Years ago I was told by a lovely Italian friend of my mother that in Italy people traditionally spend Christmas with their family, but the Easter break with ‘whoever they like!’. She also told me that you should really only drink cappuccinos until 11am, after which you should limit yourself to a ‘macchiato amount of milk’ if you can’t manage an espresso, and that a woman should always carry a pair of sunglasses and a silk scarf in their bag, just in case. She was so effortlessly chic that of course I have done my best to obey her rules. You might think the rule about Easter would be the easiest, but my husband’s family believe Easter is for family too…
Anyway, whatever your family is used to, and whoever you want to spend the Easter break with, it’s actually a really good time to visit another city. For example some cities have fantastic traditional celebrations you can be part of. We’re heading off to Florence this year, so I’ll be packing my largest, blackest sunglasses and a collection of vintage scarves, but here are some alternative recommendations from the Hotel Guru.
This year Seville’s Holy Week runs between the 14th and the 21st of April, leading up to Easter. It’s one of two huge April events in Seville, the other being the April Fair, Feria de Abril, which is two weeks later. So it’s a pretty special, and spectacular time to visit. Expect procession upon procession to take to the streets – fifty or sixty individual groups take part each year, each representing a different bible story, transporting enormous floats and followed by hundreds of people – and often a brass band as well. Some of the floats are religious relics, or artistic masterpieces, dating back three or four hundred years, but some are new each year, and depict small elements of the Easter story. It’s colourful and the floats are beautiful, but it’s also wonderfully sombre, and people take it very seriously, with some marchers there as penitents. Late at night, when the cobbled streets are lit by flickering candles and soulful drumming fills the air, it’s hard not to feel spiritual. Then there’s the April Fair, a week long party!
Where to Stay?
Casa No. 7 is a small boutique hotel in the centre of Seville, with just six rooms decorated with a beautiful collection of antiques. Most of the rooms overlook the cool, central courtyard, and all of them are packed with character. Stairs and floors are of white marble, scattered with rugs, and the lift emerges from a charming tromp l’oeil. The house also has a roof terrace, sitting room plus honesty bar, and a gloriously intimate atmosphere. White-gloved butlers serve a regal breakfast. Rooms start from €200 per night B&B.
Practical Details: Seville’s airport is about ten kilometres outside town and you can fly there with BA out of Gatwick. Seville’s April weather is warm and sunny, with average highs of 24°C and lows of 11°C.
Rome is known for being magical at Easter, there are so many significant catholic churches here that it goes without saying, but these days it’s probably not as crowded as you expect it to be. Holy Week is still very busy – and an extremely colourful and exciting time to be in town – but you can still find availability for the Easter weekend now. If you’re not trying to attend mass at the Vatican on Easter Sunday then there’s still plenty to do, many of the galleries and museums are open as normal, and it’s still possible to visit the Vatican Museums – just not on Sunday or Monday. And while some restaurants will be closed on Easter Sunday and Monday, there’s still plenty open, and a festive, celebratory air in the ones that are.
Where to Stay?
The Hotel Campo de ‘Fiori is a gorgeous boutique B&B with fantastic views from its roof terrace of St Paul’s, the Vatican and the rest of Rome. 23 romantic bedrooms have canopied four poster beds, frescoed ceilings, antique furniture and regally painted walls. It’s romantic, well positioned and really unique. Rooms start from €184 per nightt.
Practical Details: Rome’s main airport, Leonardo da Vinci is in Fiumicino is about half an hour by train from the centre of town. BA runs flights from both Heathrow and Gatwick, Aer Lingus flies from Dublin and Jet2 from Leeds Bradford and Manchester. it’s also relatively easy to take the train if you’re not in any rush. By April Rome is getting seven or eight hours of sunshine a day, and the average high temperature is 20°C and the average low 8°C. Expect April showers but not proper rain.
