Alternative romantic things to do in London

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Avoid the obvious, and try one of our ideas for alternative romantic things to do in London: from speed-boat trips to drag nights, outdoor films and clubs, we've got great suggestions for original dates in the capital

  • 1.

    DON'T

    buy a cheap bunch of flowers

    DO

    pick up some magical dried flowers and herbs

    Make a furtive visit to master apothecary G Baldwin & Co for your own special love potion. Our spies tell us that Baldwin’s has an unexpected following in the Wiccan community who use the Walworth store as a one-stop spell shop. G Baldwin & Co, 171/173 Walworth Rd, SE17 1RW (7703 5550/www.baldwins.co.uk).2.

    DON'T

    feed the ducks

    DO

    go to London Zoo

    It helps if you research an animal or two first, so you can say something interesting that isn’t on the boards outside the cages. The male Egyptian tortoise, for instance, is particularly vocal (for a tortoise) when mating, while Bonobo chimps use sex in greeting and fighting rituals, and males even enjoy a bit of 'penis fencing'.London Zoo, Regent’s Park, NW1 4RY (7722 3333/www.zsl.org).

    3.

    DON'T

    take a dinner cruise on the Thames

    DO

    a tour on a high-speed boat

    …and match the exhilaration of a new love or give a waning romance a bit of jolt – it’s actually rather frightening when they go really fast and swerve about.London RIB Voyages, Waterloo Millennium Pier, Westminster Bridge Rd, SE1 7PB (7928 8933/www.londonribvoyages.com). London Eye to Canary Wharf and back £32.50. Thames RIB Experience, Victoria Embankment, WC2 6NU (7930 5746/ www.thamesribexperience.com). From £29.4.

    DON'T

    buy an overpriced, out-of-season red rose

    DO

    give your lover a trip to Kew Gardens

    A single-visit gift ticket costs £13; you’ll need two, obviously (men: saying, in effect, ‘go and look at the lovely flowers on your own’ is not romantic). If you want to splash out, a joint annual season ticket is £65 and includes (in the spring, admittedly) 110,000 daffodils, a carpet of crocuses, a sea of bluebells – you get the picture. Plus, until Mar 4, win a year's premier membership to Kew Gardens in our competition.Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, TW9 3AB (8332 5655/www.kew.org). 5.

    DON'T

    wander aimlessly around a museum or gallery

    DO

    go to see just one thing

    It makes you feel less like a boring couple (‘What do you want to do now, shall we go and see the geology wing?’ ‘Oh, I don’t mind, whatever you’d like to do…’ Argh!) and more like you’re having an adventure. Again, it helps if you’ve done some research – and if you can, make the ‘mysterious snake’ above the right eye of Egyptian mummy Nesperennub sound exciting, dangerous and sexy.The British Museum, Great Russell St, WC1B 3DG (7323 8299/www.britishmuseum.org).6.

    DON'T

    take a walk along the South Bank

    DO

    head to Richmond Park

    There’s nothing romantic about hunching your shoulders against howling winds and elbowing other tourists out of the way as you lose feeling in your hands, nose and toes. Head to Richmond Park and go horse riding instead. You’ll need to show that you can ride before you’re taken out for a hack through the park. Richmond Park Stables, 291 Park Rd, KT2 5LW (8546 8437/www.richmondparkstables.com).

    7.

    DON'T

    take a salsa class

    DO

    try Tango by Candlelight

    Tango can be pretty saucy, and learning it by candlelight is muy romantic. Of course, the most romantic thing would be if your boyfriend had secretly had dance lessons and was then to surprise you by sweeping you off your feet. Oh, hang on, I think that’s a Richard Gere film. Tango by Candlelight, 33 Portland Pl, W1B 1QU (07696 001659/www.tangoat33.com). Every Sun.8.

    DON'T

    expect to meet the love of your life

    in a railway arch in Vauxhall

    DO

    join a gay dating agency

    Such as Significant Others (www.significantothers.co.uk) or gay dining club Out & Out (www.outandout.co.uk). 9.

    DON'T

    get a hotel room

    DO

    get a caravan

    Acclaimed theatre production ‘The Caravan’ won numerous awards at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and it opens in London this week. Performed to an audience of eight people at a time in a real caravan in the middle of Sloane Square, it’s a documentary play about British people forced out of the homes and into caravans by the 2007 floods. 'The Caravan', Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, SW1W 8AS (7565 5000/www.royalcourttheatre.com). Runs until Feb 28, five shows nightly. 10.

    DON'T

    buy lingerie

    DO

    try to think further than the gusset

    Lingerie is boring. Gift-wrap a PVC policewoman’s outfit from Honour in Waterloo, a human-size vacuum pack from erotic store Regulation in Islington, or a lace-printed rubber dress from Atsuko Kudo’s Showgirls Latex Boutique in Holloway. Honour, 86 Lower Marsh, SE1 7AB (7401 8220/www.honour.co.uk).
    Regulation, 17a St Albans Pl, N1 0NX (7226 0665/www.regulation-london.co.uk).
    Showgirls, 64 Holloway Rd, N7 8JL (7697 9072/www.showgirlslatexboutique.com).
    11.

