The Best Places in Europe to Visit in the Fall

The 15 Best Places to Visit in Europe in the Fall

The fall is my favorite time of the year to visit Europe. As the leaves turn from green to golden brown, you’ll love the autumnal colors and fall vibes that sweep across the continent. 

Leave those summer queues behind and embrace the emptiness of cities like Rome, or enjoy the autumn quiet in places like Plitvice Lakes National Park, which just a few weeks before would be heaving with visitors. And just as the trees drop their leaves, so too do hotels and airlines drop their prices for the low season. 

Head to outdoor destinations like Germany’s Black Forest or the Carpathian Mountains in Romania for those quintessential autumn landscapes. In Portugal’s Douro Valley, and in the rich winelands of Georgia, you can join grape harvests and foodie feasts, while in Lugano and Munich, ancient festivals mark the transition from summer to autumn. 

And if you’re still looking for the last of the summer sunshine in fall, you’ll still find high temperatures and guaranteed sun in Andalusia, Madeira, and the Canary Islands

With so many places to visit this fall, you might not know where to begin. That’s why we’ve compiled our list of the best places to visit in Autumn in Europe for you. Stick to these fun and unique destinations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing autumnal experience in Europe! 

15 Incredible Places to Visit in Europe in the Fall

1. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia 

Best Europe Destinations to Visit in the Fall: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

One of the best fall destinations in Europe is Plitvice Lakes National Park, a spectacular area of forests, karst rocks, lakes, and rivers that’s found in Croatia.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitvice Lakes National Park is known for its unique network of “tufa” waterways, which were created over time by the movement of water through limestone rocks. Over millennia, countless travertines and cascades have formed among the rock formations here, while the mineral content ensures that the 16 lakes are spectacular shades of blue, green, and turquoise.

The natural beauty is astonishing, so it’s no surprise that Croatia’s largest national park receives upwards of some one million visitors every year. But the majority of those visitors come here in summer, so fall is the perfect time to escape the crowds. 

From late September onwards, you’ll have the boardwalks and walkways to yourself. Stroll beneath plummeting waterfalls and boat across the lakes as you take in the glorious fall colors of the forest. You’ll find every shade of autumn in Plitvice Lakes National Park, as the falling leaves and foliage are reflected by the azure waters of this beautiful Croatian destination.


2. Lake Bled, Slovenia

Must See Places in Europe during Fall: Lake Bled

Just 35 miles north of Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital, Lake Bled is one of the most spectacular fall travel destinations in Europe. 

Surrounded by the tall mountain peaks of the Julian Alps, this alpine lake has wowed tourists with its mineral-rich waters and outrageously beautiful scenery for centuries. A medieval king loved Lake Bled enough to build himself a towering castle overlooking the waters in the 11th century, while Josep Broz Tito, the dictator of Yugoslavia, had a summer retreat here on the lakeside. 

You can see the castle and Tito’s mansion on the 4-mile (6.5-kilometer) circular walk that rings Lake Bled, although you’ll find that in the fall, it’s a little too cold for a swim! But as the trees start to drop their leaves, you’ll love the autumnal colors of the surrounding forest, and you can get a good view of the scenery by tackling the many hiking trails leading off into the mountains. 

You’ll also beat the summer crowds that flock here earlier in the year, meaning there’s little chance of having to queue when you want to rent a boat and row yourself over to Bled Island, where the magnificently placed Church of the Assumption of Mary awaits you in the middle of the lake.


3. The Cotswolds, United Kingdom 

Best Places to Visit in Europe during Fall: The Cotswolds, United Kingdom

The Cotswolds are the epitome of rural England, and there’s no better time to visit than in the fall. Tour through the quaint villages of the Cotswolds and you’ll quickly understand why this almost 800-square-mile (2,072-square-kilometer) region between Oxford and Warwick was long ago designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). 

Here you’ll find entire villages and towns built over the centuries using the local Cotswolds sandstone, leaving a colorful character that’s beloved by the countless tourists that flock here in summer. Visit in the fall, though, and the summer crowds have long since departed, and you can often have the most rural villages in the Cotswolds all to yourself. 

Start by exploring quintessential Cotswolds destinations like Burford, Bourton on the Water, or Chipping Norton, places which celebrities, rich sheiks, and former prime ministers have all made their home in recent years. Delve into history at Blenheim Palace (the home of the Churchill family) or visit Roman remains in Cirencester before stopping for an afternoon tea or a pub lunch along the way. 

