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Hampstead Heath Pergola
Photograph: I Wei Huang/

The most romantic places in London to visit any time

Forget Valentine's Day menus at pricy restaurants: head to these London spots for romantic vibes all year round

Alice Saville
Written by
Alice Saville

Valentine’s Day comes with more than its fair share of cliches: for 24 hours, you can hardly move for single red roses, pink bubbly, and restaurants luring in sweaty-palmed wannabe Romeos with underwhelming set menus. Well, not today, Cupid, not today. Paris might be the official City of Love, but London's in a close second place, thanks to a plethora of places that are steeped in romance. 

Separate yourself from the rest of the rabble on dating apps (all with hobbies including reading, films and Sunday roasts) by taking the object of your affections to somewhere unexpected. Share a rum-spiked hot chocolate in one of London's magical hidden gardens, watch the famously loyal swans in this city's giant parks, or seek out some sensual nudes in the capital's finest art collections.

Here are some of London's most romantic places, making perfect spots for rendez-vous whether you're newly dating, a jaded married couple, or simply in the mood for some (PG-rated) self-love. Because February 14 only comes once a year, but life's better when it's filled with a bit of romance all year round.

RECOMMENDED: The most romantic restaurants in London.

Romantic spots in London

St Dunstan-in-the-East
  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • City of London

This picturesque ruined church is Romantic with a capital 'R': the light streams through its giant shattered windows, while vines trail their way up its crumbling stones, half-destroyed in a WWII bombing raid. It's perfect for a cheek-reddeningly crisp winter picnic (try reading your date some Byron if you dare) before repairing to a nearby wine bar to warm those unromantically chilly hands. 

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • price 2 of 4

Dive down into the basement of Soho’s magnificent Brasserie Zédel and you'll find glitzy Jazz Age romance in spades. The sensuous curving lines and red drapery of this century-old bar make the perfect backdrop to a tantalising line-up of acts: book for an evening of piano-based cabaret or a burlesque night and enjoy the performance at a candlelit table for two. 

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Bankside

There are plenty of places to take in the London skyline, but at Tate Modern’s viewing terrace, you get to see it in 360. Just dont 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?

  • Attractions
  • Rivers, lakes and ponds
  • Little Venice

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’.

Wilton's Music Hall
  • Theatre
  • Performing arts space
  • Wapping

Wilton’s, the oldest grand music hall in the world, has weathered more than its fair share of storms. Its 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 Shadwells own time machine. The packed Wiltons schedule of gigs, theatre and cabaret makes it a decent place for a date too, if you’re into that sort of thing.

  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs
  • Bethnal Green

So what if nobody sends you flowers for Valentines? 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.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Hampstead

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. 

  • Attractions
  • Towers and viewpoints
  • Greenwich

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.

  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • South Kensington

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.

Barbican Conservatory
  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Barbican

What's more romantic than some of London's most prominent Brutalist architecture? Brutalist architecture swathed in a tropical jungle, of course. This well-hidden and truly calming green oasis is hidden in one of the wings of the Barbican Centre, and packs in more than 2,000 species of tropical plants. The free attraction is only open on selected Sundays, so double check before you set off, and finish your romantic day out with some film, theatre or art in the neighbouring world-class arts centre.

Everyman Hampstead
  • Cinemas
  • Independent
  • Hampstead

Whether you're going solo or with a date, a trip to the cinema is one of life's great pleasures and there's no better place to do it than the original cinema of the Everyman chain. Known as the Everyman long before there was ever a luxury group, the venue’s two screens are decidedly upmarket: each with armchairs, sofas (as well as a sprinkling of deluxe two-seater sofas in the larger screen) and staff serving food and drinks at your seat. The programming is a mix of mainstream and independent, so you can expect to see big blockbusters here as well as artier British and international films.

Transport: Hampstead tube. Standard adult ticket £17.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Kew

Taking in the leafy green beauty at Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew is the perfect way to spend a romantic afternoon. There are numerous ways to spend your time at the gardens, set over 300 acres of land. Visit the Victorian Palm House to see a variety of luscious plant life, see the Chinese Pagoda built in 1762, or take in an aerial view of the grounds on the Tree Top Walkway. You may find love begins to bloom in the picturesque grounds.

Word on the Water
  • Shopping
  • Bookshops
  • King’s Cross

If rare books and reciting poetry doesn't spark romance, we don't know what will. Bibliophiles should plan a trip to the 1920s Dutch barge which has been lovingly transformed into a floating bookshop. It used to travel along Regent's Canal, but it’s now taken up permanent residence by Granary Square in King’s Cross. As well as keenly priced books they boast a woodburning stove, friendly dog and occasional live jazz performances. Check their Facebook page for details of book talks and events.

Whispering Gallery, St Paul's Cathedral
  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • St Paul’s

Send sweet nothings reverberating across the dome of St Pauls Cathedral at this hidden spot, which mixes baroque beauty with an unusual acoustic that means a mere whisper can be heard on the other side. You’ll need to climb 259 steps to get there, so you might be panting with exhaustion as well as passion: but the view's not to be beaten. 

Quirky ways to get romantic around the capital

Alternative romantic things to do in London
  • Things to do
  • Quirky events

Want to celebrate Valentine's Day without all the flowers and rubbish chocolates? It can be done! Here's our guide to quirky and unusual things to do on February 14, from whisky tasting to cat-petting to robot-building.

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