When you think of vacations in Europe, you tend to think of sunshine, walking and sitting outdoors, spring flowers, and packing only light clothing. Think November and gray skies, rain and cold spring in your mind – definitely off-putting when it comes to travel.
Although I have to admit that I’m a northern European with a distinct problem with snow and ice, I don’t like persistent rain either. But really, weather should only be one factor to consider when planning a trip, because weather is only a small part of it, and adverse weather can also work in your favor.
With that in mind, here are some cities that I personally think are perfect to visit in November, even if you need to pack an umbrella and a warm coat.
1. Athens, Greece
Like Rome, Athens is a city to be explored on foot, but summer is often too hot and too crowded to really enjoy the experience. November brings fewer crowds and temperatures in the mid-60s, so you can actually go up to the Acropolis and enjoy watching more and more of the city’s ancient structures come into view. This is a much better approach than arriving by air-conditioned coach!
Then you can cross the old neighborhood, Plaka, without having to avoid the crowds and enjoy the Monastiraki open-air market without having to chase people out of your way. The weather can change, but you’ll have plenty of museums to escape to for a few rainy hours.
Pro tip: Be sure to take a few day trips to places like Delphi and Cape Sounio, as these places are usually too crowded to enjoy in the summer.
2. Sofia, Bulgaria
Sofia is a small city for a capital, but as well as being worth a visit for its history, it is also a hub for day trips to legendary Transylvania. In late autumn, when the weather turns colder, the leaves still clinging to the trees show beautiful hues, fog lingers in the area and snow can be felt in the air. This is the time to wrap up and go see the seemingly endless Bulgarian countryside!
After a weekend in Sofia, head to Pristina, a quaint ancient city that’s usually packed with day trippers. Explore the UNESCO-listed monastery of Rila and seek out the many castles nestled in Bulgaria’s mountaintops, most notably Bran, said to be the home of Count Dracula.
Be sure to climb Vitosha, a mountain on Sofia’s doorstep. You can take a local bus and then a cable car up some sections. It is especially beautiful in the morning when the fog clears.
3. Budapest, Hungary
Hungary’s capital, Budapest, is a magical city on the equally magical Danube, and November is probably the best time to enjoy it. It’s cold, with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, but sunny. You can still enjoy these wonderful old-fashioned baths, open to the outdoors all year round. The crowds are at their thinnest before the Christmas rush, but luckily the Christmas markets open in early November, so you can still get into the Christmas spirit.
Budapest is famous for its old-fashioned coffee shops and sumptuous cakes, and they are especially welcome after a day in the cold. Try Cafe Gerbeaud for its charm and cakes. And of course, it really has to be a little cold outside to really appreciate a big, warm pot of hearty Hungarian goulash!
4. Rome, Italy
Rome is an amazing city, second only to Paris — although many will argue that it is better than Paris! But it suffers for its beauty and history by attracting too many visitors, and frankly, in the summer, when it’s hot and crowded, you’d be better off visiting any other city than Rome.
And that’s why November is perfect. It’s the month when there are no school holidays anywhere in Europe, and it’s when the Eternal City enjoys a lull before the Christmas rush. The weather is a balmy 60 degrees, allowing you to sit in the plazas in a light jacket and enjoy the city’s famous gelato.
Pro tip: November 1 is a national holiday in Rome, so everything except the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums will be closed.
5. Valletta, Malta
Malta is a Mediterranean island full of history. And while the sea may beckon, there’s so much to explore that in the warmer months it’s impossible to do it all without suffering from heatstroke. In November, however, the temperature is 70 degrees, which is perfect not only for sightseeing but also for diving.
In Valletta, Malta’s ancient capital, head straight for St John’s Cathedral. I have traveled a lot and visited many exquisite churches, but this is one of the most beautiful I have seen. Be prepared to spend an hour or more inside – it’s truly awe-inspiring.
Afterwards, enjoy a leisurely harbor cruise, viewing all the forts from the sea enjoying the warm weather, then head to the forts themselves, taking time to climb the ramparts.
Pro tip: The Three Palaces is a festival that takes place in the first 10 days of November in Malta, with concerts ranging from opera to jazz.
6. Prague, Czechia (Czech Republic)
Prague is another beautiful European city that is too popular for its own good. The ancient town, castle, cobbled streets and famous Charles Bridge are so overcrowded in the warmer months that you don’t need to visit for all the fun. November temperatures range from 33 to 43 degrees and the city has about 4 hours of sunshine each day. it is cold, but it is very good to walk.
Although the crowds are thin, there are many special events and exhibitions. Not to be missed is the Dali Enigma Exhibition, which runs until the end of December 2022.
An interesting way to see Prague and learn about its history is to take an after-dark tour. The good thing about November is that it gets dark early and you won’t have to stay up late for the tour.
7. Istanbul, Turkey (Turkey)
Istanbul is one of those cities that does well in all seasons. I’ve visited in the height — and heat — of summer, snowy winter, and everything in between, and each season has something going for it. But, again, it’s the lack of crowds in November that makes visiting this time of year so much more enjoyable. You can cross the Grand Bazaar and take your time, without having to avoid the crowds, and get a front seat on the many ferries that go up the Bosphorus, and you won’t have to queue around the square for the palace harem Top Kapi.
For art lovers, the Istanbul Biennial contemporary art festival takes place every other year between mid-September and mid-November. In 2022, it will run between September 17 and 20.
Pro tip: On November 10, Türkiye erupts in celebrations for the death of Kemal Atatürk, with festivals and ceremonies across the country.
8. Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik is beautiful all year round, but one of the main reasons to go to this northern island in winter is to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. You’re more likely to see glaciers and amazing waterfalls then, too. And November, in particular, offers the best of both worlds: the waterfalls are in full force, the glaciers are frozen and the mini-icebergs at Black Diamond Beach are in full bloom, but you won’t get cold or experience too much snow on the roads to move around. And it’s Northern Lights season, so your chances of seeing the amazing Northern Lights are good.
Pro tip: Iceland is famous for its warm lagoons and they are much more enjoyable when it’s cold outside. Even the popular Blue Lagoon is not very busy in November.
9. Stockholm, Sweden
The first time I visited Stockholm, it was winter. Although I visited in the summer as well, it will always be at its best in the winter, in my mind. Usually covered in snow, Stockholm’s many islands are still connected by running water in November, making a sightseeing cruise possible — a great way to get your bearings. Just dress warmly.
With the weather a little cooler, this is a great excuse to pop down to the metro stations, many of which have been decorated to look like art galleries. You should get a day pass and just stop and go at each station to have a look around.
Pro tip: There’s nothing like combining two great things when you’re on vacation, and this dinner cruise is actually more than two: sightseeing, fine dining, and cruising.