Sure, there are plenty of restaurants that have strung heart garlands from their ceilings, put on some lovey-dovey music and plopped a red candle in the middle of their tables, but if you want to truly impress there’s no greater inspiration found than on the silver screen. Luckily, there are a variety of rom-coms filmed in London, serving as cinematic love letters to areas around the city. We’ve rounded up a few of our favourites so you can follow in the lovestruck footsteps of on-screen couples this Valentine’s Day…
1. Notting Hill
This Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts flick will probably be the first film that springs to mind when you think of the words London and rom-com. It is literally named after a London neighbourhood after all. The West End area is no stranger to the camera; with its pastel houses, bustling markets and iconic Notting Hill carnival, the local streets are often filled with curious couples looking for a picturesque place to explore.
While you can’t pop into his travel bookshop and scour the shelves for Winnie Pooh, you can walk through the same Portobello Markets a lovelorn William Thacker strolled through on his seasonal montage and visit the bold blue door of his flat on Westbourne Park Road to share an equally awkward hands-on-hips kiss.
If it’s a particularly rainy Valentine’s you could always duck into The Coronet, the same theatre where Thacker saw a blunt-bobbed Anna in her sci-fi film ‘Helix’, except you’ll be cosying up together to watch a romantic film or arts performance. Of course, they do venture further than Notting Hill and whether it’s clumsily climbing the fence (whoops-a-daisy) of the still-private Rosmead Gardens or taking a leisurely stroll through Hampstead Heath where Anna was filming the Henry James period drama, you’ll find ‘Notting Hill’ reveals a treasure trove of London locations where you can fall in love.
2. Man Up
This witty Brit rom-com always gets me in the mood to go out for an evening in London. It’s practically a guide to first dates at the South Bank, with Simon Pegg’s Jack and Lake Bell’s Nancy gallivanting around on half-drunk adventures. From meeting under the clock at Waterloo Station, to raising their bottles of Red Stripe to the D-word (dead sister, duh) at a riverside pop-up to Jack learning about the trendy band Black Pant Wash at Rosita’s (actually Love & Liquor in Maida Vale) the film flaunts London’s endless array of watering holes and serves up some fun date ideas on a platter.
One of which is unleashing their competitive (and extremely tipsy) sides with some chaotic bowling at Bloomsbury Lanes. Located in Bedford Way, you can follow in their stumbling footsteps and slip on some immensely flattering bowling shoes to bond over your own game. Saving the pennies? Just keep things simple with a stroll over Hungerford Bridge to take in views across the Thames and plot your next pit stop.
3. Rye Lane
If you’re after some South London inspo then look no further than Rye Lane. Released in 2023, the vibrant flick proved a hit with critics and is widely regarded as a new jewel in the classic rom-com crown. The film shines a colourful spotlight on areas such as Brixton, Peckham and wildlife-rich Brockwell Park as the two prospective lovebirds, both fresh from bad breakups, get to know each other over the course of an eventful day in South London.
Follow Yas (Vivian Oparah) and Dom (David Jonsson) on their journey from sobbing in the loos of Coal Rooms, to escaping reality at the Brixton Ritzy, strolling through Rye Lane Market and thumbing through vinyls at Peckham Soul Records. Then, wrap up the day with a drool-worthy Sicilian dish in the cosy setting of Il Giardino before dancing the night away to pulsing house music under the disco ball of stylish bar Tola. This is the perfect recipe for an unforgettable Valentine’s date.
4. Bridget Jones
Ah Bridget, our London rom-com heroine. Throughout her three films, the ponderous writer is no stranger to the city’s many faces, whether it’s fancy law council events with Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth) in the regal setting of One Great George Street, boozy nights with friends at buzzy restaurants, contemplative windswept walks over Tower Bridge or a heated first kiss with Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) in the cobblestone street of Shad Thames.
While a lot of scenes are set at the private homes of our titular character and her love interests (and you can’t peek inside those without freaking out the current residents), you can always swing by Bedale Street and reenact one of the sweet moments she had with Darcy outside her front door. Her flat sits above The Globe pub so a tipple isn’t far away either. For a true fairytale scene, you can even prance through the buttercups of Primrose Hill like Bridget’s opening dream in Edge of Reason. Or, if you love those awkward flappy fights between Mark and Daniel, why not see where their second one unfolded in the Italian Gardens of Hyde Park – just try not to tumble into the fountain.
5. About Time
The dreamy crescent-shaped beach and the Lake family’s idyllic home might be one of the first locations people hunt for after watching About Time, but Tim (Domnhall Gleeson) and Mary’s (Rachel McAdams) love story plays out primarily in London. While time travel isn’t an option for us ordinary folk, you can still make the most of a day out in the city with a little help from this endearing classic.
