London's all-year-round romantic spots
There are plenty of places to take in the London skyline, but at Tate Modern’s viewing terrace, you get to see it in 360ᵒ. Just don’t make eye too much eye contact with the Tate’s neighbours, who are less than happy about the Switch House crowds peering through their curtains. Check out work by game-changing artists like Louise Bourgeois, Sarah Lucas and Ai Weiwei on your way up, and grab some snacks from the neaby bar. What could be more romantic than that?
Transport: Southwark tube
In the mood for a one-person party with a glass of wine and a book? Look no further than Little Venice, an curiously calm slice of London's waterways. Stop for a coffe in a canal-side café (The Waterway, Café Laville are both worth a look) or just stroll along the towpath to look at colourful narrowboats and enjoy some reassuring flashbacks to ‘Rosie and Jim’.
Transport: Warwick Avenue tube
The Serpentine Lido has been welcoming the shivering bods of Londoners into its chilly waters for more 100 years. Freezing your nips and gnads off on a concrete pier for all of Hyde Park to see might not scream ‘romance’, but bobbing around in that expanse of water while looking out over the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion is beautifully surreal. Once you’ve been for a swim, you have to reward yourself with tea and cake from the Lido Café Bar. It’s the law.
Transport: South Kensington tube. 10am–6pm (last entry 5.30pm) every day in June, July and August. £4.80.
Why whisper sweet nothings into the ear of your Tinder date when you can save them for St Paul’s Catherdral instead? Share your secrets with the curving wall of the gallery in St Paul’s Dome and your words can be heard on the opposite side. The unusual acoustics are part of the gallery’s idiosyncratic design. You’ll need to climb 259 steps to get there, so it might be more ‘panting’ than whispering by the time you reach the wall. On the plus side, you'll get to exercise your hamstrings, and your childlike sense of wonder.
Transport: St Paul’s tube. £18. Mon–Fri, 8.30am–4.30pm.
Wilton’s, the oldest grand music hall in the world, has weathered more than its fair share of storms. It’s survived the Blitz, a stint as a rag sorting warehouse and the threat of demolition. The fact it still exists as a Grade II listed theatre is one of London’s mini miracles. Created from a hybrid of five Georgian houses, with a paint-stripped frontage and a plush concert hall, it’s Shadwell’s own time machine. The packed Wilton’s schedule of gigs, theatre and cabaret makes it a decent place for a date too, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Transport: Shadwell Overground
So what if nobody sends you flowers for Valentine’s? Get to Columbia Road Flower Market just before noon and snag yourself a cut-price deal on a giant bunch of tulips instead. Buy yourself a bloody lemon tree for a tenner if the mood takes you.
A stroll down this road on a Sunday morning is an olfactory attack that will cure almost any hangover. If you can get your arse there by 8am, it’s like stepping into a Kendall Wylie painting, only there are places to buy bagels and pastel de nata.
Transport: Shoreditch High Street Overground. Sundays, 8am–2pm.
Want to give your Valentine’s the full Brontë? Have a dramatic solo walk through the Hampstead’s Pergola, a raised walkway overlooking the West Heath. At the right time of year (try mid April), its roof will be overgrown with vines and wisteria. The structure was originally built by Lord Leverhulme as a setting for his extravagant Edwardian parties. It doesn’t see much Viscount debauchery these days, but it is a great location if you want to reenact a Sixpence None the Richer music video.
Transport: Golders Green tube
London’s light-polluted skies aren’t exactly made for stargazing, but you can still go all moon-eyed over the big dipper from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Put things into perspective by peering through the Great Equatorial Telescope or take a tour the night sky at the Peter Harrison Planetarium. And if you must pose for the obligatory selfie on the Prime Meridian line, just don’t tell them we sent you.
Transport: Greenwich rail. £9.50.
Every corner of the V&A is romantic, but all that Italian Renaissance architecture looks even better when admired from an outdoor suntrap. If you have some spare time to be alone with your big thoughts and a paperback, go and lounge around at the John Madejski. The outdoor space at the V&A is a proper oasis, and it basically has one of its own: the garden’s main feature is an oval pool surrounded by green space to get supine.
Transport: South Kensington tube