Best Places To Visit in October in Europe

by All Europe

October is the perfect time to visit so many top European destinations. It’s the fall or autumn season, when prices drop significantly in many of the best places to visit in Europe. The weather is also still warm in many cities in Europe, much more pleasant than the stifling heat of summer.

So where are the best places to visit in Europe in October? This depends on what you want out of your vacation in autumn in Europe. You may want to see the best fall colors in Europe, or perhaps want to seek out October sun holidays on the shores of the Mediterranean. Some of the best cities to visit in Europe – such as Florence – are much more pleasant in early autumn than in summer, the heat having disappeared along with the crowds.

Image of the Casentino Forest in eastern Tuscany, Italy
The Casentino Forest is prime foraging country

October is also the best time to visit Europe for food lovers. It’s the time of harvests, from truffles and porcini in Italy to apples in Normandy or around Hereford, England. It’s also the time of Hallowe’en, of creepy castles and misty mountains. The shorter days and longer nights can be wonderfully atmospheric.

So join us on our guide to the best places to visit in Europe in October.

AUTUMN COLOURS

Image of Craig Goch dam in the Elan Valley in autumn
Craig Goch dam in the Elan Valley in Mid Wales

We’ll start our journey around the best places in Europe to visit in autumn in our home country, the UK. Wales is one of the best European countries to visit for scenery, with magnificent mountains and coast to explore. Autumn in Wales is pot luck weather-wise: it can often be wet and windy, but we’ve also basked on the beach at 20 degrees on Hallowe’en.

Image of autumn sunrise and colours at Portmeirion
A glorious autumn sunrise from outside Hotel Portmeirion

North Wales has some of the most beautiful places in Europe, and if you’re lucky with autumn weather, they are magical. Llangollen, near the English border, is the ideal place to start, surrounded by an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A little over an hour to the west, Betws-y-Coed is the gateway to the Snowdonia National Park, which has some fantastic autumn hikes. And the fantasy village of Portmeirion, on the west coast of Wales, is a wonderful place for a short romantic break.

LAKE DISTRICT ENGLAND

There are plenty of amazing places to see autumn in England as well, and two of the best are at opposite ends of the country. The Lake District National Park, in the north-western county of Cumbria, is the most magnificent mountain landscape in England, with several of its highest peaks. The lower ground around lakes like Derwent Water, Buttermere and  Ullswater is full of foliage, and the fall colours there can be breathtaking.

NEW FOREST ENGLAND

The New Forest, in the southern county of Hampshire, is one of the best hidden gems of England.  This small National Park is not one of the obvious Europe tourist places, and it’s not even that well-known by the British themselves.  It’s an area of forest and heathland where British wildlife thrives, and where you’ll find some of the best autumn colours in Britain.

SCOTLAND IN AUTUMN

The scenery in stunning Scotland is among the best of Europe, especially during autumn. The Scottish Highlands is among the most beautiful landscapes in Europe, and it’s at its most dramatic in the fall, especially when the sun emerges after an autumn squall.  Sometimes you’ll find stands of trees on your journey, such as at Loch Leven and Glencoe Lochan. Elsewhere, all it takes is the dying bracken to light up the bare landscape a fiery orange.   

SLOVENIA IN AUTUMN

This small Alpine country is one of the best places to visit in Europe in autumn.  The Julian Alps have some of the best scenery in Europe, and in October it all goes golden and red. Magical Lake Bled, with its church on an island, a castle on a crag and Alpine peaks behind, is breathtaking, a scene straight out of a fairytale. Nearby, Lake Bohinj is more dramatic, a glacial lake hemmed in by almost vertical mountains on three sides. It’s among the smallest, but is up there with the best countries to visit in Europe. Unmissable.

BIALOWIEZA FOREST, POLAND AND BELARUS

The Białowieża forest, which straddles the Poland-Belarus border, is one of the most unique places to see in Europe. This vast forest wilderness is one of my own favourite Europe travel destinations. The trees are hundreds, possibly a thousand or more years old in places. It’s like walking through a cathedral built by nature, an unforgettable experience. It’s also home to one of the largest bison populations in Europe, with around 800 roaming across the forest. Much of continental Europe was like this – it’s the largest tract of primeval forest left.

