The Best Places to Travel in Europe in March
Is Dublin’s famous St Patrick’s Day Parade calling to you? Or perhaps you'd rather spend spring break lounging on a balmy Mediterranean island. Maybe you'll spend a week trekking through a remote forest in central Sweden, or admiring one of the most famous flower blooms on Earth.
Whether you're seeking adventure or a low-key retreat, March is the perfect time to experience some of Europe’s loveliest sights: minus the blistering summer heat and roving crowds.
Related: The Best Places to Travel in the United States in March
To help you find the absolute best places to travel in Europe this month, we looked at popular (and sometimes underrated) annual events, noteworthy hotel and restaurant openings, sought out exceptional weather, and considered destinations on our list of the 50 Best Places to Travel in 2018.
What we found were hidden Slovenian lake towns where travelers can explore a beautifully preserved medieval castle and new, scenic train routes connecting northern Italy and Germany.
March is also the beginning of festival season in Europe, so there are a dizzying number of opportunities to make merry with locals, be it at a citrus-inspired carnival in southern France, or a street parade with life-size puppets in Spain.
Ready to book a European holiday? These are the best places to visit this month.
There are a lot of ways to live it up in Switzerland’s poshest and largest city. In addition to the usual suspects — cafe-hopping in Zurich’s Old Town, or window shopping on Bahnhofstrasse — travelers can raise the bar this spring by having a meal at Dolder Grand. The acclaimed five-star hotel, which overlooks the entire city from atop a hill, will host a special six-course, dessert-only dinner this month, featuring drink pairings and elaborate treats by resident pastry chefs Andy Vorbusch and Jeslyn Teoh.
Chios Island, Greece
It’s sure to be a night of passion on the Greek island of Chios when two rival churches take part in an unusual tradition known as rouketopolemos the night before Easter (March 31). Translated as “rocket war,” the event is exactly as it sounds: starting around 8:00 p.m., the neighboring churches begin firing thousands of fireworks at each other, causing the town to resound with the sound of hurtling comets and exploding rockets. The event is so popular, locals hike up into the hills to ensure a good viewing spot before the blazing proceedings get underway.
Europeans have a way of toasting the start of spring that frankly puts the United States to shame. Whether it’s a town-wide bonfire or tossing bread rolls from the top of a hill, you’re better off on the far side of the Atlantic when the vernal equinox arrives. Case in point: Valencia, Spain. In March, the Spanish coastal city hosts a nearly month-long event known as Las Fallas, which includes street performances, a parade of giant papier-mâché puppets known as ninots, and the construction of a 50-foot high pillar made of flowers.
The streets of Dublin burst to life this month for the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Travelers weaving their way through the capital in March will have plenty to capture their attention, whether it’s a guided podcast walking tour of Dublin Port, or the famous two-mile-long St. Patrick’s Festival Parade. The celebrations span the entire weekend, so plan on escaping the crowds at The K Club, a 5-star country manor located 30 minutes outside Dublin. With a vintage 1936 Jaguar house car, curated whiskey tastings, and horseback trails on 550 acres, the hotel complements Dublin’s wild side by offering a cozier, more refined trip to the Irish countryside.
Squeezed between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova is often overlooked by travelers in search of flashier eastern cities like Prague or Budapest. But on March 1, that all changes when the country erupts during the festival of Martisor, which means "Little March." The mass celebration — which was recently declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO — features a fertility amulet known as a martisor, that is traditionally pinned over the heart. Travelers who receive such an amulet from a local should consider themselves very lucky indeed.
Perhaps this is the month you finally take your dream getaway to Croatia. In March, the Sun Gardens Dubrovnik resort makes up for slightly colder temps with a 60-foot indoor ‘lagoon’ pool and an award-winning spa. The property offers excellent excursions that take advantage of the season, such as a private bike tour through Dubrovnik’s Old Town when all the wisteria is coming into bloom, or a trip to Mali Ston, where the Feast of St. Joseph (think: endless fresh-caught oysters) takes place on March 19.
