7 travel ideas to completely change your October

Roland Wildberg
By Roland Wildberg
Travel Journalist from Berlin
© Rene Kropp/eyeem.com | Phuket, Thailand

Pack your jumper; but pack a light one because in October there are so many wonderful corners of the world where you can still get plenty of warmth, light and fresh air before the gloomy days return

Here are seven destinations where you can stock up on the last of those summery (or spooky) feelings before the winter returns.

Milan, fashionably warm

Once you pass over the Alps the clouds part and the sun shines through. Milan in October maintains a summery warmth making it perfect for a city break. Everyone loves the Milan Cathedral, the second largest church in Italy (after St. Peter’s Basilica) – but it’s not from street level that you’ll find the best views of the cathedral but from quite a different vantage point.

La Rinascente, the world-famous department store which first opened its doors 100 years ago it is a landmark in Milan, and a bit of an icon for fashionistas and gourmets due to its many shops and boutiques – featuring the most up-to-date designer labels, naturally, galleries and a brilliant Food Hall up on the 7th floor.

Which is where you’ll find this view of which we spoke. Sip Moet & Chandon at the Champagnerie or chow down on lobster, steak, sushi or regional goods – the selection is gigantic, dwarfed only by the literal gigantic-ness of the colossal church, which seems close enough to touch. Head up before 12 o’clock, where you’ll have a clear view unimpeded by the crowds of tourists, plus you’ll beat the lunch queue.

Milan ceiling
Experience picturesque Milan © Claudio Baldini/shutterstock.com

A few crisp scampi, a plate of exquisite ravioli, a strong espresso – and then what? Keeping the movement to a minimum head to the almost palatial shopping Mecca, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, just a 3 minute walk away. The arcade, which has stood here since 1877, has been painstakingly restored and stands as a monument to times past and an architectural masterpiece before shopping is even considered.

Fancy feeding your eyes even on more beauty? The Chagall exhibition “A Summer Night’s Dream” opens on 14 June October in the Museo della Permanente, an ancient palace near the Milano Centrale railway station. The exhibition is devoted to the imagination and associative power of Marc Chagall and combines fine art, music, and theatre to create an installation that aims to create a new way to experience art.

One more famous sight worth seeing is the Cimitero Monumentale. More than just a cemetery, the space is populated with sculptures commissioned early in the 20th century from various artists who were tasked with creating work inspired by, well, death. Especially worth a trip around Halloween, of course.

Accommodation Tip: The four-star Worldhotel Cristoforo Colombo is rated ‘excellent’ by users with prices starting at £62.

Valencian Valentine’s Day

At midnight in Valencia, the 8th of October turns into the 9th as the city is treated to a midnight fireworks display to kick-start Valencia Day and the Feast of Dionysus, the god of wine. Recognised as a holiday for lovers – tradition dictates that the the wooer should head to one of the city’s many confectioneries makers and procure some tasty marzipan treats. These, wrapped in a silk scarf, are handed over to the lady or gentleman sweetheart, and so the custom, called Mocadorá, has been for centuries. A most practical tradition, as in Valencia’s warm climes these delicacies last longer than flowers – when not wolfed down straight away, of course. Some of the best examples can be found at Trufas Martinez, Torreblanca or in the Pastelería Notre Dame.

A modern city to be discovered in Valencia © Jorn van Maanen/flickr.com

By the way, the Mocadorá also has a political background. When Valencia was incorporated into the Kingdom of Spain almost 250 years ago, the powers that be forbade the tradition of launching a rocket on this date, honouring the Christianisation of the city 800 years ago. In protest, the bakers made sure some of those marzipan treats were rocket shaped and these are still found today, although the aforementioned fireworks display is back and beatiful.

Accommodation Tip: You can stay in the Catalonia Excelsior from £57, which is centrally located and has an ‘Excellent’ rating.

Vegging Delights at London Vegfest

On the last weekend of October, VegFest, London’s pre-eminent vegan festival, will be held for its 5th year in the historic exhibition grounds of Olympia London in West Kensington.

blackbird earls court london
Sunday Roast Delights in London © blackbirdearlscourt.co.uk

Featuring over 250 stalls, some of London’s top restaurants, artisans and cooks have created or reimagined a seemingly never-ending range of by-product free fineries and feasts to sample. In addition to the (vegan) chocolate, bread, sushi, steaks and many other delicacies, there are also deodorants, soaps and many other cruelty-free products available for purchase.  

The fair is also a stimulating culinary journey around the world: There are vegan Spanish tortillas without eggs, Greek Moussaka without mincemeat and Italian pasta classics without ingredients like Parma ham. After stuffing yourself silly you may be requiring something to wash it all down. Luckily West Kensington has many a pub with many a pint on offer.

Accommodation Tip: Kensington West is bang in the middle of all the action with museums, shops and restaurants galore around and all from £38 a night.