Despite the high chance of rain in the fall, hikers will find that September and October still afford excellent conditions for tackling the Cotswold Way. This 102-mile (164-kilometer) National Trail connects Chipping Campden with Bath and is the best way to lose yourself in the rolling hills and farmland that the Cotswolds are so famed for. 


4. Rome, Italy

Must Visit Places in Europe during Fall: Rome, Italy

Rome needs little introduction, and there’s no chance we’d leave this legendary city off our list of the best places to travel in Europe in the fall. 

We love visiting Rome in the fall because the weather is cooler and the summer crowds are thinning out. That means you’ll spend less time queuing at famous attractions like the Coliseum and more time enjoying the finer side of Roman living in the Italian capital’s restaurants and bars. 

Temperatures in Rome can still reach highs of 72°F (22°C) in October, but it’s generally cooler than this, making fall the perfect time for walking tours through Rome’s extensive historical monuments. After the Coliseum, head to the Forum (the old Roman marketplace) or the Baths of Caracalla, before visiting medieval sights like Castel Sant’Angelo and tourist attractions like the Trevi Fountain (which, unfortunately, is busy any time of the year).

There’s a chance of rain in the fall, but if that happens, hop over the border to see the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City or spend an afternoon undercover in the Capitoline Museum, the National Roman Museum, or the Borghese Gallery and Museum

We also recommend using the cooler weather as a chance to escape Rome itself. Just outside the city, you can hike or e-bike the ancient Appian Way, an old Roman road that takes you to ruins and catacombs in the surrounding countryside. 


5. Costa del Sol, Spain 

Best Europe Destinations to Visit in the Fall: Costa del Sol, Spain

Traditionally, travelers visit Europe in autumn in order to experience the continent’s fall colors, but sometimes, you just need a little bit of sunshine, too.

If you’re not concerned with seeing golden brown hues in the forests of Germany or the rolling hills of England in October, then you might want to book a flight to the Costa del Sol, where there’s guaranteed sunshine. 

There might not be any falling leaves on the beaches of southern Spain, but you do have temperatures that soar into the mid-70s (degrees Fahrenheit or mid-20s (degrees Celsius) even as winter nears in late October. It’s beach weather along the Costa del Sol, but best of all, it’s low season prices, and you can score great deals in resort towns like Marbella or Fuengirola. 

The Costa del Sol is garnering a reputation for itself as a luxury, rather than a package holiday, destination these days, and you’ll find an excellent choice of accommodations in upmarket places like Puerto Banus or quirky boutique hotels in the historic city of Málaga


6. The Black Forest, Germany 

Must See Places in Europe during Fall: The Black Forest, Germany

Germany is one of the best places to visit in autumn in Europe, but few destinations here can match the serenity of the Black Forest. 

Covering a vast area of woodland and mountains in Baden-Wurttemberg, the Black Forest is not only the source of the River Rhine, but it’s also the setting for countless Germanic fairytales and legends, including many of those penned by the Brothers Grimm. 

Although much of the Black Forest’s 2,300 square miles (5,957 square kilometers) of protected land is covered in evergreen trees, it’s also one of the best places in Germany to enjoy those autumnal colors. 

We recommend basing yourself in a leafy spa town like Baden-Baden, from where you can hike or drive out into the forest in the mornings before returning in the afternoon to soak up thermal waters. 


7. Madeira, Portugal 

Best Europe Destinations to Visit in the Fall: Madeira, Portugal

Autumn sun-seekers will love visiting Madeira from late September through to November because the weather is going to be gorgeous. 

Escape the encroaching cold of mainland Europe with a trip to Portugal’s Atlantic islands. A 2-hour flight from Lisbon and just under 4 hours from London, Madeira’s southerly location ensures temperatures rarely stray below the 68°F (20°C) mark in October.

Start your journey in Funchal, the island’s capital, where you can visit Christiano Ronaldo’s trophy museum, walk through the botanical gardens, and experience the unique tradition of riding wicker toboggans down the steep streets. 

Explore fishing villages like Camara de Lobos along Madeira’s coastline, enjoy blistering views from the Monte Cable Car, and join whale-watching tours on the open Atlantic Ocean (Madeira’s whale-watching season comes to a close at the end of October, so you’ve timed your trip perfectly in this respect). 

Madeira is one of the best autumn destinations in Europe for nature lovers and hikers. The island’s volcanic history means the coast is lined with black sand beaches, while jagged peaks rise high in the interior. 

