Crunchy leaves fall on the ground in ochre hues, the air’s cold and crisp, the sun is shining brightly in a golden haze – welcome to autumn in Europe. For most locations, it’s one of the ideal times of the year for embracing your inner explorer. You can tick off top attractions and sniff out hidden gems without the crowds or intense heat of summer. Perfection.
So bundle up in your finest knitwear and discover one of Europe’s finest autumnal cities. Here are five of our favourites.
The City of Love is every bit as stunning in autumn as it is during summer. Romance is around every corner, whether a stroll through beautiful Jardin du Palais Royal, where the trees have transformed into a patchwork of tangerine shades, or wine tasting in Montmartre.
Paris’ café scene has a reputation as one of the best in the world, so there’s no better place to retreat into the warm after exploring the city’s pretty boulevards. Make a beeline for Café Mirabelle and wrap cold hands around a steaming mug of hot chocolate, its sugary signature tipple.
Retreat to Rome
Rome will knock your socks off no matter when you visit. For this is one of the world’s greatest treasure troves when it comes to history and culture. You’ll likely need a coat but it’s still warm enough to sit out in the autumnal sunshine and swirl spaghetti around your fork al fresco.
With the tourists of summer long gone, there are less queues to get into some of the Italian capital’s top attractions – bingo! You can tick off the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum in one fell swoop, before ambling over the river to Trastevere, Rome’s nightlife epicentre.
If it’s a rainy autumn day, turn your attention to Vatican City. It’s easy to while away hours inside the outstanding Vatican Museums, before heading to the top of St Peter’s Basilica for impressive views across the Eternal City.
The Hungarian capital defines handsome, with its striking line-up of architecture taking you from baroque to neoclassical to art nouveau in just one stroll. And during autumn, while the temperature drops into the early-teens, Budapest retains its good looks.
Two of the city’s finest attractions are indoors too, perfect if showers are forecast. Spend a day soaking in the bubbles of one of its bathhouses – Rudas Thermal Baths is one of the finest, a 16th century gem with plenty of character. Afterwards, hit the ruin bars that are unique to Budapest. Here you can expect cheap beer, live music and eclectic décor.
When the sun is shining, you’ve got Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Castle and Memento Park to explore. A cruise along the Danube River, which snakes through Budapest’s centre, is also one of the best ways to see the city.
Krakow’s a cracker
When autumn’s in full swing, Krakow really gets into its stride. History is etched deep into this Polish city, so you can admire Gothic and Renaissance architecture to a backdrop of orange-leaved trees. Wander through the Old Town to get a feel for its charms, before heading to bustling Rynek Glowny, the city’s enormous main square.
Hearty Polish cuisine is on the cards here – just what you need when autumn rolls out cold temperatures in Krakow. Munch on flavoursome dumplings, dig into a bowlful of pork stew and finish off with a steaming slab of apple pie.
If you’ve got time, venture out of the city limits to discover Wieliczka Salt Mine and Auschwitz. One gives you an insight into the devastating horrors of war, while the other takes you on a subterranean journey almost 3km underground.
A kaleidoscope of colours awaits in Prague. Yes, there are the seasonal leaves, but also the pastel-hued façades of the buildings lining the Old Town’s streets. Wandering this part of the city is a joy, with cobbled streets brimming with charming little shops and a mish-mash of olde worlde architecture.
Fairytale Prague Castle should be at the top of your must-see list, with St Vitus Cathedral and Charles Bridge not far behind. Over in Malá Strana, also known as Lesser Town, you’ll find a bewitching neighbourhood teeming with medieval bars. Pop in for a pint of beer – when in Prague, after all…
It’s here you can also find live jazz bars and atmospheric restaurants plating up classic Czech grub. Or for a medley of European dishes, enjoy an evening in the beautiful Café Savoy. Make your way through the velvet curtains and into the decadent dining room.
When the leaves are falling and a holiday’s calling, Barcelona should be top of your list! This captivating city’s even more beautiful when it’s basked in an Autumn glow. It’s the ideal time to soak up some Catalan culture, with a busy calendar of events celebrating everything from jazz to film.
The cooler months are primed for exploring the city’s parks by bike or foot. Take a stroll around Gaudi-designed Park Güell or hire a rowing boat and glide across Parc de la Ciutadella’s lake. And if you’re hit with a bit of drizzle? Don’t worry! There’s a medley of museums to escape into.
Foodies should head to the city’s markets for a palate-pleasing insight into local cuisine. Mercat de la Boqueria is one of the best and has been a staple of Barcelona life since the 1800s. Step inside and peruse stalls piled high with everything from juicy olives to tangy goat’s cheese. Delicious!
Posted: 12th Sept 2023.