Europe’s 6 Best Autumn Getaways

Trees in fiery hues, the nostalgic scent of bonfires, the first hint of crispness in the air – autumn is an intoxicating season. For travellers, it offers lingering sunshine, blissfully uncrowded streets and harvest food festivals. From Valletta’s history-steeped streets to a blaze of colour in the Scottish Highlands, SL contributor Olivia Rawes reveals six European destinations that come into their own at this time of year.

1. Catch The Grape Harvest In Dubrovnik

Sea-battered Dubrovnik is one of Europe’s best-preserved walled towns, its sun-bleached buildings gazing out across the Adriatic Sea. The city’s beauty – and its appearances in Game of Thrones – has seen it crowned Croatia’s most popular tourist destination. That means it’s full to the brim in summer, so visit in autumn instead. Walk the ancient walls, admire the Baroque churches and, with summer’s warmth still enduring, dip into the crystal-clear waters. Need any more persuading? The grape harvest is in full swing on the nearby Peljesac peninsula, making this the perfect time for a wine tour. 

Where to eat: Proto 

Where to stay: Hotel Kompas Dubrovnik

2. Adventure In The Highlands 

In autumn, the Scottish Highlands are at their finest. The midges and tourist crowds have gone, replaced by a blaze of colour. Experience the landscape at its most splendid: moors draped in russet-red, leaves crunching underfoot, a crispness in the air. For walkers, relatively unknown Glen Affric hides some of Scotland’s best-hidden scenery – a glorious blend of ancient forests, lofty peaks and rushing rivers. Or take a road trip on the North Coast 500, which wriggles and loops around the north and northwest Highlands.  

Where to eat: The Captain’s Galley

Where to stay: Dornoch Castle Hotel

Hotel Kompas
Casa Ellul
Katz Orange
John Brömstrup

3. Gorge On Galway’s Oysters

With historic lanes tangled around Galway Bay, live music thrumming from pubs and streets dotted with colourful shops, Galway is one of Ireland’s most engaging cities. Autumn brings the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival (27th–29th September). Since 1954, the world’s oldest oyster festival has drawn thousands of visitors all set on one thing: Galway Bay’s wild oysters. Watch competitors from around the world do battle in festival highlights such as the World Oyster Opening Championships. With Galway set to be European Capital of Culture next year, visit now before everyone else catches on.

Where to eat: Ard Bia
Where to stay: The Twelve Hotel

4. Cram In Culture In Valletta 

In recent years, waves of regeneration have washed over Valletta: crumbling mansions have become boutique hotels, while the revamped City Gate and Opera House have redrawn the city’s skyline. At its heart though, Unesco-recognised Valletta remains a place entrenched with history, a 16th-century city awash with golden-hued buildings and crammed with monuments – all squeezed into a slither of a peninsula encased by an azure sea. With so much sightseeing to fit in, autumn’s drop in temperatures – to a still balmy 25ºC – is welcome. Get one last wear out of your sun dress, explore the cultural treasures, then relax on a nearby beach. 

Where to eat: Guzé
Where to stay: Casa Ellul

Gorki Apartments
Captain's Galley
Katz Orange
Thanasis Boucharas

5. Revel In Berlin’s Lights

A heady blend of hedonistic nightlife, tangible history and buzzing creative scene has made Berlin one of Europe’s must-visit cities. The arrival of autumn adds a little extra: shaking off summer, Berlin cloaks itself in new colours and the city’s 2,500-odd parks are transformed by hues of rust, gold and amber. Don’t miss the Festival of the Lights (11th–20th October), when striking light and video projections illuminate some of Berlin’s most famous landmarks.  

Where to eat: Katz Orange
Where to stay: Gorki Apartments

6. Immerse Yourself In Seville’s Spanish Spirit

The spiritual home of flamenco and apparent birthplace of tapas, Seville is drenched in Spanish history and spirit, its atmospheric streets swarming with wide plazas, minaret-topped buildings and sun-bleached cupolas. In summer, soaring visitor numbers and energy-sapping heat can dissolve a little of the magic. By autumn, the crowds have dispersed and cooler weather (a delightful 25ºC) has arrived. This is the perfect time to immerse yourself in Seville’s charms. Go see the three great monuments – the vast Gothic cathedral that is Christopher Columbus’s final resting place, 12th-century La Giralda and the intricately tiled Alcazar – then take a tapas tour. 

Where to eat: Eslava
Where to stay: Corral del Rey

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