Top 10 destinations to celebrate Easter

Easter isn't just a time for religious observances but tulips, chocolate eggs and spectacular celebrations. Here are 10 top places for festive Easter fun.


The weather is warm, historic churches look their decorated best, parks burst with flowers and the Spanish Steps are decorated with blooms. The museums are pleasantly uncrowded and roast lamb is on menus. For Catholics, the highlight is Easter Sunday mass in St Peter's Square and the urbi et orbi blessing from the Pope, who also leads a Stations of the Cross near the Colosseum on Good Friday. See


Seville's staggering cathedral is polished up for Easter Week, and candles flicker at the feet of saints. During Easter Week, grimly moving processions celebrating Christ's passion and death move through the old town hauling venerable crucifixes, while accompanying floats portray the Easter story. A spectacular midnight cavalcade features on the eve of Good Friday. Easter also signals the opening of the bullfighting season in Seville's historic bullring. See


Special Easter brunches in restaurants, Easter-egg hunting at the zoo and the public Easter-egg roll and visit of the Easter Bunny on the White House lawns mark Easter in Washington. The American capital is covered in a profusion of pink and white cherry blossoms, which are also celebrated during the month-long National Cherry Blossom Festival with cultural performances, fireworks, contemporary art shows and a parade. See


One of Portugal's most beautiful towns is crammed with baroque monuments, fountains and churches, centred on the country's oldest cathedral. At Easter the city blazes with lights and torch-lit processions; street altars are draped in flowers and candles. Hooded penitents parade. Farmers bring their sheep into town for blessings, and locals scatter flowers on doorsteps. Easter specialties include roast lamb, chocolate-and-almond Easter eggs and sweet folar di Pascoa bread. See


For something non-religious, rejoice as nature gears up for another floral spectacle at Keukenhof, a vast showcase garden in which Dutch growers flaunt the world's best spring flowers. Seven million bulbs bloom, starting with purple crocus and jaunty daffodils, before culminating in tapestries of superb, multi-coloured tulips. Visitors can also take flower-arrangement and photography workshops or simply sit in a cafe, perfumed by a thousand blooms. See


Guatemala is notable at Easter for its superb multi-coloured "carpets" that run along entire streets in swathes of intricately laid patterns of flowers, vegetables, pine needles and dyed sawdust and sand. Eventually, purple-robed penitents and vast religious floats lead processions across these ephemeral artworks, which usually depict the life of Christ. Antigua has the best of these alfombras and some of the best religious processions in Latin America. See


Easter is a big deal in the Philippines, one of the world's most populous Catholic countries. The Makati district of Manila hosts the most colourful celebrations, featuring roadside shrines – sometimes up to 40 in a kilometre stretch of street – in masterful creations of folk art. Street parades include religious re-enactments, marching bands and choirs. Street hawkers sell sweets and rice puddings, and a carnival atmosphere reigns. See


Vienna is lovely at Easter, as cafe terraces emerge from hibernation and the Blues Spring Festival brings a different kind of music to town. Hit the Stadtpark for tulips and daffodils around a gilded statue of Strauss, and Schönbrunn Palace for more fountain- and flower-filled gardens, where you'll also find a large Easter market and activities for children. A tower of 40,000 painted Eastern eggs rises on Freyung square. See



Religious fervour characterises Easter in Christ's birthplace as various Christian denominations vie to outdo each other with penitent processions and Stations of the Cross led by priests and patriarchs along Via Dolorosa. A frond-waving procession on Palm Sunday tours the old town. Services in numerous languages are held at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Garden Tomb, and Easter Day communion is taken on the Mount of Olives. See


As in many Spanish-influenced cultures, Easter in the gorgeous colonial-era city of Cuenca features religious processions of penitents hauling crosses and saints' statues, and has a moving religious focus. Street vendors sell baskets of herbs, blessed in church and taken home as decorations, as well as candied apples and flowers. Tuck into fanesca, a stew of salt cod, beans and 12 grains honouring the 12 apostles. See

Brian Johnston has travelled as a guest of tourist offices or tour companies in many of these destinations.