NORTHERN GREECE IN AUTUMN

We’ve recommended other places in Greece for this Europe in October feature, but they’re for the last of the summer sun. Mountainous northern Greece (alright – much of the country is!) is one of the less-explored parts of the country. One of the best tourist attractions in Greece is the series of monasteries at Meteora, and in October they are at the most dramatic. The trees in the valley below turn red, gold and brown with the season, while autumn mists rise and swirl around the monasteries. The valleys of the remote Zagorochori region are just as compelling, the valleys and gorges lit up with the bright, fiery hues of autumn.

HALLOWEEN IN EUROPE

October 31st is Halloween (also spelt Hallowe’en, the Eve of All Hallows (All Saints Day, November 1st). It’s believed that Halloween has Celtic origins, possibly derived from an earlier festival, Samhain, and the Welsh Calan Gaeaf (Eve of Winter).

At this time of year, it was believed that the boundaries between this and the Spirit World diminished at this time of year, allowing spirits and fairies to re-enter this world.

If you’re wondering where to travel in Europe for Hallowe’en, the UK is a good place to start. It has the multitude of castles, ancient forests and haunted pubs – everything you need for a creepy, cold evening when the spirit world re-awakens.

BRATISLAVA HALLOWEEN FESTIVAL

Slovakia is one of the cheapest European countries to visit, and its capital, Bratislava is a great place to start. If you’re yet to discover Central Europe, Bratislava Old Town is a good place to start, its cobbled streets winding their way to hilltop Bratislava Castle a taster of what else you can discover in the region.

Bratislava also hosts a huge range of Halloween parties, on the day itself and in the week leading up to it. You can go to a fancy-dress club night, introduce yourself to Slovak hip-hop or be scared witless at a horror-themed party where you could be assailed by scary nuns.  

EDINBURGH AT HALLOWEEN

Edinburgh, one of the top European cities, comes into its own as the days get shorter and the nights get longer. Edinburgh Castle and the narrow closes (alleyways) off the Royal Mile make for a wonderfully evocative setting for autumn and Hallowe’en. You’re always guaranteed several events on Halloween in Edinburgh, from a Ceilidh (dance) at the Counting House to stories of hauntings at Trinity House lighthouse in nearby Leith.

HALLOWEEN IN LONDON

Image of the towers and spires of Fleet Street London at sunset
St Dunstan in the West tower and the Royal Courts of Justice at sunset

A few hours down the track, London has ghosts galore, whether it’s at Highgate Cemetery, the dungeons of the Tower of London or exploring the narrow alleyways of the best-preserved part of the medieval City of London, around St Bartholomew the Great Church.

Image of the Tower of London at night
The Tower of London has harboured many a troubled spirit

Like Edinburgh, the labyrinth of alleyways around the City (also seek out Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub, one of Charles Dickens’ regular ports of call) and the nearby back streets.  There is an enormous range of London walking tours to choose from, including London ghost walks which run throughout the year.

The East End of London was also the haunt of one of the world’s most notorious serial killers, Jack the Ripper, and there’s even a small museum devoted to this mysterious figure.

VENICE IN OCTOBER

Image of San Michele in Isola church at sunset
San Michele in Isola, the cemetery church of Venice

October in Venice can be a wonderful time – you can get anything from late summer sun to misty canals to acqua alta – the high tides which flood the city’s streets for a few hours at a time. The crowds start to thin out towards the end of the month, and prices also start to drop. If you really want to save on your costs, winter is the best time of all to visit Venice, especially January.

Image of Ca' Pesaro palace on the Grand Canal in Venice Italy
Looking out onto the Grand Canal from one of the many smaller Venice canals

Venice doesn’t hold any official Hallowe’en events, as it’s not celebrated as it is in the UK – although some bars will of course hold themed Hallowe’en parties. One of the reasons Venice is one of the top cities to visit in Europe is its vast warren of narrow streets and alleys. One of the best things to do in Venice is to wander and get lost in this endless maze.

This is where Venice is at its haunting best, when you can have much of it to yourself for hours at a time.

