50 cities, 50 last-minute Valentine’s dates
If your romantic tendencies don't include pre-planning or gift splurging, you’re in luck.
This guide to last minute (but totally cool) Valentine’s dates will leave you looking mushier than "Titanic 3D." In a good way.
Failure to book in advance just became a good thing.
1. Amsterdam: Win prizes at a comedy show
Prizes are available at a special "Valentijnsdag" improv comedy show.
The aptly named Rozentheater (literally "Roses Theater"), new home of Boom Chicago, the 'Dam's biggest comedy show, features bubbly (prosecco), a Valentine’s sex quiz (with prizes) and the comedy troupe’s hilarious new show, “Baby I Like it Raw!”
Rozengracht 117, Amsterdam; www.boomchicago.nl
2. Athens: Stroll the Gazi District
Enough with the Colosseum. The spot to head now in Athens is the Gazi District, a transformed public gasworks and Athens’ hippest address with cafes, bars, coffee shops and lots of amusing graffiti.
3. Auckland: Give your partner the stars
You can tour planets, stars and celestial objects like the Rosebud Nebula at Stardome Planetarium.
Valentine packages include the show, champagne, a gift basket and your own adopted star that comes with a certificate, a star chart showing where to find it and info on its constellation.
670 Manukau Road, One Tree Hill, Auckland, New Zealand; +64 9 624 1246; www.stardome.org.nz
4. Banff, Canada: Drink martinis amid mountains
Ah, martinis in the Canadian Rockies. At Eden bar in The Rimrock Resort Hotel guests can try the “My Name is Jewel” martini.
It’s made from rare Napa vodka, 150-year-old Grand Marnier and Delamonte brut champagne and comes decorated with either Swarovski Crystal earrings or diamond hoop earrings.
Yes, you get to keep them.
The Rimrock Resort Hotel, 300 Mountain Ave., Banff, Alberta, Canada; +1 403 762 3356; www.rimrockresort.com
5. Barcelona: Count on chocolate
Orio Balaguer is a prize-winning pastry chef whose chocolates are sold across the globe.
A visit to his original shops in Barcelona should be a pilgrimage on any chocolate lover's bucket list. Confectionary is displayed like precious jewels.
For Valentine’s fireworks, there's the Mazcleta, chocolate with crystals that pop and sizzle on impact with your tongue.
Oriol Balaguer Shop Barcelona, Pl. Sant Gregori Taumaturg, 2; +34 932 011 846 or Travessera de les Corts, 340 Barcelona; +34 933 632 298; www.oriolbalaguer.com
6. Beijing: Groove to a techno pioneer
Never mind that one of DJ Mickey Zhang’s most popular songs was “Axe Murderer.”
He and DJ Ouyang are spinning a free Valentine’s show, followed by fireworks, at Yugong Yishan that, like a phoenix, arose from the ashes after its 2007 get-gussied-up-for-the-Olympics demolition.
Still the best live house in Beijing, its resurrection revealed a bigger stage, a better sound system and a dance floor that can accommodate up to 700 ravers.
Dongcheng district, Zhang Zizhong Road 3-2; +86 010 8402 8477; www.yugongyishan.com
7. Berlin: Snuggle up at the Tajikistan Teestube
Berliners tried to keep Tajikistan Teestube, an intimate tea room that was once displayed at the Leipzig Fair, a secret. They failed.
Although you’ll miss the fairy tales (they’re told every Monday by candlelight), you can enjoy 30 types of tea, sit on beautiful Persian carpets (chairs are verboten and you have to remove your shoes) and lie back on woven pillows as you nod amiably at the tea room’s motto, “Tee trinken heisst die Welt vergessen,” which roughly translates, “Drink some tea and forget your troubles.”
Oranienburger Str. 27 at KunstHof, 10117 Berlin – Mitte; +49 30 204 11 12; www.tadshikische-teestube.de
8. Brisbane, Australia: Go on a grape date
Charter a helicopter to take you to the Granite Belt’s best boutique wineries.
