23 Best Europe destinations in September of 2019

In many ways, September is the single best month for a visit to Europe. Only the northernmost cities are getting cool this time of year, and nearly every other city has arguably their best weather of the year. Better still, the crowds of July and August are home again, so you can enjoy the mild weather with smaller crowds.

Hotels in most cities are also cheaper starting in September, so you can stay longer or get a nicer place than you would have in summer. Below are our best recommendations for places to visit in September. If this is your first trip to Europe you may also be interested in our recommendations for best first-time Europe itineraries of your own.

Below you'll find

  1. Europe's 4 best September beach destinations
  2. Europe's 19 best city destinations

Important September 2019 holidays in Europe

  • September 1 – Islamic New Year
  • September 7 and 8 – Open Monuments Day in Netherlands (free entry to many sights)
  • September 11 – Catalunya National Day (major holiday in Barcelona)
  • September 15 – Federal Thanksgiving Day in Switzerland (major public holiday)
  • Septmeber 21 – Feast Day of St. Matthew in Spain (major public holiday)
  • September 21 to October 6 – Oktoberfest in Munich

Europe's 4 best September beach destinations

Costa del Sol/Malaga, Spain

  • September avg high: 82°F/28°C
  • September avg low: 65°F/18°C
  • September avg precip: 0.6″/1.5cm

The beach weather in Spain's famous Costa del Sol is even more pleasant in September than it is in August, and crowds are smaller as well. In other words, if you can push your sunshine holiday to September, you'll be far better off and you'll be rewarded with lower hotel and apartment rental rates as well.

The chance of being rained on is almost zero, but it's still crowded enough to be fun and lively. Since so many people are forced into holidays in July or August, those who can go in September are the big winners.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €116 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €122 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €31 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Costa del Sol
>>>Costa del Sol/Malaga prices and travel tips


Algarve/Faro, Portugal

  • September avg high: 80°F/27°C
  • September avg low: 64°F/18°C
  • September avg precip: 1.0″/2.5cm

The southern coast of Portugal is known as The Algarve, and pretty much the entire description of the Costa del Sol above applies here as well. This area is not known as much of a party destination as many of Spain's beaches, but it does have excellent stretches of sand and also a few spots that are idea for windsurfing and such.

Generally speaking, things in Portugal tend to be a bit cheaper than in Spain, although not much. Another possible benefit is that English is more widely spoken than in some of Spain's less popular beach areas.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €70 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €120 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €13 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Algarve/Faro
>>>Algarve/Faro prices and travel tips


Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

  • September avg high: 82°F/28°C
  • September avg low: 70°F/21°C
  • September avg precip: 0.2″/0.5cm

The Canary Islands has nearly perfect weather all year round, but it can get a bit hot in July and August. So by the time September rolls in, things are cooling off a bit and getting back to that warm and dry climate that it's so famous for.

Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands and the best choice for English speakers as well. The area around Los Cristianos in the southwest corner is packed with hotels and resorts to the point that it feels like Holiday City. Most things here are cheaper than on the mainland as well, which is one reason why many northern Europeans come for a month or more at a time.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €53 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €72 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €11 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Tenerife
>>>Tenerife prices and travel tips


Antalya, Turkey

  • September avg high: 89°F/32°C
  • September avg low: 66°F/19°C
  • September avg precip: 0.6″/1.5cm

Geography buffs and pedants will be quick to point out that Antalya isn't technically in Europe, and they are obviously right. However, Antalya is easy to reach and packed with European holidaymakers so we feel it's worth mentioning here. This is another place where July and August are hotter than most of us prefer, so September is more ideal.

