Fall is one of the most scenic seasons of the year. Temperatures drop, there are fewer people on the streets, and more room in restaurants and popular attractions. That’s why September, October, and November are the perfect time to visit Europe. You’ll get to take full advantage of the breathtaking scenery, curled down orange leaves, and all of the local attractions without having to wait in line for hours.
Stumped on the best places to travel in fall with kids? I have put together a list of the most beautiful places in Europe where you can enjoy tons of fun autumn activities, a dazzling display of red, orange, and yellow landscapes, and some of the best things little ones will enjoy.
Best Family Travel Destinations in Europe for Fall
1. Bavaria, Southern Germany
This magical region in Southern Germany will make you feel like you’ve stepped foot into the pages of a fairytale. The spectacular castles in Bavaria that are full of mysterious history and splendor. Neuschwanstein Castle, which inspired Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland, is one of the most popular destinations. This 19th-century palace is an unapologetic ode to opulence and wealth that’s definitely worth a visit.
There are too many castles in the region, so I recommend doing a little research online before you choose the ones you’ll visit. My favorite must-sees are Burghausen Castle, Nuremberg Castle, and Herrenchiemsee Castle.
And while all of these castles are unique in their own right, you will have a hard time peeling your eyes from the stunning Hohenschwangau Castle across the way from Neuschwanstein.
Built by King Maximilian II of Bavaria in 1837, this majestic Gothic Revival masterpiece sits atop a hill surrounded by alpine gardens and the gorgeous Hohenschwangau Village. It has some of the best views of the town and Neuschwanstein. If you want to feel like a royal, book a horse-drawn carriage to take you all the way up to the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles.
Highlights in Bavaria:
- Spend a day visiting Munich and its Residenz, one of the most opulent palaces in Europe. Home to over 90 rooms filled with extravagant Rococo furniture, art, and intricate ceiling paintings, this palace complex is a great place to visit on a rainy day.
- Wander through the largest wooded area in Europe, the Bavarian Forest (Bayerischer Wald). Nature lovers can enjoy cycling, hiking paths, rugged landscapes, and Alpine surroundings. It’s the perfect place for beautiful fall foliage.
- Drive The Romantic Road, a 350km-long road that stretches from Würzburg in the south to Füssen up north and offers the most delightful sights of quaint medieval towns. Fall is the ideal time to drive this route and see the changing autumn leaves along the way.
2. Hallstatt, Austria
Hallstatt is what Pinterest dreams are made of. During the summer months it is packed with people, but the autumn months bring fewer crowds making it enjoyable for everyone. This quaint Austrian village offers the best of both worlds for families looking for laidback charm and fairytale forests without feeling disconnected from the world.
Nestled between Salzburg and Graz, Hallstatt is filled with cobblestone streets, 16th-century architecture, pastel-colored cafes, a stunning waterfall, delicious Austrian cuisine, and one of the world’s oldest salt mines.
Highlights in Hallstatt:
- Hallstatt has one of the most idyllic of settings, surrounded by the Northern Limestone Alps. During the fall, this mountainous chain is extra stunning thanks to the burst of autumn colors.
- Grab a cup of coffee at Das Kainzv, a lovely café that offers stunning views of Lake Hallstatt and a nice array of Austrian delicacies. Take a private walking tour and learn about the city’s history and what it has to offer.
- Salzburg is a romantic city and a perfect day trip from Hallstatt. It’s only an hour away. Known as the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Salzburg is brimming with history, Baroque and medieval-style architecture and natural beauty. Kids will love taking a tour of one of the local salt mines, exploring Hohensalzburg Fortress, and touring the grounds of the Mirabell Gardens. Salzburg’s old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and families can spend hours strolling and enjoying the local shops.
3. Bruges, Belgium
Welcome to Bruges, the most magical city in Belgium! Whether you’re visiting during winter, summer, or fall, Bruges is simply unforgettable all year long. Bruge is home to some of the best beer in Europe, and it is also a popular chocolate haven. The best street to pick up a couple (dozen!) boxes of the most decadent Belgian chocolate is Katelijnestraat, which is lined with chocolate shops everywhere you look.