+61 7 3201 0005; www.pterodactylhelicopters.com.au
9. Buenos Aires: Take a tango class
Tango practically screams sex, romance and all that Valentine’s Day stands for. And there's a magazine that tells you where to go to get down.
Compiled by Tito Palumbo, B.A. Tango is one of the city’s many dedicated tango magazines. Not only does it list such primo tango houses as Rojo Tango and El Querandi, but it lists milongas (tango salons), teachers and places such as Academia Nacional de Tango that offer tango lessons every evening.
Tango maps are also available at most tourism kiosks.
10. Cairo: Get kinky with chocolate and sugar
Egyptians celebrate Valentine’s Day on November 4, but massage therapists at the spa at Four Seasons First Residence will rub both your bodies on February 14 with either chocolate (it’s said to be an aphrodisiac) or brown sugar body polish for a full two hours.
Also thrown in during the Hot Coco and Sugar Rush spa treatments are strawberries, chocolate and red roses.
Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at The First Residence, 35 Giza St., Giza, Cairo, Egypt 12311; +20 2 3567 1600; www.fourseasons.com
11. Cape Town, South Africa: Open champagne with a sword
Called sabrage, this unique bottle-opening ceremony was started by Napoleon to celebrate his countless European victories.
A small sword (a champagne saber) is slid along the bottle (it’s held at a 20-degree angle), which, according to some weird law of physics, breaks away the neck.
Table Bay Hotel, a stunning spot with towering windows and an impressive high tea, offers the sabrage ceremony on Valentine’s Day, as well as the other 364 days of the year.
Table Bay Hotel, Quay 6, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town; +27 21 4065 0000, www.suninternational.com
12. Chicago: Ice skate for free
Although known to attract skating zombies and Santas (for setting Guinness records), McCormick Tribune Ice Rink reserves its eat-your-heart-out-Rockefeller Center-sized rink for glove-holding lovers on Cupid’s Day.
201 E. Randolph St., Chicago, Ill.; +1 312 742 1168
13. Copenhagen, Denmark: Watch a movie in a love seat
The Falkoner Cinema has private, back-of-the-room love seats for two. Whether or not you decide to watch the film? Up to you.
Sylows Allé 15, 2000 Frederiksberg C, Copenhagen, Denmark; +45 7013 1211; www.falkonerbio.dk
14. Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Buy some sparkle
At Dubai’s Gold Souk it’s rumored that, at any one time, there are more than 10 tons of high-quality gold. It's available in every possible incarnation from jewelry to coins to gold bricks.
If you can't find a lustrous keepsake among the more than 300 shops and wholesalers in this bazaar wedged between Dubai Fish and Vegetable Market and the Deira Corniche, you're not trying hard enough.
Sikkat al-Khail Street, Deira, Dubai, U.A.E.; www.goldsoukdubai.net
15. Dublin: Pay homage to 'the big guy'
In the mid-1830s, Pope Gregory XVI, in an effort to boost Catholicism, sent the relics (bones) of Saint Valentine to Dublin’s Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church.
They’re still there in a casket to the right of the main altar. Once a year (yep, February 14) they’re carried out in procession for a special Mass at the 19th-century Byzantine-style church.
56 Aungier St., Dublin 2; +44 353 1 475 8821; www.carmelites.ie
16. Hong Kong: Head to the beach
It's renowned for its skyscrapers, but Hong Kong's beaches are just as beautiful.
The seaside village of Stanley offers two beaches, a laid-back vibe and Murray House, the old officers’ quarters that stands as a romantic testament to endurance, having been moved here brick by brick from Central.
17. Istanbul: Sip soul-warming sahlep
Known as an aphrodisiac, sahlep is a hot, milky beverage made from the hand-harvested orchids of Anatolian mountain orchids.
