Underrated European Destinations to Visit This Fall
Tired: crowded and hot European summer vacation.
Wired: cool shoulder season European vacation.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of shoulder season travelling. It’s partly to do with the fact that summer is the best time to be home in Newfoundland, especially now that I’ve started a walking tour business with a friend, and partly to do with cheaper flights, fewer crowds, and less sweltering heat. If you look at my Facebook memories you’d see that my vacation memories pile up in March and September.
We all know about the Amalfi Coast, Barcelona, and Paris but Europe is a big continent filled with some underrated gems that are particularly stunning in the fall. I asked fellow bloggers about their favourite off-the-radar European destinations.
Table of Contents
- Snowdonia National Park, Wales
- Luberon, Provence
- Nazaré, Portugal
- Prosecco, Italy
- Lake Bled, Slovenia
- Wicklow National Park, Ireland
- Zagreb, Croatia
- Bolgheri, Italy
- Ioannina, Greece
- Cordoba, Spain
- Durbuy, Belgium
- Plovdiv, Bulgaria
- Groningen, Netherlands
Snowdonia National Park, Wales
Paulina from the UK Every Day
Snowdonia National Park in Wales is a popular summer destination and is often overlooked during other seasons of the year. When one of the most beautiful landscapes in the UK turns into shades of yellow, orange, red, and brown, it creates a picture-perfect location.
During fall, you can avoid crowds in one of the most popular mountains in the UK – Snowdon. Moreover, visiting some of the best waterfalls in Wales in the low season offers you to admire them without many other tourists.
The Welsh mountains are painted in autumn colors, that reflect in the lakes, which Snowdonia National Park has in abundance. Visit Bala Lake or Llyn Pardan as those get too crowded during summer to enjoy their beauty.
There are also many scenic drives so if it feels too cold, you can stay in your car and admire breathtaking views from the window. However, September quite often still gets high temperatures so you can enjoy hiking the tallest mountains in the UK.
Snowdon is the most popular mountain with many routes to choose from. The views from the top of it are amazing. You will see many lakes such as Glaslyn or Llyn Llydaw. Other popular mountains that you might want to explore in Wales are Cader Idris or Tryfan.
If you are looking for an activity that does not include hiking, you can also visit one of the beaches in Wales. Barmouth beach is set in amazing scenery with views of dramatic Welsh mountains. Moreover, for one of the best-hidden gems in Wales, visit the Italian-style village – Portmeirion. Then, you will not feel like it is autumn anymore.
Krystianna from Volumes & Voyages
One of the most underrated European destinations to visit in fall is Luxembourg! This country is often overlooked for the ones surrounding it, like Germany and Belgium, but it’s one of the more unique countries that you can visit.
The fall weather in Luxembourg is great, with averages around 50° F / 10° C. However, this time of year can get rainy, so be sure to pack a rain jacket.
While it is one of the smallest countries in Europe, it’s actually filled with many incredible activities, especially in the shoulder season in Luxembourg City. A visit to the Bock Casemates is an absolute must. This underground tunnel first started to be built in the 1700s by the Austrians and was later used as a shelter during World War II, for more than 30,000 people. The Casemates are open to the public to explore for just a few euros. It’s eery to explore, but it’s worth visiting for the history. Beautiful views of the city can be found throughout the tunnels.
After exploring the Casemates, take the time to walk around Luxembourg’s Old Quarter. Not only is it a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the architecture there is absolutely impeccable. Find yourself winding through old cobblestone streets leading to outdoor areas like parks and lakes. The best way to explore this part of the city is to go without a plan and see where you end up.
Lastly, be sure to visit the historic Notre Dame Cathedral. It’s open to the public and is quite large in size, with breathtaking stained glass windows and beautiful statues. There’s also a crypt inside where members of Luxembourg’s royal family have been buried.
Leyla from Offbeat France
The Luberon region of Provence is much loved, more so since it gained universal fame as the setting for Peter Mayle’s seminal book, A Year in Provence, and its sequels. In summer, buses crowd the roads and thousands of visitors cram the lavender fields, hoping for spectacular splashes of violet on their selfies and photographs.
Come autumn, though, the crowds miraculously melt, and the delightful hilltop villages of the Luberon are at last easy to visit: uncrowded restaurants, accessible parking lots, balmy weather – as opposed to the crushing summer heat. A bonus: most shops and restaurants remain open, whereas by winter, many will have shuttered for the season.
It’s hard to go wrong with the villages of the Luberon. Some, like Gordes and Ménerbes, are world-famous while others, like Oppède-le-Vieux or Murs, may have less fame but are equally beautiful.
