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Fall is one of the most enchanting times to visit Europe. You can fill your camera with snaps of colorful foliage, enjoy seasonal pastimes such as truffle hunting and cider tasting, or join the crowds at the world’s most famous beer festival: Oktoberfest. This is an ideal time for both outdoor adventures and city sightseeing, with fewer crowds and cooler temperatures than the summer, as well as low-season rates that let you pack more adventures into your itinerary. Here are seven autumnal spots to add to your fall itinerary.
Fall is harvest time in Tuscany and the ideal time to indulge in delicacies such as truffles, porcini mushrooms, chestnuts, and olives. To have some fun with your food, time your visit for one of the region’s many autumn food festivals such as the White Truffle Fair in San Giovanni d’Asso or the Chestnut Festival in Marradi. Head to Florence to explore the birthplace of the Renaissance with its UNESCO-listed monuments and celebrated art museums, then admire the golden hues of the Tuscan hills on a Vespa tour and enjoy local pastimes including truffle-hunting and wine-tasting.
If brisk walks along windswept beaches, strolls through apple orchards, and cozy evenings dining in farm-to-table restaurants sound tempting, Normandy should be your pick for fall. While there, make sure to see the Bayeux Tapestry, visit the Mont-St-Michel, or explore D-Day beaches and battlefields without the crowds. You can also ride in a traditional sidecar around the Norman countryside or celebrate the harvest at one of Normandy’s many apple and cider festivals. Also on the fall menu—along with that famous cider—are other local specialties such as melted camembert cheese, delicious tarte normande (apple tart), and calvados (apple brandy).
The king of all beer festivals, Oktoberfest is a globally recognized event that should be on everyone’s fall bucket list. For the full experience, kit yourself out in a dirndl or lederhosen, snag a table at one of the brewery tents, and feast on traditional Bavarian foods such as pretzels, spaetzle, and bratwurst. While in Munich, take the time to explore Bavaria’s lakes and mountains, visit the fairy-tale Neuschwanstein Castle, or head up to the mountaintop Eagle’s Nest (which is open until October). The region’s famous views are even more impressive when the alpine forests ablaze with colorful foliage.
Fall is one of the best times of year to experience the Hungarian capital like a local. Wine, food, and arts festivals fill up the city’s calendar, and many are held in storybook-worthy spots such as the Buda and Vajdahunyad castles. In early fall, make the most of the warm days and go wine tasting in the Etyek-Buda wine region. When chilly weather sets in, you can take a romantic cruise along the Danube River, indulge in seasonal delicacies by booking a traditional cooking class, or warm up at Budapest’s famous thermal baths.
Perched on the shores of Lake Hallstatt, in the heart of the Swiss Alps, the small village of Hallstatt might just be one of Europe’s most Instagrammable spots. Here, leafy slopes rise up around a cluster of alpine cottages, while soaring mountain peaks and a glittering lake frame the horizon. In fall, the mountains fill with colorful foliage, making the views even more dazzling. There are a variety of ways to go leaf-peeping here: Depending on your mood, you can hike to a waterfall, take a boat cruise, or explore the alpine landscapes on an e-bike.
Bruges’s flower-lined canals, Gothic church spires, and picturesque jumble of medieval buildings are stunning in early fall, when the city’s parks and gardens explode with red, orange, and yellow foliage. Cruise the canals and admire the reflected colors dancing across the water or soak up the scenery on a scenic bike ride to see windmills. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head indoors to sample some local beer at a brewpub, indulge your sweet tooth with delicious Belgium chocolates, or order a steaming mug of hot chocolate at a cozy café.