Best Fall Destinations in Europe
We’ve always been advocates of shoulder season travel, especially in Europe. We believe one of the best times to travel to Europe is during the autumn months.
The shoulder season of autumn is the perfect time to experience the best of Europe.
Why Visit Europe in the Fall
There are literally hundreds of amazing things to do in Europe, but from mid to late September is one of the best times of year to visit. After the high season of summer has finished, the crowds have thinned, and travel rates have dropped.
There are many scenic outdoor opportunities with beautiful fall foliage and local festivals celebrating everything from beer to truffle hunts to wine harvests. And for the sun worshipper, there’s still plenty of warm weather getaways in Europe right up into November.
When are the Autumn Months in Europe
Autumn in Europe is from September to November with the peak fall month being October.
October is a great time to travel to Europe. It is when the fall foliage colours are at their best and the peak summer season crowds have left for the year. It is also when you will find many of the best autumn festivals in Europe.
Here are just a few of Europe’s best places to visit in autumn to experience the most beautiful fall foliage. Celebrate the harvest and the change of the seasons or chase that last bit of sun before winter.
The capital of Slovenia, the delightful city of Ljubljana was voted the Green Capital of Europe in 2016 thanks to the beautiful traffic free, pedestrian-friendly old town along the banks of the Ljubljanica River.
During the autumn months, the city comes alive in a show of autumn colour and festivals.
The renown Slovenian Wine Festival, the Vinarium Festival – Lendava Grape Harvest and, the Old Vine Festival; a culinary and cultural tribute to the oldest vine in the world. These are just a few of the culinary celebrations that might sway you towards this tiny city.
Festivals of Light to Welcome the Winter Nights
In late autumn when night starts to fall in the late afternoon, the city shines with The Festival of Night and Fiery Ambiences.
Fiery art installations ignite corners of the city creating a magical ambience and a delightful night walk of the city. Visitors are encouraged to make their own lanterns and illuminated hats at workshops around the city.
Lake Bled Slovenia
For one of the most enchanting scenes in Europe head to Bled only a short drive from Ljubljana. Lake Bled in October is one of the most spectacular displays of autumn foliage you will see anywhere in the world.
The Alpine lake has the only island in Slovenia, world renown for its natural beauty, legend and supposed restorative powers. Take in the spectacular scenery from the heights at Bled Castle before taking a traditional handcrafted Pletna boat to Bled Island.
Legend has it if you climb the 99 stone steps to the Assumption of Mary Church you can ring the church bell and your wishes will come true.
Croatia has become the hottest destination for summer travellers and who could blame them. What most travellers don’t know is Croatia’s climate and coastal waters stay warm right through until October and sometimes as late as November.
The best time to visit Croatia is the shoulder season months of May and June and September and October, autumn being our favourite.
Enjoy late season swimming and kayaking in the Adriatic, some of the most spectacular fall displays and indulge in Croatia’s hottest attractions without the crowds.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Croatia’s most well-known natural wonder, Plitvice Lakes is a chain of 16 lakes filled with vivid blue water linked by a series of waterfalls. Water flows from one lake to the next over tufa barriers built up over time.
October, in the height of autumn, is the best time to visit Plitvice Lakes when the fall foliage colours accentuate the beauty of the natural wonder.
18 km of wooden pathways skirt their way around the edges of the lakes and across many of the waterfalls which make experiencing Plitvice Lakes easy for any fitness level.
It would typically take six hours to explore all the lakes so take advantage of the parks boat services across some of the larger lakes. A boat ride across the lakes also offers the best view of the brilliant display of colour.
Dalmatian Coast & Croatian Islands
Make the most of the mild Mediterranean autumn weather and head to the Dalmatian Islands. In late September through to mid-late October, you can expect pleasant sunny days ideal for swimming and enjoy all the tourist facilities without the crowds.
Islands such as Hvar and Korcula offer a laid-back atmosphere set amongst picturesque vineyards, olive groves and historic old towns.
You will find some of the best food and wine on the islands such as local seafood and Korcula’s famous white wines.
Dubrovnik & Split
Dubrovnik and Split are the two most popular tourist destinations in Croatia. Tourists flood the most famous old towns on the coast during the peak season of summer when temperatures and tempers sometimes flare.
From late September to late October is the best time to visit Dubrovnik and Split. The temperatures are mild, and the crowds have thinned making visiting more enjoyable.
The weather is still pleasant to dine alfresco of an evening and the chance of enjoying the waters of the Adriatic still possible.
There is something special about Italy in autumn. As the temperature drops, the crowds recede, and the countryside comes alive with colour.
