The 20 best autumn escapes in Europe

From cider tasting in Normandy to truffle fairs in Italy and painting breaks on Gozo, Annabelle Thorpe has the lowdown.

1 Cycling in Andalusia
The frying pan of Spain is still pleasantly warm in autumn, but not so hot that cycling becomes a curse rather than a pleasure. Headwater’s new tour starts in the home of flamenco, Jerez, before taking in Cadiz and Arcos de la Frontera, with the route snaking through unspoilt pueblos blancos, rolling hills and the wind-whipped coastline. Bags are transported between hotels, which include a 17th-century former convent in Vejer de la Frontera, and a 19th-century palacio in Jerez.
Details A week costs from £1,229pp, including flights via Madrid to Jerez, all equipment, B&B, maps and transfers (01606 828421, headwater.com)

2 Sweden’s autumn aurora
Winter isn’t necessarily the best time to spot the northern lights; autumn means warmer temperatures and gorgeous autumn colours by day. Sunvil has a three-night break to Swedish Lapland, including a scenic day trip to Narvik in the Norwegian fjords and a visit to the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko National Park, where the microclimate and lack of light pollution optimise the chance of aurora sightings. Stay in the Bjorkliden Mountain Resort, a sleek — if isolated — outpost.
Details Three-night breaks cost from £1,105pp half-board, including flights, transfers and excursions (020 8758 4722, sunvil.co.uk)

3 Foodie trip to Dubrovnik
This four-night break at the Sun Gardens hotel in Dubrovnik proves that Croatia has much to offer in the culinary stakes. Experiences include a private boat trip to the Peljesac wine region for a vineyard tour and tasting at one of the country’s best vineyards, a feast of oysters in the pretty town of Mali Ston, and a tasting menu at the hotel. There’s even a basket of cheeses, olives and wine in your room on arrival.
Details Four nights costs from £1,007pp, in a sea-view suite, including all excursions, breakfast, tasting menu and boat trip (00 385 20 361 500, dubrovniksungardens.com). EasyJet has flights to Dubrovnik

4 Wine and truffles in Italy
The Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy is a favoured destination for foodies, who come in autumn for an array of culinary celebrations. The Grape and Lambrusco Grasparossa Wine Festival takes place in Castelvetro di Modena from September 14 to 27, with a parade of Bacchus-themed floats, along with tastings and live music. Truffle-lovers should head to the pretty town of Sant’Agata Feltria in October, which holds the National White Truffle Fair every Sunday. Thousands of pounds worth of truffles exchange hands, and the medieval high street is dotted with food stalls. Stay at Cerro di Montepetra, a charming agriturismo, inland from Rimini, that’s renowned for its restaurant.
Details B&B doubles cost from £38 (00 39 334 848 3550, cerrodimontepetra.it). Fly to Bologna from Stansted with Ryanair

5 Art in Amsterdam
The shimmering canals and tree-lined walks of the Vondelpark are at their most beautiful when dusted with autumn leaves, and this year you have the chance to see a unique collection of sculptures by Joan Miró in the gardens of the Rijksmuseum (rijskmuseum.nl, until October 11). If you’re after a more, er, fluid weekend, PINT Bokbierfestival — Amsterdam’s answer to Oktoberfest — takes place from October 23 to 25. The much-anticipated W Amsterdam opens its doors next month, bringing its trademark kitsch-glam mash-up to the Dutch capital.
Details Room-only doubles cost from £331 a night (00 31 20 811 2500, starwoodhotels.com)

6 A Viennese weekend
The Austrian capital will be easier to reach this autumn, with new British Airways flights from Gatwick (starting September 17) and easyJet from Luton (from October 23), Manchester (from November 5) and Bristol (from November 6). Take a stroll through the beautiful gardens of the Schönbrunn Palace, which glow with autumn colours at this time of the year, or check out some of the films at the Viennale (viennale.at/en), the city’s international film festival, which runs from October 22 to November 5. The chic-but-affordable Ruby Sofie hotel opened last year.
Details B&B doubles cost from £87 (00 43 1 361 96 60 60, ruby-hotels.com)

