If you're pining for Paris in the spring or Santorini over summer break, you may want to put a pause on requesting time off. While sun-soaked days abroad are tempting, there is nothing quite like Europe in the fall. From Indian summer along the Mediterranean to crisp mornings and foliage in the Alps, October is a true gem of the entire year.
Part of what's known in the travel industry as "shoulder season" — the transitional time between peak booking months — October has become a sweet spot for European travel. Between the more comfortable weather, scarcity of tourists, and better bargains, the entire month provides better experiences at a lower cost.
And then there are all the fall foods: French figs, smoked cheeses, roasted chestnuts, and hundreds of Danish apple varieties. There's really nothing like eating your way through Europe's autumnal food festivals and asking local mom-and-pop cafes to whip up their seasonal specialties.
Need more convincing? Here are five reasons you should book a ticket to Europe —pronto.
5 Reasons You Should Go to Europe Right Now
1. All the festivals.
"It's one of the best times to travel because there's a great combination of activities going on to make it interesting," says Kim Terrio, vice president of Penny Pitou Travel. Of course there's Oktoberfest in Germany, while Italy celebrates the season with the annual Alba White Truffle Festival in Piedmont and Eurochocolate in Perugia.
If you're into carbo-loading and then burning it off with a 26-mile run, the marathons in Dublin and Amsterdam are a good excuse to load up on potatoes and stroopwafels. And then there's Halloween (and the opportunity to try all the different European candies).
2. There are no crowds!
And yet, Terrio points out, there are still fewer visitors packing their bags. "In October, you can feel more connected to your destination instead of just being overwhelmed by tourists," she says. That means an easier time scoring coveted restaurant reservations, standing in shorter lines for museums and attractions, and meandering through food markets without crowds to navigate.
3. The weather is basically perfect.
In June and July, a trip to Rome or Spain's island of Majorca can be unbearably sweltering at 95 degrees. "But when you visit in October, expect beautifully balmy weather that's downright lovely," says Loretta Carson, travel advisor at Protravel International.
Other spots across the continent are just as mild at this time, with the United Kingdom at crisp autumn temps comparable to New York or Boston, dry but breezy weather in Switzerland, and a much cooler but slightly damp climate in Northern Germany. Plus, there's plenty of foliage to spot across Europe, from Serbia and Slovenia to France and Germany to Scotland and Ireland.
The only downside? You may have to get out of bed a bit earlier to take full advantage of sunlight during shorter days.
4. Chestnuts and cognac and cheeses, oh my!
There's just as much reason to get excited about fall foods in Europe as it is in the States — without all the pumpkin-spice mania. Instead, you have smoked cheeses, roasted nuts, hundreds of Danish apple varieties (for cider, cakes, and brandy!), and slow-cooked roasts to look forward to. Plus brown, belly-warming spirits like cognac, whisky, and armagnac are sipped more freely than ever.
"My favorite thing to do in Europe is find the little family-run restaurants and ask them for whatever is in season," Terrio says. "Last fall, I had the best plate of porcini mushrooms in Italy; it was to die for." Other winning dishes include creamy French cassoulets, fully loaded beef and fish stews, lamb racks that have been roasting all day, and hearty sausage paellas.
While wine flows year-round in Europe, fall is the time to really celebrate it — especially alongside cheese! What's more, you may catch the tail end of grape harvest at wineries in Spain and Portugal or the start of olive harvest in Italy.
5. It's significantly cheaper.
While plane tickets and hotel pricing have dipped overall in Europe over the last few years, October's post-peak price tags should leave a little something extra in your wallet.
"Four years ago, a typical ticket to Europe during peak season would cost about $1,400," Terrio says. "This year, I booked clients for $700." Book for October and you'll see an even bigger difference. Flights we researched from New York to Paris started at $520 and averaged about $650 for mid-October while flights to Frankfurt started at $410 and averaged about $600.
For that same time frame, Airbnb prices in Paris begin at $80 per night for a private room and $100 per night for an entire apartment, while hotels hover between $150 and $200 per night.
What's more, Carson says, you have a better chance of scoring an upgrade on your flight or at your hotel during this slightly slower month. Consider us convinced.