First linked to poet Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century and later becoming popular as a tradition in 18th-century England, the origins of Valentine’s Day as a romantic celebration aren’t entirely known. According to one legend, the holiday evolved from the ancient Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia, while another claims it was inspired by a French gathering called the Court of Love. No matter how the modern holiday came to be, we now know it as a day for the celebration of love—and perhaps its unknown origins have only added to its magical appeal.
Today, Valentine’s Day has become best known as a time for showing your loved ones just how much you care with flowers, candy, gifts, and elegant dinners. Though the holiday is largely contained to Western Europe and the United States—where you’re likely to see shelves teeming with teddy bears and heart-shaped chocolate—other countries around the world have adopted their own Valentine’s Day rituals. In destinations near and far, there are plenty of ways for hopeless romantics to celebrate their special someone. From enchanting strolls in Kyoto to dance lessons in Vienna, here are our top 7 picks.
Budapest, Hungary: Couple’s Massage, Thermal Bath & Dinner Cruise
For Budapest locals and visitors alike, a favorite way to commemorate the Day of Love is with a charming dinner cruise along the Danube River. Drink in the breathtaking sights of the city lit up at night as you and your sweetheart dine accompanied by live music. With this full-day package, you can transform the entire day into a lavish and romantic celebration. Before your cruise, unwind with a couple’s massage at the Gellért Spa. Afterward, take your relaxation even further with 3 hours in a private thermal bath to lounge in luxury and sip on champagne.
Fairbanks, Alaska: Hot Springs & Northern Lights Viewing
Halfway across the world, couples flock to Alaska to soak in the natural hot springs that sit just outside Fairbanks. Begin an unforgettable evening with a ride to a resort boasting mineral-rich waters at 105 degrees Fahrenheit (41 C). Enjoy plenty of time to bathe in the steamy waters amid the chilly Alaskan air, and then treat yourself to dinner for two by the fire in the spa’s rustic restaurant. Come nightfall, slip back into the pool or find a spot on the property to bask in the beauty of Mother Nature’s Valentine’s gift—the aurora borealis. Marvel at the sheer spectacle of the sight as streams of green and purple dance across the sky.
Florence, Italy: Sunset Chianti Wine Tasting Tour
In Italy, there’s simply no better way to toast to Valentine’s Day than with mouthwatering local wine. From Florence, grab your honey for a journey into the postcard-worthy Chianti wine region just before sunset. Leaving the city behind, embark on a drive through rolling hills, medieval villages, and olive orchards. Upon arrival at a stunning wine estate, you’re taken on a tour of the grounds and down into the cellar. With the sun starting to sink below the horizon, sample exquisitely produced wines paired with freshly made bread and deliciously creamy cheese. Sip on chiantis ranging from light and tart to rich and full-bodied as the sky begins shimmering with shades of red, pink, and gold.
Kyoto, Japan: Lanes & Lanterns Walking Tour
Enjoy a different type of Valentine’s Day with a nighttime stroll through the magical streets of Kyoto. On a small-group walking tour, follow a local guide as you venture through the busy avenues and narrow alleys of districts like old-world Gion and bustling Pontocho. Walking hand-in-hand with that special someone, admire twinkling paper lanterns that light up the darkened lanes. Pass by shops and stalls selling all sorts of goods, and be sure to ask your guide about the chocolate tradition that’s very much a part of Japan’s Valentine’s Day tradition. End with an exotic meal of street food at an iconic 400-year-old market.
Mallorca, Spain: Private Hot Air Balloon Ride with Champagne
Much like in the US, Spain typically celebrates Valentine’s Day with flowers, candy, and jewelry, but the holiday doesn’t always have to be about material gifts. On the island of Mallorca, take to the sky for a truly spellbinding experience that’s sure to be unlike any other. In a private hot air balloon, soar over the romantic coast lined with white-sand beaches, limestone mountains, towering palms, and turquoise coves. Throughout the flight, snuggle up over a basket filled with sparkling wine and delectable canapes. Raise a glass to the heavenly view before touching back down on the ground.
Paris, France: Fragrance-Making Class
With a long-held reputation as one of the most romantic places on Earth, it’s no surprise that Paris is a top destination for Valentine’s Day. But for a truly unique experience, opt to forgo the typical activities in favor of a fragrance-making class near the banks of the River Seine. Instead of purchasing perfume or cologne, learn to handcraft a scent for a loved one that they can genuinely call their own. With the guidance of an expert chemist, get introduced to the concepts of perfume and how they develop over time. When you’re ready, get to work on creating a few scents by yourself or with extra help from your host. At the end of your class, choose your favorite to take home in a beautiful bottle for a one-of-a-kind gift.
Vienna, Austria: Private Viennese Waltz Instruction
As another one of the world’s most alluring cities, Vienna is full of history, culture, and tradition that keep visitors coming back again and again. If visiting over Valentine’s Day, unlock the secrets of one of Vienna’s most beautiful art forms—the Viennese waltz. Inside a gorgeous ballroom, cozy up to your partner as you learn the basics of the dance with a private instructor. Before you know it, you will be spinning your way around the dance floor, feeling the rhythm and passion of a 200-year-old tradition.