Holidays & Travel

Put a spring in your step with a new season city break

Flowers, fiestas and folkloric celebrations revive Europe’s urban centres in the coming months, says Sarah Marshall.

Seville’s April Fair is the perfect way to welcome spring
Young women dressed in colourful flamenco dresses at the Seville April Fair (Alamy/PA) Seville’s April Fair is the perfect way to welcome spring (Alamy Stock Photo)

Longer days and warmer temperatures make it easy to get outside and explore further afield. But you don’t have to stick to the countryside to witness the arrival of spring. Cities across Europe are decorated with both wild and human-made decorations – from the tulip fields of Amsterdam to the party marquees of Seville.

Before the heat, crowds and higher hotel rates of summer kick in, this is the best time to plan an affordable city break. Time a visit to coincide with a festival, new exhibition or floral extravaganza. Or simply go to make the most of one of the most beautiful periods of the year.

Best for… cherry blossoms

Bern, Switzerland

(Alamy Stock Photo)

Holidays to see Japan’s famous cherry blossoms sell out far in advance, but there’s still a chance for last-minute travellers to see the Sakura closer to home. From the end of March to the beginning of April, Bern’s Rose Garden bursts into bloom with 110 cherry trees, originally gifted to the city in 1975 by a Japanese admirer.

Stroll through the park for views across to the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From March 19 to May 25, the International Jazz Festival will feature 200 concerts held at the intimate Marian’s Jazzroom – providing even more incentive to visit. Stay at the Swissôtel Kursaal Bern with views of the Swiss Alps, from £160 per night with breakfast (two sharing). Visit ALL Accor.

Best for… marvellous markets

Florence, Italy

A view of the Boboli Gardens in Florence
A view of the Boboli Gardens in Florence (Alamy Stock Photo)

Along with grandiose Renaissance art and architecture, Italy’s merchant city shines with several superb markets. During spring months, stalls in the Central Market are stacked with colourful fruits and vegetables, showcasing Tuscany’s top seasonal produce. For vintage finds, head to the riverside weekly Cascine Market in Cascine Park on Tuesdays (8am-2pm).

In the centre of Florence, historic statues and grottoes in Boboli Gardens dazzle with colour. And anyone keen to celebrate New Year all over again can observe celebrations on March 25, historically the start of the civic calendar. A three-night B&B stay at Hotel Alba Palace costs from £799, including transfers and flights from Gatwick. Visit citalia.

Best for… fun fiestas

Seville, Spain

(Alamy Stock Photo)

Residents of this sizzling Andalusian city certainly know how to throw a fiesta. One of the biggest events is the April Fair, featuring 1000 casetas (tents) erected in a fairground area, where drinks flow and tapas bites are served until the early hours. Originally started in 1847 as a cattle fair, this year’s event will be held from April 14 to 20, attracting revellers in traditional dress who ride on horseback or in carriages. Grow giddy on the spectacle and the sweet scent of jasmine and orange blossom. A three-night B&B stay at Occidental Sevilla Viapol costs from £312 per person (two sharing), including flights from Gatwick. Visit Travel Supermarket.

Best for… a riot of colour

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Celebrating King’s Day
Celebrating King’s Day (Alamy Stock Photo)

Proving grey days are a thing of the past, this Dutch city explodes with colour in spring. Tulip fields on the outskirts are at their best and celebrated across the city as part of a month-long festival, culminating in a parade on April 20. One hue, however, stands out seven days later on Koningsdag (King’s Day), when people and buildings are daubed orange for parties along the streets and canals.

Spare some time to admire palettes used by true masters in a series of new exhibitions: catch Frans Hals at the Rijksmuseum and Directed by Rembrandt at the Rembrandt House Museum. Immerse yourself in more art at the De L’Europe Amsterdam, decorated with works from the private collection of the Heineken family who have owned the property since the 1950s. Doubles from £430 per night with breakfast (two sharing). Visit Hotel De L’Europe.

Best for… blooms and boats

Copenhagen, Denmark

Sakura in Copenhagen
Sakura in Copenhagen (Alamy Stock Photo)

More European cherry blossom displays are in store at the Sakura Festival, held in the Danish capital’s Langelinie Park from April 20-21. Stroll between 200 candyfloss-pink trees and take advantage of warmer weather by enjoying a cruise along the city’s canals on tour boats, solar-powered vessels or kayaks. Copenhagen’s harbour waters are clean enough for a swim if you fancy joining locals for a plunge at Nordhavn or Islands Brygge.

Stick with an aquatic theme by staying at the NH Collection Copenhagen, located along the waterfront at the entrance to the Christianshavn district and easily distinguishable by its modernist 1950s facade. Rooms from £201 per night with breakfast (two sharing). Visit NH Collection.

Best for… musical highs

Salzburg, Austria

The Mirabell Gardens
The Mirabell Gardens (G. Breitegger/Tourismus Salzburg)

Striking the right chord with fans of opera and classical music, Austria’s romantic UNESCO city plays host to the Easter Festival with a programme of performances from March 22 to April 1. But even outside of this period, the hills of Mozart’s home are alive with the Sound of Music. Embark on long hikes along trails budding with wildflowers or wander through historic buildings and magnolia trees in the city’s Mirabell Gardens. At the end of March, the Trick Fountains of Schloss Hellbrunn also flow once again. A four-night B&B stay in a choice of four star hotels costs from £489pp, including flights. Visit Fred Holidays.