Fewer crowds, balmy weather and nature coming into bloom… Spring is the ideal season for travel. Whether you’re admiring the cherry blossom on Washington DC’s Capitol Hill or basking in the sunset glow of Santorini, these destinations are just perfect in springtime.
Villa La Massa may be a 16th-century Medici palazzo, set within a historic estate, but this season sees the unveiling of a few modern additions in the form of villa accommodation, a new swimming pool and a poolside restaurant. All, of course, exquisitely designed and sympathetically executed. Previously used as a greenhouse to store lemon trees, Limonaia Villa has been lovingly transformed, with ten rooms and suites offering floor-to-ceiling windows, access to private gardens and views across fragrant lemon trees, rolling olive groves and Cypress trees. Bespoke antique furniture, rich fabrics and baroque style beds all add to the romance. While away sunny Tuscan afternoons by the stylish new pool or over a long, lingering lunch on the scent-filled, shaded terrace of L’Oliveto, with its classic Tuscan menu. If you do feel like the urge to explore, a complimentary shuttle ferries guests to Florence for Renaissance masterpieces and world-famous gelato.
Insider tip Do not leave without a visit to the Arno Spa, either for a signature Chianti beauty treatment, to wallow in the Turkish bath and sauna or breathe in the beauty and tranquility of the Iris Garden, a flower which is native to the region.
Flight time from London Two hours
To quote the song ‘April in Paris’, immortalised by Ella Fitzgerald: “April in Paris, Chestnuts in blossom, Holiday tables under the trees… This is the feeling, No-one can ever reprise”. Indeed, Springtime is when this city comes alive. The Left Bank (Rive Gauche) in particular bustles with Parisian life and it is here you will find the historic Lutetia hotel, in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Originally opened in 1910, the hotel drew a boho crowd of writers, painters and poets (Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso have stayed here) during its Années folles heyday. A century on, and the hotel has undergone a four-year facelift, with Art Nouveau and Deco features lovingly restored throughout. There’s a good choice of restaurants, though our favourite is the light-flooded Lutetia Brasserie where Michelin-starred chef Gerald Passedat works his seafood magic; the Akasha Paris spa in the basement is 700 sq metres dedicated to pampering.
Insider tip You simply cannot leave this hotel without stopping by Bar Joséphine (named after legendary dancer, entertainer, resistance fighter and civil rights activist Josephine Baker, one of the hotel’s most famous guests). Here the floor-to-ceiling frescoes vie for attention with the cocktail menu, which has been crafted by Nicola Battafarano, formerly of Chiltern Firehouse.
Flight time from London Two hours and 15 minutes
With the imposing Acropolis rising above a cosmopolitan hub below, Athens seamlessly blends the past with the present. This is a city where bougainvillea-scented cobbled lanes sit alongside ultra-modern galleries, ancient archaeological sites jostle for space with industrial-cool concept stores. But if being a tourist leaves you in need of a haven (read: a delicious ouzo with a side of sea breeze), the Four Seasons Astir Palace can assist. Just 30 minutes out of town, this recent offering from the hotel brand is perched on a pine-clad peninsula on the sophisticated Athens Riviera. The seaside location means there are not one but three private beaches and a little jetty offering bespoke boat trips; even the Spa has unparalleled views across the twinkling Aegean. There are eight restaurants and bars including two by design genius Martin Brudnizki (Mercato, an Italian trattoria, and Pelagos, which specialises in Greek seafood).
Insider tip Should you fancy a postprandial stroll, the coastal town of Vouliagmeni is charming with its pretty shops, authentic tavernas and a therapeutic thermal lake.
Flight time from London Four hours
With its temperate climate, dramatic landscapes and abundant wildlife, if South Africa isn’t on your Easter holiday hit list, it should be. Or, to be more specific, De Hoop Nature Reserve. Three hours east of Cape Town, this is one of the most scenic locations on the continent, and a firm favourite for hikers, cyclists, and wildlife watchers. Set in the middle of this coastal reserve is the dreamy Lekkerwater Beach Lodge, a seven-bedroom bolthole. Each of the individually built rooms is on the 6km private beach, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the Indian Ocean, small verandas and wood-burning stoves. Days can be spent dolphin-spotting, spying rare vultures in the nearby Potberg Mountains, swimming in local rock pools or exploring the ‘fynbos’, home to thousands of endemic plants and over 250 species of birds. Naturalist or not, you’ll be bowled over by the beauty of the place. Not least as the sun sets and you’re dining on the beach with the sand between your toes and a bottle of local wine on the table.
