45 Best Free & Cheap First Date Ideas
Congrats on landing a first date! Here’s what to do next…
First dates can be nerve-racking at the best of times, so having a solid plan for what you want to do is a must. You also want your date to be fun, memorable and a chance to show your special someone what you’re all about (and learn about them too).
While this can sound like a lot to put on a few hours together, it doesn’t have to be super expensive. In fact, there are plenty of cheap first-date ideas that will really impress your date. We’ve listed some of our favourite first date options that cover everything from outdoor date activities to free dates or dates you can do from the comfort of your own home.
Let’s get into it.
Where to go on a first date
There are so many first-date destinations to pick from and you can go on a date practically anywhere. Think about the things that you enjoy doing and see if your date would be keen to go with you. That could be anything from a nice meal or rock climbing.
If you’re struggling for inspiration, here are some of the more conventional places you can go on a first date on a budget.
1. Grab a coffee
This is the perfect first-date option for those who have just met — it’s casual enough that you won’t feel too much pressure, but also allows you to really chat, find common ground and ultimately find out whether you’re a good match.
2. Ice cream at the park
If you know the weather’s going to be good, why not head to your local park for a stroll? Extra points if there’s an ice cream van! You can tell a lot about a person from their go-to flavour, trust us. While a flake 99 will no longer cost you just 99p, this date idea will still keep the costs down.
3. Go for a hike
If you know you share a love for the outdoors and staying active, then get out of the city and onto the trails. What’s better than sharing a beautiful view and a flask of hot chocolate with a special someone?
4. Visit a market
From foodie markets to craft stalls, wandering up and down the rows of different vendors will give you something to talk about. You’ll also get an idea of their likes and dislikes, from food to art while enjoying some tasty free samples.
5. Visit a museum
Plenty of museums are free to enter, making this a great cheap date option. You can learn about history or science while you learn about your date too.
Best free date ideas
6. Get outdoors
Whether it’s for a hike or a run, spending time outside together is not only good for the soul but also good for exploring shared interests, not to mention totally free. Visit your local park for a stroll, or take on something more challenging like a mountain hike.
7. Play board games
Got some games stashed at the back of your cupboard? Invite them over and test their competitive side with a good board game. This is a great date for those looking for a relaxed environment to get to know each other, or for those who have been dating for a while too.
8. Go stargazing
If you’re meeting up in the evening and know it’s going to be a warm, clear night then why not get cosy under the stars? This date idea is about as romantic as it gets and completely free to do too.
If you’re looking to show off your caring side, then volunteering is a great way to do it. You could do anything from a beach clean to walking dogs at the local rescue centre and will feel doubly good for doing your bit and hanging out with someone really cool.
10. Take photos
Got a good camera phone or even a good camera? Why not wander around your local area and see who can get the best snaps? You can share them on your second date and you’ll always have something to look back on from your first date too.
Cheap date ideas
11. Dine on dessert
Eating out for a full meal can get pretty expensive, so why not just go out for dessert instead? There are plenty of dessert cafes popping up in towns and cities across the country so now is the perfect time to try one out.
12. Supermarket dash
Want to put your relationship to the test? You need to try a supermarket dash. Make a list of 5 items to buy for the other person e.g. a drink, a dessert, something beginning with the same letter as their name, etc. and give yourselves 10 minutes to race around the shop and pick out items. Once you’re done, head home and share your winnings over a movie.
13. Get crafty
Head to your local craft shop and buy a kit to do together. You could do anything from making pottery to paint by numbers — set yourselves up at home with a cup of tea (or a glass of wine if you’re feeling boujee) and get your craft on.
14. Hit up a karaoke bar
Whether it’s to show off your stunning voice or your funny side, nothing bonds two people together like a duet. Entry to karaoke bars and open mic nights is often free, so you’ll just have to pay for drinks.
15. Go charity shopping
Love a vintage look? Second-hand fashion is big business right now, so why not peruse the rails with your date and treat yourself to a new look for a super-low price? This date can be done on nearly any high street in the UK and should always end with a fashion show when you get home.
Low-key first-date ideas
16. Get your caffeine fix
Nothing says low-key like a coffee date. In fact, it’s so low-key that if you don’t explicitly tell them it’s a date, they might think it’s just something platonic. Also, a coffee date is not only cheap but also gives you the chance to chat in a relaxed atmosphere.
