Where should I turn 30?
March 13, 2008 8:27 AM   Subscribe

Where should I spend my 30th birthday? Europe/North Africa - specific criteria inside. Tell me about your hidden travel gems!

I plan on spending three days/nights with my best girlfriend somewhere fabulous to celebrate my 30th birthday. We will be traveling from London and would like a flight that is 5 hours or less. Recent cities I've done that would have been perfect for this occasion are: Istanbul, Cairo, St. Petersburg, Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, Barcelona, Tallinn.

I want somewhere slightly exotic, with fun shopping, good restaurants, and a great vibe. Marrakesh looks like the front runner and staying here. But I'm open to any suggestions you might have and don't want somewhere really obvious like Paris. I'm pretty well-traveled in Europe, so am really looking for that hidden gem that would make the trip really special. Expensive is fine. Oh - and this is at the beginning of August and I'm aware that Morocco may be unbearably hot, which is a slight concern. Please help make this a wonderful way to experience this milestone!
posted by meerkatty to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I was going to suggest Andorra, for some skiing and relaxing massage/sauna/spa-ing, but then I saw that it's in August, and I'm not sure if you can still ski then. Caldea (the huge spa place in the middle of town) is truly spectacular. They definitely have shopping and such as well, but I'm not sure what the draws are in the summer, as I've only been in Feb. Very cool place to add to your list of places you've been, though...
posted by Grither at 8:40 AM on March 13, 2008

Bled, Slovenia. You'd have to fly in to Ljubljana, but you can easily hop on a bus or train and be there in an hour. Be sure and hike out to the Vintgar Gorge one day. Stunning.
posted by nitsuj at 8:51 AM on March 13, 2008

Dakar? My brother is living in Senegal and it looks dope based on a recent NYT travel article about spas and stuff. Adventure, but safe and tons of cool culture.
posted by zpousman at 9:22 AM on March 13, 2008

August + Great Vibe + Good Restaurants + Good Shopping + Slight Exotism = the Semana Grande or Aste Nagusia in Bilbao, Spain (also in other major cities in the Basque Country). Might be a few days later than the beginning of Aug.
posted by _dario at 9:23 AM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 9:28 AM on March 13, 2008

If it weren't for the fact that it'll be overrun with other Englanders, Lisbon is (not hidden but) grrrrreat.
posted by kittyprecious at 10:24 AM on March 13, 2008

Bergen - Go see the Fjords, go shopping, buy some fresh fish at the waterfront.

But bring a pile of money. It's expensive.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 10:57 AM on March 13, 2008

Yes, Marrakech is often "unbearably hot" during the summer months. Speaking as one who prefers hot weather, it was even too much for me...and everything shuts down during the hottest part of the day, anyway. You'll see a lot of people out after sunset.
posted by Liosliath at 10:58 AM on March 13, 2008

Okay, this is a bit outside of your geographic region so feel free to discount it but have you considered Dubai? It's about seven hours away, and I have two close friends who have been in the last nine months and thought it was fantastic.

Otherwise, I'm not as well travelled as you and haven't been much off the beaten track, so don't really have many other good suggestions. But I'll say that I've been looking at places to go for my next city break for the last few months and Marrakech is a front-runner for me as well. I just saw a travel program on it two nights ago and it looked BRILLIANT.

Have fun! It sounds as though wherever you go will be better than where I turned 30 (Benidorm).
posted by triggerfinger at 11:43 AM on March 13, 2008

Thanks for the answers thus far! Bilbao and Prague are good choices if we hadn't already done them a few times and Dubai is where we spent my friend's birthday (and loved it). Anyone have thoughts on Greece? I've never been there...
posted by meerkatty at 1:26 PM on March 13, 2008

I'd recommend Porto. The North of Portugal is pretty much unexplored by tourists. It's a quaint town, it has greatshopping streets, old delicatessens and cafes, one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world, a great riverside promenade, fantastic restaurants(see #20), beautiful old neighborhoods, some cool modern buildings by famous architects and you can go for Port wine tastings.

And you can stay here.

If you're a Potter fan, btw, J.K.Rowling lived there when she was younger.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 3:24 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

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