Driving from village to village and stopping to sample delicious Provençal food is at the top of the list, but the season is perfect for hiking and mountain biking, away from the heat of summer and the cold winds of winter. Chateaux and abbeys are all open and crowd-free, and this is the season for harvesting the wines of the Luberon and the Ventoux: stop and sample, and meet local producers whose families have been working these vines for centuries. It is also time to visit the region’s renowned markets without having to spend hot hours standing in line just to buy a chunk of cheese.
The Luberon in autumn is ideal: it may have less lavender – but it has more of everything else.
Maria from A World of Destinations
Nazaré is a small coastal town in Portugal, located about 2 hours north of the capital Lisbon. The town is perfect for a weekend getaway or even just for a day trip.
Nazaré is divided into two areas, one being located around the beach, whereas the other area is high up on the clifftop. Both areas are absolutely worth visiting. The lower part of Nazaré features whitewashed houses with orange roofs and a lovely boardwalk with several shops, restaurants and beach bars. Enjoy a stroll along the beach or relax on a sun lounger to soak up the sun. To get to the area on the clifftop you can walk up a picturesque path or take the Nazaré Funicular. Don’t miss out on the viewpoints Miradouro do Suberco and Balaoiço da Ladeira to enjoy a stunning panoramic view over Nazaré and the azure blue ocean. Once you’re in the upper part of the town, head to the lighthouse for the best sunset views and views over the Praia do Norte. If you like fish and seafood you should definitely try one of the numerous fish and seafood restaurants in the upper part of Nazaré.
Nazaré is famous among surfers for its giant waves on Praia do Norte. Only expert surfers dare to enter the water and surf the enormous waves that occasionally form between October and March with the right weather conditions. Praia do Norte is the place where the highest wave ever surfed was recorded. If you would like to watch these so-called “monster waves” from a save distance, the best time to visit Nazaré would be between October and March.
Jo from Indiana Jo
The Prosecco wine region is magical year-round, but it’s especially so in fall when the vines hang heavy with grapes. Between the months of September and October, the grape harvest begins in earnest as families pull together to pluck the year’s fruit and turn it into the pale golden sparkling wine we’ve all come to love. It’s hard to image that just an hour away from Venice you can find yourself in the Prosecco region. It’s an area defined by rolling hillsides and steep topography that’s so unique it’s been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yet, it’s still one of Italy’s best kept secrets, not having made it onto most tourists’ bucket lists. For now.
One of the best ways to explore the region is to take a wine tasting tour along the La Strada del Prosecco, The Prosecco Road. Forming the backbone between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, the road is dotted with vineyards where you can sample the local sparkling wines. Add a cured meats and cheese pairing to your tasting, or sample some local grappa; whatever you do, don’t miss the Prosecco vending machine. At the top of a winding hill, with vineyard views that will catch your breath as much as the walk to the top, vend a bottle of perfectly chilled wine (you can even vend a cold wine glass), sit back and smile. This is a part of Italy where the dolce vita exists at its finest.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Julian Luca from TRAVA Travel
One of the great fall getaways is Slovenia’s number 1 tourist destination, Bled. Beautiful all year round, Lake Bled and its surrounds go into hyperdrive during autumn as the weather gets cooler, the crowds get smaller and the landscape somehow become even more stunning. A reddish, yellowy hue floods the lake, trees and surrounding mountains creating a spectacular backdrop to a gorgeous getaway.
Bled is located 30 minutes from the nations capital Ljubljana. It is a small resort town famous for its picturesque lake, buildings and nature. During the fall months, you could expect the weather to be around 13-23°C during September and make its way down to 4-12°C in November. Depends on how brave you are, swimming in the lake might be a little too cold, but you can still hire a row boat and venture out to the lovely Bled Island located in the centre of the lake. Situated on the Island is the charming Assumption of Maria Church, which dates back to 1534.
While in Bled you can also visit Bled Castle which was built in the 12th century, and go on some amazing hikes, visit some nearby waterfalls or go tobogganing if that’s more your speed. While not internationally renowned, Slovenian cuisine pairs beautifully with the cooler months and there are many yummy, hearty dishes and local beverages to keep you warm.
Wicklow National Park, Ireland
Mary from Be Right Back
Ireland is a popular destination in the fall but one part of the country that is often overlooked at that time of the year is Wicklow Mountains National Park. Wicklow National Park is located about an hour south of Dublin, the Emerald Isle’s capital. It is one of the six national parks in Ireland that visitors should definitely add to their Ireland week long itinerary if they don’t want to miss out on amazing fall colours and beautiful sceneries.
At that time of the year, the best things to do in Wicklow involve a lot of outdoor activities such as hiking the Spinc with views over the Glenealo Valley, walking around stunning Blessington Lake or driving the Sally Gap. One of the best areas of the park to see beautiful fall colours is the Powerscourt Estate and Powerscourt Waterfall. There, you’ll find easy and accessible walking paths that take you through orange and red trees with views on the waterfall and the river.
