Europe’s great cities – just as nature intended

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I love Paris in the springtime, I love Paris in the fall, I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles, I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles…

Clearly Cole Porter wasn’t fussy. But Time magazine, no less, champions the French capital in the fall – ‘when tourist crowds are sparse, the city’s cafés still hum and the streets throng with natives…well-dressed, portfolio-armed and back to work, refreshed from their own summer escapes’.

It’s much the same vibe in those other great European capitals London and Rome: when high season, along with its snap-happy hordes, often uncomfortable temperatures and seasonally adjusted prices, has subsided, and the visitor feels like they have a more authentic, truer, taste of the city all to themselves. And of course the museums and galleries and myriad attractions are all still very much there.

Virgin Vacations gets this. We appreciate why so many switched-on US travellers (and you clearly are – after all it’s why you’re reading this) sometimes prefer to book their perfect getaways for when the sun is still beaming, just a little lower in the sky. It’s a shades-and-sweatshirt, sat-outside-the-sidewalk-café kind of thing.

So we give you a choice of easy autumnal getaways to three of the finest city-stay destinations, Paris, Rome and London, for six days (four nights) or eight days (six nights), all with round-trip flights from NYC and available till late October. Each one is an independent package, giving you the freedom and flexibility to explore and enjoy your vacation on your own terms and at your own pace. In other words, ideal for smart young travellers clued-up on European culture as well as honeymooners and couples planning a genuine romantic escape.

Hotel-room upgrades are often available, and the travel packages for all three cities offer a range of optional tours that you can book now to save time and money. In Blighty, for instance, avoid any queues and unnecessary hassles by pre-booking your ride on the London Eye. At 135 meters the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel. Or plan to join a full-day excursion to Stonehenge and Bath – both glorious at this time of year.

In the Eternal City, meanwhile, you can pre-book an unforgettable illuminated tour of Rome’s historic piazzas and fountains, among several special tour options, or visit Florence, the cradle of Italian art and culture (eight-day package).

Extra Parisian treats include a picturesque drive to the island pilgrimage site of Mont St Michel in Normandy, and a tour of Versailles’ spectacular apartments and gardens – again, a once-in-a-lifetime experience after the summer crowds have dispersed.

Whether you want to stroll along the banks of the Seine, Tiber or Thames, these are the independent travel packages that tick all the boxes. Slightly off the seasonal beaten track, compact and comprehensive, and devised to suit you. It’s what September and October were made for.