5 years, 11 months ago
Ok, we’ll say it since no one else will, Easter confuses us. It’s the only holiday that doesn’t have a set date and if a terrifyingly huge gold foil rabbit didn’t turn up somewhere every year we probably wouldn’t know what was going on.
So, to mark the holiday and its traditional element of surprise we thought we’d take a look at some not so obvious places to celebrate this year. And Easter is officially March 29th – April 1st just so you know.
CUTE & CUDDLY IN AMSTERDAM
Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most family friendly cities and we’ll recommend it anytime at the drop of a hat. But even so we can’t get over the Dutch capital’s enthusiasm for all things Easter this year.
Before, during and after the holiday, farms all round Amsterdam are hosting ‘Lamb Days’ to let children get up close and cuddle, feed, pet and play with the poster babies for cute. Unless your heart is made of stone prepare yourself.
In the city itself the famous Artis Royal Zoo is another place that can’t get enough of Easter. This year it celebrates with non-stop children’s events including Egg Hunts, Treasure Hunts and the amazing ‘Oude Broedmaghinehuis’ (egg hatchery) – if you thought nothing could out-cute lambs, try cuddling baby chicks. Even without the special occasion activities, Artis Royal is one of the finest zoos in Europe and it’s always worth a visit anyway.
Unlike a lot of European cities, Amsterdam doesn’t close up and go visit Grandma at Easter so apart from entertaining small people it works for parents too. Almost everywhere in the city from grand establishment hotels to neighbourhood cafés have something inventive for the holidays. We like the sound of Pannenkoekenboot, a Pancake Boat eat-all-you-like brunch cruise on Easter Sunday and Monday. And if you’re self-catering, all the city’s famous markets are open and stocked to the sky with seasonal produce. If you needed an excuse to cook up a traditional Dutch Easter lunch you’ve just found one – chatty stallholders are always happy to give advice.
And don’t forget the flowers. Another reason Easter’s such an unforgettable time to visit Amsterdam. There are endless tulip farms as well as the city’s sprawling parks, the ancient Hortus Botanicus and, just a short trip away, Keukenhof. Famous for its amazing gardens, Keukenhof is also getting in on the Easter theme this year with surprise visits from the Easter Bunny and eggs for everyone.
SACRED SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
Whatever you believe and however you usually work Easter, whether it’s chocolate and bunny suits or an altogether more spiritual experience, you have to visit Spain at least once in your life during Semana Santa, the last week of Lent leading up to Palm Sunday. Every town and tiny village celebrates in some way but it’s in the cities that you’ll find truly awe inspiring spectacle. And in our opinion the most spectacular of all is Santiago de Compostela.
The capital of Galicia and one of the world’s most important places of Christian pilgrimage since the 13th century, Santiago de Compostela is the final destination on the Camino de Santiago and the most sacred city in Spain (the façade of its vast Medieval Cathedral is even on the country’s Euro currency).
The cathedral is Santiago’s focal point and well worth a visit if only to observe the daily Pilgrim’s Mass at noon. But it’s far from the only sight. The historic old town is endless streets and alleys opening out on to magnificent Baroque Squares. And there are more Romanesque churches and Renaissance courtyards than you’re ever likely to have time for. But Santiago is determinedly contemporary too and its smart shops, excellent Galician restaurants, friendly bars and cafés and huge student population prevent the city from being anything close to a museum.
During Semana Santa the thing to do is wander round and be a tourist during the day (Santiago isn’t insanely busy with visitors during Easter unlike its southern counterparts) then take to the streets in the evening for the nightly Semana Santa processions.
Completely silent, robed and hooded, huge groups of penitents walk to the beat of a single drum through the city streets. There’s often a typically northern mist in the night air and banks of flickering candles light the soaring crosses and sacred statues carried by the penitents to symbolise their Order. It is a very strange and quite awe inspiring sight.
And since you’re in Galicia you really should see some of the coast. We can’t promise you sunshine but we can guarantee Spain’s most dramatic beaches, an unforgettable train journey to reach them and Europe’s best seafood (Galician seafood was always Ferran Adria’s first choice for El Bulli).
Santiago has plenty of secular activity planned for Semana Santo’s evenings too and because its Easter there’s an infectious holiday atmosphere and everyone’s in a good mood.
GLAMOROUS NEW YORK
When it comes to celebrating anything at all New York works on the principle of bigger, brighter, splashier and just more of everything, it’s not a competition – but if it was……….
Unsurprisingly Easter is no exception.
If we say ‘Easter Bonnet’, you probably think a few bits of painted yellow cotton wool stuck on a paper plate and maybe a bit of string. Say ‘Easter Bonnet’ to New York and the city throws a parade all down Fifth Avenue on Easter Sunday. Unless you’re travelling with craft supplies, this is strictly observation only. Achingly cool minimalism, OTT extravaganzas, kids so cute they should come with warnings and even dogs groomed and hatted to within an inch of their little canine lives – this is definitely not a home-spun affair but it is pretty sensational to see.
The end of Lent is a traditional time of feasting and the Greenwich Village History and Dessert Tour over Easter Weekend is a very glamorous and very New York way to break your fast.
Renting an apartment and living like a local is one of the best ways to be in New York, especially if you’re looking for neighbourhood celebrations with a family focus. Our favourite this Easter (and many Easters before) is the Brooklyn Heights Easter Egg Hunt in Pierrepoint Playpark – it’s the definition of Holiday Tradition and couldn’t be more loved.
To be honest, hardly anywhere in New York isn’t doing something grand, glamorous or just eccentric for Easter Weekend from Scavenger Hunts in Manhattan museums, to events in Central Park, Peter Rabbit in Brooklyn or just lazy Lent-free Sunday lunch. And because it’s New York, whatever you do, it’ll be better than you’ve ever done it before – or so we’re told.
Now we’ve cleared up the date confusion and given you some good ideas, the rest is up to you. It’s Easter, Enjoy!
Featured image by razorfrog.