Valentine’s Day usually means pulling out all the stops for your significant other. If you’re looking to go beyond the last-minute “drugstore Valentine’s special” (that would be a heart-shaped box of Russell Stover chocolates and a vaguely romantic card from the picked-over Hallmark clearance section at CVS), check out the world’s most romantic restaurants.
Tucked into a natural grotto overlooking the Adriatic Sea, the dining terrace at Grotta Palazzese is impossibly beautiful. The gourmet Italian restaurant is routinely ranked as the most romantic in the world. Its history dates back to at least 1700 when it was used for elaborate banquets, parties, and royal galas. The menu is heavy on fresh, handmade pasta and local seafood like sea bream, salmon, and sea bass. But, honestly, they could serve just about anything because it’s all about the atmosphere and the view.
Le Train Bleu
Steeped in more than a century of history and tradition, Le Train Bleu was built in 1900 for Paris’ Exposition Universelle. The dining room’s regal, high-society aesthetic — marked by gilded chandeliers, ornate carvings, and original frescoes — appears to have changed little since. It’s not surprising that it was a favorite of Jean Cocteau, Coco Chanel, and Brigitte Bardot. The menu is representative of classic French cuisine, including favorites like roasted leg of lamb, veal “pot au feu,” and roasted scallops.
For something truly different and unforgettable, the restaurant at Sweden’s Icehotel promises a Valentine’s Day dinner unlike any other. The main restaurant offers a warm, cozy respite from the frozen guest rooms and common areas of the hotel proper. The a la carte dinner menu features an eclectic mix of traditional Scandinavian dishes like moose tartar, arctic char, and pan-fried topside of reindeer.
Crab Shack at Soneva Jani
Honestly, any dinner in the Maldives would be more romantic than dinner just about anywhere else in the world. The remote archipelago is the textbook example of a “honeymoon-worthy getaway.” And don’t let the name fool you, the Crab Shack restaurant at the Soneva Jani resort is the ideal spot for barefoot dining on the beach. The entrees often include fresh seafood that was likely swimming in the ocean only a few hours before it arrived on your plate. But, of course, the real reason to share dinner with your significant other here is the impossibly beautiful sunset views.
Charleston, South Carolina
For understated romantic charm, Circa 1886 is among the best restaurants in the South. The Charleston eatery is situated at the 19th-century Wentworth Mansion in the hotel’s original carriage house. Many unique design elements, including the wood-burning fireplace and pine flooring, are intact. The candlelit dining room is quiet, intimate, and romantic. Executive Chef Marc Collins puts his own contemporary twist on traditional Lowcountry dishes like Broken Arrow Axis Venison, Sage Cured Duck Breast, and a vegetarian Red-Skinned Peanut “One Pot.”
Situated on the 31st floor of The Shard, Western Europe’s tallest building, is Aqua Shard. From just about any seat inside the glistening, modern bar and dining lounge, visitors can take in stunning views of the U.K. capital through its towering floor-to-ceiling windows. The restaurant’s website even guarantees that every table offers panoramic views. Not surprisingly, there are multiple proposals here weekly. Just be sure to book a reservation early, as the restaurant is often full-up months in advance. A special prix fixe menu is available for Valentine’s Day 2020, including gourmet selections like crab, truffle risotto, and roast pigeon.
If money is no object and you’re looking to really impress and splash out on a full-blown Valentine’s Day vacation, head to Hawaii, where there are romantic restaurants at every turn.