7 Painting and pampering in Venice
Immerse yourself in art at the Venice Biennale (labiennale.org/en), which runs throughout the city until November 22. With the summer hordes gone, there is more space to admire the works by 136 different artists at the Biennale’s biggest show, All the World’s Futures, and the individual country’s stands at the Central Pavilion. Pair the culture with some chill-out time at the city’s newest, state-of-the-art spa hotel, the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa, tucked away on its own private island with spectacular views across to San Marco from the pool.
Details B&B doubles cost from £216 (00 39 041 296 8111, marriott.co.uk)

8 White Nights in Berlin
See Berlin in a whole new light, from October 9 to 18, when dozens of the city’s most iconic buildings are lit up at night for the annual Lichterfest (festival-of-lights.de). There are guided walking tours, daily at 7pm and 9pm, as well as tours by boat, bus or bike, all taking in the highlights including the Reichstag, Berlin Cathedral, Unter den Linden and Potsdamer Platz. Stay at the newly opened Grimm’s Potsdamer Platz, a budget boutique hotel in a fantastic location, gently themed around Grimm’s fairytales.
Details Room-only doubles cost from £70 (00 49 30 25 800 80, grimms-hotel.de)

9 White truffles in Tuscany
Autumn weekends don’t come more indulgent than at the gorgeous Villa Lena, a Tuscan retreat surrounded by 500 hectares of rolling hills. From October 9 until the end of November, guests can indulge in a White Truffle weekend, which includes foraging with the agriculture team, cooking truffles with the chef, and eating them at gourmet meals. Villa Lena has a programme of artists in residence, and there will be musical performances and talks over the weekend.
Details A two-night break costs from £533pp, including all meals and activities (00 39 0587 083 112, villa-lena.it). Fly to Florence from Gatwick with easyJet

10 Wine harvest in Portugal’s Douro
The sleepy Douro valley comes alive in September and October, when the fields are full of workers harvesting the vines. Guests to the new Six Senses Douro Valley have the chance to join in with the festivities. As well as treading the grapes, there are wine-tasting tours (by helicopter as well as road), the possibility to become a winemaker for a day, and wine-and-dine cruises that show off the tranquil beauty of the region. Six Senses Douro Valley, which opened in July, is set in a beautiful 19th-century manor house, with gorgeous views across the river valley.
Details B&B doubles cost from £174 (00 351 254 660 600, sixsenses.com). Fly to Porto from Stansted with Ryanair

11 Painting in Gozo
Authentic Adventures has just added a new painting week in October to its holidays, on the Maltese island of Gozo. Here, the spectacular coastline, dotted with brightly coloured fishing boats, the hilltop capital of Victoria and the unique Ggantija Temple – the oldest freestanding structure on earth – offer a diverse range of scenes to paint. The course includes five days of painting tuition, along with visits to It-Tokk market, Hondoq beach and the tranquil Lunzjata valley.
Details A week departing on October 3 costs from £1,299pp, with no supplement for singles, B&B, including most meals, wine with dinner, tuition, transfers and excursions, but not flights (01453 823328, authenticadventures.co.uk)

12 Autumn colours in Oslo
It might not be the most obvious choice for a weekend of flame-hued autumn walks, but Oslo is crammed with parks and grounds full of deciduous trees that gleam butter-yellow and rich auburn in the autumn months. The Vigeland Park is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist, while the medieval Akershus Fortress has beautiful, tree-lined grounds. Or head outside the city to the nearby Oslomarka forest, which has some of the most vibrant autumn foliage in the country. Stay at the chic-but-cosy Saga Hotel & Apartments Oslo, right by the Royal Palace.
Details B&B doubles cost from £139 (00 47 22 55 44 90, sagahoteloslo.no)

13 See Sicily’s Cefalu
The atmospheric medieval town of Cefalu — right on the sea on Sicily’s sun-drenched northern coast — has seen its profile rise since it’s spectacularly beautiful Norman cathedral was designated a Unesco World Heritage site in July. Still delightfully warm — even until late autumn — it’s a great base for walkers, with the Madonie mountains rearing up behind the town, crisscrossed with walking trails. The average daily high temperature is 20C in October and 18C in November. Base yourself at the central La Plumeria Hotel and Restaurant, and channel Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso (some of which was filmed in the town) with an early evening passeggiata and all the gelato you can eat.
Details B&B doubles cost from £104 (00 39 0921 925897, www.laplumeriahotel.it)

