- Category: Destinations
- Author: Francis Tran
Europe in Four Seasons: Winter and Spring
This is the second in a two-part series: a guide for visiting Europe in each season. Check out the first article on summer in Helsinki and autumn in Florence!
A cold wintry day carries with it a feeling of both grandeur and purity: imagine a blanket of white snow covering an old town of castles and high soaring gothic towers. Now, take this scene a step further: imagine that you are in the middle of such a scene of pomp and circumstance, sipping a spiked hot chocolate while walking along a historic stone bridge. Welcome to Prague.
Listen to the carols in the cold December air as you partake of a variety of hot drinks available in the square to keep you warm. For example, mulled red wine, or svařák, fragrant with cloves, cinnamon and citrus, is heated almost to the boiling point. Czech mead, or Medovina, a kind of honey liqueur, is also enjoyed during festive time. A customary holiday meal is fried carp with breadcrumbs, often eaten at the Christmas table with potato salad. Another national favourite is a combination of roast pork, dumplings and cabbage. With its meat-and-potatoes-and-creamy-sauce foundation, Czech cuisine is best enjoyed with one of its fabulous lagers. Check out this list of 10 Must-Eats in Prague by Laura Sciliano-Rosen, a travel writer specializing in regional foods and drinks around the globe.
The Czech tradition of Christmas markets date back to the 13th century, when seasonal decorations, food and beverages were sold in the open-air gatherings during late December, made lively with music and dancing. Prague’s main marketplace is found in the centrally located Old Town Square and the nearby Wenceslas Square. During the Christmas season, the Old Town Square boasts a magnificent, soaring Christmas tree shipped in from a mountainside and festooned with decorative lights.
April in Paris: this is a feeling no one can ever reprise. . . . The words of the well-known jazz standard strive to describe the ineffable beauty of the capital in springtime. Soft rain falls and the city sidewalks sparkle with new life. The snow relinquishes its grip and flowers bloom. And the soul of the city, and France, returns.
Beside the usual attractions of Paris, such as the Eiffel Tower or Champs-Élysées, the city’s parks and gardens are perfect places to experience the returning joy of spring. These include the Tuileries Garden (located halfway between the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre) and the Luxembourg Gardens, with its many historical monuments and statues.
Paris in the spring is also alive with festivities and events. The French Open Grand Slam tennis tournament is held in in late May every year. Tickets generally go on sale in mid-February on a first-come-first-serve basis, so mark the date on your calendar. Also in late May, the Festival de Saint-Denis, held just outside Paris, offers a wonderful celebration of classical music.
As the snow melts away and the flowers bloom, people also return to patio cafés, which have long been part of the city’s rich cultural heritage. Come to Café Procope and sit in the same chair as Voltaire did, or join the ghosts of Joyce, Hemingway and Sartre at Les Deux Magots.
If you love the Woody Allen film oeuvre, your can recreate your favorite moments from Midnight in Paris by following this location guide. You can also check out the film’s opening sequence here.) In breathtaking fashion, Woody Allen displays his deep love of the beauty of Paris in four minutes, with springtime rain splashing on the pavement and the picturesque sunset reflecting on the façade of old Haussmann boulevards. You may bring an umbrella to Paris if you wish, but the director makes it clear that the right way to walk in the Parisian rain is simply to walk in the Parisian rain.