You won’t struggle to find unique things to do in Europe. Novel activities and sights crop up everywhere, just waiting to be stumbled upon by adventurous souls. April is a wonderful time to discover them, too. Not only has spring just arrived, but so has Easter – a holiday that’s celebrated in the liveliest style across the continent. Festivals spill out into the streets, tasty treats fill up shop windows and crafty events provide plenty of opportunities for tourists to get hands-on with the holiday.
There’s no doubt about it. It’s a brilliant time to travel, and we can help you plan the perfect itinerary. See some of Europe’s most unique sights – and try traditional Easter activities – inspired by the suggestions below.
Fascinating fortresses and fountains in Rethymno, Greece
Cloistered by gorgeous coasts and containing several stunning sites is Rethymno: one of Greece’s most culturally-renowned cities. Start your Easter trip on Paleokastro hill, which Fortezza Fortress has crowned since the 1500s. Over time the structure has been used as a fortress against the Ottoman Empire, a shelter during World War II and, nowadays, as an incredible location for tourists. Between its exciting stamp on history and panoramic views of the city, it’s well worth a visit.
Back in the city itself, you’ll find plenty of treasures and hidden gems in the Old Town. Spot Turkish architecture, shop at rustic boutiques and even take part in a festival – the feast of Agios Georgios – on Easter Monday. Easter is Greece’s most important feasting holiday, so there should be plenty of opportunities to eat and drink over the weekend as well as take part in other traditional events – such as candlelit processions and firework ceremonies. Keep your eyes peeled.
Into the niche and new? Make sure you swing by Meli to try their desserts. This shop serves fresh goat’s milk ice cream in a variety of flavours, from fig and pomegranate to its signature vanilla. It’s well-positioned opposite Rimondi Fountain, too – another historic gem built in 1626.
Where to stay: There’s very little that Avli Lounge Apartments hasn’t been. It’s served as a soap factory, olive press, tannery and the lodgings of a Venetian lord, and today, it’s a hotel: famous for its top-tier service and award-winning restaurant. The best base for a brilliant break.
Rebellious empresses and exotic dining in Vienna, Austria
Vienna’s Palm House is a sight to behold. The Art Nouveau building – constructed delicately from steel and glass – was once used by the emperor as a place to relax and recline. Enjoy garden views and cocktails from the grand terrace or savour coffee and cake in-between exotic plants – you’ll be mesmerised by just how picturesque it is, here.
Sticking to the nobility theme, squeeze an Empress Sisi walking tour into your schedule. The empress is one of the most famous women in Austrian history and left a huge impression on her peers for her remarkable character, nonconformism and “modern” attitude (she even had a tattoo!). See where she shopped, slumbered and snacked while your guide regales you with stories about the revolutionary royal.
In the run-up to Easter Vienna specialises in some wonderful Easter markets, too. Wander stalls piled high with eggs in every shape and size, including plastic, decorative and chocolate ones. On that note – if chocolate is your thing – put aside some time during your Viennese escape to track down some “Sacher Torte”: a classic Austrian cake layered with apricot preserves. Café Sacher serves an exemplary slice.
Where to stay: While ticking some of the most unique things to do in Europe off your list, why not stay in one of its most unique properties? Hotel Stefanie is the oldest hotel in Vienna, and since the 1600s, have been accommodating guests from around the globe. With over four hundred years of practice in the art of hospitality, this hotel guarantees a memorable and ultra-comfortable stay.
Processions and “pearls” in Taormina, Italy
Taormina was once a hotspot for wealthy artists and European aristocracy, and over the years, has maintained its status as one of the most compelling places to visit across the continent. Between its mix of old churches, leafy parks and historic spots like Palazzo Corvaja – home to the Sicilian Parliament in the 1400s – there’s so much to see… including the sea. Every visit to this bustling city should include a pitstop at the beaches of Isola Bella. Known as the “Pearl of the Ionian Sea”, this tiny isle has the perfect balance of clean sands, lush vegetation and clear, azure waters.
