Romantic London: Quirky Ideas For Valentine’s Day
London knows how to turn on the romance. Whether it’s visiting St Paul’s Cathedral, where Prince Charles and Lady Diana got married, or walking across Waterloo Bridge, immortalised in The Kinks’ classic song Waterloo Sunset, there are plenty of sights that make London the perfect backdrop for a romantic day out. While there are clichés aplenty around Valentine’s Day – from dining out to buying flowers – we show you how to give those traditional ideas a London twist.
Go To The Wallace Collection For Romantic Paintings
Instead of wandering around aimlessly at one of London’s galleries, visit The Wallace Collection, which is located in a beautiful building and is home to Frank Hals’ famous The Laughing Cavalier, as well as many other Rococo paintings. The Swing, created by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, shocked the French in 1767 as it depicted a love triangle; Jean-Baptiste Pater’s Fête Galante with a Dancing Couple shows the courting world of 18th-century France, while Gerard ter Borch’s A Lady Reading a Letter sees a young girl reading a love letter in hopeful anticipation.After you’ve let your loved one know they are as pretty as a picture, visit The Wallace Restaurant, which is set in a quadrangle in the middle of the gallery. Flooded with natural light, trees and sculptures, the restaurant offers French-style dishes for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, which includes sandwiches, scones and cakes. On Friday and Saturday evenings, there is also an à la carte menu for dinner. Admission free. Afternoon tea from £18.50. Hertford House, Manchester Square, W1U 3BN. 020 7563 9500.
Give Your Loved Ones A Flower-filled Day Out
Red roses may be the top choice for flowers on Valentine’s Day, but if your partner loves beautiful blooms, how about impressing them with a visit to Kew Gardens, home to thousands of species of plants? Visit the gardens for a special Valentine’s Day event (13 Feb), which is part of the venue’s Late series. The Princess of Wales Conservatory will be transformed, with cocktails that you can make yourself, Brazilian music to match the theme of this year’s Orchid Festival and hand and face painting.Every Sunday morning, meanwhile, Columbia Road Flower Market sees this east London street turn into an oasis of foliage. Many of the flower sellers grow their own plants or import flowers from around the world. Some of the stalls have been running for decades, such as George’s, who has been working on the market since 1949. Dennis from Saffron Flowers specialises in roses, and his range includes Grand Prix, Avalanche and Protea roses. Tickets £25. 6pm-9.30pm. Kew Gardens, Richmond, TW9 3AB. 020 8332 5655. Columbia Road Flower Market, Columbia Rd, E2 7RG.
Take A Walk In A Cemetery
London is the greenest city in the world, thanks to its Royal Parks, which were originally grounds where aristocrats went courting. But instead of visiting one of the parks, why not go to a cemetery? In the first half of the 19th century, the population of London doubled. There wasn’t enough space to bury the dead, so an ambitious building programme followed.
Now London’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries – Abney Park, Brompton, Nunhead, Tower Hamlets, West Norwood and, most impressively, Highgate and Kensal Green – are enchanting places of rest for the living as well as the dead, where lavish mausoleums and weeping angels rise out of green ivy. Kensal Green’s famous residents include writers such as Harold Pinter and Anthony Trollope, while Queen singer Freddie Mercury was cremated here. Abney Park, in Stoke Newington, has a particularly wild beauty, though it is now a nature reserve and burials no longer take place. Highgate Cemetery, Swain’s Lane, N6 6PJ.
020 8340 1834. £4. highgatecemetery.org. Kensal Green Cemetery, Harrow Rd, W10 4RA. 020 8969 0152. kensalgreencemetery.com
Make A Toast At The Top Of The Shard
Glasses of bubbly are being clinked across the capital, from Searcys Champagne Bar, which is the longest Champagne bar in Europe and located in St Pancras International Station, to Bob Bob Ricard, where you can request Champagne at the press of a button. But the one that tops them all, quite literally, is The View from The Shard, which offers a breathtaking 360-degree view of London’s sights. Located at an impressive 800ft in the sky, it is Western Europe’s tallest building and highest Champagne bar.
On Valentine’s Day weekend (13-14 Feb), the landmark will be preparing itself for romance. Two couples were engaged within 10 minutes of The Shard opening, and last year
a marriage proposal took place on average every 30 minutes. If you plan to propose, take advantage of the dedicated concierge service that will assist with any queries you may have about popping the question. There will also be extended opening hours until midnight. Love will certainly be
in the air! Tickets start at £25.95. 32 London Bridge St,
SE1 9SG. 0844 499 7111.
Eat At The Chef’s Table
White tablecloths, candlelight and French cuisine are the stuff of romantic clichés. Instead, fora truly memorable experience, visit a chef’s table. London is home to a variety of cuisines, Michelin-starred restaurants and famous chefs. Booking the chef’s table at a top restaurant can be a great way to get closer to the action. Marcus at the Berkeley lets you witness Marcus Wareing’s Michelin-starred dishes being created before your eyes, with a menu of modern European food with a British influence.
The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park hotel’s Dinner by Heston Blumenthal gives you a fascinating insight into the meals created by Britain’s most groundbreaking chef, which executive chef Ashley Palmer-Watts will explain to you as the dishes are prepared. Known for his experimental style, Blumenthal’s dishes include chicken liver parfait disguised as a fruit, and pineapple roasted on a spit powered by a £70,000 giant watch mechanism. From £120. Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, Wilton Place, SW1X 7RL. 020 7235 1200. the-berkeley.co.uk. From £150. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7LA. 020 7201 3844.