Looking for a late summer break? September is a great time for travelling in Europe.
If you’re flexible on when you can travel and don’t have to get away during the school holidays then September is a great time to travel. Since Paul and our boys are all keen cricketers we always wait until September to get away for a late summer trip. It’s a great time of year to set off and the weather is still good across lots of Europe. So, what are the best places to visit in September in Europe? Here are some of my favourites
Here’s my list of the best places to visit in September in Europe
- Zagreb, Croatia
- Crete, Greece
- Munich, Germany
- Naples, Italy
- Barcelona, Spain
- Ljubljana, Slovenia
- St. Petersburg, Russia
- Bilbao, Spain
- Turin, Italy
- Berlin, Germany
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Budapest, Hungary
- Bratislava, Slovakia
Croatia is a popular summer holiday destination but many of the tourists who flock to the fabulous coastal resorts never give much thought to its capital. Zagreb, however, offers much to those who head to Croatia’s interior and it’s sheltered climate makes it a great choice for travel in September.
Start your exploration of the city in the Old Town where you can walk on cobbled streets and also admire the architecture. Then Zagreb has a good array of museums and galleries to discover and don’t miss St Mark’s church and the Presidential Palace. Afterwards, watch the world go by from a table in one of Zagreb’s popular street cafes.
For a more detailed look at what Zagreb has to offer, click on the image below and read my full article.
The most southerly and largest of the Greek Islands, Crete is also a fabulous choice for a September break. Here you can take your pick from many gorgeous sandy beaches. You’ll find everything from well-organised beaches with parasols and activities to isolated stretches of coastline where you can have the beach to yourself.
Crete isn’t just for beach-lovers though. You’ll also find an island steeped in history with plenty to explore inland. The ancient Minoan site of Knossos is just a few miles south of the island’s capital, Heraklion. Famous as the home of the mythical Minotaur, Knossos is a fascinating site which offers a glimpse into life more than 2000 years ago.
If you’ve read Victoria Hislop’s popular novel, The Island, then you’ll know all about Spinalonga Island. A former leper colony, Spinalonga was home to many sufferers of the disease until it was finally closed down in 1957. It’s a popular day trip for tourists from the nearby resorts of Elounda and Plaka where it can be reached easily by ferry. Regular boat excursions also run from Aghios Nikolaos. If you’ve not read the book yet then add it to your holiday reading as it really is a great novel. Click below to order yours from Amazon.
Where to stay in Crete
We stayed at the fabulous Adrakos Apartments which is on the hill overlooking the beautiful resort of Elounda. This is on Crete’s east coast and is just perfect for visiting Spinalonga as well as enjoying some superb beaches. Adrakos consists of small apartments with a small kitchen and also an outside sitting area with a view. Very clean and also superb customer service from the very friendly owners. The biggest draw of Adrakos though is the view across Elounda Bay. As can be seen in the photo above. Isn’t that just exactly the sort of view you want when you travel to Greece.
For a European city break in September why not consider Munich? Although the name, Oktoberfest, sounds like it happens entirely in October it actually begins in the last week of September. So from around 21st September, you can enjoy this fabulous festival. Of course, you’ll want to taste the beer and you can do this at the various beer tents, large and small. Additionally, there are parades, fairground rides, stalls and plenty of food and drinks. It’s a great party atmosphere for which Munich has rightly become particularly famous.
Munich isn’t just about beer although that is quite a big part of it. You’ll find museums to satisfy the curiosity of the historians among you and the weather should still be nice enough in September for a stroll in the English Garden. Take a look at my “One Day in Munich” article by clicking on the link or on the image below, where I show in detail all the things to see and do in Munich.
If you’re fortunate enough to have more time in this area then take a look at my article on Day Trips from Munich which will show you how to make your most of your stay.
Italy also makes a fabulous late summer destination. In general, you can expect the weather to be warm and dry well into October if you head this far south. I’ve chosen to include Naples in my list because I think it’s often overlooked in favour of some of its more popular neighbours. Indeed, Italy has so many fabulous cities to choose from when you’re planning a trip.
The reason I’ve included Naples is that it pleasantly surprised me. Yes, it’s a gritty city and not always as clean as it could be but there is something about it which is quite endearing. The history, perhaps, the archaeological museum is a fabulous way to spend an afternoon. Or maybe it’s the pizza. After all, Naples is the home of the pizza and you’ll find it in all shapes and sizes here. Not the deep pan American style pizza but true Italian, Napoli pizza.
If you think you already know Italy but you haven’t seen Naples then you need to take a look. Read all about Naples and its historic centre in my earlier article by clicking on the image below
Visit Pompeii and Herculaneum
Another great reason for spending time in Naples is that it is the gateway to the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Here you can stroll along the streets of a Roman city, preserved in time by the pyroclastic flow of Vesuvius. You can also get a glimpse of the famous volcano as you stand on the streets of Pompeii. Both sites are easily reachable by local train from Naples and are a must-see if you’re in the area.
