40 Sweet Spots for Fall Value
Fall Forecast: Each autumn, this continent takes a collective breath as swarms of summer tourists return home, leaving only the wisest of the bunch to partake in fringe-season price reductions, more moderate temperatures, and pre-winter festivals. The coasts of Spain, Italy, and Greece are still churning out beach weather at bargain rates. In Eastern Europe, days can be chilly, but the off-peak rates help compensate. Transatlantic airfare typically falls between 25 and 40 percent below its summer high.
15. BALEARIC ISLANDS
This Spanish island chain includes Ibiza, which since the ‘60s has been attracting the hip and the trendy, from flower children dancing beneath the stars and sleeping on the beaches to the young elite of London, Berlin, and Milan mobbing the top discos and staying at chic, boutique hotels. Majorca (also spelled Mallorca), meanwhile, has long been a favored year-round destination for northern Europeans seeking sun and sea.
Why Go In Fall: Unless you’re looking to party hearty, you’ll get the most for your money in fall. The weather is warm and usually sunny (temps average about 70 degrees), and the islands practically crowd-free.
Fall 2012 Events: Oktoberfest Santa Ponsa (Mallorca; Sept. 21–Oct. 14; www.oktoberfestmallorca.com); Día de la Hispanidad (all islands; Oct. 12); Ibiza closing parties (Ibiza; through Oct. 8; www.loveibiza.net)
With Dutch-influenced Flanders to the north and French-flaired Wallonia to the south, Belgium is a unique blend of languages and cultures brimming with historic charm, haute couture, and heavenly cuisine – including its world-famous mussels, fries, waffles, chocolate, and beer. Brussels is noted for its friendly folk, incredible edibles, and position as political capital of modern Europe, while Flemish-flavored Antwerp has come into its own as a center for fashion, art, and nightlife.
Why Go In Fall: As fall advances, the weather in this small nation remains mild, if a bit overcast. No matter. Hotel prices will sink from summer highs and the crowds will disperse in the French-speaking south (Brussels, Liège, Spa) and the Flemish north (Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent). September marks the start of the prime season for mussels, one of the nation’s most treasured edible assets (don’t miss the heavenly beer and chocolate either).
Fall 2012 Events: Belgian Chocolate Fair (Brussels; Nov. 1–4; www.belgianchocolatefair.be); Les Nocturnes du Sablon (Sablon by Night) (Brussels; Nov. 22–25; www.sablon-bruxelles.com)
Reminders of this once-divided city’s turbulent history coexist with ultra-modern glass and steel skyscrapers and reinvented urban centers. Packed with cultural treasures, hip clubs, cutting-edge dining options, and no less than three opera houses, Berlin is the Continent’s first true 21st-century metropolis.
Why Go In Fall: While late autumn can be cold, September and early October are usually marked by mild temperatures and an added bonus of colorful foliage. Package deals abound, while crowds and lines at attractions are refreshingly few.
Fall 2012 Events: Berlin Oktoberfest (Sept. 28–Oct. 14; www.oktoberfest-berlin.de); Festival of Lights (Oct. 10–21; www.festival-of-lights.de); Winter World (Nov. 3–Jan. 5; www.winterwelt-berlin.de)
Croatia’s tourism board touts its stunning coast and 1,000-plus islands as “the Mediterranean as it once was” and, save some overdeveloped areas, it really is. Paired with little-explored inland regions and an affordable, non-Euro-based economy, this delightful Eastern European country is one of Europe’s hottest destinations. Dubrovnik boasts stunning seaside fortifications, a Mediterranean beach vibe, fresh seafood, and immaculate offshore islands.
Why Go In Fall: In early fall, Dubrovnik sits comfortably in the 80s, with surrounding beaches gloriously empty and the water temps in the 70s through late October. Hotels offer good shoulder-season rates – just go before the northeastern “Bora” wind whips up in November.
Fall 2012 Events: Mrduja Regatta (Split; Sept. 28–30; www.visitsplit.com); Zagreb Film Festival (Oct. 14–21; www.zagrebfilmfestival.com)
France is a montage of thousands of sights, dishes, and tiny, charming towns. It's little wonder that this profoundly culturally rich country ranks as one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Tourists flock here for arguably the best food and drink in the world, the beauty of Paris, the medieval cities and breathtaking sights, and the unparalleled café culture and nightlife.