Cheap flights from all over Europe are streaming into Antalya from April through October. This area is also one of Europe's cheapest all-inclusive destinations, with small hotels and resorts charging absurdly low prices for a room, 3 meals, and unlimited drinks. Tourism to Turkey has gone way down in recent years due to some political uncertainty, so it's worth checking the news before you book. That has also made the deals even a bit better as well.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €17 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €28 for two people

>>>Check hotel deals for Antalya
>>>Antalya prices and travel tips


19 Best destinations in Europe in September

Rome, Italy

  • September avg high: 79°F/26°C
  • September avg low: 60°F/16°C
  • September avg precip: 2.7″/6.8cm

Rome is another southern city that is so hot and humid during much of July and August that September is a much better month in almost every way. As you can see above, the temperatures are almost perfect all day and night, and you shouldn't be seeing much rainfall.

Those on longer visits to Italy should consider heading south from here for a stop in Sorrento, which is a bit south of Naples. It's the perfect base to visit that city as well as Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. If you only have a week or so in Italy, head north from here to Florence and Venice (see below).

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €62 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €93 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €24 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Rome
>>>Rome prices and travel tips


Florence, Italy

  • September avg high: 80°F/27°C
  • September avg low: 58°F/14°C
  • September avg precip: 3.1″/7.8cm

Florence tends to be the second stop for most people on a first visit to Italy, whether they start in Venice and come south, or start in Rome and head north. This is the heart of Tuscany and one of the art world's most important cities, so the food and museums here are top notch.

Another good reason to stop in Florence is that it tends to be a bit cheaper than Rome and noticeably cheaper than Venice. Florence is also less crowded and more mellow than the other two, so it's generally more pleasant and less hectic. Spend 3 nights here if you can, and you might consider a half-day trip to Pisa, which takes only 1 hour each way by train. The Cinque Terre beach towns are also a fairly easy day trip from Florence, but you'll need pretty much a full day for that.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €70 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €118 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €23 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Florence
>>>Florence prices and travel tips


Venice, Italy

  • September avg high: 75°F/24°C
  • September avg low: 58°F/14°C
  • September avg precip: 2.6″/6.5cm

If you read about Venice you surely know its reputation for being insanely crowded. September is one of the busier months, but it's still worth coming for a day or two because it's beautiful and you just won't see anything else like this anywhere else in the world. Other cities have even more canals, but none look like this.

Venice can be expensive when it comes to hotels, but it's also small enough that just one or two nights should be enough for most visitors. Also, since it's always so crowded most people get a bit sick of walking in large groups that two days seems more than enough. The key is to spend a bit more to stay on the main island (near St Mark's Square) and try to do sightseeing in the mornings and evenings when the day-trip and cruise passengers are gone.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €85 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €175 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €30 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Venice
>>>Venice prices and travel tips


Split, Croatia

  • May avg high: 77°F/25°C
  • May avg low: 65°F/18°C
  • May avg precip: 2.7″/6.8cm

When it comes to Croatian cities, Dubrovnik, is far better known. But Split is the better choice for most people and September is an ideal month to visit. This area is stuffed with northern Europeans all of July and August, and it's a bit hot during those months as well. This is another place where September is more comfortable and much cheaper than summer.

Another reason to like Split is that it's far easier to reach than Dubrovnik. The train actually comes to Split, and it's a major hub for the many buses that carry people all over Croatia. There is also a busy ferry port here that takes people to the nearby holiday islands, or even Italy.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €50 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €58 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €9 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Split
>>>Split prices and travel tips


Paris, France

  • September avg high: 71°F/22°C
  • September avg low: 57°F/14°C
  • September avg precip: 2.1″/5.3cm

Interestingly enough, Paris is very quiet in August since half the office workers are away, and it gets really lively again in September. Hotels will be full so it's best to book as far in advance as you can. All of the restaurants and galleries will be open again though, so it's very much worth coming even with the crowds.

