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10 beautiful cities in Europe to admire fall foliage

Sept. 04, 2021
7 min read
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Fall is finally on its way, and if you'd like to admire the changing colors of the leaves in an idyllic, magical setting, Europe is the place to be. The land of castles, scenic canals, ancient forests and truly beautiful city parks, these European capitals are great places to spend a week exploring and taking in the stunning sights of the season.

Here are the best destinations to admire the changing leaves in Europe this season.

Madrid, Spain

Palacio de Cristal in Madrid. (Photo by Eve Livesey/Getty Images)
Palacio de Cristal in Madrid. (Photo by Eve Livesey/Getty Images)

Madrid's Retiro Park is already one of the most gorgeous city parks in Europe, but even more so during fall. The overhang along the Crystal Palace — a towering, regal structure made almost entirely of glass — is particularly stunning, as you can admire the leaves through the glass ceiling as the sunlight streams in.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. (Photo by georgeclark/Getty Images)
Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. (Photo by georgeclark/Getty Images)

While the lowlands and the highlands have some seriously stunning foliage, it's pretty incredible to see the Edinburgh castle surrounded by hues of orange, yellow and ochre. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is especially charming during autumn, when many of its 3,500 trees are transformed into a blaze of color.

Bern, Switzerland

Bern in Switzerland. (Photo by Markus Thoenen/Getty Images)
Bern in Switzerland. (Photo by Markus Thoenen/Getty Images)

Wandering along the tree-lined Aare River is perfect for leaf-peeping. And if you want a real woodsy feel, visit the Botanical Gardens of Bern. The trails weave through five acres of land, covered with thousands of trees and rare Swiss flora of all kinds. A stroll over the Kornhaus bridge gives you sky-high views of all the orange and red hues of the season.

Loire Valley, France

Azay-le-Rideau Castle in the Loire Valley, France. (Photo by Neirfy/Shutterstock)
Azay-le-Rideau Castle in the Loire Valley, France. (Photo by Neirfy/Shutterstock)

If you prefer to combine château visits with autumn foliage while sipping light, fruity Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé wines, take a road trip through France's Loire Valley. The rolling hills, picturesque manors and sprawling vineyards are truly a sight to see this season. Make a stop at the Domaine du Chaumont-Sur-Loire to enjoy the autumn festival (every day from Oct. 19 to Nov. 3) to enjoy seasonal activities, plus wicker-making workshops and elaborate autumnal plant scenes.

Gdansk, Poland

Oliwa Park in Poland. (Photo by nightman1965/Getty Images)
Oliwa Park in Poland. (Photo by nightman1965/Getty Images)

Autumn is the ideal time to indulge in some of Gdansk's famous craft beer -- a prize you can award yourself after walking the entire 25-acre Oliwa Park, filled with more autumn shades than you might have imagined existed. For panoramic views of the Motlawa River, the rooftops of Old Town and autumn leafage, take a ride on the AmberSky, the 50-meter-high ferris wheel.

Getting there: Wizz Air and Ryanair both fly nonstop from London to Gdansk (GDN) from a few London hubs.

Black Forest, Germany

The Black Forest in Germany. (Photo by Funny Solution Studio / Shutterstock)
The Black Forest in Germany. (Photo by Funny Solution Studio / Shutterstock)

The site of many a Grimm fairy tale, the Black Forest is as mystical as it seems: endless, rolling hills, rushing rivers and trees galore. While many of the trees will change color, these reddish, yellowed tones are juxtaposed with the deep evergreen of the fir and pine varieties, making for a truly breathtaking natural landscape. The Triberg Waterfalls shouldn't be missed, as well as the picturesque towns of Calw and Freiburg.

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Lake District, United Kingdom

Lake Districk in the Cumbria Mountains. (Photo by kodacrhome25/Getty Images)
Lake Districk in the Cumbria Mountains. (Photo by kodacrhome25/Getty Images)

You don't have to stray too far from London to check out some of the most beautiful autumn colors in all of Europe. The Lake District was recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you'll avoid the summer crowds by visiting in autumn, which is an added bonus. Besides the medley of yellow, orange, red and brown foliage, make sure to look down at the red toadstools and fall fruits like crab apples or dark purple berries.

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Plitvice National Park. (Photo by www.tonnaja.com/Getty Images)
Plitvice National Park. (Photo by www.tonnaja.com/Getty Images)

Considering you can't swim in the 16 lakes anyway, autumn is the most pleasant (and much less crowded and cheaper) time to visit Plitvice National Park. Seeing the rushing waterfalls surrounded by the autumnal tints of red, yellow and orange, as well as the changing foliage reflected in the lake water is truly a sight to behold. Make sure to spend time in both the upper and lower lakes, and go before November, when the higher lakes close for the winter season.

Piedmont, Italy

Piedmont, Italy. (Photo by JuliaFlit/Getty Images)
Piedmont, Italy. (Photo by JuliaFlit/Getty Images)

Besides viewing the extensive mixture of copper, orange and red leaves gleaming through the morning fog, you can really go right into the fire of autumn by picking mushrooms in the Piedmont region, as well as other seasonal activities like chestnut picking and wine harvest festivals. Don't miss the 89th edition of the International White Truffle Festival in Alba (weekends between Oct. 5 and Nov. 24), which features tastings, markets, parades and plenty of fall fun.

Brugge, Belgium

Autumn in the canals of Brugge. (Photo by Berna Namoglu/EyeEm/Getty Images)
Autumn in the canals of Brugge. (Photo by Berna Namoglu/EyeEm/Getty Images)

Known as the Venice of Belgium, Brugge is picturesque in any season. But autumn is especially quaint, as the trees and plants in the Medieval city begin to change color, and you can warm up afterward near a fireplace with hot cocoa in hand. (Brugge is known for its delicious chocolate.) You can see the city and changing leaves during a scenic canal tour, which carries you over the water past secret gardens and beautiful bridges.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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BEST FOR DINING AND GROCERY REWARDS
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.

    Earn 60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

There’s a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It’s been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you’re hitting the skies soon, you’ll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there’s no reason that the foodie shouldn’t add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x).
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel.
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months.

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories.
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits.
  • Few travel perks and protections.