Whether you’re after an island retreat, a weekend of culture, some late season sunshine or just a couple of days in a new corner of the UK, an autumn break is always a smart idea.
Faro is probably best known as a starting point for other holidays within the Algarve, but it’s a great city for a mini break in its own right. The medieval walled centre is unspoilt and if you head to one of the well-maintained public parks you may just bump into one of the many free-roaming peacocks. Dining options are relaxed and plentiful, with the attractive marina being the place to head for freshly landed lobster and razor clams. Don’t just admire the seascape from land though; get out onto the water with a marine biologist guided boat trip around the protected lagoons and flatlands which make up Ria Formosa Natural Park. You can spot dolphins until the end of October and even whales if you’re lucky, with flamingos and 270 other species of bird to look out for too. The sizeable student population keeps the nightlife going long after the tourist season and with almost year-round sunshine, Faro is a brilliant choice for an autumn getaway.
Before booking a trip to Bern you should be warned that you may struggle to come home, Bern regularly tops the Quality of Life Index as one of the best cities to live in the world and it’s obvious why as soon as you arrive. A UNESCO World Heritage old town, Bern looks more like a mythical land dreamt up by the Brothers Grimm than a capital city. Locals are happy, you can drink from the ornamental fountains, over half of the city is greenspace and bicycles outnumber cars two to one. The dense trees that line the river Aare glow with orange tones in autumn and if you’re ready to see just how laidback city life can be, this is definitely a place to explore. Just be prepared to spend part of your trip looking in estate agent windows.
Not dissimilar to Venice, Florence can be stiflingly hot in August and the crowds can verge on unbearable. If you can wait until late September to feast on the immense art and food that Florence has to offer, you’ll be rewarded with shorter lines, better deals and the bounties of harvest season. Florence is a pleasingly walkable city, but don’t underestimate just how much there is to see here. You could visit time and time again without running out of cultural treasures to lose yourself in. Of course if you just want to immerse yourself in unrivalled Tuscan surroundings with a glass of Chianti and a panino al lampredotto, you can sit back and do that too. Foodies are rewarded for visiting in November too, when the San Miniato Truffle Fair celebrates all that the humble white truffle has to offer.
Quimper is the oldest city in Brittany, but it feels more like a village thanks to its narrow cobbled streets and scenic half-timber houses. Situated where the famously picturesque rivers Odet and Steir meet, you can walk from one side of Quimper to the other in around half an hour. There’s plenty to enjoy though with peaceful gardens, historic potteries, the Gothic cathedral and of course the endless restaurants and cafes serving up delectable Breton cuisine. As autumn is the season for harvesting apples, September-December is the ideal time to sample Brittany’s famous cidre bouché and have a bash at making your own. If you enjoy the slower pace of Jersey, this is definitely a region to explore and fall in love with.
Both port cities have gone through enormous regeneration in the past decade, but Belfast in particular has managed to regenerate the port area into an award-winning tourist destination thanks to the opening of Titanic Belfast – a truly spectacular museum dedicated to the infamous ship constructed here. The boutique hotels, unique bars and buzzing restaurant scene have attracted tourists back to the once troubled city but it still doesn’t feel overrun, so you can take your time and enjoy the key sights at your leisure. Moody autumnal skies lend themselves well to the popular Game of Thrones tours that set off from the city centre, if you fancy seeing the real Winterfell during your stay too.
Menorca may not have the flashy yachts and sprawling resorts of its Majorcan neighbour but with just as much sunshine and an arguably more impressive coastline, it’s definitely an island beckoning to be explored. The island was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the early nineties and this special status has ensured the scenery remains as unspoiled as possible. Whilst you may not find Palma’s late night glamour-set, you’ll be able to enjoy intimate beaches and hidden coves that offer a sense of luxury which simply can’t be rivalled by any swanky beach club cocktail list. Mahon itself is home to the second deepest natural harbour in the world, which made it the perfect home to the British Mediterranean fleet in the 18th century. The legacy of British occupation is still reflected in the architecture of this equable town, as well as on the drinks menus where gin is a speciality.
Known to some as the Greek Ibiza, Mykonos has become the destination of choice for the fiercely fabulous. With idyllic scenery and golden beaches, Mykonos certainly impresses as a chic resort. It’s not just about the exclusive setting though, you’ll find boutique bars and some of Greece’s most high-end nightclubs on the island. With closing parties in September it’s worth checking in advance if you’re trying to see particular DJs but you’ll find sunshine and beautiful people throughout autumn, not to mention typically warm Greek hospitality and sublime seafood.