The fall is the best time for local and regional festivals which really show off the finest of European culture. From jazz festivals in Barcelona, to contemporary arts festivals in Budapest, this time of year is veritably packed with exciting events dedicated to food, music, art, and more.
If Halloween tends to be lot more ‘festive’ in the US—if you like fancy dress and candy—here in Europe it’s more of a traditional celebration with many places having their own unique festivities. In Spain, La Castanyada is a chestnut celebration on the eve of All Saints Day, while in Ireland people stuff rings, rags, and other surprises in a special cake called barnbrack.
Celebrated in remembrance of the time Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament, bonfire night in the UK is all about huge bonfires, spectacular fireworks and teeth-breaking candied apples. There’s usually a few pints of ale or a mug or two of mulled wine involved too to keep you warm.
While there’s always a chance you might see an aurora borealis nearly any time of the year, September and October are when the lights are at their best. Iceland and Norway offer some spectacular viewing possibilities and a full range of accommodation options as well, from rustic to luxury.
Europe’s vineyards are usually harvested sometime in late August so the fall is prime wine season, with festivals and tastings taking place in many prime wine-making regions. Look out for the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau in France in the end of November, or the Festa dell’Uva in Tuscany.
If these days there seems to be some kind of Oktoberfest organized in cities around the world, there’s nothing quite like visiting the real thing. The Bavarian city of Munich sees some six million people flood to its streets for the two-week-long festivity. There are an estimated seven million liters of beer sold over the course of Oktoberfest, as well as pretzels, bratwurst and other regional snacks to keep you going.
The fall is also synonymous with mushroom season across much of Europe, especially in France, Spain, and Italy, but also in central and eastern Europe. Each country has its own favorite varieties, like the rovellons in northern Spain or chanterelles in France.
That’s right, when it comes to mushrooms, the creme de la creme is the much sought-after truffle. The Piedmont region of Italy is famous for its great yields of the fragrant fungi and you can find both black and white truffles on the markets there.
Christmas shopping can be stressful—but not with a glass of glühwein or two to help you through it. Germany’s Christmas markets are some of the best in the world, with hand-crafted gifts, wooden toys and a whole range of festive treats to keep you merry.
Whether it’s a wander through the Loire Valley chateaux, or a hike around the Yorkshire moors, the European outdoors is simply jaw-dropping at this time of the year. From yellow, to red, to brown, and every shade in between, the fall foliage will leave you unable to put your camera down.
Okay, that’s not technically a reason why Europe is better than the US in the fall. But it’s pretty awesome that there is actually a scientific explanation for why leaves in Europe tend to be yellow and orange, while those in the US tend to be red. Pick your colors.