17. Get reading
You might be able to get your favourite books on your kindle, but does anything really compare to the calming atmosphere of a good bookshop? Bond over your favourite titles before heading for a coffee to compare notes.
18. Hit the gym
If you both love to exercise, then why not spot their squat or jog next to each other on the treadmills? If your gym is fancy, there might even be an opportunity for a sauna session or a dip in the hot tub.
19. Visit a gallery
Entry to galleries is often free, making it a great cheap date option. With art to talk about and only a slight hint of romance in sight, it’s a great first-date option for those going low-key. If there’s a cafe, you can even enjoy a coffee and cake as you muse over all the culture you’ve just absorbed.
20. Grab a takeaway
Whether it’s a chippy on the beach or sharing a pizza in the park, a casual dinner will keep the date low-key while you get to know each other. Plus, opting for takeaway will help to keep the date affordable.
Free or cheap outdoor date ideas
21. Enjoy a picnic
Pull together all your favourite picnic food items and head out to the park, beach, or any scenic location. You could tie in a good walk to work up an appetite too. Weather not looking so good? Take your picnic inside and enjoy it with a movie or a board game.
22. Take a walking tour
Want to find out more about your local area? A walking tour is the perfect way to do it. If you live in a city, you’ll probably have loads on your doorstep that you weren’t even aware of and if the conversation dries up on the date, the tour guide will be there to fill those awkward silences! Most walking tours are “pay what you want”, meaning that you give the guide whatever you can afford at the end.
23. Go wild swimming
More people than ever are signing up for their first wild swimming session, with setups all around the UK, including near some big cities. This is the perfect fun summer date that will only cost you a few quid and is guaranteed to be memorable!
24. Go on a bike ride
Whether you’ve both got bikes or mates you can borrow from, taking a bike ride down the canal to your local pub or cafe is the perfect sunny afternoon activity. This is a great outdoor date idea for anyone who loves being outdoors.
25. Go on a dog walk
There are plenty of people out there who are looking for someone to take out their dog for the day, so why not make it into a date? Your fluffy friend will definitely help woo your date as well as provide extra laughs and fun games while you’re out and about.
Indoor date ideas
26. Go ice skating
A classic date option — and for a good reason. Ice skating is the perfect excuse to hold their hand as you slide around the rink. There are usually some tunes playing too to set the mood with plenty of chances to chat and have a good laugh as one of you (inevitably) lands on their backside.
27. Visit a pottery cafe
Show your creative side while enjoying a cute and cosy cafe. The pottery painting will give you plenty to talk about and something to remember the date by too.
28. Play a game of pool
If you love a pint and a game of pool with your mates, then you might as well check that your date does too! Pool tables are usually free to use in pubs as long as you buy a drink and it’s a great way to add an activity to break the ice while enjoying a cool pint.
29. Visit an arcade
Got a bit of spare cash lying around? Use it up at the local arcade. This date is bound to bring the laughs, as well as a bit of healthy competition. Play penny drop and air hockey to your heart’s content.
30. Take a dance class
Whether you opt for a couples class or something more modern, getting moving together is a great way to build on that connection. Have a laugh while you bust a move and fill the awkward silences with poppin’ music.
Date night ideas at home
31. Cook a meal together
Test your teamwork by preparing a tasty feast together. Cooking a delicious meal from scratch with fresh ingredients will help to keep the cost down and you can show off your cooking skills to that special someone.
32. Build a pillow fort
Get out the blankets and fairy lights and camp out in your house for the night. Be sure to set up a screen for film and fill your love den with plenty of snacks for a romantic date night in the comfort of your own home.
33. Have a gaming session
Crack out the Mario Kart, it’s time to game. Pull out all your favourite co-op games and get them to bring along their faves too. This is a great chance to test their competitiveness over great snacks and laughs.
34. Have a fondue night
Dig out a cheesy fondue recipe and grab your favourite cheese dipping snacks. For some reason dipping bread and grapes into gooey cheese out of a bowl is super romantic. Don’t ask why, just try it. You don’t need a fancy set either — just a saucepan and a few forks will do the job. Not a cheese fan? Chocolate fondue is where it’s at.
