Spring breaks: The complete guide to weekends away

The key to a great weekend break lies in the timing. Charlie Furniss on how to make the most of spring
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The Independent Travel

Seville
23-24 March

Semana Santa, or Holy Week, in Seville is a spectacular celebration. From Palm Sunday (24 March) to Easter Sunday (31 March), 57 cofradías, or brotherhoods, process in penitence through the city's narrow streets. The extravagantly decorated floats contrast starkly with the Nazerines and Penitents, who chant prayers and carry candles in sinister-looking white gowns and hoods. Travelscene (020-8424 9648, www.travelscene.co.uk ) is offering two nights at Los Mercaderes hotel for £397, including flights from Heathrow and B&B accommodation.

Rome
30-31 March

There's only one place to be at Easter and that's Rome. Join the throng in St Peter's Square on Easter Sunday to hear the Holy Father's seasonal message and blessing ( www.vatican.va). Exclusive Destinations (01892 619650, www.exclusiveworldwide.com) is offering four nights at the luxurious Hotel Piranesi departing on 29 March for £679; the price, based on two sharing, includes return flights with British Airways, private transfers, and B&B accommodation in a room with a lovely rooftop terrace.

Amsterdam
6-7 April

The Fifth Floriade Flower Festival takes place this year between 1 April and 15 October at a 65-hectare site in Haarlemmermeer near Amsterdam. Think the Chelsea Flower Show, but multiply by 10. The last event, in 1992, attracted 3.3 million people and featured everything from your wildest horticultural dreams. The flowers will be at their freshest during this first weekend. Kirker Holidays (020-7231 3333, www.kirkerholidays.com) is offering three nights at the Estherea Hotel in Amsterdam for £372 per person; the price includes B&B accommodation, flights, transfers, a canal cruise and a one-day bus and tram pass. A one-day pass to Floriade costs £13 from the Amsterday Travel Service (0870 720 2002, www.bridgetravel.co.uk) and includes a £2 booking fee.

Berlin
13-14 April

This spring the Berlin Staatsoper is performing all of Wagner's later operas, what he termed "music dramas", twice in March and April. The second run begins on 13 April with the nautical fantasy the Flying Dutchman and finishes on 28 April with the grail-quest epic Parsifal. You can catch the Ring between 17 and 22 April. Three nights at the Westin Grand Hotel, a short walk from the Staatsoper, will cost £498 per person with Kirker Holidays (020-7231 3333, www.kirkerholidays.com) and includes B&B accommodation, flights and transfers. You can book tickets by telephone (00 4930 2035 4555) or online ( www.staatsoper-berlin.de). Prices for one opera start at €15 (£9.30), or for the entire cycle €135 (£83.40).

Portugal
20-21 April

For some early summer sun head to Portugal for the weekend. Guincho is an ideal spot for a quiet getaway, with sandy beaches and delicious seafood, though close enough to Lisbon if you crave action. Magic of Portugal (08700 270480, www.magictravelgroup.co.uk) is offering three nights at the Hotel Fortaleza do Guincho, a 17th-century fortress with magnificent sea views, for £485; the price includes B&B accommodation, car hire, flights from Heathrow, Gatwick or Manchester, and private transfers.

Tallinn
27-28 April

The capital of Estonia, Tallinn, is one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Europe, full of narrow cobbled streets and buttressed stone ramparts. Since 1946 it's hosted the Jazzkaar, an international jazz festival which has attracted Charles Lloyd, Don Alias, Greg Osby, Kenny Garrett, and Django Bates and established itself as one of Europe's best. This year's event takes place between 19-28 April and features Diane Schuur and the Richard Bona Group, among others. Three nights' B&B accommodation at the Hotel Central with Regent Holidays (0117 921 1711, www.regent-holidays.co.uk) costs £304 per person and includes flights from Gatwick and arrival transfer. Tickets start at K25 (£1) and are available from the box office (00 372 611 4405, piletid@jazzkaar.ee).

Greece
4-5 May

Easter in Greece is celebrated later than elsewhere in Europe. Masses generally begin at 11pm and are full of symbolism; particularly evocative is the moment when the church is engulfed in darkness and then returns to life with the candle lighting ceremony. Afterwards traditional celebrations focus on feasting, drinking and dancing. Halkidiki, in the north, is renowned for its flamboyant celebrations. A three-night stay at the secluded and luxurious Danai Beach Resort in Halkidiki from 3-6 May costs from £720 per person with the Mediterranean Experience (020-8445 6000, www.themed.net); the price includes B&B accommodation, car hire and flight.

