Where to actually go on a first date in London, because the choice is a bit overwhelming
Chat over a world-class coffee
If there’s one thing London knows how to do, it’s a bloody good cup of coffee, and having a chilled chat over a cup of Joe is a great relaxed option for a first date. Some of our favourites include Monmouth Coffee Company, The Gentlemen Baristas, Luminary Bakery, Algerian Coffee Stores and Ozone Coffee.
Try your hands at a pottery class
Now for something completely different. There’s something of a pottery craze sweeping the capital this year – perhaps as a push to be more sustainable means we want more handmade, unique, less mass-produced items in our homes. As a result, tons of pottery classes for beginners have popped up everywhere from Peckham to Pinner, but we think the taster sessions at Skandihus would make an extra-special first date.
Snuggle in this cosy historic pub
Go for a walk on Hampstead Heath, take in the magnificent view across London at Parliament Hill, then stroll down to gem that is The Holly Bush pub. This centuries-old, grade II listed building is full of wood-lined nooks and corners to cosy up in and get to know each other over a glass (bottle) of wine.
Hit up a secret art gallery
Sure, you could visit one of the capital’s cultural institutions like The Tate Britain or The National Gallery. But you could also impress your date by introducing them to some of London’s lesser-known, unique, beautifully curated galleries – the ideal way to spend a crowd-free day of art-viewing. We love Banner Repeater on platform 1 of Hackney Downs train station with exhibitions on prints and text; Camden Arts Centre housed in a former public library and exhibiting international contemporary art; Lisson Gallery nestled between the high-end shops of Marylebone; and The Estorick Collection, the only gallery in Britain dedicated to modern Italian art.
Do a civilised afternoon tea at a fancy hotel
Looking to impress with a lavish afternoon tea? You’ve come to the right city. London is famed for its afternoon teas and while there’s plenty of weird and wonderful themed options, we say no one does it quite like the capital’s traditional hotels. Stand-out options include Jean-Georges at The Connaught, where finger sandwiches are flecked with South Asian flavours and the cake stand is bursting with bright and beautifully decorated pâtisseries, and Claridge’s, where their distinctive mint green and white china is full of the finest teas, and seasonal ingredients fill the pretty scones, sweet treats and sandwiches. Virgin Experiences also offer lots of afternoon tea deals in London.
Head to a rooftop venue for all of the views
Nothing says ‘romantic date’ like a rooftop bar or restaurant with sprawling views over the city. Luckily for you, we’ve rounded up London’s best rooftop bars, beer gardens and terraces, so all you have to do is take your pick.
Have some LOLs at a comedy night
Laughter is key for a good first date, so why not book in to one of the capital’s excellent comedy nights? For example, Comedy Fridays at Boulevard Theatre alternate between female-led improv ‘The Yes Queens’ and ‘unruly mixed bill comedy’ in the Late Night Scene. The Comedy Store in central often has some big names, too. If you want to save some money, Virgin Experience Days are offering a comedy night for two for just £25!
Take a picnic boat ride along the Thames
A short trip along the Thames can serve all the romantic Venice-style feels for a fun first date. Try Go Boat, who offer either a Paddington route (via Little Venice, London Zoo and Camden Lock, or west via Ladbroke Grove), or Kingston (past Hampton Court Palace).
Sip cocktails in this secret basement bar
According to a survey conducted by FurnitureChoice.co.uk, going for a drink is the nation’s top first date activity (37% said so). But in London, you need to know exactly which pub or bar you’re heading to. And we think Discount Suit Company is one of the city’s best kept secrets. Housed in an old tailors’ stock room off Brick Lane, you’ll have to spot the old sign hanging off the outside wall, head down the stairs, draw back a heavy curtain, and be greeted by this secret speakeasy’s buzzing atmosphere and top-notch cocktail menu.
Challenge each other to a game of ping-pong
Head to Bounce in Old Street or Farringdon for a few rounds of bat and ball. If things get too competitive, there’s a bar with booze, burgers, pizzas, tacos and more.
Go bowling (no, seriously)
This may divide opinion, but we say bowling is guaranteed first date fun, and thanks to their popularity in London, you don’t have to worry about the sticky-floored, slightly grim bowling alleys reminiscent of childhood. Try All Star Lanes, Rowan’s or Hollywood Bowl for retro vibes, good grub and a right laugh.
Munch your way around Borough Market
Londoners swear by Borough Market as a top first date spot, and we can see why. If you both love good food, have a mosey around this Southwark staple and unanimously drool over buttery pastries, street food from all corners of the world, fine chocolates and huge wheels of cheese. You can even grab a bite to eat after hours, as Borough Market institution Roast will soon be serving top-quality burgers (with vegan options) from 8.30pm – late.
If you and your date have a sweet tooth, get yourselves to Camden Market’s North Yard because Hans and Gretel has just answered all your sugary first-date dreams. It’s a magical fairytale dessert parlour serving serious childhood nostalgia, as well candy floss-topped ice cream, chimney cakes, bubble waffles, pick n’ mix and endless gelato flavours. Take a pew at one of the fairytale-style tree trunks, snap a pic of the lollipop-lined decor, and enjoy a sugar rush while getting to know bae-to-be.
Have dinner deep in the jungle
Okay, only figuratively, but we’ve been seeing this restaurant all over our social media feeds lately and would be very impressed if our first date took us here. Amazónico in Mayfair is decked out like a lush indoor jungle, with model peacocks, an aquarium-style sushi counter, a huge fire and much more. You may think it sounds gimmicky (and really, what’s a first date without a few gimmicks?), but there’s nothing ridiculous about the food, except how good it is. The Latin-themed menu features skewers of charred rump steak, plenty of zesty ceviche and sushi, and sticky rotisserie pineapple for dessert.
Hunker down in this flower-covered pub
London is home to some wonderful, characterful, truly British pubs, so choosing which one for your first date can seem like a minefield. So, here’s one of our all-time favourites. Located a short walk from Notting Hill tube, The Churchill Arms is decked out with Churchill memorabilia (his grandparents used to drink there) and the outside is completely covered in flowers, making it one of the city’s most recognisable and memorable watering holes.
Go for a stroll in one of the capital’s parks
London isn’t just a concrete jungle. As well as Hampstead Heath, head to Primrose Hill for viewpoints, neighbouring Regent’s Park for pretty gardens and the London Zoo, tourist-filled but still beautiful St. James’s Park for a picnic and views of Buckingham Palace, Greenwich Park for blossom-lined lanes in the spring, and London Fields for a proper fun east End atmosphere. Read more at royalparks.org.
Soak up some jazzy vibes with a three course dinner
Quaglino’s is the perfect mixture of sexiness and distraction, so no matter how the date goes, you’re onto a winner either way. The food is exquisite and on Mondays they have fantastic live music. Over the years Quaglino’s (Quags for short) has hosted Prince Harry, Angelina Jolie, Elton John and Judy Garland – that’s a great talking point.