Outdoor adventurers can tackle Pico Ruivo, which, at 6,109 feet (1,862 meters), is Madeira’s highest mountain peak. There’s a 7.5-mile (12-kilometer) trail that also takes in Pico do Arieiro, which stands at 5,965 feet (1,818 meters) tall. The Ribeiro Frio valley is simply stunning, and the ocean views after climbing to Eagle Rock are some of the most dramatic in Madeira. 


8. Piedmont, Italy 

Must Visit Places in Europe during Fall: Piedmont, Italy

Head to northwest Italy in the fall, and you can explore the Piedmont region during its finest time of the year. 

In Turin, the regional capital, you can visit the cathedral that’s home to the Holy Shroud. The city is highly regarded for its history as the birthplace of Italian unification in the 19th century, while countless medieval and Roman relics are found hidden away among its ancient streets. 

What Places to Visit in Europe During Fall: Piedmont, Italy

Lago Maggiore is one of Italy’s most beautiful lakes, although it might be too cold for a swim in the fall. Nevertheless, conditions are perfect for hiking here or in the Val Grande National Park, where you can enjoy spectacular vistas of the mountains bordering Switzerland. 

But what makes Piedmont one of the best places to visit in autumn in Europe is the truffles. Specifically, the historic town of Alba hosts its annual International White Truffle Festival, and from early October until the start of December, you can immerse yourself in the world of truffles, taste the finest truffles Italy has to offer and enjoy a delightful smorgasbord of truffle-based dishes and local wines at this fantastic foodie event. 


9. The Wye Valley, United Kingdom  

Must See Places in Europe during Fall: The Wye Valley, United Kingdom

Following the course of the River Wye as it carves a path between England and Wales, the Wye Valley is where modern tourism began in the United Kingdom in the 19th century. A generation of Victorian poets, writers, and painters (including the likes of William Wordsworth) were drawn to the Wye Valley’s romantic scenery and picturesque landscapes. 

Today you can re-enact the classic Wye Valley tour from Chepstow to Ross-on-Wye (although where the Victorians went by boat, you’ll need to drive, take the train, or hike into the valley), visiting the ruins of Tintern Abbey (made famous by Wordsworth’s poem of the same name), following fragments of Offa’s Dyke (the first border between England and Wales, established in the 8th century AD), and enjoying incredible panoramic views from Symonds Yat Rock.  

If you’re feeling fit, then you could even attempt the multi-day Wye Valley Trail, a 136-mile (219-kilometer) hike that takes you along the banks of the River Wye. And fall is, without a doubt, the best time to be in the Wye Valley, as the vast forests lining the river shed their leaves and turn from green to gold in the dwindling sunshine. 


10. Douro Valley, Portugal  

Best Places to Visit in Europe during Fall: Douro Valley, Portugal

Stretching east from Porto to the Spanish border, the Douro Valley is another one of the best autumn destinations in Europe. 

While it’s super easy to join a day tour of the Douro Valley from Porto, including a river cruise and plenty of stops at vineyards along the way, we recommend spending a few days, if not longer, exploring this beautiful river valley in the fall. 

And why? September and October are the time of the “vindima” when the vineyards harvest the grapes in preparation for the next batch of Douro Valley vintages. 

You can even spend a few days in a “Wine Hotel,” experiencing the best of Portuguese agrotourism firsthand. You’ll learn how the grapes are grown and collected, and you can even try your hand out in the vineyard, collecting grapes as part of the harvest. 

At Quinta da Pacheca, you can take part in traditional grape stomping in one of the Douro Valley’s oldest port vineyards, for example, while at Quinta das Carvalhas, you can pick and stomp grapes all day long before enjoying local wines, cheeses, and other dishes after a hard day’s work!


11. Kakheti, Georgia

Must See Places in Europe during Fall: Kakheti, Georgia

It’s harvest time in Georgia, where you can explore the impressive food and wine scene in one of Europe’s most underrated destinations.

Georgia has a wine culture dating back to 6000 BC, and this small country – located in the Caucasus Mountains between Russia and Turkey – has a rightful claim as being the birthplace of wine as we know it today. 

Georgia’s most beautiful wine-making region is Khaketi, where wine producers still prepare their vintages the old-fashioned way, using traditional clay pots called Qvevri. 

This gives the wine an organic style that you won’t find elsewhere, with the white wine being a unique shade of orange (it’s natural, so give it a try!). Of course, many wineries also produce their vintages the modern way, with one of the best estates to visit being the 200-year-old Tsinandali Estate near Telavi, just north of Tbilisi.

Fall is a fantastic time to learn more about local life in the countryside. Almost all Georgian wineries are small, family-owned businesses, and you can stay in homestays, help with the harvest, and enjoy the best and freshest local food in Georgia. 