Insider tip De Hoop offers some of the best land-based whale watching in the world: as well as southern right whales, you’ll also spot the less common Bryde’s whales and perhaps even humpbacks as well as dolphins cresting the waves.
Flight time from London Twelve hours plus a three-hour transfer
With the scent of almond blossom in the air and the local villages – with their twisting lanes and pretty stone houses – unsullied by tourists, Spring is an ideal time to visit Mallorca. Don’t be put off by the mega resorts like Magaluf; instead, seek out the pretty, little coves, majestic mountains, and unspoiled hinterland which this Spanish Balearic island can also lay claim to. It’s here, surrounded by cypress and pine trees, that you’ll find Finca Serena. With an emphasis on ‘the luxury of simple things’, the decor is all warm tones and natural fabrics, with rooms both elegant and spacious. The garden-to-table menu highlights local, earthy flavours and can be sampled in the Jacaranda restaurant or outdoors, on the large terrace over the pool. A short walk through the grounds will bring you to the spa for Natura Bissé treatments, private yoga classes, indoor pool, sauna and hammam, as well as stunning views of Pla de Mallorca.
Insider tip For a touch of Mallorcan romance, ask the hotel to organise you a special outdoor meal in the heart of the countryside, amidst the sweet-smelling lavender and lemon trees.
Flight time from London Two and a half hours
Fans of chef Nobu Matsuhisa will be only too aware of the Nobu brand and its appeal to sophisticated sybarites. So, if you like your holidays with a slice of glitz, Nobu Hotel Marbella is where it’s at. This five-star hotel – which has doubled in size, with 40 new rooms and suites – is set within the Puente Romano resort, halfway along the famous ‘Golden Mile’. But don’t let the pretty, white-washed exterior and zen Japanese decor fool you. Nobu Hotel is all about decadence. Where else would you find a roving mixology cart offering cocktails to your door? Days are about laid-back luxury – soaking up the Spanish sunshine by the pool or in the exclusive beach area, recharging at the gym or putting yourself in the hands of the Six Senses Spa. But evenings are another story. Here, VIP clubbing comes as standard – and of course, guests get priority access to Nobu restaurant, so you can feast on rockfish tempura and black cod miso to your heart’s content.
Insider tip If you’ve an ‘adult headache’ the following day, be sure to order one of the electrolyte enhanced mocktails designed to help rehydrate.
Flight time from London Three hours
For a dose of Ottoman opulence, the recently completed Six Senses Kocatas Mansions in the Sariyer district of Istanbul is where it is at. As ever, the hotel brand has pulled out all the stops and an exquisite restoration has seen these two 19th century mansions transformed into a super-luxe 45-room and suite hotel. The decor is a blend of traditional local influences with those signature touches you come to expect from Six Senses to ensure the comfiest of stays – rooms are spacious and airy, some with soaring windows overlooking the Bosphorus River as it winds its way back to the Black Sea. So far, so romantic, especially if that view is enjoyed from one of the three restaurants. Toro Latin Gastro Bar serves a Pan-South American and Asian-influenced menu, where the mixologist will also whip you up a mean cocktail; Defne is an all-day restaurant, and cafe-style Kahve is the place for sweet treats – though all tap into the Eat With Six Senses Philosophy, based on the guiding principles of natural, local and sustainable. So you don’t have to feel too guilty as you tuck into all that Turkish delight and fresh baklava…
Insider tip The wellness centre and spa is brand spanking new and not to be missed – there are five treatment rooms, hammams, fitness, pool, wet room facilities and the best bit… a holistic anti-aging centre.
Flight time from London Approximately five hours
The Doyle Collection – the Irish, family-owned portfolio of hotels – is on a roll. Fresh from the relaunch of The Bloomsbury in London, the group has turned its attention to its only Stateside property, The Dupont Circle, which throws open its doors this Spring following a multi-million-pound transformation in collaboration with Martin Brudnizki (who did the restaurant and bar) and Clodagh Design (Clodagh was responsible for the hotel’s lobby and suites). As you’d expect from these interior design powerhauses, the results are ravishing. While the Doyle bar now has a glamorous, distinctly art deco vibe, with its lacquered walls and geometric floor tiles, in contrast, restaurant The Pembroke is all white-finished timber walls, blue velvet seating and wooden flooring giving it a fresh feel, not to mention the addition of cherry blossom trees in homage to Washington’s famous cherry blossom season – typically between March and April. Yet another reason to visit the city this Spring.
