Love it or loathe it, Valentine's Day is fast approaching. It falls on a Saturday this year, so for most people that's a whole day to either spend with a loved one, or pass in blissful ignorance. Whichever you're hoping for, the South Bank has plenty going on to help you indulge in the romance, or dodge it entirely.
Eating and Drinking
The newest addition to South Bank's many dining options is Sea Containers at Mondrian London. Fish features heavily on the locally-sourced menu (oysters and salmon are among the best-known aphrodisiacs, don't 'cha know?), and there's even a River View Special Menu. Wash it all down with cocktails at sunset overlooking the Thames.
The famous OXO Tower is the obvious choice for a romantic date. Views across the Thames and beyond, a special Valentine's Menu complete with candles and live jazz...and a ring thrown in? Everyone who buys a Disa Goddess cocktail will be entered into a draw to win a £16,000 ring.
If you're not quite at the ring-exchanging stage of your relationship yet, Gillray's Steakhouse at London Marriott Hotel County Hall offers views of the Thames, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye. Meat lovers can share a steak while enjoying the scenery. Alternatively, Brasserie Joel offers a three course, chocolate-inspired menu, and chef Adam Gray has created a 6 course menu for Skylon Restaurant at Royal Festival Hall.
And if you find yourself dateless? Chino Latino's Anti Valentine's Day offers a Broken Heart Dessert for you to indulge in.
Stage and Screen
If you're looking to escape the romantic hubbub, take a trip back to childhood with National Theatre's Treasure Island. Robert Louis Stevenson's story of murder, money and mutiny is brought to life in a production for those aged 8+ — but we went along as fully grown Londoners and gave it a hearty four stars. Alternatively, immersive theatre experience Grimm Tales at Oxo Bargehouse is aimed at the brave — not one for going it alone.
BFI Southbank provides romantic viewing in the form of heart-warming Cloudburst and sexy Plan B, or to avoid the romance completely by catching a screening of spy thriller Kingsman: The Secret Service at BFI Imax.
Barb Jungr presents her acclaimed interpretations of classic songs in My Funny Valentine at Southbank Centre.
On Sunday, beat your chest in defiance at a screening of King Kong (1933) at the recently opened Curzon Mondrian cinema at Sea Containers. Other films included in the Alternative Romance Valentine's Package include Love Is Strange and Only Lovers Left Alive.
Out and About
Sweep your significant other off their feet with a whirl on the Coca-Cola London Eye. The Valentine's Champagne Experience includes a glass of champagne each and a box of chocolates to share. And if you want to splash the cash, you can book a private Valentine's Cupid Capsule and have the views all to yourselves.
If you've not got a head for heights, take a river cruise, complete with commentary, live music, and a glass of champagne — or treat your other half to dinner on the river with a Dinner Cruise, which includes a three-course meal, wine and entertainment. Alternatively, kick back and enjoy the romantic sights of the capital such as Big Ben, Tower Bridge, House of Parliament from an MBNA Thames Clippers Cruise.
Waterloo Bridge, in all its concrete glory, is a great spot for views. Walk three quarters of the way across the bridge (if you’re walking from the south to north side) to see the whole curve of South Bank, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral and the City. London doesn't get much better than that.
For the ultimate in anti-Valentine's activities, head to The London Dungeon and have a go at digging up the dead. Grave robbing in 1840s London is the subject of a week-long special.
Whether you're after a gift to show your other half how well you know them, or want to treat yourself to a good book with which to curl up in front of the fire, Southbank Centre Book Market has an ever-changing selection of second hand and antique books. Or for the thespian in your life, the National Theatre Bookshop offers all manner of theatre-related books and gifts.
JeDeCo jewellery shop in Oxo Wharf has a special Valentine’s event from 31 January-14 February, with 15% of all sales donated to The British Heart Foundation.
The Balcony at Waterloo Station offers all you need to find a romantic gift from the likes of Hotel Chocolat, Links of London and Paperchase.
Perhaps most impressive of all, if you're looking to pop the question, Sea Life London Aquarium offers an underwater proposal service to make the day really memorable.
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