If the sun is shining and you’ve got more time then continue your exploration of the area with a trip along the spectacular Amalfi Coast. Accessible on the same train line as Pompeii and Herculaneum, Sorrento is also a lovely coastal town famous for its incredible views.
I first visited Andorra as a child when we were driving back from our holiday in Spain. It intrigued me then because it was late August and there was still snow on the ground on the higher mountain passes. Since then we’ve driven through Andorra on many of our Spanish and French road trips and I’ve put it on my list of best places to visit in September in Europe because it really is just a lovely place to be.
In winter, it’s a thriving ski resort and so, although it’s a small place it’s got great facilities. Despite my earlier experience, you’re unlikely to find any snow in September. Some years, you might catch a glimpse if you go high up into the mountains but mainly you can expect the weather to be mild.
The photos I’ve included were actually taken in October and as you can see, the weather is still lovely. Fabulous for walking in the beautiful green hills. The scenery here is just amazing. We’ve been many times now and you never get tired of gazing across the green hills and soaring mountain peaks. For some reason, we always manage to be there when the cable car is closed but you can drive up the windy mountain roads quite easily to get the views. Or walk, without doubt, this is really a fabulous place for walkers.
Where to stay in Andorra
We stayed at the Hotel Guillem & Spa in Encamp. It’s a great central location with parking so you can walk into town in the evenings for a meal or eat at the hotel restaurant. There’s a lovely pool & spa area which we had to ourselves when we were visiting. In addition to the pool, there’s two hot tubs and a sauna so it’s the perfect place to relax after a day’s walking.
When I think of Barcelona, I always think of Gaudi and his amazing and rather eccentric architecture. Barcelona is another European city with the perfect climate for a September trip. The intense heat of summer is past and instead, you’ll experience warm days with little rain but perfect for walking and exploring. It should still be plenty warm enough for some time on the beach as well if you’d like. In truth, Barcelona is such an amazing place. A fabulous city, it’s full of stunning parks, museums and buildings and also a really nice city beach.
Indeed, I think Barcelona is one of the nicest cities in Europe and it’s always at the top of my list for a weekend city break. Probably it’s the combination of fantastic sightseeing with fabulous Catalan wines and superb tapas that keeps calling me back. I put together a weekend in Barcelona itinerary in detail, which you can use to get you started. Just click on the image below.
Where to stay in Barcelona
We like to stay at Le Meridien hotel in Barcelona. It’s not cheap but it does have a fabulous location just off Las Ramblas. I think it’s the perfect location for exploring the city as you can walk to a lot of the sights from here.
If you’ve not visited any of the Balkan capitals yet then you’re missing out. They may be small compared to some of their European neighbours but they’re packed full of amazing things to see & do. Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia, makes a great September city break. Stroll along the river, cross the Triple Bridge, explore the castle perched on the hill. For all the details click on the image below and read my top 10 things to do in Ljubljana article.
I think St Petersburg is one of my favourite cities anywhere in the world. It’s such a wonderful city for walking around. The architecture is amazing and at every turn, you see something new and spectacular. However, the great draw of St Petersburg has to be the State Hermitage Museum. Founded by Catherine the Great, it’s actually the second-largest art gallery in the world.
The Hermitage Museum is a truly spectacular place. From the moment we approached it through the archway that you can see in the photo above, I was stunned by its imposing facade. I love museums where the building is part of the attraction and this is one of the best I have ever seen. Inside it is just an absolute delight for art lovers. I’m no art historian but I do love to wander through galleries absorbing the work of great masters. The Hermitage is huge, we spent ages there. Your ticket also gives you access to the other associated galleries so you can see modern and contemporary works as well.
It’s not all about the art galleries though. St Petersburg has some of the most spectacular and ornately decorated churches and cathedrals to discover. Stroll the canals or walk along the river. Cross the bridge and explore the Peter and Paul Fortress. You’ll not be short of things to do.
Getting a Russian visa
If you’re travelling from the UK then you will need a visa to visit Russia. It’s not the easiest visa to obtain because you have to go to the office in London to have your fingerprints taken. However, we found the process went smoothly enough and they were friendly enough at the processing centre. We’ve done it twice now and I’d say don’t let it put you off.
If you really don’t want to go through the hassle of a visa then you can visit St Petersburg on an organised tour without a visa by taking the ferry from Helsinki. You do have to take an official tour if you take this option, you can’t just wander around on your own. However, it doesn’t have to be the tour the ferry company offers. You can use any official tour provider in St Petersburg.