Street vendors sell it from large copper urns, but the most romantic spot for sipping the cinnamon-topped beverage is at Bebek Kahve, a quaint coffeeshop perched on the edge of the Bosphorus.
You might need to ignore a few serenading seagulls.
Cevdet Pasa Caddesi No. 137, +90 0212 257 5402
18. Kerala, India: Rent a spice barge
Many of Kerala’s old rice and spice barges, humbly made of jackwood and held together with coconut fiber, have been converted into floating palaces.
Some are three stories high with sun decks, multiple living rooms and karaoke lounges.
Even the simplest kettuvalam, as they're called in Malayalam, the local dialect, meander through Kerala’s backwaters past 500-year-old temples, rural hamlets and spits of land where wrinkled women smoke coconut husks as their grandsons cast bamboo poles.
Silence is interrupted only by the swoosh of egret wings or a coconut falling into the water.
19. London: Get your palm read
At Ripley’s Believe It or Not resident fortune teller, Psychic Sunita, will be giving complimentary readings from noon to 2 on February 14.
If she reveals marriage in the cards, you can stroll over to the museum’s collection of toilet paper wedding dresses and duct-tape tuxedo.
The London Pavilion, 1 Piccadilly Circus, London; +44 0 20 3238 0022; www.ripleyslondon.com
20. Maldives: Make a rap song
At SubSix, the world’s first underwater dance club, DJ superstars Joe Flizzow and Sona One will be offering three workshops that end with your own personal rap song packed and ready for delivery.
Niyama Resort, Dhaalu Atoll, Republic of Maldives; +960 6762 828; www.niyama.peraquum.com
21. Manila, Philippines: Catch a concert
Yes, they were once married, then divorced, but Martin Nievera and Pops Fernandez still love making music together, which they’ll do at a historic Valentine’s concert with a new pair of singing lovebirds, Ogie Alacasid and Regine Velasquez.
Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City; +63 2 470 2222; www.smtickets.com
22. Mexico City: Pucker up at Zocalo Plaza
Although you missed participating in the record-breaking kiss now listed by Guinness World Records (39,897 joined in one big simultaneous kiss fest), you can still suck face at the very place were it happened.
Zocalo Plaza, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06060 Mexico City, DF, Mexico; +52 954 893 6778
23. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States: Take an illicit tour
This is the building Virtual Tourist calls “The World’s Sexiest.” Milwaukee Art Museum, an architectural masterpiece designed by the renowned Santiago Calatrava, offers a self-guided, tongue-in-cheek tour (it’s called The Naughty Bits tour) of its racier pieces.
Visitors can follow up with a Tiki Love Bowl (two straws and lots of rum served in a fiery goblet) at nearby At Random, a cocktail lounge Mad Men’s Don Draper would love.
Needless to say, there’s Sinatra, more than 100 specialty cocktails and matronly waitresses in support hose insisting you hold hands and make wishes.
Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 Art Museum Dr., Milwaukee, Wis.; +1 414 224 3200; www.mam.org
At Random, 2501 S. Delaware Ave., Milwaukee, Wis.; +1 414 481 8030
24. Montreal: Have a bed in
Although Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth was the site of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s bedroom peace vigils, it was here that the anthem of the anti-war movement was written.
“Give Peace a Chance” was composed by the pajama-wearing couple on May 26, 1969, along with Tommy Smothers, Timothy Leary, Petula Clark and a group of Canadian Radha Krishnas.
Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, 900 Rene Levesque Blvd. W. Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3B 4A5; +1 514 861 3511; www.fairmont.com
25. Moscow: Come out of hibernation for a winter stroll
With enough winter fur, you’ll feel like Lara and Dr. Zhivago exploring Moscow’s nearly empty streets (compare that to the sweaty Kremlin crowds of August), full of glittery snow, ice rinks and well-lit trees.
The Moskva river at Kolomenskoye leads to the 16th-century Church of the Ascension past a triple-domed wooden chapel and log cabin cafes serving coffee and pancakes.
