Easter is fast approaching, so why not put a spring in your step – and take advantage of those two bank holidays – with a long weekend break in some of Europe’s most fascinating cities?
Built on seven hills overlooking the River Tagus close to where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon offers a rich history (predating the likes of London, Rome and Paris by hundreds of years), postcard pretty scenery, great nightlife and glorious climate (with Easter falling late this year, good weather is pretty much guaranteed). Many of the key sights, including Sao Jorge castle and the Royal Palace, are contained in the compact centre, but it’s also worth venturing a little further out to the suburb of Belém with its famous Tower overlooking the River Tagus and the stunning Jeronimos Monastery. Just some of the many reasons to this year swap the Easter eggs for a Pastel de Nata, Lisbon’s famous custard tart!
Easter is one of the most important holidays, if not THE most important holiday in the Catholic calendar. Rome can therefore be famously crowded at this time, but that said, a visit to the Eternal City during Holy Week should be on most travellers’ bucket list. The majority of the tourist attractions keep normal hours during this period, with the exception of the Colosseum, which closes early on Good Friday.
Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are public holidays in Italy, so many shops, restaurants, and landmarks, including the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, are closed. But you can still spend this period exploring the quiet and quirky Quartiere Coppede or tour the likes of the Roman Forum and Borghese Gallery, which remain open throughout the weekend.
Offering visitors an authentic glimpse of traditional Spain, this compact city has something for everyone, from culture vultures to epicureans. Seville has been holding its Semana Santa celebrations since the 1500s, and they are now famous throughout the world. Some 50,000 people put on traditional robes to parade in the 58 organised processions, carrying aloft ornate Baroque statues. The region’s flamenco heritage also seeps into its Easter celebrations, making for a celebration like no other in Spain.
For an escape from all the hustle and bustle head for the tranquil gardens of the Real Alcázar Palace.
The city of Klimt, Mozart and Freud is renowned for its imperial palaces, gorgeous buildings and old-world glamour. Yet Austria’s capital is also home to contemporary galleries, hip boutiques and buzzing cafes. The Baroque-style Schönbrunn Palace is not only one of the city’s must-visit attractions, but over the Easter period hosts an Easter market, in which 70 exhibitors offer all sorts of foodie delights as well as Easter decorations and handicrafts. Whilst children have fun in the Easter Bunny workshop, grown-ups can enjoy a programme of jazz music. In fact, this time of year is a particular draw for music lovers, with the world-famous Vienna Blues Spring Festival running until 30th April.
Chocolate-box-perfect at any time of the year, it is in the spring that Slovenia’s capital city really blossoms. Enjoy a cruise along the Ljubljanica river, stroll around the cobbled pedestrianised streets or take the funicular railway ride up to the Medieval castle for breath-taking views over the city.
Don’t forget to buy an Easter bouquet at the flower market next to the Cathedral; “Ljubljana Bundles,” as they are known, are famous even beyond Slovenia’s borders.