Sometimes life gets in the way of summer travel planning. Often, people look right past summer travel and land on a nice Fall getaway. If European destinations are on your travel horizons, the autumn months are the perfect time. Whether you’re looking for city breaks or a camping and hiking adventure, Autumn in Europe is unbeatable.
Since we moved to Copenhagen from Philadelphia in 2017, we have hosted many friends and family in out new city. The majority travel to Europe from America and always ask the best time to visit. Part of this is to respect our schedule, but the most important reason is to know what they can expect.
While different European destinations vary in the Fall, we always recommend it as a great season to visit. Autumn holidays have been some of our best trips around the continent too! Here are 10 reasons why we love to travel around Europe in the Fall. Once we have you convinced, we also give you some inspiration on where to go. Finally, we’ll give you all the links and steps to take for booking your autumn Europe trip.
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Fall Weather in Europe
It’s just the nature of travel – so much depends upon the weather. The benefit of traveling in the Fall is that weather shouldn’t hold you back in Europe. In the autumn season you’ll still experience sunny days and mild weather in beautiful destinations. Each region of Europe will be different, so it’s important to research the expected weather. Still you can still find beaches open through October even if you need a jacket in the evening.
If you’re traveling in the month of September, you should have even warmer days. Mediterranean beaches will be warmer than they are in May and the crowds will be sparse. You’ll be comfortable to dine outside at sidewalk cafes in Paris or hike Bohemian Switzerland National Park in Czech Republic. Of course those are just a few options for where to enjoy Fall weather in Europe.
Some Things Close in the Summer
Europeans take summer holiday seriously, and that includes restaurant, shop and cafe owners. It may seems unimaginable to take off during the peak season, but many small businesses do just that. This means that if you visit Europe in the summer, some boutiques and restaurants will be closed.
This really surprised us when we moved to Europe from America. We couldn’t believe that when demand is the highest, a business would close. Then we got to understand the European lifestyle more and it made more sense. There’s more to life than profits, and there is such a things as too busy to stay open.
This doesn’t mean every restaurant in every destination will be boarded up, but you’ll have the full selection come autumn. In Northern Europe you’ll find locals taking their summer trips (and some shops and restaurants closing) during July. In Southern Europe you can expect the same to occur in August. It’s just the European lifestyle, but everything will be back to business in the Fall, so it’s a perfect time to visit Europe.
Autumn in Europe is Less Crowded
One of the most obvious things about traveling around Europe in the Fall is that streets, attractions, cafes and museums are far less crowded. This can be to your advantage if you’re trying to find a spot on the beach in Taormino, Italy or if you’re booking a car in Porto for a Douro Valley road trip. Sometimes less is just more, and that’s the case with other travelers. Tourist season means more tourists and it’s just more quaint during autumn in Europe.
You'll Enjoy Better Service During Autumn in Europe
It may not seem obvious, but you’ll get better service in the Fall. The only exception is if you’re American, and then you’ll probably be upset that you don’t have wait staff fawning all over you during your meal – that’s only normal in America by the way.
Follow our logic here, but service is a million times better in the autumn than the spring or summer. It’s because crowds are easier to manage for tour guides, hotels and restaurant staff. It’s also because you’ve got locals back in town working in the service sector. They’re often going to be on holiday in the summer months or will be supplemental staff that take a summer job. In the fall months, you’re more likely to have a seasoned staff member working in hospitality that has the time to make your trip special.
My first job in Denmark involved working with hotel reception staff and restaurant owners in Copenhagen. They always told me the same thing – it’s easier to give good service in the fall months. In the summer they get overrun, especially when cruise ships fill the city. Fall is when they can breath again and they put in those extra touches that can make your trip really special.
Visiting Europe in the Fall is More Sustainable
Continuing with the crowd bashing (just kidding, but also not totally kidding) – traveling in off-peak months is better for sustainability. Compared to traveling to Europe in the summer, the shoulder season is better for resource management.
During the first few weeks of Italy being on quarantine in 2020, you may have seen viral images of dolphins returning to Venice because the crowds were gone. Well, that’s an extreme example – but lower crowds is better for environmental reasons.
Spreading tourists out throughout the year also benefits the cities you may be visiting. Many European capitals even have sustainability programs that include efforts to encourage off-peak season travel.
