The Best Places to Visit during March/April in Europe
After the gloomy days of winter, it’s great to plan a trip and enjoy the longer daylight hours, Easter festivities, and fresh blooms of spring. Europe has an abundance of fabulous cities, parks, historical sites, and cultural festivals to enjoy before the heat of summer takes hold. Treat all your senses to a feast of color, fragrance, and beauty in one of these outstanding spring destinations!
Temperatures are just about perfect for visiting Barcelona in March and April, ahead of the summer crowds and cruise passengers. Plan a themed trip, ticking off the seven UNESCO-listed projects of modernist architecture by Antonio Gaudi.
With a keen eye for color, the avant-garde architecture of this 20th century Catalan artist can be seen at Casa Battlo on Passeig de Gracia. This iconic mosaic-clad home has a “dragon’s back” roof and tortoiseshell skylights. Neighboring Casa Mila (aka La Pedrera) shows that even an apartment block can be a show-stopper! More Gaudi commissions feature in Parc Güell, but his crowning glory is the magnificent Sagrada Familia Church. The exterior is a breathtaking apparition of sculptures and symbolism while 18 bauble-topped spires are covered in Venetian mosaics. Ride to the top for panoramic city views.
Paris is a very special city to visit at any time of year, but in spring it is decked with pale pink cherry blossom (cerisier in French) throughout the streets and parks. Wander through this city of romance admiring the white and pink blossom trees that shed their petals to lie like confetti on the grass and sidewalks. You’ll find fairytale blossoms near Notre Dame and Montmartre, and around the Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter.
Head to Parc Georges Brassens or Parc Monceau and stroll around photographing the laden boughs of blossom. Best of all, the Champ de Mars is packed with cherry blossom trees providing the perfect setting for admiring the iconic Eiffel Tower in the background.
For many tourists, a trip to the Eternal City of Rome is a pilgrimage of faith, and when better to visit than during the Holy Week of Easter? Gather with around 70,000 worshippers in St Peter’s Square for the Holy Mass and Urbi et Orbi blessing by Pope Francis on Easter Sunday. It’s a very moving experience.
Tickets are free, but you need to apply well ahead. Spend the rest of your time exploring the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and peaceful Villa Borghese Gardens. Don’t forget to toss coins over your shoulder and make a wish at the Trevi Fountain! Feasting on outstanding pizza, pasta and gelato go without saying.
Spain again, this time in the southern city of Seville where temperatures are balmy and skies are bright. The historic city streets are alive with orange blossom in this season. The white flowers may be inconspicuous, but the heady fragrance is unforgettable! Santa Semana (Holy Week or Easter) is celebrated with huge parades featuring religious statues, banners, golden monstrances, and priceless solid silver objects carried through the streets as part of the Passion of Christ.
The sombre mood gives way to merriment as part of the Feria de Abril (April Festival). Locals dress in colorful Andalusian costumes and there is dancing, live music, traditional flamenco performances, eating, and celebrating on the streets. The tasty seafood and aroma of giant paellas sold on the markets are well worth making the trip.
Keukenhof Tulip Fields, Netherlands
The famous Keukenhof Flower Gardens in the Netherlands open from 24 March to mid-May, 2022. Where better to celebrate the tulip season than in one of the largest and showiest flower gardens in the world? Located in Lisse, the landscaped gardens offer a sensational display of over 7 million flowering bulbs, providing a rainbow of color.
Tulips, narcissus, daffodils, hyacinths, iris, and lilies deliver an unforgettable display of nature’s beauty along with a pervading scent of sweet blooms. Once the hunting grounds of Castle Keukenhof, the gardens are now one of the most visited attractions in the Netherlands – and you only have eight weeks to visit and enjoy them.
In Germany, spring is synonymous with new birth and “Ostereierbaum”, which means “Easter Egg Tree”. Wherever you visit in Germany in spring, you will see trees hung with colorful painted eggs. This is a long-standing German tradition, bringing a branch indoors and decorating it with hand-painted eggs. However, this charming celebration has taken on new significance in the town of Saalfield, Thuringia. In 1965, the Kraft family began decorating an apple tree that stood in their garden.
More eggs were blown, hand-painted, and added to the tree until it was laden with over 10,000 pretty eggs! It became a national attraction in its own right after being featured on TV. In 2016, the giant project was taken over by the city of Saalfield and moved to a tree on Blankenburger Strasse outside the Alte Poste Restaurant. You can see more Ostereierbaum trees all over the town and in the castle park. However, the holder of the Guinness Book of Records entry is the Ostereierbaum at Rostock Zoo, with over 76,000 eggs covering a red oak!
