Easter is soon here and that equals a long weekend. Here in Sweden we are off on Good Friday and Easter Monday. And what better time to go for a city break or a weekend getaway than during these four days? This year we are staying in Sweden, as the flights abroad were quite expensive. However, we have found some time for domestic travel in our schedules, among the chocolate eggs and family time.
Twice have we spend Easter abroad. Both times we wanted to go to places that do not celebrate Easter at the same time as we do. When speaking of Europe, there are not that many options left. The first year we visited the Serbian capital, Belgrade. What an amazing place! Last year we went to Skopje, Macedonia. Here’s a short account of our trips to the countries on the Balkan. At the end of this post, you will find some tips for travelling in Europe during Easter.
Easter In Belgrade
We were still living in Bratislava when we went to Belgrade. We had the fabulous idea to go to Serbia by bus from Vienna. Actually it was an interesting option: the people on the bus were really friendly and we had all the chance in the world to get acquainted with old Serbian music. Altogether the journey – which took us through Hungary and some parts of Serbia – took 11 hours. Actually it should have taken maybe 9 hours, but something happened on the way. Too many coffee breaks maybe. Once we stepped off the bus in Belgrade, we were greeted by desperate taxi drivers. Instead of giving in to any of them, we took our bags and started walking. Serbia is a country that many people have opinions about and it’s a country with a very complex history. What struck me the most during those first moments in Belgrade was the greyness of the city. During our two-day stay in the city we managed to see some of the main sights of the Serbian capital: the Belgrade Fortress, Knez Mihailova, Skadarlija, St. Sava Temple, Zemun, the rivers, and the military museum.
An old penfriend of mine, Maja, took us to art exhibition and told us about life in Belgrade and she also took us to one of her favourite cafés for some local sweets. The street life in Belgrade is amazing, there is life everywhere and it feels nothing like Europe. There are coffee shops everywhere (and they turn into bars at night). Serbian cuisine is one that I like even thought there is a lot of meat. Another memory is how the boys on our trip asked for a hamburger. They were served a huge piece of meat with one lettuce underneath.
Easter In Skopje
Macedonia is another country that doesn’t really celebrate Easter. We visited the country’s capital in 2015 after finding cheap flights with Air Serbia (via Belgrade). Finding a flat on booking.com was easy and the owner also picked us up from the airport. I don’t think I’ve ever been as astonished as when the plane was descending into Skopje. All those beautiful mountains surrounding the city made me want to go hiking. And I’m not a very outdoorsy person. If Belgrade felt un-European, then Skopje was even more foreign. In this multicultural city churches and mosques stand side by side, huge statues remind of people and events long gone. A country that is writing and re-writing its history. A fascinating country.
One place all visitors should go to is the Matka Canyon. The canyon is located west of Skopje and it’s a popular destination for all lovers of the outdoors. The area is also home to both caves and medieval monasteries. Skopje itself doesn’t require a lot of time – it’s a fairly small town. Some of the main sights in the city include the city centre, the Kale fortress, the Old Bazaar, the Mustafa Pasha Mosque, and the Skopje City Park. Outside the city one can visit the the Skopje Aqueduct, the Matka Canyon and the Vodno Mountain. However, we felt that we could have spent a lot more time in the country – as the nature in Macedonia is amazing. Also recommended is the delicious food and the local wines. The Balkans have their own red wine called Vranac or Vranec that is very tasty. Actually, it’s Montenegrin but both Serbia and Macedonia had their fair share of these wines.
And nobody could have been happier than I was when it turned out that we’d have a few hours to visit Belgrade on the way back. Lovely. lovely Belgrade.
Easter In Europe: Things to Keep In Mind
Here are some things to think about if you are planning on travelling in Europe during Easter.
- Where are you planning to go? Some European countries are a lot more religious than others. For instance, in Sweden most shops will be open even though it’s a public holiday. Some other countries, especially in central Europe, are completely closed down during the Easter holidays. Some years ago I was visiting Hamburg in Germany with my family on Easter Sunday. There was absolutely nothing to do there on that day! In Spain the Holy Week, Semana Santa is a huge thing, you can just join the festivities. As far as I can remember, Easter Monday is not a public holiday. And then there are Orthodox and Non-Christian countries that do not celebrate Easter at the same time as the rest of the continent, or not at all.
- What’s your budget? Travelling in Europe can be really expensive during the Easter holidays so you might want to book well in advance.
- The weather might be horrible. No matter what part of Europe is on your list, the weather might be horrible as it’s really unstable at this time of the year. It was snowing in Skopje (and that’s quite far south) when we visited last year. There was snow halfway down to Belgrade from Vienna when we were there. Just be prepared, it might be cold, rainy and terrible.
- Suggestions for European destinations during Easter: Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia & Hercegovina, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Albania and Greece.