Romantic London: A Full-Day Valentine’s Walk

By Londonist Last edited 8 months ago
Romantic London: A Full-Day Valentine’s Walk
Green Park by Rob Fahey in the Londonist Flickr pool. It won't be quite this green, mind.

The evening of 14 February can be a crowded, overbooked, unromantic time to be out in London. Instead, save your Valentine's celebrations for the weekend, when you can take your time over all or part of this tour of romantic London.

Watch the sun come up at 7.15am

Take your beloved to a photogenic view — Hampstead Heath, Primrose Hill, or the north bank of the Thames are all obvious winners — to grab a coffee and watch the sun come up.

From wherever you are, take public transport or walk to the Savoy (nearest Tube, Temple).

The Savoy. Photo: David Williams

Eat breakfast in the Thames Foyer at the Savoy

In this hotel, Oscar Wilde conducted an affair with Bosie so steamy that Wilde went to prison for it. ‘The love that dare not speak its name’ took place on the third floor — but if you want breakfast, head to the glass dome at the heart of the hotel.

Cross the Strand and turn right, walking to the first traffic lights at Aldwych. Cross over towards the Lyceum Tavern, then take Wellington Street. The road turns into Bow Street, then Endell Street before you emerge onto High Holborn. Cross, and take Shaftesbury Avenue north, which becomes Bloomsbury Street. Take a right onto Great Russell Street; the British Museum will be on your left.

The Wallace Collection.

See London’s most romantic artworks

The world’s oldest artwork showing a couple making love is the Ain Sakhri stone, housed at the British Museum although unfortunately not currently on display. It's thought to be 11,000 years old. Plenty of other displays nod towards romance and love - some more explicit than others.

Leave by the museum's rear exit and head west to Gower Street. A little way north you'll find a plaque on Number 7.

The plaque marks the place where the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded. If any Londoners knew how to love, this was they. Millais saved Ruskin's wife from a loveless marriage, Rossetti seduced Jane Morris, and Hunt eloped with his lover Edith.

Continue through Bloomsbury, on to Fitzrovia and make your way west to Manchester Square.

The Wallace Collection is romantic in itself, but also houses Filippo della Valle’s Cupid and Psyche sculpture, and Pourbus’s Allegory of True Love. Take time out for a cup of tea in the galleries charming (and romantic) courtyard restaurant.

You can eat lunch after either of the museum stops — the Riding House Café would be good if you spend a long time at the British Museum. The Wallace Collection's courtyard restaurant is among London's most romantic. Or you could try one of Mayfair or Marylebone's top pubs.

Head back to Oxford Street, make your way through Mayfair and cross Piccadilly.

Green Park, well named.

Rest in Green Park

The quietest of the three great parks in this part of London, this is a tempting place to cuddle up to your partner for a few minutes and indulge in some cloud spotting, assuming the ground's dry enough. Legend says that the park gets its name from spurned love. Charles II's queen is said to have discovered that her husband gave a bunch of flowers from the park to another woman. In revenge, she plucked every remaining flower in the area. To this day, the park has no formal flower beds, and hence is the Green Park.

Carry on through St James's Park, and on towards Westminster.

Visit Westminster Abbey

Site of 16 royal weddings, the Abbey also contains Poet’s Corner where Tennyson, Browning, Hardy and other celebrated writers are buried and others have memorials.

Walk along the Embankment from Westminster to Somerset House, and climb up the steps to Waterloo Bridge.

Sunset over Waterloo Bridge, by Stevie378.

Watch the sun set over the Thames

Valentine’s London wouldn’t be complete without a Waterloo sunset. Head to the west side of Hungerford Bridge at 5pm to see the sun set at 5.15pm.

Walk back to the Embankment and up Northumberland Avenue. Cross Trafalgar Square, take Pall Mall and then go up Haymarket. At Piccadilly, cross and take Great Windmill Street into Soho.

Get your kicks in Soho

If you’re flush, take your other half luxury lingerie shopping in Coco de Mer on Monmouth Street; if you’re cheeky, sneak down to one of the sex shop basements.

Alternatively, follow the arrow in the statue of 'Eros' at Piccadilly towards one of London’s finest cheap eats, Brasserie Zedel. Bar Americain does great cocktails, which is a fine end to any Valentine's Day in London.

Last Updated 01 February 2018