Although the British capital might not on the surface seem as romantic as other cities like Paris, Venice or Prague, there are actually a lot of romantic places in London. Many of the best are secret and hidden in plain sight. From eerily beautiful bombed churches to secret bars and from hidden lanes to soaring views of the city, discover the best secret romantic spots in London below!
St Ethelburga’s Garden
Amidst the towering skyscrapers around Liverpool Street is the most charming secret garden. Tucked behind the St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, the small courtyard garden is an oasis of calm for many reasons. A small chapel dating back to the mid 13th century, the church managed to get through the Blitz unscathed … but was instead within close distance of a 1993 IRA bomb, which led to the collapse of its roof and other damage. Albeit very tragic, this incident actually allowed the church to take on a new life, reborn as a “Centre for Reconciliation and Peace.”
The restored church and its welcoming team strive to be ‘makers of peacemakers’ by fostering a global culture of peace via a varied program of events, talks and community bonding. You don’t need to attend one of these to absorb the centre’s serene ambiance, any visitor can spend some time its heavenly and beautifully maintained garden with benches and some tables around a gurgling fountain encircled by flowers, greenery and a Peace Pole, displaying the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in various languages. Behind the wall is a traditional yurt, a round space which also encourages peace. No matter where you spend your quiet moment in the centre, you’ll leave with a supreme peacefulness found nowhere else in London.
A short distance away near the Tower of London, lies another unique hidden garden surrounding the vine ladened remains of St Dunstan-in-the-East. Built in the 12th century, the medieval church was struck by the Great Fire which devastated the area in 1666 and thus sports a tower added on in 1700 by Sir Christopher Wren, the architect behind St Paul’s Cathedral and responsible for rebuilding the fire-ravaged churches. Three hundred years later, tragedy once again struck the church during the Nazi bombing of The Blitz. Instead of rebuilding the church, the site was converted into a park. Today its gothic window frames and walls climbing with ivy and discreet benches make it the perfect place for a romantic break surrounded by history.
Rooftop Garden at 120 Fenchurch Street
While you’re in the City of London enjoy a free view over the area’s skyline at the contemporary rooftop garden found atop the 120 Fenchurch building. Opened in February 2019 on the 15th floor of this office building, the garden was designed by landscape architects Latz+Partner. A walk way goes around the roof’s planting beds and wisteria climbing on the steel pergola canopies. The garden offers a virtually 360-degree view over the area including a close up of some of London’s most iconic modern buildings like the “Gherkin”, the “Walkie Talkie” and the “Cheesegrater” as well as some classics like St Paul’s Cathedral. Since the garden is not as known as some of the other modern lookouts, it isn’t crowded. There are sitting areas where you can take in the views over a coffee from their coffee stand. Note: the garden is only open during the week, Monday to Friday, 10am-9pm in summer (closed Bank Holidays).
Courtyard Café of the Charles Dickens Museum
One of the most Londonian authors, the former residence and now museum of Charles Dickens is also home to one of the city’s most charming hidden cafés, a well suited date spot for literary lovers. The lovely Victorian house was where Dickens wrote Oliver Twist, Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby. A tour of the inside includes his study, the family bedchambers, and the servants’ quarters below stairs and important artefacts like Dickens’s desk, handwritten drafts of his novels and other decorative arts of the era. Open to non-visitors of the museum, the café serves drinks, snacks and light meals in the gorgeous setting of the house’s courtyard garden (accessible via the shop). The house is situated on a small street lined with period homes only a few blocks from Oxford Street and the British Museum.
Barbican Centre & Conservatory
A massive early 1980s complex combining an exhibition space, cinema, performing arts school and (originally) public housing, the Brutalist style building has a number of surprising secret charms. The first comes from the Barbican’s maze of raised walkways which crisscross past sections of the old Roman wall and modern ponds dotted with waterlilies and other greenery. These eventually lead to the plaza of the main building of the Barbican, which has romantic seating across from the lovely Saint Gilles church. Inside, the centre is home to performing arts spaces, exhibitions and an impressive Conservatory. Hidden on the 3rd floor is this vast atrium with more than 2,000 species of plants, fish ponds and romantic seating nooks. Unfortunately it’s usually only open on Sundays or on a bank holiday, so try to make it on one of those days. The centre is still worth a visit and don’t miss their temporary art exhibits, considered some of the best in all of London. This summer you can view the Lee Krasner: Living Colour exhibit, a fabulous retrospective on this prominent American abstract artist (more info and tickets here).
