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7 perfect destinations in Europe to celebrate fall's arrival

Sept. 09, 2021
7 min read
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From Mediterranean beaches to bustling capital cities to wine regions, Europe is one of the best places to visit between September and December. Most of the summer tourists have gone home, there's off-peak award availability and you can view all the best tourist attractions without getting a sunburn.

Vineyards in Umbria, Italy. (Photo by MauMar70/Getty)

If your ideal autumn vacation includes warm sunshine and sand, make sure to read our guide to visiting European beaches in autumn. But if you'd prefer to sip wine, enjoy hearty local cuisine and take in the sights with a cool breeze blowing, here are some of the best spots in Europe to celebrate the arrival of autumn.

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La Rioja, Spain

The Rioja region of Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Azumendi/Getty)

With close to 600 different wineries, La Rioja is one of the best regions in Spain to visit for ample (and affordable) wine tasting. Pick a base, such as Logroño, the region's capital, to start. From there, you can reach most of the wineries easily by car. Logroño also celebrates the famous San Mateo harvest festival each year at the end of September. Plan to spend a night or two in Haro, a small village where you can walk, bike or drive to famous wineries such as Ramon Bilbao, Muga, Bilbainas or CVNE. Haro is also home to a wine museum.

For those wanting the ultimate points experience, stay at the Marriott Luxury Collection property, Hotel Marqués de Riscal in Elciego, Spain. The hotel, which features an eye-catching facade designed by Frank Gehry, has the Marqués de Riscal winery onsite, as well as a wine spa that features the beloved liquid (and products from Caudalie) in many of its treatments. Rates at the Category 7 property start at $350 or 50,000 points per night.

Stuttgart, Germany

Triberg Waterfalls, Black Forest, Germany. (Photo by © Marco Bottigelli-Getty)

Stuttgart is the perfect alternative option for autumn fun to Munich's Oktoberfest. Both a region and a city, Stuttgart hosts the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival, which runs from August to December. Besides pumpkin viewing, you can participate in all kinds of events, such as storytelling for the kids and culinary tastings for the adults. The region also has a Museum of Viniculture, and nearby vineyards feature the pinot grape variety, among others.

Stuttgart isn't without an autumn beer celebration, either. The Cannstatter Volksfest runs from the end of September to mid-October. And don't forget to drive through the region's famous Black Forest, a fairy tale woodland with a treetop canopy walk, Baumwipfelpfade, from which you can admire the medley of autumn hues as the leaves change color.

Umbria, Italy

White truffles in Umbria. (Photo by Simona Balconi/Getty)

One of Italy's most underrated gems, Umbria is a landlocked Italian region bordering Tuscany. The area is known for wine, cuisine and beautiful forests, which are a changing melange of shades during the autumn months.

Umbria's wine harvest starts at the beginning of the season, and the olive oil harvest follows in late autumn. Black truffles usually make their appearance in October, followed by white truffles in November. Umbria is also known for its porcini mushrooms. Farms in the region also harvest saffron, chestnuts, and more, meaning you'll have much to see and taste during the whole season. Top it off with some dolce at the Eurochocolate festival in Perugia (late October), home of the famous Italian chocolate brand Baci.

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Loire Valley, France

Chateau de Chenonceau, Loire Valley, France. (Photo by Jupiterimage/Getty)

Love wine and castles? France's Loire Valley is your perfect autumn destination. The French region boasts more than 40 castles and over 180,000 acres of vineyards. And there's nothing more impressive than a French Château rising over the orange and reddish leaves and wine vines.

A TPG favorite is the Domain of Chaumont-sur-Loire, which has expansive grounds that seem to glow especially bright in autumn. "Art season" runs through the beginning of November, with art installations throughout the grounds of the estate, including the gardens. And don't forget the famous Château de Chenonceau, which towers over the Le Cher River, featuring a number of different gardens and a historic wine cellar.

Porto, Portugal

Port, Portugal. (Photo by ARoxo/Getty)

While the sun still shines throughout autumn in Portugal's southern Algarve region, the country's northern city Porto feels more like fall. The city is famous for its port wineries, and this warming, sweet wine is best sipped in the cozy cellars lining the river in Vila Nova de Gaia, especially on a rainy afternoon. Cross the famous Dom Luís I Bridge over the Douro River by tram, car, or on foot in order to reach the wineries. TPG favorites include Sandemans and the Calem Caves.

For some fall foliage, visit the Palácio de Cristal, a palace made from glass that dates back to 1860. The changing colors of the leaves will seem especially beautiful through the glass ceiling and windows.

Northern Ireland

Glenariff Forest Park in Northern Ireland. (Photo by Peter Zelei Images/Getty)

If you're considering an autumn trip to Ireland, don't forget about Northern Ireland, especially if you're a Halloween buff. The walled city of Derry (also known as Londonderry) hosts a massive Halloween festival each year. From food to music to dance to spooky folklore, all Halloween buffs should experience a Derry Halloween festival at some point.

Walkers searching for fall colors should find a walking festival. These events, where people gather to walk together in beautiful landscapes, are popular all over Northern Ireland. Or, plan your own walks. From apple orchards to castle grounds to forests, there are plenty of spots to soak in the season. Consider the Drum Manor Forest Park, which includes a forest with walking trails, camping areas and a manor house to visit and Glenariff Forest, home to lakes and waterfalls.

Lugano, Switzerland

Autumn colors in Lugano, Switzerland. (Photo by Francesco Bergamaschi/Getty)

This lakeside town of Lugano is one of Switzerland's Italian-speaking regions. A special way to enjoy the destination is during the Lugano Autumn Festival, which takes place annually at the beginning of October. The festival presents live music and events, as well as Ticinese cuisine typical of the region, including polenta and minestrone.

With a number of hiking and walking trails in the surrounding mountains, there are plenty of spots to enjoy all the changes in nature that autumn brings. One of these is the Trail of Wonders, a less than four-mile walking loop good for families that takes you past historic ruins, chestnut mills and plenty of autumn colors. Or, explore Lugano's hills by stopping at a vineyard. Wineries in the area are best known for the Merlot grape.

Bottom line

Sheep grazing in Northern Ireland. (Photo by Alan Hopps/Getty)

Autumn is the perfect time to explore many European spots. With mild, cool weather and many gastronomic and seasonal events, it's the ideal moment for foodies to enjoy many different styles of wine and cuisine. And of course, there are plenty of wooded spots to take in the best of the season -- the changing tones of fall foliage.

Featured image by Getty Images
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 card for premium perks while traveling
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
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
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.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
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
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • 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.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023