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City breaks for Easter 2016 – Where to go in Europe

Bad weather, busy shops, DIY and cheap chocolate? If the thought of spending another typical Easter at home in the UK has got you looking forward to arriving back at work on 29 March, it could be time to break the cycle with an exciting trip away.

Four days might not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things, but when you live in a continent of more than 50 countries, you have plenty of overseas adventure opportunities on your doorstep. As well as being the second-largest continent by land area, Europe is arguably the most culturally diverse. So, with opportunities aplenty, you've a decision to make.

Thankfully, we're here to inspire. Below are a few of our favourite European destinations, all ideal backdrops for your Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

The Dutch capital has a reputation as a hotspot of all things naughty, and anyone who's been will tell you it's well deserved, but there's more to this city than tackiness and taboo. Make the hour-long journey from London and you'll find a beautiful warren of Venice-esque canals, all complemented by immaculate townhouses and bustling cobbled walkways.

Its Red Light District shouldn't be dismissed, but instead embraced as the perfect place to enjoy an evening of tipples and people-watching. During the day, though, take the chance to get lost in the busy network of pavements and cycle lanes - punctuating your meandering with tasty local beer and some of the best pancakes you'll taste on this side of the Atlantic.

Safe, stunning, fascinating, fun and easy to get to; it's easy to see why Amsterdam continues to draw the attention of thousands of Brits each year.

Five things to do in Amsterdam this Easter

  1. Sample Holland in bloom at nearby Keukenhof
  2. Browse the weekend markets for gifts and trinkets
  3. Take an Easter cruise on the 'all-you-can-eat' pancake boat
  4. Get lost in techno at Gashouder
  5. Learn how beer is made at the Heineken brewery

 

Berlin, Germany

Berlin is full of distractions; a place where short walks can fast turn into day-long exploration missions.

Ever since its infamous wall came down in 1989, the city has gone about confirming itself as one of Europe's most creative hubs. It only takes a quick wander to see evidence of success as well - the seemingly infinite collection of historic buildings is juxtaposed with an equally endless portfolio of mind-blowing modern street art. In no place is this exemplified better than the East Side Gallery, where what's left of the aforementioned divide has been covered by the commissioned work of artists from across the world.

If history is your main focus, Berlin could well be the place for you. This is a city of stories: some happy, many terribly sad, but all hugely fascinating. From the Brandenburg Gate through to Checkpoint Charlie, via the Ramones Museum - there's something to satisfy any buff.

Five things to do in Berlin this Easter

  1. Go medieval at Spandau Citadel
  2. Witness a classical music spectacular from the Berlin Philharmoniker
  3. Watch England battle rivals Germany in a Euro 2016 warm-up
  4. Get lost in Alexanderplatz's famous Easter market
  5. Relax with the first signs of sun at the Tiergarten

 

Istanbul, Turkey

The fact that it straddles both Europe and Asia makes Istanbul unique. The unusual positioning also acts as one of its biggest tourism selling points, with inquisitive tourists the world over eager to experience this fascinating continental gateway.

Most visitors to Turkey's wondrous capital city are drawn - or at least wowed upon arrival - by its never-ending jumble of ancient religious buildings, bustling markets, contemporary towers and gorgeous coastal views. It's a place like no other in this regard, where the past and present meet with awe-inspiring results.

Food is another of Istanbul's strong points, with the city's countless restaurants, cafes and street vendors serving up delicious cuisine inspired by both east and west. Expect authentic kebabs, marvellous mezes, perfect vegetables and the freshest seafood, straight from the Mediterranean.

A four hour flight separates London from Istanbul, so pick your departure time carefully to make the most of your Easter weekend.

Five things to do in Istanbul this Easter

  1. Dance the night away with the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club
  2. Barter for presents at the Grand Bazaar
  3. Marvel at the architectural delights of Hagia Sophia
  4. Sail the continental border on a Bosphorus cruise
  5. Witness the Baroque brilliance of Dolmabahçe Palace

 

Athens, Greece

If any European location can challenge Istanbul in the historical significance stakes, it's Athens. With a recorded history spanning more than 3,400 years, it's one of the oldest cities in the world, and it has the scenery to prove it.

Dominating Athens' long list of must-see architectural wonders is undoubtedly the Acropolis, an ancient citadel that overlooks the city. It contains the remnants of several significant buildings - all enough to wow cultural buffs and inquisitive weekend breakers alike.

The big tourism hotspot that it is, Greece gets particularly busy in the height of summer - when temperatures can sometimes reach uncomfortable levels. Easter, on the other hand, is ideal; cool enough to explore but warm enough to wear short sleeves, and quiet enough to do it all at your own pace.

Five things to do in Athens this Easter

  1. Take a cable car up Mount Lycabettus for breath-taking views
  2. Fill your camera's memory at the Acropolis
  3. Tour the city's churches, taking in the Sunday celebrations
  4. Visit Panathenaic Stadium, the venue of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896
  5. Let your hair down in Psiri's bars and nightclubs

 

Edinburgh, Scotland

OK, so we're not leaving the UK for this one, but when you have cities as good-looking as Edinburgh within a train journey's reach, you don't necessarily need to.

The Scottish capital is split into two distinct areas: the Old Town and the New Town. Together, they're classed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, which says all you need to know really; this is a special place to visit.

The Old Town is dominated by an unmissable medieval fortress, Edinburgh Castle, while the New Town is often considered a template for urban planning success - despite being centuries old itself. Both are hugely enjoyable to explore, with plenty of head-turning architecture.

For the best views of it all, be sure to take the trip up to Arthur's Seat, a hill peak in Holyrood Park. At a height of 250 metres, the walk takes a bit of energy, but the result is well worth being out of breath for.

Five things to do in Edinburgh this Easter

  1. Meet the Cast at Edinburgh Castle
  2. Watch the sunset from Arthur's Seat
  3. Have your mind blown at Camera Obscura
  4. Enjoy Sunday afternoon tea at Colonnades
  5. Hunt for eggs in the Royal Botanic Garden

 

Prague, Czech Republic

Talk of beautiful European cities and most people will turn their minds straight to Paris or Venice. In Prague, however, the Czech Republic has a city more capable of holding its own when it comes to aesthetic appeal.

Comprising multiple mazes of snaking lanes and cobbled courtyards, it's the perfect destination for aimless ramblers - just be sure to carry a map, for when you've run out of time to be lost. There's always something to look at, wherever you are in the city; it could be an 800-year-old church, luscious green gardens or an overbearing hilltop castle. Exploration has never been prettier.

It's fair to say that Prague, like Amsterdam, has a bit of a reputation for drinking and debauchery. Well, smoke does lead to fire in some parts of the city, but that's not to say you can't have a relaxed and cultured night out in this city. Home to some of the world's best beers, it's the perfect place to hop from pub to bar enjoying the latest local brewery offerings.

Five things to do in Prague this Easter

  1. Shop till you drop at Old Town Square's Easter market
  2. Make friends with the animals at Prague Zoo
  3. Sample the glorious architecture of St Vitus Cathedral
  4. Enjoy some Black Light Theatre - a Czech speciality - at Image
  5. Take a journey of artistic discovery at the city's National Gallery

 

Where will you go?

With all that said, the final decision is yours. Will you spend Easter amongst the churches and courtyards of the Czech Republic, or stretching those legs on the bustling city streets of Berlin? If the beating sun of Athens isn't your idea of fun, why not stay a little closer to home by venturing to Edinburgh?

Wherever you choose to spend this Easter, make sure you're properly prepared. Do your research, pack carefully and be sure to arrange the appropriate travel insurance!

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