First trip to Europe? Focus on these 5 great cities rather than cheap ones

Rijksmuseum LawnNot long ago, I scrolled down the homepage of this website – priceoftravel.com – and noticed that almost every article had the word “cheapest” in the title. This is what happens when you run a site dedicated to researching and reporting travel prices, and certainly there is a demand for these lists and prices.

Also recently, a friend of mine who's never visited Europe asked me which cities I recommend for a first trip. Only then did it occur to me that I actually think it's important to start with the truly great cities first, even though they tend to be among the most expensive. In other words, articles like the cheapest cities in Europe might encourage people to go to some places for what could be the wrong reasons.

Start with Europe's greatest cities, and work out a budget from there

For those of us who are traveling constantly it's easy to forget that most people are lucky to visit Europe (assuming you live elsewhere) even once in their lives. Sure, many people are inspired by a first trip and will continue to gp back and explore, but others don't have the time or the means, and their first trip might be their only trip.

For that reason, and also to help the chances for that inspiration leading to later trips, I recommend first-time visitors begin in the most famous cities, in spite of high costs and crowds.

Suggestions for your first trip to Europe

Due to the unexpected popularity of this article and the many questions in comments about first-time itineraries, I've created a new and detailed article with all of my best suggestions.

>>>9 Best itinerary ideas for your first trip to Europe

Europe's 5 Great Cities for visitors

1 – London

London Thames ViewThe only town that can compete with New York City for the title of Capital of the World, London is where everything comes together. And obviously as an English-speaking city (mostly), it's among the easiest to begin adapting to the culture and style of Europe.

The main downside to London is that, until you know where things are, it feels like the most expensive place on earth. There are ways to keep London cheap if you really have to, but at first it's probably not a bad idea to splurge and just go with the flow. Fortunately, all of the famous museums are free to enter, and there are several new free walking tours to choose from, so it's getting a bit easier to keep expenses reasonable.

  • Backpacker Index: US$69.35 per day

2 – Paris

Paris Seine ViewDefinitely more intimidating than London, and also far more beautiful, Paris is a city that so many people gush over that you might assume there's no way it could live up to the praise. Then you go to Paris for yourself and you start gushing yourself. Walk for thirty minutes from anywhere near the city center and you'll keep seeing buildings and bridges and public art that will make you want to start checking apartment prices.

Every city has problems, even Paris, but it's hard to imagine anyone being sorry they visited. While Paris is an expensive city, it's actually a bit easier to keep costs down, mainly because the extensive Metro system means that you can still have a great and convenient time if you stay in a cheaper hotel outside of the main tourist center.

  • Backpacker Index: US$79.04 per day

3 – Rome

Rome ViewUnlike London and Paris, the city of Rome does actually seem to have a group who'll tell you to avoid it. Rome is frustrating in many ways, with crazy traffic and a sense of disorganization that is hard to adapt to, but there's also no denying that it's one of the world's greatest and most important cities.

It's easy to tell people to avoid a city once you've been there yourself, but no one gives points to those who would brag about never visiting a city because they heard it was too crazy. With Ancient Rome, the Coliseum, and the Vatican just for starters, Italy's capital is worth the hassle to see it at least once, and many people love it so much that they keep returning. Hotels in Rome are weirdly expensive, but other costs are reasonable, and it's totally worth it at least once in your life.

  • Backpacker Index: US$80.38 per day

4 – Venice

Venice ViewSome cities are really beautiful from certain vantage points or certain angles, but Venice is beautiful from all of them. As a touristy city for several hundred years now, the biggest problem with Venice is the crowds it attracts. Even in winter, the main pedestrian routes can be so packed that it frustrates nearly everyone. And in summer, they are worse, of course.

Even though hotels in Venice tend to be quite expensive, the best way to visit is to spend at least one or two nights on the main island. You'll find that early mornings and evenings are far less crowded, as most groups head to the mainland to sleep. Venice is also small enough that 36 hours is plenty of time to see the best bits, so it's worth a one-night splurge for a good location.

  • Backpacker Index: US$90.26 per day

5 – Amsterdam

Amsterdam ViewSome people might not put Amsterdam on this short list of great European cities, but plenty of people agree with me that it's another of the world's most beautiful and interesting places. Most of the city center is perfectly preserved from its beginnings in the 17th Century, and it's been quite wealthy ever since.

Many cities around the world boast that they have more canals than Amsterdam, but except for Venice, none are nearly as stunning. Add in the way bicycles dominate the landscape, the weirdness of the Red Light District, and its pleasant overall nature, and Amsterdam is worth a visit in spite of its relative high prices for most things.

  • Backpacker Index: US$86.67 per day

Include the above cities as part of bigger trips

The 5 cities mentioned above are the ones that I think are the best and most dramatic introduction to Europe, and the most likely to inspire more trips, but I wouldn't recommend just trying to see these 5 and then heading home. Depending on budget, season, and trip duration, you could add or subtract many other worthwhile cities to make the perfect itinerary.

If you've traveled all over Europe yourself, do you agree or disagree with the cities selected above? I can't think of another that deserves to be in this top tier, but I'd imagine that other people might have other ideas.



135 Responses to “First trip to Europe? Focus on these 5 great cities rather than cheap ones”

Astoria Greek says:

Where would you rate Athens?

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Astoria,

    Very interesting question, and I would personally rank Athens #6 in this group. Historically it couldn’t be more important and its center has become very tourist-friendly as well. I put it above Madrid or Berlin or Prague as an essential European city, but I cut this list off at 5. Thank you. -Roger

     
George says:

Venice has never wowed me. It seems nice enough, but lacks interest for a prolonged stay. It’s also smelly in summer and flooded in winter, and over-touristed in all seasons.

I would rate Barcelona in the top five. Beautiful architecture, great restaurants, and friendly residents. And how can you forget about Istanbul?

 
    Roger Wade says:

    George, that’s interesting about Venice for you, and I agree that its weakness is that it’s too crowded all year. I think people who stay overnight on the main island can get a wonderful experience if they try. As for Barcelona and Istanbul, they’d certainly both be in my next five, but for me they don’t compare with the others for impact on a first-time visitor. It’s all opinion though, and thank you for yours. -Roger

     
Julia says:

Having traveled extensively around Europe (and living in Vienna), I would definitely add Berlin, Barcelona and of course Vienna to the list! Great cities regarding culture, food and nightlife and also budget friendly if you look around a little. I personally would leave out Rome because it is very stressful and go to Florence instead for the museums and Tuscany in general, but that’s just me 🙂

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Julia, thank you for your thoughts, and you make good points. Personally, I prefer Berlin to all of them on my list, but this post was meant to be about the “great” cities that will change your life after experiencing them. The sights and history of Rome are far more interesting than those of Florence, although I agree about the stress factor of Rome. -Roger

     
Susan says:

I have never been, so this list helps. They are mostly what I was leaning towards anyway with the exception of Amsterdam. My first choice is Paris, then Venice, Florence, maybe Rome, but the stressful factor has me rethinking Rome, but maybe one day in Rome would be eventful and an experience and well worth it. Something has me running from London and not sure why. The english speaking comment about London makes sense though. Maybe it should be the first stop! I wonder where you would put the French Riviera on the list? Nice and Saint Tropez?

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Susan,

    I’m glad you found this helpful. If you are going to Italy it would be a shame to skip Rome. A one-day visit would be far better than skipping it, but I’d really urge you to plan at least 2 days in Rome, if not 3. It’s true that it’s a bit stressful, but I really don’t think it would be a problem if you are aware of it and plan accordingly. Mostly it’s just that street traffic is somewhat chaotic, and pedestrians become unpredictable as a result. Also, the main attractions such as the Vatican Museum and Coliseum tend to have long queues, so once you reach them through the traffic, it’s still tough to relax. But the thing is, you can’t see the Vatican Museum and Coliseum anywhere else in the world, and they are so worthwhile that Rome makes my list, and everybody else’s list.

    But if you mentally prepare yourself for the crowds, and book a hotel that puts the main tourist sights within fairly easy reach, you’ll love the place.

    I’ll also encourage you to include London if you can. I understand why it might seem relatively bland compared to the others, partly due to the language and so much shared culture with the US and elsewhere, but it really does live up to the hype. Though it might feel like “Foreign Travel 101” as an easy introductory stop, once you are there it feels like a “capital of the world” similar to how New York City does.

    As for the French Riviera, it’s quite a lovely place and well worth a stop if you have time. Most people agree that St. Tropez is a bit overrated on its own, as it’s quite expensive, fairly crowded, and without much to see. The best stop for most people is Nice, which is larger, quite budget friendly, and also loaded with good museums and interesting cultural sights as well as the beach itself. Nice has a rocky beach, but you can take the train to Cannes and its sandy beach for a day trip, which is only about 30 minutes away. And Monaco is even closer by train in the other direction, and it’s so small that you can see all the main things in only a few hours. Of the three cities mentioned, Monaco is actually the most visually stunning for a quick stop, but Nice is the best place to stay.

    I’m sure you’ll have an incredible time no matter which destinations you choose. -Roger

     
luca says:

I completely agree with your list, if you did a top ten I would add Barcelona, Prague, Athens, Berlin and Vienna

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Luca,

    Thanks, and I couldn’t disagree with any of your next five. I’d be tempted to include Istanbul in order to make it even a bit more diverse, but then it would be hard to figure out which one of those to remove. I appreciate the comment. -Roger

     
Aditi says:

Hi Roger,

I am planning to visit Europe for the first time in May 2017 with my husband for a 15 days trip. I want to include the top 5 cities mentioned above. Can you please plan an itinerary for me which would include the top 5 cities as well as some others worth visiting, with the duration mentioned, for each city. Also, if you feel, I should cut down on any of them due to paucity of time, or as a first timer I should plan my trip in a different way covering some other cities, your suggestions are most welcome. I don’t want to rush anywhere. Totally depending on your views, as I am totally confused what to visit.

Many many thanks in advance.
Aditi

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Aditi,

    I’m happy that you are so open minded when planning this trip. Many people start with a very tight schedule and then struggle to change plans when they learn that they are trying to move too quickly. My general advice is to stay in each city for 3 nights, except for the largest and most sight-filled cities like London or Paris, if you have time. There are also a few cities that are small enough to cover in 1 or 2 days, as long as you don’t spend too much time in transit in and out.

    First off, it’s a shame that these 5 cities aren’t quite so easy to string together on a 2-week trip, although it could be done like this:

    Fly into London for 3 nights
    Take a train to Amsterdam for 3 nights
    Take a train to Paris for 4 nights
    Fly to Venice for 2 nights
    Take a train to Rome for 3 nights
    Then fly home from Rome, or fly back to London for a flight home that same day

    That itinerary is obviously filled with highlights, but I think I might instead suggest:

    Fly into London for 3 or 4 nights
    Take a train to Paris for 3 nights
    Fly to Venice for 1 or 2 nights
    Train to Florence for 2 or 3 nights
    Train to Rome for 3 nights

    The second version is also filled with highlights, and the overall travel time is several hours shorter on a few of the journeys. By skipping Amsterdam on this trip, and doing Florence in between Venice and Rome, you get all the best sights in Italy as well as enough time in London and Paris, with short travel times.

    See what you think about that, and I’ll be here to help more in the future when you have more questions. -Roger

     
      Johnathan says:

      Hi Roger,

      Just wanted to mention that if one did want to visit London, Paris and Amsterdam, it would be much faster to go from London to Paris to Amsterdam. Not sure if you intended to write your first itinerary in that order.

      If you were to focus on those 3 and save Italy for another trip, would you recommend adding Brussels or another city as a stop between Paris and Amsterdam? Do you have a better recommendation?

      Johnathan

       
        Roger Wade says:

        Johnathan,

        This list is mostly in the order that I think the cities are critical for first-time Europe visitors, rather than an actual itinerary to follow. I put Amsterdam at #5 because I think the other 4 are even more impressive and important. I lived in Amsterdam for a while, and I’m based in London at the moment, even though I’m an American, by the way.

        So yes, you are right that the Eurostar from London to Paris is very efficient, and then the high-speed Thalys train from Paris to Amsterdam, changing in Brussels. I sort of have mixed opinions on Brussels. My uncle lives there and I’ve visited several times, but I find most of the city to be a bit generic, expensive, and mostly focused on business and government employee travelers. On the other hand, the main city square (called the Grand Place) is quite amazing, and the historic area surrounding it is definitely worth seeing.

        As a result, my common recommendation is for people to stop in Brussels and leave their bags in the train station, and then go out and explore for a few hours and have lunch or dinner. After that, get on the train to Bruges, which is 1 hour 7 minutes away on a direct train. Bruges is an almost perfectly preserved medieval town that will remind you of a smaller and more mellow version of Amsterdam. It’s really nice, and it’s cheaper than Brussels. You can see most everything there in about two days. There are a few other Belgian towns to consider such as Antwerp or Ghent, but Bruges has more hotels and more sights by far.

        The only downside of visiting Bruges before Amsterdam is that the architecture is pretty similar since they were built up in the same era. In other words, Amsterdam would seem a bit more spectacular coming straight from Paris rather than from Bruges, but I’d still recommend Bruges if you have two days or so. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

         
Ina says:

Hi Roger, I’m planning on a 2-3+ week trip to Europe for the first time next year. First stop would be Vienna then hopefuly Italy, France, Spain and Greece. London is out of the picture, unfortunately, cause I would need another visa for that. I don’t know how to go about my trip. I just want it to be a relaxed one and not rushing from city to city. It is also important for me to experience the culture through their cuisines. Can you suggest an itinerary for me? Any suggestions about the places I want to visit? Thank you!

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Ina,

    Particularly if you want to do a “relaxed” journey, you’ll want to plan on at least 3 nights in each city you visit. That gives you two full sightseeing days in each place because the travel day will take most of your daylight hours in almost all cases. And on a relaxed trip, I’d allow 4 days in Paris, partly because you mention food and it has so much exceptional food that 7 or 8 meals isn’t nearly enough.

    And rather than planning on countries you want to visit, it’s much easier and more helpful to think about the cities. In Austria you’ll start in Vienna and if you want to do another stop it should be Salzburg. In France you won’t have enough time to see more than Paris in 3 or 4 days, but fortunately it’s so wonderful that it will be enough. If you want to go to Spain, the fastest trip I’d recommend would be 3 nights in Barcelona and 3 nights in Madrid. Each is a large city loaded with great attractions, and they are very different from one another.

