Europe has been attracting tourists from around the globe year in year out, regardless of the season. With such a rich cultural heritage, amazing architecture, and bustling cities, it really becomes clear why this is the case. While some of us choose to visit the continent in the summer, others prefer to do so in fall.
For this reason, it’s always a good idea to have a list of the best European cities to visit in October or September. Europe in the fall looks extraordinary, especially when all the colors splash across its metropolitan cities, giving them unmistakable charm and irresistible appeal. Even if you’re worried about the language barrier, rest assured that the best European cities in autumn are also some of the best cities for English speakers and you won’t have the slightest trouble to get around easily.
Fiery foliage becomes a work of art in the Hungarian capital. Both sides of the city burst with color as Hungarians prepare to celebrate their annual festivals – the Budapest International Wine Festival, All Saints’ Day, and the Budapest Autumn Festival being three of the most popular fall festivities. Even if it gets chilly (Octobers in Budapest might be just that), feel free to take a dip in some of the city’s most famous spas. Budapest is known for a wide variety of wellness facilities and some of them are perched high on the rooftops where you can unwind in a relaxing bubbling bath while taking in the magnificent views of the city. Art scene comes to life during autumn and you are sure to attend contemporary art performances and exhibitions held throughout the city.
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Early October is the time when Romania’s capital becomes amazingly charming and its spacious parks and avenues rise to the autumn’s glory. Bucharest hosts amazing festivals at this time of year – Festivalul Recoltei, a festival celebrating autumn crops, Festivalul Toamnei, a festivity of traditional Romanian music, and the world-famous George Enescu Festival – the biggest classical music festival in this part of Europe. Of course, no trip to Bucharest is complete without a visit to Count Dracula’s castle near Brasov and even more so in the fall. Bran Castle is located around 3 kilometers from the capital and it’s surrounded by thick forests, adding an additional dose of mystery to an already eerie legend of Vlad Cepes. You can also expect to find fewer people roaming around the castle at this time of year so your experience will be all the more enjoyable.
Serbia’s capital is a lovely and yet understated October destination in Europe. In autumn, Serbia becomes vividly painted in all the possible colors you could think of and visiting Belgrade as the first stop on your autumn journey is not to be missed. In October, Belgrade becomes home to many cultural events, the first and the biggest being the Book Fair held in a large complex close to the center of the city. It gathers authors from around the world and it’s definitely one of the most significant literary happenings in the region. You can also use this time of the year to go sightseeing as temperatures are still rather mild in Belgrade in the fall (around 71°F). Kalemegdan Park, the Ada Ciganlija Peninsula, mount Avala, and Kosutnjak Park should also make their way on your Belgrade autumn itinerary as these locations offer spectacular colorful surroundings and beautiful views of the city.
It’s not that all the cities starting with B are wonderful in the fall but somehow it turned out to be true. Our fourth European city starting with B is none other than Barcelona itself. You might think that summer in Barcelona can’t be matched but in fact, autumn allows you to explore Spain’s capital without the scorching heat that usually accompanies summer. What’s more, the sea is usually still warm enough to take a refreshing dip. Back in the city, you will discover that the golden hues of autumn add an exceptional charm to every park, building, or an alley. Sagrada Familia looks even more astonishing when it’s surrounded by splashes of vivid red, orange, and yellow. Barcelona’s foodie scene takes on an innovative twist between September and October so you can treat your palate by visiting the Catalan festival La Castanyada, bringing you fragrant flavors characteristic of Spanish cuisine.
