The best places to visit in Europe in September offer a rich tapestry of experiences. As the summer heat gradually subsides, the region transforms into a land of festivals, feasts, and celebrations, whether you’re here for the wine harvest or on the hunt for fresh truffles in Italy.
Medieval traditions are celebrated in the most unexpected places, so you could well come across parades and fiestas during your travels. Or perhaps you’re more interested in the beach, which is fortunate as the Mediterranean has had the whole summer to warm up and is still warm in early September.
If these reasons are not compelling enough, then come for the simple fact that the summer vacation crowds have faded away, and you’ll still have glorious weather but more space to yourself.
Barcelona’s busy summer season is beginning to wind down by September, which means crowds are thinning out around popular Spanish landmarks like Antoni Gaudí’s magnificent basilica, La Sagrada Familia.
The seasonal beach restaurants, called chiringuitos, are still open and are the perfect option for tapas in the warm afternoon sun after a busy morning of sightseeing.
Visit Barcelona later in the month and you’ll be able to see the Festes de la Mercè, which celebrates Our Lady of Mercy, the city’s patron saint. This involves concerts, fireworks, dancing the Sardana (a traditional Catalan dance), and the correfoc, or fire run. Don’t be alarmed by this—you’ll see locals racing through the streets dressed as devils, letting off firecrackers.
September 11 is also Catalan Day, Cataluña’s national day, with cultural events and patriotism a-plenty. On the same day, the Festa Major de la Ribera takes place, with more fireworks and acrobats forming human towers.
Málaga lies on the Costa del Sol, where you’ll still find hot summer weather in September. Take a day trip to beautiful Granada in the mountains to see the magnificent Alhambra’s Palace, or explore the museums in town. The Museo Picasso Málaga and the more recent Centre Pompidou, an outpost of the famous Parisian art museum, are both top choices.
Meanwhile, Málaga’s beaches will still be busy and the historic center buzzing with locals and visitors. Try some of the excellent tapas bars in the narrow streets around the cathedral after your visit.
If your trip to Málaga coincides with the Feria de Torremolinos, which usually takes place at the end of the month, head along the coast and you’ll see a completely different face of this modern, high-rise beach town.
The Feria is quite the sight. Locals emerge in all their finery, many dressed in flamenco costume, mounted on prancing pedigree Andalusian horses. They parade through the town, ending the romeria with a big party, cooking paella in giant pans in the countryside.
Hilly Lisbon is one of Europe’s most captivating capital cities, basking on the estuary of the Tagus River, the salty air off the Atlantic a reminder of Portugal’s seafaring legacy.
Because of its location, Lisbon has cooler winters than cities around the Mediterranean, but September is still a glorious month to visit.
Lisbon is a city of elaborate palaces, cobbled squares, and lofty cathedrals, the older districts a tangle of often steep narrow lanes.
There’s color everywhere—you’ll find houses in shades of dusky pink, sunflower yellow, and blue adorned with intricate azulejos tiles. Old-fashioned yellow-and-white electric trams clatter along the narrow streets.
Head for the old Moorish district of Alfama, one of the best neighborhoods in Lisbon. Here, you can visit the cathedral, the Romanesque Sé de Lisboa, and the crenelated Castelo de Sao Jorge, a 12th-century Moorish castle. Stroll around the ramparts and enjoy views down over the city.
Foodies should head for the mouth-watering Time Out Market. Half of this sprawling site is dedicated to selling scrumptious fresh produce, while the rest is wine bars and small restaurants, which are always buzzing.
In the center, there’s a cooking school where you can learn how to make pasteis de nata, Lisbon’s iconic custard tart, which is encased in flaky pastry and sprinkled with cinnamon.
The lovely old town of Porto, on the southern bank of the Douro River, is one of the best European cities to visit in September. This is the month when the grapes are harvested from the immaculate vineyards that stretch sinuously over the hilly river banks further upstream.