    The fastest Italy trip that I recommend is 1 night in Venice, 2 nights in Florence, and 3 nights in Rome. That is a lot of rushing, so 7 or 8 days is much better if you have the time. And as for Greece, the only must-see place is Athens, but it’s quite out of the way and I don’t think you’ll have time on this trip. Aside from Athens many people also go to one or more of the islands, but they are more about relaxation and partying than about culture and food. So I’d save Greece for a future trip.

    With all of that in mind, you have to decide which cities you really want to visit, and will have time to visit. Once you have that list I’ll be happy to help you sort out the itinerary. And it’s also best if you can plan cities that are within 5 or so hours of each other by train. If they are farther apart you’ll probably want to fly, and that gets a little complicated and less pleasant than doing it all on the train.

    So think about it, and I’m happy to help you once you have your priority list and total time frame decided upon. -Roger

     
Rajatha says:

Hi Roger,

My friends and I are planning a 2 week trip and we were hoping to cover France, Italy and Netherlands. I’m not entire sure of how to get from one place to the other. I’ve read quiet a bit about Eurail and from what I understand its pretty expensive. Are there any other options on how to commute? And it would be great if I’d get some advice as to where to begin our trip and where to end it. An itinerary would help.

Thanks a tonne.

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Rajatha,

    The best way to get between those places is by train. Europe has an extensive rail network, and fares are surprisingly cheap if you buy your tickets at least a month or two in advance. It’s easy to confuse the European rail network with “Eurail Passes”, which are prepaid ride passes that are good for people who want to make plans as they go, but quite expensive compared to individual tickets bought well in advance.

    It’s probably easiest to fly into Amsterdam and spend a few days there. Then take the high-speed train to Paris (3 hours) for a few days. After that take a train to Milan or Venice in Italy. From Paris to Italy it might be cheaper to fly, so compare both options. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Koyel says:

Hi Roger,

Am planning to visit Europe in January 2017. This would be my first time in this beautiful continent. I have 18 days in hand. But my Schengen Visa does not cover UK. So i have roughly chalked out an itinerary which looks like this-
Rome-Venice-Florence-Zermatt (via Milan)-Interlaken-Luzern-Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam. I would also like to include Vienna if possible. Do u think its Doable? Am open to make changes in the tour plan. Kindly suggest me an itinerary that wont be too hectic but also would let me see as much as possible. Really exited since this would be my first time in Europe.

Thanks a lot. Koyel.

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Koyel,

    I’ll be happy to try to help. The fastest trip through Italy that I recommend is 3 nights in Rome, 2 nights in Florence, and 1 night in Venice. Aside from that, I usually recommend 3 nights in almost any city in Europe with only a few other exceptions. So right there you’ve got 6 days spoken for.

    You might check my comments on where to go in Switzerland. I don’t think I’d recommend including Zermatt on a trip like this. Instead, I’d go for 2 or 3 nights in Interlaken and 2 nights in Lucerne. At that point you are at 10 or 11 days.

    You’ll want at least 3 nights in Paris, and 4 would be better. I just returned to London again from Paris, and Paris is such an amazing city that you don’t want to rush through it. You could spend 1 night in Brussels in order to see historic center, but you could even do that in a few hours on your way to Amsterdam. If you spend 3 nights in Amsterdam, you’ve got a pretty much perfect 18 days, and you’ll be fairly worn out at the end of it. Vienna is out of the way and I’d save it for another trip. This itinerary would work pretty well, and that is only if you are willing to move quickly through Italy like that. It might be even better if you spend 8 days or so in Italy, and perhaps save Amsterdam for a future trip. I hope this helps and feel free to ask other questions if you have them. -Roger

     
      Koyel says:

      Roger,

      Thanks a ton for your help. Now am more confident about making this trip. Just went through your write-up about the places to visit and stay in Switzerland. Following your advice would directly go to Interlaken and Lucerne from Italy and stay in each city for two days. Would save Zermatt for a future trip. I would like to ask you, do you think in this trip it would be more convenient to include Germany’s famed black forest for a couple of days (maybe Gengenbach?) instead of heading to Brussels and Amsterdam? That way can i save up on my travel time and get to see more? As suggested by you i would also like to add a day or two to Italy. What do u suggest?

       
        Roger Wade says:

        Koyel,

        The Black Forest is one of those odd attractions that is famous but not very interesting. There’s really nothing special about it, aside from a few small towns that sell many cuckoo clocks to tourists. Have a look at my article on where to go in Germany and maybe you’ll get another idea.

        On the other hand, Amsterdam is an amazing and beautiful city, so if you have time to get there I’m sure you’ll be impressed. Hotels there are expensive and the trains to get there aren’t cheap either, so I won’t blame you if you saved it for a future trip. But if you do get there you’ll love it. Brussels has a beautiful historic center around the main square called the Grand Place, but aside from that it’s mostly an expensive city for business travelers and bureaucrats.

        If you can stay another day or two in Italy, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it a lot. It would take at least 10 days in Italy before you’d start to be ready for another country. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

         
Jennifer says:

Hi, I will be traveling to Europe for the first time with my best friend in 2017. Since, it’s not a trip we will likely be able to do again for a long time. We are trying to make the best of it. Unfortunately we can only go for 1 week. She would like to go to Italy or Paris, but I want to know what you believe is best to do for a week. We will be leaving from NYC and planning on going in October. We haven’t finalized the dates yet.

Thanks for any and all advise.

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Jennifer,

    If you’ve only got a week and you want the best possible Europe experience, I recommend two possible choices. One would be to fly to London or Paris and spend 3 or 4 days there and then the remaining days in the other, after taking the Eurostar train between the two. Both are spectacular cities that are very different from each other, with more than enough top sights to keep you busy for 3 or 4 days.

    The other choice would be to spend the week in Italy. You could fly into Rome and spend 3 days there, then take a train to Florence for 2 or 3 days, and then another train to Venice for 1 or 2 days. Those are Italy’s Big Three, and again, they are all fantastic and all different from each other. It’s much more complicated to combine Paris and one or two cities in Italy in one 7-day trip. Whichever you choose this time, you can keep the other on your list for your next trip. Let me know if you have any questions about this and I’ll be happy to help. -Roger

     
stephen says:

hi rodger, id like to see your itinerary for things to do and see in each of these cities. ones that are touristy must sees and also the ones that are must dos that maybe aren’t so touristy.

Also id like to know your thoughts on a separate Ireland, Scotland type trip.

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Stephen,

    Without knowing your tastes I couldn’t type out an itinerary, and I generally don’t do that anyway because it’s so personal. I’d check the wikitravel.org page for each city, as well as lonelyplanet.com and even TripAdvisor for ideas, and then focus on the ones that appeal to you.

    For example, in Paris, you’ll obviously want to photograph the Eiffel Tower, but I’m not much of a fan of the experience of going up in the thing. Many people would disagree with me though. And in Amsterdam, the Van Gogh Museum is very popular, yet I’m not really a fan of his popular works, so I find it disappointing. The Reichsmuseum is fantastic though. If you have any specific questions I’ll be happy to answer or give my opinion.

    As for Scotland and Ireland, they are quite different from one another. In Scotland you’ll want to go to Edinburgh, which is really an excellent city for tourists for 2 or 3 days. After that the best place to go is Inverness, which is a lovely town and also the gateway to the Scottish Highlands. You can take many different tours from Inverness, including ones to the Isle of Skye. It’s also just a bit north of Loch Ness, and that might be one of the world’s dumbest tourist destinations. It’s a very deep lake, though not very photogenic. And if you don’t believe in the Monster stories, it’s just a hustle and waste of time.

    In Ireland it’s worth spending one or maybe two days in Dublin, but Dublin is not nearly as interesting as most people expect, and the rest of Ireland is lovely and charming. So the advice there is to spend only a day or two in Dublin and then head to Galway and the sights around there, or Kilarney or Cork, or any of the other smaller towns. Renting a car for a tour of Ireland’s scenic areas and small towns is ideal, although you can see a lot on train or bus trips as well. Again, let me know if you have any questions. -Roger

     
Cliff says:

Hi Roger, I’m thinking about traveling to Europe next year with my wife. I came across a “Best of Europe in 21 days” tour on a very familiar Europe traveler’s website. You know guy I’m talking about, right (His name rhymes with Stick Reeves? Anyway, his tour includes: Amsterdam, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France. It also includes 4 of the 5 cities you listed (no London). I was wondering if you think if that particular tour is a good value at $5,000 per person + airfare? I don’t mind paying top dollar for something valuable but I don’t want to get ripped off. I think you’re much better equipped to make a call than I am. Thanks for the article, and thanks in advance if you have time to respond! 🙂

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Cliff,

    I’m a big fan of Rick Steves myself, although I’ve never done any of his tours. I’ve never heard anyone say that his tours are extremely overpriced or a ripoff of some kind, and I’ve always assumed that the quality is fairly high.

    That said, US$5,000 per person does seem high for 21 days on the ground. That is obviously just under US$500 per day for two people sharing a room, although it also includes breakfasts, probably many other meals, attractions, tour guiding, and trains between cities. Really it boils down to how keen are you to be guided in this way. Many people love it and prefer it, and if it sounds like something you’d enjoy then I’d think this Rick Steves tour would be a great choice.

    However, if you planned all of this independently you could do it for far less with unlimited freedom. You can get perfectly acceptable and well-located hotel rooms in all of those places for around US$200 per night for two people including breakfast. You might spend more in Switzerland and Venice, and a bit less in other places. Traveling through these cities is very easy, even if English is your only language, so you can have great experiences without worrying about a language barrier.

    Personally, I absolutely love planning these trips and improvising a bit while I’m there. But for some people it feels like a huge chore. I’m very confident that you’ll love the trip whether you go with a tour or plan it yourself, and you’d even be able to afford some splurges by doing it yourself because you don’t have to pay a tour guide or the company they work for. And speaking of Rick Steves, I’m a huge fan of his books and have used them on my first trip to pretty much all of these places, so I highly recommend buying his books or ebooks for the planning process. As he says, the US$20 you spend on a good guide book can save you US$1,000 when you are there, including all the time savings. You can get electronic versions of his books on sale for around US$10 each at times, and that would be money very well spent.

    If you do end up planning your own trip, I’m happy to help if you have any questions. -Roger

     
Anit says:

Hi..planning our first trip to Europe in mid june 2017 for 15 days and need some help with planning. Our itinerary must include Switzerland as that has been on my fathers bucket list. We will be traveling from Singapore..a family of 6. What cities would you recommend we include and in what order so that I can check multi city flight options accordingly ? I have read that London requires a separate visa and if that’s true then we might skip London and focus on other cities. thanks in advance!

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Anit,

    If you want to save the UK for a future trip, you can still have an excellent visit to Europe. And if you definitely need to include Switzerland, I will provide my best recommendation below.

    I’d fly into Paris and spend 3 nights there. Then take a train to Interlaken in Switzerland for 2 or 3 days. Then take a train to Lucerne for 1 or 2 days. In other words, I recommend 4 nights in Switzerland, and 2 or 3 of those nights in Interlaken. See my article about where to go in Switzerland for the specific details on how to plan that.

    After Switzerland you have 8 days left, so take a train from Lucerne to Venice. That journey will take 6 hours and 48 minutes, and it’s amazingly scenic.

    Spend 1 night in Venice, as you can see the main sights in less than 24 hours, and Venice is so crowded that spending more than that can start to give people a headache. Then take a short train ride down to Florence for 3 nights, and then finally another train to Rome for the final 3 nights.

    That trip is filled with many of Europe’s best highlights and allows enough time in each place. Buy those train tickets about 3 months ahead of time and you’ll find that the fares will be surprisingly low. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Amit says:

      Thanks Roger…appreciate the response! I’m sure I’ll have more questions as I wrap my head around the logistics and I thank you in advance for indulging me. Some quick questions

      1. Would you say that the difference in scenery in Lucerne outweighs the logistics of traveling from interlaken to Lucerne?
      2. If we do include Lucerne and considering that we are going to be covering few legs of train travel.. Paris-Interlaken-Lucerne-Venice..is it good idea to buy rail pass or individual tickets? Would you recommend a website for train tickets or for buying attraction tickets?
      3. Depending on inbound flight tickets, if I find tickets to Zurich cheaper as opposed to Paris.. would it be worth starting from these as opposed to Paris and in that case logistically would you do Paris immediately after Interlaken/Lucerne?

      I will review your article on Switzerland in detail…would you also have good recommendations for reasonably priced hotel/apartment for the 6 of us in Paris/Florence/Venice/Rome?

      Ps. Btw just curious that despite Florence not being in your list of top 5, I notice you’re suggesting more time there as opposed to Venice? Just want to make sure I’m reading it correctly.

      Thanks a ton!

      Amit (pardon typo in previous message)

       
        Roger Wade says:

        Amit,

        It’s my pleasure to help.

        1. If you have 2 or 3 days in Switzerland, I’d just focus on the Interlaken area. If you can spare 4 days I’d add 1 or 2 days in Lucerne. They are very different from each other. Interlaken is where you get the best Alpine views and experiences, and Lucerne has a stunning location on a beautiful lake with plenty of other sights and attractions nearby. It just depends on how much of your trip you want to do in Switzerland.

        2. Rail passes tend to be best for trips longer than two weeks where you also want to make plans as you go to some degree. For a trip like yours you’ll be best off planning your whole itinerary in advance. And if you buy train tickets 2 or 3 months in advance, they’ll be cheaper than any rail pass as well. The tickets for domestic Swiss train rides are always the same price, but the others are cheaper the earlier you buy. The best site for most of these will be sbb.ch, which is the official Swiss rail site. For the tickets in Italy you should use Trenitalia.com, which is the official Italy rail site. For the ticket from Switzerland to Italy you should be quoted the same price on both, but comparing them is still probably wise just in case.

        I’d start in Paris and then go through Switzerland on your way to Italy if you can. If you started in Switzerland and then went to Paris, the train ride to Italy is nearly a full day. You could fly from Paris to Venice, however, so that’s something to consider. You’d miss the amazing Alpine scenery of the train from Lucerne (or Interlaken) to Venice though.

        Italy’s “Big 3” cities are Rome, Florence, and Venice. Rome is a bit hectic but it’s packed with great sights. Venice is small and very crowded, so it’s best to spend only 1 or 2 nights there. Florence is the heart of Tuscany and in between the other two. It’s less crowded and hectic than the other two, and it’s also packed with top sights. So while Florence might not make my Top 5 in Europe list on its own, it’s a wonderful stop on any tour of Italy, and it’s conveniently right between Rome and Venice.

        Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

         
Amit says:

Thanks a ton Roger! If you have some hotel/apartment options in these locations please do let me know.

Many thanks again for your friendly suggestions!

Amit

 
Paige says:

Roger,
It looks we are going to Europe for 3 months. It will be my husband, 2 year son and i. I’m wondering if we should start in the UK and head east, and fly home from budapest or should we start in budapest and end in the UK/Ireland? Would it be more than enough time to see greece, budapest, italy, france, London? I would love to add spain and amsterdam, but with a 2 year old i keep trying to keep us from moving every 3-5 days. Any input would be greatly appreciated

Thanks
Paige

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Paige,

    Part of my answer about which direction to go in would depend on what time of year you are planning this for. Budapest has fairly harsh winters and it can get quite hot and somewhat uncomfortable in summer. London and most of the rest of the UK has fairly mild winters, and mild summers as well. So with that in mind, you might want to go in a direction that maximizes your good weather.

    The other side of that, however, is that London can get really expensive for hotels in summer (because it’s the only decent season), while Budapest is much cheaper all year. Also, Greece typically means a stop in Athens, which is a pretty good year-round city, and a stop on one or more of the Greek Islands. Those islands mostly operate between early May and late October. If you visited outside of those months you’d be almost alone and disappointed.

    Another factor that I consider, if weather isn’t an issue either way, is that I personally prefer to stay in the expensive places first and end in the cheaper places. It’s a strange phenomenon that if you get used to US$5 dinners early in the trip and near the end you are paying US$15 for pretty much the same thing, it can be frustrating. On the other hand, it can be really fun to do it in reverse. So if weather isn’t a big issue, I’d start in the UK and head east from there.

    If you have 3 months in Europe you’ll have more than enough time for everything on your list. If your 2-year-old allows you to change cities every 4 days on average, which is reasonable, then you can visit about 22 cities. You could visit 2 or 3 cities in the UK and even a week in Ireland (don’t stay long in Dublin though), and you could visit 3 or 4 cities in Italy, and 2 or 3 in Spain, and 2 or 3 in France, and Amsterdam, and 2 places in Greece, and still have time for Budapest.

    I’m happy to help you further on this, so let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Valerie says:

Hi Roger!
I will be traveling to Europe for the first time with husband our toddler and 65 yr old mom. We are flying into London dec 28 and out from Paris Jan 11. (Booked this way due to lower flight rates) would love to visit Rome & Barcelona as well ( and IF there’s extra time possibly visit Venice or Madrid ). Would you be able to to suggest an itinerary please. We would stay on London for NYE. Mom suggests we pay for tour/ hotel package but they are running about $3000+ per person which think I can find hotels and possibly do our own for much less. Any suggestions? Thanks so much!!!!

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Valerie,

    I’ll be happy to help. In the 14 days you have you should hit 4 cities, and perhaps a short visit to a 5th one. Three days per city is ideal for most European cities, as it’s long enough to see the main sights and short enough that you can squeeze quite a bit in to a trip. There are two easy and logical choices for this trip, but combining them together is a bit tricky.

    Your first logical choice would be London for 3 or 4 days and then fly to Madrid, then three days later take the train to Barcelona, and three days later take the high-speed train or fly to Paris for your final four days.

    The second logical choice would be to start in London for 3 or 4 days and then fly to Rome for 3 days and then take a train to Florence (you’ll love it) for 2 or 3 days and then a train to Venice for 1 day, and then a flight to Paris for your final 3 or 4 days.

    In other words, it’s very easy to combine Spain OR Italy with London and Paris, and both of them are wonderful. Being honest, Italy is a more popular choice for most first-time visitors and I do think it provides more bang for your buck, and much better food as well. But Spain is also wonderful and those two big cities are quite different from each other, and quite lovely. The weather in Spain might also be a bit nicer than in Italy, though not by much. In Spain you’ll encounter some situations where the person you are speaking to speaks little or no English, so if you know Spanish it can help. That is less likely in Italy, since its tourism industry is powered by English-speaking tourists, so English-only is a bit easier there.

    If you did want to do Rome and Barcelona on the same trip you could do it. You’d be flying between all of your cities, except for perhaps Barcelona to Paris by train if you like. The European train system is wonderful and a lot of fun. That ride in Spain is only 3 hours, and in Italy those rides are each around 2 hours, so you still have a lot of sightseeing time left.

    You definitely don’t need a package to do a trip like this and you’ll save a lot of money planning it on your own. I’m happy to help you sort out more of the details once you lock down your itinerary. The train journeys and flights are cheapest if you book as far in advance as possible, so I’d try to get those booked soon. Let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
      Valerie says:

      Hi Roger!
      Thank you so much for your quick and helpful reply!
      My husband and mom really want to go to Barcelona and I want to go to Rome so I think we are going to try the last option. Ideally I would love to do that Italy/Florence/venice easier combo but since we might not be able to visit Europe anytime soon after I want everyone to be happy. You mentioned a train from Barcelona to Paris. What is the train called and will that be better than flying? Would it be wishful thinking to add Venice for one day before or after Rome? I can spend two days in Rome. Fly or train? After searching hotel rates obviously the closer to London city center the more expensive. We could technically get two rooms for the price of one if we stayed further. Do you think that during NYE it’s better for us to to stay closer to Big Ben etc. We don’t have tickets yet to the fireworks but would like to see them even if it’s from afar. Not sure if there’s a lot of traffic or hassle to stay further due to holiday. (We live in LA traffic is a nightmare and metro gets packed ) people have mentioned getting a train pass but since we are going to different cities (flying) which pass would it be worth it? yes I agree I could save money by planning separate. I was thinking of doing a hop on hop bus for a day where we go. Sorry for so many questions! Im hoping to book everything sooner vs later for deals! thanks so much for your help!

       
Haley says:

Hi…looking to travel to Europe in November/December of 2017. Where in Europe would you recommend during that time period? I don’t mind being a little cold, but I would prefer to avoid the rainiest cities.

Thanks!!
Haley

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Haley,

    Fortunately, there are few places in Europe where winter rain is a constant problem, perhaps aside from the notorious drizzle in much of the UK. Still, the inland countries in Europe can be very chilly that time of year, and you’d probably be better of saving them for another trip.

    Paris is so wonderful and has so many indoor attractions that I recommend it any time of year. Aside from that I think you’d be best of focusing on Italy, namely Rome, Florence, and Venice. And if you have more time you could spend some time in Sorrento to visit Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast.

    Warmer still is Spain. Madrid and Barcelona are both excellent cities that are different from one another. Valencia is another cool place to visit while you are there. Seville, Granada, and Toledo are the other main highlights. If you have even more time you could stop in the Malaga area along the Costa del Sol. It won’t be beach weather, but it will be warmer than elsewhere. And if you have time you could also visit Lisbon, which is a real gem with nice weather that time of year.

    Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Haley says:

      Roger,

      Thank you for the suggestions! It’s good to know that it’s not too wet this time of year. Paris is definitely a must, it’s been my go-to dream trip since I was a kid. Good to know you recommend it! Thanks for all the help, will definitely keep your page in mind as I continue the planning.

      Haley

       
Jill says:

Roger,

Our family of four (two teenagers) are looking to travel Europe July 2017 for 14 days to celebrate our 20th annivesary. Would like to explore England, France and possibly Italy. We love food, wine and new experiences. Any suggestions of possible itineraries or can’t miss experiences? I love to plan and intend to make the arrangements myself. Would also love lodging advice. We tend to stick five star hotels in the states, but would rather spend the money on food, wine and experiences on this trip. We so appreciate your guidance. Thanks, Jill

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Jill,

    This isn’t exactly my specialty, but I’ll try to help. For food and wine experiences you’ll want to focus on France and also Italy. I’d still plan on 3 or 4 days in London, and they do have excellent restaurants there to go along with the famous attractions. But then I’d take the Eurostar train to Paris for at least 3 or 4 nights. In Paris and most of France, it’s hard to get anything less than a fantastic meal. And really good wine starts at reasonable prices as well.

    After Paris you could head to Burgundy or Bordeaux or one of the other wine regions in France if you want smaller towns and countryside. Or you could head to Nice, on the Mediterranean coast, for excellent dining and the ability to visit Cannes and Monaco in 30 minutes by train as day trips.

    If you want to also visit Italy you’ll get excellent food and experiences, but the wine industry and winery visits aren’t quite as high-end as France. The quickest Italy visit that I recommend is one night in Venice, two nights in Florence, and 3 nights in Rome. If you have more time you could add another night in Florence and maybe one more night in Venice. Let me know if you have any other questions, and I’m sure there are many other good resources for ideas for what you have in mind. -Roger

     
Cassie says:

Hi Rodger,
Love that most of these suggestions are on our list!
My spouse and I are planning a Europe trip in Sept 2017 for 3 weeks. We came up with a rough itinerary including (in order):
Ireland
London
Amsterdam
Brussels
Paris
Venice
Greece
Does this seem reasonable in that amount of time with still feeling somewhat relaxed? Can you suggest a city for both Ireland and Greece (rather than Rome, we would prefer something more sea side) & possible itinerary with time frames for each city?
Thank you

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Cassie,

    Your itinerary looks quite good and 3 weeks should be enough time for most or all of it. I’ll go over it one at a time.

    For Ireland it’s probably worth a day or so in Dublin, but then you can take a train or rental car to one of the smaller and more charming towns. Galway on the west coast is very nice and easy to reach with the Cliffs of Moher nearby. Kilarney a bit to the south is another classic destination for a quicker trip to Ireland. You probably want to spend at least 4 or 5 days in Ireland if you can, and skipping Dublin altogether isn’t a terrible idea.

    London is best done in 3 or hopefully 4 days, but that should be enough. From there you can fly or take a train to Amsterdam, and stay there for 3 nights.

    I’m not a huge fan of Brussels because the historic center is small (although very impressive) and most of the rest of it is built for business and government workers. I prefer Bruges, which is an hour away by train. You could spend an afternoon in Brussels and then take the train to Bruges for 2 or 3 nights.

    Paris is similar to London in that 3 days is needed and 4 days is better.

    You’d want to fly from Paris to Venice because the train would take a long time and cost a lot more. Venice is small enough to enjoy in about 24 hours, and it’s also so crowded that it’s easy to tire of it after 48 hours, so one or two nights is best.

    If you want to visit Greece it’s recommended to stop in Athens for 2 or 3 days, as it’s one of the world’s most historic and interesting cities. After Athens most visitors to Greece will head to one of the islands for some relaxation. If you want to do that then Santorini and Mykonos are popular options that are easy to reach by air or ferry. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Cassie says:

      Thank you so much! Now this being both our first trips in Europe, do you have any advice on how to get started with planning. Do you recommend booking all accomadtions and flights ahead of time or leaving some wiggle room in case of any change in plans? Appreciate all your tips/advice.

       
        Roger Wade says:

        Cassie,

        You should probably start looking at airfares to Europe about 6 months in advance, and be ready to buy about 4 months before you go, or whenever you see fares that look good with good connection times. That is how you’ll get the lowest fares.

        For hotels in September you could book at the last minute and still be okay, but the best and cheapest places with the best locations tend to get booked first. So if I were you I’d book most or all of my hotels at least a month out. In many cases you’ll be able to do a hotel booking with no cancellation fee, so there isn’t much risk as long as you keep track of everything.

        For trains it’s best to book about 3 months out, as the fares start low and go up as more seats are sold. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

         
Felicity says:

Hi Roger,
So glad to have found this site. My husband and I would like to start planning our first trip to Europe for this summer. We only have 5 nights and of course we want to visit so many places. Our friends are recommending Paris and Barcelona. A few questions:
1) First, is it crazy to visit both cities with only ~6 days?
2) Another thought is to stay in Paris and take day trips. Would you recommend this? If so, what are a few great day trips from Paris?

Thanks so much for your help!

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Felicity,

    I highly recommend staying at least 3 nights when visiting any of these larger European cities. That gives you two full sightseeing days in each place and 1 travel day going between them. If you spend only 2 nights in one city, it’s really only one sightseeing day, and the next day you have to check out of your hotel and you won’t see much. So if you can do 6 nights total I think you’ll have a great trip. If you can only do 5 nights I’d probably stay in Paris and do a day trip or two.

    The most popular day trip from Paris, not including Disneyland Paris, is Versailles, which is only a bit outside the city. Here’s a better list of Paris day trips than I could type here. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Lydia says:

Hi Roger,

My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Europe in September 2017. It’ll be our first trip together so would really appreciate your advice on where to go / how many night per stops. Thinking of heading there from Melbourne for about 3.5 weeks. It’ll be the first time I’m visiting Europe so I think we should tick all the “essential” cities.
I think I would love to see the seaside of Greece and maybe Spain so wondering if you could advice on an itinerary.

Thank you so much.
Regards
Lydia

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Lydia,

    Sorry about the delay in responding. I was on a fast road trip. My standard advice is to spend 3 nights in each European city you visit. For the largest cities such as London and Paris you might want to spend 4 nights, and some smaller cities can be done in 1 or 2 nights as long as you don’t spend too much transportation time on those days. So with 3.5 weeks you have about 24 days, which means you should shoot for about 8 cities.

    As long as you can afford it I highly recommend these 5 above, so 3 or 4 nights in London and then a train to Paris for 3 or 4 nights. If you fancy Amsterdam you can take a high-speed train from Paris and get there in a bit over 3 hours. From there you can fly to Venice and spend 1 or 2 nights there. Then take a train to Florence for 3 nights and then another to Rome for 3 nights.

    Now you’ve still got about 9 or 10 days left. If you want to go to Spain I highly recommend BOTH Barcelona and Madrid for 3 nights each. They are both very large and very different from each other. You can take a train between them in about 3 hours, but you’ll probably want to fly in and out of Spain because it will be cheaper and much faster. As for Greece, you’ll probably want to hit one of the islands. Santorini is the most popular and it has a good mix of history and relaxing beach areas, but there are many others to choose from. You’ll want to fly in and out of Greece as well, so choosing an island with a busy airport is wise. That should give you some things to think about. I’ll be happy to offer more advice once you start locking in your plans. -Roger

     
Margie says:

I will be traveling with my five sisters for the first time to Europe for 14 days, arriving to Barcelona on Sept 12, and departing from Rome on September 27 we want to visit Barcelona, Paris, Zurich and Italy,
What is your recommendation for cities to see in Italy and is it best to fly or travel by train?, also how many nights should we spend on each city.
thank you very much

Margie,

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Margie,

    In Italy the “Big 3” cities for tourists and especially first-time visitors are Rome (3 nights), Florence (3 nights), and Venice (1 or 2 nights). You’ll want to get between them by train, as it only takes 90 minutes to 2 hours on the high-speed trains there.