1 Letnyaya Ulitsa, Moscow; +7 499 615 2768; www.kolomenskoe-park.ru
26. Nairobi, Kenya: Have breakfast with giraffes
Giraffe Manor, a boutique hotel surrounded by 140 acres of Kenyan bush, has its own resident herd of Rothschild's giraffes who stick their necks into the windows of the candle-lit dining room.
In fact, happy hour kicks off each night with nuts for the 20-foot members of the endangered herd.
Just outside Nairobi; +254 732 812 896; www.giraffemanor.com
27. New Orleans: Combine Valentine’s Day with Mardis Gras
At Arnaud’s, a legendary New Orleans restaurant, you’ll be served in a turn-of-the-century dining rooms with white tablecloths, tuxedoed waiters and Dixieland troubadours.
Afterward, visit the restaurant’s official Mardis Gras museum (it’s upstairs) with more than two dozen lavish costumes -- including 13 worn by the restaurant’s owner who holds the record (22) for most reigns as queen of a Mardis Gras ball.
813 Bienville Ave., New Orleans, La. 70112; +1 504 523 5433; www.arnaudsrestaurant.com
28. New York: Blow your inheritance
The Warwick, the New York hotel publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst allegedly built for actress Marion Davies, is offering a US$21,400 Valentine’s package that includes a chauffeured limousine, two-night stay, personal photographer, in-room massage, breakfast and dinner and a US$10,000 gift card to nearby Cartier.
65 W. 54th St. New York, N.Y. 10019; +1 212 247 2700; www.warwickhotelny.com
29. Outside Bangkok: Take a hot air balloon ride
In Khao Yai National Park you can silently glide over 800 acres of lush UNESCO world heritage rainforest. Back on firm ground you can enjoy a champagne breakfast to a live jazz band.
Kirimaya, 1/3 Moo 6 Thanarat Road, Moo-Si, Pakchong, Nakorn Ratchasima 30130; +66 4442 6000; www.kirimaya.com
30. Oxford, England: 'Lock in' your love
At the 10-century-old Oxford Castle, from the comfort of their own private prison cell, guests can enjoy a three-course meal served by a costumed “prison guard.”
Oxford Castle Unlocked, 44-46 Oxford Castle, Oxford, England; +44 1865 26 0666; www.oxfordcastleunlocked.co.uk
31. Paris: Pretend to be Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir
OK, so it’s winter when the City of Love’s infamous café culture is driven indoors, but at Les Deux Margots, where the famous intellectual lovebirds wrote every morning, it’s no less romantic for enjoying a café creme.
6 place St. Germain des Pres, 6th arrondissement, Paris; +33 1 4548 5525; www.lesdeuxmagots.fr
32. Portland, Oregon, United States: Tie the knot at Voodoo Doughnut
Couples can get legally hitched night or day by owners Tres Shannon, a flamboyant one-time mayoral candidate, and Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson, who are both ordained ministers and will gladly invoke what they call the Holey Spirit.
The signature voodoo donut is worth a try. We won't spoil the surprise, but let's say it involves a gingerbread-shaped man, a pretzel stick and raspberry jelly.
22 S.W. Third Ave., Portland, Ore.; +1 503 241 4704; www.voodoodoughnut.com
33. Prague: Face the music
With a staff musicologist who presides over a 4,000-CD library (from Dvorak to Jimi Hendrix), the Aria Hotel has a lobby depicting the notes of a Gregorian chant, 52 rooms named for famous musicians and iPods with 546 pieces of music (of all styles) for guests to take to their room.
Tržiště 9, Prague 1, 11800 Czech Republic; +420 225 334 111; www.ariahotel.net
34. Quebec City: Cozy up in an ice hotel
Constructed entirely from ice and show, Hotel de Glace, Version 13.0 features 44 rooms and suites, ice chandeliers, sculptures, a chapel and the Grand Ice Slide.