Paris is so beautiful that it's worth visiting no matter what time of year you are coming to Europe, and September is definitely one of the nicer months. If you are planning on visiting the Louvre, the Orsay, and taking the hop-on, hop-off bus plus the Seine River cruise in the evening, you should look into the Paris Pass.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €90 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €123 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €26 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Paris
>>>Paris prices and travel tips


Barcelona, Spain

  • May avg high: 78°F/26°C
  • May avg low: 62°F/17°C
  • May avg precip: 3.4″/8.5cm

Barcelona is yet another city that is both hot and packed with tourists in August, so September is the ideal month to visit. This city has become so popular in recent years that they have suggested somehow restricting visits. Even so, it's still very pleasant as long as you don't spend your whole stay walking up and down the Rambla.

Hotels here are getting a bit expensive as well, so booking early is best for the most choices. And as long as you are in the area, it would be a shame to not also visit Madrid (below) since the high-speed train between them only takes 2.5 hours.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €82 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €112 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €18 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Barcelona
>>>Barcelona prices and travel tips


Madrid, Spain

  • May avg high: 79°F/26°C
  • May avg low: 59°F/15°C
  • May avg precip: 1.1″/2.8cm

Being smack in the center of Spain, Madrid feels hotter than Barcelona in July and August, so September is a much better time to visit. As we discussed just above, the high-speed train between the two cities takes only 2.5 hours, and it's reasonably priced if you book at least a few weeks in advance.

If this is your first trip to Spain you really owe it to yourself to visit both of these huge and very different cities. Madrid is obviously the capital so it contains the Royal Palace and many more formal buildings and museums. The food is also quite different, although both are known as late-night party cities.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €44 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €78 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €24 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Madrid
>>>Madrid prices and travel tips


Lisbon, Portugal

  • September avg high: 79°F/26°C
  • September avg low: 63°F/17°C
  • September avg precip: 1.1″/2.8cm

If you are heading to Barcelona and Madrid in September, you should also seriously consider adding Lisbon to that trip. You can get here by an overnight train, but honestly it's probably better to fly, which can also be cheaper as well. Lisbon is very different from Barcelona and Madrid in many ways, and it's also refreshingly a bit cheaper than them as well.

Another reason to visit Portugal is that English is more widely spoken, so it's a bit less stressful for new travelers who might not speak Spanish well. This city has a gorgeous setting famously on 7 hills, and the food is worth the trip itself.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €41 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €89 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €15 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Lisbon
>>>Lisbon prices and travel tips


Interlaken, Switzerland

  • September avg high: 67°F/19°C
  • September avg low: 49°F/9°C
  • September avg precip: 3.8″/9.5cm

If you are sure you want to visit Switzerland and you are unsure of exactly where to go, you probably want to start with Interlaken. I wrote an article called where to go in Switzerland on a short visit to help first-time visitors figure out the best places to see the amazing Alpine views, and also where to avoid (the cities mostly). Summer is actually the rainy time of year in the Alps, and by September you'll get fewer rainy days and even shorter storms.

The big attractions here are the cable car up to the Schilthorn observation deck and the train up to Jungfraujoch, which is the highest train station in Europe. Hotels in these areas are packed in September so it's best to book well in advance if you can, especially if you want to stay at one of the few hotels in the amazing little farming village of Gimmelwald. If you want to visit a second place in Switzerland to admire the unusual beauty, Lucerne is your best bet.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €76 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €187 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €44 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Interlaken
>>>Interlaken prices and travel tips


London, England

  • September avg high: 66°F/19°C
  • September avg low: 53°F/12°C
  • September avg precip: 2.1″/5.3cm

The London weather is definitely a bit nicer in July and August, but it's still pretty nice in September and it doesn't actually rain that much. If you are planning a trip to Europe in September, you should definitely include London on your itinerary, and just be thankful that it's reasonably warm.

