As the internet plays an ever greater part in our social lives, with sites such as Facebook helping us to keep in touch with our friends, it’s inevitable that we use it to help run our love lives as well.
Online dating and dating apps are one of the most popular ways to meet a new partner and there are more than 1,400 sites in Europe, catering for people from all walks of life and interests.
So whether you’re mad about dogs, passionate about green issues or a connoisseur of fine wines you’re sure to find someone who shares your interests.
The best dating sites and apps in Europe
Best for: getting back out there
Free membership (limited)
3 million users in the UK
Synonymous with online dating, Match.com has someone for everyone. Create a detailed profile, then find your potential partner through a criteria search. You can go on “zen mode” to be only contacted by those who meet your criteria.
It’s free to become a member but you can only send and receive messages if you are a subscriber. Subscription costs from £12.99 per month for six months.
Best for: educated singles in their forties
Free membership (limited)
13 million users worldwide
Those averse to swiping left may enjoy EliteSingles – a site that uses a personality test to match users based on their compatibility. The site only sends between 3 and 7 matches per day – all of whom have been manually verified. Most users are looking for a long-term commitment and intellectual match, and 85% of users have a degree and are between 30 and 55 years old.
The site and app are both free, but you need to subscribe to send messages to your matches. Premium membership costs from £24.95 per month for 12 months.
Best for: mature dating
350,000 users worldwide
Whether your children have flown the nest or you’re recently divorced, dating in your fifties is a bit of a minefield. That’s where Lumen comes in.
Most dating apps are soul-destroying because the conversations consist of boring pleasantries. Not so with Lumen. Your icebreaker message needs to be at least 50 characters long, which encourages interesting conversations.
All accounts are verified, and profiles are detailed – with at least three photos and a lengthy bio. There are no paywalls on the site but you can only start six conversations per day as a free member. You can upgrade to 12 conversations per day if you subscribe for £24.99 per month.
Best for: serious relationships
Free membership (limited)
4 million users in the UK
Modern matchmaking service, eHarmony, claims 450,000 couples have found love through their site. Users are required to fill out an in-depth questionnaire to determine their personality traits, then the team at eHarmony send over compatible matches.
It’s free to register and download the app, send ‘smiles’ and pre-written Quick Questions to get the conversation started. However, you need to subscribe for customised messages and unlimited access to your match’s profile. Subscription costs from £7.95 per month for 24 months.
5. Muddy Matches
Best for: countryside lovers
Free membership (limited)
Muddy Matches is dedicated to matching country-minded people. You don’t have to live in the countryside to be on the app – you may be a townie with a penchant for men who play polo. You can easily see prospective partners’ interests, as well as where they went to school; if you like what you see, you can send them a wink..
Membership is free but it’s only possible to send a message if you’re a subscriber, which costs from £94 for 12 months.
6. Telegraph Dating
Best for: meeting like-minded individuals
Free membership (limited)
220,000 members worldwide
The Telegraph Dating site is a straightforward way to meet like-minded singles. As you set up your free profile, simply describe the type of person for whom you’re searching. Then, browse the site and view others’ profiles; once you find someone who you feel is a good match, send them a message.
A free membership allows you to read messages from potential matches and reply with a one-liner. Only paying subscribers can start conversations and write personal, customised messages. It costs from £12 per month for 12 months for a subscription. For an additional £10 per month, you can upgrade to Premium, where anyone can reply to your messages for free.
Best for: quirky and open-minded singles
4 million users worldwide
OkCupid has an extensive personality questionnaire, designed to increase compatibility. You can then inject personality into your profile by answering quirky questions, such as “Do you make your bed every day?”
Instead of being bombarded with messages, you can only message those with whom you have matched. Downloading the app and speaking to users is free but you can upgrade to Premium for extra features.
In 2014, the OKCupid app was the first to introduce 22 genders and 13 sexual orientation options. This inclusive outlook has made OkCupid particularly popular, and they make 91 million connections every year according to their site.
Best for: slightly older bi, gay and trans men
15 million users worldwide
Originally tailored to men who like men with beards, SCRUFF’s userbase has since expanded to include clean-shaven bi, gay and trans men. On the site, which has an older intake than Grindr, you can swipe right to prospective partners from your area and around the world.
The app is playful and there’s a ‘Woof’ button that tells a fellow user that you find them attractive. This is a free dating app but you can upgrade to SCRUFF Pro for more features.
Best for: empowering women
22 million users worldwide
To redress the gender imbalance of dating apps, women have to begin the conversations on Bumble. Profiles are not as detailed as on some apps, but you can make video calls and get to know your match before you meet.
Lazy users are penalised on Bumble, as you only have 24 hours to initiate a conversation before the match expires. The app is free to use but you can upgrade to Bumble Boost, where you can see users who have already ‘liked’ you, for £11.16 per month for 6 months or even just £2.49 for the day.
Best for: meeting like-minded queer women
4 million members worldwide
HER is a much-needed breath of fresh air on the dating app scene, as an app dedicated to helping queer, bisexual and lesbian women find their ideal partner. The app is free and you can view profiles, add friends and start chats at no extra cost. Upgrade to HER Premium to filter users by sexuality, see who is currently online and more.
HER also shares LGBTQ+ news and events taking place in your area, and there are smaller chat groups where you can meet other users.
