Forget spring flowers and songs about tulips: autumn is the time to visit Amsterdam.
The city is at its best as the summer gently fades, as leaves on the trees along the canals turn shades of brown and drop to reveal even better views of historic gables, and as people slowly withdraw from terraces into the softly lit warmth of wood-panelled cafés. This autumn works by two great artists known for their subtle play with light and dark, Rembrandt and his Spanish contemporary Velázquez, hang side by side alongside other Dutch and Spanish masters in the Rijksmuseum for Rembrandt-Velazquez (until January 19, 2020), a massive exhibition held in conjunction with Madrid’s Prado Gallery.
Soho House Amsterdam
Yesmovies 9 Telegraph expert ratingHotel guests have access to a private club for creatives in a monumental 1930s building in the very centre of town. The club spaces – a restaurant, lounge, exhilarating roof terrace, and bars – are relaxed and convivial. A private cinema, canal-view gym and easy-going, yet attentive service add to the allure.Read expert reviewFrom£143per night
8 Telegraph expert ratingLively public areas, cheeky Dutch design, and rooms honed to the basics but lavish in areas that count (ginormous, blissfully comfortable beds) are the hallmarks of this centrally situated hotel. Staff are fun to talk with, breakfast isn’t half bad, either, and other meals are good-value and imaginative.Read expert reviewFrom£89per nightCheck availabilityRates provided byBooking.com
• Where to stay in Amsterdam: hotels by district
Autumn is when Barcelona really comes alive, with a full programme of events and exhibitions. The V&A-produced Opera: Passion, Power & Politics is a dramatic and immersive musical journey through eight countries and four centuries at the CaixaForum (until January 26, 2020). In the run up to Christmas, don’t miss the fairy-tale market huddled around the Cathedral (December 11-24).
Room Mate Anna
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
8 Telegraph expert ratingA great-value mid-range hotel with a sassy design and comfortable rooms in the heart of the Eixample. A small pool and sundeck double as social centre and what the Anna lacks in facilities it makes up for in friendliness.Read expert reviewFrom£65per nightCheck availabilityRates provided byBooking.com
Hotel The Serras
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
9 Telegraph expert ratingSunny, friendly and supremely comfortable, The Serras is one of a new breed of stylish and unstuffy five-stars changing the face of the Barcelona hotel scene. Its decked rooftop bar and pool area, with views across the port, is worth a visit even for non-guests, as is its restaurant.Read expert reviewFrom£262per nightCheck availabilityRates provided byBooking.com
• The most romantic hotels in Barcelona
Berlin is at its most charming during autumn, thanks mainly to the city’s abundant parks (around 2,500), public gardens and tree-lined streets, which transform into a blaze of reds, oranges and yellows. It’s a busy time for events too. During October you can visit the Festival of Lights (until October 20) and the annual Jazzfest (October 31-November 3). This year will also see the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, with a week of festivities from November 4-10.
8 Telegraph expert ratingThis West Berlin boutique bolthole offers a flamboyant and seductive interior by Israeli hotshot Saar Zafrir, a fabulous Asian-themed restaurant by celebrated local chef Duc Ngo, and a glamorous bar that’s buzzing at weekends. Service is classy and welcoming.Read expert reviewFrom£77per nightCheck availabilityRates provided byBooking.com
SO/ Berlin Das Stue
8 Telegraph expert ratingThis swish five-star, run by Sofitel’s hip SO/ brand, mixes a warm and sophisticated interior design with a contemporary hospitality concept. There’s Michelin-starred cuisine, a Susanne Kaufmann spa, and the Berlin Zoo, Tiergarten park and the Landwehr Canal are right on the doorstep.Read expert reviewFrom£167per nightCheck availabilityRates provided byBooking.com
• The hippest hotels in Berlin
The crowds have thinned, the low, golden sun catches the spires and gables, fallen leaves skitter over the cobbles, and restaurants and hotels light their log fires – it’s a lovely time to visit Bruges. The festive Christmas market runs this year from November 22 to January 5, when the historic city centre glows with low-lit stalls – clustered around an ice-rink – selling crafts and seasonal snacks, interspersed with genial pop-up bars offering Glühwein and jenever gin. A new feature, the “Light Walk”, has been designed to guide walkers through illuminated parts of the city during the same period.
