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For European trips it is best to start planning well in advance, the average being eight months out. With that in mind, if you are planning a spring trip to Europe now would be the best time to start planning it. I have comprised a dreamy spring itinerary with several fabulous locations. For this itinerary I recommend starting your journey in mid to late April.
Amsterdam: 3 Nights. We start in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The reason I would start in mid to late April is because that is when the tulips in the Holland region are blooming. Imagine a carpet of color as far as your eye can see! The best place to view the tulips is at Keakenhof Park where they have seven million bulbs blooming. In the city of Amsterdam I suggest a walking city tour, where a local guide will walk you through some of the most famous locations in the city. Also recommended are a canal tour and the Van Gogh Museum.
Bruges: 2 Nights. The second stop is Bruges, Belgium. Bruges is a fairy –tale medieval city that oozes charm. The city is lit up after dark where you can really appreciate the beautiful old architecture. While here, you must try the chocolate, the waffles, some fries, and beer, Bruges has some of the best in the world.
Paris: 3 Nights. Paris, France is our next stop because you cannot do a spring tour of Europe without a stop in Paris. Start with the usual sights, including the Eiffel Tower which is glorious in the spring against blue skies and the Norte Dame Cathedral with its stunning rose windows. Then head over to Jardin du Luxemburg and lounge in the grass, tour the gardens, or play with a little wooden boat in the pond. Relax at one of the city’s many cafes; the Café Branly has excellent views of the Eiffel Tower. For a day trip out of the city I would recommend taking the train over to the Versailles Palace. The coming of spring marks the beginning of Les Grandes Eaux Musicales (the Musical Fountain Show), where the fountain movements are set to classical music. Other recommended tours: a city tour, a cooking class, or a wine tasting class.
Provence: 3 Nights. Provence is an area in southern France and well worth a visit. You can choose which city/town to stay in but here are my choices: Avignon because of its history (the Vatican relocated here for a bit), St-Remy-de-Provence because it is considered the heart of Provence (Van Gogh’s Starry Night was painted within this city), or Marseille if you are more of a city person, being the second largest city in France. No matter where you stay the three towns mentioned are a must see among the other charming towns in the area.
Nice: 1 Night. From Provence I would rent a car and drive to the next few locations, it is better time wise and you can really get a feel for the French and Italian Riviera. Nice, is a lively coastal town on the French Riviera and is famous for its opulence. Nice has fabulous restaurants, mesmerizing architecture, and interesting old town. The reason I only suggest one night is because it will be crowded, traffic isn’t the best, and the beach is all pebbles, but it is still a great little city worth a visit on the way to Italy.
Portovenere: 2 Nights. Portovenere, Italy is a small town on the Italian Riviera that is often considered the sixth town of Cinque Terre but less crowded. Cinque Terre would be another great option for this stop but with the new restrictions on the amount of people allowed into the area I feel that Portovenere is a great choice; it is a colorful seaside village and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a pedestrian heavy town (just like Cinque Terre) and bring your walking shoes and just explore this little gem on the coast.
Florence: 3 Nights. I would continue driving to Florence with a stop in Lucca (maybe for lunch!), which is a charming Renaissance walled city with cobblestone streets. Drop the car off at the beginning of this stay so you do not have to find parking. Florence has been continuously voted by travel magazines as one of the best cities in the world. The city itself has plenty of things to do or see but there are also many day trips you can take to the neighboring towns (Sienna, San Gimignano, and Pisa being a few). Florence is a city made of art, from street art to the glorious masters (including The David by Michelangelo). The don’t miss spots include: the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio (Bridge), and the Uffizi Gallery.
Rome: 3 Nights. It is a quick hour and half train ride from Florence to Rome. If you have the time I would stay in Rome a little longer just to be able to see the sights and get a good feel of the city. The obvious sites include: the Colosseum (I would take a guided tour that includes the underground portion), the Vatican, the Forums (yes there are multiple ones!), the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain. Outside the city you can take a half day trip to see the aqueducts and crypts or take a 2 hour train to Pompeii (full day), both are highly recommended. The best restaurants and cafes in Rome are the ones located in neighborhoods; so walk behind the touristy areas and find where the Romans eat/drink, the food is 100% better and so are the prices. A note about the Vatican, go early! Book a before they open tour to be able to see the museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Cathedral before the crowds (avoid Sundays or Wednesdays because they will be having service and the chapel and cathedral won’t open until later), believe me it is worth it. I do have a blog post dedicated to just Rome if you need more information.
From Rome we head home. Note: Take the train between Amsterdam to Bruges to Paris to Provence, then rent the car and drive to Nice to Portovenere to Florence, and then take the train to Rome.
And that is our spring tour of Europe (or at least one version!). If you do not have the time to do a full tour maybe you will be inspired to go to one or two of the places listed. Come in and talk to us at Travel Pros about planning a Spring European Trip!
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