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.
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
- 1 AUTUMN COLOURS
- 2 LAKE DISTRICT ENGLAND
- 3 NEW FOREST ENGLAND
- 4 SCOTLAND IN AUTUMN
- 5 SLOVENIA IN AUTUMN
- 6 BIALOWIEZA FOREST, POLAND AND BELARUS
- 7 NORTHERN GREECE IN AUTUMN
- 8 HALLOWEEN IN EUROPE
- 9 BRATISLAVA HALLOWEEN FESTIVAL
- 10 EDINBURGH AT HALLOWEEN
- 11 HALLOWEEN IN LONDON
- 12 VENICE IN OCTOBER
- 13 DRACULA CASTLE ROMANIA
- 14 EUROPE IN OCTOBER FOR FOODIES
- 15 PORCINI IN TUSCANY
- 16 STRADA DEI VINI E DEI SAPORI, BOLOGNA
- 17 SEAFOOD IN NORMANDY, FRANCE
- 18 DUBROVNIK WINE SEASON
- 19 JAMON IN ANDALUCIA
- 20 SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS
- 21 HELSINKI – HERRING FESTIVAL
- 22 PEMBROKESHIRE CRAB
- 23 WINTER SUN
- 24 CRETE
- 25 SANTORINI IN OCTOBER
- 26 LATE SUMMER SUN IN SICILY
- 27 MALTA
- 28 LISBON
- 29 MADRID
- 30 SEVILLE
- 31 BEST EUROPEAN CITY BREAKS IN OCTOBER
- 32 COPENHAGEN
- 33 BERLIN – FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
- 34 BOLOGNA
- 35 SIRACUSA, SICILY
- 36 AMSTERDAM
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
SEAFOOD IN NORMANDY, FRANCE
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.
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
JAMON IN ANDALUCIA
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
SANTORINI IN OCTOBER
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.
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.
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 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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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 is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing the world for over 25 years. His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.