the perfect valentine’s day in mayfair

The first-ever Valentine’s card, Queen Victoria’s scandal and eternal romance in Mayfair

Valentine’s Day is on a Wednesday this year. Some people might think that means their plans have to be evening-based. Not us. Take the day off, we say. Embrace a decadent day’s adventuring with your beau… Here’s our guide to the perfect Valentine’s day in Mayfair.

A brief history of Valentine’s Day in London

Though most people think that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the martyrdom of a third-century Roman, Saint Valentine, the timing may have been a strategic choice. It’s believed that the Catholic church chose the date to topple the pagan celebration of Lupercalia from public popularity. Admittedly, Lupercalia itself was not all roses and chocolate hearts. Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. The proceedings entailed a rather vivid ritual in which the stripped hide of a sacrificial goat – dipped in blood – was gently slapped across the faces of women as well as on crops, in the belief it would promote fertility. More contemporary connotations were seeded during the Roman festival as young people drew potential sweethearts’ names out of a jar.

Lupercalia was outlawed by Pope Gelasius in the 5th century. St Valentine’s Day was officially declared on 14 February 496 AD. However, it was not until the Middle Ages that the day was explicitly associated with romance. Through misty eyes many stories are told of the oldest existing valentine poem, written in 1415 by French Duke Charles d’Orléans to his wife whilst imprisoned in the Tower of London after being captured at the Battle of Agincourt. In fact the Duke composed the poem when he was safely back in France, between 1443-60, and his words “Je suis desja d’amour tanné, Ma tres doulce Valentinée” (“I am already sick of love, my very gentle Valentine”) speak of bowing out of a courtly commitment, rather than a passionate declaration, but Charles d’Orléans did write 14 poems exploring the subject of Valentine’s Day. If you visit the manuscript collections of the British Library, you’ll find these plus the oldest surviving valentine’s letter in the English language. This dates from 1477 and was sent by one Margery Brews to her fiancé John Paston. In this letter Margery describes John as her “right well-beloved Valentine”.

The Greek god Faunus. A costume sketch of Faunus for Armida, Esterhaza, by Joseph Haydn, 1784. From The Magnificence of Eszterhaza by Matyas Horanyi, Dufour Editions, Philadelphia, 1962.
The Greek god Faunus. A costume sketch of Faunus for Armida,
Esterhaza, by Joseph Haydn, 1784. From The Magnificence of
Eszterhaza by Matyas Horanyi, Dufour Editions, Philadelphia, 1962.

The day gained such favour with the nobility that King Henry V of England even employed a writer to compose a valentine note to his future wife Catherine of Valois as part of his courtship. You would be forgiven for associating Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet with Valentine’s Day, but in fact it is Ophelia, from Hamlet, who is given the lines “To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day, All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window,

To be your Valentine.” Written for Shakespere’s Globe on London’s Southbank, the play has rarely been off stage since its first performances in the early 1600s.

As the centuries progressed, and access to education and materials like paper and ink increased, the British populace embraced Valentine’s Day wholeheartedly. The Victorian era was the heyday of the valentine card and by the mid-1820s an estimated 200,000 valentine cards circulated annually in London alone. Scandalously, Queen Victoria was rumoured to have sent a valentine addressed to her manservant John Brown. Today, Valentine’s Day is widely celebrated across London.

It was not until the Middle Ages that Valentines Day was explicitly associated with romance. 'Duke and ladies in a garden by Master of the Cité des Dames, from Collected Works of Christine de Pisan, 1410-1411. Courtesy: British Library/Flickr
It was not until the Middle Ages that Valentines Day was explicitly associated with romance.
'Duke and ladies in a garden by Master of the Cité des Dames, from Collected Works of
Christine de Pisan, 1410-1411. Courtesy: British Library/Flickr

A perfect Valentine’s Day in Mayfair

From a lovelorn Shakespeare penning some of the most celebrated romantic verse in the English language via a flirtatious Queen to the rom-com magic of Richard Curtis’s Love, Actually, London’s history is one interwoven with romance (the Grosvenor Chapel in Mayfair was actually used as a filming location for Love, Actually). With its fairytale alleyways, romantic hideaways and boutique shopping, few neighbourhoods offer such fertile grounds for amorous assignations than Mayfair.

London’s history is one interwoven with romance. Image from Richardson's New Fashionable Lady's Valentine Writer, or Cupid's Festival of Love”, by Thomas Richardson, 1830. Courtesy: British Library/Flickr
London’s history is one interwoven with romance. Image from Richardson's New Fashionable Lady's Valentine Writer, or Cupid's Festival of Love”, by Thomas Richardson, 1830. Courtesy: British Library/Flickr

1. Breakfast in bed

Begin your day with a leisurely breakfast in bed next to your valentine, setting the tone for a relaxed day together. If you want to get your day started, head over to EL&N, just around the corner from Hyde Park Residence, and indulge in their delightful Açai Smoothie Bowl. We’d normally recommend all manner of delicious pastries or even a decadent brunch, but you’re going to want to save your appetite – trust us.

2. A couple’s massage at Spa Illuminata

Keep the relaxed start to the day rolling. Voted Best Day Spa by Condé Nast Johansens, Spa Illuminata is a luxurious retreat in Mayfair’s heart, blending holistic rejuvenation with cutting-edge technology. From 3D SkinTech facials to the ancient practice of cupping, the range of treatments caters to all needs. Although we think it’s hard to beat the Skin, Body & Mind Massage – a 90 minute body and facial massage. Treatments start at £50.

