Europe in the fall; great options galore!

The kids are almost back in school, and the annual summer tourism crush in Europe is subsiding. It’s also some of the best weather of the year. Which makes this a great time to visit any number of top European destinations. In no particular order, here are 10 great spots both tried and new.
IMG_5106BRUSSELS This might be the most under-rated city in Europe. Grand Place is the most beautiful square in Europe; with fantastic, gilded buildings dating back hundreds of years. The square in front of the church of St. Catherine is more of a locals spot and a great place to sip a Belgian beer or nibble on those famous pommes frites or Belgian mussels. The Cathedral of Sts. Michel et Gudule is tremendous. Don’t Miss: The Magritte Museum traces the life and art work of the great Rene Magritte.
IMG_6927LISBON This is a beautiful city, with gorgeous squares and hills and winding streets and an old fort with commanding views. You’ll also find great beaches, and the water’s still nice in fall. Portugal also is one of the cheaper destinations in Europe; a big help given the value of the Canadian dollar. Don’t Miss: The lovely village of Sintra features hilltop castles and fairy-tale architecture a short distance from town.
img_7343SLOVENIA This is a small wedge of a nation sandwiched between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, with elements of each. Ljubljana has a beautiful river and small hilltop castle that makes it feel like Salzburg. The river rafting is tremendous, the alpine hiking sublime and the Adriatic coast a great place to soak up the sun. Don’t Miss: A trip to Lake Bled, with its castles and glistening blue-green lake and a small island with a church. It’s as pretty a spot as you’ll find in Europe.
IMG_0007WALES Scotland and England get all the attention, but Wales is a marvellous destination. Cardiff is a fun, lively town with a cool castle. The food scene has come a long way, with tremendous local cuisine. And there’s great golf at links courses such as Nefyn and District and Royal St. David’s. Don’t Miss: The colourful coastal town of Portmeirion looks like an Italian mountain village.
IMG_0363SARDINIA Sure, there are beautiful bays in the north of the island filled with yachts owned by Europe’s pretty people. Nothing wrong with that. But you’ll also find fantastic wine, mysterious mountain peaks and endless beaches fronting clear blue Mediterranean waters. The capital city of Cagliari ain’t Rome or Florence, but it has its charms. Don’t Miss: The hike up the hill from the beach at the Hotel Calamosca is short but beautiful, with the ruins of an old Spanish fort clinging to a cliff and great views of Cagliari.
IMG_6428ZURICH You’ll find narrow, winding streets in the old town with tons of sidewalk cafes and fun shops. Zurich also has a glorious lakefront, with beautiful parks and water warm enough for swimming in early fall. West Zurich features trendy restaurants and pounding, late night clubs that might surprise you. Don’t Miss: The Marc Chagall windows at Fraumunster Church. Positively glorious.
stockholmSTOCKHOLM Truly one of the most scenic cities on the planet; with a series of canals and waterways snaking past old churches and stylish, new buildings. The coffee shops are great places to mix with locals. And there’s plenty of nature all around, including the parks on the island of Djurgarden. Don’t Miss: Gamla Stan is one of the prettiest and best preserved medieval city sections in all of Europe.
IMG_7005AIX-EN-PROVENCE One of the most lovely towns in France. You’ll find small, winding streets filled with wonderful shops and nice public squares in a town founded by the Romans in 122 B.C. The farmer’s markets in this part of France are wonderful, as are the Christmas markets. And you’re only a few miles from the French Riviera. Don’t Miss: A tour of the studio used by local artist Paul Cezanne is both educational and entertaining. There’s also a lovely garden.
PAROS Santorini and Mykonos get the lion’s share of attention from folks heading to the Greek Islands. But Paros is a delight; small enough to be out of the way but big enough to offer a variety of activities. The beaches are marvellous and you’ll also find those gorgeous, shady streets with bright blue doors and brilliant red or pink bougainvillea. Don’t Miss: A moped ride around the island is a great way to see things on your own terms.
Krakow_rynek_02KRAKOW I get magazine and travel website rankings crossing my desk all the time, and they almost always refer to this Polish city as one of the great values of Europe. A study by priceoftravel.com recently found you could spend a day in Krakow for just $52 U.S., including hotel, meals and entertainment. That compares to $180 per day in London. The churches and squares are exactly what most North Americans picture when they think of a grand European city. Don’t Miss: Wawel Cathedral is basically Gothic in style, but the surrounding chapels are a glorious mishmash of styles. Tremendous Instagram material!

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