If you’re looking to enjoy a dash of culture you can catch a show at The Old Vic – the centuries-old theatre knows how to draw a crowd with musicals, true crime adaptations and Greek tragedies – and was where Tim’s grumpy flatmate Harry’s new play was performed.
Next, you can hop on a tube and head over to Newburgh Street in Soho, the cobbled road is essentially the spot where Tim falls in love at first light after emerging from the darkness of Dans Le Noir? – a real restaurant that is found in Clerkenwell. So, you might want to toss a coin between the cocktail bars of Soho or the intriguing eatery if you don’t want to be toing and froing on the tube. What can I say, films often put aesthetics before geography.
Later, there is time spent in the same neighbourhoods as some aforementioned films (crossover is inevitable, just imagine an Avengers-style rom-com mashup…) but we’ve already explored the South Bank and Portobello Road through romance-tinted glasses. Save yourself for a trip to the Royal Courts Of Justice instead, it’s in these striking interiors that we see Tim’s law career blossom.
6. Red, White And Royal Blue
Want to treat your date like royalty? Red, White and Royal Blue can help you out there. The book adaptation hit the screens in the summer of 2023 and showcased some pretty regal spots around the city – and you don’t need a kingly fortune to visit them yourself. One romantic moment unfolded among the milky-white statues and stately busts of the Victoria & Albert Museum.
There, we see Prince Henry and Alex Claremont-Diaz dance among the illuminated sculptures and confess their love for one another – it’s a fitting location as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were one of the rare royals who married for love instead of political reasons. History, huh?
Earlier – when the pair weren’t as loved up – we see some chaos with a cake. This was filmed the centuries-old Goldsmiths’ Hall, a storied building decked out with ruby-red walls, golden detailing and glittering chandeliers. On this occasion, it serves as a striking stand-in for Buckingham Palace and is the place where Henry and Alex’s love story begins – somewhat messily. Unfortunately, the hall is only open to the public on the day of their annual Goldsmiths’ Fair and occasional open days, so if you want to see the decadent interiors for yourself you’ll have to call and book a tour.
7. Four Weddings And A Funeral
Four Weddings And A Funeral is all over the place. One minute there’s a wedding in Surrey, then there’s a reception in the Hertfordshire countryside, then we’re off to a Tudor-era pub in Buckinghamshire – and that’s all for one wedding (though we’re led to believe they’re all in the same area of course). But, in true Richard Curtis style, it never strays too far from dear old London.
One popular location that has popped up in films such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Cruella and Les Misérables is the Old Royal Naval College. Home to the spellbinding 17th-century Painted Hall with its ornate gilded detailing and arcadian frescoes, the riverside estate is where the second wedding where Bernard marries his (as Rowan Atkinson’s bumbling priest calls it) ‘awful wedded wife’ Lydia. Filmed in the chapel, you can visit the historic site for yourself – film buffs will especially enjoy the guided film tour.
Another place that film fans will enjoy is the BFI in South Bank, where Charles meets up with his brother after helping Carrie choose a wedding dress. It’ll come as no surprise the cinema shows a diverse range of films and regularly hosts Q&As, previews, talks and special screenings. If luck is on your side you can cosy up in front of something romantic.
8. Love Actually
Love Actually is a rom-com with jingle bells on. Of course, it’s set in London, where the festive season means twinkling lights swooping above streets and bustling shoppers spilling from department stores. It provides a magical backdrop for falling in love. There are almost too many locations to list here, but if we’re specifically looking at ones to up the romance factor – that isn’t the terminal of Heathrow Airport – the Grosvenor Chapel in Mayfair is a good place to start. This is where a young Keira Knightley and Chiwetel Ejiofor get hitched and a surprise rendition of ‘All You Need Is Love’ bursts into life. It is often used as a concert venue so you might even get to experience your own live musical performance if you time it right.
Looking to lavish your partner with gifts? Why not take them to the Selfridges on Oxford Street, where Alan Rickman’s grumpy bugger Harry infuriatingly buys his flirty receptionist Mia a necklace from Rowan Atkinson’s elaborately thorough shop assistant – you can go four steps better than him and even let your loved one choose their gift right there on the spot.
If you’re more of a wander-and-chat kinda couple, you can swing by St. Luke’s Mews, the cobbled street (these rom-coms love a good cobblestone) where Andrew Lincoln’s Mark problematically professes his love with cue cards. The scene may not have stood the test of time but the street is still a popular spot for photos; with floral vines spilling from the colourful facades of houses and blooming flower pots flanking inviting front doors. While the thought of living there is a laughable dream considering they cost a fortune, it’s a cinematic spot to capture some romantic photos.