Port wine is synonymous with the city, and whatever time of year you visit, there will be multiple chances to try it.
Come in September and you could be part of the harvest. Grapes for port wine are crushed by stomping in bare feet (washed, of course), a strange sensation if you try it but enormous fun with music, drinking, and celebrations.
Many of the vineyards will invite volunteers to help tread the grapes; joining a Douro Valley winery tour is your best bet.
September is the month when Italians return from their annual vacation, refreshed, and Florence thrums with late-season energy and events galore.
A gelato festival usually takes place on Piazzale Michelangelo, offering a chance to try world-class artisan gelato. On Piazza Santa Croce, there’s also a festival of buffalo mozzarella, showcasing different ways of serving this deliciously creamy cheese.
Festivals aside, September is a wonderful time to try the food of Florence. Truffles are in season, as are intensely flavored white peaches. You’ll find fresh porcini mushrooms on restaurant menus and in marketplaces.
As for sightseeing, you’ll be able to gaze at some of the best art in Florence, such as Michelangelo’s exquisite David in the Accademia, without too many crowds. Climb up to the top of the Duomo to look out over the rolling Tuscan hills, glowing gold in the soft autumn sunshine.
September in Rome is a wonderful time for walking, as the intense heat of August has faded. Sidewalk cafés and restaurants are still doing a roaring trade as locals sip their morning cappuccino in the sunlight, or enjoy extended al fresco lunches in the pleasant warmth of the fall. The beautiful Villa Borghese park is still perfect for picnics or cycle rides.
Visit some of Rome’s popular landmarks, such as the Forum, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain, ready to throw in a coin to ensure your return to the Eternal City.
Gaze in wonder at the masterpieces in the Vatican Museums, and the extraordinary vastness of St. Peter’s—or explore more of Rome’s many magnificent churches.
Take a day trip from Rome into the rolling countryside of the Lazio region on a tour that offers tastings of locally produced wine and olive oil.
Naples is a busy, thriving port, buzzing with energy whenever you visit. September is a good time to head for the nearby archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Both were buried by ash in 79 AD when nearby Vesuvius exploded in a cataclysmic eruption.
The event was so quick that the inhabitants of both cities were taken completely by surprise. Centuries later, when both were excavated, scenes of everyday life were revealed, as well as perfectly preserved houses and mosaics.
September is a good time to explore either site as the sun is less intense; neither has much shade, but this won’t matter so much in the fall.
September is nearing the end of the season for nearby beach towns like Sorrento and the islands of Capri and Ischia. These will be winding down now, although for the first half of September at least, you’ll still be able to lie on the beach.
Venice lies in the north of Italy, so is cooler than the hot, dry south. September is still warm, but the light takes on a softer hue.
If you take a cruise on the lagoon, or ride the vaporetto (water buses) to islands like Murano and Burano, you could find an ethereal mist hanging over the water, which adds to the atmosphere.
There will still be crowds around Piazza San Marco; Venice is a year-round destination. So head off into the back streets, which are actually greeny-blue canals, as there are no streets in Venice.
Lose yourself in sleepy alleys and sunlit squares during a day in Venice. Inhale the scents of the city; fresh laundry hanging across a canal, or garlic wafting from the kitchen of a nearby trattoria. It’s easy enough to find your way back—San Marco and the Rialto bridge are widely signposted.
For the best views of Venice, head across to Giudecca island and Il Redentore church. Get a ticket for the campanile, or bell tower. From the top, the whole city stretches out in front of you, and you’ll see boats buzzing up and down Giudecca Canal and people milling around San Marco like ants.
Cannes should be basking in sunshine well into September. The glamorous Boulevard de la Croisette, lined with designer shops, will still be busy, and locals will be enjoying late summer sunshine at the beach.
Some of the best things to do in Cannes include exploring the streets of Le Suquet, the pretty old quarter, or browsing the Marché Forville for treats for a beach picnic. You can eat in the market, too, at various gourmet counters.