Most visitors to the UK just stop in London for a few days before they leave the island, but there is obviously a LOT more to see here, even in September. The second highlight for most people is Edinburgh, which can be reached by an affordable high-speed train if you book at least a few weeks in advance. Here are some of the other best England, Scotland, and Wales itinerary ideas.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €112 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €125 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €27 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for London
>>>London prices and travel tips


Berlin, Germany

  • September avg high: 66°F/19°C
  • September avg low: 51°F/11°C
  • September avg precip: 1.8″/4.5cm

Berlin is definitely one of Europe's trendiest destinations these days, and for good reason. In September it can be a bit cool here, but still plenty nice enough to enjoy both the indoor and outdoor attractions, including a pleasant cruise along the River Spree, which takes you by most of the most important buildings in this huge city.

Another great thing about Berlin is that it's one of the cheapest large capital cities in Europe. Hotels, food, drinks, and attractions here seem quite reasonable even compared to Munich or Hamburg. The nightlife here is legendary as well, and pretty much everyone you encounter will speak English surprisingly well.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €69 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €88 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €33 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Berlin
>>>Berlin prices and travel tips


Salzburg, Austria

  • September avg high: 68°F/20°C
  • September avg low: 50°F/10°C
  • September avg precip: 4.0″/10.0cm

If you can't make it to Switzerland's excellent (and very expensive) Alpine destinations, you should at least try to make it to Salzburg. The September weather is still very pleasant, so you'll have a chance to get outside of town on a bus tour to see those famous rolling hills featured in the Sound of Music film.

The historic town center of Salzburg is worth the trip by itself, as it's almost perfectly preserved and gorgeously nestled at the base of a hill with a castle on top. The city is also famous for being the home of Mozart, and it holds several large classical music festivals to go along with that.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €132 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €174 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €21 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Salzburg
>>>Salzburg prices and travel tips


Vienna, Austria

  • September avg high: 69°F/21°C
  • September avg low: 53°F/12°C
  • September avg precip: 2.1″/5.3cm

One of Europe's grandest cities, Vienna has pleasant weather in September, and it's also the start of the famous culture season here. This is a city with huge and ornate buildings, but also opera houses and symphony halls. During summer there isn't much going on, but in September all of the artists are back to work.

This is an excellent stop to combine with Salzburg because they are connected by a fast train and they are so very different from one another. Hotel prices here can seem a bit high in the central ring, so booking in advance is advised for the better places. This isn't much of a party city, however.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €66 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €72 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €16 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Vienna
>>>Vienna prices and travel tips


Amsterdam, Netherlands

  • September avg high: 64°F/18°C
  • September avg low: 51°F/11°C
  • September avg precip: 3.2″/8.0cm

Similar to London, Amsterdam has pretty dreadful weather almost all year long, so that's not why you come here. That said, September is still a fairly pleasant month, and the crowds are a bit lighter after the busy summer months as well.

Hotels in Amsterdam have become very expensive in recent years, especially if you want something nice within the canal rings. Book early if you can in order to get a well located place at a reasonable rate. The most famous attractions including the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum are always crowded, so arrive early in the day if you can.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €88 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €149 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €20 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Amsterdam
>>>Amsterdam prices and travel tips


Bruges, Belgium

  • September avg high: 64°F/18°C
  • September avg low: 55°F/13°C
  • September avg precip: 1.5″/3.8cm

If you want to get a taste of Belgium and you are in the area, it's probably better to spend a few hours in the center of Brussels around the Grand Place (main square) and then hop back on the train and take it one hour to Bruges, which is otherwise more interesting. This place will remind you of Amsterdam with its 16th Century architecture, but it's quieter and more gentle.

Bruges is compact enough that you can see the highlights in two days or so, but it's also pleasant enough that you might want to stay 3 or 4 nights. Hotels here are also more reasonable than in Brussels or Amsterdam, so it's a good place to relax for a bit if you are on a longer trip. If you want something less touristy you might head to Ghent instead. It's halfway between Brussels and Bruges on the same train line, and it's a gorgeous city that is always less crowded.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €84 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €100 for two people

>>>Check hotel deals for Bruges
>>>Bruges prices and travel tips


Krakow, Poland

  • September avg high: 67°F/19°C
  • September avg low: 50°F/10°C
  • September avg precip: 2.2″/5.5cm

We consider Krakow to be Europe's best travel bargain. It's lovely, pleasant, historic, and almost absurdly cheap. The reason Krakow isn't more popular is that it's not close to any other popular cities so you really have to want to come here, and few people get here by accident.

