Schools are back, the weather is good and autumn festivals are kicking off. September is a sweet spot for travel...
September is a lovely month for travelling in Europe.
The summer crowds have gone, prices have fallen, the Mediterranean is at its warmest and, while temperatures have eased, it is still reliably sunny – a great time for a city or a beach break. Even at home, there is a good chance of decent weather.
Here are our recommendations for travel this month...
Everyone talks about the Loire châteaux, but we sometimes forget the parks that surround nearly all of them. As autumn approaches and the leaves begin to turn, the avenues of oaks, beeches and chestnuts and the once-great hunting forests produce a magnificent display of colour.
The châteaux themselves are open until October and are also much less busy than during the summer; the wine harvest is in full swing and yet there is still an excellent chance of good weather. For full details of opening times, see loirevalley-france.co.uk. To get there, travel with Brittany Ferries (brittanyferries.ie) or Irish Ferries (irishferries.com).
Istanbul is an exciting place to visit at any time outside the heat of high summer, but in September there is an extra attraction. Because of its location at the shortest sea-crossing between Europe and Asia, it sees hundreds of thousands of migrating birds – including storks and raptors – as they head south towards Africa for the winter.
It’s one of the world’s great migration spectacles. Good bird-spotting locations include the Camlica Hills as well as the waterfront of the city itself.
Turkey has the additional benefit of being particularly good value at the moment thanks to the lira’s recent slump.
Check the Department of Foreign Affairs' advice before travelling.
There’s Cornwall for the family bucket-and-spade brigade – that’s the defining character of the county in August – and there’s Cornwall in September when the crowds (a particular problem this year) have eased, the beaches have cleared, the cliff-tops are peaceful once again and the hotel and cottage prices have fallen, yet the weather is often still pleasantly warm. The St Ives Festival (September 8-22) is one reason to head all the way west. Our other favourite places in the county include the Roseland Peninsula, St Mawes and Porthleven.
During this annual event, held over each weekend in September, visitors have free access to historic buildings normally closed to the public, from grand country houses and castles to small, quirky places. The timing is regional, so choose your destination carefully. Edinburgh’s buildings open on the last weekend of the month, for example, while this weekend it is Glasgow’s turn. See the official website for full details.
September can still be quite busy in the most popular holiday destinations, but in Greece you can always escape – and feel as though you are on the edge of the world – by heading for a smaller, more remote island. Our favourites include Skyros, in the pine-fringed Sporades, Folegandros, a far quieter alternative to Santorini, and Kastellorizo, among the prettiest (and least crowded) in the Dodecanese.
Read our Greek Islands travel guide here.
Barcelona is a party town for much of the time, but from September 21-24 there will be a special emphasis on celebration with a fiesta honouring the city’s protecting spirit: La Mercè (Virgin of Mercy). Entertainment includes acrobats, jugglers, live music, dance, fireworks and parades. Most striking are the human towers that are formed, mostly in the Old Town.
The biennial golf tournament takes place at the Albatros Course of Le Golf National in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, a suburb southwest of Paris, at the end of September (28-30). What could be better than a weekend enjoying the charms of the French capital while following the action?
Fresh figs, grapes, mushrooms, chestnuts, truffles, olive oil – autumn in Tuscany is a wonderful season for foodies. It’s warm enough to enjoy the pool in the middle of the day, and while Florence and Siena won’t exactly be crowd-free, they won’t be as manic as in August and the school holidays, and temperatures are much more pleasant for sightseeing.
Perhaps the most spectacular race of the F1 season is in Singapore – on the streets and at night. Make a weekend of it, or time a stopover en route to the Far East or Australia to catch the race and practice days (September 14-16).
Endurance events of another kind take place this month in Germany at Oktoberfest when beer drinkers from all corners gather together to clink glasses and appreciate the best Germany brews. The festival, which spans just over two weeks, is held annually in a meadow just outside Munich’s city centre. In addition to eating, drinking and dancing, visitors can enjoy colourful parades, a variety of fairground rides, and for those not themselves in traditional Bavarian gear, admire those that are. As is now widely known, September - not October - is actually the kick-off date.
Hermanus in South Africa claims to have the greatest land-based whale-watching on the planet, and its annual Whale Festival takes place next month (September 28-30). The town lies around 80 miles west of Cape Town. Expect to see hundreds of migrating southern right whales, which spend the winter feeding on plankton in Antarctic waters, before coming up to the relatively warmer waters of the southern Atlantic to calve and breed. Hermanus is just under 100km from Cape Town... with winelands (above) en route. See hermanuswhalefestival.co.za.