Personally, I think it’s worth the hassle to get the visa and spend more time in the city. Perhaps make it a double-city break and visit Moscow as well.
Where to stay in St Petersburg
We stayed at the Domina St Petersburg Hotel. It’s in a fabulous location on one of St Petersburg’s many canals and within a few minutes walk of St Isaac’s Cathedral. We loved the quirky design aspect of the hotel. It’s very colourful. Our room overlooked the central atrium so plenty of natural light and a very spacious room. We also found the service really excellent and I’d definitely stay there again. It’s also a very pleasant neighbourhood. We walked everywhere from here.
Bilbao is another of my favourite cities in Europe. Sadly, it is so often overlooked as a destination in its own right. Instead, people treat it as a just port city. Somewhere to arrive on the long overnight crossing from Portsmouth and then exited quickly on the drive south. However, Bilbao is a brilliant city for a weekend break and really does deserve a closer look.
Of course, if you love art you’ll already know that Bilbao has its own Guggenheim Museum. It’s certainly a central draw for the tourists who do visit this amazing city and with good reason. From the stunning exterior architecture and the large art installations which adorn the riverside, to the extensive and eclectic displays inside, the Guggenheim is a treasure trove of discovery.
But amazing though it is, Bilbao isn’t just the Guggenheim museum. Stroll a bit further and you’ll find a historic centre with wide-open plazas. Spend time exploring the market, walk along the river or delve into the history of this fascinating Basque Country at the Basque Museum. Find out all about what Bilbao has to offer in my article dedicated to this fabulous Spanish city. Just click on the image below.
I must admit Turin was a bit of a surprise for me. We stopped there on the way back from our Train tour around Italy and it was more for convenience than in expectation. However, I’m so glad we did. Turin is quite fascinating. Did you know, for example, that it has the most amazing Egyptian museum? It’s actually one of the best museums I’ve been to anywhere in the world. I highly recommend you go take a look.
Elsewhere in Turin, there is plenty to grab your attention. You can spend some time exploring the Royal Palace complex which includes an impressive armoury and some lovely gardens. Or visit the home of Turin football, the Allianz Stadium where Juventus are based. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on some great shopping and be aware that Turin will test your waistline with its amazing chocolate. I’ve got a blog post on Turin which will fill in all the details.
Where to stay in Turin
We always like a central hotel for a city break so that we can walk everywhere if possible or use public transport. For this reason, we stayed at the Allegroitalia Golden Palace Hotel in Turin and found it very well located. We walked from the railway station and it’s just a short walk to the city centre. On the other hand, it’s a quiet location, very peaceful. The hotel has a small spa area with a pool and saunas. It is showing its age a bit but it was kept very clean and we enjoyed a soak and using the jetted water sprays after a day walking.
If you’re looking for some September sun with history and culture thrown in then take a look at the island of Malta. Its southerly location makes it a dead cert for sunny days in September although Malta is the perfect year-round destination.
Strolling along the waterfront makes a wonderful start to the day and you can hop on one of the regular ferry boats which whiz across the harbour. You’ll want to spend some time exploring the historic capital city of Valletta. Narrow lanes and winding paths make this an exciting place to just wander and get lost. You’ll come across marvels such as the cathedral as you go but just absorbing the atmosphere of the city is a joy.
Beyond the city of Valetta, Malta has beautiful beaches, ancient archaeological sites and stunning scenery so get out and about and explore. You could even take a boat trip to the nearby island of Gozo to see life at an even slower pace.
I’m not sure anywhere is quite as central to modern European history as Berlin. Seeing the remains of the Berlin for myself is one of those bucket list moments. Everywhere you go in Berlin there are reminders of a divided Berlin and the impact of the post-war period on this part of Germany. For a history buff, it is an absolute dream.
Of course, there’s more to Berlin than the Second World War and the ensuing Cold War. The Brandenburg Gate, the enduring icon of Berlin predates them by several hundred years. Furthermore, the Reichstag, the centre of the German government provides an artistic coming together of old and new with the stunning glass dome perched ontop a historic building. In fact, this is the place to get a bird’s eye view of modern Berlin, as you can see in my photo below.
On museum island, you can indulge in art and history throughout the ages. From Ancient Rome and Greece to the complete history of Germany, you’ll find a museum to satisfy your curiosity here. Or spend time with the old masters in one of many art museums. Of course, memories of the Second World War are never completely removed when you tour Berlin. Here in front of the columned museum, you are standing where Adolf Hitler addressed the crowds and incited them to burn books. A chilling period of Berlin history but fascinating all the same.
Where to stay in Berlin
We stayed at the Circus Hotel in Berlin. Don’t let the name put you off, its location I think. Certainly, it’s not a themed hotel! Actually, it’s a lovely hotel. Super customer service. Nice modern rooms. Great prices. Plus an organic breakfast. We ate in the restaurant as well and it really is fabulous food. The hotel is easy to get to by public transport, it’s right near a metro station. However, we walked everywhere. It’s in what used to be the eastern bloc of Berlin and it’s a great neighbourhood.
