Europe

Budapest, Hungary

Enjoy castles, cruises, and thermal baths.

Fall is one of the best times of year to experience the Hungarian capital like a local. Wine, food, and arts festivals fill up the city’s calendar, and many are held in storybook-worth spots such as the Buda and Vajdahunyad castles. In early fall, make the most of the warm days and go wine tasting in the Etyek-Buda wine region. When chilly weather sets in, you can take a romantic cruise along the Danube River, indulge in seasonal delicacies by booking a traditional cooking class, or warm up at Budapest’s famous thermal baths.

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Munich, Germany


Toast to fall.

The king of all beer festivals, Oktoberfest is an iconic event that should be on everyone’s fall bucket list. For the full experience, kit yourself out in a dirndl or lederhosen, snag a table at one of the brewery tents, and feast on traditional Bavarian foods such as pretzels, spaetzle, and bratwurst. While in Munich, take the time to explore Bavaria’s lakes and mountains, visit the fairy-tale Neuschwanstein Castle, or head up to the mountaintop Eagle’s Nest (which is open until October). The region’s famous views are even more impressive when the alpine forests ablaze with colorful foliage. Find things to do in Munich

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Hallstatt, Austria


Capture stunning Views

Perched on the shores of Lake Hallstatt, in the heart of the Swiss Alps, the small village of Hallstatt might just be one of Europe’s most Instagrammable spots. Here, leafy slopes rise up around a cluster of alpine cottages, while soaring mountain peaks and a glittering lake frame the horizon. In fall, the mountains fill with colorful foliage, making the views even more dazzling. There are a variety of ways to go leaf-peeping here: depending on your mood, you can hike to a waterfall, take a boat cruise, or explore the alpine landscapes on an e-bike. Find things to do in Hallstatt

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Tuscany, Italy


Taste the best of the season.

Fall is harvest time in Tuscany and the ideal time to indulge in delicacies such as truffles, porcini mushrooms, chestnuts, and olives. To have some fun with your food, time your visit for one of the region’s many autumn food festivals such as the White Truffle Fair in San Giovanni d’Asso or the Chestnut Festival in Marradi. Head to Florence to explore the birthplace of the Renaissance with its UNESCO-listed monuments and celebrated art museums, then admire the golden hues of the Tuscan hills on a Vespa tour and enjoy local pastimes including truffle hunting and wine tasting.

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Normandy, France


Drink cider by the sea.

If brisk walks along windswept beaches, strolls through apple orchards, and cozy evenings dining in farm-to-table restaurants sound tempting, Normandy should be your pick for fall. While there, make sure to see the Bayeux Tapestry, visit the Mont-St-Michel, or explore D-Day beaches and battlefields without the crowds. You can also ride in a traditional sidecar around the Norman countryside or celebrate the harvest at one of Normandy’s many apple and cider festivals. Also on the fall menu—along with that famous cider—are other local specialties such as melted camembert cheese, delicious tarte normande (apple tart), and calvados (apple brandy).

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Bruges, Belgium


Go to leaf peeping with a side of chocolate.

Bruges’s flower-lined canals, Gothic church spires, and picturesque jumble of medieval buildings are stunning in early fall, when the city’s parks and gardens explode with red, orange, and yellow foliage. Visitors can cruise the canals and admire the reflected colors dancing across the water or soak up the scenery on a scenic bike ride to see windmills. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head indoors to sample some local beer at a brewpub, indulge your sweet tooth with delicious Belgium chocolates, or order a steaming mug of hot chocolate at a cozy café.

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National Parks in Europe

Whether you’re into fair-weather walks, extreme adventure activities, or sunny seaside sightseeing, the great European outdoors has got you covered the length and breadth of the continent. From primeval woodland on the Belarus-Poland border to the wuthering heights of the Yorkshire Dales, here are our picks for 10 must-visit national parks in Europe.

Yorkshire Dales National Park

England

Southern Howgill Fells in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Photo: Kevin Eaves / Shutterstock England Rolling heather-clad moorland, quintessential English vistas, starry night skies, and a network of limestone caves comprise the Yorkshire Dales National Park in northern England, also home to Bolton Abbey and Wensleydale Creamery. From the lush low-lying dales to the craggy, windswept peaks of Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent—part of the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge—the Yorkshire Dales National Park is one of the best places to enjoy the great European outdoors, whether on foot, by bike, or train.