Autumn in Europe is Prime Festival Season
One way that European cities are encouraging travel throughout the year is by spreading out municipal festivals and events. By offering more year round activities, cities in Europe are practicing sustainability while also preserving their city infrastructure.
Fall festivals are now popular in every major European city. This is a lot more than just Oktoberfest in Munich (although everyone should go before they die). An autumn festival is something you can enjoy as a tourist and most offer a unique opportunity to mingle with locals and understand cultural elements of your destination.
These festivals just wouldn’t be possible in the summer season. With a lot of locals on their own vacations and city centers bloated with tourists it would be impossible. That’s why shoulder season is the best time to hold them and traveling to Europe in the fall gets you a piece of the action.
Many fall festivals date back centuries and originated to mark the harvest or the solstice. Other festivals center around wine production. Even the holiday of Halloween is being celebrated more and more each year in Europe.
The Happy Energy of Autumn in Europe
There’s something special about the shoulder seasons in Europe. Both spring and fall in Europe have a little magic in them. It’s a special time when you can watch the seasons change and with it, so does the energy of your destination.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Europe in the the autumn month, you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s kind of that excitement of being back to school. And that makes sense, students fill the cities again because there’s usually a large student population. Locals in any destination return from their summer holidays. In general, it’s that shift from summer mode to the fall where you feel a shift in the city itself. That energy is fun and intimate, because locals and visitors enjoy being together.
Everyone Needs One Last Hurrah Before Winter Hits
Traveling to Europe in the fall is a perfect way to have one last trip before winter sets in. Of course, you shouldn’t stop traveling in the winter months, and there are plenty of great winter city breaks in Europe.
You do, however, notice that as the days get shorter, people try to enjoy every last bit of sun and outdoors weather. Sometimes when you’re making the most of less daylight and warmth – it seems to be a bit more special. We love traveling in the autumn months for that very reason! In the fall we know that winter is coming, and every ice cream cone might be the last one for the year! The nice thing is that the ice cream stands are replaced with Christmas markets.
Fall Travel Deals to Europe
One of the main drivers of any trip planning is price, and you’ll often find some of the best deals to Europe in fall. It makes sense, you have a lull between the busy summer travel season and the Christmas trips. Many families choose not to travel in the fall months because they have children in school and prioritize summer trips. This makes autumn even more enjoyable for couples, retired folks, group trips and solo travel. I do love kids, but being able to visit landmarks like the old town of Riga without children running around is kind of nice.
Take advantage of the lower prices and travel in fall. Everyone loves a good deal on travel where prices can vary significantly from month to month and even week to week.
Fall Foliage in Europe
Since I grew up in the northeastern part of the USA, I was accustomed to driving through the region in autumn and admiring the changing colors of the leaves. Well, Europe has a different climate, but there are locations where autumn foliage is just as magnificent as it is Vermont.
If you’re looking for the fall brilliance of changing leaves, you can experience the natural wonder of Lake Bled in Slovenia. It’s also a relatively inexpensive location, even if prices may be hiked for the foliage visitors.
Where Are the Best Places to Visit in Europe in Autumn?
Still need some travel inspiration? Here are some links to a few trips that we’ve taken and enjoyed over the years. Theses are by no means the ONLY places to enjoy autumn in Europe, but they have been some of our favorites. That’s why we mentioned most of them already.
Do a Wine Tour in The French Alsace
The Alsatian region of France is one of our favorites. If you follow Robe Trotting, then you already know that we are always eager for a weekend in Colmar or Strasbourg. Mike often travels to the area for work and we take advantage of it whenever we can. Often, we’ll turn one of his visits there into a weekend of touring villages that seem as if they sprung from the pages of a fairy tale.
The Alsace is known for their delicious food, white wine and blend of Germany and French culture. For a fall holiday in Europe – it’s one of our top choices.
Enjoy a Fall Sun Holiday in Toarmino, Italy
We already mentioned that you can still find long days and sunny beach weather during the autumn months in Europe. One of the best places is Taormino, Italy. It’s located on the island of Sicily in the foothills of Mount Etna. It’s where the Romans built a gorgeous theater with an ocean view and the beaches are incredible.