Prague is another of those European cities that is just steeped in history. From the famous Wencelas Square to the fascinating historic synagogues, Prague is perfect if you like exploring old buildings. Which I do! Much of it is walkable but there’s an extensive network of trams and even a metro so getting around is easy.
I just love a city with a river. Somehow strolling along the river bank is always so calming and of course, scenic. You’ll find plenty of photo opportunities in Prague. Head up the hill to the castle and get a great view across the city as well as discovering the castle which dates back to the Middle Ages. And don’t forget that Czech beer is rightly world-famous and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to taste if for yourself.
Where to stay in Prague
I only ever recommend places where I’ve stayed which is why you’ll only ever see a handful of hotel and accommodation recommendation in my articles. In Prague, we stayed a the Prague Inn. I chose this hotel based on rave reviews online together with its location. It’s right on the famous Wenceslas Square, in the heart of Prague. This isn’t one of those big chain hotels but instead is a small family-run hotel. Very clean and with friendly service. Our room was overlooking Wencelas Square and was surprisingly spacious for a small city centre hotel.
With Budapest, you get two cities for the price of one. Buda up on the hill with its majestic castle and Pest down near the river. It’s famous for its thermal spas and you really must try one (or more). Last time we were there was in October and although the air was a touch chilly, the water was lovely.
You can easily get around using buses and the metro but another fun way to get from the castle to the river is by using the funicular railway. Cross the iconic bridge and explore Pest. Here you’ll find the Hungarian Parliament building as well as plenty of shops, restaurants and bars. As you walk along the river, look our for the Shoes on the Danube Memorial. Designed and created by film director Can Togay and sculptor Gyula Pauer this poignant memorial commemorates the Jews who were killed in Budapest during The Second World War.
Where to stay in Budapest
Hotel Castle Garden is, as the name suggests, near the castle in Budapest. It’s a really cosy hotel set up on the hill just steps from the castle. You can reach it by metro or bus although you may need to walk up some steps. It’s worth it though. We found it a great base for exploring the city and you get some fabulous views because you’re overlooking the river and city from the castle area. If you stay here, the castle area is all lit up at night and makes a great area for an evening stroll
The capital of Slovakia, Bratislava is also on the River Danube. Surrounded by vineyards and mountains, it is tucked away, almost hidden away. When you discover it, however, you’ll wish you’d found it years ago. Bratislava is a hidden gem. The central part of the city is pedestrian-only so you can wander on foot without fear of traffic. Do look out for the brass sculptures though. Some of them emerge quirkily from the pavements.
It’s not a big city so you can easily explore on foot. A walk along the Danube is always pleasant and you can also take a trip on the river by boat if you want a river’s eye view of Bratislava. As I mentioned, Bratislava is surrounded by vineyards so it should be no surprise that they make a great deal of wine. You can find out more about it at the Museum of Viniculture or try it for yourself at any of the friendly bars and restaurants in the city. We found Bratislava very good value for money and incredibly hospitable.
Where to stay in Bratislava
We always joke that Marrol’s Boutique Hotel in Bratislava is the little hotel that thinks it’s the Ritz! It’s truly an amazing small hotel and one of my great hotel discoveries. I wouldn’t stay anywhere else in Bratislava. Why does it think it’s the Ritz? I’m sure it doesn’t in reality. I say that because its customer service is so exceptional. In fact, having stayed at many 5* hotels, I’d say the service at Marrol’s actually surpasses a lot of them. From the moment they welcome you in with a glass of sparkling wine as you check-in, you just know you’re going to be happy here. What’s more, it’s not anything like 5* prices. An absolute gem.
So these are my suggestions for a September break in Europe. Indeed, I think that September is an excellent time to travel to these places and you should find pleasant or even warm weather at this tie of year. However, there are no guarantees as it can rain at any time of year in Europe unfortunately. So, be prepared and pack a light raincoat or umbrella would be my advice. I keep a rolled lightweight raincoat in my handbag just in case.
Of course, there are lots of other places you could go. Firstly, I tried to pick out places I’ve visited at that time of year and felt were a good choice. For me, that means lots of interesting things to do and see, also not totally packed with other tourists and good, reasonably priced accommodations. I also prefer it not to be too hot as we do a lot of walking. Consequently, we’ve enjoyed all the places I’ve suggested. Where we stayed in good accommodations I’ve recommended them. If I haven’t suggested a hotel, apologies, but that means we were either camping or I don’t feel I can recommend the place we stayed. Before you book, check out my guide on how to find a good hotel to find your own.