The historic coastal city of Dubrovnik is a summer haven for swimming and sightseeing, but for foodies the best time to visit is March. This is the peak season for oyster harvesting and the city has many street fairs and festivals to celebrate in gastronomic style.
Head to the Old Town and nearby Ston and Mali Ston for the best places to find fresh seafood. Not a fan of oysters? Then visit this red-roofed city for the clear blue skies, wildflower meadows, Old Town architecture, and the chance to explore film locations featured in Game of Thrones without the usual crowds!
Make plans for a spring break and you’ll be surprised at how beautiful Europe can be in March and April.
Best Christmas Markets and Events to Visit in Europe in 2021
If you’re planning a pre-Christmas city break in Europe, why not combine sightseeing with a little Christmas shopping and seasonal entertainment?
Christmas markets pop up in most European cities, and the key to their popularity is the magical atmosphere. Located in cobbled squares in the shadow of historic cathedrals, cities such as Florence, Strasbourg, and Tallinn host traditional markets evoking an air of nostalgia and goodwill. Couples stroll by arm-in-arm and families browse the laden stalls of delightful goods on offer. Carol singers and live music transform mundane shopping into a relaxed and memorable experience– unlike stressed Christmas shopping elsewhere!
If you haven’t visited a Christmas Market, you’re in for an enchanting experience. Small wooden chalets traditionally house each individual stall. They are laden with handmade toys, cookies, decorations, wreaths, candles, and even hand-carved nativity sets. These markets are a great place to find stocking stuffers and unique personalized gifts. Lit with strings of bright Christmas lights and clustered around a decorated fir tree, it’s a timeless scene.
The first Christmas Markets began over 600 years ago in Germany. The “weihnachtsmarkts” were an extension of the weekly markets and were an opportunity for locals to stock up on seasonal produce for the long winter months ahead. December markets evolved into Christmas markets, selling wooden carved toys, crib scenes, and festive foods.
Enjoy foodie Christmas traditions Europe-style!
Each European country has its own traditional Christmas food and traditions and Christmas Markets are just the place to find them. In Germany and Poland, the aroma of sizzling bratwurst, roasted chestnuts, and warm gingerbread are sure to tempt you to sample the traditional foods on offer.
Germany is home to lebkuchen, a type of gingerbread cookie and each city seems to have its own special variation. Frankfurt has Brenton honey cookies and delicious Bethmanchen cookies made from marzipan and almonds. Stalls sell “gluhwein”, hot mulled wine seasoned with cloves and cinnamon sticks, to provide a warming glow. You’ll also find gluhwein stands dotted around ice-flooded fields where skaters take to the ice.
The Covid pandemic led to most Christmas markets in Europe being canceled in 2020, but at the time of writing the following cities are going ahead with their Christmas markets in 2021. We’ve also found some other seasonal events to make your European Christmas trip extra special.
Basel Christmas Market, Switzerland
If you’re heading to Switzerland this year for skiing and winter sports, don’t miss the incredible Basel Christmas Market which is already in full swing. It’s hard to beat the beautiful setting of Switzerland in winter and it creates an amazing atmosphere for the Christmas Markets. You’ll need to present your ID and proof of vaccination to join in the fun.
Basel Christmas Market has over 200 stalls in two locations: on Munsterplatz and Barfusserplatz. It’s the place to source exquisite Christmas decorations, hand-made candles, and spices, all beautifully presented.
Families should head to Munsterplatz and join in the activities such as a star workshop, candle decorating, icing gingerbread cookies, and riding the festive train. Toot toot!
Strasbourg Christmas Market, France
Dating back to 1570, Strasbourg’s black-and-white architecture is straight from the pages of a fairytale at any time of year. When decorated with huge ornaments, wreaths, Christmas trees, strings of colored lights, and a light dusting of snow, it’s absolutely captivating.
Expect to do quite a bit of walking as the market is spread over 10 locations within the UNESCO Heritage-listed Grand Île. Running from late November to December 30, 2021, this market is already in full swing for shoppers, who must wear masks. It normally attracts over 2 million shoppers, but this year is a good time to visit when crowds are likely to be reduced.
When shopping is done, head to Place Klebe which has an ice skating rink in front of the huge Christmas tree.
Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin, Germany
Although many German cities have canceled their Christmas markets, Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt, will be celebrating as usual. This is one of the oldest marketplaces in Berlin. They have massive open-air market festivities and evening concerts in the city. In fact, the market is already underway and will run until December 31st. However, there are some safety restrictions in place including mandatory masks and proof of vaccination.