Autumn is also an exceptional culinary time in Italy. Autumn is when some of the best produce arrives in the markets and a celebration of the harvest season runs through the country.
Lake Como is a delight at any time of the year, but autumn is a perfect time to visit. Milder temperatures, lower humidity and the best bit – fewer crowds and better travel deals.
The fall colours accentuate the beauty of the lake, locals are also more relaxed, and there is still plenty to do as the temperatures start to drop.
You’ll find plenty of festivals and events happening in the towns around the lake from wine and food festivals, art, ballet, and opera.
Or, settle in with the locals and enjoy an aperitvo as the sun sets over one of Europe’s most glamorous destinations.
Like most places, autumn in Liguria signals milder temperatures and fewer crowds, but that’s not the only reason to visit the Liguria region of Italy in the fall.
Unless of course, your primary destination is the famed Cinque Terre, who unfortunately like Venice has fallen victim to over tourism especially in the spring, summer months.
Porcini Mushroom Season
Autumn in Liguria is a time to celebrate the Porcini mushroom; a delicacy celebrated through September and October.
Each town in Liguria has a unique recipe to do justice to these coveted morsels, and there are many festivals to celebrate the porcini and chestnut season.
The Wine Harvest
The wine harvest is also reason enough to visit Liguria in the autumn. See the ancient harvest rituals in vineyards scattered throughout the region and sample some of the famous wines from this relatively small wine region such as the Cinque Terre DOC, produced on the cliffside vineyards behind the five famous villages. Or, red wines from the Dolceacqua region produced from the indigenous Rossese grape, which thrives at altitudes of up to 1600ft.
Italy’s autumn harvest celebrations reach full fever in Alba where the regions prized white truffle is honoured each autumn.
However, this autumn destination must be considered with caution as the truffle celebration has grown to epic proportions.
Alba’s Fiera del Tartufo has been running for close to 90 years, crowds of visitors descend upon Alba for the chance to taste the town’s culinary treasure.
More than half a million visitors flood the town over the six weekends of the festival. As the crowds grow each year, more gastronomical events are added to the festival schedule.
So while this is an Italian autumn destination of note, one should be well prepared as this is the time of year when crowds in Alba reach their peak.
The Alba Truffle Festival – Fiera del Tartufo runs from 6 October – 25 November.
France is unique any time of year, but southern France spoils us with sunshine until late in the autumn season.
It may be the Riviera region in the South of France or the mountain region of south-west France’s Pyrenees. Either way, there are plenty of good reasons to head to the southern areas of France in the fall, and beautiful weather is just one.
Ariege – Midi Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is no more beautiful than in autumn. The Ariege region of the Midi Pyrenees enjoys a relatively mild climate all year round which means you can expect autumn temperatures as high as 25 ℃ right into late October and sometimes November.
August is perfect for hikers where high walks in the Pyrenees are still accessible without a special permit. Birds are also migrating across the Pyrenees which makes autumn a great time for birders to visit the area.
Art & Photography
A popular destination for artists and photographers any time of the year but autumn brings the Pyrenees a soft and distinctly golden light with early morning mists perfect for capturing the magnificent landscapes.
Much like Italy, autumn is a bountiful season in the Ariege. Foraging for wild pears, apples, walnuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, and, mushrooms is a favourite way to enjoy the mild weather and sunny days.
There are also numerous festivals to celebrate the regions local produce including fig and hazelnut festivals as well as the two-day Fête de la Pomme in the medieval town of Mirepoix.
Ariege is also a great base for day trips to Toulouse and Carcassonne.
South of France – French Riviera
The South of France is the perfect autumn destination for those who cling to that last glimmer of summer. Until late October it is possible to enjoy warm sunny days, even swimming on the Riviera.
The summer crowds are long gone so you can enjoy the beaches, get a table at the good restaurants and visit popular attractions with ease.
The days are warm and evenings cool but the shorter days of winter have not quite arrived in the South of France in autumn. The colours of fall may come late, but there is plenty to celebrate in the region beyond the beaches with wine harvests, and of course, indulging in the mushroom and chestnut season.
Autumn in the South of France is for indulging, exploring and long alfresco lunches in the sun.
The heavily wooded valley’s of Transylvania are often associated with the dark foreboding tales of creepy castles and mythological counts. A place of dark magic where the sun never quite shines.
In stark contrast, the real Transylvania is a fairytale destination with unspoilt medieval landscapes of rolling hills, meadows of wildflowers, and ancient oak forests.
Imposing gothic castles and ornate palaces dot the mountainous region, and quaint cobblestone towns and villages such as Brasov and Sibiu will surprise you.
In autumn, Transylvania becomes the most brilliant display of colour it would be hard to imagine anywhere more beautiful in the world.
