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30th birthday holiday ideas

By Annabelle Thorpe, Editor of 101 Short Breaks

In the end, it has to be faced. The big Three-Oh is looming and there’s nothing to be done but wave bye to your twenties and face up to the onset of middle age. A 30th birthday might be the excuse for the biggest party in living memory, a romantic break a deux, or an adrenalin-fuelled weekend that’s so frantic it actually makes your forget you’re in mourning for your lost youth.

Whether you want to celebrate, commiserate or disappear off and hide until the fuss has blown over, here are the best ways to make it a 30th birthday to remember – for all the right reasons.

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House partiesCity breaksBoozy breaksThe big outdoorsJust for two

Anglesey CastleBeautiful viewsCugo VillaFortalice, Perthshire

Host a house party

One of the toughest things about getting older is how little quality time you get to spend with your friends, which is why a 30th birthday is the perfect excuse for rounding up a gang of mates and booking a house for a weekend.

If you’re prepared to splurge, check out some of the spectacular party houses on offer from The Big Domain and Oliver’s Travels; some come with a butler to tend to your every need, while others have indoor swimming pools and cinema rooms. If you’re after something more quirky, how about renting a lighthouse cottage? Dramatic locations and spectacular views will make it a celebration not easily forgotten.

For a more mellow break, take your pick of cottages in Norfolk or Suffolk, where thick heads from evening celebrations can be soothed with quiet walks through tranquil countryside or along wide, unspoilt beaches. Or head to the West Country: I recommend Classic Cottages and Rural Retreats.

If you want to walk off those hangovers with some of Britain’s most epic views, check out these luxury cottages in the Lake District.

Scotland offers some great properties for self-catering weekends – with plenty of whisky to get the party going. Or for something a touch more exotic, you could rent a riad in Marrakech – many smaller properties in the medina are available for exclusive use, and a cook can usually be arranged.

DresdenIMG_6032Thermal baths

City breaks

Book your budget flight far enough ahead and it will cost you – and those you’re celebrating with – no more to reach a European city by plane, than a British one by train or car. If you’re after a serious, no-holds-barred party, look no further than Berlin; the Eastern half of the city has shrugged off its communist past and is now home to some of the most bohemian nightlife in Europe – definitely not for the fainthearted.

Lisbon is a lively city with a cool arty vibe, urban street art and hip restaurants. It’s cheaper than many European cities with great places to stay including this stylish adults-only hotel with rooftop pool, and these cool apartments for up to seven people.

If it’s a summer birthday, and you’re looking for a touch of glamour head to the Croatian island of Hvar, where candles can be blown out in one of the many konobas (similar to Italian trattorias) in the beautiful Venetian old town, before cocktails in one of the harbour’s Ibiza-esque bars. Best places to stay include the chic seafront hotel, The Riva.

If your birthday is in spring or autumn, how about Morocco? Stay at a hip riad in Marrakech for rooftop cocktails, shopping in the souk and snake charmers on the Jemaa el-Fnaa. For something even more exotic, head to the ancient city of Fes, then perhaps relax on the beach or go surfing at Essaouira.

If it’s a girls-only celebration, then Budapest makes a great choice – home to some of the most beautiful spas in the whole of Europe (and the cafes also do a fine line in cake). Or pile on the fleeces and head north to Reykjavik – renowned as one of the hippest, quirkiest capitals in Europe, with uber-stylish cocktail bars and steaming mineralised pools for a soak the following morning.

The sports fan in your life might appreciate one of these sporting breaks – how about a Formula One break (Barcelona? Singapore?) with a pit lane walkabout included, or a weekend horse racing.

Walking through the vineyardsChampagne Ruinart tastingAsturias - CudilleroSome of the delicious wines

Booze-fuelled breaks

Any departing 29-year-old knows that stepping over the threshold into your thirties is inevitably going to involve a few drinks – it’s simply a case of what, where and how much. If carousing in the pub feels too much like any other Saturday night, then notch up the sophistication level with a wine and gastronomy break in Spain.