The weather in Wicklow during fall is enjoyable with cool temperatures and sunny days perfect to go on hikes or sit by the lakes. Fall is also when all the kids go back to school so traveling to Wicklow can be a bit cheaper and quieter at that time of the year. Entrance to the park and most activities listed are free which is also great if you are travelling on a budget.
Alex and Leah from Alex & Leah on Tour
Travelling in fall is one of the most underrated times of the year to travel and visiting Zagreb is no exception.
One of the best reasons to visit Zagreb in the fall is due to its low levels of rainfall. As a result, you can experience the crisp Croatian air in warm clothing without the fear of getting soaking wet.
One of Zagreb’s highlights has to be the panoramic views over the city next to the Lotrščak Tower. If you don’t fancy hiking along the Strossmayer Promenade then be sure to hop on one of the world’s shortest cable cars on Tomiceva ul for just 4.5HRK. Especially at sunset, these views are absolutely breathtaking and well worth admiring for some time.
Visiting Zagreb in the fall wouldn’t be complete without strolling in its well renowned Art Park. Like any park in the fall, Art Park has a pleasing aesthetic with autumnal floral, architecture littered with artwork and an endless supply of dogs.
However, if the abnormal does happen and you experience some precipitation, there is no better place to visit than the Museum of Broken Relationships. This museum displays a vast range of personal objects from former lovers along with brief synopsis as to why each item is symbolically important. Each story can represent a broken relationship from another person or from previous chapters in someone’s life. Whilst some are extremely sad, others will have you in fits of laughter! Admissions for adults are 40HRK.
Zagreb is a very accessible city as its bus and train stations are well connected to both Western and Eastern Europe. If you’re on budget, catching the bus to Zagreb is by far the most affordable option, even if it adds a couple of hours to your journey.
Similarly, if you’re after that party scene and looking to make friends, there is no better place to stay than in Timeout Heritage Hostel. This is because, for better or worse, the accommodation encircles a very trendy bar which is the perfect place to relax after a day exploring the beautiful city of Zagreb.
Michelle from Intentional Travelers
The charming village of Bolgheri, on Tuscany’s Etruscan Coast, boasts the beautiful rolling hills, vineyards, and olive groves that you probably associate with Tuscany.
With sunny, sandy beaches nearby, crowds of vacationers enjoy nearby towns for the summer sun, but it does get quite hot. Fall, however, offers fewer crowds and better weather. Bicycle tours cycle through on a regular basis and the village of Bolgheri remains relatively undiscovered.
Accessible by train or car within a couple hours of Florence, Pisa, or Rome, Bolgheri is at the heart of this region’s “Oil and Wine Road” (La Strada del Vino). Home to world class wineries like Sassicaia, this road leading out of town is lined with cypress trees and has been declared a national monument.
It’s one of the best areas to dive deeper into the top quality ingredients and food heritage of Italy. Wine and olive oil tastings, food excursions, and admiring the scenery are must do’s here. You can easily self-drive, bicycle, or schedule a day tour to make the most of your trip.
Whether you prefer easy bike rides to the beach or hopping from town to town, walking to the village gelato shop or tasting wines and olive oils, there’s something for everyone around this beautiful Italian village of Bolgheri.
Melissa Douglas of High Heels and a Backpack
The charming city of Ioannina is located in the northwestern part of Greece and is the capital of the country’s Epirus region. Mention Ioannina to most international travellers and they have probably never even heard of it. But for Greeks, this is a popular Autumn and Winter getaway destination.
Ioannina sits on the banks of Pamvotida lake against the backdrop of the snowcapped Pindus mountains. Despite being a regional capital, it is home to just 65,000 people and has more of a small-town vibe about it.
Ioannina is characterized by narrow cobbled passageways and a mishmash of neoclassical and Ottoman architecture. The city thrived during the days of the Ottoman Empire and many old mosques and hammams still remain from this period.
The tree-lined streets of old Ioannina are made even more beautiful in the Autumn months when the leaves turn bold shades of orange and auburn. Ioannina makes a great jumping-off point for the rural villages of Zagorahoria but is a great destination in itself.
Learn about the city’s Ottoman history by visiting the house of its notorious former Ottoman ruler, Ali Pasha. There is a small island in the center of Pamvotida lake that has no name and is known by locals as “the island”.
A small number of people live here but it is mostly filled with abandoned Orthodox monasteries and scenic hiking trails that weave through the woodland. You can take a fishing boat out to the island for just €2 each way.
This part of Greece is home to its own special local cuisine, most notably filo pastry pies (pitas) which can be purchased in any bakery. Order yourself a hearty slab of karidopita (walnut pie) or a sweet galatopita (milk pie). Wash it all down with a strong Greek coffee.
Cristina from My Little World of Travelling
Just because it’s a lesser-known vacation destination, doesn’t make it any less gorgeous! Whether you’re looking for history, unique charm, or beautiful weather, Cordoba has a little something for everyone.
