Although the summer might seem like the best time to visit Europe (at least going off the fact that every second person on your Instagram seems to be there come July), the autumn months can actually be waaay better for so many reasons. One, you can walk from your hotel to the cafe around the corner without ending up dripping in your own sweat. Two, less people means you can actually get into the places you want to get into. And three, the changing of the leaves makes for some pretty breathtaking scenery. Read on to see my top picks for a fall trip to Europe, from hiding out in cozy beer halls to chasing the last of the summer sun in Europe's south.
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1. LAKE COMO, ITALY
Lake Como is one of the most beautiful and internationally-renowned luxury hotspots in Italy (just ask George Clooney about his house here). After the August influx of tourists from across Europe, September sees things start to slow-down. When we visited at the end of September, we were still able to wear summer clothing and make use of the hotel pool. The highs in September sit in at around 21°C and continue to drop, hitting 11°C come November. Although there are tons of little villages around the lake that you can choose to settle down in, Bellagio is the most popular.
what to do.
In Bellagio, take some time to wander around the gardens at Villa Melzi. Entrance will set you back just over €6 and views of the lake from these pristine, manicured gardens are incredible. Inquire about the ferry schedule and head over to Varenna, a picturesque, colourful that's amazing to see, especially as you approach from the water.
On a chillier or rainy day, nip into Aperitivo et Al to taste a few delicious Italian wines, or spend your time ducking in and out of the village's numerous little shops and boutiques. A drive around the lake is well worth your time as well, although the narrow streets can be a little nerve-wracking!
2. BARCELONA, SPAIN
Barcelona is one of my favourite cities, and it did not disappoint during my fall visit. The weather here stays nice well into the fall, with highs of 18°C even in November. We visited in early November and it was still tank-top, sangria-on-the-beach weather, although the temperatures do plummet at night. Take advantage of the fall's more manageable weather (just a little better vs. struggling to sightsee in the full sun on a 35°C day!) and reduced number of tourists to properly explore this vibrant city.
what to do.
Hang out at La Barceloneta beach to soak in the autumn sun, stopping at one of the many beachfront restaurants for a frosty pitcher of sangria. Join in on a free walking tour to learn more about Gaudí's contributions to architecture in Barcelona. If you prefer a DIY approach, enter the main sites in Google Maps and visit them on your own time - the top ones are La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà (La Pedrera), and Casa Vicens. For more, make your way up to Park Güell, which also offers beautiful views over the city. Make sure you buy tickets ahead of time online as this does tend to sell out, even in the fall.
If the weather isn't in your favour, take advantage of Barcelona's foodie scene. Enjoy an IG-worthy brunch at Brunch & Cake, then armed with an umbrella, wander around Carrer De Blai for cheap and delicious tapas. To wash it all down, head to La Xampanyeria to get your dose of sparkling wine.
3. AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
Thanks in part to its rainy nature, Amsterdam is a city that has been designed to be enjoyed in all seasons and through all weather forecasts. With the tulip season in the spring drawing the masses to the Netherlands and tourism coming to it peak in the summer, the fall is a much more chilled time to see all that Amsterdam has to offer. As an added bonus, the changing colours of the leaves that line the canals make them even more gorgeous than usual.
what to do.
Amsterdam's museums are must-see's, irrespective of the season - the top ones are the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. Their proximity to one another, all sitting in a museum district called Museumplein, makes ticking them off the list super easy. My personal favourite "museum" in Amsterdam is the Anne Frank House (although this one is not in Museumplein). They've done a wonderful job of educating and storytelling in the original house that Anne Frank had to hide in, and the whole experience here feels very real and makes you stop and think. Make sure you pre-book tickets ahead of time online as this is a very popular museum.
Right around the corner from Museumplein is the House of Bols, a museum dedicated to Bols brand of jenever, a juniper-flavored traditional liquor from the Netherlands, sometimes referred to as a "Dutch gin." Here you'll embark on a one hour self-guided, interactive tour that ends with a complementary drink in the bar. The perfect rainy day activity if you ask me! In the same vein, plan for a stop at the Heineken Experience. This experience covers the story of the internationally-loved Dutch brand, and you'll get to enjoy a few cold pours along the way.
On a sunny day in Amsterdam, the options are limitless! Buy tickets to a canal boat tour or rent bikes to explore the city like the locals do. Pick up a picnic lunch to be enjoyed at Vondelpark, or wander De Negen Straatjes, Amsterdam's chic shopping district on foot. Stop by De Jaren cafe for drinks and food on a terrace with a canal view.
4. LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
Similar to Amsterdam, London's one of those cities that's just fabulous all year round. The fall is a great time to visit - you'll get summer-y days (albeit British summer-y) well into September, and can luck out on crisp, sunny days later on into the fall. If it does rain, the showers are usually brief anyways.Take advantage of the cooler weather to hit up the city's museums and spend time chatting over a pint in one of London's many cozy pubs.
what to do.
On a sunny day, head over to Paddington to grab a boat with the London Waterbus Company to Camden. This boat ride will take you through "Little Venice," a pretty canal lined with moored boats. Once at Camden, grab a bite to eat from the market's numerous food stalls, and stop by the Camden Town Brewery to enjoy a pint in the sun. Next, wander around Regent's Park before settling in at Primrose Hill for epic views of the London skyline.
Rain or shine, plan for a visit to at least one of London's museums. The British Museum has free entrance and is home to some super interesting pieces such as the Rosetta Stone. Other museums include the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery. Once you've soaked in your share of culture, nip into the first pub you find to warm up and down some classic British pub fare. A favourite of mine is Mr. Fogg's Tavern, thanks to its eclectic decor and central location.
5. MUNICH, GERMANY
If a city could own a season, Munich would own the fall. Home to the world-famous Oktoberfest, Munich hits its tourism peak later than most European destinations. Oktoberfest aside, Munich makes for a great spot to visit anytime in the autumn months. With lots of gorgeous sites, and even more beer halls to explore, slightly cooler temperatures are welcome!
what to do.
Head to the Altstadt (Old Town) to climb the tower at St. Peter's Church for the best views in Munich - you'll get a bird's-eye view of Marienplatz and over the entire city. Entrance is only €3 and well worth it! Wander down Kaufingerstrasse, one of the oldest streets in Munich and its modern-day shopping hub. Once you've gotten a little thirsty from all the climbing and walking, stop by the Augustiner-Keller beer garden for a generous mug of beer on their expansive terrace or Hofbräuhaus München, a beer hall dating back to the 16th century.
If time is on your side, plan for a day trip out to Neuschwanstein Castle, Walt Disney's real life inspiration. You can get here as part of a tour, or make your way on your own by renting a car. The drive is just over an hour and a half, and the colourful leaves make this place even more scenic than in summer months.
pin me for later :)
what to pack.
✧ travel umbrella for unpredictable weather
✧ rain jacket / windbreaker for reason above
baseball cap to ensure you still look picture-worthy on rainy days
✧ lonely planet travel guide to get inspired
✧ cute passport holder