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Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, NSW

11 [almost] free first date ideas in Sydney

Treat 'em lean but keep 'em keen

Everyone knows that new love is expensive and old love is cheap. Why is it that all the affordable ideas are way too intimate? As if you're going to picnic in a national park with someone you swiped on Tinder four days ago.

Still, rolling the first date dice is a necessary step toward not dying alone (or sleeping alone, depending on what you’re looking for). So we’ve come up with 11 different date ideas that will give you a leg up to get a leg over.

Here are some Sydney spots to get you started.

Free concert

They’re loud, they’re exciting, and they’re everywhere. Scan the events guides for whichever city you’re in and pick something neutral, like jazz. Or pick something controversial if you suspect they don’t scare easy, and then BAM! Something to talk about.

Our pick: Frankie’s Pizza By The Slice

These heavy duty heavy metal heads are open seven nights a week, until 3am. They have free gigs all the time, you just gotta keep a keen eye on the schedule.

Volunteer together

Why not do a little good while you’re at it? Dish out soup at a soup kitchen or make playdough with sick kids. This is the only way to actually guarantee your time won’t be wasted. And, obvs, the suggestion alone will make you look like a hero.

Our pick: Sydney Dogs And Cats Home

Because they’re just so damn cute. It’s not exactly practical to adopt an animal while you’re travelling (we bet your roomies would LOVE that surprise), but you can help out by organising their fundraising events.

Visit a video arcade or a pool hall

These places are cheap and there are a LOT of them hidden in any city centre - this means more chance of vibes and less chance of bumping into a cockblock like Benny from Dorm 26 who does not pick up on social cues.

Our pick: East Sydney Hotel

This may seem like just an old pub, but it’s one of the few places in Sydney where you can live out your country fantasy and literally pick a song on the jukebox and play pool to it.

Take them to a food market

There are plenty of food samples to nibble on at these things, and if you’re really stealth, they might even fill themselves up enough for you to avoid buying them a proper meal altogether.

Our pick: the Sydney Fish Market

The home of fresh fish in Sydney, where you can sit on the foreshore in Pyrmont, slurp down some oysters, chomp on some sushi and sip on a cold beer. If this setting doesn’t fuel the romance, then nothing probably will.

Museums and galleries

Warning: not all of these are free, so don’t get caught with your pants down. And by that, we mean, get caught without any money on you to pay for the exhibition that you suggested. No one wants to bang a freeloader.

Our pick: The Art Gallery of New South Wales 

This is the cultural cream of the crop in Sydney, with its constant Indigenous and Asian art exhibitions. Plus, on Wednesday nights they host free events..

Attend a reading

This is a win-win. Because if the poetry is good, you can bond over shared appreciation. And if it’s bad, you can laugh at other people’s expenses. Cruelty, as they say, is the real Cupid.

Our pick: The Australian Poetry Slam.

This is an IRL smorgasbord of spoken word artists, but it only runs as an annual competition so you’ll need to look into when and where the shows are happening in your city.

Shoot some hoops and bring some tinnies

And, if you have one on hand, bring along a speaker to play some tunes. Obviously, this will require a little priming beforehand to determine whether your date even likes ball. Don’t spring this on just anyone, it could be a one-way street to Reject Town.

Our pick: Prince Alfred Park.

Although you may have to battle a bunch of 12 year olds for the use of the court (which obviously ruins your plan in more ways than one if you lose in front of your date), this is a slammin’ public court. Rolling greens, nearby pool and tennis, and short walk to Chinatown.

Brewery tour

This idea is best served in the inner-city, where you have abundant access to public transport. Because asking your date to be the designated driver so they can watch you fill up on pale ale will not make them love you. It will not.

Our pick: The Grifter Brewing Co.

These guys are local legends who started out brewing in their own backyards and have since built a delicious yeasty empire. This brewery is a cool converted warehouse in Marrickville, where you can grab a four-beer taster.

Winery tour

Australia is famous for its sweeping green vineyards and award-winning wines. If you find yourself reasonably close by to one (which can be tricky, given they’re often, you know, in the middle of nowhere), generously treat your date to an open bar.

Our pick: Handpicked cellar door.

This baby is right next to Spice Alley in Chippendale (a local haunt for various Asian cuisines all in one adorable lantern-lit alleyway), so a cheap eat is only one stumble away. They offer $10, $15 or $20 tastings, depending on how much you wanna drop, and you can sample wines from all over the world.

Trivia night

Don’t even go near this unless you know you’ve got the goods. Outing yourself as a village idiot on the first date is hard to come back from. But if you know a thang or two about a thang or two, this can make for surprisingly great stranger glue.

Our pick: The Shakespeare Hotel.

It’s low key, it’s local, it’s loads of fun. These guys run their trivia nights typically on Thursdays, and it’s totally free to play - although you have to book a table. Take bae, win a prize in their honour.

Farmers markets

Okay, so this sounds a little three-years-in-and-live-together-with-a-dog-ish. But let’s take a step back for a sec. They’re crowded and vibrant, and you can choose from pretty much any cuisine you want, then eat it in the sun. Plus, this is obviously a morning/midday date, so an endless array of excuses precede you if you need to GTFO.  

Our pick: the Marrickville markets are a good time, with their quaint lil treat stalls and cute homemade trinkets. Check the weather forecast and meet up for a market stroll in the sunshine.

How to do Sydney on a budget

Or just become a baller