It’s common knowledge that travelling outside school holidays will get you more for your money. This year especially, hotel deals are everywhere – in London, some West End properties are collaborating with theatres on exclusive viewings for guests. Tour operators are offering fourth-quarter discounts – such as Abercrombie & Kent’s US$500 rebate on bookings to Ireland, Croatia and Eastern Europe. Abercrombie’s product manager Liam Dunch also recommends Turkey in fall, and not only for tourist-free sights when the weather is at its finest. “Prices are rising there,” he says, “so 2022 is a good year to take advantage before it gets more expensive.”
Beyond “delivering economies” in industry-speak, shoulder season presents Europe at its most show-offy. With temperatures easing, everyday life comes back to the streets. Fall foliage sets off the local colour, produce is bountiful and winemakers celebrate the harvest in festivals from Portugal to Greece. We’ve chosen four all-rounders with direct flights from Canada and direct benefits to travellers.
Where to go: Lisbon
Why it’s worth the trip: Fall is the easiest, breeziest season in this waterside capital, where restaurants, galleries, even nightclubs spill into the cobbled streets. You can catch free jazz in Parque da Bela Vista every Sunday in September, and the outdoor Fado festival Sept. 23-24.
What kind of weather to expect: Daytime temperatures hover in the low-to mid-20 C until November, when they dip into the high teens.
How much you can save: “Flights tend to come down in price for mid-September travel to Europe, and then again for travel from mid-October,” says Casey Mead of G Adventures, the escorted tour operator based in Toronto. Direct flights from Toronto or Montreal on Air Canada start at $366, round trip, in October; $312 on Air Transat – down a third or more from summer. Eating is notably reasonable, too – you can get a bounteous breakfast for $5 and fine dining for $20. You’ll practically save money kicking around town for two weeks.
Where to go: Athens
Why it’s worth the trip: In fall, you won’t have to compete for tables in the city’s most desirable neighbourhoods, Monastiraki and Kolonaki. And if you haven’t had a chance to visit the Acropolis Museum, go now, for one of Europe’s most important collection of antiquities. On display until January are two Panathenaic amphorae on loan from the Royal Ontario Museum.
What kind of weather to expect: You just won’t enjoy the sun-drenched walk around the Parthenon until September, when temperatures ease into the mid-20 C. They bottom out in late November, at around 15 C.
How much you can save: In late September, direct flights from Toronto start at $429 on Air Canada, around $100 cheaper than in summer. In October you can fly direct on Air Transat from $410, return – one of the best deals the airline has to offer, though airline rep Marie-Eve Vallieres urges travellers to book soon to avoid last-minute fare-hikes.
Where to stay: It’s easy to stay cheaply in Athens, but Urban Frame is sleeker than the rest, with balconies in most rooms and prices that go down by half in October, to $322 a night, breakfast included. Live In Athens has a collection of apartments for couples and families, starting at about $100 a night in October and November.
Where to go: Barcelona, Spain
Why it’s worth the trip: It has the rich architectural heritage and food culture of a great European capital, with the wild Costa Brava a quick ride out of town. Ferries from Barcelona’s downtown terminal reach the Balearic Islands in six to eight hours. G Adventures offers a program of hiking trips in Ibiza, designed for the cooler months.
What kind of weather to expect: The average temperature in October is 21 C, going down to 17 in mid-November. In summer it’ll hit 30 C most days.
How much you can save: You’ll pay just over half price flying in fall over summer. In October that means $388 return from Toronto on Air Transat, and $402 on Air Canada.
Where to stay: In November, “basic” rooms at lively Room Mate Carla, in the heart of art nouveau Barcelona, shrink to $117 a night. In Poblenou, closer to the beach, prices at the Hoxton go down steadily, from $375 in August to $295 in September, $270 in October and $243 in November.
Where to go: Rome
Why it’s worth the trip: Fall is when the locals come out of hiding to enjoy the city, filling the piazzas at night, doing the passeggiata past Gianicolo Park. “If travellers are looking for a big-city experience,” says Mead of G Adventures, “the weather is still beautiful in Rome, the crowds are almost all gone, you’ll meet more local people to connect with and see better museum exhibits on display for the winter months.” The Romaeuropa Festival, from mid-September through mid-November, brings live music, dance, opera and art to venues across the city.
What kind of weather to expect: To Romans, September still counts as summer, yet evenings are cooler and temperatures settle into a comfortable 22 C by October.
How much you can save: If you can travel before November, when routes from Canada start to dry up, you’ll pay less than $425, return, with Air Canada and Air Transat (direct from Toronto only). That’s down from $700 in August.
Where to stay: There’s the rub. Hotel rates in Rome fall in scorching August, followed by a September bump. Prices even out in October. At Hotel Navona, a super-friendly inn astonishingly close to the Pantheon, you can get a double room with breakfast for $241. Monti Palace, on a pretty vine-covered cobbled lane 10 minutes’ walk from the Colosseum, is a step up in terms of price and luxury. A double room, including breakfast at the rooftop restaurant, goes for $290 a night.
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