 
DRACULA CASTLE ROMANIA

We couldn’t talk about Halloween without mentioning Bran Castle, the fictional home of Count Dracula near Brasov in Transylvania, Romania.

Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula character was partly based on Vlad the Impaler, a 15th century ruler who sometimes impaled his opponents. Vlad may not have spent much time at ‘his’ castle – rather it was chosen as a setting for Dracula films because of its dramatic architecture. Hollywood filmmakers and the Communist Ceausescu regime’s efforts to promote tourism in Romania combined to raise its profile and the myth of Dracula.

Bran Castle is fantastic, along with Corvin one of the best castles in Romania. It’s a must see if you visit Romania. Brasov, along with nearby Sighisoara and Sibiu, is one of the cheapest European cities to visit. A fascinating part of the world.

EUROPE IN OCTOBER FOR FOODIES

October may just be the best time to travel to Europe if food is your passion.  Italy is always a great place to start, with so many regional cuisines to choose from.

PORCINI IN TUSCANY

Image of porcini at a market stall in Florence Italy
Porcini at a stall in Florence’s Mercato Centrale

October and early November are the times to foraging for the rich, delicious porcini mushrooms. They grow in forested areas throughout the region, from the Chianti region to the south of Florence to the Mugello and Casentino Forest in the less frequented east of the region to the Tuscan hilltowns to the south of Siena. It’s always worth checking whether you need a permit from the local town hall – this usually only costs a few euros.

STRADA DEI VINI E DEI SAPORI, BOLOGNA

Image of varieties of pumpkin and squash in a Bologna market
Varieties of pumpkin and squash in a Bologna market

Less than two hours to the north, it’s well worth exploring the backroads of the Strada dei Vini e Sapori (Route of Wines and Tastes) of Emilia Romagna.  This runs through the little-visited Bolognese Apennines, which make for a fascinating day trip from Bologna.

SEAFOOD IN NORMANDY, FRANCE

Image of the port of Honfleur in Normandy, France
Quai Ste Catherine and the lovely harbour at Honfleur

The largely rural region of Normandy, to the north-west of Paris, is also one of the best destinations in Europe for food lovers. The Calvados department in Lower Normandy (which also includes the D-Day Beaches) has several food and drink festivals throughout October.

These include the Fete de la Crevette (Shrimp Festival) in the lovely town of Honfleur, and the Fete de la Coquille St-jacques (Scallop Festival) at Ouistreham, the ferry port to the north of the city of Caen, and nearby Villers-sur-Mer. Beuvron-en-Auge, one of the most beautiful villages in France, is around ten miles (16 km) east of Caen. It’s the setting of an annual Cider Festival each October, and there’s a similar event at Conches-en-Ouche, to the south.

Image of Rouen Cathedral, France,  at sunset
The west front of Rouen Cathedral, a favourite subject of Claude Monet

If you’re in Normandy in autumn, try to make at least a day to see the stunning medieval city of Rouen. It’s one of the best small cities in Europe, and one of the most underrated. During October it plays host to a huge farmers’ market that goes by the wonderful name of La Fete du Ventre (The Festival of the Stomach), and the start of the Foire St Romain, one of the biggest funfairs in France.  

DUBROVNIK WINE SEASON

The beautiful Croatian city of Dubrovnik is one of several destinations in Europe to have felt the effects of overtourism in recent years. But not in October, when the crowds have dwindled significantly, and so have the prices. This is a time to appreciate one of the most enchanting European cities to visit.

It’s also wine season, with the harvests taking place at the nearby vineyards. One of the best areas is the nearby Peljesac peninsula, which produce the famed red Dingac grape. Some other local vineyards also produce fine white wines.

JAMON IN ANDALUCIA

Image of villages in the Alpujarras in Andalucia, Spain
Bubion and Capileira, high up in the jamon country of the Alpujarras

Every October, the town of Aracena hosts the Feria del Jamon Iberico (Iberian Ham Festival). It’s well off the beaten path Andalucia, a 90 minute drive north-west of Seville in neighbouring Huelva province.  As well as having the opportunity to sample the local delicacy, there’s a wide range of market stalls, exhibits, a ham-cutting competition and the chance to win your weight in ham.

