Historic charm, atmospheric elegance, spectacular views and, oh yes, the view. Europe is more than its bustling cities, and these waterfront resorts radiate romance.
Grand Hotel Tremezzo – Lake Como, Italy
Since the early 1900s, lovebirds have been flocking to luxurious lakeside property Grand Hotel Tremezzo — so grand, in fact, it was featured in the 1932 Greta Garbo film, Grand Hotel. This “happy, sunny place,” as Garbo called it, also oozes romance. You don’t even have to leave the family-owned hotel to experience the magic of Lake Como — it’s in the swoosh of a passing motorboat, the clink of Campari spritzes and bright pops of the hotel’s signature orange. Wander through the landscaped gardens, take a swim in one of three pools (including a floating pool right on the lake), book a couples massage at T Spa overlooking the water, listen to the tinkling piano at the swanky T Bar, and toast over gold- and saffron-speckled risotto at restaurant La Terrazza. It’s tempting to cuddle in a four-poster bed and stare at the glittering water, but when the coastline of historic mansions and villas beckon, hop aboard Tremezzo’s private Venetian motorboat and see if you can spot a Clooney. The resort also has access to the nearby 16th-century private residence Villa Sola Cabiati, where they’ll set up a glamorous romantic picnic al fresco — amongst the frescos, of course.
Le Sirenuse – Positano, Italy
The words Amalfi Coast already have discerning travelers packing their bags. Family-run since it opened in 1951, Le Sirenuse (named for the mythological sirens who lurk in a nearby archipelago) is set in an aristocratic former summer home. The property highlights the million-dollar view, with balconies, terraces and pools overlooking Positano’s bay, with sunlit cliffside terraces by day and twinkling lights by night. With the town center, local boutiques and beach reachable via a 50-step staircase, it’s easy to fall into a routine: eat, drink, shop, sleep, repeat — with a few pauses to inhale the scent of surrounding lemon trees. Rooms contain, in addition to antiques and original art, copies of John Steinbeck’s writings on Positano, sure to inspire even the most cynical; to venture out, book an excursion to the beaches of Nerano or Capri. But come back before twilight for dinner at Michelin-starred Le Sponda — for the food, the view and the live music.
Grace Santorini – Santorini, Greece
So often the allure of romantic views is overrated — but not in Santorini. Unlike islands where visitors make a beeline to the beach, here you’ll want to maximize your time gazing into the dramatic caldera (an ancient volcanic depression — it’s prettier than it sounds) from a prime spot. The contemporary boutique Grace Santorini offers such a panoramic perch, with tiers of white rooms tucked into the cliffs high above the Mediterranean Sea — just as you’d imagine an idyllic Cycladic-style hideaway to be. Reserve a suite with a private plunge pool, and you’ll be in one of the most enviable spots on the coastline to take in the whitewashed villages in the distance. No need to join the masses in Oia for the famous Santorini sunset — the hotel’s open-air 363 Champagne Lounge, with a signature Grace cocktail in hand, is the more indulgent option.
Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc – Cap d’Antibes, France
Built in 1870 by a French newspaper founder as a writer’s sanctuary, Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc is filled with history. It’s certain that many sonnets have been penned and clandestine affairs begun in its acres of gardens enveloped by roses — it’s the setting of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night, and Liz Taylor and Richard Burton once honeymooned here. But the chicest spot is arguably the hotel’s cliffside infinity saltwater pool suspended above the sea, a Slim Aarons photo come to life. The vibe is very elegant and very traditional French Riviera, but modern amenities have crept in — credit cards are finally accepted, so order another round of Champagne and duck foie gras at the restaurant that opens out to the water. And if the natural light was good enough for Chagall to paint, it will beautifully suit your couples selfies.
Hotel Maria Cristina, a Luxury Collection Hotel – San Sebastián, Spain
Spain’s Basque hotspot may boast more Michelin stars per square meter than anywhere in the world, but it’s also been a coveted seaside destination since Queen Regent Maria Cristina anointed the white sands of the city’s shell-shaped La Concha beach in the 19th century. Hotel Maria Cristina, a Luxury Collection Hotel, her eponymous Belle Époque-era property which opened in 1912, still recalls that royal heyday in its gilded corridors and chic gray and white rooms. Comparisons to the Ritz Paris notwithstanding — it was designed by the same architect — the Maria Cristina received a $25-million renovation in 2012, making it all the better to take in views of the Urumea river and Bay of Biscay. Nearby, sample pintxos, lounge on a choice of beaches, and take a sunset stroll along the bayfront promenade that ranks among the most romantic walks in the world. But inside is pulsing with Basque culture — order a gin tonic (no “and” in Spain) at the hotel’s Dry Bar and watch local society float by.