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rivoli ballroom
Photograph: Rivoli Ballroom

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

Written by
Time Out London editors
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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. From movie marathons to craft beer tours, get your nose out of the crappy card rack and check out these brilliant things to do in London. 

RECOMMENDED: Your guide to Valentine’s Day in London.

Non-naff romantic things to do in London

  • Shopping
  • Florists
  • Hackney Road

Do learn how to whip up a terrarium

Giving flowers can be dangerous; how can you know which flowers to send when it's still early days? 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 Leafage sells terrarium-making kits so that you can make your own tiny plant-filled kingdoms. And there’s not a lot you can read into something that’s transparent.

From £45. www.weareleafage.com

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Dalston
  • price 2 of 4

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 to St John and feast on grilled lamb’s heart with chips and aioli. Romance tastes delicious.

26 St John St, EC1M 4AY. £23.50.

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Don’t drink champagne
  • Shopping
  • Off licences
  • Marylebone

Do pick a bottle of fancy whisky

Once a wedding dress boutique, Cadenhead’s on Chiltern Street is one of London’s oldest whisky shops. But there’s nothing pretentious about its approach to whisky: ask the staff and they'll give you a whistlestop history of Scotland's best loved spirit. 

26 Chiltern St, W1U 7QF.

Don’t just go for a cocktail
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Covent Garden
  • price 3 of 4

Do go on a gin odyssey at Mr Fogg’s

The upstairs salon of Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour houses London’s largest gin collection, and it’s here that you can sample and learn about four of the most interesting, concluding with one G&T made with your favourite G. Join a safari with your date, or book a private sesh with 6-12 of your most emotionally supportive pals and get sipping. 


1 New Row, WC2N 4EA. £42pp. 

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Don’t stare into each other’s eyes
  • Restaurants
  • 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.

69-73 St John St, EC1M 4AN. Set menu £48-£100.

  • Music
  • Music venues
  • Brockley

Do travel back in time at the Rivoli Ballroom

Settle down in the beautiful surroundings of the Rivoli Ballroom – one of the oldest remaining ballrooms in the world – for a pop-up film fest. The grand old dame of a building will be hosting screenings of ‘Pretty Woman’ and ‘Romeo + Juliet’ on the Friday before Valentine’s day – now that trumps a Netflix binge. 

350 Brockley Rd, SE4 2BY. From £10.

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Or try some romantic movies with a twist

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