Ten Perfect Date Nights in Ten Global Cities
In honor of Valentine's Day, here are 10 inspiring date itineraries. Whether you are celebrating Qixi in China or White Day in Korea, these global ideas will work year-round.
12:00 p.m., Feb. 13: Take the SZU train from the main station up Zurich’s Üetliberg Mountain. The main line runs to the top of the hill where you can visit the observation tower and see a panoramic view of the entire city of Zurich and Lake Zurich. The SZU runs weekdays every half hour and takes just 20 minutes to get to the Üetliberg. On weekends it runs every 20 minutes. (Check online for timetables.)
2:00 p.m.: From the plateau at the top of Üetliberg, walk the trail over to the Felsenegg, where you can take a cable car down to Adliswil and the SZU train back to Zurich.
3:00 p.m.: Warm up in the Stadtbad on Helvetiaplatz with its intimate hammam. The bath is based on the traditional Turkish bath, with a central navel stone and various niches and washing pools around. You can enjoy saunas and fog showers with others or schedule private treatments, including Ayurveda, mud applications, men’s care, scrub rituals, and oil detoxification.
10:00 p.m.: After showing and dressing for dinner, go to Pavilion, a warm, elegant restaurant in the Baur au Lac Hotel. Designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon, the space has a glass gazebo with a 16-foot rotunda and 1920s-era chandeliers. The menu is run by Chef Laurent Eperon and focuses on modern interpretations of classic dishes.
12:30 a.m., Feb. 14: Work your way over to Kronnenhalle Bar, famous for its Mahogany panels and leather banquettes offset by paintings by Miró and Klee. It’s known for its Old World cocktails and superior for its attentive—and discreet—service.
5:00 p.m., Feb. 14: Spend the early evening walking around the striking Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires, which was built in 2001 after a global open call for designs was won by three Argentinian architects. It hosts an impressive permanent collection of contemporary work and shows indie films and documentaries in the evenings.
7:00 p.m.: Take a stroll next door in Palermo's lush Tres de Febrero Park, dotted with little lakes and gazebos. Paddle boats are optional, but make sure you stop in the beautifully landscaped rose garden, which hosts nearly 20,000 blooming bushes.
9:00 p.m.: Make a reservation at the playful, ultra-modern Aramburu for dinner and ask for the table overlooking the kitchen; it's one of the city's most exciting to watch in action.
11:30 p.m.: Drinks at the Oak Bar, a cozy, elegant room, conveniently tucked into the Palacio Duhau, a neoclassical palace run by Park Hyatt, where you should definitely make a reservation to stay the night.
4:30 p.m.: On Feb. 14, sunset over Manhattan will be at 5:28 p.m. Take your date to the most spectacular room on the island, the Top of the Standard at the Standard Hotel. Normally impossible to get into, the room is open for late afternoon drinks and snacks, and it’s quite romantic. Get a stiff drink, because you’ll never guess what you’re doing next ….
6:00 p.m.: Say it with ink: There are tattoo artists, and then there is Scott Campbell of New York's Saved Tattoo, where Marc Jacobs goes. Just plan for those crazy romantic tats to be small and subtle--Campbell's rate is $1,000 an hour.
8:00 p.m.: Fancy restaurants tend to overdo it on Valentine's Day, so go somewhere unpretentious and consistently delicious, where the lighting is warm and beautiful, and you still feel sexy even after eating dinner, at a place such as Estela. If you want to splurge, do it somewhere chill, like Momofuku's exceptionally great chef counter, Ko.
10:30 p.m.: After dinner, head to Mace Bar for nightcaps, where they'd never be so gauche as to call their complex, spice-driven drinks aphrodisiacs.
7 p.m., Feb. 13: Go to the Stanislavsky Theater (the Bolshoi’s younger, more adventurous cousin) to see a production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, the story of a 15-year-old Japanese girl and her fickle American husband. It’s not a story about perfect love—far from it—but it’s a gorgeous opera about the power of love.
10 p.m.: From the Stanislavsky, it’s an easy, 5 minute walk to Ugolek restaurant, a bustling, modern restaurant with superb food. A great option for those who want to skip hyperformal, fancy dinners, the cuisine tends toward lightly deconstructed dishes with fresh ingredients and pleasantly fashionable tableware. Make a reservation now, though: Beloved by hordes of the city’s fashionable young-ish people, the place isn’t exactly a secret.