35. Cheese and wine tasting
What’s the most important thing to find out about your date? If they share your passion for good food (and drink). Fancy a boujee night without the big bill? You’ve got to try and cheese and wine night. Buy a few bottles and a few types of cheese and settle in for a night of tasty snacks and tipsy chatting.
How to have a cheap romantic night out
36. Use your student discount
A meal out or a fun activity doesn’t have to cost the earth. Save the £££ by using your Student Beans discount to cut the cost. From 10% off a trip to Go Ape to a cheeky 20% off at Nando’s, there are plenty of ways to have a cheap romantic night out.
37. Make the most of Happy Hour
Plenty of bars have a happy hour if you head there earlier in the evening. Getting 2-4-1 on cocktails is always a win, but when you’re on a date, that basically means one of you getting your drinks for free. Pretty great, right?
38. Date during the week
Not only will venues be quieter (and therefore more romantic) on a weeknight, but they might also have a deal on to entice customers. Check out your local restaurants’ websites for their latest deals or make the most of cinema ticket deals on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
39. Find free evening events
Quite often your local museum, indoor market or gallery will run events in the evening. These events can span from expert talks to live music and tasty food and are often free to attend! Check out what your local spaces have to offer.
40. Take your own food and drink
Some restaurants don’t have licences so only serve soft drinks and will allow you to bring your own booze too. Taking a couple of tinnies or a bottle of wine between you and your date can take a big chunk out of your bill. If you’re heading to the cinema or out for an evening activity outdoors, why not take your own drinks and snacks too?
Cheap date ideas and activities in London
41. Visit Tate Modern
With huge exhibits that are always changing, there’s always something exciting to see at the Tate. It’s totally free to visit, and positioned right on the Thames, has great views of the city from the upper floors too. You can even enjoy a stop in the cafe afterwards.
42. Cycle around Richmond Park
Whether you’ve got your own bike or are hopping on a Santander bike, Richmond Park is where it’s at for outdoor dates. With deer to spot hidden away under the trees and a cafe near one of the entrances to refuel, you’ll feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of central London.
43. Be a tourist on the Thames
You might have crossed it a thousand times, but have you ever got a boat up the Thames? Whether you opt for an Uber boat or take the river bus for just £5, you’ll see all the sites including Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf and The Shard. So, if your date’s from out of town this is a must-do.
44. Head to Swingers
Fancy a round of crazy golf for just £10? Head to Swingers in Marylebone. With fun courses, good drinks and great vibes, it’s the perfect London date venue for a bit of a laugh and lots of competition.
45. Visit the Barbican Conservatory
Head to the Barbican and catch the lift to level three for this little-known London oasis. With over 1,500 species of plants, it’s the biggest conservatory in London and it’s totally free to visit too. You need to book free tickets ahead of time, so plan this one in advance.
Be sure to check out our article on London date ideas for even more inspiration.
What to wear on a first date
What you wear on a first date will entirely depend on the activity you’ve got planned. You don’t want to be wearing your best heels to go hiking or your gym leggings for a fancy meal out (unless you can’t bear to part with them, then you do you, hun) so make sure you’re dressed for the occasion.
There are three things to remember when getting ready for any date that will help you pick the perfect look:
- Dress for the activity — there’s nothing like being overdressed (or underdressed) to make you feel uncomfortable and you really want to be able to focus on enjoying yourself and making a good connection with your date, so make sure to find out what the plans are so you can dress appropriately.
- Wear something you feel confident in — you don’t want to be pulling at your outfit for the entire date because it doesn’t fit right or you’re just plain uncomfortable in it. Wear something that makes you feel great as confidence is really the best thing you can wear on a date.
- Show off your personality — don’t dull your personal style just in case your date doesn’t like it. If you love bright colours or vintage fashion, then share it with them. Anyone worth your time will love you for your quirks.
How long should a first date last?
A date can last as long as you want it to from an hour-long chat to see if you’re a good match to all-day activities. The activity you pick will usually dictate how long a date lasts, so if you’re looking for something quick with an easy escape, then maybe opt for drinks or a coffee. Equally, if you want your date to last all day (and possibly all night) then plan a day trip to a theme park or even further afield.
There are so many options for your first date so it can be hard to know where to start. Have a think about activities you both enjoy and make a plan. The excitement — and hopefully your blossoming relationship — starts here!