8 amazing spring break destinations around Europe
Put the kettle on, relax with a hot drink, and start plotting your spring break now. Destinations all over Europe beckon with rising temperatures but lower prices during the spring months, as well as the benefit of uncrowded cultural venues and natural wonders. The following handpicked recommendations have something to offer all members of the family, from historic sites to exhilarating outdoor activities.
Discover the secret corners of the Côte d’Azur, France
Photos: ©CRT Riviera Côte d'Azur | Photos 1 & 2: Georges VERAN | Photo 3: Pierre BEHAR
Villages perchés (clifftop villages) such as Eze and Gourdon, the restaurants of Mougins, Menton’s spring lemon festival, the perfume-producing city of Grasse, the potters of Vallauris, the glass-blowers of Biot—the South of France isn’t all about glitz and glamour (although the beaches of Nice, Cannes, St-Tropez, and Monaco retain their allure). An array of museums and galleries also bears witness to the lure of this lovely part of world for artists of the stature of Picasso, Matisse, and Degas. Visit in spring and you’ll get to see world-class art without jostling for space.
Be charmed by the Cinque Terre, Italy
This UNESCO–listed string of seaside villages perched above the glimmering Ligurian Sea, within a National Park of the same name, is a walkers’ paradise—making spring the ideal time to visit due to the mild temperatures. Trails of varying degrees of difficulty take you along the coast or into the park interior through olive groves, citrus orchards, and vineyards. Reward yourself with drinks and dinner accompanied by glorious sunset views in one of the five villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. There are also hidden bays with rocky little beaches where you can cool off with a plunge in turquoise waters.
Cut free of the crowds in the Cyclades, Greece
Photos: ©Y Skoulas | www.visitgreece.gr
Green landscapes and sea water warm enough to swim in, yet a dearth of visitors, make this cluster of magical Greek islands—the best-known among them Santorini and Mykonos—a fantastic choice for a spring break. Think shimmering blue waters, superb sandy beaches, and traditional blue-and-white architecture straight out of the glossiest of coffee-table books. Though you won’t have heard of many of the islands, the Cyclades’ drop-dead gorgeousness means they’re no insider secret—but come in spring and you’ll experience Greek lifestyle and landscapes at their most enchanting.
Find your fiesta on the streets of Seville, Spain
Photos: ©Sevilla Ciudad
February, March, and April are sensational months to visit the Andalusian capital: The weather is mild and the skies are blue, but the crowds haven’t yet arrived. Relax on a café terrace, intoxicated by the scent of the spring blossoms on the city’s 14,000 bitter orange trees. Then partake in some local traditions: Easter sees colourful Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions, while the flamboyant Feria de Abril brings a riotous six days of parades, parties, live music, and flamenco to the streets. Seville is also one of the host cities for the major Flamenco Viene del Sur concert program, running late February to late May.
Explore the cobbled streets of Split, Croatia
Photos: ©Tourist board of Split
The country’s second-largest city bursts back into life in spring, offering the chance to experience authentic Dalmatian life and even, on some days, sunbathe on its Adriatic beaches around midday. Cafés and restaurants are peaceful, and low-season prices make eating and drinking out a bargain. You’ll also have sights such as the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Diocletian’s Palace—one of the world’s most glorious Roman ruins—virtually to yourself. The same is true of the rest of Split’s Old Town, with its winding lanes, fish-market, and compelling museums, and of the city’s working harbour.
Make for the mountains of Madeira, Portugal
Photos 1 & 3: ©Hugo Reis | Photo 2: ©Francisco Correia
Boat-rides and walks along levadas (winding waterways laid through the mountainous interior) are just two outdoor activities to be enjoyed on the sunny spring days of this Portuguese archipelago off Africa’s northwest coast. Despite being nicknamed “the Island of Eternal Spring”, it can be too hot for many in summer. As well as enjoying its volcanic scenery and botanical gardens, great things to do in spring include exploring the capital, Funchal, with its backdrop of mountains and banana plantations, its whale-watching trips (best from April on), and its beachside saltwater lidos.
Be dazzled by the magic of Malta
Photos: ©viewingmalta.com | Photo 3: ©Mario Galea
This Mediterranean island is another great destination for those who eschew the heat and crowds of summer, although sunbathing and sea-swimming are both possible in late spring. As well as being green and flower-clad at this time of year—ideal for walkers—the island is lively with local events. These range from Easter feasts in the villages to an international fireworks festival in April, with spectacular displays over the water accompanied by music. (The island’s century-long tradition of fireworks harks back to the Order of the Knights of St. John.)
Go floral in Haarlem, the Netherlands
A great base for discovering the Bollenstreek, or Flower Bulb Region, which draws thousands of visitors each spring to admire its tulips and other blooms, Haarlem is a fascinating destination in its own right. Medieval architecture creates atmosphere, but there are also great shops and restaurants, and for a blast of fresh spring air, gorgeously windswept North Sea beaches are within a short hop. Renting a bike and cycling the 17 kilometres from Haarlem to the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens—focal point of the Bulb Region—will allow you to circumvent the traffic.