The hotels are very good bargains for Europe, but the food, drinks, and entertainment are also very reasonably priced considering how nice and interesting the city is. As sad as it may be, you don't want to miss Auschwitz, which is a very interesting half-day bus tour leaving from central Krakow.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €38 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €63 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €12 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Krakow
>>>Krakow prices and travel tips


Prague, Czech Republic

  • September avg high: 67°F/19°C
  • September avg low: 50°F/10°C
  • September avg precip: 1.6″/4.0cm

September is a very pleasant month in Prague because the temperatures are nice and the crowds aren't quite as ridiculous as they are from June through August. This is another one of those cities that is so crowded in summer that some people ask themselves why they came at all. In September it's still crowded, but not nearly as bad.

The majority of visitors to Prague just visit for a few days and then leave the country. If you've got a bit more time on your hands and you want to see something wonderful that many people have never heard of, head to Cesky Krumlov, which is 3 hours away on a scenic bus ride or train. It's lovely, quiet, and even cheaper than Prague.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €40 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €63 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €18 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Prague
>>>Prague prices and travel tips


Budapest, Hungary

  • September avg high: 72°F/22°C
  • September avg low: 53°F/12°C
  • September avg precip: 1.7″/4.3cm

Budapest is another city that is usually more pleasant in September than it is in August, partly because many of the less expensive hotels here don't have air conditioning. You'll get warm days, cool nights, and usually almost no rain at all. This is another “grand” city that might remind you of Vienna or Prague, but of course has its own long and fascinating history.

Another of Budapest's best features is that it's one of the cheapest major cities in Europe. As long as you don't need a river view from your hotel room, you can get a lot for your money here. Food and drinks are also moderately priced in the non-touristy places, and the nightlife is famously interesting as well.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €47 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €71 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €19 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Budapest
>>>Budapest prices and travel tips


Istanbul, Turkey

  • September avg high: 77°F/25°C
  • September avg low: 60°F/16°C
  • September avg precip: 1.7″/4.3cm

Even though Istanbul isn't as hot in the summer as you might expect, it's still nicer in September than in August. This is one of the world's greatest and most historic cities, and as of now it's an incredible travel bargain. More good news is that every other place in Turkey is even cheaper than Istanbul, so you might want to do a little tour including Cappadocia and Antalya if you can.

Hotels in Istanbul are good value, even in the busy Sultanahmet neighborhood where the Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque are standing next to each other, along with most other famous sights. Do your research if you are thinking about buying a rug. Aside from that you'll get a lot for your money here.

  • Good 3-star hotels in September from €23 for two people
  • Good 4-star hotels in September from €34 for two people
  • Hostel dorm beds in September from €8 per person

>>>Check hotel deals for Istanbul
>>>Istanbul prices and travel tips



18 Responses to “23 Best Europe destinations in September of 2019”

Diana P says:

Great article. I’m looking to take my family next September to Europe for our first trip across the pond, 14 days total (fly in & out of London).
We all have different places we wish to see (London, Berlin, Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Paris, Amsterdam, and the Alps. Thanks to your other article, “9 Best first-time European itineraries for 1, 2, 3 Weeks”, we are weeding out the ones that don’t make sense for the 2 week timeline. We are now down to London, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Paris and creating an itinerary instead of doing a group tour.
My husband is disabled and walks slowly compared to others. We want to do this on our terms.
I wanted to get your expertise on a couple questions:
1) I want to take backpacks or small carry-on luggage per person on this trip. I’ve done that for 4 days vacations & did the laundry in the hotel sink. My thinking is that getting around trains, planes, etc. would be much easier especially as we travel between cities and cannot check in right away. Is this crazy thinking?
2) What are the best ways to travel from the major airports to get around in the city. I’ve seen transport companies (very expensive), bus lines (with a large number of pick pocketing on the common routes), etc. Any recommendations for getting around once your flight/train arrives?
Thank you for your excellent advice and articles.

