Without stating the obvious, the answer to the question ‘when is the best time to travel? is always a resounding ‘now’. There is something to love about travel at all times of the year, all seasons, all months and all weathers. That is all a little bit too much of a cop-out, so let’s go ahead and show you why April is the best month to set sail. This has nothing to do with the nonsense that is April Fool’s Day, either.
We went back and forth with various wordy subheadings, such as ‘the end of Winter, the beginning of Summer’, before realising that there was already a catch-all word for this time of year. Spring is the thinking person’s season, and it is thus the thinking person’s time to travel. The blistering summer sun is yet to present itself, but the weather will be agreeable enough to allow for lengthy walks and the occasional beer in the sun.
This is especially true the further south you go, and Croatia’s coastline is particularly enjoyable in April. The April temperature in Split veers between highs of 17c and lows of 10c, creating the perfect environment for exploring the white marble majesty of Diocletian’s Palace.
Not too quiet, not too busy
You can go ahead and assume that April is the little bear’s porridge of travel. The weather is not too hot, not too cold, and the same qualifier can be given to the amount of people traipsing around at this time. There will be enough people to create something approaching an atmosphere, but not so many that you’ll start to think you are a part of some strange social experiment.
This middling number makes April the perfect time to check out the busier destinations in Central and Eastern Europe. Prague is a busy spot all year round, but April takes the cake for us. The city is wiping away the sleep of winter at this point, and the transition between winter and summer makes for a unique atmosphere. The same can be said of Krakow and Budapest, the other members of Central Europe’s mythical ‘Big Three’.
Bloom and blossom
‘Blossoming’ may well be the most frequently used adjective when it comes to spring, and there’s a good reason for that. The trees begin regaining life at this point, and the bare branches of winter are left behind, for another few seasons at least. Parks all across the continent regain their colour and spirit, and walks become a little less desolate as a result.
Nowhere is this more impressive than Slovenia’s Volčji Potok Arboretum, the most visited botanical park in the country. The explosion of colour is something to behold, as tulips of all shades make their presence felt once again. The revival of life also does wonders for Europe’s lakes, with Bled, Zurich, Ohrid and the rest staking their claims for top billing.
Nightlife kicks back in
Winter is a busy time for pubs, bars and clubs, as local people make for the relative warmth of alcohol and walls. This is enjoyable in itself, but nothing beats the combination of this and the occasional stint in a beer garden or riverside bar. Belgrade’s nightlife is the best example of this, and the anticipation of another season brings the best out of everyone.
The beer gardens of Krakow and Wrocław deserve special mention too. The medieval prison courtyard of Więzienna in the latter is a unique outdoor drinking experience, while it is difficult to look past the Stara Zajezdnia tram depot in the former.
Events, events, events
Event season never ends, but April well and truly marks the beginning of mass-visited entertainment extravaganzas. King’s Day (April 27) sees cities around the Netherlands turn more orange than normal, while April 1 is the unofficial independence day of Vilnius’ bohemian republic of Užupis.
Elsewhere on the continent, Cosmonautics Day takes place in April 12 to celebrate the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic ascent into the heavens (as in the first manned-flight into space, not death or anything like that), while Jazz on the Odra will light up Wrocław between April 26 and 30.