Another area of Andalucia that prides itself on its jamon is the remote Alpujarra region to the south of Granada. This series of majestic valleys lead up to the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada, and the jamon takes pride of place in the local shops. Nearby, Trevelez is one of the highest villages in Spain. The clear mountain air provides exceptional conditions for curing and drying the ham, which like that in the Sierra de Aracena, has to be tasted to be believed. It’s one of the best food experiences that we’ve had in Europe.

SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS

Scotland is also one of the best countries to visit in Europe for food in autumn. Locally stalked venison and game is on the menu, as is a range of delicious home-grown vegetables, including beetroot, swede, celeriac. October and early November are also the best times to  forage for mushrooms and berries. If you’re picking your own mushrooms, collect them in a wooden basket, which allows seeds to fall back to the forest floor, which enables re-sporing the following year.

HELSINKI – HERRING FESTIVAL

The Finnish capital Helsinki is one of the top European cities to visit, and it’s one of several cities to devote a festival to the humble herring. The fish is a staple right across the Baltic region, from Estonia to Germany and Denmark. The Helsinki Baltic Herring Market, which  takes place over a week every October, has been running since 1743. It’s held in the Market Square in Helsinki, and events include a Herring of the Year competition. In case you’re wondering, this is actually a competition for the best herring dish.

PEMBROKESHIRE CRAB

Image of Abereiddi and the Pembrokeshire coast, Wales, UK at sunset
Abereiddi and the Pembrokeshire coast at sunset

Back in Wales, October is the start of the best season for crabs, and this continues through until January. Pembrokeshire county occupies the south-west corner of Wales, and its coastline, with its many beaches and coves, provides ideal conditions for them to flourish. Pembrokeshire crab is not to be missed, and is exported all over Europe and beyond. Try some locally, whether it’s at Coast restaurant near Saundersfoot, or in a sandwich from a stall at Tenby market.  Otherwise you can go crabbing yourself, rockpooling at one of the many Pembrokeshire beaches, from Abereiddi in the west to Amroth in the east.

WINTER SUN

CRETE

Image of the lighthouse and city of Rethymno, Crete, Greece
It’s warm in Rethymno, Crete right through until November

The Greek island of Crete is one of the best holiday destinations in Europe, and the October shoulder season is one of the best times to visit. The temperature is around 25° – ten degrees cooler than in the height of summer, so being out in the daytime is so much more comfortable than during July and August.

Image of the harbour in Chania and the White Mountains Crete
The view of the harbour and White Mountains from near the lighthouse

Crete is also one of the best places to go in Europe for hiking and coastal walks. These are much more achievable in the cool – yet still warm – autumn. The island’s second city, Chania, is an ideal base at this time of year. And as for the beaches in Crete, the main reason most people visit in summer? They’re just as beautiful, and the sea is still warm enough to swim in, the water holding onto the residual heat from the summer.

SANTORINI IN OCTOBER

Image of the Three Bells of Fira church Santorini Greece at sunset
Santorini’s famous Three Bells of Fira church at sunset

October may just be the best time to visit Santorini, two hours to the north of Crete. Again, the summer heat has gone, but enough of it remains in the sea to allow you to swim. The Santorini crowds have mostly departed until the following year. Several locals also told us that October and the winter months are the best time to see Santorini sunsets from the caldera.

LATE SUMMER SUN IN SICILY

We fell in love with Sicily in a heartbeat, and recommend it as one of the best places to travel in Europe. The temperatures are still well into the 20s, so it’s a strong candidate for warmest place in Europe in October. You’ll find everything from some of the best beaches in Italy to some of the most beautiful ancient Greek sites in the Mediterranean. Not to mention Europe’s highest volcano, Etna, and the stunning Baroque towns of the south, especially Noto and Modica.

MALTA

The tiny archipelago of Malta has always been a standby for autumn and winter sun. It’s one of the southernmost places in Europe, and is often the warmest place in Europe during October.  Temperatures are still in the mid 20s, ideal balmy conditions for exploring Valletta, one of the smallest capitals but among the best cities to travel in Europe. It’s also less crowded and prices drop significantly after the end of the main tourist season in September.

