We’ll come right out and say it: autumn is the best time of year for European travel. The weather is perfect, the crowds have thinned out, and the scenery is just the right combination of excitement and romance. The energy touches on all of that, and the great cities of Europe thrive as the seasons change. Chasing fall foliage in Europe is one of the most refreshing travel experiences on the planet.
The Best Places to See Fall Foliage During Autumn in Europe
It is easy to look good in summer when the sun is shining. The test of a truly beautiful city is how it shimmers in this transitional period when color replaces heat and eyes turn to the forthcoming winter. Luckily for travelers, Europe’s combination of history, romance, and flavor makes it the perfect fall destination.
1. Vienna, Austria
Vienna is one of the world’s greatest cities—a city of parks, museums, history, and arguably Europe’s best cafe scene. These attributes mesh magnificently in autumn as the city parks take on fresh new hues ahead of the long winter. The temperatures dip into more manageable territory, and a walk through Schönbrunn Palace in the fall is one of Europe’s great romantic experiences. Throw in the continent’s best hot chocolates, and you’ve got yourself an awesome autumn experience.
2. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Something of a mini-Vienna, Ljubljana is a gorgeous city in its own right. The Slovene capital is a tremendous base for exploring Europe’s most underrated country, whether that means basking in the sea at Piran or letting the romance of Lake Bled wash over you. Ljubljana itself is at its best in fall, with the shaded streets of the city center shimmering with grace. Grab a coffee at Nebotičnik and let those views take charge.
3. Prague, Czechia
Sticking with romantic capitals in the heart of Europe, Prague is also at its best in autumn. The Czech capital is overcrowded during the summer, but the numbers thin out as the road to winter begins, making for an altogether more enjoyable experience. The best way to experience Prague is to get out of the center and into the districts, and a beer in Karlin, Smichov, or Holesovice is an autumn must.
4. Seville, Spain
They don’t call Seville the ‘Frying Pan of Europe’ without good reason. The City of Flamenco is scorching hot throughout summer, but the weather becomes more than bearable in fall. Autumn in Europe offers Seville a chance to take a deep breath and relax. The Flamenco Biennial is a major highlight every other September. Of course, this is an Andalusian version of relaxing, so you can expect plenty of excitement in the autumn streets of Seville.
Changing direction somewhat, Iceland offers something different in autumn. You can say that Iceland offers something altogether different, full stop. Iceland’s sweeping valleys and meadows shimmer with various spectacular colors in autumn, as lush green turns red, yellow, amber, and orange. The Northern Lights are also visible in autumn, and experiences don’t come much more ‘bucket list’ than that.
6. Wye Valley, United Kingdom
If you are searching for autumn colors in Europe this year, head to the Wye Valley in wonderful Wales and enigmatic England. More than 20 million trees stand between the River Severn and the River Wye, and this stretch of magic has become a pilgrimage spot for autumn aficionados. It is a land of gorgeous walks and cozy pubs, and walking from country tavern to country tavern is a serene journey showcasing Britain at its most brilliant. The valley is punctuated with as much industrial heritage as it is culture and nature, making it a fantastic showcase spot.
7. Umbria, Italy
Close your eyes and imagine the perfect Italian escape. There is no shortage of fabulous locations for such an escapade, but the sweeping majesty of Umbria is something else entirely. Bordering Tuscany, visiting Umbria is a majestic ride through traditional cuisine and Italian nature at its most sophisticated. Also known as Italy’s finest wine region, Umbria in autumn is Italy at its most delicious.
8. Amsterdam, Netherlands
There is no wrong time to visit Amsterdam, but seeing the Dutch capital in autumn is special. The city’s winsome architecture is at its most charming, while the summer crowds have thinned out (a little), leaving room to breathe on these famous streets. Golden trees line the old cobblestone streets of the city, and the iconic canal boat tours argue that Amsterdam might be Europe’s most confident and self-assured city. Amsterdam’s cultural calendar thrives in autumn, another reason to plan your visit for this time of year.
9. Black Forest, Germany
Don’t take the name literally. One look at a photograph of Germany’s Black Forest in autumn should be all it takes to convince you to visit. Does it get more majestically autumnal than panoramic reds, yellows, and oranges? You'll find it here in the fall, whether you are looking for lengthy hikes, jaw-dropping waterfalls, quaint villages, or all the Black Forest Cake your stomach can handle.
10. Stockholm, Sweden
If temperatures across Europe become a little more bearable in autumn, the weather in Stockholm borders on downright chilly. Not that you’ll be too bothered as you stroll around the Swedish capital’s myriad parks, gardens, and mansions, embracing inspiration around every corner. Besides, if the weather is a little too cold, you can always enjoy that most invigorating Swedish tradition: a bit of time in the sauna. The fall markets here are something special as well.
11. Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Lauterbrunnen is Switzerland at its most stunningly Swiss, with mountains and meadows as far as the eye can see. The Lauterbrunnen Valley is home to more than 70 waterfalls; hiking to these wonder spots is a real autumnal treat. The 297-metre Staubbach Falls are the main event, and the cascade trek is as inspiring as the water itself. Lauterbrunnen also hosts a fabulous fall market, while the cable car journey from Stechelberg to Schilthorn Mountain is genuinely life-affirming.
12. Perast, Montenegro
Marvelous Montenegro is not the hidden gem that many claim it to be, as the summer crowds in Kotor attest to its popularity. Everything calms down in autumn, and spots like Perast are all the better for it. This small village in the Bay of Kotor was famous for ship-building in the 16th and 17th centuries, but today, it makes its name as the glittering jewel in Montenegro’s coastal crown. Be sure to take a day trip to the town’s fascinating islets, where the real romance flows.
John is a travel writer and darts enthusiast from Mid Wales, currently living in Sarajevo and spending much of his time wandering around Bosnia and Herzegovina, making snap judgments about the bus stations. He remembers where he was the first time he heard Mono, which is a pretty big deal.