For a long time Valentine’s Day didn’t mean anything to me. Once when I was a teenager I entirely forgot it was Valentine’s Day at all and went to see Hot Fuzz at the local cinema with my brother, which was a tad awkward when every girl from school arrived with their boyfriends…

Then when Marc and I had our first Valentine’s Day together as teenagers, it all changed. We cooked a meal at home (the 3-minute pasta with tomato sauce, classy), decorated the house with chocolates, flowers and hearts, popped champagne, gorged on Thorntons and I even made coupons. (Furreal).

These days I would say that we are somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. We no longer make coupons or spend money on red heart paraphernalia but neither do we let it pass us by without some sort of celebration. (I think this year will be dinner and the cinema!) So if you are like us and fancy doing something for Valentine’s Day but want to keep it relaxed, then here are some affordable London Valentine’s Day date suggestions for you:

Links to London Valentine’s Day Date Ideas:

London Autumn Date Ideas (that aren’t drinks) – including cinema experiences with a twist, free views over the city, live music, activity bars, Boris biking and climbing the 02!

Relaxed and Cosy Central London Bars for Autumn/Winter – cosy bar recommendations for tipsy snuggles

10 Good Affordable Restaurants in Central London – perfect for relaxed-yet-trendy date nights

Mother’s Day Experience Gift Ideas – from cooking lessons to high tea, some would be perfect for couples too!

London Afternoon Tea Recommendations for All Budgets – ideal if you both have a sweet tooth.

Or if you are having a Galentines day, you could check out my What to Do For a Girl’s Day Out in London post!

And if you want to hear more about mine and Marc’s story, you can check out Being Young in a Long Distance Relationship

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody!

Afternoon Tea is a fabulous British tradition but with so many restaurants, cafes and hotels offering it, sometimes at extortionate prices, it can be hard deciding which one to choose.

My mum and I love a cheeky afternoon tea and have tried a lot in the capital, some great and some mediocre, so to help others decide which one to choose I thought I would do a roundup of some of my favourite afternoon tea recommendations in London:

The Sanderson Hotel Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea

Best for: unique, pretty and tasty

The Alice in Wonderland themed Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel in central London was one of my all time favourite afternoon teas in the city. It was so creative, fun, different to most others on the market and most of all, tasted delicious!

I went a few years ago now (you can read my original review of The Sanderson Afternoon Tea here) so since then it has gone up in price to around £58 per person, however the staff were so wonderful and the hotel so great that I would still recommend this if you could only do one afternoon tea in London.

 

Muriel’s Kitchen Afternoon Tea

Best for: value and relaxation 

There are a few Muriel’s Kitchen restaurants dotted around London now and they offer a good range of affordable, mostly British, cuisine in pretty, modern-country surroundings. There are always seasonal salads and grilled meats for the health conscious as well as burgers, fish and chips and other classics for heartier meals. What they also do now is the Muriel’s Kitchen afternoon tea at just £15.75, one of the cheapest I have ever seen in London!

The great thing though is that it is not just affordable but also tasty and very well presented too – the teas are served on little picnic benches which are very cute. I would recommend booking at the Soho branch as I believe this one is the biggest – they have a few swinging chairs for smaller groups and plenty of space at the book for bigger group bookings. There is never usually a rush to leave either so great for a group gathering.

The Ritz

Best for: traditional, grandeur

Afternoon tea at The Ritz is somewhat of an institution which means that yes, it is always packed with tourists but that standards are still kept high. I chose it over the luxury Claridge’s hotel as it is a very similar experience but slightly cheaper, at £54pp as opposed to £60pp.

The Ritz operates differently to the other afternoon teas mentioned here as it has timed slots that you have to book into, so once the slot has ended you have to vacate with everyone else in that group. If you don’t mind this system then it is a beautiful place to take a completely traditional afternoon tea, surrounded by plenty of authentic crockery and usually a playing pianist. Plus when I went, the food was refillable at no extra cost, meaning you can try and make some of your money back!

You can read my original review of Afternoon Tea at the Ritz here.

Disappointing afternoon tea: Sketch

I never normally like to share negative things on the blog, preferring to focus on what I like and would recommend, but I just had to share my disappointment with the Sketch afternoon tea.

Sketch is an Instagram-lovers dream as the settings, crockery and food all scream to be photographed. However, I felt that the food let it down, especially the sandwiches which weren’t actually that nice at all. Although I do know other people that have really enjoyed it, so like all things, it is personal preference!

Are there any other amazing places in London that you have been for afternoon tea? Anywhere else you would recommend? Please let me know in the comments!