Soomaa National Park, Estonia

Estonia

A major bird-watching region and stretch of protected wetlands in south-western Estonia, Soomaa National Park is made up of peat bogs, grassland, dunes, forests, and rivers. Visit in one of Soomaa’s five distinct seasons—the classic four plus high-water season—to enjoy this overlooked national park on foot year-round, or by traditional dugout canoe from April to October. In winter, strap on your snowshoes or skis to explore the frozen bogs.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Croatia

The UNESCO-listed Plitvice Lakes National Park was the first designated national park in Croatia, and remains to this day one of the country’s most popular destinations. Comprised of 16 interconnected and enticingly jewel-toned lakes—ranging from shocking blue to sultry greens and greys depending on the time of day—Plitvice Lakes National Park is crisscrossed by sinuous wooden boardwalks that weave across the water, way-marked hiking trails, and cascading falls that will make you glad you left the house.

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Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park

Spain

Spain’s answer to the Lake District, Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park in the Pyrenees is Catalonia’s only national park. Marked by pine forests, shimmering lakes, peat bogs, and rugged peaks, the park is popular among hikers, climbers, and bikers alike. But the real magic of Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park lies in its seasonality—in winter, the park is an ideal spot for skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. Come sunny summertime, trekking and rock climbing take the lead.

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Snowdonia National Park

Wales

Occupying a vast swath of north Wales, the Snowdonia National Park encompasses a beachy coastline, the country’s tallest peak, and Wales’ largest natural lake. Come for the myriad hiking trails, mountain biking center, and adventure activities, from below-ground trampolines to ziplines and toboggans. Then, stay for the culture of Welsh-speaking villages such as Beddgelert and Betws-y-Coed, fresh mountain air, and a triptych of nearby castles—Caernarfon, Conwy, and Harlech.

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Casentinesi Forest National Park

Italy

Italy more often than not conjures up images of heaping plates of pasta, picturesque shorelines, and islands set against glistening ocean blue backdrops. However, the country is also home to a spectacular forested national park, just a couple of hours outside Florence. Spanning both Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, the Casentinesi Forest National Park is home to a variety of Italian flora and fauna, tumbling waterfalls, and mountain peaks. You can even admire Etruscan ruins and an ancient monastery.

Peneda-Gerês National Park

Portugal

Tucked into the northern reaches of Portugal, right on the border with Spain, the Peneda-Gerês National Park is the only official national park in the country. Characterized by rocky outcrops, including the eponymous Serra da Peneda and the Serra do Gerês, this national park is a hiking hub. Look out for remote villages and Roman bridges, dense forests populated by wolves and wild boar, as well as a rare flower found in the park—the Serra do Gerês iris.

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Vatnajökull National Park

Iceland

Spectacular glaciers—including the largest in Europe—icy lagoons, and active volcanoes combine to make Vatnajökull National Park one of the best in Iceland. Divided into four cardinal quadrants, head north for crashing glacial rivers, east for snowy peaks, and west for black-sand deserts with subglacial volcanoes, including Grímsvötn. It’s the southern stretches of the park that are most popular though, home to a concertina of mountain peaks and glacial dips, Iceland’s tallest mountain, Hvannadalshnjúkur, and the Skálafellsjökull glacier.

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National Marine Park of Alonissos

Greece

The first park of its kind in Greece and the largest protected marine area in Europe, the National Marine Park of Alonissos covers seven Greek islands, is home to numerous marine animals, and has several archaeological landmarks. Swimming, diving, and snorkeling are some of the best ways to get acquainted with the park, although boat rides, beach days, and island visits are other options. However you explore this sunny marine park, look out for the rare Mediterranean monk seal.

Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park

Belarus

Best-known and beloved in Belarus for being the home of 500 square miles (1300 square kilometers) of primeval forest—the likes of which once blanketed northern Europe—the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park is a popular day-trip destination. Take a tour for a chance to spot the European bison that populate the park or simply come to hike and bike through the historic forest. The best part? Visitors crossing from Poland to enjoy the park benefit from convenient visa-free access.