Given the abundance of wine and food going around, in fall you’ll inevitably find yourself attending a “supra.” This is a traditional Georgian feast where you gorge on local dishes like khinkhali, khachapuri, kharcho, lobio, and pkhali until you can eat no more. Supras are led by a toastmaster, who regularly toasts the feast-goers – and for every toast you’re expected to drink!


12. Bavaria, Germany

Best Europe Destinations to Visit in the Fall: Bavaria, Germany

Southern Germany is covered in a golden hue throughout fall, making Bavaria one of the top places to spend autumn in Europe. 

Late September sees Munich’s Theresienwiese taken over by Oktoberfest, where a rowdy tradition of beer drinking and oompah bands attracts visitors from all over the world. 

Oktoberfest has its origins in the harvest cycle, though, celebrating the start of the autumnal season. This means that across Bavaria – not just in Munich – you can find smaller versions of Oktoberfest being celebrated. 

But fall isn’t just for drinking steins of beer. You can hit the Romantic Road, exploring medieval towns like Rothenburg ob der Tauber and visiting sites like Neuschwanstein Castle, or you can head into the Bavarian Alps and enjoy the last of the hiking season before winter begins. 


13. Jerez de la Frontera, Spain 

What Places to Visit in Europe During Fall: Jerez de La Frontera

In Jerez de la Frontera, you can make the most of sunny Andalusia’s glorious fall weather while also immersing yourself in the local culinary traditions.

Located an hour south of Seville, Jerez de la Frontera is known for its fortified wine. The climate and soil are perfect for the production of white grapes, which are transformed into what English speakers call sherry, and fall is when those grapes are harvested. 

The word sherry is a corruption of the name Jerez, which English merchants – who fell in love with the local wine in the 16th century – couldn’t pronounce properly. Today, you can tour through Jerez de la Frontera’s many sherry-producing factories and see how the latest grape harvest will be transformed into this delightful alcoholic beverage.


14. Lugano, Switzerland 

Must Visit Places in Europe during Fall: Lugano, Switzerland

The Italian-speaking region of southern Switzerland is a fascinating place to visit all year round, but its largest city, Lugano, is particularly intriguing in the fall.

Located on the picturesque banks of Lake Lugano, the city and its surroundings are a perfect picture of autumn from late September onwards. The change from summer to fall is quite spectacular, and with warm climes continuing, you’ll love hiking around the lakeside and in the mountains in search of those vivid Swiss landscapes. 

Must See Places in Europe during Fall: Lugano, Switzerland

Lugano also celebrates this seasonal transition every year with a three-day carnival that’s held at the end of September. The Festa d’autunno sees the streets of Lugano filled with music, singing, and dancing as locals eat and drink to their heart’s content as autumn begins. 


15. Transylvania, Romania

Best Places to Visit in Europe during Fall: Transylvania, Romania

If you love visiting up-and-coming destinations, you’ll love spending autumn in Transylvania. Located in the center of Romania, this deeply historical region is home to soaring mountain peaks, rewilded landscapes, and legends of blood-sucking vampires.

Dracula fans can visit Bran Castle, the supposed inspiration for the 19th-century novel. Dracula was loosely based on the real-life antics of Vlad the Impaler, a notorious Romanian hero who resisted the Ottoman invasions of the 15th century. Vlad was born in Sighișoara, where you can find outstanding Saxon architecture dating to the medieval period. 

After you’ve had your fill of myth and history, you’ll want to head out into the Carpathian Mountains, where you’ll be awed by the autumnal colors in the forests. 

Much of Transylvania is in the process of being rewilded, and this is one of the best places in Europe to see rare wildlife like wolves, lynx, and even brown bears. Getting up close and personal with these larger predators isn’t for everyone, though, in which case you might prefer a visit to the Libearty Bear Sanctuary near Brasov. 

There you have it! The 15 best places to travel in Europe in the fall. What’s your favorite place to spend autumn in Europe? 


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Author

  • Richard Collett

    Richard is an award-winning travel writer based in Southwest England who’s addicted to traveling off the beaten track. He’s traveled to 75 countries and counting in search of intriguing stories, unusual destinations, and cultural curiosities.

    Richard loves traveling the long way round over land and sea, and you’ll find him visiting quirky micronations and breakaway territories as often as he’s found lounging on a beach (which is a lot).

    When he’s not writing for BBC Travel, National Geographic, or Lonely Planet, you can find Richard writing for the Wandering Wheatleys or updating his off-beat travel blog, Travel Tramp.

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