Struggling to come up with a way to woo your chosen one this Valentine's Day? Want to sweep them off their feet without doing outrageous damage to your wallet? Forget about the usual restaurant reservations, rose petals and other clichés and take them along to one of these unusual events. Single? No need to miss out. Plenty of these events welcome those who aren't sickeningly loved-up. So grab your friends and get involved. Warning: Although these events do avoid the obvious, a couple of them did still have us reaching for the bucket...
Despite the awful, terrible pun, Battersea Cats Home's Feline Lonely event was a cat-tivating success last year. Whether you're partnered up or doomed to life as a cat lady, make friends with the home's feline residents in a cat cuddle booth while you enjoy a glass of champagne and some cake.
At Battersea Cats and Dogs Home, 13 February, 5.30pm-8.30pm. £4, advance tickets are now sold out but there will be a few on the door frpom 4.30pm.
A Night With Venus...
...a lifetime with mercury (as they say). Syphilis is the subject of this Valentine's event at the Old Operating Theatre Museum. Hear how in the 18th century and earlier, just one night of love could lead to a lifetime of medication, mercury being a painful treatment for the dreaded pox. Find out where this loathsome disease originated from in the 16th century and the variety of painful treatments available for it in the Georgian age when the cure could indeed often be worse than the disease. Discover how Casanova tried to avoid catching it, how James Boswell couldn't avoid it, why the distinguished surgeon John Hunter deliberately infected himself with gonorrhoea only to go down with syphilis, and how King George II came to die on his stool and not on his throne. You might want to give a clap at the end (or you may just be itching to leave). And if it doesn't put some heat into your romance, we really don't know what will...
At Old Operating Theatre Museum, 12 February, 7pm-8pm. Tickets, £8, are available here.
Valentine's Day with Ryan Gosling? This is likely to send some people into paroxysms of delight. Nomad Cinema pops up at The LookOut in Hyde Park for two evenings. Friday 13 February sees screenings of films based around odd couples (so Harold and Maude and The Graduate). Then Valentine's Day itself focuses on Gosling with screenings of The Notebook (for the romantics among you) and Drive (for the bloodthirsty).
Nomad Cinema's Valentine's screenings at The Lookout in Hyde Park take place on 13 and 14 February. Tickets are £25 per screening and can be bought here.
Treat your adored to an afternoon of alcoholic tea-fuelled escapades at Mr Fogg's in Mayfair. Women receive a red rose and pink champagne on arrival with their beau (men, presumably, receive the bill on the way out). Tables will be covered with rose petals. Expect chocolates, sandwiches, cakes and the like.
Book by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ice Skating at Broadgate
Just when you thought it was safe to venture back into the world without the risk of being dragged onto the ice, Broadgate Ice Rink offers up a Valentine's Day option. From 13-15 February, the rink will be transformed into a lovers’ paradise decorated with hearts, giant letters that spell out the word LOVE and even some romantic city backgrounds. Everyone who skates over the weekend will automatically be entered into a competition to win £500 of vouchers to spend on a romantic trip for two — presumably so that the pair of you can do something far less clichéd in the future.
The Tasting Room next to the rink offers a Valentine’s Day sharing platter including St Louis Pork Ribs, spicy chipotle wings and pulled pork sliders, followed by warm chocolate brownie served with fresh strawberries and cream and a bottle of Prosecco for £50.
Birds and Bees
Grant Museum of Zoology has a special late night opening for those looking for love or seeking to impress a Valentine's date. Discover the secrets of seduction in the animal world through a handpicked collection of specimens from the museum. And for the less prudish, there's a Sex and the Senses evening the night before Valentine's Day. Sup on aphrodisiac cocktails and make memories in the photo booth.
Both at Grant Museum. Valentine's Day, 14 February, 6.30pm-9pm, £5, no need to book in advance. Sex and the Senses, 13 February, 6pm-9pm, £3, can be booked here.
Take a tour of Tate Britain led by Art History UK, focusing on 20th century sculpture, particularly Moore’s curvaceous females, Hepworth’s sensual forms inspired by the picturesque coastline of Cornwall and Epstein’s fascination with primitive civilisations. Ooh la la. Alternatively, take a Valentine's Tour of the Wallace Collection or see the saucy paintings at the National Gallery.
14 February, 4.30pm-6pm. Tickets are £35, available here.
Romance vs Passion
Tough call this one, but one you'll have to make if you want to go to Natural History Museum's Night Safari. Visit the museum after hours and enjoy a complimentary drink before starting the tour of your choice. The Romance option covers such wild topics as mating in the insect world and underwater love, while the passion route covers fossilised mating and insect attraction. Schexy. After the tour there's a chance to meet the scientists, handle their specimens (no sniggering at the back) and explore the museum without the usual crowds.
At Natural History Museum, 16 February, from 6.30pm. Tickets are £40, available here.
Ballads of love, loss and heartache are on the menu at Cecil Sharp House in Camden, which sounds to us like the perfect recipe for an Anti-Valentine's evening. Folk musicians James Fagan, Emily Portman and Paul Sartin all do their thing.
At Cecil Sharp House, 14 February, 7.30pm. Tickets, £16, available here.
Not too sure about your choice of date? Err on the side of caution by booking a table at The Well, a gastropub in Clerkenwell. Staff will be on hand to help anyone suffering from a misfiring Cupid's arrow. Before you arrive, ensure you're following @thewellpub on Twitter. Then,
when if your date starts going downhill faster than goodness knows what, send the Twitter account a direct message with the secret phrase "Kiss of Death" and your mobile number. A member of staff will immediately ring you, allowing you to feign an emergency (yep, that old chestnut). Meanwhile, the pub team will have your bill ready and a taxi waiting for you outside — and even provide you with a complimentary drink to give your date by way of apology. That's what you call saved by The Well.
Nothing says romance like pairing up to have a nosey through other people's love letters, which is exactly what couples can do at The Queen's House in Greenwich. Love In The Archives sees the contents of The Caird Library open to all and sundry (well, those who pay the ticket price), for a chance to have a look at romantic letters written by men serving in the Georgian Navy to their wives and mistresses. If written communication in your relationship is reduced to a "what's for dinner?" text, going along to this may inspire you. Or it may sicken you.
At Queen's House in Greenwich, 14 February, 7pm-8.30pm. Tickets £46 per couple, available here.
We kid you not, the PR for this one sent us an actual, real heart. In a jar. Artist Robin Lee, inspired by a conversation he overheard between a couple breaking up last Valentine's Day, has produced an installation of anatomical hearts for Barts Pathology Museum. As you do. If that's not enough, the hearts have been embellished with words of regret and self-criticism. We didn't say it was happy, did we? Author Russ Litten has written monologues to accompany each heart, which will be played at the show.
At Barts Pathology Museum, 18 February, 6.30pm-9pm. Tickets, £9.50, are available here.
The Cheesy Restaurant
Oh, go on then...we had to squeeze one puke-inducing, rose petal-laden, fairy light-bedecked, ultra-romantic restaurant in here. Our choice is The Deck, National Theatre's pop-up restaurant. Why? Because it's opening for one night only, on the roof of National Theatre, so you can gaze into each other's eyes with a backdrop of the twinkling lights of the Thames and beyond. 'Scuse us while we grab a bucket. The aphrodisiac-heavy, four-course menu has been created by chef Simon Flint and includes smoked salmon, beef, raspberry and dark chocolate dome, and a cheeseboard.
At National Theatre, 14 February. Sittings at 5pm/8pm. Tickets £75 per person, available here.