Best places to see fall colors in Europe
During the summer months, Europe is a bustling playground of beachgoers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. With crystal clear waters of the Alps and golden, sandy beaches stretched across the Mediterranean, it’s no wonder. However, as the warm breezes begin to chill and the days get increasingly shorter, many regions of Europe transform into a colorful autumn wonderland. Here are eight places to visit to get your fall fix.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Now that the busy tourist season is tapering off, Lake Bled is a wonderfully quiet place to visit — especially during the weekdays. Nestled in the northwest corner of Slovenia, take a short bus ride from the capital of Ljubljana to this relaxing hamlet. Although the fog and dreary weather may roll in, the stunning crimson leaves bring a pop of life to the gray background. View the rugged peaks surrounding the glassy waters from the castle perched atop the hill.
Peak foliage viewing dates: mid-September through the end of October.
Loire Valley, France
The rich valley surrounding the Loire River in the middle of France is perfect for not only winemaking, but also fabulous fall colors in autumn. Visitors can help harvest grapes and partake in many wine festivals throughout the region. Take a sip of award-winning wine while walking through the palatial Chateau de Chambord. Or drive through the valley and admire the rust-colored leaves lining the riverbank.
Peak foliage viewing dates: end of September through mid-October.
Deutsche Weinstraße, Germany
Established in 1935, Gauleiter Josef Bürckel presented the innovative idea of linking local wineries and villages in the Pfalz wine region with a single road. Hence, the Deutsche Weinstraße was created. This lovely grape-growing region is beautiful all year long. However, during autumn, this 85-kilometer-long route transforms into rolling hills of blazing colors of yellow, orange and red. Take a day and stop at the different wineries to sample their fantastic yields. Be sure to stop in after the first frost of the season for a taste of Eiswein.
Peak foliage viewing dates: October.
Scottish Highlands, United Kingdom
The Scottish Highlands are truly magical any time of year. Used as a backdrop for many famous films, it’s easy to see why. Tall, sloping mountainsides carve wide valleys and create a dramatic landscape. The highest point in the U.K., Ben Nevis, is located on the western central coast of Scotland. With a plethora of rivers and lakes, it is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Hike through the fantastic foliage and listen to the red deer stag bellows echoing through the valleys. Be sure to stop at a local distillery for a sample of authentic Scotch whisky.
Peak foliage viewing dates: mid- to late October.
This beautifully preserved medieval city is one of Poland’s oldest. With a somber past and a renewed nightlife in the old town, Kraków is well worth a visit. During the fall, ivy-adorned buildings change from the camouflage of green and gray to a stunning gradient of golden leaves.
Known as the Polish Golden Autumn, the best time to visit Kraków is around All Saints Day. Lanterns and candles cast a soft glow around the city, illuminating the changing of colors even more. Enjoy the delicious stews, savory sausage dishes and root vegetables in season at one of the charming cafés at Rynek Gtówny, the largest market square in Europe.
Peak foliage viewing dates: late September through early November.
During October, Transylvania becomes one of Europe’s most popular must-visit destinations. Home to Bran Castle, famously associated with the mythical legend of Dracula, this region of Romania is enchanting and spooky at the same time. As leaves show off their vibrancy, the landscape surrounding the dramatic castle appears to soften. To get the full effect, take a drive on the roads of the Făgăraș Mountains. With hairpin turns and steep curves, you’ll get a spectacular view of the bright colors peeking through the misty clouds.
Peak foliage viewing dates: October.
Douro Valley, Portugal
The luscious fertile hillsides lining the Douro River in northern Portugal explode into fiery hues of crimson and gold in the autumn months. Easily accessible from the captivating coastal city of Porto, snap postcard-worthy photos as you glide along the water on a river cruise. Or taste your way through the internationally acclaimed wineries, sampling fantastic vintages and enjoying stunning vistas along the way.
Peak foliage viewing dates: late October.
The German Alps are home to breathtaking scenery all year long. Jagged peaks pierce the sky, with dense forests clinging to the mountainsides. Fall is actually my favorite time to visit Bavaria. The mountain air is crisp and cool, and the leaves surrounding famous landmarks (think Neuschwanstein Castle) give a colorful frame and backdrop for iconic photos. Hiking is still doable this time of year, so be sure to hit up one of the jaw-dropping gorges. The trees lining the steep ravines turn various shades of burgundy, yellow and orange, in stark contrast with icy blue waters roaring through.
Peak foliage viewing dates: late September through late October.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
It’s easy to fall in love with Amsterdam. Bustling cafés line the sidewalks in front of canal houses with leaning gabled facades. Explore the plentiful city parks, or learn about the fascinating Dutch history and culture at one of the interactive museums throughout the city. Or simply take a stroll as the trees shed a beautiful array of leaves, creating a colorful carpet along the banks of the canals.
Peak foliage viewing dates: mid-October.
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