Fall Festivities Bring Out the Best in Europe

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With the crowds thinned out and temperatures cooler, autumn can be a wonderful time to visit Europe, especially if you plan your trip around a festival.

Of course Munich’s Oktoberfest is one of the continent’s biggest fall gatherings, taking place this year from Sept. 22 to Oct. 7. There’ll be traditional Bavarian food, brass bands, processions and beer from the city’s breweries, large and small alike. The fun, food and drink are all served up under more than than a dozen tents, each with its own specialties, activities and atmosphere.

But there’s a lot to celebrate in Europe beyond Oktoberfest.

Once a year, visitors to Paris can see the City of Lights shine all night long. The first Saturday in October is the time for White Night, or Nuit Blanche, a festival of the arts when the streets of Paris are filled with activity from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. This year, it takes place on Oct. 6. Public transportation is free, museums stay open and restaurants offer special deals. Exhibits, concerts and performances take place around the city. There are even events geared toward children.

Barcelona’s biggest festival, La Merce, has its origins in the Roman Catholic feast day of Our Lady of Mercy. This year, it takes place from Sept. 21-24. The four days are filled with hundreds of events spread throughout the city’s plazas, parks and museums, including music and dancing, theater, circus acts and street parades. One of the most unusual events is the Catalan tradition of erecting castells, or human towers, involving dozens of participants. Each year, a guest city is invited to the festival, and in 2018, it’s Lisbon.

White truffles are among the world’s most rare and expensive foods, renowned for their distinct aroma and intense, earthy flavor. The Piedmont region is Italy’s truffle capital, and every year the town of Alba holds the International Alba White Truffle Fair, this year from Oct. 6 to Nov. 25. There are concerts, food fairs and markets, wine-tastings, sporting events, donkey races, a parade and activities for children. On Nov. 11, the Alba White Truffle World Auction takes place.

The world’s biggest cocktail festival will be held in London, during Cocktail Week, Oct. 1-7. Participants buy a digital pass that enables them to sample specially priced cocktails in 300 bars across the city. In addition, a Cocktail Village is set up in Old Spitalfields Market, with pop-up bars, food vendors and a chance to sample new products and drink creations. There are also master classes, distillery tours, parties, cocktail tastings and cocktails with paired meals throughout the week.

Fall is a great time to view one of Switzerland’s most festive traditions, which takes place in towns across the Alps in places like the Appenzell region, about 90 minutes from Zurich. On Saturdays in September and October, witness the parade of cows coming down from their pastures, wearing bells and decorated with flowers.

For help planning a fall vacation to Europe, contact your travel agent.

Katie HoranComment