Visiting Cordoba in September or October is ideal because the temperatures are mild (compared to the summer heat, where temperatures can climb up to 104°F/40°C). A typical day ranges from a high of 78°F/25°C and a low of 54°F/12°C. This mildly cool weather with a gentle breeze is perfect for sightseeing.
The number of tourists during this time is also not as high as it is during other times of the year. So, when you’re visiting some historic sites such as the Contemplate Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba, you’ll have more time to admire the stunning architecture and beautiful courtyard, while taking in the sweet aroma of the orange trees.
Other things to do in Cordoba include exploring Jardines de la Agricultura (also known as the Garden of the Ducks). This park is a lovely space to relax and walk through as you make your way to the heart of the city, especially if you’ve just come from the train station.
While you’re enjoying the nice weather, take a stroll on the Cross Puente Romano. Located in the heart of Cordoba, the Roman bridge of Cordoba offers one of the most magical views of the city. Don’t forget to snap some unforgettable pictures, as this is one of the best viewpoints in Cordoba!
If you’re a foodie, you can’t leave Cordoba without trying the cuisine. Some perfect autumnal dishes include flamenquín (serrano ham wrapped with pork loin that is coated in breadcrumbs and then fried) and rabo de toro (oxtail stew).
Babe from Next Stop Belgium
Durbuy, Belgium is a charming town in the Belgian Ardennes that makes for a great destination in fall.
It is known as “the smallest city in the world”, and while it technically feels more like a town, its medieval buildings and picturesque location make it a worthy off-the-beaten-track destination on any European itinerary.
Durbuy is situated in the middle of the forest and is surrounded by nature. The river Ourthe runs through the town, adding to its charm, and in fall the town is blanketed in beautiful autumn colours, making it an even more idyllic place to visit.
There are plenty of things to do in beautiful Durbuy, like exploring the historical centre, visiting Roche à la Falize – an anticline from 300 million years ago – and strolling around the quaint shops and eateries.
The area is particularly known for its outdoors activities, so it’s the perfect place to visit if you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Don’t let fall stop you from trying out kayaking, rock climbing or mountain biking.
Durbuy is an underrated European destination that should definitely be on your radar, especially if you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy the beauty of fall. So why not add it to your list of places to visit this autumn? You won’t regret it!
Anwar from Beyond My Door
Considered by many, the most beautiful city in Bulgaria, Plovdiv is one that many people may not even have heard of. It is also considered to be the oldest city in Bulgaria and one of the oldest continuously inhabited ones in Europe.
Plovdiv like many ancient cities of the time was built along seven hills (such as Rome, Constantinople, Athens), and it’s history has spanned millennia. There’s evidence of settlement in the area from 6,000 BCE. It was also the European City of Culture in 2019.
There are many things to visit and explore in the city. From the historic old town area, with its ancient homes and some incredible museums. There’s a Roman theater in the city that dates from the 2nd century BC and is considerably well preserved. You can find historic artifacts from across it’s history that spans among the Thracians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Huns, and Ottomans. You’ll be able to witness so much from these time periods from architecture to religion and cultural influence.
Fall is the perfect time to visit Plovdiv, with its more relaxed atmosphere. The weather tends to mellow in the fall yet still warm enough (and long enough days) to still explore and enjoy the city. And the tourists are a bit quieter than as well which makes crowds more manageable too. Plovdiv is located about 2 hrs by car or bus from Sofia, and is perfect for either a day trip or several.
Kayla from Writing from Nowhere
Get lost in the charming Dutch city of Groningen. Home to more than 200,000 people, a lively university scene, endless live music, bars and attractions, this city is a perfect stop to enjoy autumn from.
Forget what the calendar says – fall starts in Groningen the day that Noorderzon (a beloved free music festival) ends. This year, that day is August 28. That may sound early, but leaves in all of the city parks are already starting to clutter the grass, clashing with sunbathing students.
Even as the weather turns, the Dutch don’t hide. Year-round, the Dutch enjoy time in the fresh air, and you should follow suit. Enjoy the charm on foot with a self-guided walking tour to see all of the tourist highlights while enjoying the foliage.
Appreciate autumn’s vibrance from an ariel view at the Groningen Forum. Take in the vistas here for free, which stretch all the way to Germany. Later, get lost on crunchy forest paths in the Drentse forest, an easy day trip from Groningen.
In between adventures, have lunch, or a very Dutch coffee and dessert, at Fraeylemaborg. It’s not quite a castle, but this gorgeous estate house, known in Dutch as a “borg”, is surrounded by an untamed patch of forest that’s striking in autumn.
There’s enough for you to enjoy in autumn for a weekend or a month. If you work online, consider bringing your laptop and staying for an extended workation and you’re sure to fall in love.