9530 Rue de la Faune Québec, QC G1G 4G4, Canada; +1 418-623-2888; www.hoteldeglace-canada.com
35. Quito, Ecuador: Warm your toes by the fire
Café Cultura, a renovated colonial mansion owned by Ecuadorian architect Laxzlo Karolyi, has floor-to-ceiling frescoes, a handsome, wood-paneled library, antique rugs, three toasty fireplaces and cuisine inspired by the local tastes of guanabana, tree-tomato and cherimoya.
Robles 513 y Reina Victoria, Quito, Ecuador; +593 2 2224271; www.cafecultura.com
36. Rio de Janeiro: Wind down after Carnival
Brazilians, who are usually six-foot deep in feathers, sequins and skimpy costumes on February 14, celebrate their version, Dia dos Namorados (Lovers Day) in June, so there’s no struggle for tables, inflated prices or pressure to “perform.”
This year Carnival will be over, so pick a restaurant, any restaurant.
37. Rome: Go Baroque
Take in an early concert (6:30 p.m.) at Sant’Agnese in Agone, the quintessence of Baroque architecture, that combines Bernini’s “Fountain of the Four Rivers” with chamber music by the greatest composers of the famous sculptor’s day.
Musicians perform on historical Baroque instruments.
Piazza Navona, Navona, Rome 00186; +39 06 6819 2134; www.santagneseinagone.org
38. San Antonio, Texas, United States: Dish up some spiciness
The prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) cooking school is a 22-acre edgy foodie destination with great restaurants, a weekly farmer's market (featuring everything from lavender soap, watercress and free range eggs to heritage pork, grass-fed bison and sour cream pecan muffins) and a kitchenware store owned by famed cookbook author Melissa Guerra, (look for such hard-to-find items as authentic Mexican molcajetes, hand-embroidered dish towels and mesquite rolling pins)..
The San Antonio version specializes in chili-fueled recipes like Andean harvest pot roast.
200 E. Grayson St.; +1 210 212 7260; www.atpearl.com
39. San Francisco: Play Spin the Bottle
At the California Academy of Sciences there’s a photo booth for memorializing the day, a craft table for making your own valentine, grown-up board games and X-rated mating in the Animal Attraction exhibit.
55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco; +1 415 379 8000; www.calacademy.org
40. Santiago, Chile: Get lost in a kitschy maze
Ky, a resto-bar, as they call it in Latin America, offers an idiosyncratic Asian menu, drinks worth talking about and an eclectic atmosphere that resembles a flea market.
Avenida Peru 631, Recoleta Santiago; +56 2 777 7245; www.restobarky.cl
41. Seoul, South Korea: Throw away the key
Unless you’re fluent in Korean, you have an excuse for not abiding by the sign at the top of Namsan Mountain that requests that you “respect the environment” and don’t toss the key, an act that was first initiated by a celebrity couple on Korean TV after placing a love lock at the 480-meter tower that marks the highest point in the city.
Either way, the view is gorgeous, especially at night, and you can add your own “vow of unlockable love” to the thousands that already weigh down the fences and rails around the CJ Seoul Tower.
1-3 Yongsandong 2 (i)-ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul; +82 2 3455 9277; www.nseoultower.co.kr
42. Singapore: Escape to Sentosa
Although three-quarters of this island is covered with rainforest and the monkeys, monitor lizards, peacocks and parrots that like that sort of habitat, there’s a swanky hotel on the beach that’s throwing one wing-ding of a Valentine’s party.
Choose between the OTT option at US$14,000 (it includes a Rolls-Royce transfer, a 4,000-square-foot manor, a private pool, a five-course dinner accompanied by a private live band, 99 roses, a four-hour couples’ massage and jewelry) or the just under US$1,000 package that has flowers, champagne, chocolate strawberries and a one-hour couple’s massage.
