While summer is the peak tourist season in Europe, there are a lot of reasons to wait until autumn to plan your European getaway.
The bustling pace of summer starts to slow down, the mornings get cooler and the leaves start to change into a dazzling array of oranges, yellows and reds. Peak season prices will disappear and tours, river cruises and other activities will be less crowded. However, the weather will still be pleasant and most of the main attractions will be open for business.
So, what are the best European cities to visit in autumn? There are many great options, but to help you get started here are some of the loveliest places to visit this time of year.
Kotor is an incredibly picturesque city, hidden in a fjord surrounded by towering mountains. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this medieval walled city was built between the 12th and 14th centuries and the architecture that lines these cobblestone streets is very well preserved.
When you visit in September, October or November, the average temperature will still be warm – ideal for hiking and exploring on foot. Plus, you can still swim in the Adriatic Sea until the end of October.
Shopping in the Kotor Old Town market will give you a taste of the seasonal produce of autumn, such as olives, pomegranates and marmalade made from Cornelian cherries. Then, you can hike up the steep mountainside to the fortress, which offers breath-taking views of the shimmering waters and tiled roofs below.
There are many reasons to love Barcelona in the autumn. The summer crowds will have thinned out and the city has more of a local vibe. The weather won’t be as hot as the peak season, but the sun will still be warm. You’ll find better deals on flights and hotels and you’ll be able to visit popular tourist attractions such as the Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell on the day, rather than having to book in advance.
The fall season brings plenty of great festivals and food, including open-air markets with artisan stalls, wine tastings and cooking classes. There are different dishes available that you can only find in the autumn, such as Bolets (wild mushrooms) fried with parsley and garlic – as well as sweet potatoes and roast chestnuts.
October also marks the start of Barcelona’s jazz festival, one of the most respected in Europe. There will be musical events throughout the city, with everything from big band concerts to swing dancing to flamenco and more.
The Italian city of Venice is one of the most romantic destinations in Europe. Elegant and ornate buildings line tranquil canals and people watch the sunset from bustling cobblestone squares. When summer ends and the fall season begins, visiting Venice becomes even sweeter.
One of the best things about visiting Venice in the autumn is that it is much more affordable. Plus, it is quieter and you’ll be able to explore the scenic canals without throngs of tourists around every corner.
Plus, the weather will still be warm enough to dine alfresco in the evenings on the many restaurant patios. This is a good thing, since one of the highlights of visiting Venice is experiencing the wonderful local food scene.
The capital of Slovenia is one of the best European cities to visit in autumn. It was voted the Green Capital of Europe in 2016 and it’s easy to see why – much of the city is pedestrian friendly with pleasant walkways shaded by trees. These trees will come alive with hues of orange and yellow and it’s a delight to walk along the river in the fresh cool air, crunching leaves underfoot. (Keep an eye out for the river otters!)
Fall is also the season for the Vinarium Festival, a well known Slovenian Wine Festival. You can also take a day trip to Lake Bled, a gorgeous location only a short drive from Ljubljana. The waters of this alpine lake supposedly have restorative powers – so take a swim and then admire the view from up at Bled Castle.
The summer season is the busiest time to visit Dubrovnik and the seaside walkways will be crowded with visitors trying to catch a glimpse of the sparkling Adriatic Sea. Visit during the autumn months and you’ll still enjoy warm sunny days, yet the crowds will be much smaller.
Take a walk along the Old Town walls to see the city from above and enjoy spectacular views out to sea. Then, go on a day trip to the Elafati Islands – only a ferry ride away from the city. Also, some spectacular wineries are less than a two-hour drive from Dubrovnik, such as Saint Hills.
Autumn is also one of the best times to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park, one of the most stunning destinations in Croatia. It is a chain of 16 vivid blue lakes, where the water flows from one lake to another over countless waterfalls. When you hike through this unique landscape in the autumn, the vibrant shades of the fall foliage make it even more beautiful.
The city of Gdansk is known for being especially beautiful in the fall months. In Poland, it’s known as the “Golden Autumn.” Take a walk through the charming cobblestone streets and explore this thriving centre of science, culture, entertainment and sports. It’s one of the best European cities to visit in Autumn.
As you walk through the medieval center, take a moment to stop and try the gold-flecked liqueur Goldwasser that has been made locally since the 16th century. Also, be sure to take a day trip to Rzucewo Castle. Built in 1840, this castle has a great restaurant where you can stop for lunch after exploring the grounds.
Where will you go on your autumn travels in Europe?
These locations are great to visit all year round, but they are especially enjoyable during the fall season. So, plan your trip accordingly and enjoy a great autumn getaway.