A last-chance ski holiday – or some guaranteed sunshine? A cultural short break – or a Spanish walking trip: 11 inspirations for spring getaways.
Best for culture: Lisbon
Portugal’s charming capital has myriad reasons why it's perfect for a spring break: fabulous places to eat, drink and socialise, beautiful architecture, fun markets and shops – plus it’s right by the sea.
Walk up the narrow, winding streets to the huge hilltop St George's castle and enjoy the great views back over the city to the sea: from up here, you'll see just how small, walkable and human-sized the old town is. It's a buzzy, friendly city, with a feeling of faded grandeur and a laid-back cafe culture. The vintage yellow trams trundling round the cobbled streets complete the impression of a city with a timeless atmosphere and there's plenty of restaurants to discover as you explore the backstreets and byways, many with live 'fado' singing.
If you're here for a few days, make sure you take a day trip, either to the lovely resort town of Cascais for its sandy beaches and beachside restaurants – or to Sintra, with its magical, fairy-tale, pastel-coloured castle high in the mountains above the town.
Photo: Lisbon Castle at twilight (Shutterstock). Main photo of Lisbon (top of page) by Getty Images.
Best for skiing: Zermatt
Switzerland's most popular destination is visited by two million people a year, but if you go in the spring (avoiding Easter) it's quieter and cheaper than in high season and as one of the highest resorts in Europe you’ll get enough snow – if all else fails, snow machines will top up the snow levels.
Beautiful sunny days and longer lift opening times, plus ideal après-ski conditions on the mountain terraces make it the ideal time of year to visit that most majestic of mountains, the Matterhorn.
The town's main street, Bahnhofstrasse, is full of boutique shops, hotels and restaurants, and Zermatt has a lively (if not cheap) après-ski scene.
Best for a city break: Paris
Where else but Paris in the spring for lovers and… well, anyone else, really. When you can grab a coffee before jumping on a morning train and be eating moules marinière at a chi-chi pavement cafe for lunch, why not? Overnight breaks in Paris, including return travel on the Eurostar, start at around a very tempting £100.
Paris has an abundance of museums, art galleries, monuments, exquisite parks and gardens, charming markets – and cafés and boulevards that still retain all the romance and charm of the twenties. In spring the streets come to life with an atmosphere of elegance and joie de vivre.
Watch the world go by in literary cafés such as the Café de Flore on Blvd St Germain (cafedeflore.fr), or Ernest Hemingway’s favourite hangout spot, Le Select in Montparnasse. (leselectmontparnasse.fr)
Best for some short haul sunshine: Malta
Spring is a great time to visit the green and pleasant island of Malta: the weather will be pleasant rather than scorchio, with springtime daily averages reaching 18ºC.
With no searing heat, you can swim and see the sights without crowded beaches and restaurants. Meanwhile getting there can be incredibly cheap: BA have return flights, departing at sensible times of day, from £87.
Nature is in full bloom with wild narcissus, fennel and other herbs in flower. If weather permits, grab a boat trip even if only a short harbour cruise, or take the ferry from Valletta to Sliema or over to Gozo.
Malta has evolved into a slick and happening holiday destination, with buzzing nightclubs, good restaurants and cocktail bars up all over the island.
Best for Carnival: Tenerife
The week leading up to Lent is a time for wild partying in many areas of Spain, with this country playing host to Europe’s biggest Carnival festivals, the most boisterous of which are in the Canary Islands, and in the mainland in Cadiz and Sitges.
The Carnival in the north Tenerife city of Santa Cruz (19 February – 5 March) is possibly the biggest party held in Europe: an extravaganza of colour, light, music and mayhem making it most like the Rio Carnival. (But it’s not for the easily offended, so don’t take your granny.) Smaller north coast town Puerto de la Cruz nearby is also a go to location, if on a smaller scale.
Slip on your highest heels and join in the street celebrations.
Photo by Getty Images.
Best for wellbeing: a yoga retreat
For a holiday focused on a reflective, healthy inner you, choose a restful yoga retreat at home or abroad. Yoga holidays are usually suitable for newcomers to the practice as well as hardened yoga bunnies.
The combination of healthy food, no alcohol, lots of restful time and meditation alongside daily yoga will give you back at the end of a holiday in much better shape than you arrived.
