Autumn is a truly magical time to travel through Europe! The colourful leaves falling all around make for a whimsical atmosphere, the weather is crisp without being too hot or cold and it is a much quieter time to travel. Shoulder season travel, from September to November, means fewer crowds and better prices for flights and accommodation.
To help you plan for future autumn travel, Expat Explore has rounded up our top European destinations to visit during this cool and colourful season.
When you picture an idyllic European city in autumn, it doesn’t get more picture-perfect than Amsterdam. The Netherlands capital city boasts trees all around, more than 400,000 in fact! Come September, Amsterdam’s beautiful parks, canals and walkways take on an orange hue thanks to all the autumn leaves.
Many cultural activities can be enjoyed around the city in autumn. Visit Amsterdam in autumn and experience major museum exhibitions, live music, touring musicals and plays. It’s also film festival season with the IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam), the world’s largest documentary film festival, kicking off in November. Rainy days are inevitable during the autumn months. The perfect way to dry off and get warm is to pop into a local café for a classic Dutch combination of apple pie and hot chocomel, both of which should be topped with a healthy dollop of whipped cream!
While summers are hot and crowded in Barcelona, autumns are warm and quiet. Temperatures are around 15°C-21°C and it’s cool and quiet enough to walk around and explore the city’s most popular tourist spots, such as Antoni Gaudí’s breathtaking Sagrada Família. It’s also usually warm enough to go to the beach! Take advantage of the many hotel terraces and enjoy the vibrant nightlife along with fantastic views, food, drinks and music in Barcelona. Speaking of music, don’t miss the epic Barcelona International Jazz Festival which takes place from October through December!
The mushroom season begins in September in Barcelona. Hoards of people head to the forest to forage for prized fungi. If foraging isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy tasting these mushrooms at one of the many festivals or restaurants celebrating this autumn ingredient.
When La Castanyada, the Catalan Halloween, begins on 1 November you’ll be sure to find warm roasted chestnuts or castanyes and sweet potatoes being sold on the streets in Barcelona. It is also only during this time that you’ll be able to try panellets, traditional marzipan pastries that are often accompanied by sweet wine.
We’ll start with the most blatantly obvious reason why you should visit Bavaria in autumn – Oktoberfest! This annual celebration of Germany’s beer, food and Bavarian culture attracts millions of people from all over the world. This is thanks to its vibrant, festive atmosphere and delicious food and drinks! If you happen to be visiting Munich over this period, make sure to take some time to walk among the autumn leaves in one of the city’s many parks. It’s also a fantastic time to take advantage of Munich’s relaxing saunas as well as the many markets and museums dotted around the city.
Munich isn’t the only place in Bavaria that deserves a visit in autumn. Southern Germany boasts truly spectacular autumn scenery with its Alpine forests and snow-capped mountains. There are several famous historic castles in this region. Destinations like Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle are even more magical during autumn thanks to the dramatic seasonal backdrops.
Budapest is an incredibly green city during warmer seasons. Watch its many parks turn a gorgeous golden hue during autumn! The cooler weather makes for ideal sightseeing conditions and you’ll be comfortable walking around and exploring for hours! With some of the largest hot baths in Europe, Hungary’s capital is known as the “City of Spas”. It can feel too hot in summer to enjoy these natural thermal springs and winter is only for those brave enough to face extreme temperature differences. However, the cooler autumn months are the perfect time to take a dip!
Experience the many cultural offerings of Budapest during the autumn months by visiting one of the city’s many museums. Explore large scale museums such as the Museum of Fine Arts and the Natural History Museum, and tiny museums housing weird and wonderful collections of flags, pinball machines and more. Autumn is festival season in Budapest with celebrations of everything from wine and sausages to horseracing and art taking place! Soak up Budapest’s music scene at one of the city’s autumn concerts which celebrate music of all genres.
Autumn in Ljubljana is like something out of a fairytale! Slovenia is the greenest country in Europe and Ljubljana’s Tivoli Park is one of the best places to appreciate the foliage. Tivoli turns a kaleidoscope of yellows, reds and golds over the autumn months. Another picturesque place to enjoy these colours is the Ljubljana Castle which was originally a medieval fortress. From this hill-top castle’s viewing terrace you’ll be rewarded with expansive views of those autumn trees, the old town’s red roofs and even the snow-covered Julian Alps in the distance.
Just 55km outside of Ljubljana is the breathtaking Lake Bled. Lake Bled is one of the most scenic spots in Europe with crystal clear waters, mountain views and a cliff-top castle. In autumn, these spectacular sights become even more beautiful with the autumn colours reflecting on the lake’s surface. The cooler weather makes it a great time to enjoy outdoor activities around the lake such as hiking, paddle boarding and swimming.
If you can believe it, the “City of Love” becomes even more romantic in autumn. While there’s never a bad time to visit Paris, the summer crowds depart by autumn leaving those gorgeous Parisian streets free for exploration! Taking a stroll around the city’s famous parks, such as Jardin du Luxembourg and Château de Versailles Gardens just outside of Paris, is one of the best ways to enjoy the crisp autumn air and the stunning, golden foliage. A visit to Père-Lachaise Cemetery is also a must. While a cemetery may not usually be at the top of a “must-see” list, the grounds of Père-Lachaise are truly wonderful to explore. The cemetery is the resting place for icons like Oscar Wilde, Édith Piaf and Jim Morrison.