If some of the things you love best about Paris are inside the beautiful, colourful windows of patisseries and chocolatiers, then Easter is the very best time of year to visit. Intricate and beautiful, these sweet harbingers are preludes to the ringing of church bells, the consuming of long multi-course lunches and the rich schedule of concerts and performances, both in churches and in theatres. If you’re travelling with little ones Paris is probably at its most child-friendly over Easter, with many arrondissements hosting large scale egg hunts. All of Paris is off work for Easter Monday on the 22nd of April, but the Louvre is open, and so are many of the other great museums and galleries.
Where to Stay?
The 40 room Hotel Therese occupies a beautifully restored 18th century building in the heart of Paris. As well as the location, this hotel offers stylish decor – think quality beds and linens, while bathrooms neatly mix contemporary with traditional, such as Philippe Starck lighting and attractive old style tap fittings. Complimentary tea is served between 4pm – 6pm. And rooms start from €160 per night.
Practical Details: Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly are both easy hops from UK airports, or there’s the ever convenient Eurostar. Paris in April enjoys sunny days and average high temperatures of 16°C and average lows of 7°C.
One of the great sights of an Easter in Florence is the “Explosion of the Cart’ – sounds exciting, doesn’t it! This 300 year old tradition involves not just any cart, but one over nine metres tall, and pulled by a pair of white oxen to the Piazza Duomo, where at 11am on Easter Sunday a rocket, shaped like a dove, runs along a cable into it and sets off an impressive fireworks show. If the dove-shaped rocket is blown all the way back into the cathedral along the cable it means it’s going to be a great year! As well as the cart experience there are plenty of other great religious traditions to experience over Easter, though the rest involve fewer fireworks. Many museums and galleries remain open, even on Easter Sunday, and if it’s a dry sunny day you’ll find lots of people strolling the river and Florence’s green spaces.
Where to Stay?
Marignolle Relais et Charme is a wonderfully private, nine room Tuscan retreat in the hills above Florence. Sun pours into the large living room where sofas, an open fire and an honesty bar encourage lingering while the nine bedrooms are decorated with stylish country fabrics, pristine white paintwork and dark parquet floors. Breakfast and light meals are served on a veranda, glassed in for colder weather. Rooms start from €180 per night including breakfast.
Practical Details: Florence’s Amerigo Vespucci international airport is only 15minutes from the centre of town by bus or taxi, but direct flights between Florence and the UK are limited – it might be worth considering travelling via Pisa Airport, which is well connected to Florence too. Florence averages nine hours of sunshine a day during April, but it also gets plenty of rain, so pack accordingly. The average April high temperature is 19°C, with a low of just 7°C.
Greek Orthodox Easter runs between Friday the 26th of April and Monday the 29th, so you could attend two different traditional Easters in the one year this year! Athens is arguably home to some of Greece’s most beautiful churches, and their monuments and riches are displayed under candlelight for the traditional Holy Week services, rendering them even more magical than usual. Some of the highlights of the week include hearing the haunting Hymn of Kassiani, which is only ever performed on Holy Tuesday at the church of St Nicholas in Plaka. On Good Friday you can hear a Byzantine choir and follow a candlelit procession around the church of St George. And just before midnight on Easter Saturday you can experience the passing around of candles representing the resurrected light – this takes place across the city. Then come Sunday it’s a good time for a feast!
Holy Week is also the perfect opportunity to visit both the oldest and newest churches in Athens, the oldest being the Church of Panagia Kapnikarea, which was built in around 1050AD, and the newest being the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens.
Many locals head out of town for Easter, so it’s actually quite peaceful during Holy Week.
Where to Stay?
Pallas Athena is a totally unique hotel – it’s modern, luxurious and filled with modern art, and the result is fun and inventive. Each of the 63 rooms and suites are different, ranging from chic, to super chic, and there’s a creative restaurant to match. Rooms start from only €159 B&B this April.
Practical Details: Athens International Airport is just 12miles outside the city, and you can fly from Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester, Birmingham or Edinburgh. It’s fairly easy to catch public transport from the airport, or you can pay about €53 for a taxi. In Athens you can expect dry, sunny days in April, with temperatures between 20°C and 12°C.
The Hotel Guru has invaluable knowledge on both destinations and hotels – lots more ideas here