Northern Spain is a great option. Santander is an easy short-hop flight from the UK, or you can take an overnight ferry. This corner of Spain is home to superb white-sand beaches, medieval towns and lots of outdoor activities. Alternatively, head to Portugal’s Alentejo region which is reminiscent of the Algarve 40 years ago – but more beautiful.

How to celebrate your 30th in the UK? Head to the Three Choirs Vineyards in Gloucestershire, which offers tutored wine tastings, tours and can organise private dining as well as offering accommodation in lodges among the vines.  In Scotland, you could take a road trip through the glens, stopping off at distilleries along the way. Try this three-night Islay Whisky Break, which visits two of the distilleries on Islay, staying in a small luxury hotel on the shore of a loch.

Rent a log cabin in CornwallTrekemlets Lodge, Launceston

The big outdoors

If you want your birthday to be about experiencing something more than the world’s worst hangover, then add an activity into the mix. A surfing break in Cornwall can be a fantastic way to celebrate your 30th, and there are surf schools all along the coast that cater for everyone from beginners upwards. You could stay near Portreath beach at five-star Gwel an Mor in a stylish seaside lodge with its own hot tub.

If it’s an all-boy birthday celebration, a golfing weekend is a popular option – check out the latest offers from Elegant Golf Resorts.

You can keep costs down by staying at a siblu holiday village; many are located just a stone’s throw from some fantastic courses, and cost far less than a traditional hotel. Or head to the slopes for a ski chalet holiday.

If that all sounds a little too much like hard work, then how about cruising gently through your birthday weekend on a rented boat? The Norfolk Broads offers enough activity – steering, mooring, avoiding colliding with other boats – to keep things interesting, without detracting from the serious business of celebrating.

How about heading north in pursuit of the Northern Lights? One of the best ways to see them is from one of these Glass Igloos in Finnish Lapland. Or stay at Sweden’s Ice Hotel where you can down vodka shots in the ice bar then sleep wrapped in reindeer skins on an ice bed.

Glorious manor houseThe Castle HotelBustling waterways

Romantic 30th birthday celebrations for two

Not everyone wants to make a fuss of their birthday, and if you just want to celebrate it quietly with your other half, there are few better options than a night or two in a luxury hotel.

If you want to feel a real sense of escape from the pressures of a big birthday, disappear off to the Lake District for a couple of nights at lovely Gilpin Lodge. Guests can choose to stay in the original hotel or the new Lake House; just six luxurious rooms in a separate building, overlooking a lake. For something simpler, but no less charming, The Castle Hotel in Shropshire combines the laid-back atmosphere of a country pub with the scale of a luxury hotel, surrounded by gorgeous gardens.

In Spain, you’ll be pampered silly – and escape the real world for a few days – at the DDG Retreat in the hills of Andalucia, a stunning boutique hideaway only 60 minutes’ drive from Malaga airport.

If you want more in the way of facilities, how about Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, part of the Rocco Forte collection, on the coast of Sicily. Also consider Forte Village Resort in Sardinia which combines luxury with sports and spa.

For a truly special celebration, hop on a plane to Venice – the city that proves clichés exist for a reason. Avoid high season and you’ll find it really is the most romantic city in the world; spend your birthday on a Venetian bar crawl, drinking prosecco and eating cicchetti –  the city’s equivalent of tapas. Or if you want real tapas, then head to Seville – one of Europe’s most atmospheric cities, that fuses European architecture and North African design. Make time in amongst the celebrations for a visit to the Giralda, the city’s landmark, spectacular cathedral.

Something more exotic? How about celebrating on the Eastern & Oriental Express, a luxury 1920s-style train that takes four glorious days to travel between Bangkok and Singapore.

Also see my tips for the best holidays for young couples. And if you’re travelling solo, see our pick of the best singles holidays for under 40s.

Last updated: 5 May 2019

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