Temperatures are rising and soft sunshine is starting to filter through the blossom trees. It’s springtime – and a glorious time to be in Europe. From snoozing in an actual Sleeping Beauty castle to stomping the in-bloom Dolomites, here are our most-loved things to do in Europe during spring:
1. Play beer golf in Leuven
The Flemish town of Leuven is known for two things: beer and golf. It’s a place you can dip in and out of breweries while clicking snaps of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, swooning to live jazz, and beating the fairways of some of Belgium’s finest clubs. Or you can do it all in one go. City Beer Golf takes you through four city centre locations, tasting a new local beer after every hole. You might even stumble by historic hotel The Fourth, a magnificent meeting place and ridiculously handsome place to stay in Leuven.
2. Live like Lafayette in Loire Valley
Imagine what French aristocratic life was truly like as you transport yourself back to the 18th century in Chateau de Reignac. Amid a sprawling 11 hectares of gorgeous greenery, there’s no questioning the fact this four-star hotel was once the home of Marquis de Lafayette. From its serene chapel to the heartstopping guestrooms, this is castle living at its finest.
3. Feast by the fresh waters of Ireland
Spring is that joyful time where hefty snow coats are shed and the Irish can enjoy lighter layers (no shorts just yet, unless you’re very brave). A perfect way to inhale the soul-rejuvenating air is with a picnic at Lough Neagh, the biggest freshwater lake in the British Isles. Closeby is Newforge House, an utterly charming ivy-tickled guesthouse with an ever-growing collection of awards. One of them is for its breakfast, so don’t lie in.
4. Snap a bucket-list photo at Trolltunga
Jutting over Lake Ringedalsvatnet in Norway is one of the country’s most-photographed natural formations. Trolltunga, or ‘troll tongue’, is a slender splurge of rock that can only be reached by hiking the epic lands of Odda. The fjords and their mountain friends are sharper and crisper than ever in spring – take wing and lap up the beauty on our itinerary of western Norway.
5. Wander the Dolomite wildflowers
Summer booms in Italy, which is why smart travellers fly there during spring. The pale mountains shake off their snow, revealing tonnes of limestone beauty underneath. Biking trails come to life and the via ferrata launch into action with climbers once more. Local tourism has long been tightly tied to Hotel Alte Goste, an intensely calming guesthouse that dates back to 1142. Reset your mind, body and soul in its luxurious spa before sampling some fine Schnapps in the hotel’s intimate cellar.
6. Go fishing in Brecon Beacons
Wales has solid fishing spots from spring until summer. One of the finest is in the central Beacons, where you can spend the night in famous trout and salmon fishing hotel Gliffaes Country House. Trees stretch for days as you wind your way to your refined retreat – a late 19th-century house stuffed with cosy fireplaces, squishy sofas and bedrooms with their own mini libraries.
7. Sail around the Greek Isles
White-on-white everything, with big bold splashes of blue. The sun might not be beating down in full force, but that’s what makes Greek island hopping so refreshing in the spring. Turn left where everyone else turns right and you’ll discover the lesser-known islands of Chios and Hydra – blissfully slow alternatives to bustling Crete and Instagram-famous Santorini.
8. Avoid the crowds in Montenegro
Since gaining its independence from Serbia in 2006, Montenegro has bloomed into Europe’s most underrated travel destination. Its coastlines have sent poets such as Lord Byron into a frenzy, even drawing the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren to its serene, crowd-free beauty spots. Spend a weekend by the Bay of Kotor: its curves are best admired from Hotel Cattaro in the heart of the old town.
9. Stuff yourself with Portuguese tarts
Travellers with a sweet tooth can do no wrong ordering a pastel de nata in Lisbon. The little custard tarts are one of Portugal’s finest pastries – you’ll find people queuing up to buy them from the place they were first crafted. Make sure you’re close to the action by checking into centuries-old mansion As Janelas Verdes, with an ideal location next to the Ancient Art Museum.
10. Smell the roses in a fairytale castle
The word fairytale is overused in castle talk, but this one really is from the storybooks. Dating back to 1334, Dornröschenschloss Sababurg in Germany was the inspiration behind Sleeping Beauty of Brothers Grimm fame. From the dainty sandwiches served in the modern restaurant to the pink-speckled gardens, roses from the tale itself play an important role in this stunning four-star hideaway.
11. Go crazy for cicchetti in Venice
A lively evening crawl round lagoon waterways, washing down plates of cicchetti with big glugs of Aperol spritz, is mandatory for any Venetian getaway. Spring is the best time to visit the city, with less tourists and milder weather to enjoy. Once you’ve nibbled and guzzled your way to la dolce vita, snooze it all off in one of Hotel Giorgione’s elegant 18th-century rooms.
12. Hike your way to history in Switzerland
Beyond the tourist hubs of Bern and Zurich lies another Switzerland: remote, blossoming – and yet so accessible. Walk through the soft sunshine of spring on a hike to the monastery of St.Johann in Müstair. The UNESCO World Heritage listed convent owes its existence and rare features to Charlemagne, boasting the largest fresco cycle of the early Middle Ages. Carry on time-travelling with a stay in Chasa de Capol – a hotel so otherworldly that Albert Hoffmann, inventor of LSD once said “here you experience magic moments without having to eat hallucinogenic mushrooms before.”
13. Canoe the old canals of Filipstad
Yellow cowslips burst from Swedish soil during springtime in Filipstad. Rambling by them on foot is beautiful, but the little city’s waterways allow you to see a lot more of the historic destination. Paddle along the old-world canal route Bergslagskanalen, which comprises of one long interconnected waterway ending in Karlskoga. Filipstad’s treasured resident is Hennickehammars Mansion: enticing sink-in beds, fine Swedish fare and a big jacuzzi add a dash of luxury to this idyllic bolthole.
14. Tuck into a Zeeland lobster
Lobster season kicks off in March in Zeeland, a quiet seaside province nestled to the far west of the Netherlands. The Eastern Scheldt lobster comes from Zeeland’s national park of the same name and its taste is unique – sweeter and softer than other European lobster. Sample it at Auberge De Campveerse Toren – the hotel and restaurant looks over Lake Veere and serves up the fine fruits of the sea throughout spring and summer.