantic of summer evenings. The food, cooked over wood and charcoal fires, places an emphasis on fresh meat and fish brightened up with plenty of fresh herbs.
Before dinner, if it’s a weekday… get pre-dinner drinks at Bar Baretto at the Fasano Hotel, a low-lit, wood-paneled space with leather chairs, polished wood tables, and a piano and performance area, where artists serenade guests.
Before dinner, if it’s a weekend… pick up a nice bottle of white wine and a blanket and watch the sun go down at Praça pôr do sol (literally Sunset Plaza). Then, if you like to live on the edgier side, take a romantic stroll down the elevado minhocão to work up an appetite before dinner; the elevated highway closes to car traffic every night from 9.30pm to 6.30am.
Book a table at… Bombay Canteen, a Mumbai favourite for a reason. There, Chef Floyd Cardoz—who also runs one of New York City’s most successful Indian restaurants, Paowalla—whips up lesser-known regional specialties, such as Kashmiri leg of lamb, that are perfect for sharing. Make sure to ask for a table with a view of the open kitchen.
After dinner, if it’s a weekday… head to Aer, the 34th-floor rooftop bar at the Four Seasons, where the views of the city and the Arabian Sea seem to extend forever. While weekends there are clubby, weeknights are more relaxed—and the cardamom and pineapple-infused Mumbai Kiss cocktail sets the mood for romance.
Before dinner, if it’s a weekend… since nothing builds a bond better than a common goal, take a sailing lesson with Aquasail Yachting Academy, based at the Gateway of India. At worst, you’ll cruise around the harbor on an intimate, masted ship; at best, you’ll line up five more dates, since it takes six classes to master the art.
Book a table at… L’Oiseau Blanc, on the top floor of the Peninsula Hotel and home of the city’s most expensive suite. Other spots have great views over the City of Love, but this one, with unobstructed views of the Eiffel Tower from its 16th arrondissement perch, is one of the very best. (Give in to the cliché.) The French menu, overseen by Chef Sidney Redel, includes guinea fowl from Landes, Ossau Iraty cheese, monkfish from Brittany, and Douarnenez crab. There’s a special Valentine’s Day 6-course prix fixe as well.
After dinner, if it’s a weekday… take a 20-minute stroll and stop by the flower installations at the Four Seasons George V, where Jeff Leatham, the hotel’s celebrated artistic director, arranges 12,000 blooms every week. Then head for a nightcap nearby at the Le Bar du Plaza Athénée, where wreaths of fabric hide the soaring ceiling and provide a soft counterpoint to the heavy wood-paneled walls. Seal the deal with an El Diablo—a mix of 10-year-old Laphroaig whisky, Patrón Silver, and blackcurrants—at the futuristic-looking bar made of see-through resin.
Before dinner, if it’s a weekend… start at the Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton, located in the Bois de Bologne, which is currently hosting the exhibition “Icons of Modern Art”. The show includes many artists, such as Vincent van Gogh and August Renoir, who painted scenes of daily life from the same park during their lives. Then, take the scenic route to the restaurant along Avenue Montaigne and window shop the world’s biggest fashion designers, from French stalwarts such as Dior and Chanel to international stars ranging from Valentino and Bulgari.
Book a table at… Odette, a Michelin two-star restaurant, at the National Gallery. With less than 40 seats in what was formerly a side chambers of the Supreme Court, the intimate service is as exceptional as the ambience. Book early and opt for the eight-course tasting menu. Acclaimed chef Julien Royer brings magic to modern French cuisine, raw scallops with Perigord truffles, and hazelnuts; guinea fowl with celeric risotto and foie gras—and beets with a piquant sorbet.
Before dinner, if it’s a weekday… take a leisurely stroll from your office through the Civic District of Singapore, where the country’s colonial past and modern present come together in a romantic setting. Enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail and plate of oysters at Aura Sky Lounge, as the sun sets and the Marina Bay skyline glitters alive in the distance.
Before or after dinner, if it’s a weekend… soak in some music with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, which calls Victoria Concert Hall home. Highlights from the month include a weekend of Beethoven and, in March, a free outdoor concert in Gardens by the Bay featuring scores both classic (Mussorgasky) and pop (John Williams). Pack a picnic and make a whole day of it.
Book a table at… Foreign Cinema. First, feast your eyes on the impressive oyster list of this Mission District institution. Then feast on the oysters as paired with Champagne—the De Sousa Blanc de Blancs Brut Réserve, maybe. Next, make out intermittently while eating your main course during the nightly movie screening. And then, because the film showing through 19 February is Dirty Dancing, you’ll have had the time of your life.
Before dinner, if it’s a weekday… pre-game while gaming at Coin-Op Game Room, brand new in SoMa from owners who’ve previously taken their concept to San Diego and Sacramento. You’ll find a host of arcade classics beeping and blooping in Coin-Op’s 10,000-square-foot space and a bevy of California microbrews flowing from its 16 taps. The “multi-player cocktails” are sized to share.
Before or after dinner, if it’s a weekend… revisit the dates of your innocent youth and tee off at Urban Putt, a 14-hole miniature golf course housed inside a renovated mortuary in the Mission. The owner, PC World editorial director Steve Fox, worked with industrial designers and robotics engineers to create such course features as a “roulette hole” and an “earthquake simulator”. The drinks, which include both Pimm’s Cup and Moscow Mule on tap, are above par.
