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Fall is a fascinating time of year, as nature changes from a lush green paradise to a sea of leaves ranging from blood-red to bright gold. This breathtaking phenomenon can completely transform both the look and feel of anywhere from tall mountains, to deep dark forests, and even big cities.
Europe enjoys a long fall season, during which time almost the entire continent is painted in fall colors.
Therefore, it’s hard not to indulge in the season’s delights everywhere you go, but in this article, we show you the places you’ll be able to enjoy fall the most. While some places, like Bavaria and Inverness are classic fall destinations, others will undoubtedly leave you surprised, but eager to book yourself on the next flight there.
Best Places To See Fall Colors In Europe
Lake District, England
England’s Lake District is undoubtedly the most scenic part of the country, and there’s no better time to visit than in fall when it is ablaze with fiery hues.
The shrubbery covering the park’s tall rambling hills turn to burnt umber, whilst the forest leaves change to anything from a crisp gold to a charred red. The views from atop the hills of Lake Windermere reveal its dull murky water coming alive with color as it reflects the autumnal hills and trees that surround it.
In fact, there are picturesque fall scenes at every turn in the park, but for the pièce de résistance, head along the Walla Crag route to find the charming stone arch Ashness Bridge hidden amongst the trees.
Killarney National Park, Ireland
With damp air coming in from the nearby Atlantic, Killarney National Park’s trees grow tall and wide, and the forest floor is covered with moss and bogland, making it a wild and whimsical place, especially during fall.
The park is known for its vast oak woodland, an area that is best seen in the fall when the leaves of giant old oak trees transform from sap green to a bright amber, just like a stop light. Amongst the park’s wet woodlands, you can also find yellowing willow trees, and browning ash and downy birches, and hiding below its canopy, you might even spot some of Killarney’s native wild red deer.
When fall begins, the romantic tree-lined streets of Paris are painted a shade of auburn, dubbing it the best city to visit this time of year. From the Arc de Triomphe, and along the Champs-Élysées all the way to the groomed Louvre Tuileries, you will find yourself surrounded by fall’s fiery beauty.
From there, take a stroll back along the River Seine, where the paths are carpeted in brown and yellow leaves as the trees above shed in waiting for winter, to find yourself at the amazing Eiffel Tower. During fall, colors of the trees surrounding the Eiffel Tower become just as golden bronze as the tower itself, making the views of this extraordinary landmark even more magical.
Bavaria, in Germany’s southeast corner, is known for its whimsical woodlands, magical mountain peaks, and fabulous fairytale castles. In fall, when the towering trees surrounding the tall turreted castles turn brown, orange, yellow and red, Bavaria becomes emboldened by a strong sense of enchantment.
Many of Bavaria’s best known castles, including Neuschwanstein and Linderhof, sit high above the canopy of Bavaria’s woodland on a hilltop, and when visiting in fall, not only can you enjoy the castle’s beauty, you can witness the canopy’s autumnal colors. To get to Neuschwanstein Castle, there is a 30-40 minute forest hike, and you can even visit Mary’s Bridge, which spans a large waterfall behind the castle.
Read More: 14 Best Scenic Hikes In Europe
Salzburg is a small historical city found at the foot of the Eastern Alps along the quiet Salzach River. The Alps provide a breathtaking mountainous backdrop against the city’s skyline, and in the fall they become bold with colour.
There are plenty of trails that lead you from the city and into the mountains, where you can enjoy fall at its best. The city itself also becomes a haven for fall-lovers as it’s rambling river and beautiful baroque streets are lined with trees of gold and bronze.
However, it’s Fortress Hohensalzburg that steals this season’s show, as the magnificent historical castle is built high upon a hilltop surrounded by glowing orange trees, making it a centerpiece of the city.
Lapland, in the north of Finland, is known as Europe’s winter wonderland where kids and adults alike go to visit Father Christmas and his elves. Lapland is beautiful in winter as its vast forests are blanketed in snow, but beforehand, as fall descends, the entire area pops with colour.
Many Finnish people enjoy this time of year, known as ‘ruska’, much more than winter because it is when Lapland is at its most beautiful. There are many hikes you can take through the painted landscape where you can find quaint rural Finnish houses, stunning lakes, and an array of wildlife including reindeer. Fall is also the best time of year to see the phenomenal Northern Lights.
Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Set in the foothills of the great Dinaric Alps, which stretch 645 kilometres from Italy to Albania, Mostar is surrounded by an abundance of nature, and as fall descends upon this small ancient city, it is completely transformed.
