7 European Destinations to Visit This Fall
There’s nothing quite so enchanting as discovering a new place in the autumn, when cooler temperatures make walking a pleasure and outdoor adventures are rewarded with piping hot drinks around cozy fireplaces. From hikes along one of Europe’s most beautiful lakeside villages awash in fall colors to festivals celebrating the culinary bounty of the season, these seven spots offer a host of reasons to visit when sweater weather hits.
A UNESCO World Heritage City, Bruges charms visitors year-round with Old World aesthetics, excellent food, and welcoming locals. In autumn sees fewer crowds along its cobblestoned streets, just as the colors on the trees change to vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. The best way to take in the foliage is with a cruise along the winding canals, which take passengers past secret gardens and the city’s medieval buildings. Or, for a bird’s eye view of town, climb the 366 steps to the top of the Belfort, pausing for a breather with a on the way up in the old treasury, where the city’s important documents were kept during the Middle Ages. Reward your efforts with lunch at De Halve Maan, a family-owned brewery operating since 1856, followed by a visit to one of the town’s many excellent chocolate shops. Check in to Hotel De Tuilerieën, located in an updated 15th century patrician house right on the Dijver Canal, an easy walk from the city’s sights. Warm up with a cocktail by the lounge’s fireplace before a short stroll to Den Gouden Karpel for mussels, a Belgian staple, served in a broth of white wine, garlic, and cream.
The Cotswolds, England
About an hour-and-a-half drive from London, the rolling hills and honey-hued stone villages populated with country inns and cozy pubs and make the Cotswolds an ideal fall getaway. Make your base in Broadway at the Farncombe Estate, which offers several accommodation options across its 400 acres of woodland and fields. To maximize fall foliage viewing, opt for a stay in the newly completed treehouses, which include grownup amenities like heated floors and well-stocked minibars. From here, it’s a short drive to many of the region’s most appealing villages like Bibury, where a stroll along the historic cottages on Arlington Row is best followed by a pint nestled in an armchair around the fire at The Swan, an 18th century hotel on the banks of the River Coln. You can also take in the fall colors with a stroll down part of Cotswold Way, a 102-mile trail that takes walkers across farms, fields, and forests then warm up with afternoon tea at the stately Slaughters Manor House in Lower Slaughter.
In October the flurry of summer visitors to Italy dies down as the temperatures dip. But with so many indoor activities—from the visiting the masterworks at the Uffizi and the Galleria dell’Accademia to taking in architectural marvels like the Duomo—the cold and sometimes rainy autumn weather won’t dampen your visit. Fall is also the harvest season when celebrations abound in and around Florence. Grape and wine festivals take place throughout Tuscany in September, chestnuts and mushrooms are feted in October, while white truffles and olive oil have dedicated fairs in November.
One of Europe’s most Instagrammed villages gets even more picturesque in the fall, when the surrounding mountains turn gold and crimson. Hiking and mountain biking trails wind through the woodland making the UNESCO spot an ideal pick for outdoor adventurers. The Brine-Pipeline Trail is one of the country’s most beautiful, winding its way from Lake Hallstatt along the Traun River through the mountains, past villages, and on to Lake Traunsee. Visitors can also head out onto the lake itself by boat for a full view of the 16th century town’s storybook alpine houses. Stay the night at the historic Seehotel Grüner Baum, where the Lake Terrace restaurant and guest suites overlook the water.
Few things are more peaceful than Amsterdam in the fall, when the summer crowds have gone home but it’s still warm enough to enjoy strolling along the quiet canals. Visitors can also take advantage of the city’s bike-friendly infrastructure and explore Amsterdam on two wheels—pedal to Vondelpark to take in the fall colors, then museum hop around the nearby Museum Quarter, home to the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. Save time for a shopping the well-curated boutiques of De 9 Straatjes, then toast your finds at The Dylan, which offers “High Wine” between 3 and 6pm with four wines paired with amuse-style bites for about €40 per person. For a peaceful sleep in the heart of the canal district, check in to the family-run Poosthoorn, a renovated 17th century canal house, where a hot breakfast is delivered to your room each morning.
Budapest has a packed cultural calendar in fall, with festivals and fairs celebrating music, theater, dance, and food. The festivities begin with the Budapest International Wine Festival in early September, where hundreds of exhibitors serve their best wines against the grand backdrop of Buda Castle. The Budapest Pálinka and Sausage Festival in early October is quickly followed by one of Hungary’s most important cultural events, the CAFe Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival, which features a program that includes classical music, jazz, theatre, poetry, and fine art. And in November the New Wine and Cheese Festival comes to town, where visitors can sample the country’s best homemade cheeses and wine in the storybook setting of Vajdahunyad Castle.
A list of fall events in Europe worth traveling for wouldn’t be complete without Munich’s Oktoberfest, which turns 185 this year. Running from September 22 to October 7, visitors will find tent after tent of German food, music, and, of course, beer. Munich has other autumnal draws, too. Take in the fall colors in the gardens surrounding the Baroque Nymphenburg Palaceor at the city’s the 900-acre English Garden, one of the largest urban parks in the world. The fairy tale-like Neuschwanstein Castle, made even more beautiful in fall when the trees of the Bavarian Alps turn sienna and scarlet, is also an easy day trip.