Book a table at… Cantaloupe Sky Dining, on the 24th floor of the Foster + Partners-designed Troika building. A tasting menu consists of 24 dishes by chef Christian Bauer, ranging from geoduck carpaccio, roasted beef marrow, and a sweet-and-savoury combination of yuzu watermelon and miso. But it’s really the interiors, by Melbourne designers Hecker Guthrie, that accentuate the restaurant’s über-romantic views over KLCC Park and the twin Petronas Towers.
After dinner, if it’s a weekday… stop over at live jazz bar No Black Tie for music and drinks. The club, a favorite among KL-ites, is just a five-minute cab ride from the restaurant and shows can range from more traditional acts, such as drummer extraordinaire John Thomas, to more pop-friendly shows that pay tribute to David Bowie and Justin Timberlake. For Valentine’s Day proper, the bill features local pianist-violinist duo A9 Strings.
Before dinner, if it’s a weekend… sign up for a two-hour cooking class at the newly opened ABC Cooking Studio for a hands-on lesson on making food the Japanese way. Classes are small, limited to four students for every instructor, and you can choose to make anything from sushi and ramen to sesame matcha bun from scratch. This month, a one-off class offers guidance on how to make a heart-shaped chocolate cake.
Book a table at… Hawksworth, in the celebrated Rosewood Hotel Georgia, which brought luxury to the young Canadian west coast city in the Roaring ’20s and whose guests have included British royalty, Nat King Cole, and Marlene Dietrich (and her 40 suitcases). Equally as lauded: chef David Hawksworth’s contemporary Canadian cuisine, with a focus on fresh ingredients and Asian accents, such as a black peppered tuna tataki with mushroom dashi, crispy rice, lotus root, and water chestnut. Before leaving, snap a romantic photo under the massive, hand-assembled crystal chandelier in the elegant, four-room eatery.
If it’s a weekday, before dinner… hop on over to Harbour Air’s downtown seaplane dock for a 30-minute charter flight. Take in the stunning views of Vancouver’s skyline, Stanley Park, the North Shore mountains, and Coal Harbour. For those with a little more time, ask for the one-hour Glaciers tour that includes a stop on a secret alpine lake.
If it’s a weekend, before dinner… take a private helicopter to the fir-covered peak of Grouse Mountain, a favorite among Vancouver’s outdoorsy set. Look out across eye-popping views of the city and the Gulf Islands as you marvel at how unbelievably accessible snowshoeing, skiing, and hiking are from Vancouver—even without the helicopter, you could be back downtown in half an hour. For those feeling less athletic, enjoy a bottle of vino at the mountaintop Observatory, choosing from its voluminous list, a consistent winner of the Wine Spectator’s award of excellence.
Book a table at… Oriole, a Michelin-starred destination down an industrial alley in the West Loop. Don’t be deterred by the freight elevator-like entrance. Once the door opens, you’ll be transported into the perfect date night in a softly lit dining room with lots of nooks and crannies. The tasting-menu-only evening starts with a complimentary cocktail (currently a warm apple cider with barley shochu) and progressing through 16-odd courses, such as capellini with truffles, squab with wild blueberries, and Santa Barbara sea urchin.
Before dinner, if it’s weekday… enjoy some aperitifs at Cindy’s Rooftop at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, a Venetian Gothic landmark from the 1890s that recently underwent a classy, ultra-slick renovation. Clink glasses and stare into each other’s eyes when not taking in the sunset’s pinks and oranges reflected across Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. Note for the chilly: the house hot chocolate features a white velvet speculoos mixed with green chartreuse.
Before or after dinner, if it’s a weekend… see what all the fuss is about with a matinee or evening performance to Hamilton, one of the hottest Broadways shows in recent memory, now on tour. Unlike in New York, you won’t have any trouble getting tickets. Alternatively—or heck, stoke your passions and make it a double feature—the Lyric Opera is playing Carmen, the classic French tale of vital, dangerous love and fiery independence.
Book at table at… Fred’s, the restaurant of the moment for Sydney’s movers and shakers. Chef Danielle Alvarez, formerly of Chez Panisse, centres her French country cuisine on seasonal produce and old-world techniques. A special Valentine’s Day menu features rose veal, blood plum, Clair de lune oysters, saffron tagliatelle, and wood-oven snapper. The 60-seater restaurant in Paddington feels so intimate and warm you’ll forget you’re not in a friend’s kitchen (at least until the bill arrives).
Before dinner, if it’s a weekday… embrace the balmy summer eves with a wander around the gardens of the century-old Strickland House in the eastern suburb of Vaucluse. Afterward, lounge on quiet Milk Beach, a small, secret inlet nearby, and watch the sun decline over the horizon. The view of central Sydney across the water is nothing if not romantic.
After brunch, if it’s a weekend… preorder the perfect picnic from Pop-up Picnic and set a late-afternoon delivery time for Bondi Beach. You’ll be whiling away the afternoon at Bondi Icebergs Club, with laps in the azure pools, a sit in the sauna, and a therapeutic massage. The famous health club has been a fixture at the south end of Bondi Beach for more than 100 years. After grabbing a glass of white on the deck, go find your patch of sand for your sunset sandwiches.
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