14 Sound of Music in Salzburg
Salzburg takes a breath in autumn, between the heady days of the summer crowds and the crisp months of the Austrian ski season. It’s the perfect time to soak up the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the city’s A-list movie moment, The Sound of Music. The musical-theatre version returns to the city from September 26 to December 6, and there are many ways to take a themed city tour, by bike, foot, coach — or as a singalong. For more diverse musical choices, the Salzburger Kulturtage runs throughout autumn — a series of concerts and recitals at sites throughout the city (salzburg.info). The chic Hotel & Villa Auersperg is two minutes’ from the Old Town.
Details B&B doubles cost from £112 (00 43 662 889 440, www.auersperg.at)

15 Sailing and boarding in Bodrum
Simply staying on your feet on a paddleboard might seem challenge enough, but the Kempinski in Bodrum has seriously upped the ante with brand new SUP yoga classes. Each class consists of a 30-minute warm-up followed by a 60-minute SUP masterclass. For sailing and yoga, head to Bodrum in October, when the Bodrum Cup yacht festival takes place from October 19 to 24, one of the biggest marine events in the country. The Kempinski Barbaros Bay is perched above its own private bay with a gorgeous, soft-sand beach. The water is warm enough in October to swim without a wetsuit.
Details B&B doubles cost from £170 B&B (kempinski.com)

16 Whales and dolphins in Spain
The Straits of Gibraltar are a fantastic place to catch spectacular autumn bird migrations, but they also offer the chance to see fin and sperm whales and common and bottlenose dolphins, heading south to warmer waters. Naturetrek has a four-night break, departing on September 17 or 21, which combines gentle walks to see raptors and shearwaters, with boat trips into the Straits. The trip includes four nights at the rural hotel Huerta Grande, just outside the town of Tarifa.
Details A four-night break departing on September 17 or 21 is from £995pp including flights, all meals, accommodation and a naturalist tour guide (01962 733051, naturetrek.co.uk)

17 Cider and Calvados in Normandy
Few areas of France are more synonymous with autumn than Normandy, when the apple orchards give up their crop and the cider presses are in full swing. Alastair Sawday has created two new itineraries – one four-day and one seven-day, mixing calvados and cider tastings with stays at some of its favourite places in the region, including Chateau de Canisy, the oldest B&B in France, and the gorgeous, 16th-century Manoir de la Fieffe, with four acres of botanical gardens.
Details Three-nights’ B&B costs from £250pp, including tastings and ferry crossing (0117 204 7810, sawdays.co.uk)

18 Budapest Fest
The streets of Budapest positively buzz with a diverse array of festivals taking place throughout October. The Café Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival runs from October 2 to 18, with a programme of music, dance and theatre; the city’s Oktoberfest takes place from October 1 to 4, while sausage-lovers should aim for the beginning of the month to coincide with the Palinka and Sausage Festival at Buda Castle (October 3 to 5). Make the most of autumn-hued skies by staying at the newly opened Aria Hotel Budapest, which has a spectacular roof terrace.
Details B&B doubles cost from £176 (00 361 445 4055, ariahotelbudapest.com)

19 Olive-oil festival in Turkey
On Turkey’s Aegean coast, Ayvalik recreates its summer buzz from October 31 to November 2, when the Harvest Food Festival brings in some of the country’s best-known food writers, cooks and olive-oil producers. Tastings take place in the oil market, with dozens of different stands, alongside a fish feast — with three tons of locally caught fish cooked up in the best olive oil. Stay at the new Murat Reis, and work up a hunger by joining in an olive-picking contest.
Details B&B doubles cost from £106 (00 90 266 312 0101, muratreisayvalik.com). EasyJet flies to Izmir, the nearest airport

20 Food and music in Switzerland
Switzerland’s lowest-lying town of Ascona — just 196m above sea level — is still pleasantly warm in autumn, when the streets throng with foodie events, including the Chestnut Festival (October 3) and the Autumn Festival (October 10), when dozens of speciality food stalls open up in the town centre and there is an afternoon of live music. The Settimani Musicali di Ascona — a classical music festival — runs until October 16, with symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles playing at venues and churches around the town. Stay at the Art Hotel Riposo, perched right on the shores of Lake Maggiore.
Details B&B doubles cost from £114 (00 41 91 791 31 64 hotelriposo.ch)

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