Although the Dinaric woodlands are coniferous, many of the tree species do change colour with the seasons, making this old Ottoman Empire an even more intriguing place to visit. Mostar’s famous Stari Most, or Old Bridge, looks particularly more magical during fall, as its fragile arch is tucked away behind amber and crimson leaves.
With such a rich history, as well as an abundance of wildlife, Mostar is where culture and nature collide during this wonderful season.
Central Balkan National Park, Bulgaria
Central Balkan National Park, in the heart of Bulgaria, forms part of the Balkan mountain range where deep, dark forests collide with soaring bare mountains peaks dusted in snow.
When fall descends, the park’s old beech forests can become shrouded in cloud as the leaves turn all shades of amber and cover the ground, creating a mystical atmosphere that has inspired many folkloric tales.
It is no surprise that bears, wolves, bats, and eagles rule the woods here, as well as rare and endangered plant species, which are protected by the Central Balkan Biosphere Reserve. As well as hiking through this unique place, you can hire mountain bikes and horses, and set up camp if you want to stay overnight.
Read More: 11 Incredible Mountain Towns In Europe
Typically coined as a luxury winter destination for snow-sport enthusiasts, Chamonix in the French Alps is also an idyllic destination for hikers and mountain bikers during fall. Not only are prices lower in this high-end resort town at this time of year, the scenery is spectacular.
When hiking or biking along its nature-rich trails, you will find Mont Blanc, The Alps’ highest peak, surrounded by a sea of ripened trees in every shade of fall. Of course, you can hike to the peak, or take one of the smaller trails around it, and when you return to Chamonix, you have the option to indulge in excellent food and perhaps a spa treatment or two.
At any time of year the Scottish Highlands are an incredible slice of nature to behold, but when the sun sets on summer, and the trees and the ground turn golden-brown, this wild coastal region truly comes into its own. The reflection upon the water of the infamous Loch Ness sets aflame as the surrounding trees turn orange and yellow against the steep sloping hills.
Astonishing autumnal scenes can also be found along the Glen Affric trail and Foyer Falls trail, where mountains, rapids, creeks, and waterfalls are all emboldened by fall’s colorful presence. Inverness itself is also ideal in the fall, as there are a number of traditional Scottish pubs to keep you cozy.
Bled is a small lakeside town hidden within the vast forests of the Julian Alps that tower around it. When October begins, Bled becomes engulfed by the majesty of fall, and in every direction you look, you can see the beautiful colours that it brings. The most stunning part of Bled in the fall is the lake itself, which is crowned by a tiny island with a 17th century baroque church atop it.
The entire lake, and the church itself are completely transformed once fall descends, making the fairytale scene more enchanting than at any other time of year. The best viewpoint of Lake Bled is from Bled Castle, a whimsical old medieval structure that teeters on a cliffside130 meters above the lake.
Budapest comes alive in fall, and not just with the colourful leaves that fill its parks and carpet Buda’s hills. October marks the start of well-known annual food, drink and music festivals throughout the city, and as the air turns chillier, the locals like to warm up with a rich Hungarian wine, or a long soak in the outdoor thermal baths before the harsh winter hits.
Hungarians’ hearty food is also the perfect remedy to see you through the colder days, especially their stews and soups like főzelék and goulash. However, the best part of Budapest in the fall is the views of the autumnal city from the Danube, or the top of Castle Hill after a scenic hike up.
Although Gdansk is a coastal city with a white sandy beach, it may not be your first choice for a summer vacation. Instead of bringing a bathing suit in July, bring a woolly hat in November, as Gdansk may be a bit nippy, but it’s brimming with culture, history, and of course, many beautiful golden trees.
You can hire a bike to get around the city, whether you want to hop from one site to another, or simply absorb the magnificence of Gdansk’s old town, parks, and quaint neighborhoods, which are painted golden-brown in the fall. For a bigger autumn adventure, take the Gdynia coastal trail where you can marvel at unique scenes of the multi-colored trees against the deep blue Baltic Sea.
About the Author: Emily Draper
Originally from the UK, Emily Draper has lived in Chile, with an Amazonian tribe in Peru, in a Wisconsin trailer park, and on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea. Considering herself, and the rest of us, as global citizens, Emily’s mission as a writer and journalist is to expand global consciousness of the fundamental importance of travel, culture, and diversity.