If you’re looking for events that are specific to Easter over your April travels, Italy can provide them, too. Traditional celebrations and festivals are common during the holiday throughout Sicily, including in Taormina. On Good Friday, a “Procession of Mysteries” occurs, in which wooden statues are carried on the shoulders of locals, representing the various scenes of the Passion of the Christ. The streets go dark – with street lamps and shop window lights turned off – to contribute to the dramatic atmosphere. Definitely attend, if you can – it’s one of the most unique things to do in Europe, in our opinion.
Where to stay: Elegance and charm underpin everything at Hotel Villa Schuler. This refined four-star hotel is perfectly-primed to treat you, from its luxurious rooftop lounge and terrace to breathtaking panoramic lift, which ensures that there’s not a single second – even while you’re soaring up the floors to your room – that you can’t admire the Sicilian mansion.
Old candle shops and opulent coach museums in Lisbon, Portugal
Cultural, quirky, colourful. Lisbon’s sights really have it all. Start your extraordinary explorations at Jerónimos Monastery. This 16th-century building is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it’s more than worthy of the title. Within its well-preserved walls there’s plenty to see, so make sure you take your time: particularly at the South Portal, which includes artistic testaments to Portugal’s Patron Saint – St. Michael the Archangel – along with other notable figures.
Next up on your itinerary should be souvenir shopping with a twist at Caza das Vellas Loreto: a candle shop that’s been running since July 14, 1789 (the same day that the French Revolution began). It’s been owned by the same family for seven generations, and is one of the city’s most historic places to pick up a gift. You’ll want to visit some foodie stops during your shopping spree, too. Easter is a time for eating in Portugal, and foods such as melt-in-the-mouth Pão-de-Ló, chocolate almonds and more will keep you fuelled up and satisfied while you wander its quaint, stony streets.
During your trip, spare an afternoon to roll down to The Coach Museum – which we’d wager is one of the most unique things to do in Europe, let alone Lisbon! A staple of the city’s museum scene since 1905, this off-the-cuff locale is a brilliant way to entertain yourself for a couple of hours. Its collections, exhibitions and, of course, comprehensive range of coaches provide some fascinating insights into the timeline of coach travel. (Horses not included.)
Where to stay: If a romantic boutique hotel sounds like your idea of heaven, book yourself into As Janelas Verdes. Along with 29 marvellous rooms, the hotel boasts a gorgeous library terrace where you can snuggle up with a book or admire the Tagus – the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula – from its wall-length windows.
Mythic creatures and marvellous lakes in Ljubljana, Slovenia
How do you make a Gothic bridge look even grander? By adding dragons, of course. Ljubljana’s appropriately named Dragon Bridge includes four ornate green dragons – two at each end – to peruse while you wander over the water.
If you prefer to be next to the water rather than above it, leave the city behind for an afternoon at Lake Bohinj, one of Slovenia’s less touristy – but no less beautiful – lakes. Hike along one of the several trails if you want to be rewarded with the best birds-eye views, or enjoy moments of quiet repose on the lake’s glittering shores: both options are equally appealing.
Back in Ljubljana, balance your time between Easter-focused fun and other touristic activities. Egg decorating workshops are popular throughout the country – ask the staff at the hotel you’re staying at for more information on where to find some that are local to you – as well as Easter exhibitions and, of course, plenty of opportunities to enjoy traditional holiday food.
Once you’ve had your fill of celebration, enjoy another dose of culture at Ljubljana Castle. Roughly 900 years old, this boredom-busting building is absolutely crammed with things to do. See a puppet museum, exhibitions, a chapel, Outlook Tower and more while you walk around. You’ll have a ball.
Where to stay: If you’ve spent your day at the Ljubljana Castle, it’s only appropriate that you spend a night at a palace! Small but mighty Antiq Palace is the former residence of several noble families. With its intimate setting and close proximity to many of the city’s most interesting attractions – based in the heart of Ljubljana city centre – it’s the perfect balance of convenience and class.
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