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London In Love

London In Love

Pedestrian, 4 km, 3 days

Some suggestions for planning the perfect romantic date, strolling in and around the west-end.

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Trafalgar Square   Worth a detour Worth a detour

Trafalgar Square London SW1
Architecture, castles and historic districts

This world-famous square with its iconic statue, fountains and the National Gallery, is at the top of Whitehall which runs down to the Palace of Westminster. Trafalgar Square serves as a backdrop for political demonstrations and is the setting each year for a huge Norwegian Christmas tree, and New Year's Eve festivities as revellers await the sound of Big Ben striking midnight.

The perfect starting point for any romantic rendez-vous in the capital. Take a seat on the steps of the majestic National Gallery and watch the crowd, the street performers and the general spectacle of one of the world's most famous squares. It's also become a setting for national celebrations - whether it’s St George's Day or the victory parade for Britain's sporting heroes, there's always something going on.

St Martin-in-the-Fields   Interesting

5 Trafalgar Square London WC2N4JJ
Religious buildings

The Church was built by Gibbs between 1722 and 1726. It has the appearance of a baroque building with an elegant appearance but lacking a little unity. The interior decor is harmonious with a hint of rococo. Its famous not only for its architecture but also, since the 1930s, as a refuge for the homeless. The Church has also given its name to a chamber orchestra known worldwide the Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields, which extends a long tradition of classical concerts.

This church is just a quick hop across the road from Trafalgar Square. Handel and Mozart both played here and there are regular lunchtime and evening classical music recitals and jazz concerts. The atmosphere, particularly on a warm, summer evening or during Christmas time, is just magical. The church recently underwent a major renovation project and there is now a very nice, little cafe hidden in the depths of the crypt - a bit pricey perhaps but pop in for a bite to eat or a quick drink and you'll feel like you've stumbled across a secret hiding place away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds.

National Gallery   Worth a journey Worth a journey Worth a journey

Trafalgar Square London WC2N5DN
Museums and art

The focal point of Trafalgar Square, the perennially popular National Gallery is one of the capital's main attractions. Its collection of European painting is world class. From its portico, there is a splendid view of the square and Whitehall. With many regular visitors returning here again and again, the National Gallery is located close to the West End's cinemas, theatres and other attractions.

Entry is free, though you can make a voluntary contribution to the Gallery's coffers. An absolute must for art buffs, culture vultures, romantics or anyone looking to impress a date with some seriously inspirational art. If you're looking to splash out on a romantic lunch then head to 'Portrait', the swanky restaurant based on the upper level of the Gallery that offers one of the most majestic, sweeping views of Trafalgar Square and Westminster that you'll ever see - the only shame is that the restaurant isn't open in the evenings as the after-dark view must be incredible. Good food, a great wine list - a bit pricey but a great option for a romantic lunch.

National Portrait Gallery   Worth a detour Worth a detour

2 St Martin's Place London WC2H0HE
Museums and art

Founded in 1856, the National Portrait Gallery has since 1896 occupied a late-19C Italian Renaissance-style building neighbouring the National Gallery. Its extraordinary collection of over 5 000 portraits of famous Britons provides a unique perspective on the nation's history from the time of Henry VII to the present day. It's worth dining in its restaurant for the panoramic London view; visitors can also explore the collection online thanks to recent technological innovation.

Just around the corner and slightly sexier and a little more rock'n'roll than the National. Well worth a visit to view the often hypnotic portraits - painted and photographed - of the young, the old, the rich, the poor and the famous.

Leicester Square   Interesting

Leicester Square London WC2
Architecture, castles and historic districts

This pedestrianised square surrounded by restaurants and cinemas is incredibly vibrant. In the middle is a fountain erected in 1874 in memory of Shakespeare, opposite the statue of Charlie Chaplin by John Doubleday (1980). Leicester Square was once a garden in front of the residence of the Sydneys, Earls of Leicester, standing on the north side. In the 18C, this square became an elegant location where prosperous artists like Reynolds and Hogarth lived.

Shakespeare's fountain, Charlie Chaplin's statue, a pretty park and all the glitz and glamour of the red carpet premieres...if you can live with the crowds then Leicester Square has a cool, buzzy vibe and is the ideal choice to catch a romantic movie - who knows you may even be rubbing shoulders with Jude, Hugh or Clooney if you pick the right day!

Covent Garden   Interesting

Long Acre London WC2
Architecture, castles and historic districts

Originally a convent garden and subsequently a residential district conceived by Inigo Jones in the 17C, this is now an area of continuous hustle and bustle. It was already renowned for pleasurable pursuits by the 18C, which saw the opening of the Royal Opera House and a proliferation of coffee houses and clubs. Around its ever-busy Piazza, its cafes draw in the sightseers by day, while its restaurants feed the theatre-goers by night.

Watch the street performers, stroll around the jewellery and clothes stalls, sip a glass of cool beer or wine and watch the world go by. Some may see it as a tourist trap but if you can find the right spot in the right corner, there's nowhere cooler to do a bit of people watching.

Royal Opera House   Interesting

Floral Street London WC2
Architecture, castles and historic districts

The present theatre was built after the fire of 1856. It was designed especially for opera and ballet with a main hall of 2000 seats and is famous for the quality of its acoustics. It forms a group with the Floral Hall alongside, built by the same architect to serve as a concert hall with small rooms. Since 1946 the opera house has played host to the Sadler's Wells Ballet which, 10 years later under a Charter of the Queen, became The Royal Ballet.

One for the special occasion! Take your choice from opera, ballet or classical music but, either way, expect a thrilling experience that will stay with you forever. The building underwent a significant renovation a few years back and is just breathtaking.

Somerset House   Worth a detour Worth a detour

Strand London WC2
Architecture, castles and historic districts

Inspired by the palladianism of Inigo Jones, this 18C building presents a narrow frontage onto the Strand. Flanked by two lateral wings, the main part of the building is composed by a suite known as the Fine Rooms on account of their elegant proportions and stucco ceilings. Its Thames frontage is made up of a series of massive arches and offers fine river views. Somerset House is home to three muesums and the Courtauld Institute of Arts.

OK, this one takes you a little off-track but Somerset House is a must for any romantic day in London. The outdoor skating rink during the winter months is just magical but each summer there’s also the chance to see some of the coolest bands strutting their stuff during the venue's annual Summer Series - one of the hottest tickets in town. This year’s offerings include The Ting Tings, Bat for Lashes, Lily Allen and Super Furry Animals. There are also regular open air film screenings of classic movies - this year's schedule features offerings such as The Shawshank Redemption, Cool Hand Luke and Strangers on a Train being screened - perfect for a picnic blanket, some wine and some nibbles on a warm Summer's evening.

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