Here’s a surprisng reason to count Portugal near the top of your itinerary this spring: chocolate. That’s because the International Chocolate Festival, held in the medieval town of Óbidos, is an attraction for travelers of all stripes. As long as you have a hankering for chocolate, you’ll go home satisfied. The festival spans several days, turning Óbidos’ narrow cobblestone streets into showrooms where various cakes, truffles, pastries, and chocolate sculptures are on display. It’s a bit like an art fair — but better, because the art is all edible.
If it’s flowers you’re after, Holland’s annual tulip bloom is a phenomenon that attracts thousands of travelers each year. While the tulips themselves tend not to appear until mid-April, early bird travelers can still enjoy a spectacular show of snow whites, daffodils, and gorgeous pink and violet hyacinth (the latter emerge right in the margin between March and April). Of course, weather conditions vary by year, so it’s best to consult the nation's dedicated tulip website for weekly flower updates, which start in March.
Find serious adventure in the heart of Swedish bear country this spring. Come March, travelers can embark on an epic road about six hours north of Stockholm, in Sonfjället National Park. Considered one of Europe’s oldest preserves, this sprawling wilderness of stark plains and towering rocky slopes is also home to the highest concentration of brown bears in Sweden. So keep an eye out for the elusive bears as they start to emerge from hibernation.
Lake Bled, located in the northern reaches of Slovenia near the Austrian border, is one of the best-kept secrets of eastern Europe. With a freshwater lake at its center, the region is awash with an enchanting, almost fairytale-esque beauty. In early spring, snow is still visible on the Julian Alps, but temperatures begin to rise, making it possible to hike up to Blejski Castle, or paddle around the lake in a traditional pletna boat. End your magical trip with a plate of delicious cremeschnitte, a traditional cream cake.
With its various trendy neighborhoods and abundance of budget-friendly activities, London is a classic European destination that people never get tired of visiting. But this spring, Colorado-based travelers get a leg up when United debuts its new Denver to London route. The daily, nonstop service connects two important international transit hubs (Denver International Airport and Heathrow) and launches on March 24. This month might also be your last chance to enjoy a relatively quiet London, before the madness of the royal wedding descends in May.
If you’ve noticed a glaring citrus shortage in your life, this dreamy coastal city on the French Riviera has the remedy. Menton has hosted its world-famous Lemon Festival (February 17 through March 4) every year since 1928, making it one of the country’s most popular events. It draws even more visitors than the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monte-Carlo. Visitors should head straight for the Biovès Gardens, where artists create massive sculptures — a replica of the Eiffel Tower, for example — out of oranges and lemons.
The capital of this warm, tourist-friendly nation on the Black Sea is where you’ll find the best example of Martenitsa, a spring tradition celebrated in Bulgaria and nearby countries on March 1. To honor the end of winter (personified as Baba Marta, or ‘Grandma March’), locals exchange red-and-white yarn bracelets. The red signifies life and passion, while the white symbolizes purity. Locals then tie these to the tree branches as soon as the first leaves appear.
Summer is peak season for this Spanish-ruled island in the Mediterranean. But at this time of year, temperatures are mild, and it's possible to enjoy the colonial cathedrals and crystal-clear bays without massive tourist crowds. The big news on the island is Hotel Mamá, a brand new five-star property opening this month in Palma’s historic quarter, with interiors by Parisian designer Jacques Grande. Set in a 19th-century building with a private cinema, rooftop pool, and fitness center, it’s the perfect way to soak up Majorca’s remote, laid-back vibe without skimping on creature comforts.
The compact nature of Europe means it’s entirely possible to hit multiple countries in one trip — and that’s exactly what Rail Europe is helping travelers do with their new Milan to Frankfurt route (fares from approximately $150), which began last month. The once-daily service cuts through Switzerland, making for a once-in-a-lifetime trip as the train transports you through scenic towns like Bern and Lucerne. With several impressive art museums and a glut of cozy traditional German restaurants, Frankfurt has more than enough indoor attractions to justify an early spring getaway.