Autumn is the perfect season to soak up Paris’ cultural sights. While popular museums like the Louvre are never exactly quiet, they are certainly less crowded than in summer. There is also an annual autumn festival that runs from October until the end of the year and sees a mixture of music, film and art events popping up at various venues around Paris. Paris also hosts an annual International Contemporary Art Fair (FIAC) in October which displays famous and up-and-coming artists’ work from all over the world. The weather can get a little chilly in autumn and when temperatures drop it’s the perfect excuse to cosy up in a café and indulge in comfort foods. Sip on rich hot chocolate or tuck into warming bowls of French onion soup and boeuf bourguignon.
Picture the spectacular rolling hills of Tuscany turning vibrant autumn shades and you’ll immediately understand why this is an ideal autumn destination. This is harvest season in Italy so you’ll witness plenty of grape and olive picking, chestnut stalls and restaurants highlighting truffle season. Various festivals occur over the autumn months to celebrate fabulous local produce, such as the Marradi Chestnut Festival (every Sunday in October), the San Miniato Truffle Festival and the Volterragusto Fair for local food and wine.
When the scorching summer heat subsides, autumn gives way to cooler temperatures. Tuscany remains sunny during the day and allows for cosy evenings by the fireplace. This is the perfect time to visit Eastern Tuscany’s medieval towns which are sure to take you back in time. The Historic Centre of San Gimignano is a UNESCO World Heritage Site while Siena displays gorgeous examples of Gothic art. After a day of exploring, relax and warm up in one of Tuscany’s natural hot springs or award-winning spas.
After the summer crowds and Fringe Festival go-ers have left, the streets of Edinburgh become peaceful and quiet. Yet, it’s still a great time to experience the city’s theatre scene. Various performances, from musicals to stand up comedy, sell out constantly. Changing weather and gloomy skies make for an excellent eerie atmosphere in time for Halloween! Go on a ghost tour or explore the dungeons to make the most of this spooky season. The skies may be grey but everything else becomes a kaleidoscope of colours! From the captivating autumn trees at the Royal Botanical Gardens to the ever-changing backdrop of the iconic Edinburgh castle. Be sure to visit one of Edinburgh’s many farmer’s markets. During a visit, you can sample high quality, seasonal produce or warm up with hearty pub grub and Scotch whisky!
For a gorgeous break from city life, head to the highlands! A train trip or bus ride out of Edinburgh will reveal some of the most spectacular autumn scenery imaginable. Areas such as Loch Ness, Bridge of Orchy and Perthshire showcase Scotland’s incredible natural beauty. They will also be positively shrouded in glorious autumn foliage at this time of year! While it is possible to do a day trip to these pretty places, you can also stay overnight to make the most of the fresh air and landscapes.
Thanks to its old-world charm and awe-inspiring architecture, Prague has become a very popular tourist destination. Both summers and winters are busy, with its Christmas markets attracting locals and travellers alike. This makes autumn a perfect time to travel to the Czech Republic’s capital! You’ll get to experience magnificent sights like the Charles Bridge, Old Town Square and Prague Castle with the added golden hue of autumn and without the crowds. Prague is also home to many fascinating museums. These cover everything from chocolate and Kafka to Jewish history and Apple technology!
Czech food is generally quite heavy, making it an ideal cuisine for cooler months. Autumn is also the mushroom and game season with many restaurants highlighting these ingredients. You can even forage for your own mushrooms if you wish! While Czech beer is renowned and deliciously refreshing, autumn is your chance to try burčák, a partially fermented wine only available from September to November. Prague also has a pretty impressive calendar of autumn festivals with events like the Dvořák Prague International Music Festival and Signal Festival showcasing the exceptional art, music and culture that the city has to offer.
Autumn is one of the best times of year to travel to Portugal! The sunny summer weather often continues well into October with temperatures never really dropping below 10°C, even in November. The mild temperatures, fewer tourists and photogenic foliage on full display in streets, parks, vineyards and forests, make Porto a must-add to your autumn bucket list!. Porto is one of Europe’s oldest cities and its centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Port wine, possibly Portugal’s most famous export, is named after Porto and autumn is harvest season in this region. It’s a dreamy time to head to the winelands for a wine tasting!
Travel to the Douro Wine Region Valley from Porto on a leisurely river cruise, train or bus ride. This is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. During autumn you’ll be able to enjoy its fresh olives, almonds and, most importantly, port wine. This region is exceptionally beautiful all year round, particularly so when the vineyards turn into shades of burgundy, copper and gold.
Porto is certainly a foodie city and many traditional, hearty Portuguese dishes are best enjoyed in cooler months. Try a francesinha sandwich, which is a popular street food of molten cheese, steak and egg seasoned with a beer-based sauce, or tripas à moda do Porto, a stew of cow tripe, smoked meats and white beans which is considered Porto’s official dish.
Struggling to decide which autumn destination to visit first? A tour to Europe is the best way to make the most of this magical season! Have a look at our Europe Multi-Country Group Tours to start planning your next journey!
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