If you happened to be at London Bridge station, Borough Market or even the Tate Modern, you can take a short detour to amble down this pretty secret lane. The former alley between two buildings has been converted into a community garden, lined with potted flowers and plants. The verdant haven has a few benches and chairs for a tranquil break with your sweetheart. It is also home to a book-exchange library if you’re looking for a new holiday read.
West End Mews
There are a number of romantic mews around London, however, the West End seems to have the largest concentration of these charming tiny lanes. Generally dating from the mid-1800s, each one has its own personality, yet you can expect uber cute two-story townhouses, colorful flowers, climbing vines and other curiosities. The following mews in Kensington are conveniently found close to each other and are lesser visited than some of the more famous mews: Lexham Mews, Radley Mews, Cornwall Mews, Osten Mews, Kynance Mews, Atherstone Mews and Queen’s Gate Mews. They are also not to far from the next sites and you can find the on the Google Map at the end of the article!
Leighton House Museum
London is home to a number of the world’s best museums, however, for a more romantic experience, consider visiting one this enchanting smaller museum dedicated to the mid-late 19th century artist Frederic Leighton. The Leighton House Museum is the only “purpose-built” studio-house that is open to the public in all of the UK. Within the Victorian era home the aristocratic artist received many important guests, including Queen Victoria herself. A highlight of the museum is its stunning Arab Hall, decked out in a golden dome, mosaics and intricate Islamic tiles, a nod to the era’s interest in the Orient and the artist’s own personal travels there. You can soak up the museum’s romantic ambiance as you amble through the building’s gorgeous rooms and admire its notable collection of the art.
Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park
Hyde Park might be London’s most famous park and while it is also lovely, you’ll find many fewer people strolling around the equally beautiful Holland Park, located around the corner from the Leighton House Museum. Previously private grounds of the 17th century Cope Castle, they were bought and transformed into a public park by the city of London in the 1950s. On your meander, try to seek out the park’s Kyoto Garden. The latter is particularly pretty and peaceful. Opened in 1991, the garden was a gift from the city of Kyoto to commemorate the long-standing friendship between Japan and Great Britain. Slow your pace to take in its zen atmosphere created by Japanese trees, stone lanterns, tiered waterfalls and pond filled with koi carp. You may also come across Holland Park’s second Japanese gardens, the Fukushima Memorial Garden opened in 2012.
Sung of the Jerusalem Tavern
Having a pub experience is a must in London, however, being jostled around and having beer spilt on you isn’t necessarily romantic. Instead, if you come a little early to the Jerusalem Tavern, you can have your very own private perch overlooking the bar. One of the oldest pubs in London, the 14th-century tavern was previously located in several other sites in the area before anchoring itself at the current address in 1720. On a small mezzanine up a small set of steps is a snug with an isolate table for two, ideal for taking in the vibrant ambiance of the pub in your own intimate nook! The pub is also found in historic Clerkenwell where you can take a dimly lit stroll around Dickens-esque London when you’re finished.
The Gobpsy Secret Bar
London has a few speakeasy style bars, but few are as well hidden as this stylish new bar. Hidden in the basement of a barber shop in the City of London (head down the stairs and push the towel ), the Gobpsy excels at a 1920s Prohibition style bar with low lighting and intimate seating for two. An added bonus for couples is their happy hour from 3-6 pm when every second drink is free. Fridays and Saturdays the place heats up thanks to lively Jazz music. You can also reserve online to make sure you get a seat. The bar is conveniently located near several of the spots from the beginning of the list and for those looking for a unique date idea, they also offer cocktail classes.
More in our London Mini-Guide!
If you’re looking for other unique romantic things to do in London, then check out our A Very “British” Romantic Weekend in London Mini-Guide. It’s free if you sign up for our newsletter (which rarely goes out, so there’s little hassle for the free guide!).
Where to Stay in London
We have two favorite hotels in London in case you are looking for accommodation for your romantic getaway. For a more classic experience and boasting a hidden location, learn more about the Stafford London in our review here and or for a more trendy experience close to the City of London read more about the CitizenM Tower of London in our article here.
Secret London Map
You can discover the above spots easily courtesy of our good map here.
Happy Secret Romancing in London everyone!