1 The Knolls, Sentosa Island, Singapore 098297; +65 6377 8888; www.capellahotels.com
43. St. Ignacio, Belize: Skinny dip at a private waterfall
It averages 30 degrees Celsius (86 F) in February, but the other 11 waterfalls on Hidden Valley Inn’s spectacular 7,200-acre nature reserve are open to the other dozen or so guests.
To reserve your own waterfall (it also has two natural pools) for the day, contact Hidden Valley Inn, 4 Cooma Cain Road, Mountain Pine Ridge, Cayo District, Belize; +501 822 3320; www.hiddenvalleyinn.com
44. St. Petersburg, Russia: Enjoy the ballet
In a small theater in the sumptuously barbaric Vladimir Palace, just down the Neva from the Winter Palace, dancers from two of St. Petersburg’s great ballet companies will perform.
Contact Scenic Cruises, who have a thing about setting up rare, one-of-a-kind experiences.
45. Stockholm: Write your own snapsvisor
Say what? A snapsvisor is a vigorous drinking song, a toasting tradition very much alive in Sweden, especially at Stockholm’s Museum of Spirits, newly opened in a pair of 18th-century naval buildings on the island of Djurgarden.
There’s wine and whiskey tasting at the beautiful park by the harbor and a café and where snapsvisors on what the Swedes call “The Day of All Hearts” (Alla Hjartans Dag).
Djurgårdsvägen 38, 115 12 Stockholm ; +46 8 1213 1300; spritmuseum.se
46. Sydney: Buy a G-string, bustier or silk chemise
Internationally known lingerie designer Collette Dinnigan launched her line of lingerie on William Street in Paddington. Even though she’s now a favorite with the red carpet set (Nicole Kidman and Rachel McAdams) and has branched out into wedding dresses and swimwear, her flagship store that moved in 2011 to Queen Street still features a wide selection of the sexy hand-embroidered items.
104 Queen St. Sydney, New South Wales, 2025, Australia; +61 2 9363 2698; www.collettedinnigan.com.au
47. Tel Aviv, Israel: Indulge in some matkot
What’s not to like? Israel's national sport is played on the beach (and with 14 kilometers of beach, there’s lots of playing fields) so it’s win-win.
The goal is to keep the small rubber ball in the air for as long as possible, not to cram it down your opponent’s throat. You both go down (or hopefully keep the ball up) together. Not a bad metaphor for relationships.
Local enthusiast Amnon Nissim (he calls himself Amnon the Cannon) has turned his apartment in Neve Tzedek into what is undoubtedly the world’s only Museum of Matkot.
You can’t miss the place. Just look for the four brightly decorated paddles nailed up a telephone pole.
48. Tokyo: Pig out on chocolate
In Japan on February 14, the tables are turned. It’s the men's chance to be showered with chocolate and gifts.
White Day, a month later, is the reverse -- on that day, ladies get the goodies.
For either of those days, head to 100 percent ChocolateCafé at the base of Tokyo Skytree, where 56 varieties of chocolate in a dizzying range of flavors (ginger, basil, collagen?) are numbered and assigned a color, making it easy to order whether or not you speak Japanese.
Kyobashi 2-4-16, Chuo-ku, Tokyo; www.meiji.co.jp
49. Toronto: Bounce off the walls
Sky Zone is the world’s first trampoline park. Couples can take the leap together at this endless sea of bounce with open jump, 3D dodgeball and SkyRobics.
3636 Hawkestone Road, Mississauga, Ontario; +1 905 306 9898; www.skyzonesports.com
50. Venice, Italy: Visit the world’s oldest coffee shop
Under the arches of the Procuratie Nove, at Caffe Florian, where Verdi, Proust, Goethe and Casanova have all sipped espresso (mainly because it was the only coffeeshop in town that admitted women when it opened in 1720), you can escape from all the other romance-seeking tourists in a series of seven little-known courtyards.