If you liked this, you might also like:

What to do for a Girl’s Day in London

London Manicure and Pedicure Recommendations

Going for a mani or pedi is one of my favourite treats to myself as (along with my boxing exercise classes!) a little pamper is guaranteed to put me in a good mood.

London has plenty of nail bars and salons but so much choice can make it hard to decide where to visit, so to make it a little easier, I have popped my favourite London manicure and pedicure recommendations down below. People of London, go forth and pamper!

Best for Pedicures : Cheeky Parlour

Hands down, Cheeky is my favourite place for pedicures. I find the price is affordable for London (£28), the colours last a long time even without being shellac/gel, the decor is modern, the atmosphere relaxed and the chairs are stationed in a way that makes it really easy to talk to any friends you might have with you.There are two Cheeky branches, the larger one in Shoreditch and the smaller one in Holborn (which I tend to go to) and at both you can order a soft or alcoholic drink whilst your feet are dunked in a warm box of water, scrubbed, buffed, clipped and painted to perfection.

FYI: Cheeky is the sister brand to the more expensive Cowshed and whilst the Cowshed parlours are also pretty, I disappointingly found the service to be quite brisk and rude when I booked myself in at the Carnaby St store last summer.

FYI: You can read about my manicure experience at Cheeky here.

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Best for Manicures: London Grace

London Grace nail salons are not just openly Instagrammable but very good too. I believe the first London Grace nail bar was in Putney in west London and they have very recently opened one in the Covent Garden/Leicester Square area too, which is the one I visited before Christmas for a gel mani. As this particular branch is the newest it is a great little secret gem, usually quiet and easy to book into!

I love London Grace as the salons are modern-yet-friendly, they have a coffee/fizz bar, private rooms you can hire out for pampering parties and most of all, the benches mean you can sit next to friends and all get your nails done together at the same time. Oh and the prices here are great for central too, with a gel mani costing between £28-£35 depending on what you have done. (My favourite colour there is Cake Pop, a subtle light lavender colour).

FYI: Another trendy central London nail salon is DryBy by Oxford Circus and whilst it is very cool and the service is good, I find London Grace just has better value for money.

London Grace pedicureLondon Grace nail coloursLondon Grace reviewLondon Grace Nails Clapham-6

Do you have any other London nail recommendations for me?

If you liked this, you might also like the below posts!

What to do for a Girl’s Day in London

Blow Dry with Bardour Hair, Covent Garden

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Just because the weather is colder doesn’t mean all autumn dates have to be spent in the pub, so for some London autumn date ideas that aren’t just drinks, read on…

Cinema – with a twist

The cinema might not sound like the best place to get to know someone but London cinemas don’t just mean your average Cineworld. You can get close to someone at Electric Cinema (Notting Hill and Shoreditch) and Everyman Cinema thanks to their cosy sofas to snuggle together on and they also let you take drinks in from their bars. Plus if you go on a Monday, Electric Cinema offer 50% off at Electric Diner with a valid ticket, meaning you can discuss the film – and more – after the show.

Or if singing is your thing, the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square hosts regular sing-a-longs!

You can read my review of Everyman Cinema Canary Wharf here and my roundup of London cinema experiences here.

Electric Cinema

Sky Garden

Who said good London views have to cost a lot? 155 metres up, the Sky Garden in the City offers 360 degree views over London and is completely free to visit, as long as you sign up in advance on the website. There are a couple of restaurants in there too if you fancied going for food, although I wasn’t over wowed by my brunch experience at Darwin’s Brasserie there (you can read the full review here).

The Sky Garden

Bowling, Darts and Ping Pong – But Better

Not the kind that you get in old pubs or run-down youth centres, London has given these activities a makeover. For retro bowling, food and games, All Star Lanes is a popular alley and can be found in both London and Manchester. Flight Club is a newish ‘social darts’ alley that has real-time scoring, games, animation and food & drink on offer, whilst Bounce (Old Street and Farringdon/Holborn) is a club-style bar/restaurant complete with ping pong tables. Just don’t go with anyone too competitive!

Bounce

Climb the 02

Climbing the 02 is something that I have been wanting to do for ages! There are three climbs to choose from, one daytime, one as the sun goes down and one in the dark where you can look at London twinkle.

Climb the 02

A Gig – but not as you know it

There are always cool gigs happening around London, from folk nights around a campfire to live music in restored Victorian halls. One night that I have been wanting to go to is Sofar Sounds, which hold intimate gigs in ‘secret’ locations that often include people’s living rooms! They cherry pick their talent so you can be assured that you will be greeted with good music and not knowing who will be popping up throughout the night is all part of the fun.

