If there is anything that the cheesy (but addictive) Hallmark films have taught us, it’s that Christmas is ripe with romance. While the likelihood of bumping into a plaid-wearing reindeer wrangler with a heart of gold, a sweet curly-haired baker with big dreams or the chiselled-jaw prince of some obscure snowy place called Liedovia is slim, there’s always a way to spin your own fairytale with a festive date right here in the city. We’ve rounded up some ideas for a festive first date where you can soak up the magic of the season and maybe even fall in love while you’re at it.
Pull on your woolly hat, slip into your favourite puffer coat (trust me, you might need the extra padding if you have the balance of Bambi) and prepare for a 45-minute whizz around Europe’s first rooftop ice skating rink: Skylight Tobacco Dock. You’ll not only be in a Christmas-drenched setting but the buzz of fellow skaters, views of glittering London and the prime opportunity to grab your date’s hand for balance are sure to get the sparks flying in no time.
2. Tuck into toasted s’mores on a cosy winter terrace
It doesn’t get much cosier than curling up under blankets, basking in the warm glow of heaters and toasting s’mores over a dancing flame. If you’re a couple of sweet tooths looking for somewhere special to escape the winter chill and get to know each other in an elegant setting, The Beaumont Hotel‘s winter terrace is the place to go. You can sink into a 1920s-style rattan armchair and sip classic cocktails before toasting your own s’mores under the stars. The luxurious Mayfair hotel also gets decked out with all the shiny bells and whistles for Christmas, so you’ll no doubt be feeling the festive spirit from the moment you step through the doors.
3. Explore the many delights of the Christmas Markets
A staple on any fan of the holiday season’s list, exploring the Christmas markets is a buzzing setting to soak up the festive spirit together. You’ll have a great excuse to stick close for warmth while mulled wine and cider stalls are at hand to keep your hands toasty. This is also an opportunity to get to know each other as you peruse the different gifts on offer; are they a chutney-lover? Maybe they can’t resist a grapefruit-infused craft beer or melt over a cute animal coaster…
🍷 If it’s the aromas and flavours of tempting tipples that you like to bond over, you can get a taste of sophistication at Hackney Central‘s Christmas Wineyard. An independent market where you can clink your glasses in festive cheer, Wineyard specialises in quality wine, delicious dining, enlightening talks and much more. It’s the perfect place for two wine lovers to show off their sommelier skills and – if all goes well – even bring home a bottle or two for future dates.
After a long week of work, wrapping presents with papercut-ravaged fingers and coordinating your Christmas plans with the family, sometimes all you want is to sit back and forget the world for a while. A Christmas Candlelight Concert is your answer. You and your date can relax amid the soft glow of candlelight and listen to enchanting Christmas music played by talented musicians. Enjoy the twinkling melodies of classics such as Deck The Halls and Away In A Manger among the striking architecture of Southwark Cathedral on December 22, or bob your head to catchy riffs from Christmas Movie Soundtracks on December 15.
5. Charm their festive socks off with your bowling skills
Who knew rolling a ball at some pins could be such a great icebreaker? Anyone who’s dipped their toe in the turbulent waters of the dating world probably. Now, it might not be your first thought when you think festive, but All Star Lanes in Stratford are treating us to bowling with (jingle) bells on this Christmas. Not only can you enjoy a seasonal menu and other games in between bowls, but if you’re feeling extra confident you can belt out some festive classics in their brand-new karaoke rooms.
If you’re fresh off watching the new series of The Crown and have a fascination with all things royal then you might want to dip your toe in their regal world for the afternoon and drag your date along for the carriage ride. Even better, between now and January 7 (excluding December 25) you can treat yourself to the Winter Wonderland afternoon tea – with the option of bottomless champagne for an extra fee. Stick out those pinkies and get ready to tuck into sandwiches, pastries and even a vanilla and cranberry bauble – edible, of course.
7. Breathe in the fresh air on a stroll around Kew Gardens
Not a fan of stilted conversation? Why don’t you let the idyllic wilds of nature do the talking and go for a picturesque wander around Kew Gardens? This season you can visit Christmas at Kew to enjoy after-dark activities that will light up the night and prove to be a mesmerising backdrop to your first date. You can expect a wondrous walk under the stars, punctuated by jewel shades illuminating the trees, colourful reflections shimmering on the waters and hypnotic tunnels of light – try and resist digging out your phone for a pic, we dare you.
8. Get lost in a cinematic story
One thing Christmas always brings – as well as good tidings of course – is the return of festive films. Whether it’s the childlike joy that Elf inspires, the snow-dusted romance of The Holiday or the ho-ho-ho-lly jolly action of Die Hard (accept it, it’s a Christmas film) they have a knack of getting us in the swing of the holidays. Why not whisk your date away to an extra special showing from Luna Cinema at Kensington Palace Pavilion? Taking place from December 11-15, you can cosy up on beanbags in a magical wintery setting (think Christmas trees, festive lights, sprinklings of snow) and catch all your favourite Christmas classics.
9. Indulge in some childhood nostalgia at the Disney100 Exhibition
When you look back on your childhood Christmases over the years, there’s a high chance Disney factored in at some point or another. Whether it was lounging in front of Cinderella after waking up at an ungodly hour to open your presents or keeping fingers crossed you’d unwrap a fluffy new Simba plush toy, Disney could be found around every festive corner. If you fancy taking your date on a trip down memory lane for Christmas we’ve got just the thing – Disney100: The Exhibition is open now at Excel London. There, you will discover rare props and artefacts, original costumes and a wondrous array of Disney treasures. It’s any fan’s dream first date.
10. Enjoy a full-on festive wonderland at Miracle at Henrietta
If you’re truly a diehard Christmas fan (and I don’t mean the brilliant Bruce Willis flick) – we’re talking trees up in October, polishing baubles, 5-tier festive decor plan – Miracle At Henrietta is the place for you. Just maybe check that your date is on the same wavelength because this tinsel-drenched, trinket-filled, twinkling cocktail bar in Covent Garden is not for the weak. Open from November 13 to December 23, there is only a limited time to make the most of its many festive delights. You can drink creative tipples such as the Elfing Around (gin, mulled wine reduction, grapefruit shrub, aromatic bitters, and orange bitters) from fittingly kitschy Christmas vessels and warm your hands by the oversized fireplace. It’ll definitely make for a memorable date!