The crunch of a fire-orange leaf underfoot, the purchasing of a new coat and the excuse to stay in, all cosy next to the fire – not everything is bad about a season change to autumn. The best thing about it, however, are cities that aren’t overcrowded with tourists, and the disappearance of peak prices they bring with them. Head to these cities which still shine (even if the sun isn’t).
1. Lisbon, Portugal
Value for money, culture and having a beach 20 minutes from the city centre should pretty much sell you on Lisbon right away. Easy to explore in a day or two, there are restaurants, clubs, bars and museum and art galleries that will demand your attention. And the fact that much anticipated festivals hit the streets come autumn is a bonus. Make it for Lisbon Fashion Week in October or the international documentary festival, Doclisboa, which runs from 24th October to 3rd November.
2. Budapest, Hungary
Budapest is a city which begs to be discovered on foot – and cooler autumn weather helps with that. Don’t think you’ll be too cold though – temperatures stay around 20 degrees until the end of October. Stroll through leafy Margaret Island, take a dip in the heated water at one of the city’s spas and wander in and out of the many art galleries and museums on offer. And let’s not forget the food – not only do restaurant creations astound the tastebuds, but there are plenty of autumnal foodie festivals you won’t be able to resist.
3. Istanbul, Turkey
Escape the summer heat and opt for an autumn trip to Istanbul. Once there, prices are cheap and the cooler weather is great for sightseeing. Stroll around the amber coloured trees in Gulhane Park, treat your ears to the sounds of Akbank Jazz Festival in October and discover the stunning sights of the likes of Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque. Plus, the food and nightlife in Istanbul is world-class all year round.
4. Barcelona, Spain
Peak summer prices are no more – Barcelona is now much cheaper to visit! Hop on over to this vibrant Spanish hotspot and you’ll have cheap food and alcohol, a spacious beach and a city filled Gaudi’s fascinating art. Autumn is also when Barcelona’s cultural calendar goes off with a bang, with photography, jazz and art taking centre stage.
5. Prague, Czech Republic
This affordable Bohemian city becomes a downright bargain come autumn. Prague looks exceptionally lovely as the season changes, especially from the Petřín Hill Observation Tower. Autumn is also festival time in Prague. Strings of Autumn fills the streets with music while the International Festival of Contemporary Art sets up everything from dance and theatre to audiovisual concepts and exhibitions for tourists and locals alike. Film and horse racing festivals make an appearance too!
6. Bratislava, Slovakia
Not only does Bratislava regularly experience an Indian summer in September and October but the city comes alive in celebration of wine, food and music. Wine harvests allow you to try the best of the wine alongside the region’s other speciality – roasted duck or goose! There’s also classical and jazz festivals and strolls down the scenic Danube river, to entice you further. Not a bad way to spend a city break.
7. Krakow, Poland
Krakow’s history alone should be incentive enough to book a city break. Wander around this easy-to-explore Polish city – with thinner crowds and cooler weather, it’s far more pleasant in autumn. The UNESCO World Heritage listed Old Town should be your first port of call. The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps, made into a museum, are the second. Stroll around the city you’ll maybe stumble across the picturesque hilltop castle, towering bell tower or astoundingly beautiful churches – you’ll feel as though you walked into a fairytale. If that isn’t enough, the beer is cheap. Really cheap.
8. Rome, Italy
The phrase La Dolce Vita sums up Rome nicely. During summer, however, you have large crowds (and even longer queues) to contend with when trying to soak in the good life in this popular city. Come autumn, however, visiting the likes of the Trevi fountain, the Vatican and the countless museums and art galleries gets a lot easier. Drink fragrant glasses of wine in chic restaurants and dig into the freshest plates of pasta you’ve ever tasted. When you get to dessert, you at least know your gelato won’t melt in the summer heat.
9. Bucharest, Romania
Romania and it’s its quirky capital are often overlooked, but Bucharest has a unique charm and elegance. Leafy squares sit alongside eclectic architecture and a buzzing historic quarter, while new shops and bars are constantly popping up, catching the eye of those looking for fun. The tumultuous history of Ceauşescu’s dictatorship has left its mark across the city and will open to your eyes to Romania’s diverse history. There are woodlands, lakes and ancient churches to discover. You’ll unearth something around every corner that will pique your interest.
In the peak of summer, when the sun is beating on you with a full 40°C intensity, you may opt to stay inside more than you should in Marrakech. Luckily in autumn it has cooled down and you can go out and explore every nook and cranny of this bustling city. Bargain for handmade creations at the many markets, trek up to see the majestic Atlas Mountains, go for a stroll in picturesque Majorelle Gardens and sip fresh mint tea on the rooftop of an 18th-century riad. The city is yours for the taking.