By India Dowley
Summer might be over (weep) but fret not – autumn is one of our favourite seasons for travel, with many European destinations in their element. Whether you’re seeking the lingering warmth of the sun, copper-hued landscapes or a city escape with just the right amount of chill in the air, we’ve got you covered. Embracing the trend for off-season travel is an eco-conscious choice that guarantees you both sun loungers and dinner reservations without having to fight for them.
The island of Madeira might be diminutive – measuring just 57km in length and 22km in width – but is attracting increasing numbers of visitors due to its subtropical Mediterranean climate, luxuriant greenery and renowned wine. It’s no wonder the locals want to keep this Portuguese haven to themselves. If you've already explored Porto and Lisbon and are seeking something fresh, set your sights on Funchal, Madeira's serene and unpretentious capital, which beckons with its laid-back ambience and host of waterfront tapas bars
STAY: Quinta da Casa Branca
This architectural masterpiece is all wood, glass and stone, with expansive windows that immerse guests in its beautiful garden surroundings. Two restaurants, a heated pool and a well-appointed health club will keep you entertained.
The Highlands, Scotland
When autumn hits The Highlands, ethereal landscapes become cloaked in the season’s splendour, with cloud-brushed mountains merging into chilly ancient lochs, deer wandering bronzed glens and stone-walled castles bathed in soft sunlight. Perhaps the most dramatic season of all, the transition from green to gold invites exploration by foot or car, while the weather (not yet treacherously cold or wet) allows visitors to enjoy outdoor pursuits during the day before curling up fireside come evening.
STAY: The Fife Arms
This wildly romantic retreat from Hauser & Wirth has a striking location, but what sets it apart is the creative vision that transforms art into an immersive encounter. A watercolour by Queen Victoria shares space with a neon antler chandelier, while bric à brac, objets d’art, sumptuous fabrics, antiques and Oriental rugs make for a playful design narrative.
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The best time to experience Marrakech is during autumn (or spring) when the climate is pleasantly warm without being stifling. Meandering through ochre-toned labyrinthine streets, you’ll arrive at the medina, buzzing with spice, leather and lantern markets. Amid the city's spirited rhythm, tranquil rooftop oases and softly lit hammams offer solace, while beyond the ancient core, a contemporary pulse thrives, embodied in design-forward local enterprises, chic French-inspired hotels and LA-esque concept stores. Fusing cosmopolitan flair with tradition, the city's genuine warmth and diverse local tapestry establish Marrakech as a city break in a league of its own.
STAY: El Fenn
Riad charm meets modern amenities in this stylish hotel in the heart of the medina. With 41 individually styled rooms, three pools, a spa, a yoga lawn, two cocktail bars and a 1,300 square-metre roof terrace, it’s no wonder the fashion set treats this as their home away from home.
Frequently dubbed Tuscany's youthful counterpart, Umbria stands as Italy's only landlocked region devoid of a neighbouring country. Flaunting a more rugged allure and budget-friendly appeal than its sibling, savvy travellers are making tracks to the region for the tangled olive groves, sprawling vineyards and lovingly restored farmhouses that paint its landscape. Despite its secluded location, the Umbrian capital of Perugia commands attention for its chocolate festival every October. The event offers chocolate tastings, immersive workshops and artisanal markets, while it's also worth noting that Umbria claims Italy's leading truffle production.
The forward-thinking family behind this ancient estate featuring a 1000-year-old castle have dedicated themselves to preserving and revitalising this extraordinary corner of the region, resulting in a hotel that the travel elite are clamouring to stay at. Unwind by the pool's edge, embark on a horseback adventure or stroll through aromatic vineyards.
Canary Islands, Spain
Often overlooked in favour of the Balearic Islands, this Spanish archipelago off Africa's coast beckons with year-round sun, contrasting landscapes, fantastic wine and avant-garde architecture. Visionary César Manrique is the designer responsible for Lanzarote's fashionable aesthetic – if you’ve categorised this as a package holiday destination, you’re wrong. It’s all smooth, white stucco and curvilinear forms. Volcanic terrain provides ample opportunity for adventure, and plays host to many independent wineries, while the islands have also become a prime spot for stargazing. Don’t miss riding waves on a black-sand beach, either.
STAY: Buenavista Lanzorote
In the heart of La Geria's vine-covered lava fields, Buenavista is a collection of five distinctive suites that capture Lanzarote's creative essence and sustainable ethos. These thoughtfully designed rooms adorned with local crafts offer a striking setting to drink in the landscape over a sumptuous breakfast.
Avoid the tourist crowds and hiked-up prices that rule the French Riviera during the summer months by earmarking Nice for an autumn getaway when the sea is still warm enough to swim in. The unofficial Côte d'Azur capital since the 1700s, this luminous city has enticed artists for centuries. From belle époque painters Marc Chagall and Pierre-Auguste Renoir to Henri Matisse's home, it's an undeniably creative haven. The iconic Promenade des Anglais, a 7km coastal boulevard, offers boundless sea views in the heart of town, where you’ll also get a feel for the fusion of European influences – its 500-year rule under the Kingdom of Sardinia still flavours local cuisine.
STAY: Hotel Le Negresco
From its grand opening in 1913, this iconic hotel has been a magnet for artists, politicians, and royalty, offering a blend of eras and styles through its remarkable collection of over 6,000 artworks and period furniture.
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This county in the northwest of Ireland is the latest place you’ll hear the Soho House gang boasting about visiting on a windswept road trip around the Emerald Isle. Sligo is Yeats' country and today continues to captivate creatives thanks to its literary heritage, gorgeous walks, striking views and abundance of traditional Irish pubs. We also recommend visiting the fishing village town of Easkey for a rejuvenating seaweed bath at the world-famous Voya in Strandhill. Notably, Sligo has recently stepped into the spotlight as the setting for “Normal People”, while you might just bump into a member of Westlife on your travels.
STAY: Coopershill HouseA mile-long avenue crossing the River Unshin leads to this magnificent Georgian mansion, the O’Hara family's home for 250 years. With spacious bedrooms, homegrown cuisine and a backdrop of ancient woodland, it's an idyllic gateway for exploring the Sligo landscape, from kayaking to mountain climbs.
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