Insider tip The Rooftop Floor is home to the largest suite in DC – the Penthouse is a staggering 3000ft and has an equally magnificent garden terrace with views of the Washington Monument.
New York can have bitter winters and humid summers but spring? Well, it’s perfect rooftop bar weather. Cosmopolitans aside, Spring is an ideal time to explore NYC – there are baseball games and botanical gardens in bloom, film festivals and the imminence of Frieze New York, for starters. Head Lower East Side and you’ll come across Sister City, a hotel from the folk behind Ace Hotel. Designed with the modern traveller in mind (aka Japanese zen meets Scandinavian simplicity), the emphasis is on natural materials and functionality. But pared back needn’t mean plain: the rooms are full of aesthetically pleasing quirks like foldable desks and built-in beds that store luggage. The hotel’s all-day restaurant – conceived by chef Joe Ogrodnek (of critically acclaimed Brooklyn restaurant Battersby) – puts an emphasis on seasonal vegetables, marrying Mediterranean flavours with those of North Africa and East Asia. Afterwards take the elevator eleven floors up to drink in the cocktails and panoramic views at rooftop bar Last Light.
Insider tip Rooms come in six sizes – from single to bunk, which has two double-sized beds in a bunk bed format, making it the perfect option for New York-bound families.
Travel time from London Approximately eight hours
Sometimes there is nothing better than a staycation – England is at its best in Spring, when the weather is mild, the daffodils in full bloom and the fields are a vision of gamboling lambs. Dorset is no exception. The Eastbury in the historic town of Sherborne, surrounded by bucolic countryside, is the latest acquisition by seasoned hoteliers Peter and Lana de Savary, who have overseen the complete refurbishment of this Grade II listed hotel, once a Georgian residence. Rooms are individually-styled and exceedingly comfortable (crisp Egyptian cotton sheets, White Company bathroom goodies… ). There’s also a new spa, The Eastbury Spa by Amelia Rose and Caudalie, offering the delicious excuse to do absolutely nothing. All that pampering making you hungry? Under the helm of head chef Matthew Street, the restaurant Seasons has garnered many awards, and rightly so; the menu is packed full of flavour, local ingredients and imagination. For a knock-it-out-the-park night, try the seven-course tasting extravaganza.
Insider tip For an extra twist to your stay, book one of the five new Victorian Garden Potting Shed Suites, which can be found in the walled gardens. What more romantic setting than being surrounded by the scent of spring flowers as you sleep?
Set in the heart of the pretty, white-washed hilltop pueblo of Vejer, Plaza 18 is a 19th-century merchant’s house-turned-boutique hotel. Designer Nicky Dobree has worked her interior design magic, drawing on the building’s rich history (it stands on a 13th century Arab house). The combination of local craftsmen and organic building materials has resulted in a hotel of wooden beams, lime-based walls, stone staircases and exquisite black-and-white floor tiles – much of it painstakingly restored. The six ensuite bedrooms offer up views across town or the Parque Natural las Marismas nature reserve. Start your day breakfasting in the shady central courtyard or on the roof terrace, before wandering Vejer’s labyrinthine cobblestone alleyways and flower-filled plazas. There is no restaurant at the hotel, but the thriving local gastronomic scene has your back with tapas bars, cafés and eateries including the Michelin Guide-recommended El Jardín del Califa.
Insider tip Throw open the windows of the top-floor room for far-reaching views of the beaches of the Costa de la Luz – on a fine day, you may even catch a glimpse of the Tangiers coast of Morocco.
Flight time from London Three hours
Summertime in Santorini can be a little… busy, not to mention hot. In spring, this world-famous volcanic island – with its pretty white-and-blue villages hugging the cliffs – may be dappled in sunshine, but it’s balmier and minus the hordes. For a room with a view, Vora will not disappoint. This trio of villas have been cut into caves in the mountainside in the picturesque village of Imerovigli, offering front row seats to the caldera and the turquoise Aegean beyond; machinery could not reach the site, so – rather astonishingly – everything was hand built over a period of four years. A grey volcanic rock paves the way down from the reception, leading you to each of the unique villas. Decor is minimalist, a soothing palette of beiges and pale greys, with dark wood accents, custom-made furniture, simple linens and black marble bathtubs. Private infinity pools come as standard, so too sweeping terraces. This is traditional cave-living but with serious luxe.
Insider tip Each villa has been angled towards the best sunset vantage point, so you won’t be short on opportunities to enjoy one of nature’s most unforgettable spectacles.
Flight time from London Four hours