    My only other comment is that Zurich isn’t much of a tourist city, and most visitors going to Switzerland are best off focusing on Interlaken and Lucerne. Here is my article on where to go in Switzerland, which discusses my recommendations. -Roger

     
Stephen says:

Hi Roger,

My wife and I are planning our first trip to Europe sometime this summer for 14 days. We plan on seeing London, Italy, France, and maybe one other country (If not too much of a hassle) like Greece or Amsterdam (Which do you prefer out of these 2 to go with our other places?). I have read some of your responses as to how to go about how to travel from London to Paris and then to the Big Three in Italy which have been extremely helpful. I have a few questions for you which can hopefully help us out:

1) First, do you recommend rental cars in any of these cities or what is the best way to get around in each of these places while we stay there for the 3 or 4 days starting in London at the airport?
2) Also, we were hoping to find a great beach as we would like a day or 2 of relaxing as well while on vacation so we aren’t only seeing museums/buildings etc. every day. Are there great beaches that you recommend in any of these cities that wouldn’t be too far out of the way? I have heard of some great beaches in Italy if weather is good around that time?
3) This may be a stupid question, but do you have any recommendations for the best way to handle the money exchange in each country to make it as convenient as possible for us while not wasting too much money with the exchange rates? We have never left the U.S. so this is brand new to us when traveling.
4) Finally, what location do you recommend staying at at these places? (I don’t necessarily mean an exact hotel name, but more the area in each country) We don’t mind spending a little bit more if it means convenience and near a lot of the sight seeing and activities so we don’t have to spend all our time in a car etc.?

Thank you so much for the help, we appreciate it!!

Stephen

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Stephen,

    Greece and Amsterdam are obviously extremely different. Amsterdam is only a bit over 3 hours by train from Paris, so it’s far easier to reach and it’s an amazing city that is unlike the others. Athens would require flying from one of your other cities. The top sights there are world-class as well, but you might save that for another trip. Amsterdam is much easier to include on your trip, and even 2 days there is nice.

    1) I definitely would not rent a car for a trip like the one you have in mind. Fuel is expensive and parking is expensive and hard to find. The trains are very pleasant and much faster than driving in most cases, and the fares are pretty good if you buy in advance.

    2) The closest beach to Paris is in Deauville, and it’s a wide, sandy beach. One challenge is that almost no one there speaks English, so if you don’t speak French that might be difficult. There are some nice beaches on the west coast of Italy, including some that are not far from Rome or Florence. But again, they will be filled with Italians and very few people there will speak English. In the major tourist cities you’ll have no problem getting by in English only, but outside those areas it can be tough. Really, if you do go to Athens you could potentially take a ferry or fly to one of the nearby islands. Santorini, Mykanos, and Rhodes are all popular islands with airports and nice beaches. Spain has some wonderful beaches, but really most of continental Europe does not.

    3) It’s not a stupid question at all. In London you’ll use British pounds (at an excellent exchange rate these days) and in all the other stops you’ll use Euros. The best thing to do is to arrive with maybe US$100 in cash as an emergency fund, and take money out of the ATM at the airport once you arrive. There is usually a fee of maybe US$5, but if you take out US$300 or more worth of local currency, that’s a small fee by percentage. Take out what you think you’ll need in London, and if you have any extra you can exchange it for Euros at the airport or train station. You don’t get a great exchange rate doing that, so try to keep that to a minimum. Then when you get to Paris or Italy or Amsterdam or Greece, take Euros out of the ATM. There are ATMs everywhere in these cities and there are always ATMs in airports and train stations once you get outside of baggage claim. In case something goes wrong, you can change the US dollars for local currency anywhere.

    4) In London I recommend staying in the Bayswater neighborhood, as it’s nice and also close to many top sights such as Oxford Street. In Paris I recommend staying in the Rue Cler neighborhood, which is next to the Eiffel Tower. In Amsterdam you should stay either close to the main train station (Centraal Station) or near Museum Square. If it’s a short visit of 2 days or so, the train station would be easiest.

    In Venice I think it’s worth paying a bit more to stay on the main island. In Florence you should stay fairly close to the train station, which is also close to the cathedral. Rome is very large and the area near the train station is a bit dodgy. I mention some of my better choices in an article on recommended hotels in Rome.

    You’ll be walking when sightseeing in those cities, and in some cases using the subway or other public transportation. It’s pretty easy to figure out once you get there, and it’s the fastest way of getting around. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Jay says:

Roger,

I am glad I stumbled upon your site. And, I wish I could take you with us on the trip we are planning in may/june. Beer on me!!

Can you help us in planning for our trip?

Its a 10 day trip. We are landing and departing from Geneva. we will have 1 kid aged 4 who loves to travel. We are looking to do some kids friendly locations too as just mountains and lakes will probably get boring for her. I would like to visit 2 more countries, probably France and Italy.

DO we need car? I have mixed responses to that question. I saw ER rail pass and that comes to almost $800 for three of us.

What should be focus in Switzerland, France and Italy for the amount of time we have. This is our first time in Europe and we know that we have less time and won’t be able to cover lot of things.

Can you help us to draw out itinerary starting from Switzerland and ending back in Switzerland? I have been researching like crazy but its so vast and am feeling lost.

Thanks!

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Jay,

    I’ll try to help, but it sounds like you need a couple guidebooks to really help you sort things out.

    For Switzerland you might be helped by my article on places to visit in Switzerland. Basically, you should focus on the Interlaken area if you only have 2 or 3 days, which if you want to also go to France and Italy, is all you have.

    Speaking of that, I really recommend 3 nights in almost any city you visit. If you try to go faster you’ll end up spending too much of your time on trains and in train stations. On such a short trip you might be able to squeeze 3 nights in Paris if you also want to visit Italy. But if Switzerland is your top priority it would be best to choose France OR Italy rather than both. The classic quick visit to Italy is 1 or 2 nights in Venice, 2 or 3 nights in Florence, and 3 nights in Rome. I’d recommend 3 nights in Interlaken and then 7 nights in Italy if you only have 10 days.

    You definitely don’t want to rent a car if you are mostly visiting cities. Parking is very expensive, as is fuel, and many roads have tolls. It’s also very stressful to drive around a country where the signs are all in languages you don’t know. Many first-time visitors pull it off, but honestly the trains are a thousand times easier and more pleasant. As long as you are doing a shorter trip like this, booking trains individually at least two months in advance should be cheaper than a Eurail Pass.

    Since your time is short I’d recommend flying back to Geneva from Rome. Or if you are doing Paris at the end you could take the train, but flying is faster and probably cheaper as well. This should at least help you get more planning done. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Stephen says:

Hi Roger,

Thanks for the help on some questions I had a week or so ago, I appreciate it. I do have another question for you regarding Italy. Right now our plan is a 15 day trip to London and Italy (Decided to not go to Paris). We will probably have about 7, maybe 8 days in Italy and was wondering the best cities for us to visit? Our thought right now was definitely Rome as the last stop since we are flying back home from there and then also Venice. If we squeezed in a 3rd city, do you have any preferences? We aren’t real big into art and museums and will see a lot of that in London and Rome so maybe more of a place to take in the views, culture, food, and a little more low key than that of Rome and Venice? Cinque Terre looked like a pretty neat place, but wasn’t sure?

Thanks for any help you can give!

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Stephen,

    Well, in Italy the “Big 3” are Rome, Venice, and Florence, so really Florence is the obvious third stop for you. It’s right in between Venice and Rome, and it’s much more low-key than the other two as well. There are some famous museums there, but you’d still be very entertained if you passed on those. It’s the biggest city in Tuscany, so Florence is famous for food and wine. It’s also a short train ride from Pisa and Siena for a day trip. And there are these wonderful little hill towns nearby that are popular for day trips as well.

    If you had 9 or 10 days in Italy I might have also suggested Sorrento as a great place to visit Naples, Pompeii, Capri, and the Amalfi Coast, but with only 7 or 8 days I wouldn’t recommend that.

    The Cinque Terre feels quite overrated these days, unfortunately. They are simply these 5 small coastal villages that are traditional and fairly photogenic. But since they have been “discovered” by foreign tourists like us, they are so insanely crowded that the magic is lost during the summer months. You can do a one-day visit from Florence if you want to see them, but I wouldn’t recommend spending several days there. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Sue says:

Hi Rodger – Great site, I have read ALL the responses & it has been super informative!

My husband & I are travelling to Europe in July 2017 to celebrate his early retirement & to attend my nephews wedding in the village of Perreux, France. I think we will be flying into/out of London as it seems to be the cheapest flight, unless you have a better suggestion (we are travelling from Vancouver, BC Canada).

So, our plan is to spend a couple of days in London when we arrive & again before depart. Now the hard part…we would really like to see Paris, Rome, Venice & Barcelona, keeping in mind that we will need 3 days in Perreux for the wedding. Not sure if all this is do’able, perhaps we should leave Barcelona for another trip? It would be great if you could suggest an itinerary for us, maybe you could do one with Barcelona & one without?

Also, I see that you recommend a lot of travel by trains. However, what little research I’ve done, trains seem to be very expensive. Perhaps you could also let me know which train company’s I should be looking at to book for our travels. Ryanair seems to be very affordable…thoughts?

I can’t wait to read your suggestions!!
Thank you so much for time,
Sue 🙂

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Sue,

    Flying in and out of London makes sense as long as you plan on doing some sightseeing there as you mentioned. After that you’ll want to take the Eurostar train to Paris. After Paris you definitely want to take the train to Perreux, although a flight to Lyon and then a train or car from there could also work. The train will be far more pleasant and obviously scenic as well.

    You could potentially take a train from Paris to Barcelona and then trains from Barcelona to Perreux. The other option would be to fly to Barcelona from London or any of your other stops. Personally, I’d save it for another trip. Barcelona is wonderful but so are Madrid and so many other places in Spain, and on a future trip you could see those places without going so far out of your way.

    If you skipped Barcelona or visited before Perreux you could then take a train from Perreux to Venice. That would be a long day so perhaps flying from Lyon to Venice (or nearby Treviso) would be better. After one or two days in Venice you could take a train down to Rome. Most people stop in Florence on the way for a couple days because it’s another wonderful city and it’s in between Venice and Rome. Either way, you’ll definitely want to take trains because they are fast and fairly cheap in Italy. Then a train down to Rome for 3 nights or so.

    From Rome you’d definitely want to fly back to London for your flight home, or perhaps fly directly from Rome back to Vancouver if you can get a good fare that way.

    Trains are quite cheap if you book at least 2 or 3 months in advance on the official rail websites. For France it’s sncf.com, for example. For Italy it’s trenitalia.com. You can book the Eurostar on the France site.

    Ryanair is cheap, but the fares don’t include luggage or some other things so they aren’t as cheap as they seem. The seats are also small. I prefer easyJet, although it is similar in many ways. There are other airlines on those routes at around the same fares as well. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Sylvia says:

Hi Roger. Very helpful website! Our son was just accepted into a study abroad program near Paris, so we’re thinking of meeting him there when it finishes in mid-June and travel for a couple of weeks. Do you think it would be too rushed or too much travel time to fit in these locations: London (3 nights), Paris (3), Rome (3), Venice (1), Interlaken (2). What travel order would you suggest? And are any too far apart that we would have to consider flying?

I think I read that you suggest starting in London first to lessen the shock of going to a different country. Does it really matter? If so, we could go to London, then pick up our son in Paris and continue, or maybe start in Paris and end in London so he can visit London with us before flying home to the US?

Is there a particular city (e.g. London) that would make sense to start/end with to minimize the flight cost to the US?

If that’s too many locations, I would skip Interlaken, although you make it and Esther’s Guesthouse sound very nice.

Thanks for any suggestions.

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Sylvia,

    Your plan sounds quite good and I don’t think it’s overly ambitious. All of the cities on your list are popular enough that you could start in any of them without experiencing any shock, so starting in London isn’t too critical. That said, your route could be a little complicated if you start in Paris.

    If you wanted to start in Paris you could fly there and then take the Eurostar train to London. Then fly to Rome and then take a train to Venice. You could then take a train to Interlaken, and then fly home from Zurich. The train trip between Venice and Interlaken is one of the most scenic in the world, so it’s worth the time it takes compared to flying.

    If you started in London you could fly there and then take the Eurostar to Paris. Then you can take a train to Interlaken, then that incredible ride to Venice, and then another train ride to Rome for your flight home or your flight back to London for your flight home. Interlaken is really wonderful and will be a nice contrast to those cities, so I highly recommend it if you have time.

    You’ll want to check airfares for the different options. It might be cheapest to fly in and out of London or Paris and then fly back into that city before your flight home. But sometimes you can find an “open-jaw” fare into one city and home out of another that is cheap enough to be the best option. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Joe says:

Hi Roger, I will greatly Appreciate your suggestion on an itinerary, it’s our first trip to Europe and we are flying to Paris in Late May 2017 and will like to add Gotenburg, Sweden to visit relatives for a three days max, we have a total of 18 days. Can you suggest the routes with fly/ train etc, thanks in advance.

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Joe,

    It’s hard to confidently make recommendations for most of your trip, but I can give you some advice and a few options. You’ll want to spend 3 or perhaps 4 days in Paris, and if you have 3 days set for Gothenburg/Göteborg then you have 11 or 12 days remaining. As this is your first trip to Europe I’d recommend that you fly in and out of Gothenburg. The other option would be to take a train to Copenhagen and then another to Gothenburg and then fly out. But that would take a LOT of time and I think Copenhagen and that southern area of Sweden is better for a future trip rather than a first trip to Europe. In other words, you’d need half your 18 days in order to include Gothenburg by train, so just flying in and out will only take those 3 days plus travel time going and flying out.

    I notice there are cheap flights from Gothenburg out of London and Rome, so you could potentially fly there from one and fly from Gothenburg to the other. So one thing you could do is fly to Paris for 3 or 4 days, and then take the Eurostar train to London for 3 or 4 days. From there you could fly to Gothenburg for 3 days, and then fly to Rome. You’d have 8 or 9 days left, which is a perfect amount of time to see Italy. You could spend 3 nights in Rome, then take a train to Florence for 3 nights or so, and then a train to Venice for 1 or 2 nights. From Venice (or nearby Treviso) you could fly back to Paris for your flight home.

