40th birthday holiday ideas

By Annabelle Thorpe

A lot of us celebrate the big 4-0 with a holiday. That could mean a house party with friends and family, a weekend break with your partner or a truly memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. The pandemic has narrowed the options, but now as travel restrictions are eased, people are making plans again, even if that means a delayed celebration.

Here’s my pick of how to celebrate your 40th birthday in style, either in the UK or abroad.

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Friends and familyParty weekendsOnce in a lifetimeIdeas for couples

Birthday trips with friends and family

Hiring a country house or villa for an extended family gathering or group of friends is a great way to celebrate your 40th – and the end of lockdown.

It’s important to act soon because rental properties in the UK are extremely popular right now. Take a look at these luxury cottages in the Lake District, ideal if you want to enjoy some world-class walking on your doorstep. There are wonderful walking routes, cycling trails and rock climbing in the Lake District National Park.

For a unique house party, book a historic house – perhaps an Elizabethan banqueting tower or a medieval thatched cottage. The Cotswolds is a beautiful destination – and easy to reach from many parts of the UK. Check out these luxury rental properties.

It’s worth noting that house parties no longer mean having to do your own cooking and cleaning; many companies can arrange a private chef, food deliveries and a full concierge service. See Oliver’s Travels.

For budget and mid-price UK rentals, try  Classic CottagesRural Retreats and Sykes Cottages. See more UK holiday ideas.

You can book a villa holiday abroad and have your own private pool. Try destinations such as Greece, Madeira and the Canary Islands.

Looking for a romantic break? See our pick of the best villas for two.

And there’s no reason why the house party idea only works in summer; book a catered ski chalet and you can be whizzing down the pistes by day and sitting down to gourmet, champagne-fuelled suppers in the evening – all prepared by the chalet staff.

You can also do a golfing weekend at any time of year with options in Tenerife and Morocco.

Or you could celebrate your 40th by renting one of these canal boats or sailing boats (sleeping up to 12 people) and explore some of the UK’s loveliest rivers and canals. Check out the latest offers.

40th birthday in Berlin

Party weekends

Whether you want roof-terrace cocktails, shopping sprees or late-night clubbing, a city break is a great option for a memorable get-together with friends. Few cities offer a more eclectic, eccentric nightlife than Berlin – from the sleek cocktail bars in West Berlin to the hip clubs in the former communist East.

Europe is packed with options. Art-lovers should head to Madrid, where the golden triangle of world-class galleries – the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza – make a peaceful counterpart to evening tapas-crawls and late-night cocktails. The intimate Hotel Orfila is a former 14th-century palace.

For a city with character, charm, great food and nightlife, take the short flight to Lisbon. It’s good value and there are some great places to stay including this stylish adults-only hotel with rooftop pool, and these vintage-inspired apartments for up to seven people.

If you want to mix city and beach, Palma is a great choice, while Budapest offers the chance to recover from the over-indulgence of the night before in one of the city’s historic mineral baths.

You could treat yourself – or your partner – to one of these exciting sporting breaks. How about a Formula One break with grandstand tickets and pit lane walkabout, or a rugby tour (Six Nations? Hong Kong Sevens?).

Once restrictions are lifted again, New York is the perfect choice – mix strolls in Central Park with bar hops around the East Village, cocktails on the Upper West Side and dinner in one of Soho’s hip eateries. Or dress up for a night at The Met on one of these opera holidays in New York.

If you prefer to stay in the UK, this Georgian hotel in Bristol is a great base for a party weekend.

Once in a lifetime experiences

If you want your 40th birthday marked by a moment you’ll never forget, there are few more spectacular sights on the planet than the ethereal Northern Lights. Head to Norway to snuggle up in a cabin or igloo, and watch the sky pulsate with waves of green, blue and red light, or stay in one of these Glass Igloos in Finnish Lapland.

If you’re after something a little more explosive, how about sipping cocktails in the glamorous town of Taormina on the island of Sicily, while Mount Etna blows clouds of smoke into the night sky?

If you want to be somewhere truly unique, head to Jordan, and visit the spellbinding ancient site of Petra for your very own Indiana Jones moment. And if there was ever a reason to climb on board the iconic Orient-Express to Venice, a 40th birthday is the perfect time to do it.

For something more exotic, you could take its sister train, the Eastern & Oriental Express as it travels between Bangkok and Singapore. Combine it with a stay in a private pool villa on Koh Yao Yai in this Thai Island Getaway.

If you’ve been thinking about a road trip across the USA, now’s the time. This collection of self-drive adventures from Tropical Sky includes New England, Route 66, the coastline of California and a dazzling journey taking in five National Parks.

How about attending one of the world’s most unusual festivals including the World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan and the spectacular Naadam Festival in Mongolia, which can trace its origins to the days of Genghis Khan.

40th birthday holiday ideas for couples

If you’re up for being pampered, rather than partying, then escaping to a luxury retreat or country house hotel can be a lovely way to celebrate in a more relaxed style.

In the UK, you could head to Gilpin Lodge in the Lake District for indulgently lazy spa days and wonderful seafood dinners.

This selection of hip hotels in the UK includes some beauties including a chic countryside retreat near Hay-on-Wye and an arty B&B overlooking the Yorkshire Dales.

Also check out this guide to the best UK hotels for foodies and restaurants with rooms which includes some modern classics such as The Gurnard’s Head in Zennor, Cornwall, and Monachyle Mhor in Perthshire.

The island of Menorca has some special places to stay including this stylish townhouse hotel in Mahón and a converted farmhouse with infinity pool.

For a touch of the exotic, head to Morocco and stay at a stylish riad in Marrakech or the lesser-visited ancient city of Fes. You could also take in hip Essaouira on the coast.

How about a short break to Paris? Let the experts at Kirker Travel select the perfect hotel for you, whether it’s the Pavillon de la Reine, a boutique address in the Marais, or the grandeur of the George V.

Or tick another country off your list with a short break in Luxembourg (only two hours flying time from London or Manchester) and a stay at the five-star Hotel le Place d’Armes.

If you’re after guaranteed sunshine, Sorrento – the gateway to the Amalfi Coast – makes a great base for a few days. Or indulge in some luxury at one of Italy’s finest resort hotels – both Verdura Golf & Spa Resort in Sicily and Forte Village Resort in Sardinia offer beach, activities and spa treats.

If you fancy heading further afield, Barbados offers white-sand beaches, luxurious hotels and a chilled-out vibe. The all-inclusive SoCo is a great choice for couples.

See more holiday ideas for young couples. If you’re travelling solo, see our tips for the best singles holidays for over 40s.

Last updated: 20 October 2021

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Before you book

Travel guidelines and advice are changing constantly amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Check the latest travel restrictions for UK residents.