 

    Diana P,

    Thank you and I’ll try to help.

    1) That’s not crazy at all and it’s a great strategy as long as you can pull it off. I’ve done this for trips lasting months and years. Everyone is different, but it’s worth knowing that laundry is thought of in a different way in Europe. Clothes washing machines are small and take a long time, and very few people have dryers so most people hang up their clothes. Partly because of this, Europeans tend to wear shirts and tops twice between washes. My best advice for a two-week trip would be to take 7 or 8 underwear each and plan on washing those once, and 4 or 5 tops with 2 bottoms that are also washed once should be enough. In fact, you might try to book an airbnb or other apartment that has its own washer for your second or third stops because that will give you a lot more flexibility compared to having to drop it off or find a laundromat.

    2) Each city can be different. In London you’ll probably land at Heathrow and from there you can take the Underground, which is far out on the Piccadilly Line. It’s only around £5 to get into central London, but it takes over an hour and it’s no fun if you just got off an overnight flight. I’d take the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station, which takes a bit over 20 minutes and then Paddington Station is very central (with scores of hotels surrounding it) and it’s on two subway lines.

    In Amsterdam the airport is on the main train line. You just follow the signs for the train and go down the escalator (after you buy a ticket). The trains come every 10 minutes or so and take you to Centraal Station (the main transit hub in Amsterdam) in 20 minutes for around €5.

    What I’d recommend is to fly into London and then take the Eurostar train to Paris, which goes to the centrally located Gare du Nord station. Then take the high-speed train (a bit over 3 hours) to Amsterdam, which will take you to Centraal Station. Then take the fast train to Berlin, which will get you to the main train station there. Then fly from Berlin back to Heathrow for your flight home.

    Each of those cities has an unlimited transport card that you can buy for around €7 per person per day. In Amsterdam you’ll be taking trams most of the time (because the subway isn’t very useful to tourists) and in the others it’ll be the subway. As always, let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
James Smith says:

Hi Roger. I rarely (if ever) think of commenting on sites for fear of spam but I just have to thank you for this thorough and interesting overview. It has helped me so much in planning what seemed like an overwhelming trip! Not anymore! Thanks again, James.

 
Marie says:

Hello Roger,

I stumbled onto your site and am glad I did! I am considering a week’s trip to San Sebastian. Is it easier to get there from Madrid or Barcelona? Last time I went there, I took the train from Bordeaux, then flew back from Bilbao to Paris. Your input would be appreciated.

 

    Marie,

    I’ve yet to make it to San Sebastian, but it’s high on my list. From what I can see the city is isolated and not on any major rail lines, which you probably already knew. From what I’ve seen it’s about 5.5 hours from either Madrid or Barcelona, but there are many more departures each day from Madrid so that’s probably a better choice. Go to the Spain rail official site and it will show you the options. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Ernie says:

Hi Roger, I loved this article and appreciate the work you did on it. I’m determined to see some beautiful sights this year and September seems like a good time to go. I’m not asking you to be my agent, but if you were going to see fantastic natural beauty in Europe in 10 days or so (Alps, Spain, Portugal, etc.), where would you suggest? Appreciate any ‘off the top of my head’ suggestions you might have.
Thanks,
Ernie

 

    Ernie,

    Thank you. For pure natural beauty in Europe you can’t be Switzerland, and specifically the Lauterbrunnen Valley near Interlaken. Have a scan of my article on where to go in Switzerland for more specific advice. Another top scenery pick is the fjords of Norway, but in September it’ll be getting a bit chilly already, and Norway is pretty remote from those places you mentioned.