Brussels Winter Wonders, Belgium
Brussels Winter Wonderland is hosting its fabulous Winter Wonders Festival again in 2021. This extravaganza takes over many public spaces around the city. There’s ice skating, a sound-and-light show, fairground rides, and an enormous Christmas tree.
There’s also a traditional Christmas Market in 200 chalets where you can browse for gifts, sip steamy gluhwein or Belgian beer, and snack on freshly cooked waffles. The event runs until January 2, 2022.
St Lucia Feast Day, Barcelona, Spain
Each December, Barcelona celebrates the Fira de Santa Llúcia (St Lucia Feast Day) with a 4-week festival and fair from November 26 to December 23. Celebrations of this religious festival include a parade, storytelling, and other family activities along with food stalls. One special highlight is the caga tio, a giant pinata-style Christmas log. When beaten with a stick, it breaks open with candy and gifts for children.
Held in front of the Cathedral, St Lucia Market is divided into four different sections. One sells nativity figures and religious decorations for Christmas; another focuses on plants and Christmas trees, both real and artificial. There’s a crafts section with many beautiful hand-painted pots, jugs, and plates along with handmade jewelry. The final section, Sinbombes, specializes in all types of musical instruments. It’s quite an education as you browse!
Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark
Tivoli Gardens is one of Denmark’s most popular attractions (along with the original Legoland!) This fun-filled amusement park is truly enchanting in December when it hosts the annual “Christmas in Tivoli” event. The beautiful gardens are decorated with 500,000 twinkling lights. There’s a fair with rides and jolly music from a Pixie Band.
Denmark also celebrates St Lucia Day with a candlelit procession through the gardens on December 13. Over Christmas (Dec 25 and 26) and New Year’s Day, the event includes fireworks. It’s already started, so best make travel plans fast!
Wherever you plan to spend Christmas, we hope you have a wonderful time with family and friends. Happy Holidays!
Why don’t you check out our blog on Christmas food traditions?
Top 7 Fall Walking Routes in Europe
Fall is the perfect season for engaging in a trip with more physical activity. Days are bright but without the steamy energy-sapping heat of summer. As the shadows lengthen, fall color can be spectacular. Europe has so much to offer, from river valleys and famous wine routes to alpine meadows, dark lakes, and lofty mountains. Now’s the time to polish your hiking boots, pack your camera and join nature in a final fling outdoors before winter sets in.
Let’s take a look at the walking routes we’ve chosen…
Fun Ideas for Family Travel in Europe’s Capitals
Europe has some of the world’s most legendary, exciting, and historic capital cities. Just like families, they are a blend of generations. Why not plan a legendary family trip to Europe, perhaps to mark a milestone birthday or anniversary?
Here are some of the great cities in western Europe with some suggestions for more off-the-beaten-path places to include in your itinerary.
Family travel to Central Europe
Fun things to do in Europe whether you’re 9 or 99!
Vacations are special times for family togetherness and planning a trip for two or more generations can be fun. There are many benefits to family travel, so get together and start exploring – it will be a bonding experience for everyone, from grandparents to teenage grandkids! Create the perfect family trip recipe, with culture, fun times, and adventure. You’ll be sure to enjoy your multi-generational vacation which will be a very special experience that you’ll talk about for years to come.
Best street food in Europe: Deliciously local
Travel is all about new and different experiences, and nothing does it better than food. One of the best places in the world to find tasty local street food is Europe. It’s a great way to sample seasonal food and local delicacies, often unique to that region or town.
Join us on a smorgasbord of delights as we tour 10 hidden corners of well-known cities to add flavor and spice to your amazing European trip.
V-E day 75
Today we celebrate the 75th anniversary of V-E Day. Let us take some time to reflect on the enormous sacrifice of people from all walks of life and praise the courage of those American and Allied troops who gave so much to ensure we can all enjoy the freedom we share today.
Christmas Food Traditions: a flavorsome journey around Europe (Part II)
5 Days until Christmas! Here it goes – the second part of our Christmas food traditions series!
Missed the first part?
Countries in spotlight: UK and Ireland & Germany
Europe for Couples
Europe is home to some dreamy places. In fact, at Finest Journeys we think it is hard to find a European city that isn’t cute and quaint. But does it have places that are romantic enough for you to Honeymoon in Europe? Although, when we mention that, we aren’t talking about the well-trodden paths that lead most couples to Paris and Lisbon. If you are thinking of going off that path, then you may be in luck!
Why Is Everyone Talking About Multigenerational Travel?
Multigenerational Travel has quickly become a favorite in the past few years. At a time when our lives seem to be getting busier by the minute, families spread out and move away and those strong family bonds so easily become stretched….
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