As the summer ends and tourists say goodbye to Europe, countries like Italy and Greece can finally return to a normal, more relaxed routine. That’s one of the many reasons to visit Europe in October.
In October, Europe is itself again. Jam-packed main squares and impossibly long restaurant lines ease up -- as do the locals. Visiting Europe in October will give you an authentic look at your destination of choice; it will help you connect with locals and see a side of Europe you’d never see in the bustling summer.
If the thought of off-season in Europe has you scurrying to book, take a breath. We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the best European places to visit in October to make sure your trip is as perfect as can be.
Here are some fantastic fall destinations that won’t disappoint.
It’s hard to beat fall foliage anywhere in the world, but the full-blown foliage in the heart of Scotland is bound to take your breath away. Pitlochry in central Scotland is adjacent to the United Kingdom’s largest park, Cairngorms National Park, which is known for splendid foliage and mountain views. Beyond the park, Pitlochry is home to a distillery for cozying up on those chilly fall days and a lovely garden to explore on unexpectedly sunny afternoons.
But while these attractions are all delightful, the best thing to do in Pitlochry in the fall is to experience the Enchanted Forest. This award-winning event features a spectacular light show set to an original score with the dazzling woods as a backdrop. The Enchanted Forest drew more than 80,000 visitors in 2018. The 2019 event will run through the month of October; there are 32 dates available.
Wachau Wine Region, Austria
Every autumn, wineries across Austria’s vast Wachau Wine Region bring their fresh blends from harvest season to the local taverns. The Wachau Valley is home to 124 vineyards located on 3,340 acres. Some of the wineries in the region have been around for generations, and they grow delicious Riesling and Grüner Veltliner grapes.
While the wine is delicious, Wachau has much more to offer. This picturesque destination along the Danube River was named a UNESCO World Heritage site for its beautiful architecture and expansive vineyards.
If the Wachau Wine Region is on your October itinerary, don’t miss the Wachau World Heritage Trail. The trail connects the valley’s 13 communities, and you’ll see fortresses, ruins, and castles along the way. While the trail itself is 111 miles long, you can walk as much or as little as you’d like.
Sure, the majority of Oktoberfest takes place in September, but it’s hard to compile a list of the best European places to visit in October without mentioning, well, Oktoberfest! This annual festival began in 1810 as a way to celebrate a royal wedding, and it has since become a staple of German culture.
The entire city of Munich comes alive during the fall. Parks like the Nymphenburg Palace Park glow with fall colors, and a popular festival and market, Auer Dult, takes place in Mariahilf Church Square.
Thanks to publicity from Game of Thrones, Croatian tourism has been booming over the past few years. But visiting Croatia in October means you’ll be exploring with fewer crowds and pleasant, mild weather. In Dubrovnik, one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, temperatures hover around 64 degrees in October, and the Adriatic Sea is often warm enough to swim in. Hotel prices in the area also drop significantly in the fall.
October is grape-harvesting season in Croatia; the country grows more than 60 types of grapes (mostly white). The month is also a time of celebration, since it marks the beginning of the highly anticipated olive-harvesting season. These festivities date to Roman times, and today locals and tourists alike are invited to hit the fields and shake down their own olives.
What better way to celebrate Halloween than by making a spooky visit to Transylvania, the home of Dracula himself? The Visit Transylvania tourism board offers a full tour dedicated to all things Dracula, including historic sites like Sighisoara (Dracula’s birthplace, according to Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel), Dracula’s Castle in Borgo Pass (built based on Stoker’s vision), and the elaborate Bran Castle, the fortress where Vlad the Impaler (the inspiration for Dracula) was believed to have been imprisoned.
To go all out with your spooky excursion, you can add a night in Dracula’s Castle as well as three Dracula-themed Halloween parties to your tour.
October is truffle season in Italy’s Piedmont region, which means that October is the best time ever to visit Italy. One of the most exciting celebrations of the year, the International White Truffle Fair takes over the town of Alba every Saturday and Sunday in October and November. The event includes live cooking demonstrations, wine-tasting experiences, historical reenactments, and an educational kid-friendly zone.
To cap off this delicious event, the White Truffle World Market draws crowds from all over the world. Don’t miss the chance to taste and buy the best truffles from the nearby Langhe-Roero and Monferrato wine regions.
For a full truffle immersion, drive 3 hours east of Piedmont to Bologna, where guides lead half-day truffle tours followed by a visit to the local truffle museum. Follow along as your guides and their truffle-hunting dogs (yes, truffle-hunting dogs!) search the forest floor for truffle prizes.
You might not think of Istanbul as a European destination, but the city straddles Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait.
In October, temperatures reach a comfortable 60 degrees, and the city sees fewer crowds. It also hosts quite a few activities, including the Filmekimi Film Festival, which will be held this year from October 5 to October 14. The international festival features English-language films with Turkish subtitles.
Autumn is also Istanbul’s premier fish season. Karaköy, an ancient neighborhood with a bustling fish market, is one of the best places to try some of the local cuisine. Traditional fish bites include mackerel and anchovy sandwiches.
Loire Valley, France
Harvest season peaks in the vineyards of Loire Valley every fall, which means there’s no better time for wine lovers to visit the Loire Valley than October. Festivals abound in the Loire Valley’s vineyards, including the annual Les Muscadétours in the Loire-Atlantique. This family-friendly wine festival includes vineyard visits, boat trips, cooking classes, and a variety of other events. This year’s celebration will take place from October 4 to October 6.
The grape-filled fun continues across the Loire Valley’s 4,000 wineries. The region’s 621-mile wine route from Nantes to Sancerre features some of the country's most popular vineyards, including Bouvet Ladubay, Château des Vaults, and Château de Minière.
Speaking of harvest festivals in France, you can’t beat the Montmartre Grape Harvest Festival in Paris. This event has been celebrated every autumn since 1934, and it takes place at Montmartre’s very own vineyard (yes, there’s a vineyard in Montmartre!). This year’s event, which will take place from October 9 to October 13, will include art, wine, culinary tastings, music, vineyard visits, and cultural exhibits.
In Paris, the October fun extends far beyond Montmartre. On the annual Nuit Blanche (October 5 this year), the City of Lights stays up all night with 24-hour installations, art exhibits, performances, and concerts. The International Contemporary Art Fair brings art enthusiasts together for the chance to view thousands of unique art pieces from all over the world. This year’s event will take place from October 17 to October 20.
If the Northern Lights have always been on your bucket list, October in Iceland may be your chance. Aurora season runs from October through March, and October’s cold nights with little rain make for some of the best Northern Lights conditions.
While the lights are often visible from Reykjavík, it’s easiest to view them from low-light-pollution destinations such as Vik in the south or even along the Golden Circle, about an hour away from Reykjavík. Icelandic guides run tours through the fall and winter months to help tourists see the lights in remote and scenic locations.
If you’re up for an adventure, consider staying in the “five-million-star hotel,” the Buubble, located right off the Golden Circle. This plastic bubble of a hotel will allow you to glamp under the stars -- and, if you’re lucky, the Aurora -- in luxury. Don’t miss the nearby Secret Lagoon, a natural hot spring dating to 1891.
The European destinations to visit in October are hardly limited to these cities and regions. For more inspiration, check out these 10 overlooked European cities you need to add to your bucket list.