LISBON

Image of the early morning view of the Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte, Lisbon
An early morning view of the Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte, Lisbon

The Portuguese capital is one of the great European cities, and it’s still warm enough in October to sit outside at one of the cafes at the various miradouros (viewpoints) around the city, enjoy a drink and savour the view. Most of the crowds have also gone home.

MADRID

Madrid is one of the top European city breaks all year round. October is such a good time to visit because the average temperature hovers around the 20 degree mark through the month, and there are only a handful of rainy days during the month. The nights may be drawing in, but one thing never changes: the legendary Madrid nightlife always gets going very late, so don’t start too early.

SEVILLE

Image of the Plaza de Espana in Seville Spain
The splendid Plaza de Espana in Seville at dusk

It’s still balmy in Seville in October. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, and among the best travel destinations in Europe. It has everything from outstanding architecture, some of the best food in Europe and great nightlife to top it all off. It’s still warm enough to sit outside the bars in the Barrio Santa Cruz in the evening and enjoy a cold beer or glass of amontillado sherry outside.

BEST EUROPEAN CITY BREAKS IN OCTOBER

COPENHAGEN

We probably prefer hygge to Halloween, if truth be told. Hygge is a Danish word meaning a feeling of warmth, cosiness and contentment, just what you need with the nights drawing in.

The Tivoli Gardens Halloween season runs for three weeks, from mid-October until early November. It’s a fantastic time to visit one of the best funfairs in the world, when it’s all decked out in Halloween colours, with lots of scary – and not-so-scary – Halloween rides. If you’re wondering where to go in Europe with kids in autumn, this could be the place for you.

Summer seems such a long way away in October, but the beginning of the cultural calendar makes up for that.  Culture Night kicks it all off in Copenhagen, with a vast array of cultural events and the chance to visit parts of historic buildings that are usually off limits to visitors.

BERLIN – FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

Image of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin at night
Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate under its normal lights

Berlin has always been one of the top places to visit in Europe, and October is the time to see it in a different light. The Festival of Lights runs for ten days every October, and some of the main Berlin landmarks are used as canvasses for amazing light projections and son et Lumiere performances. Watch the Brandenburg Gate, Berliner Dom (Cathedral), Potsdamer Platz and more come to life.  The only one we’ve seen around the world that comes close is Vivid Sydney.  Autumn is also a great time to visit Berlin parks, with the Tiergarten and Treptower Park especially rich in autumn colours.

BOLOGNA

Image of Bologna's iconic statue of Neptune
Bologna’s iconic statue of Neptune

Bologna is one of the best European cities to visit in October as it settles back into normality after the summer. The students will have returned to the University, one of the oldest in the world, which gives the whole city such a youthful edge. Bologna is up there with the great European cities, and autumn is a great time to tuck into tagliatelle al ragu, one of the signature dishes of the city, better known by the name Bolognese.

SIRACUSA, SICILY

Image of the seafront or lungomare in Ortigia
The western side of the lungomare in Ortigia

We’ve told you about the late summer sun in Sicily. This is the ideal time to explore some of its cities, and there’s nowhere better than Siracusa, in the south-east of the island. It was one of the greatest cities of antiquity, and now a relatively quiet provincial city. We spent a week on Ortigia, the island which was the ancient heart of Syracuse. Deep into October, the evenings are still warm enough to sit in the Piazza del Duomo with a caffe and gelato, admiring one of the most beautiful squares in Europe.

AMSTERDAM

Gorgeous Amsterdam is among many people’s top 10 European cities. The city of canals is at its most beautiful on sunny, crisp autumn days when the leaves on the trees have turned golden, orange and red. Wander the  Amsterdam canals or take a cruise around them, or prepare to be blown away at two of the best art galleries in Europe, the Rijksmuseum And Van Gogh Museum.

DAVID ANGEL

DAVID ANGEL

AUTHOR

David Angel is a British writer, historian and photographer. He has been travelling and photographing Europe for over 20 years and his work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the Guardian, BBC, Times and Sunday Times.

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