Alternatively, take a trip out of town into the hills to the exquisite medieval village of St. Paul de Vence, its narrow streets lined with art galleries. Or visit Grasse, the epicenter of France’s perfume industry, and blend your own fragrance in one of the perfumeries.
On the sun-drenched plains of Andalucia, Seville will be warm well into September.
The city is full of energy. With luck, you’ll have arrived in a year when the Flamenco Biennial is taking place, a festival of dance and music that brings the world’s finest performers to the city.
Whether or not the Biennial is on, you’ll hear music in the streets of Santa Cruz, the old Jewish quarter, where it’s possible to join a dance class for a day and learn some moves of the complex and dramatic flamenco dance.
Otherwise, spend time in the Real Alcázar, a glorious palace that exemplifies Mudejar architecture. Here, you’ll find sunken gardens, elaborate artworks, intricate mosaics, and grand salons. The nearby Giralda Tower is a Moorish minaret that’s the symbol of this magnificent Spanish city.
No longer a minaret, the tower now houses the bell for the cathedral. The 308 steps to the top are curiously wide—they were built for mules, rather than humans to ascend. Needless to say, the views from the top are breathtaking.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam is a popular destination year-round. Sunny September days, however, are always pleasant for wandering around as it’s usually still warm and the trees in the parks are beginning to take on their fall colors.
You can do much of this very flat city on foot—or do as the Dutch do and cycle. There are so many museums that you have to pick your favorite, whether it’s the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum for Dutch old masters, or the poignant Anne Frank House in Amsterdam’s Centrum.
The second weekend of September brings Open Monument Day, when private mansions, institutions, and gardens are opened to the public, giving a fascinating glimpse into an otherwise hidden world.
There are sporting events, too; the Amsterdam City Swim takes place in September when some 3,000 swimmers race in the canals, which are normally used only by boats.
Ancient Messina clings to the northeastern corner of Sicily, gazing across the narrow Straits of Messina at Calabria, the tip of Italy’s “toe”. There’s plenty to see here, and as the August heat will be calming down, you should have more energy for sightseeing.
Take a look inside the magnificent Duomo, a graceful basilica with soaring columns and an elaborate ceiling. Admire the mosaics in the apse and check out the Museum of the Treasure of the Cathedral, which is full of gold and silver pieces.
Take a trip to Savoca, a pretty hilltop town in Sicily with magnificent views over the Straits. Fans of classic movies will want to visit the Godfather Museum here in the Bar Vitelli.
Or head for Taormina, a glamorous town clinging to a hillside with dramatic views of distant Mount Etna. The Greco-Roman theater here is one of the most beautiful in the world, with tantalizing mountain and sea views.
Taormina itself exudes beauty, where the fragrance of orange blossom is in the air. The bakeries along Corso Umberto vie to see which can offer the best cannoli, a local specialty of pastry stuffed with sweetened ricotta.
Valencia is gorgeous at any time of year and is one of the best places to visit in Europe in September. A clear fall day with a deep blue sky accentuates the dazzling modern architecture of the City of Arts and Sciences, all curves and shimmering reflective surfaces.
Visit the cathedral in Valencia’s Old Town. This is where what’s believed to be the original Holy Grail is kept. By fall, as the tourist season winds down, you shouldn’t have to wait long in line to see this significant artifact.
Another one of the best things to do in Valencia is to browse the covered market for picnic ingredients; you can pick up salty Manchego cheese, late-season peaches, and jamon serrano before heading to the Turia Gardens for lunch. This lush park, the former bed of the Turia River, snakes through the city center.
Alternatively, pick a restaurant full of office workers who know where to go for the best paella. Valencia is the home of paella, and you can’t go wrong here, whether you opt for the seafood version, packed with squid, clams, and mussels, or a meatier dish, typically with rabbit, chicken, or snails.
Tempted to plan your trip to Europe this September? Browse Celebrity’s itineraries and plan your perfect fall vacation.