One of the best times to visit Europe is during the autumn months. From festivals to fjords, islands to Italy, Europe is both tranquil and tantalising at this time of year. Read more to discover the reasons to visit Europe in autumn.
Great spots for autumn colours in Europe
Forests and national parks are ablaze in autumn with different shades of red, orange and yellow transforming Europe’s wide array of landscapes. You don’t always have to go too far afield either to experience leaf-changing loveliness, with many city parks offering the most atmospheric autumn scenes. From Hyde or Richmond Parks in London to Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, Tiergarten Park in Berlin to El Retiro Park in Madrid are world famous for their seasonal natural galleries.
Europe boasts many stunning hiking trails near its towns and cities of course. Some of our favourite autumn nirvanas include Annecy in France, where you can enjoy a range of outdoor activities in the foothills of the Alps, which are bedecked with deciduous trees. Go from Paris to Annecy in 3h41m on the fastest train with a France Pass.
Up in Norway, Bergen, a city famous for its majestic fjords and traditional wooden houses, take in remarkable views on mountain hikes and lakeside walks. Use a Scandinavia Pass to go from Oslo to Bergen in about 7h.
Europe without the crowds
When summer ends, the crowds subside in most places throughout Europe. This is a particularly great time to enjoy some of Europe’s most popular cultural sites, such as the UNESCO cities of Florence, Venice, Bordeaux or the great works of Gaudi in Barcelona.
Autumn sun in Europe
You will still get plenty of sunshine on Europe’s Mediterranean coast in early autumn, although the lower temperatures mean you still need to pack a jacket or fleece. If you enjoy swimming in early October, this is a lovely time to enjoy the Greek islands, as the water is still warm. Use a Greek Island Pass to get around the Cyclades, the Sporades and many more. Be prepared for fewer boat services and accommodation options, however, but if isolated island idylls are what you are after, this is the season to go explore.
In Portugal, the Algarve coast (accessible via Faro) is where the Atlantic and Mediterranean meet so you will experience more autumn chill. However, its otherwise busy coast still sparkles in autumn and keen cyclists will love the Algarve’s 200km Ecovia do Litoral cycling trail in cooler climes, which follows the coast all the way to the Spanish border. Explore the country by train with a Portugal Pass.
Best places for autumn light
Autumn is often the best time for photography as the elevation of the sun is lower during this time of year and cooler nights result in atmospheric morning fogs.
The great prehistoric site of Stonehenge in the UK is magnificent in autumn light and attracts fewer people at this time of year too. Except for the winter solstice, when people gather here to watch the sun rise, as they have for centuries.
The mild weather of autumn is also a great time to photograph wildlife. Head to the Swiss Alps to capture red kites, marmots and ibex. You’ll be amazed how easy they are to spot at this time of year. Use a Swiss Travel Pass to get around Switzerland.
Or head to Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park, taking a train to the gateway town of Aviemore. Explore further afield to see the autumn heathers which bedeck the Highlands, and some mountains tipped with snow, with a BritRail Spirit of Scotland Pass. Edinburgh to Aviemore takes just under 3h by train.
Autumn is when harvest is celebrated all over Europe. From white truffles and saffron to wine and beer, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to indulging your tastebuds.
The Annual Truffle Fair in Alba, Piedmont in northern Italy takes place in October and November, and in Toledo, Spain, the Rose of Saffron Festival celebrates the world’s most expensive spice used in paellas. Milan to Alba takes just over 2h on the fastest train; and Madrid-Toledo takes 33 mins.
To quench your thirst, head to Germany for Oktoberfest, a famous yearly beer celebration all over the country. The most famous one is in Munich from mid-September to the first Sunday of October. Check out the Cavatast Festival in Catalonia, Spain, which celebrates Cava, a sparkling Catalan wine. Frankfurt-Munich takes 3h23m on the fastest train; and Madrid-Barcelona takes 2h30m on the quickest route.
For more inspiration, visit www.raileurope-world.com.