Fall foliage, warm beverages and long walks down quiet streets, there is perhaps no better time to visit Europe than in the autumn months. Fewer tourists mean fewer queues and the air is still not as chilly as in winter, making it the perfect time to plan a trip. Here are the best fall destinations in Europe!
When the leaves start dropping their leaves and the floor becomes a patchwork blanket of Autumnal tones, that’s when you’ll find me out with my camera. Snapping photos for Instagram and Facebook, wearing my cosiest knit and drinking as many coffees as possible! I love all of the following European destinations for pursuing these fall activities among other things…
Why visit Europe in the fall?
While high season in Europe is during the summer months, the low season is in the winter. This means that spring and fall comprise of the shoulder seasons in Europe (i.e. tourism levels are at a moderate level), meaning that this period is arguably the best time to visit Europe.
Highlights of fall in Europe include plenty of seasonal festivals (for example, the various grape harvest festivals which take place in France), the chance to discover the best of fall foliage (read on in this guide to discover some picture perfect spots), and the opportunity to experience some of the most sought out after destinations without the usual crowds of the summer months.
Best places to visit in Europe in the fall
#1 Gdańsk, Poland
Situated to the North of Poland, the historic seaside port town of Gdańsk makes for the perfect European fall getaway. And with cheap flights direct from all over Europe, the city is the perfect escape for a weekend break that’s not too far away.
Head here if you love history, architecture, beer, and castles. For example, the historic Castle of Malbork is an easy day trip from the city and is the largest castle in the world by surface area. Meanwhile, here, in Gdańsk, you’ll find a whole range of things to do.
From exploring the reconstructed old town (which houses places of intrigue such as the largest medieval crane in Europe), to learning about the history of the city through one of the free walking tours (which head out from the city centre on a daily basis), there’s no shortage of activities for almost any interest.
#2 Exeter, England
Nestled in the heart of the West Country, England, Exeter is often overlooked in favour of more famous West Country destinations such as Bristol and Bath. That being said, this doesn’t mean that you should overlook it. After all, the city is filled with coffee shops, museums and plenty of history.
From here, you can also easily reach other Devonian destinations such as the National Park of Dartmoor. Come fall time, the park really comes to life. Heather and gorse bloom everywhere, creating perfect carpets of purples and yellows over the surrounding landscape. Read more: Harry Potter Tour of Exeter.
#3 Aix-en-Provence, France
If you’re looking to soak up the last of the summer sun, and perhaps sip on some of the remaining summer wine, then head to the South of France. The temperature still soars into the 20s and 30s during the daytime (Celsius), and it’s all too easy to pretend that you’re still basking in the summer sun.
Aix-en-Provence is the perfect place to head to if you love museums, history and French architecture. Dating all the way back to the Roman era, Aix-en-Provence is often dubbed as ‘the city of a thousand fountains’ on account of its numerous water features and cobbled lanes.
While there, make sure to check out all of the local markets and perhaps even hike Mont Sainte Victoire, the mountain under which Aix-en-Provence resides. From the city, it’s also easy to take coastal day trips to the quaint towns of La Ciotat and Cassis. Read More: How to spend one week in Provence.
#4 Lucerne, Switzerland
Fall foliage, snow-capped mountains, and fairytale architecture make Lucerne the perfect place to head for a fall European getaway. Head here if you love picturesque scenes (just don’t forget your camera!), good food (think: fondue and all the chocolate) and a friendly atmosphere.
Lucerne (Luzern in German) is easily one of my favourite European fall destinations simply on account of its excellent hot drinks and picture-perfect views. Read more: How to spend three days in Switzerland.
#5 Düsseldorf, Germany
The weather is still warm enough to wear layers, rather than winter jackets, and there’s nothing more warming than sharing a beer with friends in the old part of town (the Altstadt area of the city is fondly referred to as ‘the longest bar in the world’ owing to the sheer number of bars and micro-breweries in the area).
It’s here in Düsseldorf where you’ll also find plenty of museums and easy day trips from the city; the Kaiserswerth area of the city dates back centuries. A hidden little gem in Western Germany, it’s well worth a visit, if only to see the starting spot of the Tour de France, or to check out its rich fashion scene. Read more: A complete guide to Düsseldorf.
#6 Amsterdam, Netherlands
It’s always a good time to visit Amsterdam (here are some reasons you should visit the Netherlands’ capital if you’re not convinced!) and fall is no exception. Fewer tourists mean fewer queues, and fall foliage is always pretty! Here you’ll find plenty of small quirky museums (on a whole range of interests), easy day trips and fall foliage.
Autumn is perhaps also the best time in Europe in which to enjoy a beer. And considering that the Netherlands is home to world-famous Heineken, you can be sure that a good beer is never more than a street or two away! Read more: Tips for visiting Amsterdam.
#7 Edinburgh, Scotland
For the longest time, Summer was my favourite season. I loved the warmth, the sun, and of course the long summer holidays. Now that I’m no longer a student, and I’ve taken up photography, I much prefer the shoulder seasons, i.e. Spring and Autumn.
And of all the best fall destinations in Europe on this list, there are perhaps fewer places where the fall foliage is better than in Edinburgh. The capital of Scotland and inhabited for millennia, you can’t go wrong by spending at least a weekend break dedicated to exploring the busy streets of Edinburgh. Read more: Best day trips to take from Edinburgh.
#8 Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of visiting Luxembourg for the first time. And I more than readily admit that I can’t wait to return! Of all the best fall destinations on this list, the city of Luxembourg is perfect if you love languages (the country has three official languages), good food and oodles of history.
Luxembourg also happens to be the only Grand Duchy in the world and has its own language (Luxembourgish), making it a real gem in the heart of Europe. Often overlooked in favour of its larger nearby neighbours (like Germany and France), you could easily spend a few days exploring the old town.
In Luxembourg city, some of the best things to do include checking out the café scene and wandering down the aptly named ‘Museum Mile’. The rest of the country is easily visited from the city and filled with castles to see (which look great surrounded by fall foliage). Read more: Best castles in Luxembourg.
#9 Porto, Portugal
If you’re in search of a little bit better weather come fall time in Europe, then you need to look no further than the beautiful city of Porto in Northern Portugal. After all, temperatures in Porto during the fall remain pretty warm compared to some other Europe destinations.
Some of the best things to do in Porto include sampling the local tipple, Porto (a fortified wine), and checking out all of the beautiful tiled architecture which can be found scattered across the city. Porto also makes for a great base from which to explore the wider region. Still not convinced? Check out our guide to the most beautiful places to visit in Northern Portugal.
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