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Alternative romantic things to do in London

Dodge the cheesy clichés and plan an original date in London with these mush-free romantic things to do in the city

Rivoli Ballroom, Brockley
By Things To Do Editors |

Want to do something special without buying into all the flowers and other mind-meltingly mushy nonsense this February 14? There are loads of loved-up spots in the city, as well as unusual events and alternative date options. Skip the chocolates and wasteful plastic presents and treat your beloved to something different, like a pig-out pizza buffet,  cringeworthy sex comedy, or a film night in a 1930s ballroom. Get your nose out of the crappy card rack and check out these brilliant things to do. 

RECOMMENDED: Your guide to Valentine’s Day in London

Non-naff romantic things to do in London

London Terrariums
Shopping, Florists

Don’t buy blooms from a petrol station

icon-location-pin Hackney Road

Do learn how to whip up a terrarium

Giving flowers can be dangerous; how can you know which flowers to send when you don’t know how you feel? Red roses mean ‘love’ and yellow ‘friendship’, but we don’t think there’s an official flower for ‘you’ll do until I find someone better’. Happily, lovely London florist Grace & Thorn hosts regular terrarium-making classes. And there’s not a lot you can read into something that’s transparent.

First Tuesday of every month. £65. Grace & Thorn, E2 7AX.

Shopping, Off licences

Don’t drink champagne

icon-location-pin Marylebone

Do go whisky tasting

Once a wedding dress boutique, Cadenhead’s on Chiltern Street is one of London’s oldest whisky shops. And there’s nothing pretentious about its dinky basement – which, fact fans, is the room in which Princess Diana first saw her wedding dress. Head down there and join other Scotch nerds as your tastebuds go on a whisky tour of Scotland. 

Monday–Saturday, check website for start times. £25-£35. Cadenhead’s, W1U 7QF.

The Book Club
Dom Fisher
Nightlife, Late-night bars

Don’t send a card full of mushy verse

icon-location-pin Shoreditch

Do polish up on your punning 

On selected Mondays, The Book Club in Shoreditch hosts Pundemonium!, a night of competitive wordplay. Comedians, poets and a guest dad battle it out in game shows to be crowned the ultimate pundit. It’s billed as an event for ‘compulsive punners and their carers’ and quickly shapes up into a perfect night of punnilingus.

Selected dates, check website for details. £5-£7. The Book Club, EC2A 4RH.

Time Out says
Best new restaurants in London - Jidori
© Aaron Tilley
Restaurants, Japanese

Don’t share a plate of spaghetti

icon-location-pin Dalston

Do share a plate of heart

Sharing spaghetti is old hat and, more to the point, incredibly messy; what are you, a cartoon dog? Instead, head down to Jidori (we gave it a five-star review) on Kingsland High Street and share some chicken heart skewers. Romance tastes delicious.

Jidori, E8 2PB.

Time Out says
house of toast
Bars and pubs, Café bars

Don’t make a baby

icon-location-pin Caledonian Road

Do build a house out of toast

Multi-tasking spot Drink, Shop & Do host regular random construction evenings. They are the perfect activity for creative commitment-phobes; a weirdly bonding activity, it requires teamwork and a shared vision, but then at the end of the night you can just dismantle your creation and go your separate ways.

From £6. Check website for details and future dates. Drink, Shop & Do, N1 9DX.

gin bars in london, mr fogg's gin parlour
Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Don’t just go for a cocktail

icon-location-pin Covent Garden

Do go on a gin odyssey at Mr Fogg’s

The upstairs salon of Mr Fogg’s Tavern houses London’s largest gin collection, and it’s here that you can sample and learn about six of the most interesting, concluding with two G&Ts made with your favourite Gs. The Gin Safari is for 10 people, so round up your most emotionally supportive pals and get sipping. 

£40. Mr Fogg’s Tavern, WC2N 4EA.

Time Out says
quirky restaurants and unusual restaurants in london, dans le noir

Don’t stare into each other's eyes

icon-location-pin Clerkenwell

Do dine at Dans Le Noir in Clerkenwell

Staring longingly into the love of your life’s eyes is all fine and good until the other mates you’re hanging out with start to get irritated out of boredom or jealousy. One way to rectify this slightly awks predicament is to book a table at Dans Le Noir, a quirky dining experience sans mood lighting, or any lighting at all for that matter. Yep, you and your date dine in complete darkness so the sensory nature of the meal is prioritised over how aesthetically pleasing your date is. Just make sure you find your way back to the right table or that innocent leg rub could get weird.

£46-£99, Dans Le Noir, 30-31 Clerkenwell Green, EC1R 0DU.

Or try some romantic movies with a twist

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