Summer is the traditional tourist season in Europe, but experienced travelers will tell you to wait for the cooler autumn months. With smaller crowds, affordable rates, and scenic autumn landscapes from your wildest dreams, fall is Europe's best season. Foliage transforms from vibrant greens into deeper reds, bronzes, and golds. Seasonal festivals and local traditions can also add a unique touch to your travel memories. Whether you're hoping to spend time on a beach or in the crisp autumn mountain air, add these beautiful European cities to your fall travel itinerary.
As the summer settles into autumn, the rolling green hills of the Langhe-Roero and Monferrato wine-growing region transform into a blanket of warm ochre and russet tones. The Alba White Truffle Fair also begins its 8-week exhibition beginning in early October. As a UNESCO-recognized Creative City for Gastronomy, Alba's food scene exceeds expectations, presenting haute cuisine, delicious wines, and local specialties. Check out the Alba Truffle Show to see expert chefs in action, then stick around to enjoy live music and cultural events.
The gorgeous mountain town of Gruyères is memorable for its medieval atmosphere, scenic hikes, and Gruyère cheese. Walk the cobblestone streets to browse local shops and taste some of the finest chocolates and cheeses. If you're interested in the cheese-making process, take the bus to the village of Moléson-sur-Gruyères to see a demonstration at the dairy. Hikers can take the Chemin du Gruyère, an almost 7-mile route that passes through the stunning Jaunbach gorge and to Gruyères Castle. The 13th-century fortress promises extraordinary views of the surrounding Swiss Alps.
Autumn in Croatia is a symphony of fluctuating weather, diverse landscapes, and warming fall tones. At Plitvice Lakes National Park, copper and chestnut foliage elegantly complement the turquoise waters of Lake Plitvice. Summer crowds can be overwhelming, but the off-season gives you better access to alpine hiking trails, caves, and Plitvice Falls, which flows highest in the spring and fall. Visit in September or October, before the upper lakes close for the winter season.
Scotland's trademark green landscapes are the stuff of legend. Come fall time, however, and the terrain erupts in brilliant coppers and golds. The sun is still shining in early autumn, the perfect time to see the rainbow of colors at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Spend the day browsing trendy shops along The West End or the historic Royal Mile. Then, retrace the steps of historic figures as you climb castle hill to Edinburgh Castle. The stunning views alone are worth the trek, but tours of the ancient medieval fortress are equally fascinating.
Avignon is a small city in the countryside of Provence rich in history, culture, and cuisine. The annual Millévin takes place on the third Thursday of every November to celebrate the region's newest wines. Visit Les Halles, the city's food market, for a preview of the tasting event, then follow the parade of winemakers along the Rue de la République. The ceremony leads to a food fair where you can sample the best of Provence. When you're not sampling delicious foods, visit the Pope's Palace and the St. Bénezet Bridge.
Home to centuries-old buildings and stunning modern architecture, Munich is a feast for the eyes year-round. Autumn foliage contrasts beautifully with the pastels of the old districts, where Oktoberfest comes once a year. A celebration of German beers and everything Bavarian, the event is one of the biggest parties in Europe. Surprisingly, Oktoberfest begins during the last week of September, so plan accordingly. After the festival, you can still use Munich as a home base for visiting some of Bavaria's most impressive sites, including Neuschwanstein Castle.
Autumn in Lapland, an Arctic region of Finland, is the time of Ruska. Ruska is nature's last show of color before the snow blankets the winter landscape. Usually arriving between the last week of August and mid-September, it's also the start of the Northern Lights season. These stunning natural phenomena can be elusive, but the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is up for the challenge. Without the distraction of the midnight sun or light pollution, you'll have the best chances of seeing the display from their glass igloos.
San Sebastián might be too chilly for sunbathing in the fall. With an abundance of beautiful architecture, hiking paths, and numerous pintxo bars from which to choose, however, a trip to this seaside destination does not disappoint. Locals and international foodies alike will direct you to the old town quarter, an entirely pedestrian stretch lined with some of the most famous pintxo bars. Plan to be in town during the last week of September, when film directors, actors, journalists, and fans descend on the city for the San Sebastián International Film Festival.
With the departure of tourism and the summer heat, you can experience Budapest's authentic romanticism and beauty in the fall. Explore the town's walkable streets, tasting spectacular Hungarian wines as soon as they become available. Shop the world-famous markets to prepare an impromptu dinner, and take advantage of the country's seasonal traditions. You might find the Búcsú, an open field carnival that bids farewell to summer on St. Vendels day. The Autumn Museum Festival and Budapest Wine Festival are also worth visiting if you're in town.
If you've never been to Georgia, book your visit in the fall. The autumn weather is better for hiking the lowlands and a prime time to explore the Caucasus mountains before the snowfall. Take a day trip to the picturesque vineyards of Kakheti, the country's celebrated wine region. You can book a tour from late August to explore the vast old cellars, sample wine at a medieval monastery, and witness the wine production techniques firsthand. Tbilisoba also takes place at the end of September. The streets are closed off for the city-wide celebration where you can try local wines and foods.