Stay at Prince Charle’s Guest House
Transylvania is so beautiful even Prince Charles fell under its spell after the fall of communism. He now owns numerous properties in the region, one of those properties is a guest house in the hamlet of Zalanpatak.
The retreat offers guests a very comfortable an all-inclusive experience of Transylvania pristine wilderness, and the rates are surprisingly reasonable. You can find out more about Prince Charles Transylvania Guest Houses here.
Visit the Cities of Transylvania
In Transylvania’s main cities such as Sibiu and Brasov, you’ll find no shortage of cultural events in autumn. Outdoor concerts, opera, arts, ballet and of course, harvest festivals.
Halloween at Dracula’s Castle
From a royal guest house to the prince of darkness; for the dark tourist, there is always the prospect of Halloween at the infamous Bran Castle; the home of Dracula.
Transylvania is a fascinating mix of natural beauty, history and local legend. Romania is also one of Europe’s cheapest destinations, so it’s one of the best value fall destinations in Europe.
People have said Gdansk is where they have seen the most beautiful autumn of their lives.
There is a small window of the year when summer has finished, and winter will approach quickly, in Poland they call it the “Golden Autumn”. The sun shines brightly in the days and the cooler evenings leave a slight morning frost.
The City of Gdansk
There is no more beautiful city to experience Poland’s “Golden Autumn” than Gdansk. Meticulously restored after being flattened in WWII, Gdansk is a city associated with courage and freedom. A thriving and progressive centre of culture, science, sports and entertainment.
Amongst the charming cobblestone streets, you can discover the prized amber Gdansk is famous for and warm yourself with the golf flecked liqueur Goldwasser made in Gdansk since the 16th-century.
Day Trips From Gdansk
Once you have finished exploring the delightful medieval town of Gdansk, take a day trip to the medieval fortress of the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork.
Then, experience the grounds of Rzucewo Castle in all its autumn glory. Built in 1840; the castle houses a hotel and a fantastic restaurant that’s perfect for lunch after exploring the grounds.
Gdansk is a delightful city at any time of the year, but in autumn it is an unforgettable experience.
Wachau Valley Austria
The loveliest stretch of the Danube, the wine terraced hills of the Wachau Valley, west of Vienna was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 for its physical beauty and cultural importance.
Wine Season Festivals
Known for its rolling hills, vineyards and fortresses, it is in this most spectacular stretch of the Danube, central Europe’s largest and most significant series of events around wine take place in Autumn. Lower Austria celebrates a special season from late August until late November known as Weinherbst – Wine Autumn.
Hiking, Biking & Celebrating
Whether hiking through the golden terraced hills, cycling the Danube Cycling Path, visiting the famous Gottweig and Melk Abbey’s, or enjoying wine cellar festivities the Wachau Valley is a stellar Autumn destination.
The scenic beauty and temptation of the regions world renown wines is just the beginning of what the Wachau Valley has to offer, and you’re only an hour from the beautiful capital Vienna.
The pearl of eastern Europe, Budapest, the beautiful Hungarian capital has much to offer visitors during the autumn season. Budapest is a very walkable city so is a joy to explore.
Scenic Budapest Hills
Head to the Fisherman’s Bastion for excellent views across the city. Enjoy the autumn vistas from the Budapest hills overlooking the Danube, and the iconic Parliament building.
Budapest Thermal Spa’s
Or, simply indulge in one of Budapest’s medicinal thermal spas. With 118 thermal springs around the city, it is no wonder Budapest is dubbed the “City of Spa’s”. Taking the waters in Budapest is one of Hungary’s most civilised rituals age-old traditions.
Autumn Festivals in Budapest
With pleasant temperatures, Budapest’s cultural calendar is busier than ever in the fall with a diverse mix of dance, music, theatre, and food festivals.
In September you can enjoy the Budapest International Wine Festival and the Budapest Pálinka and Sausage Festival. In October the Café Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival and the New Wine and Cheese Festival in November.
Český Krumlov Czech Republic
There is no doubt about the charm of visiting Prague in the fall. The City of A Hundred Spires set in golden hues begging to be explored unencumbered by the peak season masses. But the real jewel in the Czech Republic’s autumn crown is the fairytale town of Český Krumlov.
Bohemia’s quintessential fairytale town, Český Krumlov is a true medieval treasure. Clusters of gabled roofs punctuated with medieval spires encompassed by the Vltava River, Český Krumlov, is picture postcard on any day.
Scenic Old Town & Country Vista’s
However, autumn is when the medieval town takes on a whole new mystique and beauty. From the highest point in the Castle Garden, you can enjoy the spectre of autumns beauty. Admire sweeping views of the postcard-worthy town and surrounding countryside as you meander down the hill through the Český Krumlov Castle and Chateau complex.
