5 fun fall festivals in Europe to check out besides Oktoberfest

Contiki used travel guides and news reports to explore five European fall festivals other than Oktoberfest taking place this autumn. 


Close view of person wearing gold feathered Venetian mask at festival.

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If the words "European fall festival" make you think lederhosen, dirndls, beer steins, and bratwursts, you're certainly not alone: Roughly 6 million visitors flock to Munich each year for Oktoberfest, making it the world's largest beer festival by far.

But fall celebrations go beyond Bavarian-themed festivals. Autumn is also a time of harvest and bounty, Halloween festivities, and spiritual rebalancing, as the autumnal equinox marks the moment when day is just as long as night. With so much to celebrate, fall festivals can run the gamut from spooky celebrations to harvest festivals and much more. Contiki explored five European fall festivals to check out using travel guides and news reports.

Autumn festivals date back thousands of years across the world and were celebrated in some way in nearly every culture and religion, including ancient Celtic festivals, pagan traditions, Jewish and Christian holidays, and Chinese celebrations.

If you're looking to escape to Europe for the fall and are searching for ways to celebrate the season in addition to—or instead of—attending Oktoberfest, search no further. Whether you're a wine lover, a modern art enthusiast, or just want to experience a new culture, there's something here for everyone.

Boccaccesca Food and Wine Festival in Certaldo Alto, Italy

Aerial view of the medieval town of Certaldo.

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Located in a town in the Tuscan countryside just a short distance from Florence, the Boccaccesca Food and Wine Festival has lured lovers of artisanal food and drink every October since 1999. The festival, which is free to attend, is named after Giovanni Boccaccio, a Renaissance poet and writer who hailed from Certaldo.

For three days, artisans showcase their wares with wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, crafts for sale, and more, giving visitors a prime pick of freshly harvested Italian foods during the peak season. With architecture hailing from medieval times—and a funicular that runs to the larger city below and offers exceptional views of the surrounding area—Boccaccesca is a must-see for food and wine enthusiasts.

Ludwigsburg Venetian Festival in Ludwigsburg, Germany

Masked Venezianische Messe participants on the Baroque Marketplace.

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For three days in September, the streets fill with people dressed in decorative masks, capes, and gowns straight out of 18th-century Venice. But this festival is, in fact, nowhere near Italy. Based in Ludwigsburg, just north of Stuttgart, the Venetian Festival is held once every two years and is set to take place Sept. 6-8, 2024. It will be free to attend for the first time this year.

The masquerade-style fair, celebrated since 1768, began when Duke Carl Eugen von Württemberg returned from a trip to Italy and established a festival inspired by the Venice Carnival. Expect to see artists and performers juggling, stilt-walking, and manipulating fire, as well as a grand costume parade. Visitors can also look forward to perusing an international arts and crafts market, where vendors from all over Europe come to sell their wares.

Jazz O'Verre Beaune in Beaune, France

Street musicians playing in French market in Beaune.

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Jazz fans and wine lovers: this is the festival for you. This jazz festival, which also showcases the local wines of the Burgundy region, takes place in the heart of winemaking country. The Jazz à Beaune festival was established in 2001 and ran for over a decade and a half before shutting down.

The festival lives on in the Jazz O'Verre Beaune, which will occur Sept. 26-28, 2024, with seven concerts and local wines. Featuring musicians from all over the world and a diverse array of jazz styles, attendees will experience three days of great music, world-class wine tastings, and even a parade of vintage cars, all while surrounded by vineyards.

Signal Festival in Prague, Czechia

A colorful light installation next to the Rudolfinum building at night.

Matyas Rehak // Shutterstock

This breathtaking festival takes place annually, lighting up Prague's famous Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture with projections, light shows, and contemporary art installations. Over the years, Signal Festival has attracted millions of attendees and has become one of the country's most-visited cultural events.

Set to occur Oct. 10-13, 2024, the festival is going into its 12th year, and this time around, the theme is Ecosystems—a blend of nature, technology, and the urban environment that is sure to produce fascinating works. Artists both local to Czechia, more commonly known as the Czech Republic, and from around the world participate in creating dazzling lighting and projections that have illuminated nearly every part of the city, such as the famous Charles Bridge, cathedrals, churches, and monuments. The blend of the latest technology with the centuries-old buildings is only visible during the evening hours, so come prepared to spend late nights out exploring the city.

San Mateo Festival in Logroño, Spain

People on a balcony of the Logroño City Hall at the festival kick off.

Alfredo Iglesias/Europa Press via Getty Images

The San Mateo Festival, also known as the Rioja Wine Harvest Festival, is an annual celebration of Saint Matthew, as well as the wine harvest in Logroño, a city in Northern Spain's Rioja winemaking region. This year, the festival will take place Sept. 20-26, 2024.

Visitors to the San Mateo Festival can expect celebrations, including the crushing of just-harvested grapes, live music, dancing, parades, bullfights, nighttime parties in the streets, and lots of wine and food. The festival is also known for its beautiful fireworks displays, which take place throughout the week. The festival, which dates back to the 12th century, was originally celebrated by the town's merchants in honor of Saint Matthew, a tax collector and apostle.

Story editing by Cynthia Rebolledo. Additional editing by Kelly Glass. Copy editing by Kristen Wegrzyn.

This story originally appeared on Contiki and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.