Aside from Christmas, which is usually booked up with friends and family, Easter is the only real freebie when it comes to time off work, so many of us are looking to travel over this period. And spring is a great time for an Easter city break …
But here’s the thing: I wouldn’t call myself religious, but over the years I have been genuinely moved by what I have seen and experienced on Easter city breaks. I have been fascinated by the pomp and ceremony going on in churches, and gawped at the feasts and decorations, but I have also been humbled by the weight of tradition and history, and moved by words and music all wrapped up in the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. I have inadvertently become part of processions and people have shared their faith with me generously in both grand and meagre surroundings, and so this period has come to have a special resonance for me as a traveller. And, if you think of yourself as someone interested in the lives and culture of others, then this is a wonderful time to experience something special, albeit semi-familiar to most of us.
Easter is a great time to look for a sunny break for you and your family, or to eke out a last few runs on the slopes, but it’s also a great time to see some of our great cities celebrating ancient rites and rituals. And, surprisingly, we’ve found it’s not too late to book somewhere really lovely to stay.
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. It’s certainly not as crowded as it was say 15 or 20 years ago. 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? Close to the Spanish Steps, and with just six intimate, beautifully decorated rooms, Crossing Condotti is romantic perfection in Rome. The location means you can get everywhere on foot, and the tasteful antiques mean you’ll not feel too aggrieved when leaving the galleries and museums. The hotel still has double rooms available over Easter, with prices starting from £245 per night.
Practical Details: Rome’s main airport, Leonardo da Vinci is in Fiumicino, which 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 reach by train if you’re not in any rush.
Holy Week is the biggest festival of the year in Seville, when procession upon procession – fifty or sixty – take to the streets almost simultaneously, bearing enormous floats and followed by hundreds of people. Some of the floats are religious relics 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 beautifully sombre, and people take it very seriously. 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 Feria de Abril – April Fair, a week long party!
Where to Stay? Casa No 7 is a six room boutique hotel converted from a 18th century house in the centre of town, and decorated with beautiful antiques. Elegant and intimate, the rooms are arranged around a peaceful central courtyard, and there’s a roof terrace and a communal sitting room. Double rooms over Easter are priced from £240 per night, including breakfast.
Practical Details: Seville’s airport is about ten kilometres outside town and you can fly there with BA out of Gatwick.
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 many-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.
Where to Stay? The Hotel Recamier is a small, elegant haven on the Left Bank, close to the Luxembourg Gardens. Crisp and contemporary, this elegant townhouse has 24 rooms, a stylish courtyard, but there is no restaurant (breakfast only). The hotel’s classic, chic rooms start from £195 per night.
Practical Details: Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly are both easy hops from UK airports, or there’s the ever convenient Eurostar.
London is bright and colourful during Easter and the Easter school holidays – there will be kids-a-plenty in the galleries and museums. Many National Trust houses and gardens run egg hunts, along with some of the museums; many shop windows are brightly decorated, and the capital’s churches rise to the occasion with pomp and ceremony. Lots of people are out and about, but do check opening hours if there’s anything in particular you want to see – and book the biggest exhibitions if you’ve got your eye on something in particular.
Where to Stay? Batty Langley’s is an opulent 18th century townhouse conversion in trendy Spitalfields with gorgeous – possibly slightly over the top – rooms and suites and impressive bathrooms. If you have romance in mind then these rooms, with their four poster beds, roll top baths and period furnishings will really set the scene. Doubles are still available over Easter, with prices starting from around £180 per night.
Practical Details: Spitalfields is close to Liverpool St. Station, which is an easy one to head to if you’re travelling by train or transferring from the airport – City Airport is closest.
Marrakech is another great option for an Easter city break; it’s just beautiful at this time of year, with plenty of sunshine, and just a surprise hint of green where normally all you’ll see is ochre. And come midday temperatures are perfect, so you can comfortably spend all day in the medina. Marrakech is popular at this time of year, so don’t expect to have the place to yourself, but lively and colourful is what it’s all about here!
Where to Stay? That said, escape the feeling of busyness at Jnane Tamsna, a perfect Moroccan hideaway set in acres of beautiful gardens. There are five pools plus a hammam if you’re here to relax as well as explore, and the decor is impeccable – think Berber rugs, Asian silks and other textiles from Senegal. Doubles start from around £140 per night over Easter.
Practical Details: Marrakech-Menara Airport is linked to Gatwick and Stansted and is about five kilometres outside of town. There’s an airport bus, but if you want to travel by taxi it’s best to pre-arrange a transfer.
For more excellent holiday destinations, click here