Bruges is one of the best preserved medieval towns in the world and is home to more than 50 castles. Walking through the streets of Bruges will make you feel like you’ve been magically transported back in time.
As for the architecture, most of the houses and buildings have unique step-gabled facades that blend Gothic and Renaissance elements. Bruges is home to some of the most opulent buildings with intricate gold details and figures.
While Bruges is kind of small, it’s home to more than 80 bridges which make navigating the city with kids a total piece of cake.
Highlights in Bruges:
- Make a stop at Dumon and try their freshly-made artisanal chocolates. Don’t leave without trying some of their infamous flavors: fried onions, wasabi, wine vinegar and saffron-curry, a true culinary delight. They taste a thousand times better than they sound, I promise!
- Visit De Halve Maan, a 16th century brewery that offers incredible Belgian beer. Like most places in Europe, the breweries are family friendly, especially during the day time and early evenings.
- Hit Markt square to try the local Belgian frites (fries) with some mayonnaise and toppings of your choice while you explore around town. If they have a sweet tooth be sure to grab a Belgian waffle from one of the many shops in the city center.
- If your kids love Halloween and mystery movies, take them on a ghost walking tour to learn more about the local folklore and the dark side of Bruges.
4. Colmar, France
Now that tourists have left and the temperature has dropped, strolling through the picturesque streets of Colmar is a hundred times more pleasant. Autumn might be the best time of the year to visit Colmar as it’s after the summer holidays and before the Christmas crowds.
Step foot in the French town of Colmar, and you’ll quickly realize why so many travelers have deemed it a real-life fairytale town. In fact, some believe that Colmar was the inspiration behind the village in the beloved Disney movie, “Beauty and the Beast”. Colmar has some of the most striking fall colors you’ll ever see. To make things even more magical, you’ll be surrounded by lovely outdoor cafes, half-timbered medieval houses, antique shops, and even the majestic castle of Château du Hohlandsbourg.
Highlights in Colmar:
- Visit the Unterlinden Museum and admire their impressive 16th-century Isenheim Altarpiece.
- Walk everywhere and snap pictures of this exquisite storybook town until your feet hurt. Then, sit down at L’Artemise café or Brasserie Aux 3 Couleurs to try some local pastries. If the kids get tired, hop on the historic petit white train that transports people around town.
- Walk around in the area by Quai de Poissoniers, also referred to as Little Venice, to look at the most stunning shop facades in town. This is where you’ll run into half-timbered houses along a scenic canal. Don’t forget to grab a gelato or Alsatian pizza (my kids love these)!
5. Dubrovnik, Croatia
The fall season, and especially early October is our favorite time to visit Croatia. Travelers are almost guaranteed sunny days, cooler weather, and a chance to see one of the most beautiful destinations in the world without the tourist crowds. Dubrovnik has beautiful beaches, a spectacular old town, and access to some of the best national parks in Europe, Krka and Plitvice National Park. Families will love exploring the historic sites, warm weather, and empty city streets.
Highlights in Dubrovnik:
- Take the cable car to the top of Mt Srd for stunning views of Dubrovnik and the Adriatic Sea. Kids will love taking in the views and there’s a nice café up top where you have spectacular sunset views. Families with older kids can hike the Mt Srd trails or take an off-road dune buggy tour from the top of the mountain.
- Nature lovers should take a boat ride to nearby Lokrum Island. Not only are there multiple ruins on the island, but there are wild bunnies and peacocks everywhere, and a Dead Sea saltwater natural pool where the kids can see the magic of saltwater.
- See the city from above as you take a walk on the city walls. Dubrovnik is a walled city and visitors can see the Old Town from a new perspective. If there is warm weather, be sure to explore early in the day. When you finish, kids might enjoy a stop at Captain Candy on the Stradun, or a local ice cream shop.
Shoulder season from early September to late October might be the best time of year to explore Western Europe. With fewer tourists, stunning autumn foliage, and cheaper prices, Europe in fall is always a good idea. Whether you hop on a plane or take a road trip, we are sure your family will love exploring Europe during the autumn season.