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Alternative romantic things to do in London

Dodge the cheesy cliches and do something quirky and fun for Valentine's Day in London this year, with our guide to unusual Feb 14 activities

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.

RowansN4 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.

Or try some alternative romantic movies

15 mush-free romantic films

Sick of cheesy, soppy romcoms? Try one of these romantic movies with a twist this Valentine's Day

Read more
By: Joshua Rothkopf



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.


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!


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


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


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


Great list! Thanks for the tips!


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


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


This is crap


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.