Fall is a beautiful time to visit the region of Central and Eastern Europe. You’ll find that cities are less crowded and restaurants begin to offer more hearty fare. The heat of summer gives way to cooler temperatures. But it’s when you step into the region’s natural landscapes that you’ll understand that the months of September and October, in particular, are special for fall colors in Eastern Europe.
Golden, orange, and red leaves crown the tops of ancient, regal trees. The crisp air, which smells of woodsmoke and the earthy scent of the season’s decaying foliage, is refreshing. And historic architecture—including churches, castles, villages, and manor houses—is set picturesquely into the landscape, often with nearby reflecting ponds, gardens, orchards, or fields in the midst of harvest to complete the picture.
Take a look at these best places to see autumn foliage in Eastern Europe and fall in love with autumn travel.
1. The Baltics – Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia
The Baltic countries are full of large, beautiful national parks that beg for the attention of nature lovers as well as attractions set in leafy environments. Enormous trees, including ancient oaks, shed their bright foliage in the autumn, coating the ground with gold.
In Lithuania, visit manor house parks, such as that at Ilzenbergas, for historic architecture set against fall colors. Alternatively, check out national parks such as Aukstaicija National Park or regional parks such as Anyksciai Regional Park to explore nature.
A day trip to Trakai is another option that will prove unforgettable – a castle on a lake surrounded by leaves of flame? Amazing!
In Latvia, consider a trip to a medieval castle, such as Turaida, set deep into the Latvian forest. Or visit a park such as Gauja National Park to learn about the ecosystems and flora and fauna that live there.
In Estonia, experience the magic of fall by walking through the park surrounding the church ruins in Tartu. Lahemaa National Park is also a winning option for autumn colors. Even the bogs and swamps here grow more picturesque as the warmth of summer fades and nature segues into winter.
2. Lake Bled – Slovenia
Lake Bled is a romantic destination in Slovenia perfect for those who love autumn foliage. The lake is surrounded by trees that change with the seasons as well as holiday houses to accommodate those lucky enough to stay in this picturesque spot.
Go up to the castle on the cliff to look out over the lake to get a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. Or take a boat to the island in the middle of the lake and visit the church there as you are surrounded by by glorious golds, reds, oranges, and greens.
Lake Bled will take your breath away in any season, but in fall, it is especially appealing.
3. Transylvania – Romania
For fall wonders, Romania’s Transylvania region should be on your list. Historic cities set in the mountains give way to parks of stunning natural scenery. Go on a hiking trip or rent a cabin in the woods to immerse yourself in the beauty of the months of September or October.
You may also ride on the Mocanita steam train, which has a forest route, where you can view the fall colors as the train rocks you into relaxation.
4. Lake Balaton – Hungary
Lake Balaton is Hungary’s huge lake surrounded by vineyards and villages. During the fall and in fine weather, the lake takes on the gentle colors of the environment, with sunset being a particularly lovely time of day. The golden foliage of the trees and the withering grapevines offer the countryside a soft-focus effect.
Pair your visit to Lake Balaton in the fall with a wine tasting or enjoy countryside cuisine. You may also visit Heviz thermal lake, which is ringed by trees that turn all shades of gold when the season changes. The refreshing, mineralized waters will warm you despite any chill in the air, and you’ll feel revived with the spirit of the autumn.
5. Cesky Krumlov – Czech Republic
Cesky Krumlov is one of the most beautiful cities in Czechia. If it’s even possible, this destination is even more lovely in the autumn. A town situated on the s-bend of a river that seems lifted from a Thomas Kincade painting and an impressive castle are just waiting to be explored.
Climb to the top of the Renaissance-era tower for views of the surrounding countryside, and the beauty will multiply, especially if you visit when the leaves begin to turn. The bird’s-eye view you’ll get will befit a Disney animated movie’s aerial pan of a fictional hamlet—except Cesky Krumlov is real.
6. Krakow – Poland
Many people’s favorite Polish city becomes even more attractive in the golden glow of autumn. Explore the city in the cool weather as the leaves crunch under your feet. Various parks throughout the city offer benches for enjoying the smell of fallen leaves and a quiet moment with a takeaway cup of tea.
Wawel Castle’s gardens will also have an autumnal tinge as vines redden with the fading summer. Be sure to enjoy the lookout from the top over the river to catch the trees turning colors.
Another option is to climb to one of the mounds outside of Krakow’s center. Any time of year, they’re one of the best things to do in Krakow. But in fall, you’ll get the advantage of autumn foliage tinting the landscape.
7. Plitvice Lakes – Croatia
Plitvice Lakes is one of the top sights in Croatia at any time of year, with waterfalls and pools that take on otherworldly colors.
But it’s not only the golden leaves that make Plitvice Lakes worth visiting in the fall. Paying a visit to this park in the shoulder season is worthwhile because you’ll also have to contend with thinner crowds, which can make seeing the lakes a chore during the high season.
How to see Fall Colors in Eastern Europe
Many of Eastern Europe’s cities are green, so seeing fall colors is often as easy as visiting even major cities and taking a stroll. However, you may also want to:
- Take a river boat ride to see the autumn leaves lining a major waterway.
- Go on a hike through a national forest.
- Hire a private guide to take you off the beaten path.
- Rent a car and drive through the countryside.
- Relax at a resort or spa, many of which are set in peaceful natural environments.
What to Do During Your Fall Foliage Trip to Eastern Europe
Besides viewing the fall colors, autumn offers plenty of other activities for travelers to Eastern Europe. For example:
- Go on a mushroom-hunting trip (but only with someone knowledgeable). This season is an excellent one for finding edible mushrooms.
- Try seasonal dishes. Hearty stews, ripened cheeses, and dishes made from fall produce will begin to appear on tables this time of year.
- Enjoy cozy time spent on café or restaurant terraces or inside their historic interiors.
- If the weather becomes too chill or rainy, visit one of the excellent museums in your destination city
- Fall colors are different in Eastern Europe than they are in the US, so practice your photography skills to capture plenty of memories.
A visit to Eastern Europe in the autumn months will leave you with a glowing impression of the region. Moreover, your photos will wow others. You may never choose to travel in another season again.