Fall is easily my favorite time of year to travel in Europe. Sure, there’s fewer crowds and the temperatures are slightly cooler. However, the best part about this season is seeing all the trees transform into brilliant shades of orange, yellow and red. From Lake Bled to the Dolomites, the opportunities to go leaf-peeping in Europe are endless. That’s why I’ve put together a list of the best destinations in Europe for Fall colors, including tips to help you plan the perfect Europe trip this autumn season.
When should I visit to see the best colors?
The peak time to see the leaves change color doesn’t happen at the exact same time every year, primarily due to differences in the weather. The change from green to shades of red, yellow and orange happens gradually and not all trees in the same area change color at the same time. Generally, the leaves change in the northern regions of Europe first like Sweden, Norway and Finland since the weather starts to get cooler there before the lower regions of Europe. To allow for these differences, I’ve added specific times for each location indicating when the “peak time” is to see fall colors.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Slovenia is a destination that usually falls below the radar for most people. However, I highly recommend putting it on your fall travel list this year. Last October we visited Slovenia and we were totally blown away by how beautiful the entire country was. Although a bit touristy, we particularly loved Lake Bled because of the fall colors that surrounded the entire lake. The lake even features a tiny island in its center with a castle that looks straight out of a fairytale. You can read more about our fall trip to Slovenia here.
When to visit: Late September to Mid October
Located in the beautiful Salzkammergut region of Austria, Hallstatt is known as one of the most idyllic towns in Europe. I particularly love visiting here in the fall season because of the smaller crowds and gorgeous fall foliage that surrounds the lake and charming lakeside cottages. The entire village is refreshingly car-free and full of plenty of cute shops and cafes that you can check out as you wander through the streets and alleyways. There’s also plenty of festivals this time of year celebrating the harvest season that are worth checking out.
When to visit: Mid October
The Dolomites, Italy
It’s no secret that the Dolomites are one of my favorite places in the world, especially during the fall season. During this time of year, the larches all change color transforming the valleys into brilliant shades of yellow and orange. The shadows also become longer this time of year causing the light to cast a rich golden orange and rosy pink over the Dolomite rock formations. No matter what time of year you visit, the Dolomites are stunning. However, the fall colors combined with the dramatic light make it even more breathtaking and perfect for photography.
When to visit: Mid October to Early November
Burg Eltz, Germany
Besides the amazing festivals this time of year like Oktoberfest and the Pumpkin Fest, Germany is definitely worth visiting to see the fall colors. Germany is full of fairytale castles but one of my favorites is Burg Eltz in northern Germany. The castle itself is situated in the Moselle valley surrounded by the majestic Elzbach river and lush forests. It was built in 1540 and has become quite popular on Instagram for good reason. It’s worth a visit here any time of year, but when autumn arrives, the surrounding landscape really transforms, and the warm orange and yellow leaves bring the forest to life.
When to visit: Late October to Early November
There are plenty of great places to visit during the fall in Switzerland, but Engadin definitely steals the show. Located in the southeast part of Switzerland, Engadin is as rich in culture as it is in nature. During the autumn season, the larches turn a brilliant gold, covering every inch of the valleys in a stunning burst of color. For the best colors, be sure to check out Lake Sils and the nearby valley that is home to Morteratsch glacier.
When to visit: Mid October to late October
Fall is the perfect time to visit Lapland before it becomes bathed in complete darkness for the rest of winter. Summer comes to an end with an explosion of colors in the forest, which is referred to as “ruska” by the locals. During this season the beautiful fells of Lapland are painted in beautiful shades of reds, browns, and yellows. Generally, this season only lasts for roughly 2 weeks and is especially popular with photographers. To get the full experience, I highly recommend renting a cabin on one of Finland’s thousands of lakes to witness the incredible reflection of the colorful trees on the water.
When to visit: Late September
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
If you’re looking for a unique place to visit this fall then Plitvice Lakes in Croatia should definitely be on your list. Although it’s a bit further east than you might typically venture, it’s well worth the extra distance to visit these magical lakes. The park itself is located 80 miles from Zagreb, and is made up of 16 lakes connected by a series of waterfalls. During the fall, the lush forests are bathed in all different shades of yellows, reds, and oranges, which offer the perfect contrast against the crystal clear blue lakes. The entrance fee for the park is $8 and it is welcome to visitors year-round.
When to visit: Mid October to late October
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Besides Eltz Castle, you definitely don’t want to miss out on seeing another equally famous castle in Germany known as Neuschwanstein Castle. Built in the 19th Century by King Ludwig, this place will surely make you feel like you’re in a real-life fairytale (It did inspire Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom after all). The castle is located in southern Germany, in a very special region called the Bavarian Alps. In the fall, the castle sits on top of a hill surrounded by the dense Bavarian forest covered in a kaleidoscope of oranges, yellows, and browns. Besides the gorgeous fall foliage and views, there’s also significantly less crowds this time of year, making it all the more convincing to visit this time of year!
When to visit: Beginning of October to Mid October
I hope you found this list helpful to plan your very own Fall trip to Europe. If you have any Fall destinations in Europe that you loved and would like to share, let me know in the comments below!