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In our latest guest post from the experts at Lonely Planet we find out from a range of editors what are the best destinations to visit in Europe now the sweltering summer days are long gone.
Some destinations are a little too hot to handle during the summer months but are now as balmy as can be, with the bonus of fewer tourists. Here are the destinations within easy reach of European travellers that we think are just perfect for travel in November and December.
Cairo, Egypt - recommended by Tom Hall, Travel Editor at Lonely Planet
Africa’s largest city, Cairo is in some senses not for the faint-hearted. This, however, is precisely why you should go. The fearsome traffic, busy streets and throngs of people generate, along with the giant River Nile setting, an atmosphere that is both underrated and unique. Everyone who comes here visits the Egyptian Museum, but increasingly that’s combined with stroll through neighbouring Tahrir Square, the bubbling cauldron of the Arab Spring that has become an icon of the entire movement. Yes, the pyramids are indeed as jaw-dropping as you may think, but the less celebrated wonders of the city’s Christian and Islamic heritage should not go unexplored. By night, the swish night-spots of Zamalek offer a playground for revellers from across the region and the streets of downtown Cairo throng with families out for the evening. Warm sunshine completes this unusual cocktail – don’t overlook Cairo.
Fèz, Morocco, recommended by Anita Isalska, editor and writer on lonelyplanet.com
Uncomfortably hot during the summer, cities in Morocco cool back down to comfort level in autumn and winter, and Fès particularly benefits. Fèz’s labyrinthine souks are especially tricky to navigate in a sunstruck state, and that tangy odour from the tanneries can be overpowering in the heat. But the next few months are perfect to laze in a riad and shop yourself silly in the markets. And if you ever tire of historic treasures like the famous Blue Gate and the Musée Dar el-Batha, you’re also only a short train ride from the imperial city of Meknès. This trip is also superb for Scrooges: while your friends at home are being subjected to Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ on a loop, all you’ll hear will be enchanting calls to prayer that ring out from Fès’ many mosques.
Lisbon, Portugal, recommended by Jane Atkin, Community Moderator
Lisbon is a gem of a city and even in this shoulder season, there will still be queues for the Pastéis de Belém’s sublime, divine traditional custard tarts. These eggiest, lightest, crispiest of tarts are served warm with a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar. The smell of roasted chestnuts wafts through the city after magusto, the end-of-summer celebration of crops and life in the countryside, where groups of friends and family gather around bonfires on St Martin’s Day (11 November). This is the only season of the year you can enjoy the traditional early harvest wines. Sip on jeropiga, a sweet, port-like wine, or savour some água-pé (‘foot-water’), made by adding water to the pomace left after grapes are pressed by bare feet.
Rome, Italy, recommended by Tom Hewitson, Destinations Editor, lonelyplanet.com
Rome’s monuments are almost as famous for their queues as they are for their beauty. Arriving out of season means you’ll be able to see the sights stress-free and without the wait. Add in the fact you won’t have to face the scorching sun while strolling the Spanish Steps and you’ve got the perfect reason to visit the Italian capital this winter. Attending an advent service at the Vatican is a must and even non-religious visitors will be enchanted by the enormous tree erected in St Peter’s Square. Even if you are unlucky enough to be caught by bad weather, Rome has a wealth of fascinating indoor attractions that could keep you entertained for weeks, like the Vatican Museums and Galleria Borghese.
Palma de Mallorca, Spain, recommended by Javier Panero, Community Manager
While peak travel time in Mallorca happens during the summer months, when thousands of tourists flock to its resorts, the capital city of the Balearic Islands is an ideal choice for a short break in the months leading up to Christmas. Often overlooked as a pit-stop between the airport and the beaches around the island, Palma combines plenty of historical charm with cutting-edge art galleries and a thriving restaurant scene. With average day temperatures never straying too far from the 13-14ºC mark, a whole afternoon can pass you by just strolling around the Casco Viejo and Paseo del Born, the meeting point of the Mallorquín high society, shopping in Portopí neighbourhood, exploring nearby Bellver Castle or admiring La Seu, Mallorca’s impressive gothic cathedral towering over the city’s waterfront promenade.
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