Is Fall the Best Time to Travel to Europe?

I’ve had this suspicion for awhile, and after our October trip to Spain, France and Italy I’m almost convinced it’s true that Autumn is the best time to travel to Europe. Traveling during shoulder season is the easiest way to avoid many of the nuisances that plague visitors to Europe.

Still, if you travel during fall you may run into off-season related issues. Weather can be unpredictable and attractions closed. There IS a reason so many people visit Europe in the summer but is it really the best time to travel to Europe?

So here are my arguments, pro and con, on why fall may be the best time to travel to Europe! 

PRO: Crisp Pretty Weather

Autumn Colors May Be the Number One Reason Fall Is the Best Time to Travel to Europe

Autumn in Europe can be just beautiful, with warm golden light and clear crisp skies. The foliage is lit up in brilliant yellows and oranges. You can wear light jackets and cute scarves and it’s not freezing at night just yet. It’s the perfect weather for strolling around pedestrian friendly cities like Florence or Rome (where winter comes just a little bit later).

CON: Cold, Rainy Weather

Rainy Weather is a Con for Fall - The Best Time to Travel to Europe

On the flip side, fall weather can just as easily turn dark damp and cold. It rains more in the fall, and if you’re someone who gets rained on quite often (ahem), this can be a bummer. My impression of Prague is still dismal, in part due to the cold, damp November weather that surrounded it.

PRO: Less Crowds

The Best Time to Travel to Europe? The Fall Offers Less Crowds!

This is probably the biggest plus for me. Visiting popular parts of Europe during the summer sometimes feels like visiting Disneyland: sweaty, crowded and with lines that defy belief. If you’re planning to Eurail, seats book up fast. In the fall, the crowds start to thin out and cities start to look like, well cities, again instead of theme-park rides. After a year spent living in London I determined that Fall is absolutely the best time to sightsee without losing your mind.

CON: Closures and Construction

Closures and Construction May Be A Reason Why Fall is Not the Best Time to Travel to Europe

On the flip side, because there are fewer tourists, many local businesses use the off-season to do their own improvements. Many attractions have shorter hours or may not even run at all. In Genoa, in October we wasted a whole morning trying to take a scenic boat ride before realizing they’d stopped running September 30. Total bummer.

PRO: Possible Deals

Best Time to Travel to Europe? Fall offers the possibility of deals!

Because it’s not as popular, fall is rife for finding some great discounts on travel in Europe. Flights are cheaper (particularly if you travel over Thanksgiving- I have a lot of opinions about that). You can score great deals, even on a fancy hotel like the Kempinski Corvinus Budapest (Budapest is one of the prettiest cities to visit in the fall). It won’t make Europe cheap, but it’s certainly just a little more affordable.

What do you think, is fall the best time to travel to Europe?


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Is Fall the Best Time to Travel to Europe

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15 thoughts on “Is Fall the Best Time to Travel to Europe?”

  1. Well fall (or Autumn) is certainly one of the most beautiful times of year to travel and as you’ve said, you can get some great bargains in terms of flights and hotel deals.

    But ultimately it comes down to what you want to do, what weather you prefer and how much money you want to spend.

    Obvious points, but ultimately, the answers to those questions are the answer to your question 🙂

    Generally speaking though, the marquee cities have much less buzz due to there being less people around. And in most cases, if you think about what makes a trip memorable for you, its remembering the unique buzz of the city and its people (because every city is different as you know) and how much you can do.

    Thanks for posing a great question!

  2. I was a little skeptical about traveling during fall, but this year has been a real fall-travel-enlightenment for me: Prague in September, Croatia in October and Paris in November – I had the best time! Although I had some rain eventually, the reddish leaves even turned a damp day into a colorful delight… Less tourists, shorter queues, and lower prices for hostels and apartments made it even better! Fall truly is the perfect season to visit Europe!

  3. I lived in London during the fall several years ago and really enjoyed it. I was able to make several quick trips around to neighboring countries in September and October and it was great….backpacking at the end of November and through December is poor timing though. If that’s your only chance then definitely still do it, but I would never to choose to visit countries like Germany or Prague in the wintertime again!

    My favorite thing to do in a new place is simply walk around and it’s much more difficult/less enjoyable in freezing temperatures, rain and snow!

  4. i just visited london and always go in the winter, the summer is too packed with people, and in just a couple of weeks i’m venturing to barcelona and then rome in january. cannot wait!

  5. Everyone will surely agree with me. My answer is surprisingly a big Y-E-S. There’s no other season than fall. Crisp Pretty Weather is what everybody is looking for travel. I must say that fall season looks good in photographs. Grab your bags and cameras and visit Europe.

  6. We’re planning to come here later on a summer but your post made me think twice. The less crowd, promo flights and cheap hotel deals are important things we should consider to make the most out of our budget trip.

  7. I personally love going in summer, the weather is better (it rains a lot in Europe in fall, at least where I am!) and it’s easier to do outdoorsy things. One bonus about the fall is that it’s less expensive and crowded.

  8. Thanks for posting these suggestions! From my limited travel experience, I think it’s best to visit areas slightly out-of-season (that is, not too long before or after the regular tourist season). That way you can still enjoy the nicer weather but avoid the huge crowds.

    If anyone’s going to Scotland and is feeling particularly agoraphobic (that is, having a fear of crowds), then go to the Hebrides! They’re very sparsely populated islands that have some really pretty scenery. This article talks about Fingal’s Cave (which inspired an overture by Mendelssohn), which is in the Hebrides and has been described as a natural cathedral. Definitely worth checking out:

    I’d say beat the rush, but don’t beat yourself on the head later on by going when the weather is miserable at your travel destination. 🙂

  9. If I lived closer to Europe I’d love to use the off season to explore Europe on short breaks. Unfortunately, coming all the way from Australia, I’m just not quite willing to gamble a big trip on Fall!

  10. I’ve been taking days off to travel every October for past few years and I know it’s the best time to travel around Europe. The weather still is fine but it’s much cheaper and with less people around. The other con would be long evenings as it’s getting dark way too early!

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