It's your birthday. You can cry if you want to, but we'd recommend organising a stellar celebration instead. Before you blow out those candles, mark your milestone by planning an awesome day in the city. Here are ten birthday ideas for celebrating in London, from Scottish dancing to an epic fancy dress party. Oh, and don't forget to check out the 100 best party songs, too.
Birthday ideas in London
Get dolled up and go for fancy over-priced gin and tonics at The Savoy or a similar old money establishment. What better way is there to celebrate than flagging down a white-jacketed waiter and deliberating for hours over which gin will have the more exquisite topnotes before deciding on Gordon’s? You’ll be in good historical company at The Savoy, too - Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and ol’ Bogie were all known to drink there when they were in town. Make someone else pay though, obviously. It is your birthday after all.
Nobody parties like the Scots, so why not celebrate another year on Earth by coercing your friends into some frenetic Scottish country dancing. No experience is necessary, there’s a caller to show you the moves and tell you when to do them, while more experienced ceilidh-ers tend to be generous with their time and sparing with their grimaces when you land on their foot for the sixth time. Top tip: a few wee drams o’ whisky will loosen the limbs.
Birthday parties were easier when you were a kid; a bit of bowling, a quick round in the arcade, plate of jelly and ice cream, bish bash bosh and home to bed. At Rowans you can recreate your ninth birthday party but with the added magic of alcohol. A Finsbury Park institution, late night bowling gives way to a hoppin’ dance floor and there’s pool, karaoke and a slush puppy machine to keep you busy when you remember that bowling is kind of the worst.
Imagine Chuck Bass setting up shop in Clapham and you’re somewhere approaching the kinky opulence of The Last Tuesday Society’s frequent soirees. Their themed parties are legendary for wild flights of fancy and general lack of inhibition, perfect if you’re after something a bit mysterious and special. Fancy dress is a must and the more flamboyant the better – after all, if you can’t force your friends to dress up for your birthday, when can you?
You should not settle for your average cinema trip on your birthday - not even to one of those fancy ones with sofas and waiters. Instead, check out Backyard Cinema which screens classic films in interesting locations like churches and grottos. It started out in the founder’s own garden and has retained its beanbags and blankets vibe. At special events you’ll even be treated to extras like live choirs ('Romeo + Juliet') and real live zombies. Okay, they were actors. But still, you don’t get that at your local Odeon.
What was once a gents' loo is now a small but perfectly formed speakeasy with an afternoon burlesque show as part of its High Tea and Tease event every Saturday afternoon. If you don’t fancy that, Cellar Door's cocktail menu is vast and mouthwatering and they even serve snuff if that’s what you’re into. We can’t help but feel that some of the greats who supposedly used to frequent the facilities (Oscar Wilde, for example) would approve.
If you are #blessed enough to have a summer birthday, grab a hamper and hotfoot it to north London where you can eat sausage rolls and sandwiches with the best view over London. Alexandra Palace Park is big enough that you’ll easily find a spot far enough away from the guy with bongos who seems to be in every park in the city - and when it inevitably starts to rain, you can head indoors to the underwhelming but mercifully sheltered Alexandra Palace pub.
London has a surprising amount of green spaces to wander through and get lost in, if you know where to look. The Green Chain walks take you all around the city’s fields, parks and hidden walkways. The 40-minute stroll from Finsbury Park to Highgate is a particularly nice one, and you can always aim for one of the area’s many pubs - or Highgate Cemetery if you’re feeling your mortality particularly keenly.
London, we think you’ll agree, is a babe. And even more so at night, so demand to be taken to dine in the twinkling red lights of the cranes. They’ll wink coquettishly at you as you chow down on special birthday grub at one of the fancy restaurants at Fenchurch Street’s Sky Garden. There are several bars with nibbles or full-on sit-down restaurants offering views over the city to choose from - but if you’re on a budget, you can just enjoy the public gardens for free
We’d argue that you don’t need to wait for your birthday to get sloshed on a weekend morning but it’s still a treat to get gently pickled in unlimited bellinis and bloody marys, particularly if you’re scheduling it for after a big night out. You’ll find hundreds of bottomless brunches around London because as a city we have our priorities regarding daytime drinking straight. We particularly like Villandry in St James’s, which offers a champagne option if you’re feeling extra classy.