Sure, the living is easy in summertime. But any travel advisor will tell you that travel is easier in the spring. Especially when you are headed to Europe.
As the calendar turns past the first day of spring on Mar. 21, Europe kicks into the best time of the year for visitors, so we asked travel professionals for some thoughts on visiting the continent when it first comes into bloom. Here’s what they said.
“If you truly want to experience a country, it’s best to go when their country folk are going to the same museums, cafes, bars and restaurants you will visit,” says Heather Bannon of Unique Romance Travel in Katy, Texas. “In springtime, the locals are home and not traveling — and this truly gives you the best flavor for the country, unlike in the summer months, when most Europeans are also traveling.”
Not to mention the white asparagus in Germany and Austria; the tulips in Holland; and the Easter markets in Vienna that “have the feel of the Christmas markets without all the tourists.”
“In places like Greece and Italy, visiting in the spring means you meet the locals when they are at the start of the tourist season … and typically a lot happier to see visitors,” Bannon said.
Heading into her fifth group river cruise this April, Karen Quinn-Panzer of Dream Vacations Quinn Panzer in Milford, Connecticut, finds that “spring comes a bit earlier in Europe than it does in the Northeast. From the splendor of tulips at Keukenhof Gardens to the budding trees along the Danube or the Rhone, it's our favorite time for a river cruise.”
For an added bonus, “the prices are lower and you can usually find a wine cruise available.”
And of course, “spring clothes are cuter and lighter, so you can get more in that 50-pound baggage allowance,” says Vicki Watkins Briggs of Briggs World Travel.
Meanwhile, “Holland and Belgium are so picturesque, they remind me of illustrations from storybooks," says Camille Sperrazza, owner of The World Awaits Travel in Brooklyn. For her, “the highlight was the Keukenhof, a feast of vibrant color, with rows of breathtaking tulips as far as the eye could see. In one area, there was a tribute to Vincent Van Gogh, and tulips were planted in a manner so that one of his famous paintings was recreated. It was truly the most amazing gardens I have ever experienced."
Another highlight, Sperrazza said, “was exploring Anne Frank's house. When I read her diary growing up, I never imagined I would one day get to climb the stairs of the secret annex behind the bookcase and walk through the rooms in which the family hid. Anne's bedroom is still decorated with photos of American celebrities, the frayed and yellowed original magazine clippings, hanging on the wall, suspended in time, the blackened shades, still shut tight."
There are many events taking place in Europe this summer. Here are some of the happenings for travel advisors to suggest to their clients.
For car enthusiasts, Audi’s R8 Spyder European Tour, priced at $7,250 per person, offers a day of training and then four days of “spectacular views of Europe’s breathtaking landscapes” through the Alps across Germany, Austria and Italy. The program launches in June.
For the artistes, the new international Paris Art Fair will bring together 80 international galleries to the Porte de Versailles from Apr. 11-14.
And for the Royal followers, of course, Great Britain will be welcoming its favorite newcomer, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s first baby, due in April.
In addition to events, The Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel will open this month just outside Athen’s city center; and the Mandarin Oriental will take over management of the CastaDiva Resort & Spa on the shore of Italy’s Lake Como.
In France, La Réserve Ramatuelle in April will introduce a new beach club on the famous Pampelonne Beach. Designed by Philipe Starck (whose work includes Le Meurice and Faena in Buenos Aires), La Réserve à La Plage will include a 120-seat beachfront restaurant from the resort’s Michelin starred chef Eric Canino, and it will have 75 sunbeds.
Belmond will kick off the new Belmond Castello di Casole by taking guests in style (in a vintage Fiat 1100 Musone) from the Belmond Villa San Michele in Florence to the historic castle, located amid the vineyards and olive groves of Tuscany.
Exploring by sea
On the rivers, Viking is launching a whopping six brand new longships on the Rhine, Main, Danube and Douro Rivers; while AmaWaterways adds three. Other cruise lines also have new ships coming, including Amadeus River Cruises, Avalon Waterways, Emerald Waterways and CroisiEurope.
Ponant luxury expeditions will sail for the first time through the Mediterranean and the Baltic, boasting an innovative multisensory Blue Eye lounge through which guests can watch the subaquatic world.