Beautifully lit in the winter, street performers in the summer, food, drink and a romantic evening stroll, the Southbank is your obvious date solution. Obvious first snog option, bankside or Waterloo Bridge, sidle up whilst pretending to enjoy the view. [Top tip, you can impress with random historical facts about London landmarks, research in advance or make it up as you go along. Evidence suggests it doesn’t matter either way]
Gordon’s Wine Bar
Featured in Samuel Pepys’s 17th Century Diaries, much loved for it’s underground arches, excellent selection of wine and cheese and that ‘let’s plot a revolution vibe’, it’s also extremely romantic. You’ll have to be early to get a seat though. www.gordonswinebar.com
The Dinner Date
So many options we can’t list them! Use Time Out or Urban Spoon like normal people!!
Some people dig culture. The National, the Old Vic and the Globe Theatre, as well as local theatres are all good starting points. Plus if you’re under 26 you can often get cheaper tickets. [Top Tip – read the play beforehand to look particularly knowledgeable, throw in a quick, ‘Iago’s machiavelli provides a compelling contrast to Desdemona’s angelic nature, personifying that heaven/hell divide we see in so much of Shakespeare’s dramatic observation” and if they say that first, try NOT to respond with, “Absolutely, just like Star Wars”]
So many different options, thenudge.com is a good source, particularly the new B.Y.O.C bar where you take your favorite tipple with you. I’d tell you my most favorite place, but then you’ll all go there….
Nothing but the best coffee will do. Avoid the chains, download the London’s Best Coffee App and you’re on your away.
Be it Somerset House, Hyde Park or the Tower of London, there are plenty of winter options to hold someone’s hand as they struggle round a skating rink. [Note, it helps if one of you can actually skate]
Rowing Boats/Peddle Boats
Be it Regent’s Park or the Serpentine, nothing says, “We work well together” than a light spot of boating…Unless you don’t work well together and then it’s your first major row. Either way, a landmark moment.
Wander around Borough Market on a Saturday morning (NOT open on Sundays – trust me, I’ve tried it, twice) trying out all sorts of taster foods… and then try really hard to not accidentally buy 3 tonnes of Compte, several steak sandwiches & brownies the size of your face. We’ve ALL been there.
Lots of girls like flowers. Some boys do too, but on the whole it’s the women who are obsessed with them. Columbia Road Flower market is often a winner for the girls. Surrounded by cute cafes and brunch spots, go early-ish on Sunday morning and make a day of it.
THE ROMANTIC WALK
Takes various guises, (see Southbank, Queen’s Park and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream) Other suggestions include:
For the winter – Think Hampstead Heath, and afterwards you can snuggle by the fire with a drink at The Hollybush pub or take a visit to the gorgeous Everyman Cinema. [TOP TIP: Girls (& boys for that matter), If it’s snowing, wear sensible shoes, even if you look better in heels – There is NOTHING glamorous or cute about 3 hours in the Royal Free Hospital A&E department]
For the summer – Think Primrose Hill, views across London, al fresco pub lunch or Marine Ices in Chalk Farm for the best ice cream in town.
ON A BUDGET?
Museums & Art Galleries– Almost all of them are free and there are loads to choose from. What with the Science, National History & V&A in South Ken, as well as National Portrait & National Gallery in Trafalgar Square; Tate Modern; Tate Britain, Design Museum, Museum of London and then all those random local ones dotted around, you won’t be stuck for options. [Top Tip: Pathology museum, though kind of cool, probably isn’t really date material]
Go al fresco – picnics are perfect when the weather is good, and there are plenty of parks to chose from. Plus if it rains, you’ll be able to utilise that ‘Christian side hug’ under one umbrella, so it’s not ALL bad news. Whether you go supermarket or home made, preparation is key. [You don’t need lots of money for a great date but the “I know this is your favorite chocolate meringue/bar/cereal” is always going to work well]
Voucher codes – yes it’s a tad cheapskate, and you should definitely NEVER use it for first dates and special occasions, but once you’ve moved from ‘dating’ to ‘courting’, totally acceptable. I think (maybe double check with the other person).