11. The Inner Circle
Best for: young professionals
1.5 million users worldwide
The adverts for The Inner Circle look like promotions for Glyndebourne, featuring couples in black ties and cocktail dress. This dating app is selective and there’s even an application process. Membership is granted based on a user’s Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, job description and photos. In 2016, there were 450,000 applicants on the waiting list.
Tailored to matchmaking ambitious, career-savvy young professionals, The Inner Circle claims to have made 10,000 successful matches. The app is free to download, but you can upgrade to premium packages. There are also exclusive members events. Polo in the park, anyone?
Best for: busy people
50 million users worldwide
In the films, people lock eyes on the train, start a conversation and then fall in love. In reality, we are too awkward (and British) to act on impulse. That’s where Happn comes in. If you have crossed paths with another user, they’ll show up at the top of your Happn page. If you like what you see, you can send a heart and, if they send one back, instigate a conversation.
Your exact location is not shared – just the approximate area. The app is free but you can upgrade for Premium benefits including up to 10 ‘Hellos’ and access to the list of people who like you.
Best for:young people looking for love
5.5 million members worldwide
Hinge is the new kid on the dating game block, known amongst millennials as ‘the relationship app’. To set up a profile, you need more than just photos and a one-line bio. Instead, you must answer three questions (e.g. “My childhood crush?…Andrew Garcia”) and potential matches can ‘like’ your answers and start up a conversation.
The app is free to download and you have unlimited access to profiles, swiping and sending messages. However, you can upgrade to a Preferred Membership, which allows you to better filter results (i.e. to find someone over 6 ft.)
Best for: casual dating
Over 50 million users worldwide
It’s the Godfather of dating apps. Tinder, the photo-heavy app with 2 billion views per day, allows you to swipe right to potential partners, then message and arrange a date. The app is responsible for 1 million dates per week, according to the site.
Tinder seems geared towards casual dating. Profiles are not as detailed as on other apps, but you can include your name, job, company, education, location and links to your Instagram and Spotify accounts.
Best for:keeping your options open
Over 400 million users worldwide
If you want to be spoiled for choice, give Badoo a go. When you sign up for the app, you have four options or what you’re looking for: just to chat, casual dates, a serious relationship or stay open-minded.
The app has a swipe function but it’s also possible to drop in on people’s live video chats.
Profiles consist of basic personal information and you get notifications when someone likes or messages you. This, however, can be overwhelming as there are so many users.
16. Coffee Meets Bagel
Best for: romantics
7 million users worldwide
As you can probably tell from its moniker, this app’s main fanbase is in the States. However, it certainly brings something different to the dating game. Its stand-out USP is that the site only sends you one match every day, which means you have to really consider whether this person is a good match, as opposed to swiping left without giving them a second thought.
That being said, you can click on the ‘Discover’ tab and like a handful of people per day. If you match, the app suggests a personalised icebreaker (e.g. “Ask Thomas about his recent trip to Thailand!”) It’s free to download the app and speak to your matches. However, you can upgrade for a Premium membership to tell if you messages have been read and to access stats on your match – how long they typically take to reply, for instance.
Best for: single Indians looking for a committed relationship
35 million users worldwide
Shaadi.com claims to be the “no.1 Indian matrimonial service in United Kingdom”. Marriage is certainly at the core of the site’s ethos, as you set your preference to ‘bride’ or ‘groom’. You can filter results based on age, height, religion, mother tongue, location, marital status and whether they have children. When you find someone you like, you ‘express interest’ and hope the feeling is mutual.
Membership is free, but Premium membership allows you to connect directly with matches and view their detailed profile information. There’s also a personalised membership, where a relationship adviser arranges dates on your behalf. With such varied packages on offer, it’s hardly surprising that 6 million people have found love on the site.
Best religious dating sites and apps
18. Christian Connection
Best for: Christians looking for long-term commitment
Free membership (limited)
110,000 users worldwide.
On Christian Connection, users can create detailed profiles, outlining their jobs, political views, dream holiday destinations, favourite films and, of course, religious standpoints.
If you find someone you like, you can ‘wave’ at them and send a message. Membership is free but this only allows you to match, send waves and preset replies. There is a free 3-day trial for a taster of the subscription service; if you subscribe, from £24 per month, you can send unlimited messages and get discounted entry to social events.
Best for: single Muslims looking for love
1 million members worldwide
You may recognise Muzmatch from their fun advertising campaigns (“Halal, is it me you’re looking for?”) Yet the free dating app has plenty of other stand-out features which may explain its 25,000 success stories. Firstly, it protects your privacy – you can use an alias and keep your photos hidden or blurred until a later date, so there’s no danger of friends or family stumbling across your profile.
All users are verified and you can opt to have a chaperone (a ‘Wali’) in your chats. The app is free for you to swipe, match and chat. However, you can upgrade to Instant Match, where you can talk to someone before they have liked you back.
Best for: Jewish singles
The net’s biggest Jewish dating service, JDate, has been around for nearly 20 years. Following its redesign in 2017, it is now a more streamlined service. After uploading a bio (typically 100-150 words) and up to 6 photos, you can browse others’ profiles to assess their physical features, hobbies, religious practice and what they’re looking for.
It’s easy to keep track of potential partners with the Look Book, a list of who has liked you back. Plus, there’s a community feel to the site due to the Kibitz Corner, where the site provides daily questions and you can compare answers with your matches.