By early October, peak season is well and truly finished so Český Krumlov can be enjoyed without the crowds that seem to engulf the tiny city through the summer months.
Local Fare and Artisan Microbreweries
Spend a few days and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of Southern Bohemia. Indulge in spectacular local food and some of the Czech Republics best microbreweries.
Český Krumlov’s Autumn Festivals
You may even catch one or two of Český Krumlov’s autumn festivals such as the Festival of Baroque Arts, the International Environmental and Natural and Cultural Heritage Film Festival or, the Český Krumlov Waterman Marathon at the top of the canoe season on October 10.
Much like Romania, the Czech Republic is one of the cheapest European country’s to visit so is an excellent value destination.
For the Sun Lover – The Hottest Places to Travel in Europe in November.
When the peak of Autumn has finished, there are still a few pockets of Europe that can offer one last chance to bask in the sun for the year.
These are just a few of the hottest places to travel in November for one last summer fling.
Madeira Islands Portugal
Madeira, the autonomous region of Portugal off the north coast of Africa is where many go to escape the cooler weather.
With a climate similar to the Mediterranean or coastal California, the waters of the Atlantic help moderate the temperature meaning the island never suffers extreme weather, hot or cold. Expect balmy days in the low to mid 20’s ℃ / 70’s ℉ and sea temperatures of about the same.
Thanks to the temperate climate, Madeira is the perfect destination any time of year. As the temperature cools off a little in November, so do the tourists. In November, you can still expect plenty of sunshine but best of all, lower rates.
Take the Views from Monte
For some of the best views take the cable car up to the Monte neighbourhood. At 600 metres above sea level, you can enjoy magnificent views of the sea and the steep sprawling hillside dotted with white-walled and red-roofed houses.
Ride a Traditional Wicker Toboggan
From the upper terminal in Monte, take a two-kilometre hair-raising wicker toboggan ride down the hill. A tradition dating back to the 1800’s and a truly Madeiran experience.
Enjoy Beaches & Nature Treks
Away from the city, you’ll find beautiful black volcanic sand beaches, the world’s largest laurel forest and some of the most spectacular nature treks in Europe.
In the Mediterranean, the island of Cyprus is the perfect late autumn escape and just a little warmer than Madiera.
With temperatures in the mid-high 20’s ℃ / 70’s ℉ and warm Mediterranean sea temperatures; sunbathing and swimming in November are a delightful prospect in Cyprus.
Archaeological Ruins & National Parks
Aside from the stunning beaches, Cyprus is famous for; the cooler days make exploring the many archaeological ruins more comfortable than in the peak of summer.
It’s also the perfect time of year for exploring the Akamas Peninsular or hiking the Troodos mountains.
Culture & Cuisine
It’s not all natural beauty in Cyprus. Soak up the culture and more importantly, Cyprus hospitality and fresh local seafood.
Unique Travel Experiences
For something different, tick off two countries in one city. Cross the border in Nicosia from the Greek Cypriot south to the Turkish north.
Or, from November to March you can enjoy a spectacle of pink when Flamingoes migrate to the salt lakes of Larnaca for the winter.
Boasting a similar climate to Cyprus, Malta is the best-kept secret of the Mediterranean, especially in the milder months. The beautiful capital of Valletta calms after the peak season, and the islands most beautiful beaches breathe a sigh of relief again for the year.
A Small Island Brimming With Culture
Malta may be a small island nation but it is brimming with some of Europe’s finest Baroque and Neo-Classical architecture. Enjoy world-class museums and galleries and Malta’s growing coffee and cocktail culture.
Spend an evening at Europe’s third oldest working theatre; The Manoel Theatre with performances by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, ballet evenings, piano recitals and plays.
Idyllic Beach Destinations & Island Hopping
Take a short ferry to Gozo, Malta’s sister island. Head to one of the many waterfront restaurants at Xlendi Bay for lunch or enjoy a day on Gozo’s beaches.
Hiking on Malta
Cooler days are great for hiking adventures in the island’s countryside where stunning coastal views are almost guaranteed. You may see the Sea Squill in bloom, the first flower in Malta after the hot summer months.
Malta is the perfect autumn combination of Mediterranean climate and sophisticated culture to match some of Europe’s bigger cities.
Are You Ready To Plan Your Fall Trip To Europe?
Depending on what you’re looking for, Europe has so many fabulous fall destinations. If it’s scenic autumn displays, harvest festivals and gastronomical delights or that last swim for the year.
These are just a few of Europe’s best autumn offerings but it’s certainly a good start.