Autumn is a glorious time to explore Europe – a time to delve deeper into historical treasures, savour the season on gourmet adventures, party like a local at festivals and events, and enjoy hiking, cycling and watersports accompanied by blue skies and mild temperatures. From Tenerife and Transylvania to Bucharest and Bilbao, here’s where to venture in across the continent this autumn.
As the seasons turn in Bucharest, Romania, so do the colours of this leafy city. Walk through woodlands of crimson and bronze in Herastrau Park, and paddle on its peaceful lake in rowing boats. Look out for the Japanese Garden too, whose acers blaze orange throughout September and October. JW Marriott Bucharest Grand Hotel puts you a short walk from the Palace of Parliament and the characterful Old Town, and each of its rooms feature traditional Romanian artwork and ceramics. Alternatively, the modern Sheraton Bucharest Hotel is a quick stroll from the retail hotspots of Bulevardul Magheru and Calea Victoriei.
In Spain, Seville's gardens are putting on a glorious autumnal display. The mighty palm trees around Alcázar Palace, the statuesque silver poplars of Alameda de Hercules, the graceful fountains of Parque de María Luisa: all of these green spaces are especially resplendent right now. Gather a picnic feast from Mercado de Triana, and enjoy the show.
Combine a city break with some beach time in Valencia, Spain: its temperatures can reach 24°C well into October, while the sea is still warm from summer. Playa Malvarrosa is a 15-minute Metro ride from the city centre, and features a sun-kissed promenade and soft sandy shore, while Saler Devesa is a wild, quiet spot in El Saler National Park, a 15-minute drive from the city. Stay at The Westin Valencia for easy beach access, plus must-sees such as Valencia Cathedral, Jardí del Túria and City of Arts and Sciences.
In October, the mercury hovers around 20°C in Istanbul, Türkiye, where sightseeing can be paired with exploring the Princes Islands. Catch the ferry to Büyükada, Burgazada, Heybeliada and Kınalıada – to hit the beach, paddle in the Marmara Sea and feast on fresh seafood lunches. Both JW Marriott Istanbul Bosphorus and W Istanbul offer enviable views of the Bosphorus River: the former located in the exquisitely restored 180-year-old Veli Alemdar Han, and the latter on the elegant Akaretler Row, one of the city’s hottest shopping and dining quarters.
Autumn is harvest time in Europe, bringing a bounty of fresh produce to the markets and dining tables. In Bilbao, for example, the city’s pintxos (tapas) bars embrace mushrooms, chestnuts and game meats such as partridge and wild boar – ideally accompanied by crisp Basque sagardo (cider) or txakoli (sparkling wine), as the region’s grapes and apples are currently in season, too.
In Italy, October heralds the arrival of tartufo bianco: white truffles. Visit Tuscany’s San Miniato Market Fair in November, and Piedmont’s International Alba White Truffle Fair from October to December, while the truffles’ rich, nutty flavour graces restaurant menus all over the country. Plan a gourmet getaway in Milan, with a street food tour of the Navigli neighbourhood and a private Italian cooking class, or head to W Rome, whose four restaurants include Giardino Clandestino, a pink-painted courtyard serving fine wines and Sicilian aperitivo.
With Amsterdam's canal-side trees turning golden, now is the time to cosy up with traditional Netherlands delicacies, such as sticky-sweet stroopwafels at Lanskroon Bakery, or deep-fried bitterballen meatballs and craft ales at Foodhallen. As for where to stay, the stylish W Amsterdam features a rooftop pool and sleek underground spa, while Moxy Amsterdam Houthavens sits right on lively Amsterdam Harbour.
Where better to spend Halloween than Transylvania’s Bran Castle, the very fortress that inspired Bram Stoker to write his Dracula novel. Just under two hours’ drive from Bucharest, this turreted tower hosts an epic Halloween party every year, with an after-dark tour of its ramparts, gala dinner and live entertainment. Stay at The Marmorosch Bucharest, Autograph Collection for gorgeous Art Deco interiors and hot stone massages at Balance SPA.
In November, Madrid’s Festival de Otoño offers a fortnight of modern dance, live music and circus acts, with shows performed in various languages. A stay at The Madrid EDITION puts you a 5-minute walk from Teatro Real, while the The Westin Palace, Madrid is a work-of-art in itself, featuring intricate plasterwork and a shimmering stained-glass dome commissioned by King Alfonso XIII in 1912.
The Akbank Jazz Festival in September and October is an Istanbul autumnal cultural highlight, alongside the exhibitions and workshops of International Istanbul Biennial, which is held in November on ‘even’ years. Base yourself at the central Sheraton Istanbul Levent, with its indulgent spa and indoor swimming pool, or try The Westin Istanbul Nisantasi, which shares an address with the Lotus Walk designer mall and serves sublime stonebaked pizzas at Corte Verde restaurant.
Whale watching, mountain biking, sea kayaking, rock climbing: it’s all possible in Tenerife, whose reliably warm weather is ideal for an autumn adventure. You can zipline through the treetops at Forestal Park Tenerife, and learn how to kitesurf on El Médano Beach. The cooler days encourage hikes to the 3,718m-high summit of Mount Teide, or you could fly over its namesake national park on a tandem paraglide.
On mainland Spain, San Sebastián is a paragliding hotspot, with flights overlooking the Bay of Biscay and the Basque Country’s forests and mountains. You can also explore the ruggedly beautiful coastline between San Sebastián and Pasajes on a 5km hike, or walk westwards to Orio through lush vineyards and hilltop villages.
In Italy, October’s 17–22°C climes mean you can throw yourself into sightseeing the historical marvels of Rome, especially with the summer’s crowds departed. Sina Bernini Bristol, Autograph Collection is one of the Eternal City’s best places to stay, with rooms and suites overlooking Piazza Barberini and the gleaming white-marble Triton fountain. Alternatively, The Rome EDITION blends grand 20th-century architecture with a full-service spa, rooftop pool and the intimate, green-hued Jade Bar.
Published: August 25, 2023
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