    If you really did want to spend more time in Scandinavia you could fly into Paris for 3 or 4 nights and then take a train to Amsterdam for 3 nights. Then take a train to Copenhagen for 2 or 3 nights, and then another train to Gothenburg for 3 nights. At that point you’d have 6 or 7 nights left, and you could fly to London and then take a train back to Paris, or you could fly to Rome for a quicker tour of Italy. I think those are your best options for a first trip to Europe where you really want to see the best and most memorable cities and also Gothenburg. I hope that at least gives you some ideas. I’m happy to answer other questions if you have them. -Roger

     
      Joe says:

      Hi Roger, Thanks so much, we are deciding on not visiting Sweden again but are looking at the various options, we found a cheap flight to Barcelona. Can you suggest the best and cheapest itinerary we can consider from Barcelona for the 18 days? Many thanks!

       
        Roger Wade says:

        Joe,

        I’m not able to type out a whole new itinerary for you based on a new starting city, but I will mention that if you are going to Barcelona you should spend 3 nights there and also take the high-speed train to Madrid for another 3 nights. Both cities are large and quite different from one another. You could fly elsewhere from Madrid for cheap, or if you skipped it you could get to Paris from Barcelona on a high-speed train in 7 hours. Flying might be better though.

        Everything else I mentioned before still stands. The best cities for first-time visitors are London, Paris, and the Big 3 in Italy (Rome, Florence, and Venice). Amsterdam is another excellent one, although it’s a bit out of the way from those others. I’ll be happy to answer some specific questions if you have them. Have a great trip. -Roger

         
Tom says:

Hi Roger,

My wife and I are planning to take our boys to Europe this summer (7-10 days) with the only must see being Paris. Excluding the UK (been there done that), what should be at the top of our list? I’m guessing no more than 2, maybe 3 cities and plan on spending 3-4 nights in Paris. Appreciate any assistance or advice you have to offer! Thanks!

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Tom,

    If you have 7 to 10 days total then you are going to want to stick to 2 or 3 cities, as you say. Paris is worth 4 days if you have them, which it seems that you do. The easiest “great” city to reach from Paris (excluding London) is Amsterdam, which is a bit over 3 hours away by train. Amsterdam is amazing, and the boys should really enjoy it. It’s very different from Paris as well.

    For a third city you could add Brussels and/or Bruges, but those both feel like lesser versions of Paris and Amsterdam respectively. On longer trips they are worth a visit, although maybe not on this trip.

    An option that might be even better is to make a stop or two in Germany on your way to or from Amsterdam. Have a look at this article on where to go in Germany and check out Fussen and Rothenburg ob der Tauber. You could do both of them in 2 or 3 days, although it would be a bit of a rush in 2 days with all the traveling. Both of those are very different from Paris and Amsterdam, and both should be very interesting for kids as well. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Tom says:

      Thanks for your prompt reply! So 4 days in Paris definitely sounds like a plan. The boys seem to be fixated on Italy, and I thought perhaps 3 days in Rome would be a good option. I can already tell we’ll need a few more trips to scratch the surface of all these amazing places. Interestingly, why is it so much more to travel via train vs. flying between cities? I’d love to see the countryside, but double the expense seems crazy. Thanks again!

       
Nat says:

Hi Roger,
My mum, daughter (18 month) and I, have 21 days arranged for in Europe this coming May. We return home from Rome. I’m just trying to work out the best way forward, we definitely want to see Paris, possibly Amsterdam,Munich, Austria, Switzerland, Italy. Is this do-able? What cities would I be best to visit in that time frame? It doesn’t need to be in this particular order, other than we start from Paris and leave fromRome, so anything in between could be flexible. I think I have established I will travel by train. Do you think it would be easy enough travelling with 18 month on trains etc. Would love to hear what you think? I’d appreciate any of your advice please, your comments are amazing.

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Nat,

    I’ll be happy to try to help. If you have 21 days starting in Paris and ending in Rome, you can see a lot. My recommendation is for 3 nights in pretty much any city you visit, except for a few small cities like Venice that can be appreciated in one or two days. If you try to go faster than 3 days per city you’ll end up spending half of your trip on trains and in train stations.

    With that in mind you really have time for 7 cities in 21 days. Start in Paris and I’d probably skip Amsterdam on this trip because it’s in the opposite direction from all of your others. The fastest Italy visit that I’d recommend is 6 nights, including 1 night in Venice, 2 nights in Florence, and 3 nights in Rome. I’d recommend at least 7 nights for you in order to get the most out of your visit. So if you are 3 nights in Paris and 7 nights in Italy, you have 11 nights in between. But spending 4 nights in Paris and 8 or 9 nights in Italy could be even better, so don’t feel the need to race around quickly.

    Your choices in between are Munich (3 nights, Vienna (3 nights), Salzburg (3 nights), and your visit to Switzerland should be 3 to 5 days in Interlaken and Lucerne. I get this question so often that I wrote a whole article on where to go in Switzerland on a short trip. You might also consider other stops in Germany, which I cover on my article on where to go in Germany.

    With that information you should be able to examine your choices and figure out the best itinerary for your tastes. Starting in Paris you can take a train to Munich or Austria or Switzerland and when you’ve seen those places you can take a train through the Alps to Venice, which is a gorgeous train ride. As you mentioned, the train is by far the best way to get around. If you buy your train tickets at least a month or two in advance they will be surprisingly cheap as well.

    If you are wondering if an 18-month-old would do well on trains, I’d say almost certainly yes. The trains in the areas you are going are all modern with clean bathrooms at the end of each carriage, and enough room to get up and walk around as often as you need to. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Vincensa says:

Hi Roger,

I’m so glad I’ve found this article! Me and my fiance are going to europe for our honeymoon. We have 30 daya, so much to see. We’ll be going in june, I know it will be so crowded that month but we don’t have so much choice so we’ll go with that plan.. So I loved to viait your cities that you recommened and we’ll starting and ending our trip in amsterdam, and because we have enough time so countries I had in mind is netherland, london, swiss, germany, france, spain (barcelona), italy(not gonna miss it!), and santorini. It would be great if you could suggest an itinerary for us. About cities we should visit and routes. Would love to hear what you think, I’d appreciate any of your advice please. Thanks a lot!

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Vincensa,

    I really prefer not to do itineraries from scratch, but I will try to help. First off, I always recommend 3 nights in each city on trips like this as the ideal balance between seeing a lot and also not spending too much time on trains and in train stations. So if you have 30 days you should think about 10 or perhaps 11 cities. Paris and London are so big and full of attractions that 4 days is better, while Venice is small enough to see in about 24 hours or two nights at most.

    And you should also think more about cities rather than countries. Let’s start with the ones we are sure about.

    Amsterdam 3 nights
    London 3 or 4 nights
    Paris 3 or 4 nights
    Rome 3 nights
    Florence 2 or 3 nights
    Venice 1 or 2 nights
    Barcelona 3 nights
    Santorini 3 nights

    That is 21 to 25 nights and doesn’t include German or Switzerland. If you want to include Germany then Munich and Berlin are the obvious choices, though Berlin is a bit out of the way for you. In Switzerland the best choices are Interlaken and Lucerne.

    I have several articles that should help you decide which cities to include.

    Where to go in Germany
    Where to go in France and Italy
    Where to go in Switzerland

    After you skim through those you should have a better idea of exactly where you want to go in your 30 days. Once you have a list of destinations then it will be fairly obvious how you will string them together into an itinerary. You’ll want to take trains between most of them, except for Santorini which will obviously require flying in and out.

    I’m happy to help as you are getting your itinerary more together. Have a great trip and congrats. -Roger

     
BH Ung says:

Hi Roger,
First and foremost congrats on your travel articles. Me and my wife are planning our first Europe tour end of March till mid April this year. We loved to visit some of the cities featured in your articles. Our itinerary is as listed below.
28 March Fly from Dubai to Rome
29 March Rome
30 March Rome
31 March Train from Rome to Florence
01 April Florence (Half-day tour to Pisa)
02 April Train from Florence to Venice
03 April Venice (Half-day tour to Murano, Burano and Torcello)
04 April Fly from Venice to Barcelona
05 April Barcelona
06 April Barcelona
07 April Fly or train from Barcelona to Paris
08 April Paris
09 April Paris
10 April Paris
11 April Train from Paris to Amsterdam
12 April Amsterdam
13 April Amsterdam
14 April Amsterdam
15 April Amsterdam to Dubai

I would appreciate if you could provide us recommendation on accommodation (Hotels or AirBnB) and transportation ie: trains and airlines (how to go about booking the train tickets and nearest train stations in the cities).
Would love to hear from you soon. Thanking you in anticipation.
Warm regards,
BH Ung

 
    Roger Wade says:

    BH Ung,

    Your itinerary looks really good and very well planned. As for transportation, it looks like you’ve got that figured out as well. Trains are your best option except for that flight from Venice (or Treviso) to Barcelona. From Barcelona to Paris, the train takes about 7 hours, while the flight would take about 5 hours from city center to city center. The train is far more pleasant and the scenery is quite good in much of it. Personally, I’d take the train because it’s comfortable and relaxing, but a flight would be a bit quicker and might even be faster.

    This article covers how and where to buy cheap European train tickets. Each city has one main station (except for Paris which has a few, but only one main station that goes to any given destination), and it’s cheapest to buy tickets online at least a month or two in advance on the official rail websites for each country.

    As for hotel accommodations, I have articles with recommended hotels in all of those cities except Florence. Here is the recommended Paris hotels article. You can find the others by looking at the main page for each city on this site and checking the middle column below the main text. Here is the main Rome page, for example.

    Without knowing your budget and tastes it would be hard for me to recommend specific hotels. Also, the room rates go up and down depending on how many rooms they have sold. Airbnbs could be a good option in these cities as well, although you’ll find that very few apartments have central locations in these cities. If you want to be in the heart of the tourist district and walking distance to many attractions, hotels are usually the better option. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      BH Ung says:

      Hi Roger,
      Appreciate your prompt response. Shall get in touch with you should I required more information/assistance.
      Thank you and regards,
      BH

       
Parinitha says:

Hi Roger,
I am so glad I stumbled upon this site. It is by far the most extensive and sorted site for planning a Europe trip. Ill try to be as precise about my questions as possible. My husband and I are planning a 16 day trip to Europe in 2017. The places we have in mind are Italy, Paris, and Amsterdam.
1. The most suitable time to visit these places (any way we can beat the crowd in Italy?
2.Best route given we are traveling from Bangalore, India. (I believe flying in to one country and flying out of the last one saves some time and travel)
3. I had planned the Big 3 (Italy) as also suggested in your blog. Should we also include the much popular Amalfi coast in the trip?
4. For my itinerary, should we buy a eurail pass or book all the tickets in advance?
Thanks in anticipation!
Parinitha

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Parinitha,

    I’m glad you found this site as well. Interestingly, I just wrote an article about the best time to visit Italy. You’ll see that if you can go in April or May you’ll get smaller crowds, better weather, and lower room rates.

    If you can get a good fare flying into Amsterdam and flying home from Rome, it would be ideal. You could fly into Amsterdam and 3 days later take a train to Paris. From Paris it’s best to fly to Venice or nearby Treviso Airport. After 2 days in Venice you can take a train to Florence for 3 or 4 days, and then a train to Rome for 3 days or so. The train from Paris to Venice takes a whole day and costs a fortune. You could of course also do it in reverse, ending up in Amsterdam.

    In order to enjoy the Amalfi Coast you’d need 3 days more. It takes most of a day to get from Rome to Naples to Sorrento and then to Positano or Amalfi, and most of a day to get back to Rome. So only having one full day in Amalfi isn’t worth it really. I’d save that for your next Italy trip when you don’t also want to spend more time in Rome or Florence.

    A Eurail Pass would not be good value for a trip like this, so you’ll definitely want to book the train tickets online in advance. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Karen says:

Hello,
My family and I want to travel to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Venice, and Rome during the end of May for 2 weeks. We are having some difficulties in starting to plan out travel…how do we go about traveling to the different countries as well as within the country. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Karen,

    The best way to do that would be to fly into London for 3 days and then take the Eurostar train to Paris for 3 days. Then take the train to Amsterdam (3.5 hours) for 3 days. Then fly to Venice (or nearby Treviso) for 2 days and then take the train to Rome for 3 days. From Rome you can fly home or fly back to London for your flight home. That is the easiest way to do it, but there are other ways and you can do it in reverse if you prefer. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      KAREN says:

      Hi Roger,
      Thank you for your quick response. The family is now thinking that it might be better to visit Ireland and Scotland instead of Italy (they prefer to do it on an entirely separate trip). How would you recommend the itinerary? Which cities in Ireland and Scotland? Once again thank you so much!
      karen

       
Danielle says:

Hi Roger,
I’m glad I stumbled across this site too! Your information has been EXTREMELY helpful. I am planning a trip to Europe for 10 days in October 2017. Which cities should I visit for the best experience? I know we can only do 2 or 3. I’m torn between Paris and London OR Rome and Florence. Any advice will help. Thanks

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Danielle,

    I’m always happy to hear that people find this useful. If you’ve got 10 days I’d recommend doing 3 cities. You could spend 5 days in London and 5 days in Paris, and do a day trip or two from either or both and have 10 great days, but I think you get more out of another city than you get out of the 4th or 5th day in the same city.

    As you mention, you could to London and Paris OR a visit to Italy, and combining them isn’t as easy. So here are your best options:

    London 4 nights then take the Eurostar train to
    Paris 3 nights and then a 3.25-hour train ride to
    Amsterdam 3 nights

    Amsterdam is really wonderful and very easy to visit because everyone there speaks flawless English. It’s also VERY different from Paris and London. You could either fly home from Amsterdam or fly back to London for your flight home, as long as you pay attention to which London airport you are using.

    Or, as mentioned, you could do 5 days in London and then the Eurostar to Paris for 5 days. That would give you time to visit Stonehenge or Oxford or Cambridge on a day trip, or even spend a day in Bath and Bristol. And in Paris you’d have time for a day at Versailles or any other day trips.

    Actually, 10 days in Italy is plenty of time to see 3 or 4 cities. Venice is small enough that 1 or 2 nights there is ideal, especially if you arrive early and/or leave late. You could do 3 or 4 nights in Florence, which would give you time for a day trip to Pisa or Siena or even Cinque Terre if you like. There are also some really nice hill towns nearby that make good day trips. And then you’d have 3 or 4 days in Rome. I really recommend Rome for 3 days to most people because those two full days are enough to see the main sights, but not so much that you really get frustrated with how chaotic the city is. Still, it’s filled with attractions and 4 days would be good as well.