Belgium
11-12 May

If you're a dog lover you might want to visit Ypres on 12 May and watch locals hurling cats from the bell tower in the centre of town. The Kattenwoensdag, or Cat Festival, commemorates a rather gruesome feline slaughter that took place in the 18th-century, after attempts to cure a rodent problem got out of hand. They eventually got the mice under control, and have used fake cats since 1817. The Belgian Travel Service (0870 1917284, www.bridge-travel.co.uk) offers self-drive holidays to Ypres for £143 per person, based on a Hoverspeed crossing from Dover to Ostend or Calais and two nights' B&B accommodation at the Ariane Hotel.

Prague
18-19 May

The Prague Spring Festival is a feast of symphonic and chamber music ( www.festival.cz). Since 1946 it has attracted such heavyweights as Mstislav Rostropovich, David Oistrach, and Anne-Sophie Mutter. This year's event takes place between 6 May and 3 June and features a programme of music stretching between the 16th and 21st centuries. Concerts and recitals take place in venues scattered around the Czech capital. With British Airways Holidays (0870 442 3828, www.ba.com/holiday) you can spend three nights at the Cloister Inn for £377; the price includes B&B accommodation, flight from Heathrow and transfer on arrival. You can book tickets via Ticketpro (00 4202 2481 8080, www.ticketpro.cz). Prices start at K200 (£3.95).

Monte Carlo
25-26 May

In the world of Formula One, it doesn't get much more exciting than the Monaco Grand Prix (above). This year the world's jet-set will descend upon the casinos and bars for the weekend of 25-26 May, to watch Michael Schumacher and the like tear round the city's streets. For a weekend watching burning rubber and screaming engines call Sovereign Holidays (0870 5768373, www.sovereign.com), which is offering a three-night break at the Meridian Beach Plaza Hotel for £499 per person; the price includes B&B accommodation, flights from Gatwick to Nice and a helicopter transfer from there.

Fez
1-2 June

The Festival of World Sacred Music is Morocco's answer to WOMAD and is held in the imperial city of Fez between 31 May and 8 June. You can spend your days exploring the bazaars and alleyways of the medina, and your evenings listening to musicians from around the world. The first weekend features groups from Turkey, Portugal, USA, Sweden, Ireland and Lebanon. Tickets start at DH100 (£6) and can be booked online at the festival website ( www.fezfestival.com). Three nights' B&B accommodation at the five-star Meridian Merinides hotel will cost you £600 with Cadogan Holidays (023 8082 8313, www.cadoganholidays.com) including flight from Heathrow via Casablanca and private transfer.

Faroe Islands
8-9 June

Where better to escape the World Cup than the Faroe Islands? Here you'll find peace and solitude in the towns and villages that sit on the shores of the fjords beneath green slopes and dark stony crags. Arctic Experience (01737 214214, www.arctic-discover.co.uk) is offering a three-night package to the Bladypi guest house in Torshavn, "the smallest capital city in the world", from £438 per person; the price includes flights from Heathrow via Copenhagen and B&B accommodation.

Chamonix
15-16 June

After the snow has melted and revealed a landscape of lush green mountains and wild flowers, the Alps become fantastic walking territory. Abercrombie and Kent (0845 070 0612, www.abercrombiekent.co.uk) runs long weekends from June-September which include a private guided walk on the Traversée de la Vallée Blanche and, if you're brave, rafting and body-surfing down the Giffre and Arve Rivers. A three-night stay in Chamonix (above) departing any day of the week costs from £995 and includes half-board accommodation, flights from Gatwick to Geneva, transfers and guides.

Tromso
22-23 June

To celebrate Midsummer's day properly, head to a land where the sun never sets. On Norway's north coast, surrounded by mountains and fjords, Trømsø offers an ideal setting to experience the midnight sun. After drifting around the isles you can sample the local fayre – reindeer, seal and Arctic fish – in one of the many bars and restaurants that have led the city to claim that it is the 'Paris of the North'. Inntravel (01692 629000, www.inntravel.co.uk) is offering three nights' B&B accommodation at the Comfort Hotel in Trømsø with flights from Heathrow via Oslo from £580.

Turkey
29-30 June

Since the middle ages Turkish men in leather breeches have settled scores by wrestling in olive oil. The finest grapple at the Oil Wrestling Championships in the ancient city of Edirne, this year on 28-30 June. Aside from the main action you'll find traditional music and dancing bears. Edirne is renowned for its beautiful palaces and mosques and colourful bazaars. Turkish Airlines (020-7766 9300, www.turkishairlines.com) flies from Heathrow to Istanbul from £233. There are bus services to Edirne from Istanbul; which should cost about £5. A double room at the Hotel Rustem Pasha Ceravanserai (0090 284 225 2195) costs from around £40; you'll need to book well ahead for a room during the festival.

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