‘Tis the beginning of that most glorious of seasons – spring. And also that most glorious of times to travel to my favourite content – Europe. Why spring? Why not wait for another two months and go when the rest of the world goes to Europe? Ah, that’s one of the reasons actually to go now and not between June and September.
Think of this as a five for five post – my list of why you should pack your bags and head to Europe NOW, and my recommendation on which city just touches the spot on each of these:
1. Beat the crowds
Taking off from where I started, go before the thousands of tour groups, vacationing families and backpackers (ok, not so much – backpackers travel through the year – there is no getting away from them) descend upon those tiny medieval cities that are made for a few hundred people. Explore the narrow cobblestone lanes, linger over coffee at those alfresco cafes and sound hours gazing at the stained glass windows at your favourite churches without having to rub elbows (to put it mildly) with the multitude. Why, you might even get to stand close to the Mona Lisa (and feel that twinge of disappointment, but never mind) at the Louvre!
And to help you get the best out of Venice, here’s The Telegraph’s list of the best that the town has to offer this spring…
2. Smell the flowers
For these three months, there are flowers everywhere in Europe, as if to mark the end of a long, gloomy winter. Hanging out of windows in tiny pots, blooming in tidy rows from the ground, sold in colourful brilliant bunches in markets. Go, if for nothing else, to see the tulips in bloom (for all too brief a spell) at the Keukenhof gardens outside Amsterdam. This year, the Keukenhof gardens are open from March 20 till May 18. If you need to be convinced further, read my story on the original party city Amsterdam and its tulip connection.
3. Celebrate Easter
Like the Christmas markets, the Easter markets of Europe are great for days of fun, food and shopping. Look out for local wines, hand painted Easter eggs, stunning handicrafts and music performances. My pick for Easter markets is Prague – there are two, at the Old City Square and at the Wenceslas Square. The entire city wears a festive look and the town squares are buzzing late, late into the night. Read about how Prague welcomes Easter – just be sure to stop for regular trdelnik breaks in the midst of all the shopping and singing.
4. Pick up bargains
Everything is cheaper – from your hotel (or B&B) rooms to the shopping you are tempted to do, and even perhaps local travel like car rentals and train tickets. Shoulder season means bargain rates on your accommodation, while end of winter means great discount sales at most major outlets. Make use of this to travel to the normally expensive destinations – while Scandinavia (which generally tops this list within Europe) may still be too cold, why not consider Britain? When you tire of shopping on Oxford Street, head to the Lake District or even further up North to Scotland (if the weather gods smile on you) for some unretail therapy.
5. Feel the romance
It is finally time to shake off the winter chills and feel the smiles in the air, along with the balmy sunshine. And every single European city does this very well during this season. Think Paris in springtime. Also think Bruges, Salzburg, Ljubljana… Just head to the nearest park and find a bench to park yourself on. And let the magic of a European spring work itself on you.