    You could also do a day or so in Milan, which is the main transport hub in the north and has fairly cheap flights. In other words, you could potentially fly into Milan for a day, then a train to Venice for 1 or 2 days, then a train to Florence for 3 or 4 days and then a train to Rome for 3 or 4 days before your flight home. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
KAREN says:

Hi Roger,
I apologize, I also wanted to ask in what order do you recommend visiting the cities and how to travel from city to city. Hotel recommendations and currency exchange would also be greatly appreciated. This is our first trip to Europe and don’t want to get overwhelmed. Thank you so much for your help, it is greatly appreciated.
karen

 
Caitlin says:

Hi Roger, I have reading all your articles, thanks for an amazing site, it is a wonderful resource. I am thinking of doing a mid June – early July for 21 days first trip to Europe with my husband. This is the only time we can go within the next 2 years.

Flying from Australia
Arrive London (we have family living there we want to vist)
A few days in London
A few days exploring English countryside/grand old houses etc

Amsterdam 3 nights – free accomm with a friend
Then Paris for a few days
Then French countryside/nature/chateau

I would love love to see Italy but not sure if there is realistically enough time to do it, what do you think? Our trip would be centred around cities but I do also want to see other parts of the country, and not be too rushed. Also not sure about round trip vs flying in to London, and out of Paris or Rome. Like historical sites, food, culture and nature.

Many thanks for any advice you could offer!

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Caitlin,

    Thank you. So let’s say you are doing 3 days in London and 2 additional days in England. And then 3 nights in Amsterdam and 3 or 4 nights in Paris. That’s 11 or 12 nights full of highlights, and you have 9 or 10 nights to go. If you spend 2 nights elsewhere in France, that gives you 7 or 8 nights left, which is just about perfect for an Italy visit if you’d like to do it.

    The best way to add an efficient Italy visit to your trip would be to fly from Paris or another French airport into Venice or nearby Treviso Airport. Spend 24 to 48 hours in Venice, as it’s a small city that is also crowded so it’s best to do it fairly quickly.

    After Venice you will take a 90-minute train ride to Florence and stay there for 3 nights. Then take the 2-hour train ride to Rome for your final 3 nights. Venice, Florence, and Rome are Italy’s “Big 3” for very good reasons. They are all quite different and all loaded with sights and experiences. After Rome you could fly home if you can get an affordable open-jaw ticket, or fly back to London for your flight home. If you do it the latter way it’s important to make sure you pay attention to the different London airports. The long-haul flights almost all go in and out of Heathrow, while the cheaper flights from within Europe mostly fly into the other 4 London airports, so you need to leave enough time to get between them or fly into Heathrow only.

    I get questions all the time from people trying to plan the cities on your list in a total of 10 or 11 days. Those people are being WAY too ambitious, but to do them in 21 days feels just about right. You’d be moving around pretty quickly, but slow enough to enjoy each stop.

    On the other hand, if you wanted to save Italy for a future trip, you could also have a wonderful time focusing only on England, Netherlands, and France in those 21 days. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Martha says:

Hi Roger, I have reading all your articles, thanks for an amazing site, it is a wonderful resource. We are planing our first trip to Europe, thinking of doing a mid Aug for 15 days, with my husband and my son (16 years) and my best family friends 2 adults- 1 boy 18 years

Flying from Toronto
Arrive London (we have family living there we want to vist) and stay 3 nights
Amsterdam (a few hours) and then by train or fly to Dusseldorf 3 nights – free accomm with a friend.
Then Prague 2 days
Then Paris for 3 days
Then Barcelona 3 nights
Then fly Barcelona to Toronto
Aldo could you please advice the best way to do the visit by train or fly, and which sites are the best and cheaper.

What do you think? We really want to enjoy the trip and not be too rushed.

Many thanks and waiting for the best recommendations.

Martha

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Martha,

    Thank you. Your plan looks quite good and well thought out. I can provide a few comments.

    From London you can take the Eurostar train to Brussels and then another fast train to Amsterdam, but flying is about the same amount of time and it might be quicker. Either one would work, although the trains are more pleasant and obviously more scenic.

    If you haven’t been to Amsterdam before then it’s a shame if you are only staying a few hours. It’s an amazing and very photogenic place. The train from Amsterdam to Dusseldorf is only a bit over two hours. If you buy your train tickets far enough in advance you can get them as low as €19 each way, so you could potentially do a day trip. Dusseldorf is kind of a generic German business city, but nearby Cologne/Koln is interesting.

    From Dusseldorf to Prague you’ll want to fly, and 3 days would be better than 2 in Prague, but 2 is still fantastic.

    From Paris to Barcelona there is a new high-speed train that takes 7 hours. Flying is a bit faster, even including airport transport time, and it’s probably cheaper as well, but it’s worth checking fares.

    To check airfares it’s best to go to the official rail website for the departure country for that leg. For example, here’s a page on the official Netherlands rail site about Amsterdam to Dusseldorf trains. I have all the links and more information on my article on buying European train tickets in advance.

    For flights I usually use kayak.com, but Momondo is another good one for Europe.

    One last comment is that you’ve chosen a group of very interesting cities (with the possible exception of Dusseldorf, but a friend visit is nice), yet they are quite spread out. For example, if you substituted Berlin for Prague on this trip, you could take a train and it would be faster. Or if you did Munich instead of Prague, you could take trains there and to Paris. Or you could do Interlaken, Switzerland instead of Prague and the train rides would be faster and shorter.

    Still, your itinerary will work and those are great places you’ve chosen. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Valerie says:

Hello Roger,

You are incredibly kind to be taking so much of your time to help everyone in these comments. Thank you.

I was wanting to ask your opinion: my husband and I are doing our first European trip next month. So far I only have the roundtrip tickets to and from Paris. We have 7 nights. I will be 5 months pregnant and do not want to overdo anything, so I was thinking of taking the train to Amsterdam when we land in Paris, spend two nights in Amsterdam, then our last 5 in Paris. I wasn’t wanting to short change Paris, but it looks like you might instead recommend 3 nights in Amsterdam and 4 in Paris. What are your thoughts?

Thanks for any information,
Valerie

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Valerie,

    Your plan sounds good. Paris is definitely much larger than Amsterdam so 4 or 5 days will be ideal. I could go either way on this, but I think the thing I’d use to decide would be what time your train to Amsterdam would get in. Your flight to Paris will probably land in the morning, so the question is how long it’ll take you to reach Amsterdam. It’s about a 3.25-hour train ride from central Paris, but you’ve got to go through Immigration and Customs and then get transport into Gare du Nord train station to catch the train to Amsterdam. If you think you can get to Amsterdam by 4pm or so, then you’ll have the whole evening to look around and the whole following day to see the highlights. But if your train from Paris gets in later than that, I think you should stay in Amsterdam for 3 nights so you have time to enjoy it.

    Paris in 4 nights is plenty for nearly anyone to see all the main things on their list, and also just wander around the neighborhoods. Bon voyage and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Lidia says:

Hi Roger,
My husband and I are planning to go in September for 28 days. We are flying from Australia and thinking to fly into London and leave from Rome. London, Paris, Rome are our must do’s. Would like to ask your opinion on our itinerary:
London 6 nights – train to Paris
Paris 5 nights – fly into Rome
Rome 5 nights
Would like to add in Positano and spend a few days just to relax there
I’ve deliberately put in extra nights in this places so we can do day trips outside of the main cities.

I want to include Spain while husband wants to include Switzerland but I’m not sure about the best route option.
What would you recommend? Will Spain be too much out of the way?
Or would London-Paris-(Switzerland)-Pasitano-Rome makes more sense?
Thanks,
Lidia

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Lidia,

    This sounds like a great trip and I’m glad you are starting with a relaxed schedule and thinking about adding to it, instead of starting with a crazy schedule and then having to take things out.

    As you suspect, Switzerland is much easier to shoehorn into your primary itinerary compared to Spain. If you did choose to include Spain, it would probably be best to fly from Paris to Barcelona or Madrid, and then take the high-speed train to the other one, and then fly from there to Rome after spending 3 nights in each. Both cities are quite different from each other, and both very worthwhile for 3 nights each.

    Since you are planning on spending most of the rest of your 28 days in larger cities, I’d think that Switzerland might be a more interesting contrast as well. The Swiss cities don’t compare to the cities on your list, but the Alpine and lake sights are arguably the best and most dramatic in all of Europe. After 5 or so days in Interlaken and Lucerne, the big cities will be easier to take again. If you are going to Switzerland you might find my article about where to go in Switzerland to be useful.

    Speaking of Italy, you might also consider adding Venice and/or Florence to your visit there. Those cities along with Rome are Italy’s “Big 3” for a reason. You could take a wonderful and scenic train ride from Interlaken or Lucerne to Venice and spend 2 nights there. Then take a short train ride to Florence for 2 or 3 nights there before heading to Rome for your stay there. I’ve also got an article on where to go in France and Italy, which may be useful.

    As for Positano, it’s lovely but it’s also a bit out of the way. The closest big airport is Naples and from there it’s a 1.5-hour train ride to Sorrento and then a bus or private car for another hour or so to Positano. So you could fly into Naples and then go to the Amalfi Coast in the way I described, or you could visit Rome and then take a train to Naples and then the other train and bus or car. By the way, I’m a huge fan of Sorrento as a place to base yourself in that region, as it’s really nice and also close to Naples, Pompeii, Capri, and the Amalfi Coast.

    You’ve got enough extra days to do this trip in a variety of ways that would work well. So it’s really just up to you to decide which places are your highest priorities after you consider the travel options in getting to each one. I’m happy to help if you have more questions. -Roger

     
Brighid says:

Hi Roger,

I’m planning a trip to Europe in January 2018. I would love to see a snow covered pretty European city or village as well as a castle.

We are flying into and out of London. (Coming from Australia)

I would love to see Madrid (where I was born 40 years ago in Jan), and Munich, where my husbands family are from.

I plan to spend the most time in London as I have family there.

I will have 12 days. Could you suggest any pretty snow capped city or towns to visit that we could visit? And also a possible itinerary?

(I have been to Paris so don’t plan to go there)

Many Thanks in advance for your suggestions & ideas.

Brighid.

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Brighid,

    First off, my standard recommendation is to spend 3 nights in pretty much every city you visit. You can spend 2 nights in some smaller towns, especially if they are close together and you don’t spend all day traveling to get there. The 3 destinations on your list so far are all quite far apart, so you’ll really need to fly between them. Fortunately, there are cheap flights all over Europe and you can get very good fares if you book early.

    As for a photogenic European city or village that will be covered in snow and also has a castle, you can’t do better than Salzburg, Austria. Fortunately it’s about 90 minutes by train from Munich, so spending 2 nights there would be okay.

    My itinerary suggestion would be to fly into London and spend 3 or 4 nights there. Then fly to Madrid for 3 nights. Then fly to Munich for 3 nights, or at least 2 nights. Then take that train to Salzburg for 2 nights. You could then fly back to London for 1 last night, or if you stayed for nights when you first got there, you could try to fly back into London shortly before your flight home. The tricky part of that is most cheaper flights from Europe into London will land at one of the smaller airports, while your flight back to Oz probably uses Heathrow. So you have to leave enough time to get from one airport to Heathrow, or stay one last night in London and fly home the next day.

    As I mentioned, London, Munich, and Madrid are all great cities, but they are all spread apart. I would normally suggest trying to include cities that are closer together and saving at least one of these for a future trip. But if you want to do these cities now, at least Salzburg is close to Munich, so it’s not too bad. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Uma says:

Hi Roger , We are planning our first trip to Europe. We are landing in London on 6th May and flying back home from Paris on May 19th.

The initial plan was to stay in London for 7 nights and head to Paris on 13th May. This kind of long stay in just 2 cities was planned to ensure that my kid is not drained in travel . He is just 6 years old.However, now we are seeing if we can include 3 days in lucrene as , we also wanted to see something very scenic.
May 6 – Arrival
May 7 to 12 London
May 11 -13 Lucrene
May 14 – 18 Paris
May 19 Heading back to India

Is it doable and does it sound reasonable plan?

Thanks in advance,
Uma

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Uma,

    Your dates are a bit confusing. I assume you mean May 7 to 11 in London and then to Lucerne for 3 nights and then to Paris for the remainder? If so I think it will work very well. Four nights in London will be plenty to see all of the top sights on your list, and the same is true for Paris. The best way to go is to fly from London to Zurich and then take a train directly from Zurich Airport to Lucerne. You can take a very scenic train journey from Lucerne to Paris in about 5 hours, which is faster than taking a train back to Zurich and then flying to Paris.

    The one last comment I’ll make is that Lucerne is really wonderful, but it’s not as scenic or dramatic as the Interlaken area, which isn’t far away. Have a look at my article on where to go in Switzerland and you’ll quickly see what I mean. Interlaken is also extremely popular with Indian visitors, and there are quite a few Indian and vegetarian restaurants there. Lucerne has a few of them as well, but Interlaken has more. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Uma says:

      Thank you so much Roger for your valuable inputs. Yes, there was typo w.r.t dates.

      I thought Interlaken is considered like a transit area to go to mountain tops and May month may not be very idle to travel to those places. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I’m gald to hear about Indian restaurants around that place as that has been one of the key criteria to choose our accommodation.

      Also would you suggest going to Amsterdam instead of Swizz considering the weather or is it manageable.

       
        Roger Wade says:

        Uma,

        The weather in Switzerland will be very nice in May, as it will be in Amsterdam. There can be rain in the warmer months in the mountains of Switzerland, but it’s still spectacular and usually doesn’t last too long. Amsterdam is easier to reach from London than Switzerland is, and it would also be a good choice, but Amsterdam is obviously another large city, while Switzerland is all about the amazing scenery.

        The town of Interlaken is quite nice, but if you can manage it I’d recommend staying up in Gimmelwald or Murren, as described in that article I linked to above. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

         
          Uma says:

          Thanks heaps Roger. Will look for accommodation around the area you suggested.I have one last question. My uncle is also travelling with us. He has back pain issues. Would the slopes be so steep that will make it difficult for him to travel around? If not which other place you would suggest for accommodation in such a way that he need not walk around too much but at the same time enjoy the scenery ?

          My next concern may sound very stupid.Pardon me for it. We have never been exposed to temperatures less than 20°C. So bit worried about how my kid will cope up. Hope it is not a major issue.

