October Festivals and Things to Do in Europe

Beautiful Weather, Fall Foliage, and Fewer Crowds October Great

Westerkerk church and canal at morning in Amsterdam, Netherlands.Beautiful autumn season in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
••• Prasit photo / Getty Images

October is one of the best times to visit Europe. Europeans in heavily visited cities have begun to relax with the retreat of the summer's tourist crowds, and the weather, especially in the south, is ideal. It's a time of harvest festivals and food and drink celebrations.

Upside of October in Europe

There's Oktoberfest in Germany, of course, which actually starts at the end of September. Halloween is beginning to catch on, and wine festivals are everywhere.

Fall rains allow forests to sprout some fine mushrooms for foraging. Theater season is starting, and film festivals abound in Spain.

October is Rome's high season. Italians flock to the city because the heat has dissipated, and the city is pleasant to walk in again.

There is also, of course, the splendor of fall foliage, and you don't have to go into the countryside to find it. The medieval villages of Belgium are awash in color, and northern cities like Amsterdam are also aglow. And yes, you'll usually find less expensive airfares starting in October.

Downside of October in Europe

Expect shorter days and the increasing chance of rain and chilly evenings. You'll have to pack more clothing than you would on a summer trip and might need an umbrella, especially in Northern Europe. Also, some restaurants and hotels in places with high summer beach traffic, like Greece and Turkey, close for the season.

What's On in European Countries in October

If you aren't decided on which country or countries to visit, you might check the dates for special exhibitions and/or theater and musical performances to nail the choice. Here are some other things to consider when thinking about which countries to visit:

  • October in Amsterdam: Fall colors, a marathon, and the Historic Museum is free the first week of October
  • October in France: Chestnuts, Armagnac, and a pepper festival in the foodie's favorite: Basque country
  • October in Scandinavia: Celebrate Herring and Holloween in Tivoli
  • October in Ireland: The Dublin Marathon and lots of folk celebrations
  • October in the UK: Ghost walks, fall foliage, and horses 
  • October in London: Film Festivals, National Poetry Day, a half marathon, and theater season
  • October in Greece: Celebrate chestnuts on Crete, Socrates, fishermen, and Occhi Day, when Metaxa refused to let German troops into the country

Get a Connecting Flight Through Iceland for the Northern Lights

To see the Northern Lights is a dream for many, but you won't see them if you're traveling to Spain. However, Iceland is perfectly situated on the way from the U.S. to Europe, with many airlines now offering stopovers in Reykjavik. The cheapest and most flexible is WOW air, which gives you the option of staying in Iceland for as long as you like. Never has it been easier to spend just one day in Iceland.

Many flights that go via Iceland are stops on the way to London. From London, it's an easy high-speed Eurostar train ride to mainland Europe.