While many people consider summer the optimal time for visiting Europe, exploring the continent’s big cities in the off-season usually means fewer crowds, shorter lines, and pleasant weather ideal for outdoor activities. If you’re not sure where to travel in the fall, consider the following top five choices, tailor-made for sightseeing in September, October, or November.
1. Budapest, Hungary
An old-world city with a modern vibe, Budapest serves as major stop on any Central Europe itinerary. Essentially two cities divided by the Danube River, this World Heritage-listed center features photogenic hilltop castles and cobblestoned alleyways, along with a seemingly endless selection of historical sites and cultural attractions. Begin your autumn Budapest tour at Buda Castle, preserving centuries of royal Austro-Hungarian history. Walk around the gardens to admire the castle’s medieval architecture, or step inside to discover a vast collection of Hungarian art. Continue your adventure at Castle Hill, home to picturesque streets, Baroque buildings, and elegant private homes restored after World War II.
2. Bruges, Belgium
Camera-friendly at any time of year, the medieval city of Bruges becomes one of Europe’s prettiest cities in the fall, when the climbing vines covering its historic buildings assume spectacular autumn colors. Add the city to your Europe itinerary to discover a network of neat canals lined by well-preserved medieval buildings. You’ll find endless photo-ops in Historic Centre of Brugge, which your can easily explore on a boat tour or carriage ride. For more cozy and romantic canals, head to Minnewater Lake, where trees and buildings reflect in the calm water while wild swans roam the adjacent park.
3. Oslo, Norway
As the leaves begin to transform and lush woodland areas seem to take on a new autumn life, Oslo becomes a picture-perfect place for lazy evening strolls and family picnics in the city’s scenic parks. A thousand years of history and a diverse mix of architectural styles make this capital city a suitable addition to any Europe trip planner. A colorful backdrop on sunny fall days, Akershus Castle and Fortress stands as one of the city’s symbols, featuring cobbled paths and courtyards flanked by brick buildings and a clock tower. Just outside the city you can explore Oslomarka, a vast natural area boasting some of Norway’s most colorful foliage and offering plenty of opportunities to hike, kayak, sail, or cycle.
4. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Regarded as one of Croatia’s most attractive cities, Dubrovnik remains a great place for combining beach activities with cultural sightseeing. Fall brings mild weather and few crowds, so you can enjoy the city’s beaches without bumping elbows with throngs of other tourists. Hop on Dubrovnik Cable Car to enjoy sweeping views that stretch from the medieval city walls to the Adriatic coastline’s many islands. For more fall foliage visit Trsteno Arboretum, or head farther outside the city to discover mountain hikes through pristine natural scenery splashed with vibrant autumn colors.
5. Lugano, Switzerland
Situated in southern Switzerland, Lugano features the Lugano Prealps as a backdrop and serves as a picturesque destination suitable for year-round Europe vacations. Appealing to celebrities and top professional athletes, this “Monte Carlo of Switzerland” offers a range of outdoor activities on or around Lake Lugano, boasting a Mediterranean microclimate warm enough to support the growth of palm and citrus trees. While you can certainly bike, swim, boat, and hike here during the scorching summer months, autumn brings milder temperatures and a slew of folk festivals and celebrations dedicated to local wines. Don’t miss Parco San Grato, a botanical park sheltering a varied collection of azaleas, rhododendrons, and conifers.
Autumn Magic of Europe’s Great Cities
Europe boasts so many history-soaked cities offering entertaining outdoor activities and memorable neighborhoods, figuring out where to travel in the fall may seem like a very tall order. Solve that issue by considering a few of Europe’s top autumn getaways, ideal places for enjoying blazing autumn colors and mild weather made for exploring the great outdoors.