           
          Roger Wade says:

          Uma,

          Gimmelwald does require walking a bit up and down hill, but the slope is gentle for the most part. If you can book at Esther’s Guesthouse, it’s only maybe 100 meters from the cable car station. The slope is a little steep when you first get off the cable car, but at least it’s a very short walk and then most of the town is on a very gentle slope. The town of Murren is mostly flat, so it could be a better choice. Have a great trip. -Roger

           
Emerald says:

Hi Roger! I really appreciate that you take time to respond to everyone. I was hoping you could give me some suggestions.

My husband and I are taking a long overdue honeymoon in August. We will be arriving and departing from London. We will have 15 days.
My husband wants to see Prague and Budapest and I want to go anywhere in France (I have a minor in French and no good reason to use it in the US,). We would like to spend some time at the beach and are interested in architecture and history.
We will have our 7 month old son with us and our budget is quite small.
Thank you for your time!

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Emerald,

    Congratulations on being able to do the honeymoon. Especially if you need to keep this on a smaller budget, I’d skip trying to spend time on a beach on this trip. Half of Europe’s office workers are on holiday in August, and they all flock to any beach that is even half decent. Hotels will be very expensive and everything will be packed. Europe’s beaches are mostly disappointing in general.

    I’d recommend 4 nights in London and then the Eurostar train to Paris for 4 nights. You mention wanting to go somewhere in France, and Paris is definitely your best bet. It’s actually half empty in August since the workers are all at the beaches, and hotel prices are modest as well because there is almost zero business travel going on. Some restaurants will be closed, but most are open and it’s easy to get tables. I was just in Paris this last August, by the way.

    From Paris you should fly to Prague or Budapest for 3 nights and then take the 6 hour 40 minute train ride from one to the other for 3 more days. From there it’ll be best to fly back to London for your flight home. The only tricky thing about that is your flight home will probably leave from Heathrow and the cheaper flights from Budapest or Prague will probably land at Gatwick, Standsted, or Luton airport. So you’ll either have to allow time to get from one airport to another, or fly into Heathrow for a higher price.

    This will be an amazing trip and you’ll see amazing architecture and history and scenery. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Laurel says:

Thank you for the list and your reasoning. We have been to Rome and Venice and loved both, and the three cities we have under consideration are your other three: London, Paris, and Amsterdam! You make me feel like we’re on the right track. We are considering keeping our “must see/do” list minimal, and mostly just walking around, taking it all in. What are your thoughts on seeing the sights vs letting serendipity be our guide?

 
    Roger Wade says:

    Laurel,

    I think sightseeing strategies are a personal choice. Personally, I love travel planning (which is why I started this website) and knowing my best options before I arrive. I rarely make a hourly schedule for my trips, but I do like to plan on which of the top sights I want to visit on each day.

    As for those 3 cities you’ll be visiting, I know them all very well and actually lived in London for 6 months last year. In my opinion, London is better with a plan because it’s so spread out that you’ll miss most all of it if you just walk around near the Thames or your hotel area. As long as you plan a bit you can still walk around aimlessly once you are in the right spots. I lived in Notting Hill, and I never got tired of walking around the Portobello Road area, even though it was packed with tourists. The same is true for the Camden Market area, which is another real gem. Once you get off the Tube you can walk around for hours and enjoy whatever you stumble upon. But I think it’s important to go to those neighborhoods rather than just walking wherever you happen to be.

    Paris and Amsterdam are a bit different in that I think you can really just walk and enjoy whatever you find. They are both really beautiful cities with great architecture throughout the whole center. In Paris I highly recommend a visit to the Montmartre area in the evening. Take the funicular up to the Sacré-Coeur cathedral and then walk the windy streets back down for an unforgettable evening. Amsterdam is quite a bit smaller so it’s even easier to enjoy on foot. Make sure you visit the Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein areas in the evening for the most dining and nightlife options. Even if you don’t want nightlife, the clubs and lights are something to see. Aside from those, the closer you are to the main train station (Centraal Station), the older and more interesting the city is. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
N.Kay says:

Hi Roger!

Im so glad that I crossed path with ur blog while researching for my euro trip I find your blog is full with bits of interesting facts & routes of the EU countries! Ill be goin for my trip in coming Dec 2017. I hope you can shed some lights on how to arrange my routes *fingerscrossed*.

My rough plans is to travel for 20-25days. Kickin it off from Amsterdam and final destination to be in the UK. Cities that I have in mind but yet to be finalised :
– Amsterdam
– Vienna
– Budapest
– Venice , Rome, Milan
– Lucerne, Interlaken
– Paris

Please let know of your thoughts if these are reasonable & doable within the timeframe?
Hope to hearing from you soon and many thanks in advance for your inputs & ideas Roger!

Kay, Malaysia.

 

    Kay,

    Thank you for the nice words, and I’m a big Malaysia fan so I’m happy you found this website.

    My first bit of advice is that you really should spend 3 nights in almost any city you visit, except for the smallest ones such as Venice. As I say so often, that gives you two full sightseeing days, which is just about perfect to be able to visit all of the best sights there and sample the cuisine and such. If you try to visit in two nights that only leaves one full sightseeing day, and you’ll have to rush around in order to just see the top things on your list. A day traveling between cities also means checking in and out of hotels and getting to the airport or train station, and all of that eats up most of the day.

    I’d recommend 3 nights in Amsterdam and 3 or 4 in Paris, and 3 in Rome. Venice can be done in about 24 hours, although 2 nights is better unless you are already in Italy. Milan isn’t much of a tourist city, especially compared to Florence, so unless there is something specific you want to see in Milan you might consider skipping it or switching to Florence.

    Budapest is quite nice, and interesting, and affordable, but it’s also quite remote from the others on your list.

    It seems like you may have already read my article on where to go in Switzerland, and in that case you know that 3 nights in Interlaken is ideal, and 2 nights in Lucerne is a nice bonus on top of that.

    Hopefully with all of that in mind you can decide which 7 or 8 cities will work best for you, and be able to put together a basic itinerary. I’m happy to help as you get further into the process. -Roger

     
Jeffrey says:

Hi Roger!
My 17 year old daughter is graduating from High School at the end of May and as promised, I’m taking her to see Paris, which she has always wanted to see. I’m rather excited to see it myself. We are flying into Paris from San Antonio, Texas and will have 23 days before we have to fly back. My question to you is that we would both like to see some sights outside Paris (kind of a “tour of Europe” if you will). I definitely planned on spending at least 3-4 days in Paris since that was her main wish but then I planned to rent a car and drive towards Italy, stopping in Geneva for one night along the way (anything worth seeing there?). Then, heading towards Milan for a day, then Venice for perhaps 2 days, then Florence for 2 days, Rome for 2-3 days, Nice/Monaco area for 1 night, then over to Barcelona for 2 days, then down the coast to Grenada for 1 night, Seville for 1 night, then on to Lisbon, Portugal for 1-2 nights (I’ve heard great things about Lisbon and Portugal. Can you advise on this?). Then over to Madrid for 1-2 nights and then start making our way back to Paris with an overnight stay somewhere around Toulouse or Bordeaux. That’s a grand total of 21 nights, so it leaves 2 extra nights to play with. My daughter (and myself) look forward to seeing all the major “tourist” sights like Eiffel Tower, Palace of Versailles, State of David, Coliseum, Sistine Chapel, etc. I would also like to see a few famous gardens along the way, including Monet’s gardens at Giverny, while my daughter would like to attend a few plays while on our trip. We both look forward to visiting museums. Also, I’m assuming that having my American Driving license and car insurance is enough to rent a car in Paris and drive it to all of these places? Please advise? So, what is your overall opinion of this trip? doable? Any suggestions for eliminating certain cities/adding other ones, using different modes of transportation? Also, sounding very selfish here, but I’ve already been to London, Brugges and Amsterdam, so I’m choosing to not go to those cities (she can go with her special someone when she’s out of college?). I’m basically trying to get a good Western Europe Tour here for the both of us (always taking the attitude of “I may never be back”). Not sure if that’s the right approach but its worked for me so far on all my other trips. I kind of get a taste of each city and then decide if its a “come back to city” or not. Thanks for any advise/suggestions. It’s much appreciated.
-Jeffrey

 

    Jeffrey,

    I’ll be happy to try to help, and I’ll answer the questions in the order they came up. By the way, I’ve spent about 6 of the last 11 years traveling and living outside of the United States, but at the moment I’m actually based in Kerrville, so we are neighbors.

    Your trip sounds wonderful and I’m sure neither you or your daughter will ever forget it. First off though, I highly recommend against renting a car for a trip like this. As you remember from your London, Amsterdam, and Bruges trip, parking in European cities is challenging and very expensive. Honestly, they make it that way on purpose, to discourage precisely this sort of thing. If you drove your options would be to spend maybe €30 per night to park and deal with traffic headaches every time you come and go, or stay in hotels outside of the city, and spend a couple hours each day going back and forth. The good news is that train service in the areas you are going to is exceptional, comfortable, and reasonably priced. It’s also far more enjoyable than driving.

    Another thing to consider, and this is true whether you are driving or taking trains (or flying, actually) is that each time you change cities it will take up most of the middle of that day. This means that a travel day is not really a sightseeing day. If you check out of one hotel after breakfast at 9am and check into your next hotel at 2pm, you’ll only have a couple hours before things start closing for the day. In other words, it’s best to stay 3 nights in most larger cities, and 2 nights is enough for some smaller ones. That translates into 2 full sightseeing days in bigger cities and 1 full sightseeing day in smaller ones. So if you stay 2 nights in each city, you literally spend every other day mainly focusing on transit.

    One way to do this would be to head to Nice after Paris for 2 or 3 days and then take a train to Milan or Venice. Milan isn’t a great tourist city compared to Venice, Florence, and Rome, but it does have a few interesting things to see. The fastest tour of Italy that I recommend is 1 night in Venice (it’s small and crowded, so if you stay on the main island you can do some sightseeing in the evening and morning, when it’s less crowded, and then leave), then 2 nights in Florence followed by 3 nights in Rome. Adding a night to Venice and/or Florence is even better.

    From Rome it might be best to fly to Spain or Portugal, as the flights will be cheaper than trains and obviously much faster. You could, for example, fly from Rome to Lisbon (a great city, by the way) and after 3 nights you could fly to Madrid or take the overnight train. Then take the 2.5-hour train to Barcelona for 3 nights or so. After that you could take a train back into France to visit a stop or two before heading to Paris again.

    As an American myself, I love a road trip, but really the trains in Europe are so much nicer of an experience that I highly encourage you to base your itinerary on them. Also, the earlier you buy your train tickets (up to 3 months or so in advance), the cheaper they will be. The advanced tickets in Italy are particularly cheap. I’m happy to help more, so let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Anne says:

Hi Roger,

I am travelling to Europe from New Zealand with my husband and two teenage sons, and would really appreciate any suggestions you can give in regards to our itinerary. I’m not sure what would be the most efficient way or order to see the places we have on our list! We are planning to be away for a month.
We would like to go to London (3 days), the Cotswolds/Bath (3 days),
Paris (5 days), Loire Valley (2/3 days), Amsterdam, Bruges, Prague, Vienna or Salzburg, Lucerne or Interlaken, and Italy. (Venice, Florence, Rome). Are there any of these places that would be better left out to make the itinerary more efficient?

Many thanks, Anne

 

    Anne,

    I’d say you’d need about 38 days in order to have a good and quick visit to all of the places on your list. Since you are shooting more for 30 days, you should probably trim away a few. It’s tempting to suggest you save the Cotswolds and Loire Valley for a future trip, but if you do that then you are pretty much only going to large cities for most of your month.

    My standard advice is to plan 3 nights in almost every city you visit. Larger and more famous cities like London and Paris can be better in 4 nights, while smaller cities such as Venice or Bruges can be done in 1 or 2 nights. In other words, if you have 30 nights then it’s best to choose 10 to maybe 12 total stops.

    Unless you have family there or another special reason to visit, I still think the Cotswolds and Bath might be better for a future trip when you can explore Britain more fully. But the Loire Valley has some really amazing castles and big sights, so that might be a good break from the cities early in your trip.

    Bruges is really nice, but it will remind you of a much smaller and more mellow version of Amsterdam. Saving it for another trip might be better. Prague is pretty amazing and many people go there after a stop in Berlin, but it’s still worthwhile if you skip Berlin. Vienna and Salzburg are nothing alike to choosing between them is difficult. You might want to visit both of them, and you could do Salzburg in only 2 nights if you had to. Vienna is a large and formal capital filled with great architecture, while Salzburg is a charming old town up against the Alps with a big castle above and gorgeous scenery all around.

    If you only have a few days to spend in Switzerland I’d recommend Interlaken. I was asked so often that I wrote an article on where to go in Switzerland, and you may find it helpful.

    You can get from Interlaken to Venice in 6 hours on one of the most scenic train rides in the world, changing in Milan. I’d do Venice in 2 nights or you could even do it in 24 hours and then move on to Florence on a 2-hour train ride. Stay in Florence for 2 or 3 nights, and then save 3 nights for Rome because it’s big and so full of top sights that 3 nights is really the minimum.

    Those are my general thoughts and hopefully they will help you figure out which places you want to keep and which you might save for later. I’ll be happy to help more as you are putting this together, so feel free to ask again. -Roger

     
ANSHUL says:

Hi Roger,

I have seen some great advice on the comments section. I would seek your advise for planning my eurotrip with my wife and my 2 year old for about 15 days (but I am flexible to add few more days).

I would love to go to London, Switzerland, Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin….Would like to add an Italian city if it fits the itinerary.

I am presently based in Melbourne, Australia.

 

    Anshul,

    I highly recommend planning 3 nights in each of those larger cities on your list. So you could do 3 days in London then 3 days in Paris then 3 days in Amsterdam and 3 days in Berlin. You could then take a train to Interlaken for 3 days in Switzerland. If you wanted to go to Italy from there you could fly or take the train to Rome for 3 days, which would be the shortest visit to Italy that I would recommend. If you want to add Prague you could do it after Berlin. I mention in many other comments why I think 3 nights is really the best length for these big cities. The short version is that your travel days will only leave you with a bit of sightseeing time. So if you change cities every other day, you are basically spending half of your trip traveling rather than seeing the sights.

