Why Autumn is the New Summer: The Best Time to Explore Europe
While the allure of a “European Summer” has been a social media sensation, painting our feeds with sun-drenched vistas of the Mediterranean—think Italy, Greece, and the French Riviera—autumn is actually the unsung hero of European travel.
This past summer, Europe witnessed a staggering 55% surge in tourism compared to the previous year. While this might sound like a travel renaissance, it came with its own set of drawbacks. From wildfires ravaging idyllic spots like Rhodes in Greece and Sicily in Italy, to iconic landmarks like Athens’ Acropolis shutting down due to extreme heat, the summer season has been far from idyllic.
In contrast, autumn offers a more serene, cost-effective, and temperate experience. Here are seven European gems that truly come alive in the fall.
1. Italy: The Renaissance of the Shoulder Season
By the time the calendar flips to September, Italy’s tourist tide will have ebbed. As a result, autumn marks the start of the much-anticipated “shoulder season,” which is known for its smaller crowds and lower prices.
Beach havens like the Amalfi Coast and Sardinia still bask in the afterglow of summer, offering warm seas well into September. Meanwhile, the scalding heat of Rome and southern Italy mellows, making way for the crisp air in Venice and Lake Como in the north.
2. Greece: Savoring the Last Sips of Summer
Much like Italy, Greece also welcomes its shoulder season in September. Iconic islands such as Santorini and Mykonos transition from bustling to tranquil, yet remain fully operational.
As autumn progresses, many island businesses shut down for the winter, making early fall the golden window to experience Greece. Athens, too, becomes a more comfortable exploration ground, devoid of the sweltering 105°F heat that plagues the summer months.
3. France: Fall in Love with Paris Again
Summer in Paris can often be a letdown, with skyrocketing prices and throngs of tourists diluting its romantic charm. Come autumn, however, the City of Lights regains its luster.
Landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre become more accessible, and the weather turns agreeably mild, making fall the perfect season to rediscover why Paris is always a good idea.
4. Spain: The Autumnal Alternative
While Spanish cities like Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville have been tourist hotspots this summer, many visitors found themselves overwhelmed by the crowds and oppressive heat, which often exceeded 110°F.
Autumn, on the other hand, offers a more relaxed and cooler atmosphere. Spain’s beaches continue to invite visitors for a swim well into September, making it an ideal fall destination.
5. Portugal: The Off-Peak Paradise
Portugal’s skyrocketing popularity has led to record-breaking tourist numbers and steadily climbing prices this summer. However, autumn provides a respite from both.
From the vibrant cities of Porto and Lisbon to the breathtaking beaches of the Algarve, Portugal in the fall is a sunny, affordable dream.
6. Croatia: Navigating the New Normal
Croatia’s recent entry into the Schengen Zone and its adoption of the Euro have led to a noticeable uptick in prices. However, autumn’s shoulder season offers a chance to experience the country’s beauty without breaking the bank.
7. United Kingdom: An Autumnal Affair
The UK, often overlooked for its lack of a sun-soaked coastline, shines in the fall. London’s usual hustle slows down, and the countryside, especially places like the Cotswolds, bursts into a spectacle of autumnal colors.
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