Where to stay
Hotel Van Cleef
9 Telegraph expert ratingThere is no other place to stay in Bruges quite like this: a small luxury boutique hotel in a neoclassical mansion with large terrace overlooking a pretty stretch of canal. Family-owned and managed and designed with exquisite attention to detail; at once gloriously palatial yet intimate.Read expert reviewFrom£180per nightCheck availabilityRates provided byBooking.com
Canal Deluxe Bed and Breakfast
9 Telegraph expert ratingBruges has a handful of truly exceptional B&Bs, and this is one of them. Close to the centre, yet quietly located on a tranquil canal, it oozes charm, individuality, pampering luxury, antiquity and style. If a romantic place to stay in this city of romance is what you are seeking, look no further.Read expert reviewFrom£129per nightCheck availabilityRates provided byBooking.com
• The best hotels on Bruges’ canals
Budapest is lovely in autumn, when the sun mellows and the parks turn honey-coloured. Visit during the CAFe Contemporary Arts Festival (until October 20), when performances of music, dance and theatre are staged in 40 venues around the city. Come winter and there’s romance in the air, with alfresco skating on the lake in City Park, and Christmas markets selling traditional wooden toys and steaming cups of mulled wine. For dates, see: budapest.com.
Corinthia Hotel Budapest
9 Telegraph expert ratingThe Corinthia carries itself with an effortless grace that no other five-star in Budapest quite matches. Its wide spaces, light marble colouring and glass-covered atriums give a lovely airy feel to the public spaces, and there’s nothing frilly or overly fussy in the design.Read expert reviewFrom£133per nightCheck availabilityRates provided byBooking.com
8 Telegraph expert ratingGerlóczy lacks bells and whistles – indeed, it’s officially categorised as a private lodging rather than a hotel – but it oozes character you’ll find nowhere else in the city. Among locals, its café is a much-loved alternative to some of the bigger and more expensive establishments nearby. It’s excellent value.Read expert reviewFrom£71per nightCheck availabilityRates provided byBooking.com
• The best boutique hotels in Budapest
Crisp autumn days are the perfect time to explore Copenhagen’s many lovely parks – they’re ablaze with colourful foliage at this time of year and there’s every chance of spotting red squirrels foraging among the fallen conkers. Cafés and cocktail bars hit peak hygge, all cosy and candlelit, and Hallowe’en season at Tivoli (until November 3) sees the gardens decked out with suitably spooky decorations and countless pumpkins. From mid-November the city goes into full-on festive mode, with fairy lights everywhere and gløgg-scented Christmas markets selling handicrafts, decorations and seasonal foods.
Where to stay
71 Nyhavn Hotel
8 Telegraph expert rating71 Nyhavn has been converted from two old warehouses sitting slap bang on the waterfront, and makes a convenient, characterful Copenhagen base. It also has a great place to eat in Sea by Kiin Kiin, an offshoot of one of the city’s Michelin-starred restaurants.Read expert reviewFrom£169per nightCheck availabilityRates provided byBooking.com
9 Telegraph expert ratingA Copenhagen landmark, the d’Angleterre is an historic grande dame hotel brought bang up to date thanks to a stylish modern makeover a few years ago. It has an excellent location at the heart of the city, a one-Michelin-starred restaurant and a ritzy guest list that ranges from rock stars to royalty.Read expert reviewFrom£356per night
• The most romantic hotels in Copenhagen
Blue sky and mellow sunshine, but without the summer crowds, make Dubrovnik a joy to visit in autumn. Call at the morning market, displaying mandarins, pomegranates and dried figs, walk a full circuit of the magnificent medieval city walls, then stop for a homemade cake at Gianni. For an out-of-town trip, go wine-tasting on Pelješac peninsula, where the grape harvest is in full swing. In town, the Good Food Festival (until October 20) sees cookery workshops, special menus and culinary walks.
Hotel Bellevue Dubrovnik
9 Telegraph expert ratingThis slick, modern hotel lies in a sheltered bay with a beach, midway between Dubrovnik’s Old Town and Lapad. All 91 refurbished rooms have tasteful contemporary interiors and magnificent sea views. It has two breezy restaurants, a wine bar, and a wellness centre and spa with a sea-view indoor pool.Read expert reviewFrom£129per nightCheck availabilityRates provided byBooking.com
9 Telegraph expert ratingThis lovely boutique hotel, set in a beautifully restored 16th-century stone building in Dubrovnik’s picturesque old town, attracts discerning couples on a romantic city break. It’s a chic but unpretentious retreat, offering sightseeing and a measure of independence (each suite has a kitchenette).Read expert reviewFrom£260per nightCheck availabilityRates provided byBooking.com
• Where to stay in Dubrovnik: hotels by district
Edinburgh’s New Town takes on a golden glow in the soft autumn light and the Old Town becomes moodily atmospheric as the evenings draw in. Capitalise on that spooky feeling by celebrating Halloween Scottish style at the Samhuinn Fire Festival on Calton Hill (October 31). For something a little more sedate, lovers of all things antique, retro and vintage can catch the biggest antiques fair in the country—there’s even a free bus from the city centre to the venue (November 23-24). And of course, from mid-November Edinburgh lights up for Christmas with markets, rides, shows and events (November 16 to January 4,2020).
( telegraph )