The best place to make a proposal if you want to surprise your partner by popping the question in public is a place that is meaningful and memorable to you both. As someone who is both a Londoner and a jeweller who helps people with weddings, these are my picks for the most romantic places in London. Maybe one of them is just what you’re looking for. Or perhaps they can help you brainstorm.
PARLIAMENT HILL, HAMPSTEAD HEATH
The most important spot also happens to be it’s peak, the highest point on the heath: Parliament Hill. There, surrounded by other groups of friends, families and couples, you can see over the whole of London, from North London all the way to Canary Wharf in the distance. A slow day, possibly a picnic, followed by watching the Sun go down on Parliament Hill may just prove irresistible.
Note: If you are looking to propose on a visit, check the weather. There is not much to protect you from the rain. That goes for appropriate footwear too. You’ve been warned.
RIVERSIDE WALK, RICHMOND
I would suggest crossing the bridge and following the foot path as it snakes around towards Marble Hill House. It’s a photogenic area full of charm – and, in the right company, romance – and a tiny cute ferry crossing. If you like grand old houses you can visit Ham House on the southern bank.
If you do intend to pop the question it’s worth doing a bit of reconnaissance beforehand to plan exactly how far you’re going to walk. The footpath keeps going and going and so it’s worth having getting an idea of how much stamina it would take both of you to pull this one off.
Closest station: Richmond (District Line, National Rail)
WATERLOO BRIDGE AT NIGHT
There are many places to get above the city to look down, over and across it. However one the best panoramic views in my opinion is right here on ground level. The middle of Waterloo Bridge, which sits across one of the River Thames’ many elbows, splays many of the city’s iconic riverside landmarks in front of you in a very attractive vista.
It’s beautiful by day, but at night it’s that bit more atmospheric as all the important points are lit up. Waterloo Bridge is a busy road so it’s very public if that’s what you’re looking for.
Closest stations: Embankment (District Line, Circle Line, Northern Line, Bakerloo Line)
London, like many cities, has beautiful canals. Little Venice is the name of a junction of canals near Paddington. Spoiler: it looks nothing like Venice. But the canal as a whole is a beautiful walk lined with Regency buildings built in a classical style. It provides a really lovely beautiful mix of nature, bridges and calm.
An idea would be to walk from Little Venice to Camden Lock, which at 5km would take an average person 45 – 60 mins without stopping or slowing down. Or you could hire a boat at Camden Lock and travel up the canal and propose on the water. Whatever you decide, I think you’ll be pleased with the mood the canal provides. There are also a number of notable places you can escape to along the way, including Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill.
Pro-tip there are a number of famous people connected to the area from Camden to Little Venice so if your significant other has any interest in the poet W.B. Yeats or the code breaker and computing pioneer Alan Turing (born at what is now the Colonnade Hotel, just off Little Venice) do a little research to make the trip extra special.
Closest station: Warwick Avenue (Bakerloo Line)
Photo by M.chohan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
It’s hard to believe that the items in the Wallace Collection actually belonged to one man. In actual fact the collection was accumulated by the first four Marquesses of Hertford. The last of these left the collection to his illegitimate son Sir Richard Wallace, whose widow gave the whole lot to the nation, on the condition that not a single piece is ever taken out of the exhibition. Not even on loan.
The gallery is far more homely than any other major London gallery. It is, after all, in a big (very big) house. This to me is what gives it its romantic feel. You can feel the passion of the collectors as well as soaking in where Wallace lived. It’s far more intimate than any of the larger, major offerings. And you can even book afternoon tea.
The collection houses a wide range of items, from paintings, to Marie-Antoinette’s furniture, to porcelain, to military artefacts. The range is quite surprising really. Apparently the UK, thanks in part to the Wallace Collection, has perhaps the largest number of pieces from before the French Revolution, bought up by rich collectors around that time and after.
If your significant other has a taste for history and luxury this could be a very engaging location. It’s also totally free to get in.
Closest stations: Bond Street (Central Line, Jubilee Line), Baker Street ( Bakerloo Line, Circle Line, Hammersmith and City Line, Jubilee Line, Metropolitan Line)
KYOTO GARDEN, HOLLAND PARK
Photo by I, Aziz1005, CC BY-SA 2.5
Not only is the Kyoto garden beautiful. It’s also authentic. It was a gift to the UK from Japan in 1991 to celebrate our long friendship. The waterfall (it has a waterfall!) quietly shushes your mind into an almost meditative state. You will be impressed by the beautifully coloured and huge koi (colourful carp) in the pond.
It is situated inside Holland Park, another favourite of mine. There are animals, a beautifully arranged garden with one or two foot chess set that makes you think of Alice in Wonderland, a cafe, and (if you’re lucky) you’ll see the peacock. The peacock clearly owns the park, really, and just lets us in to admire him.
Holland Park and Kyoto Garden in particular make for a romantic setting. Sandwiched between Holland Park and Notting Hill on one side and High Street Kensington on the other you’ll be in striking distance from places to eat and go shopping for a fully featured day out.
Closest station: Holland Park (Central Line)
Photo by Prl42 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Are you and/or your partner nature lovers? Kew Garden may be the romantic place you’re looking for. Any Attenborough fans can find a lot of interest here. Attenborough’s three episode series Kingdom of Plants was entirely filmed at Kew Garden. A short three episode binge would make a good prelude to your trip.
Kew offers you long walks and promises to surround you in the natural beauty of whichever your favourite season is so timing can really pay off here.
In total you’re looking at 300 acres. Try an expert-guided tour included for free with the price of your ticket or a short course if you’re really keen. And make sure to cross The Sackler Crossing. It bridges a lake with four islands in it with trees that really show off their reds, oranges and yellows in the autumn.
If you’re looking at winter, rest assured. Kew knows how to do Christmas properly.
Closest stations: depends on the gate you enter, but Kew Bridge station (National Rail), Kew Gardens station (National Rail), Richmond station (District Line, National Rail)
Hyde Park is easy to overlook and I’ve been guilty of it for a long time. For a long time I just saw it as London’s baseline big park but it has a lot more to offer than that.
There is of course The Serpentine and The Albert Memorial in front of the Royal Albert Hall. You have Marble Arch next to the huge magnificent statue of a horse drinking, Still Water. You can follow in the footsteps of notable people of such varied paths as George Orwell, William Morris, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah, George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill by visiting Speakers’ Corner on a Sunday morning. But what I find it romantic for is the park itself.
At some points you realise the beautiful arrangement of the trees or how the park is allowed to grow a bit wild and naturally in a way you wouldn’t find in many other cities where parks can feel over manicured.
Bring some nuts to feed to the squirrels and you’re in for a memorable and romantic time.
Closest stations: High Street Kensington station (District Line), Hyde Park Corner station (Piccadilly Line), Lancaster Gate station (Central Line), Marble Arch station (Central Line), Queensway station (Central Line), South Kensington station (District Line, Piccadilly Line)