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5 Great European Weekend Escapes for Fall

Changing colors, lower prices and the absence of summer crowds make these cities prime weekend getaways.

U.S. News & World Report

5 Great European Weekend Escapes for Fall

United Kingdom, UK, Scotland, Edinburgh, Calton Hill, Great Britain, Dugald Stewart Monument and the city in the background.

Visiting vibrant European locales in the shoulder season on a three-day getaway yields pleasant temperatures, fewer crowds and cheaper hotel rates. (Getty Images)

These days, many popular European hot spots are getting overcrowded, with cities such as Venice, Italy, and Barcelona, Spain, looking to limit tourism. Summer is when these visitor numbers often hit their peak, resulting in higher prices, especially on weekends. But if you travel to Europe in the fall – after the busy tourist season calms down – you'll find pleasant temperatures, lower prices and fun festivals. Here are some of the best fall weekend escapes across Europe, from Scotland to Croatia.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

During summer, Dubrovnik's walled Old City swells with tourists. But come fall, the crowds subside, temperatures dip and prices fall, making autumn the best time to visit the "Pearl of the Adriatic." A small historic core makes this an ideal destination to spend a weekend in. You can hike around the city walls without baking in the sun, while the sea is still usually warm enough to swim in through October. September is wine harvest season – a great time to take a day trip to the vineyards on the nearby Pelješac Peninsula. The hitch: Getting to Dubrovnik from the U.S. usually involves a connection, so the logistics of a weekend visit are much easier if you're already in Europe.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland's northern location means shorter days and colder temps arrive earlier than many other spots in Europe. But don't let this dissuade you: Autumn is when Iceland shines – literally. The best time to see the northern lights in Iceland starts in September and runs through mid-April. Fall also ushers in the country's offseason, so you'll find fewer crowds and lower prices on flights, accommodation and activities. Popular festivals dot the calendar as well, including the Reykjavik Film Festival from late September to early October, and the Iceland Airwaves Music Festival in early November. As an added bonus, it only takes about five hours to reach Reykjavik from the East Coast (and roughly seven hours from the West Coast).

Edinburgh, Scotland

Scotland's capital city is a gem for weekenders. Edinburgh is compact and ideal for walking, making it easy to explore the city's medieval Old Town in a short amount of time. As the seasons change, you can see fall colors throughout the city's parks and outdoor spaces like the Princes Street Gardens, which comes with stunning Edinburgh Castle as a backdrop. And while the city's famous Fringe Festival has ended, there are plenty of other events on tap, from the Scottish International Storytelling Festival to the Samhuinn Fire Festival, which celebrates the clash of summer and winter (also known as fall) with fire dances and drumming.

Lisbon, Portugal

This emerging European hot spot sees prices drop in October, while temperatures remain pleasant enough to enjoy the beaches and coastal towns nearby. Soak in the views of the city from one of Lisbon's ubiquitous miradouros (or scenic viewpoints), take a tram ride through the historic Alfama district and check out the lively nightlife in Bairro Alto neighborhood. Round out your weekend with Lisbon's most popular daytrip: a jaunt to charming Sintra. With its Moorish castle and colorful Pena Palace, Sintra is more pleasant in the fall when the town isn't swarming with tourists.


In fall, there's a lot more to see in Germany than Oktoberfest. An autumn trip to Berlin offers stunning changing leaves and lower prices than the peak summer season. Plus, you don't have to plan as far in advance as you to do visit Munich's mega-fest for beer lovers. In October, the eye-catching Festival of Lights illuminates Berlin's major buildings and landmarks with massive light displays. Even when the weather's not ideal (autumn can be rainy), the city is full of museums, indoor markets and cafes to keep you warm, dry and entertained.

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Caucasian couple walking near Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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