But where do you go? The pressure on choosing a good venue for a first date in London is always there – do you go just for a couple of pints or make it somewhere where you can get some grub if it’s going well? Do you include a walk in there or do you make it more of a sit-down-in-just-the-one-place affair?
We know the potential for awkwardness on a first date in London – this author has had many – so luckily for you, we’ve decided to compile a list of some of the best spots you can go to give you some inspiration.
1. Have a laugh at one of the city’s comedy club nights
When it comes to a first date, there’s nothing quite like breaking the ice than by having a laugh. So why not actively go out of your way to ensure that you have one – and have a few drinks while you’re at it?
London is full to the brim of some of the best comedy clubs in the world – taking place everywhere from large arena-style venues to tiny pub basements – and for most of them, you can grab a ticket for under a tenner.
Our top picks would be the Top Secret Comedy Club in Holborn – where comedy legends such as Joe Lycett, Jack Whitehall, Mawaan Rizwan and Joanne McNally have all tested out their material – and the Seven Dials Club, slap-bang right in the middle of Covent Garden. You can grab your tickets for it right here.
2. Go and take a wander around an exhibition, art gallery or museum
Culture vultures, listen up! It’s no secret that our beloved capital is home to some of the best museums and art galleries in the world. Ok, so we may be biased, but we stand by it – and you’ve also got the added fact that a hell of a lot of them are free.
So we thought what better spot for a first date in London than at one of these iconic institutions? On the one hand you’ve got the Natural History Museum – with exhibits on T-Rexs, earthquakes, venomous critters and other badass features of the natural world.
On the other, you’ve got the Tate Modern, which has a whole host of incredible modern art installations and a pretty epic view from atop the Turbine Hall. Add in exhibitions on Salvador Dalí, Van Gogh and more and you’ve got one hell of a lot of choice.
3. Think out of the box and take your date to a gig in the capital
London may well just be the live music capital of the world, with everything from scream-your-head-off heavy metal gigs to loud and proud pop extravaganzas gracing all manner of venues.
Sure, you might not want to shell out a hundred quid to take someone on a first date to Greenwich’s O2 Arena, but there are plenty of cheaper options available in our beloved capital. Camden’s renowned KOKO has had a fantastic lineup on the bill since reopening last year – and there are an array of Grassroots Music Venues dotted about offering gigs which won’t break that bank either.
Rough Trade East, Colours Hoxton and Peckham Audio are all great date spots, and if you’re looking for something a bit more romantic, why not take your date to a candlelit concert? You’re trying to impress, remember…
4. Amble along the Thames and stop for a pint or two in a pub
If the weather’s playing ball, then there’s no better spot for a first date in London than by taking a stroll along the River Thames. Depending where you start – Southbank is a good place we reckon – you’ll pass by some of the city’s most famous landmarks, including the Tate Modern, the Millenium Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe.
Depending on how long the date lasts, you can either continue down to Tower Bridge and explore the Bermondsey Beer Mile for a drink or two, or you can head back towards the London Eye and the accompanying Jubilee Gardens.
There are plenty of places to stop along the way if you and your date are looking to quench your thirst – The Anchor is a good option as it has a pretty roof terrace from where you can soak up the cityscape views.
5. Ramble through Hampstead Heath and stop at The Spaniard’s Inn
When it comes to scenic spots in the capital, it’s hard to beat Hampstead Heath. Incorporating almost 800 acres of undulating meadows, ancient woodland and natural swimming ponds, it’s a wonderfully-wild place that has featured in famous rom-coms including Notting Hill and Allied. What better way to spend a first date in London than walking around here we say!
There are numerous spots you could take your date – depending how it’s going of course. But if it’s not raining, we’d suggest starting at Parliament Hill – from where you can see some of the best views in London – before making your way to the beautiful Kenwood House, one of the city’s hidden gems which is run by the National Trust.
If the date’s still going well, continue to the Spaniard’s Inn for a pint or two – it’s one of the oldest pubs and supposedly one of the most haunted spots in the capital. Nothing like a good scare hey?!
6. Gorge your way through some of the capital’s best street food markets
If you’re anything like us, then you won’t find it hard getting peckish at, well, any time of the day or night. But instead of going for a sit down meal which could have the potential to get a tad awkward on a first date, why not head to one of the many street food markets for which London is so well known?
It’s the best of both worlds – you can have a chinwag and get to know each other while you’re deciding on what to eat, then you can find a nice spot to settle to scoff your face. Borough Market is perhaps the most obvious choice here, but it might just well be the busiest.
