There’s more to love than Valentine’s Day. Don’t get us wrong: we’re all about the romance at Smith – but the way to wow your other half needn’t (indeed, shouldn’t) involve red roses, schmaltzy songs and satin sheets. And who says your year’s worth of romance should all happen on one night?
So switch those engagement rings for boxing rings; candlelit dinners for dawn foraging; and sunset strolls for snowy sledging: we’ve rounded up the most stylish, uplifting and refreshing suggestions for adventurous twosomes – as well as their classic date-night counterparts (sans the cheese, naturally). Here’s our guide to alternative activities for couples…
What? Champagne cocktails at Claridge’s Bar – the epitome of old-fashioned romance.
Why? A grand cuvee at a grande dame, be it Krug or Cristal: this is the grown-up take on getting merry, in the most elegant of surroundings.
What’s for afters? Follow up with Lalique-encased drinks at snug bar Le Fumoir and generally gad about like Gatsby in your art deco suite.
See also Our other classic London favourites include the Coburg at The Connaught; The Berkeley‘s Blue Bar; and the Naughty Corner at the Donovan Bar at Brown’s.
WITH A TWIST
What? Body shots: dram-tasting with a difference at hipster haven the Ace Hotel London Shoreditch.
Why? Bompas & Parr are inviting whisky lovers to sup ‘the world’s most adult body-shots‘ from the natural, um, reservoirs of age-appropriate performers’ bodies. There’s method to such madness – your ‘drinking buddies’ are matched by age to the spirits they sport, so your 25-year-old single malt is served on a lithe 25-year-old and your rarefied 50-year-old scotch comes on a half-centenarian Hell’s Angel (of course). To bring the ageing process to life, they’ll be regaling you with their life story as you imbibe body-warmed whiskies and discuss ‘hints of Jason the biker’ with your date.
What’s for afters? Frolic in the photobooth; hole up in the always-buzzing bar for more scotchtails; or head to Hoi Polloi for Modern British fare (if eating from a plate isn’t too traditional for you).
See also Self-medicate with a ‘Penicillin’ cocktail at the Ham Yard Hotel – two types of whisky, honey, ginger and lemon; tempt fate with an almond-poison-infused ‘Second Husband’ at the Zetter Townhouse; or the lavender-infused gin-soaked satire on Hogarth’s Marriage à la Mode at The Ampersand Hotel bar Apero.
What? Nature’s Midday Haven (an indulgent couples’ treatment), or private massage lessons, at The Sarojin in Phang Nga.
Why? This tranquil Thai retreat’s Pathways Spa lays on four full hours of blissful escapism in a private couples’ room, with a tub for two, two different types of massage and enough freshly made natural products to clear out a greengrocer’s stall. Alternatively, try your hand at DIY and take turns to learn the art of massage.
What’s for afters? Luxuriate poolside in a four-poster day bed. You’ll be too dopey for dinner at Ficus, so get staff to set you up with a private beach barbecue for two.
See also Lime Wood‘s double treatment room has its own garden and outdoor bath; Bali’s Como Shambhala Estate has treetop treatment balés for two; Six Senses Samui in Thailand has ocean-facing couples’ treatment rooms.
What? Learn how to kick ass at The Siam‘s boxing ring in Bangkok.
Why? Release endorphins and work out any, ahem, relationship issues under the supervision of a pro kickboxing coach: the Siam has its own muay Thai boxing ring, and the chef can tailor your diet to match.
What’s for afters? Chill out in the hotel’s Opium Spa by Sodashi (we never said you had to forgo the spa pampering entirely). Come evening, the screening room beckons with its retro cinema seats; there’s riverside dining, Thai cookery lessons and decadent suites in which to kiss and make up, too.
See also Trisara in Phuket offers muay Thai training sessions; don gloves for a knock-out afternoon on the ropes at Fellah Hotel near Marrakech; or duke it out with a personal trainer in Soho House Chicago’s pro boxing ring.
What? Star-struck dinner on immaculate linens at Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle.
Why? A loyal Ducasse disciple, Benoit Witz helms this Provençal kitchen with Michelin flair. The Valentine’s menu (sole for him, lobster for her) is a one-off, but the truffle-themed seasonal menu never fails to impress.
What’s for afters? Retire to one of just 10 rooms with a bottle of fruity Côteaux Carois from the village wine shop next door; General de Gaulle’s elaborately carved bed, in the Angélique de Champigny room, makes for a statement nightcap.
See also Raymond Blanc’s nine-course feast at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons; old-world splendour at Gidleigh Park; caviar, foie gras and grands crus at Baumanière.
What? Pick your own mussels at Areias do Seixo.
Why? No obsequious waiters or fussy sommeliers here – the plump, sea-fresh shells are cooked by the bonfire in the strikingly pretty grounds. The foraging walk along the Atlantic coast may be bracing, but you can savour your catch wrapped up in a blanket under the stars.
What’s for afters? Recover in the sultry sanctuary of the spa, where a Turkish bath, soaking pool and relaxation room await.
See alsoPizza-making and gelato-tasting at Castello di Casole; campfire feasts at Treehotel; fishing excursions from Fogo Island Inn.
AMOUR VS ADRENALIN
What? A gondola ride for two from I Qs hotel in Venice.
Why? Yes, it’s as cheesy as a Cornetto advert, but a punt along petite canals, past crumbling palazzi, is quite the aphrodisiac. Famed sights and wedding-cake-style fondaco residences ensure the Grand Canal lives up to its name. Sail under the stars at dusk, or ask your gondolier for a serenade and get a little sentimental.
What’s for afters? Live music at Palazzo Querini Stampalia, close to the hotel, or an impromptu poetry reading from a book in I Qs’ library. Pick up ingredients from the Rialto market to whip into an intimate meal in your room’s kitchen.