11:30 p.m.: Take a cab (15 minutes or so without traffic) to the Fassbinder Cinema bar, a laid-back lounge with a well-stocked bar and live music (ranging from Reggae to Punk to Indie-Rock) most Saturday nights. The dozens of comfortable lounge chairs, banquettes, and tables mean that you can hang out or, when the spirit moves you, get up and dance.
10:30 a.m., Feb. 14: Breakfast at the Metropol: It’s Valentine’s day, you’re a little hung over from last night, so it’s time to treat yourself and your date to a lavish brunch under the soaring painted dome at the Metropol, arguably Moscow’s best-known luxury hotel. Breakfast is set up as a buffet, including caviar, with the soft accompaniment of a live jazz band.
4:00 p.m., Feb. 14: Is your idea of the perfect date a trip to the basement level Hockey Hall of Fame? Well, rethink it. During warmer months, Nathan Phillips Square is home to a reflecting pool that sits under three massive concrete arches, but when the temperatures drop and the pool freezes, it's groomed into a rink filled with locals and tourists alike.
7:00 p.m.: Having worked up a bit of a sweat in the bracing chill, it's time for a drink. Luckily, just down the street from the rink is Nikai, a hip cocktail bar from the Momofuku team. If you haven't already booked a table at Shoto for dinner, better luck next year, but you can still enjoy either a festive sparkling cocktail, such as the grapefruity Brisca Fresca, or something a little more substantial, such as the sake and chartreuse Preta.
8:00 p.m.: It's time to start soaking up that sake. On the edge of Toronto's Fashion District, Alo was one of the most celebrated new restaurants in the city in 2015. The five-course tasting menu highlights Canadian ingredients and preparations that are clearly fine dining but without falling into fussy territory. Expect such dishes as fois gras with sweet potato and chestnut to get you going and Ontario pork with swiss chard and apple to carry you though.
10:00 p.m.: Braving the crowd at a nightclub or trying to squeeze into one of Koreatown's great karaoke joints is more trouble than it's worth on Valentine's Day. (Plus, it’s Sunday.) A low-key cocktail joint where you can actually talk is a much better call. The aptly named Cocktail Bar and hip Montauk are both swanky choices close to dinner, or you can hoof it a little farther to the Ace for tip-top cocktails before you call that Uber home.
1:00 p.m., Feb. 14: Hong Kong is at its most beautiful from the water. Grab your Octopus card and a pair of sneakers and head for the Central Ferry terminal. Oh yeah, you’ll need a date as well. Grab one of those before you hop on a boat for Lamma Island.
2:20 p.m.: Spend the afternoon meandering along the trail from Yung Shue Wan to Sok Kwu Wan. Lamma is just a short boat ride from Central, but it feels as if it’s a world away. There are no cars or large developments on the island—yet. The whole place has a distinctly free-spirited vibe. If Woodstock were to be held anywhere in Hong Kong, it would be on Lamma.
4:00 p.m.: Take a break for a shared pot of chilled lemongrass tea at Herboland, a beautiful tea shop and small herb farm near Hung Shing Yeh Beach.
6:00 p.m.: Reward yourselves for making it to the beautiful fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan by pausing for a seafood dinner. Pick one of the restaurants with seating right on the sea wall and watch the sunset (6:19) over the bay while you share an order of razor clams.
10:00 p.m.: Hop back on the ferry and grab a cab to Duddell’s for some beautifully crafted cocktails while you work up the courage to ask your date to grab a nightcap (or seven) in Wanchai.
10:00 a.m., most Saturdays: While like most of mainland China, Shanghai celebrates Qixi as the primary love holiday, this date itinerary works for most Saturdays when you want to spend a romantic day with your date. (The Saturday of Valentine's Day weekend will be a little quiet this year, as it falls on the last weekend of the Chinese lunar new year holiday when everyone is scurrying back from their hometowns.) Start by taking one of unTour’s Hands on Dumpling Delights tour, on which you’ll sample some of the best dumplings Shanghai has to offer—including street stall potstickers and soup-filled xiaolongbao. Finally, you’ll learn how to make your own pan-fried dumplings in a tasty cooking class.