Other spots in town include nearby Maltby Street Market, Portobello Road, Lewisham’s Model Market (only open in the Summer) and Hackney gem Broadway Market. There’s also Seven Dials, which opened its doors in Covent Garden during 2021.
Read more: 14 of the greatest things to do alone in London.
7. Enjoy a cocktail or two at a hidden, speakeasy-style bar
Now, if the pre-meeting chat has gone well, then this one is a good idea for a first date in London – because you’ll look like you’ve really made the effort to impress. London is fit to bursting with hidden bars, and you’ll find them in pretty much every nook and cranny of the city.
They might look like shops, cafés and even *ahem* public toilets to the casual observer, but step through their doors and you’ll find a whole new world. Our favourites include The Gobpsy – whose entrance is concealed by a pretty non-suspicious towel shelf at the bottom of a set of stairs – and new-kid-on-the-block The Cinnamon Club, whose interior is styled to look like an authentic Indian bazaar.
North Londoners should check out Knowhere Special – a charming little hideout who offer some pretty great first date cocktails. Just make sure you book ahead…
8. Get off-the-beaten-track and discover London’s secret spots
Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge… sure all of these are iconic London landmarks, but the likelihood is that you’ll be sharing them with hoards of tourists, wedding photographers, other people on first dates… you name it. So why not enjoy a visit to somewhere more off-the-beaten-track?
London is full of hidden gems – from the beautiful Kyoto Garden in Holland Park to a crystal grotto (yep, you read that right) in Painshill Park– so there’s plenty of scope to impress your first date with your ‘Secret London’ intel. Hey, we’re here to help.
You could take a peaceful amble through St Dunstan in the East – a Grade I-listed church destroyed during the Blitz which is now a charming park. Or visit Eel Pie Island in Twickenham which was once the haunt of legends like The Who and Pink Floyd. What better places for a first date in London we say.
9. Brave it and go for an alcohol-free date
In a city of nine million people, there’s plenty of choice, and we all know the lines can get a bit blurry when you’ve got a few drinks down you. So why not cut out the drinks altogether and go for an alcohol-free date?
This is a first date after all, and that way you can really get to know each other without alcohol blurring your memory. There are plenty of non-alcohol options you could go for on a first date in London. There are more delis, coffee shops and cafés than you can shake a stick at, so if you’re going for a day date, why not head to one of these for a brew or two?
Alternatively, you could head to Draughts in Hackney or Waterloo and get to know your date over a board game or play a round or two of crazy golf.
10. Hop aboard a boat and see the city from the water
London is famous for its waterways, and some of the best views in town come from the network of canals, reservoirs and – duh – a certain river that criss-crosses it. So we couldn’t round up this list of the best spots for a first date in London without mentioning this one.
You and your date could hop aboard one of the twenty or so ‘Uber boats’ which traverse the Thames from Putney all the way down to Woolwich, passing all those famous London landmarks along the way.
However, if you’re looking to impress, we’d recommend chartering your own boat and sailing down Regent’s Canal past Regent’s Park, the ZSL London Zoo and through Maida Vale Tunnel. Now that’s a sure-fire way to ‘lock’ in date number two.
11. Journey into another world via VR
Part immersive theatre, part virtual reality, The War of The Worlds experience has been a thrilling hit since opening in London a few years back. Based on Jeff Wayne’s musical interpretation of H.G. Wells’ landmark novel, this epic adventure really imagines the 1898 Martian invasion for the digital age and is a great spot for a first date we say.
It’s a jaw-dropping, multi-sensory ride through the classic tale, making use of actors, holograms, and augmented reality to deliver an unforgettable experience. You and your date will be catapulted into the heart of the story, experiencing 24 extraordinary scenes, all the while searching for allies and evading the dreaded Martians, four a heart-pounding afternoon out. Get a hold of your tickets here.
12. Challenge yourself to an outdoor scavenger hunt
An outdoor escape room if you will; Secret City will bring you and your date together to explore some of London’s most riveting neighbourhoods on a walking tours with a fun, competitive twist. Greenwich, The City, and Covent Garden are just three of the eight areas that become the setting of spirited scavenger hunts.
Stretching up to three and a half hours, you’ll head to the designated starting point before ominously texting start to kickoff a series of mind boggling clues. As you head from one location to the next, you will be able to take in the city round you, whilst also playing the game. Some hunts have a storyline, like the witchy Greenwich Guile tour, while the others let your location tell the story itself. What better way to bring you and your date together, hey?!
So there you have it – a roundup of the best places to go for a first date in London. From getting lost in the world of VR to going for a romantic walk along the Southbank, there are plenty of options in our beloved capital. So stop swiping and ask someone out!