Many American travelers head to Europe during the summer to enjoy the great weather, and then head south towards Mexico and the Caribbean during the winter to escape the cooling temperatures. However, there’s an abundance of festivals in Europe in the fall that are worth making the trip for.
Oktoberfest – Munich, Germany (September 17- October 3)
The most famous beer-themed festival in the world. The 200-year-old festival once celebrated the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese but has since become a Bavarian beer and food paradise, as officials estimate over 7 million liters of beer is consumed over the 16 days of the festival. The Brewer’s Parade begins the festivities, which is worth seeing, and from there it’s strictly beer, brass bands, and lederhosen.
Les Festes de la Mercè – Barcelona, Spain (September 22-25)
Both a celebration of Barcelona’s patron saint, Mare de Deu de la Mercè, and a goodbye to summer. Les Festes de la Mercè is almost a combination of many other Spanish festivals, highlighting its art, food, and sports. Noteworthy events include: teams of Castellers (human towers) competing to stack as high as they can and the Correfoc fire run and “fire-breathing” devils, where attendees parade with fireworks and sparklers in the streets before giving way to the devils who put on a sparkling (literally) show.
Galway Oyster Festival – Galway, Ireland (September 23-25)
There’s St. Patrick’s Day and then there’s the Galway Oyster Festival, which hosts plenty of seafood, pub crawls, and even the World Oyster Opening Championship. Guinness sponsors the event and the pub crawl, consisting of 30 locations, each offering a free oyster with a pint. That’s plenty of beer and oysters in a three-day period. There is also a Mardi Gras-styled masquerade event guests can attend.
Salon du Chocolat – Porte de Versailles, France (October 28 - November 1)
A chocolate lover's paradise. The world’s largest chocolate and cocoa-dedicated festival rotates yearly, and this year it returns to Porte de Versailles. Over 500 chocolatiers, pastry makers, confectioners, chefs and pastry chefs, designers, and experts will be participating in the event, with happenings such as the chocolate and cocoa awards and chocolate fashion show (yes, clothing made of chocolate). Workshops will be available also for attendees to learn more about chocolate in addition to hands-on lessons.
Merano WineFestival – Merano, Italy (November 4-7)
One of Italy’s big three wine festivals, the Merano WineFestival brings hundreds of vintners together all for the common purpose of enjoying wine. Representing Italy will be 300 different winemakers, while 120 additional winemakers will be traveling from Germany, Spain, France, Croatia, New Zealand, Austria, Bulgaria, Slovenia, South Africa, and the U.S. Held at the famous Kurhaus, wine master classes, cooking demos, and even an extensive beer selection will be available.
Krampusnacht – Klagenfurt, Austria (late November)
This is one of the more hardcore (read: unique) festivals in Europe. Like the majority of Europe, Austria plays host to numerous Christmas celebrations but they’re alone in celebrating Krampus – St. Nicholas’ “shadow.” The streets of Klagenfurt fill with costumed men and women (men as Krampus and women as Perchta, a pagan goddess), and this off-the-beaten-path village may even play a bit of metal music during the parade.
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