There are people in this world who hate fall. They wallow over the end of summer, seeing the season as a time of mourning. But those glass-half-empty people are wrong.
Fall is a season for rejoicing, because while the weather cools off in the Northern Hemisphere and birds begin their long slog south, travel to Europe is at its best. Gone are the hordes of tourists in sweat-soaked tank tops. You’re looking at sweater weather. Better yet, you’re looking at European scarf weather.
The perks go beyond climate considerations, too. If you take a peek at airplane fares year-round, prices dip in the fall. The only time you’ll find lower prices is in the dead of winter.
Once you’re ready to start packing your layers, you’ll need to plan out your autumnal trip across the pond. We checked in with expert local guides in Europe’s best fall destinations to find out what makes their cities great this time of year.
In the summer, Paris is a minefield of tourists. Walking along the Seine is still beautiful, but it’s harder to enjoy when you’re dodging a family of four on rental bikes barreling down the sidewalk. Come fall, most of those families are back at home settling into the new school year, leaving the banks of the famous river to you and the perfectly dressed Parisians.
“Sounds a bit cliché, but Paris is the perfect city to enjoy fall because you can sit at any coffee place and feel immediately in an old rom-com movie or like you were a famous novel writer,” says writer Jennifer Padjemi in an e-mail. “Even if you want to stay outside, waiters give you some blankets to keep warm.”
Padjemi has many recommendations for fall in the City of Lights. Strolling the Seine and the various canals and parks is a must-do. If you’d like to get outside of the city for some leaf-peeping, an hour’s drive away you’ll find the forest of Fontainebleau.
Tracking down seasonal produce, such as pumpkin and squash, is on Padjemi’s list as well. She recommends Marche d’Aligre, one of the most famous local markets.
Berlin is an incredible walking city, even more so in the fall. The vines creeping up the city’s historical buildings complement the colorful street art. Cooler temperatures also complement binge-eating currywurst and schnitzel.
“Whereas summer may be the best time to experience Berlin’s wide range of outdoor activities, fall is when Berliners turn to the other aspects that make this city so livable,” writes Rick Noack in an e-mail. “Tourists and locals alike head to art exhibitions or reflect on the turbulent historic days of German reunification and the fall of the Berlin Wall — both dates fall into October and November, respectively.”
Noack also says there’s no shortage of bars, restaurants and cozy cafes that are ideal for a fall escape.
Summer tourism in Rome has gotten so extreme that the city’s government has had to step in with new fines and regulations to protect its treasured monuments. Avoid contributing to overtourism by skipping a trip during the summer and visiting Rome a few months later.
“By the beginning of October, the city returns to the residents in full force,” writer Erica Firpo told us. “Everything is back in business, including the buses and politics. Even if it feels a bit chaotic, it’s the kind of chaos we know and love because the city is alive following the summer snooze.”
Firpo notes Rome’s perfect fall weather as another draw — bright and sunny in the daytime, a bit chilly at night — along with a new lineup of exhibitions and events during the cooler season.
Leaf-peepers, fall in Dublin is for you. Pack a raincoat to don over your new Irish wool sweater and find a pub to nestle into for a warming whiskey.
“Dublin is beautiful in fall — or autumn, as we call it,” says Yvonne Gordon. “The trees all along the canals and rivers, and in parks like the Phoenix Park and St. Stephen’s Green, turn yellow and gold, and the ground is carpeted with soft leaves. The autumn light is spectacular, especially early in the morning and in the evening. There’s also a slight chill in the air, so knitted woolies come out, and the first crackling fires are lit.”
The joys of Europe in fall aren’t exclusive to these four cities. The continent has a wealth of options for the fall traveler to explore for a fraction of the prices you would pay during the summer.
To find inspiration for where to go, try plugging in fall dates to Skyscanner.com’s flight-searching function, and type “Everywhere” into the “to” form. See what the most affordable destinations are from your closest airport, and plan your European jaunt accordingly.