Sofar sounds

Bike Ride

‘Boris Bikes’ may sound confusing on the instructions panel but essentially they cost £2 each for half an hour,enough time to have a cycle around somewhere cute. Hyde Park and Victoria Park are my favourite spots (and mean no cycling on a main road either).

Victoria Park

Or if drinks ARE more your thing, you can check out my post on the best relaxed and cosy central London bars for autumn/Winter!

Any other activities you can recommend? Let me know!

Didn’t it feel like autumn jumped out at us overnight? One morning I was walking to work in sandals, the next I was hunting down the socks and boots…

As much as I am sad to see summer go, autumn means snuggly evenings spent in front of good films, crisp walks, warming meals and the chance to catch up with friends in a cosy bar. Speaking of which, there are some fab relaxed and cosy London bars for autumn winter, including:

Gordon’s Wine Bar

Gordon’s is thought to be London’s oldest wine bar, established in 1890. I love it for its candlelit, vaulted cellars and Dickensian-style décor and the fact that it is super close to Charing Cross train station, making getting home a doddle!

Gordons Wine Bar

Mr Foggs

Mr Foggs is a themed bar based on the adventurer Phileas J. Fogg from the novel Around the World in 80 Days. Filled with trinkets from all over the globe, the bar is hidden down a quiet street near Green Park (the only entrance is through an indiscreet brown door) and serves delicious, albeit expensive, cocktails. Full review of Mr Foggs here!

Mr Foggs

Evans & Peel Detective Agency

This is a ‘secret’ bar tucked away near Earl’s Court (technically West London but I’m counting it!) where to enter the moody, speakeasy parlour you have to present your ‘case’ to the host acting as the private detective. Personally I found the interaction with the PI a little awkward (you can read more about my night there here) but nonetheless, this is another fab themed bar with great drinks and a buzzing atmosphere.

Evans and Peel Detective

 

Waxy O’Connors

If you like an Irish bar then I recommend visiting Waxy O’Connors in the West End. This bar is like a huge cavern with lots of hidden nooks and crannies, making it ideal for a private drink or for bigger groups when the live music and rugby is playing.

Waxy OConnors

Milroys of Soho:

Whiskey fans will love Milroy’s, ‘London’s Oldest Whisky Shop’ that includes a cosy cellar bar offering a variety of whiskeys, cocktails and more, hidden behind an old bookcase. Where better to have an Old Fashioned?

The Vault Milroy's of Soho

Cahoots

If you like your drinks with a side of 1940s nostalgia then Cahoots is a fab bar to visit, a ‘secret’ tube carriage bar nestled underneath Carnaby Street in an old abandoned air raid shelter from World War 2. Cocktails aren’t the cheapest but the atmosphere is fun, cosy and the bar staff play along in character. Full review of Cahoots here!

CahootsCocktails at Cahoots

Any other bars you can recommend?

For more central London recommendations, you can check out the below:

10 Good, Affordable Restaurants for Dinner in Central London

Best Places for Lunch in Central London

6 Healthy Lunch Places in Central London

Peckham Salvage Yard is a South London vintage market offering everything from retro homeware and clothing to posters, prints and vintage oddities.

As you know, I love a good London market and as I was yet to visit Peckham, Rosie and I decided to pay a visit on Sunday.

The market was held in Copeland Gallery with some stalls spilling out onto the square, where a small crowd hung out drinking and listening to vinyls being played in the sun. Though Peckham is a bit rough around the edges, I loved the mix of buildings and history here – with brick warehouses and 60s towerblocks looking over to The Shard. It reminded me a little bit of a less cute Columbia Road.

 

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After having a look around at the stalls, we decided it was time for a drink. Because nothing beats the Sunday blues like a tall Mojito.

We headed up to nearby Bussey Building which had a cute rooftop overlooking Peckham, Canary Wharf and other popular Peckham rooftop bar, Franks.

Cocktails here were £8 each which certainly isn’t the cheapest (especially for South London) but the rum measurements were very generous, so generous in fact that my bus ride home felt a little hairy at times.

Bussey BuildingRooftop drinks PeckhamPeckham Salvage YardRooftop drinks Peckham

And that was it for my first time in Peckham!

If you are looking for other good London markets to visit, I would definitely recommend foodie Borough Market, Columbia Road Flower Market and vintage haven Portabello Market.

And if you are looking for other urban summer activities in London then the street feasts are always good (my local is the fab Lewisham Model Market Street Feast) as well as new summer rooftop pop up Pergola on the Roof near Shepherds Bush. And for more ideas, you can check out my 6 things to do in London Spring 2016 post!

Any other markets or areas of London that are worth checking out? Holla me in the comments below!