Homemade dinner – It shows you care, it shows you’re thoughtful, it shows you are not just a stylish wo/man about town but nurturing, domestic god/dess. [Top Tip, if you have no idea how to cook please ask a friend, DON’T try and copy Masterchef finalists]
THE WILD CARD
Try out a Speakeasy. There are a few around now. One that’s really fun is The Breakfast Club in Spitalfields, you ask for the ‘Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town’ walk through a Smeg fridge and down the stairs to the bar. There are many more, don’t want to give them all away here but again thenudge.com is a great source. [Bonus points – agree to meet them there and give them instructions, they’ll then be baffled by having to walk through a fridge and incredibly relieved to see you at the bar]
Play with clay at Drink, Shop, Do. More Lionel Ritchie’s music video ‘Hello’, than Patrick and Demi a la Ghost [these references are LOST on Millenials]. Anyway, crafting models of Lionel’s face whilst singing along to his back catalogue is every bit as random as you might expect, but really fun AND you can flick clay at each other whilst drinking cocktails/tea. If that doesn’t float your boat, there’s always rude scrabble night.
Go to ‘Dans le Noir’. This restaurant is definitely an experience, eating your food in the pitch black apparently brings out the flavour. Not for the faint hearted or light walleted, it is however a lot of fun, and a great way to get to know each other.
Craft Beer is very ‘of the moment’, and as well as great pubs where you can try real ale (Craft in Farringdon, Brixton & Islington is great), there are also some brilliant breweries around, The Kernel in Bermondsey is particularly good. If your tastes turn more to Gin, then the new City of London Distillery is worth a visit, pricier than Craft Beer but stocking both their own gin and a full range of others, it’s a gin lovers paradise.
Treasure Hunts – both inthehiddencity.com and UndergroundOverground are good for individuals and groups respectively. If teamwork and competitiveness floats your/their boat, then this is a sure fire win.
THINGS TO NEVER DO
NEVER Take someone to the Angus Steakhouse in Leicester Square – contrary to its claim, it is not the best steak house in London – That would be ‘Relais de Venise’ just off the Marylebone High Street. RdV isn’t cheap, and it’s a set menu, but anywhere that only sells steak and keeps half of it warm for you is always going to be a winner in my book. [Top tip: try the peppercorn sauce, even if you don’t like pepper, or corn, TRY IT]
NEVER go to Leicester Square in general, unless you’re:
A. Going to the Prince Charles Cinema and got lost. Tucked away just off Leicester Square this has Grease/Sound of Music sing-along’s (they’ve heard you sing in church ANYWAY and we all know that you know the words), all night Wes Anderson films and 80s classics. Great if you want a group activity cause you’re still checking someone out, or if you know their favorite old school film and want to surprise them.
B. You’re taking a romantic walk (see ‘Romantic Walk’ above) and you stop by Ben & Jerry’s, (which allows you to pretend to squabble about flavours in a flirty manner)
Simlarly, NEVER go to The Trocadero for your first date. I don’t care how cool you think Air Hockey is, they have to like you A LOT before even stepping into that building!
NEVER agree to meet at Covent Garden Tube Station. Ever. Don’t do it. Hours wasted standing outside Oasis making eye contact with every person who walks out of the station, only to realise date is standing outside M&S on the other side.
NEVER accidentally go on a date on Valentines Day with someone you’re not sure about. If they say next Saturday, it’s February and you don’t know what the date is, CHECK. [Note, if definitely fancy them then obviously go for it!]
NEVER hang out in Marylebone on your first date. You WILL meet someone from church and if you want to keep it low-key, STAY AWAY. London is a big city, So there is no need to have a first date on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Regent’s Park.