    DON'T

    buy last-minute flowers

    DO

    give them an eco-friendly plantable heart

    Made from recycled paper embedded with wildflower seeds, these new and ultra-sweet cards come in the shape of a heart or blooming flower, are handmade in London and can be personalised for free. £4.95 each including first-class postage for UK orders. See www.ranideshpande.com.12.

    DON'T

    cosy up on the leather sofas at the back of the Electric Cinema

    DO

    go to Finchley's Phoenix, or lose yourself in romance at the BFI or ICA

    The Phoenix cinema is where Londoners have been watching moving pictures since 1910. The BFI Southbank and ICA are always reliable romantic movie venues, more so for the feeling of isolation you get among the hardcore cinephile crowd, the removed, trailer- and branding-free experince and nice bars. As for going to see a rom-com at your local superplex… only if you empty out your bucket of popcorn on to the cinema floor so you can vom into it.The Phoenix Cinema, 52 High Rd, N2 9PJ (8883 2233/www.phoenixcinema.co.uk). 13.

    DON'T

    go to a West End supper club and show

    DO

    head to Bistrotheque's LipSinkers alternative drag show

    You’ll have the piss ripped out of you by bearded blokes in charity-shop frocks, but there's no better way to show how much of a man you really are. If you really have to do the restaurant-on-Valentine's thing, the upstairs brasserie is outstanding. The Lip Sinkers, Bistrotheque, 23-27 Wadeson St, E2 9DR (www.bistrotheque.com). The LipSinkers are at Bistrotheque every Fri and Sat. 14.

    DON'T

    go to an austere, brow-furrowing classical concert

    DO

    treat your partner to a truly moving experience at English National Opera

    Which is not to say that classical music can't be romantic, it's just that the experience can seem a bit cerebral; add in theatre, costumes, narrative and heightened operatic passions, however, and you're on to a winner.ENO, The London Coliseum, St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4ES (www.eno.org). 15.

    DON'T

    get a quartet of tight-trousered Spaniards to serenade your lover

    DO

    book a karaoke booth and sing duets

    If your boyfriend doesn’t like singing, he can always rap the Jay-Z to your Beyoncé. Lucky Voice, 52 Poland St, W1F 7NH (7439 3660/www.luckyvoice.com).16.

    DON'T

    join the crowds at one of the blockbuster art exhibitions

    DO

    visit the Wallace Collection

    The Wallace Collection is always good for a spot of romance, with plenty of risqué Fragonards and saucy pictures. The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Sq, W1U 3BN (7563 9500/www.wallacecollection.org).17.

    DON'T

    settle for 'The Little Book of Hugs' as a throwaway Valentine's prezzie

    DO

    buy 'Let's Call the Whole Thing Off: Love Quarrels from Anton Chekhov to ZZ Packer'

    The best thing about having a lover? Other than that, obviously? The way trivial spats can rapidly escalate to nuclear war within minutes. Pick up this collection of ding-dongs from new lovers, cosy marrieds, exes, same-sex couples, cross husbands, jilted wives…
    Published by Penguin Classics, £9.99.

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13 comments
BooBoots
BooBoots

Kew Gardens in the summer: all you need for a romantic day out.  Bring your own drinks and picnic to avoid over-priced stuff in the cafe.  And stop off at The Cricketers pub on Kew Green after for a cheeky drink or two as the sun goes down.

Adam
Adam

Interesting ideas here, some options for those with and without cash.

Rachel Parrott
Rachel Parrott

Great page. still find it useful even though it was 5 years ago!

Jane Leahy
Jane Leahy

DO spend some time in Battersea Park. It's got everything - a boating lake, a zoo, the peace pagoda, lovely walks with romantic views... and you can hire recumbent bikes, or even a bicycle made for two!

mia
mia

Book A romantic Helicopter flight to see London by Air, The flight is amazing and the team really make you feel so special for only £129.00 for 2 i got a romantic helicopter flight, Champagne,Chocolate and Photography- The Blue Tiger Company

Simon
Simon

Don't go to the Zoo, way overpriced and not worth the money. DO get into Kingston and take a walk along the River Thames to Hampton Court Palace (it's about 1hr 30mins if a slow stroll), along the way you'll be able to feed ducks, see adorable ducklings, rabbits and it's a lovely walk. Then you can get a river cruise back. :)

A god
A god

The gay dating idea could be fun... Although I've had. Lot if fun in vauxhall railway arches. It's offensive how some commenters seem to think a gay idea is inappropriate for this list. A tenth of people are gay and we are equal thanks

Amanda
Amanda

Erm...just made a note of The British Museum, as my husband wouldnt do any of the other things.

Jaclyn
Jaclyn

Great list! Thanks for the tips!

Herve
Herve

Thank you for these good tips. Obviously some humor is useful when talking about love

Kate
Kate

agree not all of those things are DONT'S timeout isnt always right nowadays, unfortunately

john
john

This is crap

Nina
Nina

Don't book Everyman cinema's special valentine's tickets. If I told my friends up north it cost £95 for two cinema tickets in 'that London' they wouldn't believe me. But it's true. Boo! What a rip off.