No Booking Required: Ideas for Valentine’s Day in London

10 No Booking Required Idea for Valentine's Day in London

More and more, people are keen to spend their money on experiences, rather than possessions. Rather than the obligatory bunch of flowers and box of chocolates, why not use Valentine’s Day to spend some quality time with a loved one? I personally hate going to over-priced, over-crowded restaurants on February 14th, considering it much nicer to cook a low-key, but still special, meal together at home. This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday, leaving plenty of scope for fun ways to spend the day, without having the stress of needing to book weeks in advance or spend a lot of money. Here are my top suggestions for having an understated, but romantic day in London:

1/ Have coffee at a charming cafe and make sure to unplug. Switch off those mobile phones and make sure to spend the day truly living in the moment, talking and enjoying being in each other’s company. Spending a leisurely morning over coffee is definitely a luxury in today’s hectic climate so embrace the ‘live slow’ philosophy and feel yourself relax. People watch, discuss ideas for the week, pour over newspapers and magazines and share favourite articles. Cafes perfect for this type of morning are: Ginger & White; Leila’s Shop & Cafe; Angie’s Little Food Shop and Fix.

2/ Rather than going out, you can enjoy making brunch at home. I suggest one of you brews the perfect pot of tea / coffee, whilst the other whips up some avocado toast and poached eggs. Sunday morning Perfection!

3/ Go on a chocolate or macaron (or both!) tour of London. Seek out the best chocolate and macaron shops in the capital and sample treats from each. A few to try are: Rococo, Pierre Marcolini, Laduree, William Curley, Pierre Herme, Cocomaya, Melt and Mast Brothers. If neither of you have a sweet tooth, you could do a cheese tour instead: buy a cheese or two from London’s best cheesemongers and then enjoy them with some good wine, olives and grapes later that night.

4/ Take a romantic stroll or bike ride. Get away from the crowds by exploring the charming Pergola and Hill Gardens in Hampstead, visit the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park (and look out for deer), or take a wander around pretty Blackheath.

5/ Admire the views. Going up the Shard is rather cliche: instead, bring along your own flask of hot chocolate (or bottle of champagne!) and enjoy the views from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, Hampstead Heath or Primrose Hill.

6/ Buy each other a surprise book. Head to an independent book shop (some ideas: Daunt Books, Foyles, Lutyens & Rubinstein,Β Heywood Hill, The Idler, Persephone Books and London Review of Books), arrange a spot to meet back in 1/2 an hour and present each other with a book you’ve chosen and had wrapped in the shop.

7/ Wander the markets. Buy flowers at Columbia Road Market and munch your way around the stalls of Borough Market or Southbank.

8/ Make each other a cocktail. Source a great sounding cocktail recipe (check out my Drinks section for ideas) that’s new to both of you, make sure you’ve bought the ingredients in advance of Valentine’s Day and whip up the cocktails together in the evening. Whose was the best?

9/ Do a silly photoshoot. Have some fun props ready for the day (a red balloon goes a long way) and snap pictures of you both with it as you amble around London. Who needs a professional photographer? If you are going to get a gift, by the way, then a prynt case would be the perfect accompaniment to your photoshoot.

10/ Seek out the most romantic pictures at Tate Britain. My favourite is The Lady of Shalott, which I never tire of seeing in person.

How are you planning to spend Valentine’s Day? Do any of these ideas appeal?

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  • Claire

    Lovely suggestions! We’re celebrating on Saturday by going for brunch, followed by a walk through Borough Market (Bread Ahead doughnuts may have to feature – I’d like to see what flavours they have for Valentine’s Day), to the Mondrian Curzon to see Deadpool, then cocktails in Dandelyan before home for a home cooked meal.

  • A chocolate tour would be the way to my heart! We’re spending Valentine’s Day at home, a cosy quiet day plus naps is what we need xx

  • I have hesitated to comment on your Valentine posts as none of this is really my sort of thing as it appears to involve romance whatever that might be πŸ™‚ However I like many of these suggestions and strongly urge readers in N London to go and see the wonderful pergola at The Hill which is one of my favourite places in my neighbourhood. As an alternative, and more to my taste, picture at Tate Britain which I hope is in the same spirit perhaps I could suggest Study of Mme Gautreau by Sargent.

    • That is a beautiful painting as well! Always love Sargent. Glad even the unromantic can appreciate some of these suggestions πŸ˜‰ xxx

  • This ideas are just so lovely! I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day xx

  • emily

    Ah Daunt books! I love them so much.

    • Me too! I can always spend ages browsing there. I’m looking forward to their annual Spring Festival too – at least I hope it’s happening this year! xxx

  • Joe

    Amazing post – so many great options. I’ve been dying to try Cocomaya each of the last several times I’ve been to London. Do they do proper food or breakfast there?

    • Thanks so much Joe! Hmm, I’ve only been for tea and cake in the afternoon (which I strongly recommend), but I have a feeling they serve light meals as well and have a breakfast menu – it may well be of the croissant and toast type though. I will check when I next go and report back to you πŸ™‚ xxx