As the summer crowds wear off after the high season, Lisbon becomes one of the best European cities to visit in October. Once the summer rush simmers down, the rates of hotel rentals follow this declining trend so you can find some great bargains that won’t cost an arm and a leg. Day temperatures are highly pleasant but it might get a bit chilly in the evening so you should take a fair deal of clothes to wear at any time of day. October in Lisbon is ideal for surfing as the gentle winds coming from the Atlantic blow the waves onto the shore. The events in the city cater to all tastes. You can catch a great movie at the international film festival DocLisboa, feast on roasted chestnuts, or enjoy the latest haute couture fashion shows at ModaLisboa, Lisbon’s Fashion Week.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Come October and the vivid colors of Amsterdam become even more striking. The golden leaves transform the city’s streets, parks, and canals, giving way to the beginning of the cultural season in Amsterdam. The Dutch capital is one of the most popular European cities regardless of the season so you can expect to see a lot of tourists, come rain or come shine. Music fans from around the globe flock to the Venice of the North in October to enjoy the world’s best DJs spin the records at Amsterdam Dance Event held every October. Many museums start opening their doors to art admirers even after midnight so you can enjoy some late night art too. Cultural season is at its peak in the fall and you can expect to find numerous film festivals taking place throughout the city, playing anything from thought-provoking documentaries to animated films your little ones might find amusing.
Balmy temperatures in October let you explore Slovenia’s capital in the most unique of ways. The beautiful golden hues invite visitors to explore the great outdoors and Ljubljana has outdoor attractions aplenty. Particularly magical is the city’s trademark – Ljubljana’s Castle which is simply mesmerizing when thick mists wrap around its stone walls as it stands formidably atop the hill. The path to the castle will lead you through the lush park in the heart of the historic city. It is here that you can also catch the most breathtaking views of the capital. Ljubljana has an abundance of parks which look sublime in the fall. Tivoli Park, Koseze Pond, and Ljubljanica River are close to the city center and they will leave you breathless around this time of year. Needless to say that Lake Bled is only an hour’s drive from the capital and you should definitely make an effort to spend at least one day there as it’s one of the country’s biggest attractions, looking particularly fantastic in early October.
Magical Tuscany is one of the most dramatic regions in Italy. Florence is Tuscany’s largest city and as such, it offers spectacular opportunities for exploration of the city and its surrounding area, especially in the fall. The wine seasons starts in September and lasts until mid-October so you can sip some of Europe’s best wines as you soak up the magnificent vistas. Theaters fling their doors open for opera enthusiasts while art galleries and museums get way less crowded, allowing you to marvel at Boticelli’s and Michelangelo’s masterpieces in a serene atmosphere. Of course, the marvelous landscapes of Tuscany are right at your doorstep so you should get out and about in order to take delight in the amazing parks and vineyards in Florence’s close vicinity.
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The mere fact that half of Bordeaux is under UNESCO’s protection speaks volumes about the beauty of this city in southeastern France. It often gets overlooked in the face of Paris, Provence, or Normandy but you actually won’t find a better French city to visit in October than Bordeaux. Not only is Bordeaux a wine lover’s paradise at this time of year but it’s also one of those cities where fall colors work magic on every street and park. Locally sourced cheese and wine add a unique appeal to the area while the walks around the Old Town are nothing short of breathtaking.
Vienna is one of the continent’s oldest metropolises and also one of the best European destinations to visit year round. The splendors of Vienna could easily rival those of Paris and Rome but when it comes to autumn itineraries, Vienna could easily take the win. The Botanical Gardens of the Belvedere Palace, Nationalpark Donau Auen, and the Burggarten Park are in their prime time during the fall and they make up for perfect locations to take a relaxing stroll. Foodies and wine lovers will be thrilled to discover that Vienna wine hikes take place in the autumn and you can embark on explorations of the majestic vineyards in the area, including Mauer, Nussberg, Bisamberg, and Kahlenberg. Lastly, culture buffs are guaranteed to enjoy the Viennale international film festival, held every October in Austria’s capital, showcasing an incredibly large number of genres to suit every taste.
It’s clear to see that the best European cities to visit in October come in all shapes and sizes. The only question that remains is whether you can make up your mind about which one to visit. After all, it’s not easy when every one of them offers something unique and memorable.