If you’re planning a stag or hen do and alcohol-fuelled hedonism just doesn’t appeal, you’re not alone. According to Culture Trip research*, stags and hens are swapping strip clubs and sambuca shots for more refined cultural experiences in 2019, with trips based around art, culture and wellness becoming the norm. Cities such as Barcelona and Amsterdam, where great nightlife is paired with history and culture, have overtaken party capitals Ibiza and Las Vegas as go-to destinations for the modern hen and stag weekend.
From a spa weekend in Marrakech to studying Dutch Baroque architecture, there are plenty of alternative options for a more cultural stag or hen weekend. Head to one of the following cities and say a sophisticated farewell to single life.
Portugal’s sun-soaked, coastal capital is the perfect European getaway. Alongside its famous sunshine-yellow buildings, Lisbon is full of cool, cultural spaces: the city has an exciting urban street art scene, especially in the Bairro Alto area, where you’ll also find the glorious Glória Funicular lift. If you’re after a more unusual aesthetic experience, the National Coach Museum has the most extensive collection of European horse-drawn carriages from the 17th to the 19th century, or check out the Lx Factory. The converted warehouse now hosts restaurants and stores, including Ler Devagar, which has been named one of the 20 most beautiful bookstores in the world. For a night out like a local, dine on fresh seafood and pesticos (Portuguese tapas), and wash it down with a glass of port.
Dubai is an increasingly popular choice for brides and husbands to be, with 4.1% of Brits having traveled to the Emirati city for a stag or hen weekend. A girls’ or guys’ Dubai trip need not be all about upscale nightclubs and lavish hotel pool parties; the city is a spectacular place for lovers of modern architecture, shopping and world-class cuisine. Away from the glassy superstructures, there is an overlooked old quarter – Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood – that showcases a way of life dating back to the mid-19th century. During the day, admire the breathtaking Palm Islands from the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, followed by a shopping trip to the Dubai Gold Souk. Dubai’s dinner options are endless; you can find almost every cuisine in the world here, from traditional Arabic dishes to award-winning Japanese fare.
Topping the list as the most popular destination for stag and hen parties, Amsterdam offers up much more than its coffee shops and infamous Red Light District: think the world-class Rijksmuseum, Dutch Expressionist architecture and narrow streets full of boutique shops. After a day museum-hopping at Museumplein, swap a boozy boat party for a brown café (a traditional Dutch pub) and experience the uniquely Dutch concept of gezellig. The best way to get around the city like a local is on a bike, and a themed city bike tour is a great way to discover Amsterdam’s history and culture.
It might be a popular party city, but the Catalan capital is also home to mind-boggling architecture, world-class art, traditional tapas and much more. Stags and hens looking to absorb the best of Catalan culture should base themselves in the Gothic quarter, the heart of Barcelona’s old town. From there, it’s walking distance to several museums, including the Museo Picasso and the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as Barceloneta Beach and nightlife district Eixample, providing the perfect blend of culture, relaxation and partying.
Favoured by 39% of women, a visit to a spa for a good pamper session is by far the most popular hen-do activity in 2019. For a shopping and spa break with a difference, hens (or stags) could do worse than Marrakech. Wander through the famous labyrinth of souks around Jemaa el-Fna Square and pick up colourful rugs, Moroccan ceramics, leather goods and jewellery; visit Jardin Majorelle, a striking landscape garden housing three museums; and treat yourself to a good scrub at a traditional Moroccan hammam spa.
Whether you and your party want to catch a West End play, indulge in afternoon tea at the Ritz (the second-favourite activity for hens, with 28% of women choosing the British tradition), enjoy live music in Camden or check out the nightlife in Dalston or Peckham, London is brimming with unique cultural experiences. For an artsy break, spend a day taking in contemporary art at the Tate Modern before heading east to Hackney, where you and your group can taste craft beer at a local brewery and catch a gig at one of the borough’s many live music venues.
Soak up the sun, Renaissance art and the best of Tuscan food and wine in one of Italy’s most enchanting and most historic cities. Alcohol tasting is beginning to rival pub crawls as a more sophisticated way to drink on a hen or stag weekend, with 12% of women rating it a top activity. For a perfect group getaway, go on a vineyard tour and sample local wines in the Tuscan countryside before heading back to the city for aperitivo and a Florentine sunset. For a dose of culture, make sure you spend at least a day hunting down Florence’s artistic treasures, from the splendid Uffizi Gallery to the fountain of Neptune and replica of Michelangelo’s David.
Thailand’s lively capital, with its aromatic street food, bustling markets and majestic temples, offers the perfect break for stags and hens looking to immerse themselves in another culture without spending too much money. While popular spots such as Chatuchak Weekend Market and Khaosan Road will give you a taste of Bangkok’s relentless energy, for something a little different, go on a Chinese street art tour in the historic neighbourhood of Talad Noi or hop on a long-tail boat and take a klong (canal) tour of the city.
If watching baseball and noshing clam chowder sounds like the ideal way to spend a weekend, Boston is the city for you. Visit on a weekend when the Red Sox are playing at home and you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy America’s favourite pastime at one of the country’s most famous ballparks, Fenway Park. If you and your mates are into history, follow the Freedom Trail to learn about the nation’s founding, then follow your stomach to the Seaport District for fresh seafood and harbour views. Thirsty? Grab a pint of Guinness at one of the city’s many Irish pubs.
*Research conducted on 2,013 respondents in the UK, June 2019