Why Go In Fall: Hotel and airfare prices are lower, temperatures are generally pleasant, and the crowds are refreshingly absent. September, October, and November bring grape and olive harvests, along with busy cultural calendars. If swimming is an objective, it's best to come in September for a dip along the French Riviera.
Fall 2012 Events: Nuit Blanche (Paris; Oct. 6; www.paris.fr); Dijon International Gastronomy Fair (Oct. 31–Nov. 11; www.foirededijon.com); Beaujolais Nouveau’s release (throughout France; Nov. 15; www.beaujolais.com)
20. GREEK ISLANDS
Greece has some 6,000 islands and islets, of which only 227 are inhabited. The seven island groups – the Ionian, Argo-Saronic, Cyclades, Dodecanese, Sporades and Evvia, Northeast Aegean, and Crete – are marked by ancient monuments and ruins, beautiful scenery, and lively beach resorts.
Why Go In Fall: Unless nightlife is your goal, this is the best time to visit. Temps averaging about 70 degrees are reasonable, the sea is warm enough for swimming through September, and the beaches are not overcrowded. Hotels, restaurants, and cultural attractions are open, yet devoid of crowds.
Fall 2012 Events: “Approaching Surrealism”: A visual arts tribute by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Andros (Andros; Through Sept. 30; www.moca-andros.gr)
The land of art, sun, and a thousand different types of pasta, Italy is packed with a variety of sights, sounds, and tastes that can keep even the most experienced traveler busy for months. Considering one can hop between the timeworn ruins of ancient Rome, the Renaissance glories of Florence, and the fashion-forward emporiums of Milan, the question really isn’t where to go, it’s which century to "visit."
Why Go In Fall: It’s by far the best time to go to Italy for value, weather, and crowd control. Throughout the country you’ll experience wine festivals and skip out on the oppressive heat and mobs that mark the high summer season. The Mediterranean remains warm into early fall for beachgoers along the Italian Riviera. Autumn foliage adds a scenic touch to Italian lake areas.
Fall 2012 Events: RomaEuropa Festival (Rome; Sept. 26–Nov. 25; www.romaeuropa.net); The art of the Renaissance feast at Villa d’Este (Tivoli; Through Nov. 4; www.villadestetivoli.info); Alba International White Truffle Fair (Alba; Oct. 6–Nov. 18; www.fieradeltartufo.org)
This little gem of a country on the southern Adriatic Sea – just coming into its own after the turbulent breakup of the former Yugoslavia – boasts an interior of soaring Alpine mountains, plus 200 miles of coastline. Tiny Montenegro is an exhilarating destination for lovers of the great outdoors, with four national parks and two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The medieval fortress city of Kotor, on the lip of southern Europe’s largest fjord, is a picturesque home base for coastal and mountain day trips.
Why Go In Fall: Beach season lingers through October and temperatures fluctuate between the high 70s by day and the low 50s at night. With more elbow room than during the summer, autumn is an ideal time to explore the region’s churches and ruins. Hotels, restaurants, and cultural attractions are open, yet not overrun.
Fall 2012 Events: Days of Siruna (Budva; Oct. 2; www.gkbudva.com)
Romania has come a long way since 1989, when the people gave their iron-fisted dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, the boot. Today, ask anyone and they’ll tell you that Romania is on the rise: the outdoor cafés are buzzing, the restaurants are serving creatively prepared local cuisine as well as global fusion dishes, and recognizable shops like Hugo Boss and Escada are sprouting up. Of course, historic Romania maintains its appeal as well; give a nod to the fictitious Count Dracula as you submerge yourself in cobblestone streets, castles, and monasteries.
Why Go In Fall: Reasonable temperatures, fewer crowds, and better hotel deals make fall the best time to explore Romania’s major points of interest. The folklore of Count Dracula can make Transylvania a particularly appealing destination during Halloween, when special tours celebrate Bram Stoker's famous novel.
Fall 2012 Events: Astra Film Festival 2012 (Sibiu; Oct. 15–21; www.astrafilm.ro); Kinofest (Bucharest; Oct. 26–28; www kinofest.com); Halloween in Transylvania (Oct. 31; www.romaniatourism.com)