Three down, four to go. Here’s the second part of our guide to London’s most loved-up spots. See them for real with a Virgin Vacations independent travel package to the UK capital – and enjoy the best service and value from the people who know Britain best.
London has over 300 squares which, along with its big parks, give the city its green lungs. Many of them remain the focus of each neighborhood and are much loved by locals and visitors alike. The most romantic must be Berkeley Square in Mayfair, dating from the 1730s and made famous by a certain song about a nightingale (recorded by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Rod Stewart). It boasts a lovely drinking fountain, a former address of Winston Churchill, a Rolls Royce dealership, and the private members club Annabel’s.
Toughie, this one, but we’re going for Columbia Road Flower Market in gorgeously gritty East London. On Sunday the street is a riot of colour and scent, with flowers and plants as far as the eye can see, and plenty of enchanting cafes, shops and galleries. One online guide advises: ‘An early morning stroll can set up a week of warm fuzzy feelings in couples’.
It’s a four-way tie and we just can’t separate them. In no particular order: Somerset House, just off the Strand, for its heartwarming winter ice-skating rink in partnership with Fortnum & Mason; the Shard skyscraper for its marriage-proposal views from 945ft up and a resident fox nicknamed Romeo; Keats House & Garden in Camden where the tragic Romantic poet composed Ode to a Nightingale; and St Paul’s Cathedral for its acoustically amazing Whispering Gallery – perfect for practising those three little words.
The movie location
The boating lake in Regent’s Park played a pivotal role in David Lean’s classic British tearjerker Brief Encounter, while the Grosvenor Chapel in Mayfair is where a couple in Love, Actually celebrate their wedding to the Beatles tune All You Need is Love (the Chapel, incidentally, was used by GIs in the Second World War, and the current American Embassy is nearby). But getting the final nod is a good old British pub, the Blue Anchor, which appears in the Gwyneth Paltrow what-if film Sliding Doors. Take the tube west to Hammersmith station, wander down to the Thames and you’ll find this welcoming boozer right on the river. It’s described (by its own website admittedly) as ‘a pub for all seasons: in the winter, candlelight flickers from each small, round table while Van Morrison croons comfortingly from the sound system’. We’ve been and we can vouch for both the ambience and Van the Man. Not far from here is Barnes Bridge from which panoramic shots of the river appear in Shakespeare in Love.
Smitten yet? Ranging from six to eight days, our travel packages to ‘the Smoke’ include London Fling, London Theatre Experience, London Value Vacation and London with Warner Bros Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter, to name but four. All of them, we’re proud to say, are tailored to sweep you gently off your feet.