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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
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. 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 hosts regular terrarium-making classes. And there’s not a lot you can read into something that’s transparent.

Various Sundays, check website for details. From £45. Balham Station Road, SW12 9SG.

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

Wednesday–Saturday, check website for start times. £25-£42. Cadenhead’s, W1U 7QF.

  • 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 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.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Café bars
  • Caledonian Road
  • price 1 of 4

Do get crafty with clay

Multi-tasking spot Drink, Shop & Do host regular random construction evenings. They are the perfect activity for creative commitment-phobes; a weirdly bonding activity. This Valentine's they're giving you all the tools to build a clay model of your date, Ghost-style. Be wooed by your date's artistic talent, or – more realistically  fall about laughing at your creations. 

£10. Check website for details and future dates. Drink, Shop & Do, N1 9DX.

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 Tavern 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. 

£34pp. Mr Fogg’s Tavern, WC2N 4EA.

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.

£48-£100, Dans Le Noir, 30-31 Clerkenwell Green, EC1R 0DU.

  • 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 The Notebook, Pretty Woman and Romeo + Juliet on Valentine's day – now that trumps a Netflix binge. 

350 Brockley Rd. From £10. Check the website for details and prices


Do make them chuckle at a comedy show 

You know what one of the most attractive qualities is? Being funny. You know what you can do if you're not funny? Take 'em to a comedy gig. Part of VAULT Festival, Hot Mess is held in the achingly cool underground venue Network Theatre, and it's a riot of silly sketches and audience participation. Who knows, maybe some of that comedy will rub off on you. 

From £7.50. February 14, 10pm. SE1 8SJ.

Or try some romantic movies with a twist


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