    Hopefully this helps you figure out whether you want to add more days or cut out some cities. I’m happy to help more if you need it. -Roger

     
Jeffrey says:

Dear Roger,
The reply button wasn’t working, so I’m replying through the comment section. First, Thank you for answering my questions and its nice knowing you’re in Kerrville. It’s a lovely town. I was wondering if there are trains to places like Monet’s garden in Giverny, the various Chateaux’s in the Loire Valley, the Alhambra in Grenada? Also, what does one do with one’s luggage if stopping to see one of these places before checking into the hotel and you’re arriving by train? Also, the dates that we’ll be arriving in Paris is September 17th and the departing on October 11th. Will most of the tourists be gone during this time? Also, should the weather be pretty nice, even in the higher elevations during this time period in France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Portugal? Thanks again,
-Jeffrey Harris

 
ANSHUL says:

Thanks Roger!
The reply button isn’t working so I am replying through comments section. I appreciate your advice and am planning to schedule the trip in a way that I spent 3 nights in a country.

Earlier I was planning Melbourne to London return but I am open to fly from Melbourne to London and return Paris to Melbourne if that fits the itinerary best.

I have shortlisted the cities as London, Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Vienna and Interlaken. Can you please advice the sequence in which its best to visit these cities.

I am planning the trip in August this year.

Regards,
Anshul

 

    Anshul,

    If you can start in London and fly home from Paris, I’d do London then the Eurostar to Brussels and then to Amsterdam by train. Flying might actually be cheaper, although far less enjoyable and obviously less scenic. And flying isn’t really any faster either. From Amsterdam to Prague the fastest trains take 10.5 hours, and it’s mostly a dull and flat ride, so I’d fly instead.

    Take the train from Prague to Vienna in a bit under 4 hours. Unfortunately, the train from Vienna to Interlaken takes almost 10 hours. It’s very scenic, especially the second half, but that’s a long trip. You might instead fly from Vienna to Zurich and then take the train to Interlaken. From Interlaken to Paris it takes 5 hours and 18 minutes by train, and the first half of it is very scenic.

    If you look at the map I’m sure you notice that you’ve selected cities that are mostly quite a distance from each other. If you don’t want to fly so much you might consider doing Berlin instead of Prague. Then you could do Berlin to Vienna in a bit over 9 hours by train, or you could get from Berlin to Salzburg in a bit over 8 hours. I hope this helps. -Roger

     
Paulina says:

Hi Rodger!
I’ve found so much useful information in the comments section and I’d love some advice. I’m planning a 2 month Europe trip in 2017. This is the places (in order) and the number of nights we are planning to stay in each place.

London – 3 nights
Barcelona – 3 nights
Paris- 5 nights
Loire valley (tours)- 3 nights
Amsterdam- 3 nights
rothenburg- 2 nights
Berlin- 4 nights
Kraków- 4 nights
Prague- 4 nights
Venice- 2 nights
Florence- 3 nights
Cinque Terre- 3 nights
Rome- 4 nights
Mykonos- 4 nights
Naxos – 4 nights
Santorini- 4 nights
Athens- 2 nights

I’m am going with my partner and we are planning to save $30,000 aud (which is about $22,000 usd) between us which includes everything (flights, accommodation etc…)

Overall, what do you think about this trip. does it seem reasonable?

 

    Paulina,

    Thanks for the kind words. Your trip looks amazing. Any room for me? You are allowing plenty of time in most cities, which is where most people seem to go wrong. My standard advice is a default of 3 nights in each city. However, on a 2-month trip you don’t want to visit 20 cities for 3 days each, so your plan to stay a 4th night in many cities seems wise. Still, 3 nights in the Cinque Terre might be kind of long. Those towns now have tourism that is so out of control that they want to only let so many people in each day. They were evidently very special when few tourists knew about them, but now it’s like visiting a theme park. In other words, you might enjoy a day or two there, or maybe 3 days is fine.

    The only other comment would be on the 3 different Greek islands near the end. I haven’t been to all of them, but in my experience the islands tend to be quite the same for the most part. Each has a few unique sights, but the restaurants and hotels and beaches will feel familiar. You might consider spending some time in Turkey, which will be quite different. It’s just something to think about. Overall I think your plan looks great and I’d think that your budget should work out pretty well since you are spending quite a bit of time in the cheaper parts of Europe. -Roger

     
Sriram says:

Hi Roger,

Great blog! Makes planning our trips a lot simpler – thank you very much for this…

I am from India and am planning a 20-day Europe (solo) trip in September. I have been to London before, so it will mostly be Western Europe. Please let me know what you think about the plan below.

1) Paris – 4 days
2) Brussels – 1 day (on the way)
3) Amsterdam – 3 days
4) Prague – 3 days
5) Gimmelwald – 2 days
6) Interlaken – 2 days
7) Rome – 3 days
8) Back to Paris

Prague looks to be far from Amsterdam, so I’m happy to replace it with something else to save time (or reorder) – do you have any suggestions?

The trip duration is also flexible – I can extend it by 4-5 days (though it will stretch my budget). If I am missing any obvious places there is room for one or two of them – please suggest (prefer nature/quiet places to cities/nightlife)

Thanks for your help!

 

    Sriram,

    Your plan looks really good. You are right that Prague is fairly out of the way, but it’s a very special place. Berlin would be another one to consider, but it would also require a 9-hour train ride to Interlaken. Prague to Interlaken is 11.5 hours, by the way. For a more direct route, you might consider a stop or two in Germany. You’ll find quite a few interesting options on my article on where to go in Germany. Cologne is an obvious one to consider, but so are Munich, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and Fussen. Even Luxembourg City could be a good stop. Salzburg is another one that you’d love if you can fit it in. The scenery around Salzburg is some of the finest in all of Europe, and it’s a charming town as well.

    Hopefully that gives you a few ideas. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Varun says:

Hi Roger,

Wanted to seek your advice for my first EU trip. I am planning September end but on a tight schedule of 10 days.

Can you please suggest how should I plan my itinerary(I shall be coming from India)

Thanks in advance,
Varun

 

    Varun,

    If you have 10 days I’d recommend choosing exactly 3 cities, and hopefully ones that are easy to reach from each other. As mentioned in the article above, I think it’s a mistake to skip Paris and London and Rome on a first trip in order to save a bit of money going to cities that aren’t as interesting. It’s very easy to combine London and Paris on a trip, and you could also visit Amsterdam as your third city, all by very efficient trains.

    You could spend all 10 days in Italy, or you could do something like Paris for 4 days then fly to Venice for 1 day then to Florence for 2 days and finally Rome for 3 days. That is the fastest tour of Italy that I recommend. I wrote a more recent article on how to plan a Europe trip of between 1 and 3 weeks. I have many other suggestions there for groups of cities that are easy to visit together. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Varun says:

Hey Roger,

As I am planning during Oktoberfest(sorry, forgot to mention), I shall be heading to Munich first.

Let me know if below seems like a plan:

2 Days – Munich
2 Days – Prague
2 Days – Vienna
3 Days – Croatia

Although I agree that I am rushing a lot to cover as many Major cities as possible but based on your experience, let me know if Quantity can be trimmed for Quality 🙂


Varun

 
Sallie says:

Hey Roger,
Myself and a friend are traveling to europe, we will meet up next week on Paris on the 9th of June We have 3N in Paris, departing paris on the 12th of June. I fly out of Rome on the 20th of June. We are planning on going to Barcelona, French Riviera, Venice, Cinque Terra and Rome. is this dooable, and if so how much time in each? Cinque Terra may not be possible I think.

 

    Sallie,

    It sounds like you have 8 days after Paris before you fly out of Rome. You definitely want to spend 3 nights in Rome itself, which gives you two full sightseeing days. With 5 remaining days in between you won’t have time to see all of those other places. I’d cross Cinque Terre off the list, partly because it’s a bit remote, but really more because it’s now very overrated because it’s insanely crowded to the point that it’s not nearly as charming as it was when people started recommending it.

    I’d say your choices would be to take a train from Paris to Barcelona and then 3 days later fly to Venice and then two days later take a train to Rome. Or you could save Barcelona for a future trip and take a train from Paris to Nice for 3 days and then a train to Venice for 2 days before going to Rome. Or you could do the more traditional Italy visit and fly from Paris to Venice for 2 days and then take a short train ride to Florence for 3 nights and then to Rome for 3 nights.

    The main thing is that it takes a good chunk of your day to go from one city to another, whether by air or train, so you don’t want to move cities every day or every other day. If you try to see too many places you’ll end up spending most of your holiday in transit rather than seeing what you flew all that way to see. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Yvonne says:

Hi Roger,

My siblings and I are planning a trip to Europe. We’ll probably have about 25 days. We would be travelling from Mid Dec to early Jan. Since the weather will be pretty cold, do you have any places that you recommend for this time period/ places that are less ideal. Can you also recommend places that will be nice to spend Christmas & new year at?

We’ll be travelling around UK and Paris before the 25-days trip.

Thank you for your help!

 

    Yvonne,

    Earlier this year I started compiling my best monthly recommendations for European destinations, and the first one was best Europe destinations in February. To be honest, the upcoming list for December will be similar or identical, since these are already the best places to go in Europe in winter. My advice is to focus on the cities that aren’t quite so cold, along with the most famous cities that are interesting no matter what the weather is.

    As far as where you might spend Christmas and/or New Year’s, I’d say pretty much any place on that same list would be good. Just be aware that in a few countries they celebrate Christmas (the main celebration) on a different day. For example, the big day in the Netherlands is in early December. Even then, there is at least a small celebration on December 25 everywhere. I’d probably opt for a larger city since there should be more choices of things to do, and there should be more things open. If you went to a smaller town you might find that almost everything is closed for 2 or 3 days around the holiday. New Years is the same everywhere, and of course the larger cities have the larger celebrations. You might have to reserve accommodation longer in advance because some cities do get booked up with people from the surrounding area coming in to party. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
mireends@yahoo.com says:

Hi Roger,

This blog is such a great read. I would really appreciate suggestions from you as our vacation days are limited to justv10 days. My husband and daughter are flying out of San Francisco to Europe for the 1st time. I am jealous as we are unable to see London due to time constraint with visa application – this trip is a last minute plan. So going by your suggestion we’d like to see Paris & Italy – what would be the 3rd city you’d suggest. Can you possibly suggest an IT for us?
God Bess you!! You are an amazing world traveler! Thank you for sharing your thoughts to all. It’s much appreciated.

Best,

Mireen

 

    Mireen,

    I’m glad you find this helpful. If you have exact 10 days and you want to see Paris and Italy I would stick to the basics and hit all of the major cities. In other words, I’d spend 3 or 4 nights in Paris and then fly to Venice (or nearby Treviso Airport) and spend 24 hours there, staying on the main island so you can experience it in the evening and early morning when there are far fewer tourists. Then take a train to Florence for 2 or 3 nights. Then a train to Rome for 3 nights before flying back to Paris for the flight home or flying straight back home from there. Of course you could do it in the reverse order where you start in Rome and finish in Paris.

    That 10-day trip will give you all of the top highlights of both countries without rushing so much that you feel like you are spending half your time in transit. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Mireen says:

Hi Roger,

Thank you so much for your input. We are able to add 2 more solid days to the trip – you think we can squeeze in Amsterdam? That being said what would be the best route between Amsterdam – Italy – France? We will have 12 days total.

Best,

Mireen

 

    Mireen,

    The high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris is just a bit over 3 hours. If you only have 12 total days I think you should spend 2 or 3 days in Amsterdam then 3 or 4 days in Paris. From there it’s best to fly to Venice (or nearby Treviso) for 1 night, then a train to Florence for 2 nights and then a train to Rome for 3 nights. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Bianca says:

Hi Roger!

Just want to say that your blog is such a big help especially to first time travelers in Europe. My friends and I are planning our eurotrip for October this year. We already booked our round-trip tickets to London and we would want to visit France and Italy. We have 15 days. We will start in London and we are still deciding which city should we go next? We are considering that we have to go back to London for our flight back to our country. We also want to add 1 more city to this trip. Maybe Amsterdam? Which city do you think we should add that will not make our trip too tight and what’s the order of the cities?

Thank you and more power to you!

Sincerely,
Bianca

 

    Bianca,

    I’m happy to try to help. As mentioned in the article above, you can’t go wrong with Amsterdam. It’s a gorgeous and fascinating city, and it’s also very different from all of the others you’ll be visiting. Here’s what I’d recommend…

    Fly into London and spend 3 or 4 days there. Take the Eurostar to Paris and spend 3 days there. Then take the high-speed train from Paris to Amsterdam, which takes a bit over 3 hours. Spend 2 or 3 days in Amsterdam and then fly to Venice (or nearby Treviso). Spend about 24 hours in Venice and then take a train to Florence for 2 days. Then take a train to Rome for 3 days, followed by a flight back to London. One thing to be aware of is that the cheaper flights from Rome to London will almost certainly land at Gatwick or Luton or Stansted Airports in London, and your flight home is probably out of Heathrow. There are buses between the airports, but they do take some time. So you either have to allow enough time or pay more for a flight into Heathrow.

    The itinerary above would be enjoyable, but also a bit rushed. I’d say the other thing to consider would be to save Amsterdam for a future trip and fly straight from Paris to Venice. That way you could spend a bit more time in London and in Italy. Florence is worth 3 days if you have them, and Paris could be better in 4 days than 3. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Lucia says:

Hello Roger!!
First of all, congratsss on having such an awesome blog with such useful information!!!!
I am planning to go to Europe with my husband and 3 kids, aged 14, 13 and 5, next july 2018. We have 15 days in total, and it will our kids’ very first time in Europe…. with your expertise, what would you recommend we visit in those 15 days we have in order for our kidsto experience the “best of europe”?
Thanks in advance for your time and dedication!!!!

 

    Lucia,

    That is going to be a fantastic trip. If you have 15 days I’d recommend choosing exactly 5 cities to visit. You might be interested in a more recent article I wrote for questions like this on my best recommended first-time in Europe itineraries.

    Generally I think Paris is the best lynch pin for any first Europe trip, and I recommend 3 nights there or maybe even 4. It’s only 2 hours by train to London on the Eurostar from Paris, and you can make it to Amsterdam on a high-speed train in just a bit over 3 hours. So those 3 are an easy set to group together. As mentioned in the article above, the other two most dramatic European cities in my opinion are Rome and Venice. You can see Venice in only a day or two because it’s small (and very crowded). I like Rome in 3 nights because it’s much larger but it’s also kind of chaotic so it’s not as fun to linger there as some other cities.

    So you could, for example, fly to London then take the Eurostar to Paris and then a train to Amsterdam. Then fly to Venice (or nearby Treviso) and then take the train to Rome before flying home or flying back to London for your flight home. Or you could save Amsterdam for a future trip and do Venice, Florence, and Rome, which are the Big 3 in Italy. Anything like that is going to be amazing for the whole family. Have a look at that other article and maybe it will give you other ideas as well. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     

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