Want to celebrate Valentine's Day without buying into all the flowers and other mind-meltingly mushy nonsense? Do something different this February 14, with our guide to alternative romantic things to do in London.
Skip the chocolates and teddies for a year and treat your beloved to some of London's quirky and unusual activities instead, while still keeping things romantic.
RECOMMENDED: our full guide to Valentine's Day in London
Non-naff romantic things to do in London
DON'T feed the ducks in the park
DO pat the cats
The park in February is going to be chilly, and more than likely a little drizzly. Head to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home instead for Valentine’s event Feline Lonely?. Visitors are invited to meet the home’s residents and seek out their dream moggy companion for rehoming, aided by ‘matchmaking’ staff, who’ll ensure you find the right kitty. Warning: you’ll also be given a glass of champagne (or soft drink), so take it easy to avoid the risk of going all gooey and staggering home with a train of catty companions in tow.
Tuesday February 14, 5.30pm and 7pm. £7. Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, SW8 4AA.
DON'T drink champagne
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. Then feel smug that you managed to avoid one of the many Valentine’s clichés.
Monday–Saturday, check website for start times. £25-£35. Cadenhead’s, W1U 7QF.
DON'T buy blooms from the petrol station
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.
DON'T slow dance
DO go to the Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner Valentine's Party
Slow dancing has to be one of mankind’s most awkward activities, so save your blushes and instead head down to Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen where Night Call and U Suck are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of ‘Dirty Dancing’. Expect dance and pop music from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, and there'll even be a pro-dancer on hand to help recreate that lift. So, rest easy in the knowledge that you won’t put your back out if you have an especially limber date.£3–£5. Friday February 17. Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, N1 6NU.
DON'T make a baby
DO build a Lego robot
Every month, multi-tasking spot Drink, Shop & Do hosts an evening of Lego robots. It’s 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 ‘bot and go your separate ways.
Free when you buy a drink. February 9 and 22, check website for future dates. Drink, Shop & Do, N1 9DX.
DON’T whisper sweet nothings
DO listen to story time with Viktor Wynd
Until June, the wonderfully weird Museum of Curiosities plays host to its founder, who’ll be telling the tales found in ‘The Arabian Nights’, The Brothers Grimm’s German folk tales and WB Yeats’ ‘Fairy and Folk Tales of Ireland’. Listen to Wynd’s dulcet tones and do the classic yawn move, because nothing will encourage your beau to lean in close and snuggle up like a really-quite-creepy story.
Monthly until June, check website for individual dates. £16 (two tickets), £10 (single ticket), £5 extra for a pizza (pre-booking only). The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History, E8 4RP.
DON’T send a mindless card full of soppy verse
DO polish-up on your punning
On selected Mondays, The Book Club in Shoreditch will host Pundemonium!, a night of competitive wordplay. Comedians, poets and a guest dad will battle it out in a game show, to be crowned the ultimate pundit. It kicks off with a ‘lewd and rude’ Valentine’s special on February 13, shaping up to be a perfect night of punnilingus.
Selected Mondays, check website for details. £4. The Book Club, EC2A 4RH.
DON’T cosy up with a film
DO live out your 'Grease' fantasies at a boozy bowling alley
It’s widely believed to be one of the worst films ever made, so don’t watch it; become it instead. With a score that includes the numbers ‘Reproduction’ and ‘Do It for Our Country’, ‘Grease 2’ is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Valentine’s is the ideal opportunity to pull on your gold lamé pants and dance down the lanes singing about how you’re going to ‘Score Tonight’. But where to do such a thing? At Rowans, of course – Finsbury Park’s haven of bowling, karaoke and slush puppy cocktails.
Rowans, N4 2DF.
DON'T go for a cocktail
DO go on a gin odyssey
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 10–12 people, so round up your most emotionally supportive pals and get sipping.
£40. Mr Fogg’s Tavern, WC2N 4EA.
DON'T share a plate of spaghetti
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.