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Brussels brings the beer game

Brussels beer shop
Beer in Brussels © Thomas Quine/flickr.com

On the continent, everyone knows that Belgium has the best chips – but the Belgians have been going to great lengths to give their beer the same cult status. In good restaurants across the land you will find the perfect beer matched to anything on the menu. Not convinced? After you’ve landed in Brussels, head to Nuetnigenough or Brasserie de la Ville for some extensive beer (and food) advice.

Need more convincing? Then jump into a hired car (the next day when sober of course) and head west for 90 minutes: Just before the French border lies Poperinge, a small, idyllic town not far from the sea. Here the beer flows free on the last weekend of October at the Beer Festival: there are 100 types of beer from 25 different brewers to be tasted!

 Accommodation Tip: After all that beer you will need a hotel ASAP, try Amfora a chic and stylish place to rest your head from about £61.

Ballooning over New Mexico

Phoenix balloon
Balloon Glow in Phoenix © Kate Spiderman/eyeem.com

The Sonora Desert, Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon are already well-known for their beauty, but what lies to the east of famous Phoenix? New Mexico is famous for its rugged nature and its endless expanse of sky and is less overrun than the national parks of Arizona. It’s a relatively short journey by car and then there you are, in the Land of Enchantment. Prepare to be dazzled by natural wonders like the rocky outcrops of Malpais West or the impressive Capulin Volcano in the north-east of New Mexico, where you can even hike into the crater itself.

The scenery is made even more fantastic when hundreds of hot air balloons hang over the desert during Balloonfiesta in Albuquerque in mid-October. You can watch from the ground as they hang majestically in the sky, you can take a ride (the price is dependent upon the day you fly, but the rates can vary from $325-$450 a person).

Afterwards – luck is not enough – there is also fireworks. To turn the head are also the start of the special shapes, then there are huge soccer balls, animal heads, a fire engine and even more crazy balloons float side by side over the desert sky.

Accommodation Tip: Relax and take a dip in the pool at the four-star Radisson Hotel Phoenix North from only £55.

Pumpkins glow German-style in Ludwigsburg

Ludwigsburg pumpkin
Experience traditional Halloween in Germany © petuniad/flickr.com

As soon as autumn arrives, you can’t avoid them. Jack-o-lanterns, symbols of the once-Celtic Halloween celebrations, appear on every street corner in this town in Baden-Württemberg in Germany’s south. But this time with a Germanic twist, as the town of Ludwigsburg celebrates one of its fields finest exports at The Pumpkin Exhibition, which lasts throughout October.

A team of creative minds has created giant sculptures from this humble squash and the variety will amaze you – they have harvested rare specimens that come in the classic orange, but also red, white and black.

This year the theme is ‘Ancient Rome’ but it takes its cues as much from Asterix and Obelix as from the history books. Entire bodies of work that constitute chariots, an aqueduct, and whole legionary squads have been created by these artists from this surprisingly versatile vegetable.

The backdrop for the attention-grabbing decorations is the castle-park of Ludwigsburg, the ‘Blooming Baroque’ and it is also well worth a visit.

With over 30 hectares of gardens, make sure to pick a few choice sights to visit; some examples of which are the Valley of the Birds, Rapunzel’s Tower and the Labyrinth. There is also a 70-year-old Fairy Garden buried deep in the grounds, that continues to fascinate children today.

Accommodation Tip: Live large and stay at the NH Ludwigsburg from £57.

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A different side to Phuket

Try something different in Phuket © Rene Kropp/eyeem.com

Phuket is perennially famous for its beaches and lush surrounds, but at the end of October, you can also experience The Vegetarian Festival A.K.A The Nine Emperor Gods Festival. Over nine days devotees show their veneration for their gods and ancestors with a carnival like atmosphere complete with prayer, chanting, a strict vegetarian diet and trance-induced ritualised self-mutilation. Whether walking through the fire, piercing parts of the body or even slashings and skinnings the trance-like devotion is said to be a universal spiritual cleanser and, while sometimes shocking to our western sensibilities it remains fascinating, and potentially eye opening.

Apart from these challenging performances, the festival atmosphere and traditional white clothing are entrancing and will definitely give you a beach-free Phuket story. While you yourself will probably want to remain a spectator and not abide by the 10 Rules of The Vegetarian Festival, you may want to get in on the food, made without meat, fish, egg and spicy spices but delectable and delicious nonetheless. The main part of the Vegetarian Festival happens around the six Chinese temples spread across Phuket, the most important place being the Jui Tui Shrine, not far from the Central Market.

If you’re less adventurous and want straight up, tasty-as-hell Thai food (both veggie and meat) there are plenty of good and cheap restaurants in Phuket, try the Baan Noy or, for tasty treats on a budget, O-Oh Farm Ta-Eiad.

Accommodation Tip: For a bit of boutique flavour in Phuket City try out the Casa Blanca from £34.

Note: These rates are based on search queries made on KAYAK.co.uk on September 6th, 2017. The prices are quoted in GBP. Flight prices are based on results for a return economy flight search. Hotel prices are for double occupancy and include taxes and fees. Prices are subject to change, may vary, or no longer be available.

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