2:00 p.m.: After all that walking and eating, the perfect remedy will be a massage in a beautiful Shanghainese setting. Yu Massage on Wuyuan Lu, just off historic Wukang road, has charming wood-lined interiors and antique wallpaper—and you’ll get sweet red date tea served to you before and after your treatments. Try the four hands oil massage.
4:00 p.m.: If you're gong to go to a museum, make it the New Shanghai History Museum. Shaped like a nautilus, this modern structure, opened last year, has a 140-million-year-old dinosaur skeleton and fossils of extinct prehistoric animals once indigenous to the area, such as the Yangtze Alligator.
6:00 p.m.: Logan's Punch was one of the first in a newly gentrified area of Shanghai that's fast becoming cocktail-bar central. Logan fancies itself a punch bar, with such heaping bowls of cocktails as the Salted Caramel Old Fashioned to share. Try El Ocho next door if you can't get in, or El Coctel, which is nearby to your dinner.
8:00 p.m.: Impress your date with one of Shanghai’s best French meals, at Franck in the Ferguson Lane complex. It is cozy and candlelit, and the prices will let him or her know right away this is a special occasion—but the incredible food, prepared with top-quality ingredients, lives up to the price tag. The menu varies, depending on what was at the market that day, and vinophiles are able to wander the wine cave and peek at what they’d like to drink with dinner.
10:00 p.m.: Just over a year old, the Heyday Vintage Jazz Lounge on Tai’an Lu still feels under the radar—even though it’s beginning to win awards for its infectious live music and luxurious vibe.
7 a.m., Feb. 13: Pull on some comfy shoes, a small pack, and Heat-Tech layers and start your day-date early with the express Romancecar (sightseeing train) from Shinjuku station to Hakone-Yumoto, gateway to Tokyo’s favorite mountain hot springs escape. Grab an ekiben (train bento) to make the journey special—and for when you’re feeling snacky. At the station, grab a Hakone Tozan Bus heading toward Moto-Hakone (K line) and alight at Hatajuku (approx. 20 minutes).
9:00 a.m.: Surrounded by misty, towering cedar trees, hanging moss, and centuries of history, the Old Tokkaido Highway is a stone-paved road that once connected to imperial Kyoto. The best-preserved bit connects Hatajuku to Moto-Hakone as a moody hiking trail (an easy, 75-minute walk). After pumping fresh air into your lungs, stop at the Amazake Chaya, a thatched-roof, dirt-floor teahouse that’s been serving gooey, charcoal-grilled mochi and its namesake hot rice drink to travelers for more than 350 years. Now’s an excellent time to break out the day’s honmei choco.
11:00 a.m.: Once on the scenic shores of Lake Ashi, poke around the Hakone Shrine, a 757 A.D. Shinto marvel secreted in dense wood with a giant, blazing orange torii gate right on the water. (Unfortunately, for views of Mt. Fuji, you’ll need to head more south around the lake.) Afterward, catch the H bus toward Miyanoshita (22 minutes). Consider bringing some Dramamine, or close your eyes—it’s a windy ride.
1:00 p.m.: Built in 1878, the creaky, charming Fujiya Hotel was the first "Western-style" lodge in the region, a crown jewel when Japan opened its borders and Miyanoshita became a summer respite for city folk. Today the lunch, though pricey, evokes its lavish heritage with waiters in 1930s French-style uniforms to match the food. Antique shops line the hill station’s main drag for some after-meal strolling.
3:00 p.m.: Twenty minutes away by foot or train, the Hakone Open-Air Museum (Japan’s first outdoor sculpture collection) offers a spectacular collection of more than 120 sculptures in a unique natural setting both indoors and al fresco. Rodin, Miró, Brancusi, Shin Hongo, and Moore, plus a dedicated Picasso Pavilion.
5:30 p.m.: Inspired—and no doubt tired—check into the Gora Kadan ryokan, a luxury inn under the Relais & Chateaux umbrella. Change into your yukata robe and don’t move till morning, except for your in-room kaiseki dinner. Book a room with an open-air onsen (hot springs bath) and private garden for ultimate romance.