See also A fluisterboot tour of Amsterdam from Suitehotel Posthoorn; travelling Kerala’s backwaters on a traditional houseboat from Brunton Boatyard; gliding across Lake Garda in Villa Arcadio’s vintage motorboat.
What? A night-time snowmobile safari and Northern lights tour at Treehotel.
Why? Clinging tightly to your other half, on a snow-bank-bumping zoom through Swedish Lapland’s vistas, is the best way to warm your cockles, before gazing up at the eerily beautiful Northern lights, hot chocolate in hand.
What’s for afters? Meet the Sami locals and their brightly clad reindeer herd on a cultural tour, schwitz in the forest-set sauna, or steel yourselves for skijoring (horse-drawn skiing) before dining in a torch-lit tepee in the snow.
See also Skidooing and caribou spotting at Fogo Island Inn, sleigh rides and ice-skating at The Ranch at Rock Creek, and tobogganing à deux at The Cambrian.
What? A walk through La Mamounia‘s vast Marrakchi garden is the stuff of romantic dreams: loved-up Europeans have been wandering among these cacti as the North African sun goes down for more than 100 years. In the day, find shade below the countless towering palm trees; by night, smell the roses to the soundtrack of traditional Berber musicians playing at the hotel’s Le Marocain restaurant.
Why? It’s a respite from the medina bustle, and a uniquely green spot in the red city.
What’s for afters? Retire to the dark and smoky Churchill bar for killer cocktails.
See also Hyde Park promenading from your base at 45 Park Lane in London; gallivanting across the Pont Royal and into the Jardin des Tuileries from Hôtel Verneuil in Paris.
What? The Atlas Mountains’ foothills are rugged, and Kasbah Tamadot‘s mules adorable. Clamber on board for a trek up, around and down along mountain roads and Berber villages, past valley streams and poppy fields.
Why? The views are unforgettable (which is handy, since you’ll be gripping your saddle too tightly to take photos), and your steady steeds will take you places you’d never make it to on foot.
What’s for afters? A stiff drink to soothe stiff limbs. Follow up with a hammam treatment in the spa if (or perhaps more accurately, when) you’re still achey the morning after.
See also Camel riding along the windswept Essaouira beach from Le Jardin des Douars, or tackling a via ferrata (otherwise known as clinging to a cliff face) in the Dolomites before retiring to the cosy DV Boutique Hotel & Spa in South Tyrol.
SWEET, SWEET LOVE
What? The Dessert Bar menu at William Curley Boutique, Belgravia, a gentle stroll from the laid-back luxury of The Orange hotel.
Why? William Curley has been crowned Britain’s Best Chocolatier four times, so knows how to satisfy a sweet tooth. The menu for two at his Belgravia dessert bar comes with four libido-enlivening dishes, petits fours and a surge of glucose-induced giddiness.
What’s for afters? A dozen oysters at the Orange bar; some beautifully British cocktails (fancy a Basil Fawlty, anyone?); and three-egg omelettes for the morning after.
See also It may be part of a chain, but Amorino in Soho will carve your ice-cream into the shape of a rose, which is about as solidly romantic a dessert as we can imagine; alternatively, book a bedroom at one of Smith’s three chocolate-themed hotels.
What? Caramelised mealworms at Archipelago in Fitzrovia, around the corner from Charlotte Street Hotel.
Why? Charlotte Street Hotel is a gentle eccentric in a cool corner of town, and nearby Archipelago is a suitably out-there eatery. Should you fancy a full meal, Archipelago can also offer python carpaccio, pan-fried crickets and other (unsurprisingly) rare delicacies.
What’s for afters? Pop into Charlotte Street Hotel’s private screening room for a romantic Friday-night flick; or prop up the Oscar bar with white chocolate and raspberry coulis martinis.
See also Edible, purveyors of chocolate-covered scorpions and hornets dunked in honey, and stocked by department stores Harvey Nichols and Selfridges.
CLASSIC GOOD LOOKS
What? Good old-fashioned five-star prestige at Spain’s Marbella Club.
Why? Enduring elegance on the Costa del Sol; the world’s glitterati have long flocked to see and be seen here, so where better to flaunt your fling?
What’s for afters? If it’s balmy, stargaze amid scented blooms and fruit-laden orange trees in the open-air Summer Bar. If that’s not open yet, a few glasses of fizz fireside in the Jean-Pierre Martel-designed Champagne Room is suitably decadent. By sea or by pool, the MC Beach Club is as glamorous as it was in its 1950s heyday.
See also Michelin-starred meals and a first-class spa at Wiltshire stately Lucknam Park; Maryland’s maritime marvel the Inn at Perry Cabin in New England is timeless in all the right ways; Raffles Singapore has romance by the ice-bucketload.
What? Bed down at rustic designer dream Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa – a boho mini-village in the heart of arty Trancoso.
Why? Luxury is redefined thanks to this Brazilian bolthole’s fresh take on interiors – characterful and unconventional furnishings, often fashioned by the hand of artists in residence. You can see why Uxua won the Best Smith Hotel award in 2014.
What’s for afters? Sleep in your very own tree house (nay, tree mansion), sip caipirinhas in a private pool or admire sunset over the dinky rooftops of Trancoso – and toast Solange Knowles for being smart enough to honeymoon right here recently.
See also Upcycled house-crafted furnishings at Brody House, Hungary’s coolest members’ club; live music, fun-loving folks and sex toys via room service at Toronto hipster hotel The Drake; or local characters, urban sensibilities, a little philanthropy and a lot of imagination at Fellah Hotel, south of Marrakech.