3. A Hyde Park perambulate

Once you’re done being pampered and preened, float out of the spa, for the next activity: a leisurely walk around Hyde Park. As Mrs. Alec-Tweedie says in Hyde Park, Its History and Romance, it’s a park “where many a romance was unfolded under the shade of the trees.”

Soak up a little sunshine and watch the wildlife splash across the Serpentine. Though bird-watching might not be top of your list when considering romantic activities, the pastime is apt for Valentine’s Day. In the Middle Ages, it was believed that birds began mating on 14 February, a belief which inspired English poet Geoffrey Chaucer to write one of his most famous poems, the “Parlement of Foules” (“Parliament of Fowls”) in 1382. The piece is credited as the first existing literary work connecting Valentine’s Day with romantic love, and contains the line “For this was on seynt Volantynys day” (“For this was on Saint Valentine’s day”). 

If feathered friends aren’t quite your cup of tea, with 350 acres of green space to explore, Hyde Park is the perfect backdrop for a romantic stroll.

4. St Valentine’s Day Tea at the Ritz

By this point that light breakfast will be feeling very light indeed. It’s time for a quintessentially decadent English experience: St. Valentine’s Day Afternoon Tea at The Ritz. Indulge in a selection of 18 loose-leaf teas, paired with delicate finger sandwiches and freshly baked scones served warm with clotted cream and homemade strawberry preserve. If you’re so inclined, add a splash of Rosé Champagne to the experience. Priced at £110 per person, tea at the Ritz is an unforgettable part of our perfect Valentine’s Day in Mayfair.

5. A Mayfair banquet: shopping, art and cocktails

Once you’ve polished off the bubbles, let’s embark on your afternoon activity. Perhaps the greatest challenge facing a gallivanting couple in central London is decision paralysis – there’s just too much to do. This is why we’d opt for something that offers a bit of everything: a rambling walk through Mayfair’s labyrinthine streets. Discover designer shops, numerous art galleries and museums, and cosy local haunts. From South Molton Street to Mount Street Gardens, there’s no end to the enclaves, alleyways and shop-lined thoroughfares, providing the perfect backdrop for Valentine’s Day in Mayfair. And if you need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up there’s no shortage of places for a quick drink. Find your ideal spot with our guide to the best bars in Mayfair.

6. West End theatre show

After wandering Mayfair, the glamour and thrill of the West End awaits. Settle into a plush velvet seat in London’s theatreland, where Valentine’s Day shows include the musical tearjerker “The Time Traveller’s Wife”, with music by Joss Stone and Dave Stewart, and the Olivier Award-winning “Hadestown”, a lyrical tale of obsession inspired by Greek mythology. If you’re looking for dramatic passion and dazzling stagecraft then “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Moulin Rouge” have it all. Our top tip? Don’t forget to look at the ceilings, chandeliers and gilded plasterwork above you – they are worth the ticket price alone.

7. A Bacchanalian feast

Now the show’s ended, you’ll want to find somewhere to cosy up for a late dinner. Mayfair is renowned as a gastronomic hub and has an abundance of options. (You can find our complete list of recommendations for the best restaurants in Mayfair here.) But, given the occasion, we think the ideal dinner date for Valentine’s Day in Mayfair is Bacchanalia. Harking back to the day’s Greco-Roman roots, the restaurant serves an array of Mediterranean delicacies, as well as a special Valentine’s menu. Picked as one of the most beautiful restaurants in London by Condé Nast Traveller, choose from an extensive selection of over 650 wines as you take in the artworks by Damien Hirst.

8. After-dinner drink at The Luggage Room

The candles are burning low, the streets beginning to fill with merry celebrants tottering home. Surely there’s time for one last nightcap? Our ideal, intimate spot to round off the night would be The Luggage Room, an award-winning 1920s-inspired speakeasy bar. Atmospheric lighting, refined decor and a robust cocktail menu make this hidden haven the perfect spot to unwind and reflect on the day’s romantic adventures.

Atmospheric lighting, refined decor and a robust cocktail menu make The Luggage Room an ideal for Mayfair Valentines Day. Courtesy: Marriott Hotels & Resorts
A perfect Valentine’s night in Mayfair

With a head filled with marvellous memories, you’ll be ready for “the main course in life’s feast, and the most nourishing”, according to Shakespeare. Sleep. Chatting in hushed whispers about your Valentines Day spent in Mayfair, wander back through the quiet streets to your home in London. 

And who says this time of year is only for romantic couples? We like to celebrate Galentines Day and Palentines Day instead, wandering Mayfair with friends, family or on our own, taking in the sights and sounds without distractions. 

We are located on Park Lane in Mayfair, in one of London’s most discreet and charming districts. In keeping with our surroundings, we give our guests the respect and privacy they require in an environment of understated luxury. Find out more about staying with us today.

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Reserve before 1st March 2024 to keep enjoying our luxury apartments from £15,178 per month.

We’ll be raising our prices from 1st April 2024, so we can continue to provide the very best guest service.

enjoy 2023 prices in 2024

Reserve before 1st March 2024 to keep enjoying our luxury apartments from £15,178 per month.

We’ll be raising our prices from 1st April 2024, so we can continue to provide the very best guest service.