7 European cities that are best experienced in autumn
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I know, I know — those Instagram photos your friends and colleagues have been posting from Mykonos and the Amalfi Coast all summer have created some serious fear of missing out. But trust me when I say that many of Europe’s most desirable destinations are actually much more pleasant in autumn.
In autumn, you rarely have to jostle past hordes of tourists or line up and wait to get that perfect shot. Plus, since Europeans tend to travel in the summer, you’re going to experience the cities in a more authentic way now that they’ve all come back from their holidays. Not to mention the fact that cultural offerings are increasing while the cost of flights and hotel rooms are decreasing. Whether you want to spend your European holiday getting cultured, relaxing at the beach or exploring the countryside, here are seven destinations that are best experienced in autumn.
Romans use the term l’ottobrata romana to describe how lovely the city is in October, when the summer heat has subsided and the climate is warm but mild.
“The city is bustling with locals after the summer slumber yet there are fewer tourists compared to the June and July months”, Annie Ojile, founder of tour companies Scooteroma and Personalized Italy, told TPG, describing this time of year as “great for foodies and wine lovers alike, as the seasonal harvests are in full swing and go through November”.
While Rome’s most famous dishes are available year-round, it’s worth seeking out seasonal specialties like pumpkin-filled ravioli. It’s also a great time of year for a day trip to the Castelli Romani, where you can visit vineyards and taste the famous porchetta di Ariccia. If you have Marriott Bonvoy points, you can use them at the Pantheon Iconic Hotel (rooms start at 60,000 points per night in October), the design-centric G-Rough (from 85,000 points) or the recently-renovated St. Regis Rome (also from 85,000 points).
Aside from great weather, you’ll find exciting cultural programming in Istanbul this autumn. The Istanbul Biennial is currently on, with art exhibits and events throughout the city through 10 November. Of course, if it’s your first time you should definitely visit Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar. Though the Blue Mosque is currently under restoration, you can still visit it — just know that you won’t be able to see the famous dome, which is covered by scaffolding.
The city’s best hotel — Çiragan Palace Kempinski, which was built as an Ottoman sultan’s palace — is a member of Leading Hotels of the World, so Leader’s Club members can earn and redeem points there. If you have World of Hyatt points, you can use them at the Park Hyatt Istanbul in the posh Nişantaşi district, which is full of designer shops and chic restaurants. Members of Le Club AccorHotels should book a room at Raffles Istanbul, which boasts some of the largest rooms and suites in the city.
Fashion week may be over, but there are plenty of other events happening in Paris this autumn. Plus, there’s something magical about strolling through the Jardin du Luxembourg and the city’s other parks when the leaves are changing colors. This year, for the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance, the Louvre is hosting a massive exhibition on Leonardo Da Vinci, who is also being celebrated in the Loire Valley, where he spent the last years of his life. If you can tack on a couple of extra days, the Loire Valley makes an excellent side trip.
One of the best points redemptions you can make in the city is the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme, from 30,000 points per night. Marriott loyalists can also find great value at the Prince de Galles, a Luxury Collection Hotel, or the Prince de Galles, a Luxury Collection Hotel.
Though you might think of Dubrovnik as a summer destination, it’s still warm enough to go to the beaches through the end of October. Plus, without the onslaught of tourist crowds, the city is quieter and more enjoyable. You can stroll through the historic center, take the cable car up to Mount Srd for panoramic views of the city and even visit an oyster farm in the nearby town of Ston.
Adriatic Luxury Hotels has 12 hotels in Dubrovnik, so whatever vibe you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it at one of their properties. The Hotel Bellevue, which just emerged from a renovation, has direct beach access. There’s also Hotel Excelsior — the city’s most iconic hotel — and Villa Orsula, which exudes Old World charm. The latter is part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World and accepts reservations with Hyatt points (from 40,000 per night).
“Madrid is amazing all year long, but autumn can be especially beautiful. The autumn foliage in the Retiro Park is a medley of colorful hues and the city’s wine culture is even more alive than usual as it’s harvest season throughout Spain”, said TPG senior writer Lori Zaino, who has lived in Madrid for 11 years. “Weather is often mild and sunny through early November, and by the end of the same month, Madrid is already all lit up with holiday decor, ringing in the chillier temps”, she added.
As Zaino explains on this episode of TPG’s Miles Away podcast, Madrid has plenty of points-based hotels, including the Westin Palace, which was recently renovated and costs 50,000 points per night. The Hyatt Centric is centrally located on the Gran Vía and has a cool rooftop bar. A luxe option is the Gran Hotel Inglés, which was renovated about a year ago and is one of the city’s most historic hotels.
Everyone talks about tulip season in the Netherlands, but autumn is just as lovely. Amsterdam’s canals take on the golden hue of the Dutch master paintings you can admire at the Rijksmuseum, which is commemorating the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death this year with a series of exhibits related to the Dutch master. If there’s a chill in the air, cozy up in one of the city’s many brown cafés for a beer and a shot of genever. And don’t miss the apple pie at Café Winkel 43.
Leader’s Club members can earn or redeem points at the Conservatorium Hotel, a design masterpiece inside Amsterdam’s old music conservatory, or Hotel de L’Europe, a grand dame established in 1896 by the Heineken family. There are options for Marriott loyalists too, including the hip Sir Adam Hotel, a member of Design Hotels with points redemptions from 30,000 points per night on off-peak dates in October and November.
Outdoorsy types will love Ticino, Switzerland’s only Italian-speaking canton. The towns on the Swiss side of Lake Maggiore have scenic hiking trails with a long history of attracting hippies and nudists. You’re not likely to see them in the picturesque town of Ascona, where cobblestone streets are lined by casual restaurants, cafes and shops, though. It’s got a more classic Old World vibe. You can also take a boat over to the Brissago Islands, home to a stunning botanic garden.
After a day of hiking in the mountains, relax at the Hotel Eden Roc, a member of Leading Hotels of the World with a midcentury modern design that will make you wonder if Don Draper is about to check in. The pool overlooking the lake with its yellow umbrellas looks like something out of a Slim Aarons photograph.
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