Try Soulfood London’s range of retreats, whether in Cornwall, Greece or Italy. The company, run by three schoolfriends with a passion for wellbeing, caters for people wanting to make the most of their holiday, with extra options such as photography and surfing lessons included in some of their retreats – check the website to see what takes your fancy.
Best for countryside: Scotland
You can find stunning swathes of rolling hills and valleys across the UK, but for splendid isolation head for Scotland, where you can walk for miles without seeing another soul.
Glencoe is known for some of the finest landscape in the UK, with dramatic mountains sweeping down to glens and dazzling lochs, while others opt for the rugged wilderness of the Trossachs National Park, or the Orkney, Shetland or Arran Islands off the coast, all of which are teeming with wildlife.
If you are looking for true wilderness and to get away from it all, Wilderness Cottages have a nice selection of places in the middle of nowhere for stunning walking, fishing, cycling and so on, many of which have no phone or WiFi so you can get fully ‘back to the wild’.
Or try airbnb for some truly secluded spots overlooking lochs and mountains... and don't forget to pack lots of woolies.
Photo: Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness. (Getty Images)
Best for walking: La Gomera
What could be nicer than strolling along at your own pace, chatting with fellow walkers and stopping along the way for secret swimming, great food and maybe a little wine tasting?
There are any number of walking holidays on offer, whether your preference is for rugged or easy terrain.
One of our favourite companies for walking tours is HF Holidays, and La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands, is a great island for walking, with stunning views across the steep ravines leading down to the sea and lots of different levels of difficulty according to your own fitness.
A seven-day guided walking tour takes in the stunning Garajonay National Park, Hermigua, the Green Valley, Benchijigua Valley and the Guanimiar Barranco, with charming beaches and hermitages in the forest also on the itinerary. As La Gomera has no airport, expect to fly to Tenerife and get the ferry across to the little port of San Sebastian.
Best for stunning shorelines: Dorset
You may dream of exotic beaches in the Mediterranean or rugged coasts overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, but the UK has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world – particularly if sunshine isn’t a must.
The Jurassic Coast is England’s first natural UNESCO World Heritage Site, and stretches some 96 miles from Orcombe Point near Exmouth in East Devon to Old Harry Rocks near Swanage in East Dorset. Stunning natural landforms include Lulworth Cove, Chesil Beach and the natural arch at Durdle Door [pictured above].
This breathtaking coastline is rich with fossils, and there are an abundance of walking and cycling routes, with clifftop walks along the coastline being particularly awe-inspiring. Award winning beaches and cream teas top it off as yet another a 'must visit' area of the UK, particularly if you're looking for a family friendly UK break.
Best for family: South of France
If your priority is to keep things simple, maintain meal routines and venture only as far as the pool or beach, then self-catering in a French holiday park or private villa ticks all the right boxes as you can throw all your stuff in the car and jump on a ferry, which most kids love even more than planes.
Supervised clubs for kids at holiday parks allow parents some time off. Both Siblu (siblu.com) and Pierre & Vacances (pierreetvacances.com) have a wide choice of locations throughout France, or you could peruse airbnb for some family-friendly boltholes.
While the weather can be fairly similar to the UK in the north of France, get down below the Loire and you're pretty much sure of finding some sunshine.
Photo: Béziers, in the Languedoc region, is one of the oldest towns in France.
Best for the eco-conscious traveler: Devon
Well is has to be in the UK if we’re talking ultra-eco, with flights a definite no no… There are a growing number of holiday companies offering green tourism these days, but this one took our fancy: Yarde Orchard has bunkhouse accommodation, camping facilities and a cafe on the traffic free Tarka Trail in North Devon (pictured above).
A great choice for a cycling group following the Devon Coast to Coast route between Ilfracombe and Plymouth (route 27 on the National Cycle Network), the bunkhouse sleeps up to 14 people, with a self-catering kitchen, solar and wood-fuelled heating, rainwater harvesting, reedbed water treatment and warmcel insulation, and is a snip for budget travellers.
Rental of the whole building is £140 for the first night, and £120 for subsequent nights.
In true eco-style guests are encouraged to arrive by public transport: the nearest train station is Barnstaple, which is 20 miles away. If you’re up for it, follow the Tarka Trail from the station (cycle hire is available at the station).