Morning After: Trade the bus for the Hakone Tozan Train, which has a series of unique, heart-dropping switchbacks and connects in Hakone-Yumoto for the return trip to Tokyo.
11:00 a.m.: Public declarations of lifelong commitment often involve lawyers or tattoo artists (see above). Either way, love hurts. A painless alternative is available in London on Valentine's weekend, when a master stonemason will pass on the secrets of his craft during a workshop in the courtyard of Southwark Cathedral. Guests will learn how to use medieval craft tools to create a design or inscription on a megalith that they can take home. There are just 15 places at £75 ($107) for Megalith Carving: Set Your Love in Stone. The four-hour class on Feb. 13 will be led by Neil Luxton, who carved the gravestone of Malcolm McLaren, manager of the Sex Pistols. Luxton is head stonemason at Highgate Cemetery, whose denizens include Karl Marx. It's all the idea of Bompas & Parr, two friends who create unusual parties and events. Last year's Valentine's celebration was Anatomical Whisky Tasting, in which aged spirits were consumed from the contours of bodies of people the same age as the drink. Sam Bompas and Harry Parr are also the team behind Alcoholic Architecture, where guests inhale cocktails in a walk-in cloud bar.
4:00 p.m.: After the carving session, classmates will be invited to Alcoholic Architecture for a breathable gin cloud and cocktails based on drinks originally created by monks near the Gothic cathedral, with its hundreds of years of history. The stones weigh more than 5 kilograms (11 pounds) and measure 300 mm x 210 mm (11.8 inches x 8.3 inches), so take care not to drop one on your foot: Breathe sensibly.
5:30 p.m.: After a day like that, you’ll need to get some food into you. Stop by Portland, a favorite of London chefs, for a delicious, low-key, early supper without all the Valentine’s Day fuss. The game pithivier is always a surprise—filled with a variety of meats and game sauce. Its richness always feels like an indulgence, though.
7:30 p.m.: The popular revival of Miss Saigon at the Prince Edward theater will end its run at the end of this month, so catch it now. The romance, sorrow, and incredible score will have you and your date feeling weepy and energized, just in time for:
11:00 p.m.: Drinks and table tennis at Bounce Ping Pong. It specializes in gin cocktails and the kind of gameplay that no one is good at, but everyone enjoys.
3:00 p.m.: Valentine’s Day tradition in Seoul may dictate that women give men chocolate—with men returning the favor on White Day (March 14) and singles crying into their Jajangmyeon on Black Day (April 14)—but hey, you’re a modern couple, so dispense with that and share in the gift of art from the Samsung Corporation. On the edge of trendy, multicultural Hannam-dong, the Leeum Museum has permanent and special exhibitions dedicated to traditional Korean artwork (calligraphy, painting, ceramics), as well as a modern and contemporary wing. The complex’s three buildings, designed by Mario Botta, Jean Nouvel, and Rem Koolhaas, are lustful for any architecture fan.
6:00 p.m.: From there it’s a short walk to a restaurant masquerading as a museum. Si Hwa Dam translates to “poetry, painting, and conversation”—and it’s not overselling itself. Elaborate set menus stretch modern Korean fine dining into the fantastical with dishes inspired by art and nature. Fire up that Instagram.
8:30 p.m.: Now it’s time to take a selfie. Huff up the stone stairs—or opt for the cable car—to the 860-foot peak of Mount Namsan. Yes, the N Seoul Tower is touristy and full of love-struck teenagers, but at night it’s a riot of multicolored light and offers some of the best views of the glittering skyline. Bring a padlock: like Paris’s Pont de l’Archevêché, “Locks of Love” are snapped onto fences and purpose-built structures by lovers who then throw away the key (into provided recycling bins).
10:00 p.m.: Back down to earth, grab a cab to the new Four Seasons hotel to settle into the rich leather and mahogany speakeasy vibes of the subterranean Charles H. James Beard Award-winning head bartender Chris Lowder (from New York’s NoMad hotel) tweaks rakish 1900s-era tipples into the city’s best cocktails with such Korean ingredients as chilli flakes, jujube, and grape molasses. There’s also a flight of Manhattan variations. And, ahem, some luxurious rooms upstairs.