One of the prettiest beaches in the world is in Taormina, Isola Bella. An island just off the coast is now a nature preserve and at low tide it’s connected to the shore by a sandbar. It seems too good to be true, but you can enjoy it deep into the autumn months. October sun holidays aren’t possible everywhere in Europe, but Taormina will make it happen.
Go to Oktoberfest - The World's Largest Party
One of our all time favorite group trips was visiting Munich for Oktoberfest. We plan to return in this fall to experience it one more time. While we were there the first time we met several groups who do Oktoberfest together every year going back ages. It’s magic getting to immerse in the revelry of a Bavarian beer tent and the trip should be on everyone’s bucket list.
We enjoyed that fall trip so much, we wrote an Oktoberfest guide for you to plan your trip BUT you have to book early because demand is high.
Book a Fall Foliage Road Trip From Porto Through the Douro Valley
We dropped the idea of flying into Porto and doing a road trip through the Douro Valley. That was because Porto is a fantastic city to explore, but also because it’s a great destination in the fall. This city guide to Porto will help you with the first part, but the Douro Valley is a prime location to catch autumn foliage. Besides Slovenia, it’s one of the best places to travel in Europe in October and you should put it on your list for sure!
Enjoy the History of Riga Without the Summer Crowds
The capital city of Latvia, Riga, is a gem on the Baltic Sea. We traveled there as part of a guy’s trip and loved the entire experience. Riga also hosts a fall harvest festival each year.
It’s among the best places to visit in Europe in autumn, but it will start to get cool by then. The great part is, you can enjoy Riga with no crowds, just bring a fall jacket.
There are so many things to do in Riga, and if you book a trip there you can hop around to other cities in the region quickly. If you’re looking for a deal on a beautiful and still off-beat destination the Baltic countries are where to find one! Definitely consider Riga at any time of the year, but for discount airfare, it can’t be beat in the fall.
Plan Your Own Trip to Europe in Fall
Pick a Destination
We gave you some great options, but Europe is has so many other fall destination. To help you decide, you may want to narrow down your options by category. We suggest deciding between nature and camping, fall festivals in a city, an autumn beach trip or perhaps a combination. Then you can drill down to specific trips within each category and make a choice for your budget.
You can even search some tour companies to see if there’s an itinerary that exists for what you want to do. Sometimes you pay a premium, but it can be worth it to have all of the work done for you. We have been lucky to catch sales with G Adventures for trips to India and Africa – both were 40% off and we saved hundreds because we were flexible.
Intrepid Tours also serves up great tours to Europe. They specialize in group and offer custom food tours, young professionals tours and adventure tours. They’re also backed by great customer service teams that can assist you with booking and flights. Search their catalogue of tours from the button below.
Search for Flights
Once you decide on your trip type, whether you want a tour or your own itinerary and where to go – figure out how to get there. This will mean you likely need to book flights.
You’ll likely find better deals between summer season and Christmas Market season. Check a few things to make sure. First, look at the school calendar in the location you’ve selected. Schools in Europe normally have a week off in the fall. Make sure you aren’t traveling the week of their fall break when demand is higher, you’ll also usually find deals the week after fall break when demand is low.
We find the best deals on SkyScanner and they make it easy to compare dates. Use the button below to search your own flights.
Decide Where to Stay
Extras: Cars, Excursions and Restaurants
Will you be doing a road trip or need to rent a car? If you’re doing a city break in Europe you almost certainly won’t want a car. It can even be a nuisance. You’ll want to look up an airport transfer or how to us public transportation. If you decide to rent a car, we suggest doing so with Auto Europe Car Rental <<<CLICK HERE to search their inventory.
Next, decide if you’ll arrange any excursions. Whether you’re touring museums, arranging a walking tour or visiting a vineyard for a wine tasting DEFINITELY book in advance Even in the non-peak months, it pays to plan ahead. We book through GetYourGuide because they off a refund if you cancel your plans up to 24 hours in advance. You also get instant verification. <<< CLICK HERE to search their tours in your destination.
Finally, do a little research and see if you’d like to make a dinner reservation. In Europe, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to walk in and get a table at a good restaurant. Many do not have the option for you to wait at a bar for a table so we always book ahead.