The 10 Best 50th Birthday Ideas in London

You only get one 50th birthday, so you'd better make it an incredibly good one

~

Tower Bridge over Thames, London

Much like christenings, graduations and weddings (for the most part) you only get one 50th birthday. And half a century is a Very Big Deal. Lucky, then, that London has everything you need for a 50th birthday celebration to remember (and then some). The only issue will be whittling down all the options to one sensible choice. As first world problems go, this is up there with where to go on holiday and how to spend a hefty bonus. Life’s hard. But hopefully our list of 50th birthday ideas in London will make your decision that little bit easier.

Press for Champagne at Bob Bob Ricard

This roaringly proud ’20s-style establishment is most famous for having a “Press for Champagne” button in each of its intimate royal blue and shimmering gold booths. And if you can’t justify a champagne buzzer to reward yourself for living half a century, well, what was the point in it all? The food is British-meets-Russian (think caviar and beef wellingtons). For anyone who considers themselves too fun for stuffy fine-dining tasting menus but still likes good food, this is the venue you’re looking for.

Have sky-high drinks at The Shard

Queueing for the tourist lifts to go up The Shard is not our idea of a good time. Skipping that indignity and heading straight for the bar, though, is very much our idea of a good time. The Shard’s GŎNG bar has practically the same view, but the difference is you can enjoy it in a civilised, much more intimate setting with a well-mixed drink in hand. And at level 52, it’s the highest hotel bar in Western Europe. Booking advised.

View of the Shard in London's Central Business District

Take a Basque cooking course

Master Basque dishes from pintxos to paella at the Mimo cookery school. At Southwark's Borough Market outpost of this San Sebastian born cookery school, you’ll use produce from the market to whip up culinary showstoppers slow cooked beef cheek, gazpacho or Galician octopus – and, of course, enjoy eating them afterwards. A fine way to upskill for your next dinner party.

See a different side to London’s museums

Indulge your inner cultural snob with a private tour of a London institution such as Tate Modern or the National Gallery, or if you’re really smart: get after-hours access. RA Lates create a festival atmosphere in the Royal Academy, running the gamut from disco balls to life drawing sessions and performance art, or explore Somerset House’s events programme of summer live music and winter festivities, held in the courtyard.

The Tate Modern, London

Go glasshouse-hopping at Kew

For the green-fingered amongst you, this is a must within our list of 50th birthday ideas in London. Explore the botanical gardens at Kew, including the impressive, recently restored Victorian Palm House (the world’s largest), filled with tropical and subtropical plants, and a treetop walkway. After an afternoon of botanical-gazing, relocate to Kew’s other glasshouse – The Glasshouse restaurant for a tasting menu. Don’t expect a beautiful domed glass ceiling here, but do expect classic Michelin fare with a lively neighbourhood feel and a wine list that more than makes up for the average decor.

Push the boat out on Regent’s Canal

When done wrong, dinner on a boat is tacky at best (think hordes of tourists, wine like vinegar and overdone dover sole). When done right, however, dinner on a boat goes like this: a smooth journey along a tree-lined Regent’s Canal route, well-sourced british seafood, simple daily-changing menus, decent wine and a relaxed atmosphere. London Shell Co does exactly that with aplomb on its narrowboats. Whatever you do, just don’t spoil the secret by telling everyone.

Kings Cross Granary Square on Regents Canal

The Beaumont Spa

Beauty comes from within, or so the old saying goes. And that may well be true, but we’re damn sure a spa day wouldn’t hurt. The Art Deco, white marble Beaumont Spa has a sauna, steam room, hammam, and a comprehensive menu of treatments to suit the most discerning birthday woman or man. This is certainly the most pampering option on our list of 50th birthday ideas in London.

Shop for gifts in Mayfair

Raid the designer clothing and jewellery boutiques of well-to-do Mayfair for a suitably lavish memento of turning 50. For something suitably unique, Grays Antiques is filled with treasures from 40BC up to the 20th century, and nearby you have Selfridges. Yes, it means pushing through throngs of tourists and shoppers to get to the other side of Oxford Street, but those who make the treacherous crossing will be rewarded with upscale department store finds from clothes to flowers and fancy food.

Hire a private dining room

Sketch (of egg loo fame) has one, The Wolseley has one – even Somerset House’s Spring has one. We’re talking about private dining rooms, of course. In these secluded separate dining areas, you can experience top-class food, without having to endure, well, other diners. Which, if you ask us, is a win-win.

Book a luxury stay in a Plum Guide home

Big birthdays mean maximising the celebrations across a whole weekend – preferably to include a stay somewhere with all the creature comforts. And who, frankly, has the time or patience to risk a lumpy mattress or poor shower pressure, least of all on their 50th birthday? So Plum Guide’s gloriously neurotic critics have checked everything to make sure its holiday rental homes are up to standard – from the location right down to the art on the walls. This means Plum Guide lists the world’s top 3% of rental homes. You’ll find a London home to suit every impeccable taste, meaning less time navigating 'up and coming' neighbourhoods miles out of town and more time for you to concentrate on celebrating.

Stay in the world's most beautiful homes

Search for a holiday home