April is all about indulging in the finer things in life. From wine-tasting to chocolate-making and shopping for exotic spices, these adventures are guaranteed to get your mouth watering as you reach for your passport.
Brussels is the place for fine food and weather, without the crowds
Despite being ‘off-season’, April is actually the driest month in the Belgian capital, and its mild days (peaking around 15°C; 59°F) are perfect for comfortable outdoors sightseeing. Wander the Grand Place (the 17th-century centre), the open-air antiques market of the Grand Sablon, and hip districts such as Rue Antoine Dansaert.
Then sample the renowned eating and drinking scene. Brussels has arguably been world chocolate capital since 1912, when Jean Neuhaus invented the praline here. Now, there are chocolateries everywhere, and opportunities to buy, make and taste the stuff. If Easter falls in April, where better to be? Brussels does a good line in atmospheric cafe-bars too, so when spring evenings cool, hunker down in a smoke-stained art nouveau establishment with an excellent Belgian beer or two.
Trip plan: Spend a few days eating your way around Brussels. Add on cobbled, canal-riddled Bruges, another chocolate hub (70 minutes by train).
Need to know: Handmade chocolates contain few preservatives; they should be eaten within 21 days.
Other months: Other months: Mar-May & Sep-Oct – mild, shoulder; Jun-Aug – hotter, busy; Nov-Feb – cold (Christmas markets).
Indulge in Australia’s autumnal sunshine and feast of flavours
The bottom corner of Western Australia is a beaut. South from Perth – the country’s sunniest city, by the way – lies a region of rippling vineyards, towering tingle and karri trees, dazzle-white beaches (where kangaroos like to chill) and cave-galleries of millennia-old rock art. Better, relative to the gargantuan size of the state, this is a compact chunk; you can actually get your head around exploring it at a sensible pace. It’s also extremely intoxicating in the austral autumn, when temperatures are mild and the vines of Margaret River (home to more than 220 wineries) are heavy with fruit and ripe for tastings. There’s also a raft of local producers creating excellent craft ales, cheeses, olive oils, honey, chocolate and more.
Trip plan: Spend a few days looping south from Perth. Head to Harvey for cheese-tasting and Bunbury to see dolphins in Koombana Bay. Drive amid Margaret River’s vines; stop for tastings, fine dining and a winery stay. Walk amid the vineyards and huge karris at Pemberton and sample truffles at Manjimup before returning to Perth.
Need to know: Perth Comedy Festival usually runs from mid-April to mid-May.
Other months: Sep-Nov – flowers; Dec-Feb – hot, busy; Mar-May – autumn, harvest; Jun-Aug – dry, cooler.
Discover bazaars, ancient wonders and culinary secrets in peace in İstanbul, Turkey
You might debate which is the greatest treasure of the former Constantinople: the incredible 6th-century basilica-mosque-museum Aya Sofya? Sprawling, opulent Topkapı Palace? The domes, minarets and ornate azure tilework of the Blue Mosque? Wander among them to decide for yourself, by all means – and in April, as things are warming up at the end of the low season, you can enjoy discounts, smaller crowds and more forgiving weather.
But save some time for the greatest legacy the Ottomans left the world: food, of course. Why do you think the Spice Bazaar is so huge and bustling? From simple kebabs to meze feasts and the luscious aubergine (eggplant) masterpiece, imam bayıldı, there are few cuisines that are as indulgent as Turkish. Over the past couple of decades a roster of excellent food-themed walking tours and cookery schools has sprung up in İstanbul, providing the opportunity to combine a spring city break with a culinary reboot.
Trip plan: Base yourself in the Sultanahmet district, on the west (European) side of the Bosphorus for easy access to the Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar and most historic sites.
Need to know: Two points of Turkish etiquette – don’t point your finger or the sole of your foot towards anyone.
Other months: Apr-May & Sep-Oct – mild, quieter; Jun-Aug – hot, busy; Nov-Feb – cold, damp.
Bike amid burgeoning vines in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Hawke’s Bay is the larder of New Zealand: apples, figs, peaches, squashes and, most notably, grapes. Hugging the east coast of the North Island, this is the country’s oldest wine-growing region, and in April the grapes are being plucked: 4700 hectares of vineyards harvesting 45,000 tonnes of fruit. The serried vines begin to glow russet and gold under the autumn sun too.
Still reasonably warm and dry, this is a great time to explore by bicycle. Hawke’s Bay has New Zealand’s biggest network of gentle cycle paths, many of which link wine estates, cafes and cellar doors. Try the flat, off-road 22-mile (36 km) Wineries Ride, which navigates the grape-growing heartland of Bridge Pa, Gimblett Gravels and Ngatarawa Triangle. Napier, with its art deco architecture and Saturday Urban Food Market, makes a good base.
Trip plan: Enjoy the historic streets and fine eats of Napier and Hastings. Then follow a couple of easy cycle trails – perhaps one along the coast, another between wine estates.
Need to know: There are flights to Hawke’s Bay daily from Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.
Other months: Dec-Feb – warmest; Mar-May – wine harvest; Jun-Sep – winter, cool. Oct-Nov – spring produce, warming up.