    Spain and Portugal have some nice beaches (and pleasant weather), but neither would be on a “natural beauty” list for me. France and Italy both have some really lovely scenery and especially coastal areas with photogenic small towns and that sort of thing. Croatia has some lovely coastal scenery, islands, as well as the gorgeous Plitvice Falls National Park.

    Actually, Britain and Ireland are both really gorgeous islands with rolling green hills almost everywhere, and some really nice jagged coastlines. The beauty of these islands is not discussed enough because most people focus on London. Those are some ideas off the top of my head and I’m happy to help more if you have other questions. -Roger

     
Akshay says:

Hi Roger, Really loved the article and something I had been searching for quite some time. I am planning a trip, from India, this September with my wife. We have a few countries in mind, but are really confused which ones to pick as per weather and a for a 15 odd day trip. Countries in our purview are, Swiss, Austria, Czech, Croatia, Paris, Budapest. Please help me selecting the best itenary of the lot, and any other alternative cities/countries you feel. Also am confused if Swiss and Austria both make any sense? Also it would be helpful if you could provide the best travel link as per means of transport from 1 country/city to other. Thanking in advance. – Akshay

 

    Akshay,

    I’m glad this has been helpful. Fortunately for you, September has nearly perfect weather and conditions to visit any and all of the countries you mentioned. In 15 days I’d focus on choosing 5 different cities to visit. Since it sounds like this would be your first trip to any of these places, I’d definitely put Paris on the list. That gives you 4 more cities to choose, and hopefully ones that are easy to reach from Paris or each other.

    Switzerland has the best scenery in Europe so I’d include that as well. It’s quite expensive, but you can see a lot in 3 days if you focus on the Interlaken area. Austria has nice Alps views as well, but they aren’t as dramatic as those in Switzerland. Still, I think a visit to Salzburg could be great as it’s a very lovely town that is unlike anything in Switzerland. You could also visit Vienna and Prague and then fly from Prague back to Paris for your flight home. Or you could go from Vienna to Budapest, but if you go in that direction and especially if you go into Croatia, the trains are much slower so it takes more time to get from city to city.

    Vienna is a city that is really focused on culture (palaces, opera, architecture etc) and some people find it a bit stodgy. You could substitute Munich for Vienna if you prefer, and still have an easy ride to Prague. I really prefer Prague to Budapest, although they are both nice and have quite a bit in common. I hope this helps you at least get some ideas of how you might do it. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Steve says:

Hello, I will be running in the Berlin Marathon at the end of September (September 29). I intend to visit for 14 to 16 days It will be my first trip to Europe. I am interested in flying into Rome (Sept 19-21) and then traveling to Florence (Sept 22-23) then Venice (Sept 24-24). From Venice, I was considering Vienna or Salzburg (Sept 26-27) then on to Berlin (Sept 28-30) in time for the marathon. I have 4 days after the marathon to travel. From Venice would you travel into Switzerland instead of Austria? Should I consider heading towards Prague instead of Austria or Switzerland? Or, should I follows this itinerary and then head to Switzerland, Prague, or Austria after Berlin? Paris? I am very open to suggestions. The only definite plan is that I need to be in Berlin on September 28 to 30th. Again, I fly out from Miami to somewhere on September 19 and I would need to return on October 4,5, or 6th. Your suggestions are tremendously appreciated! Thanks Steve

 

    Steve,

    Your plan sounds really good. I’d say all of the options you mentioned could be good, so this is really a matter of choosing one and doing it. If you’ve got 3 nights in either Switzerland or Austria on your way to Berlin it’s a tough call. On one hand, Switzerland has far more dramatic scenery in its Alps and three nights would be a really nice visit to the Interlaken area to get the highlights. The downsides are that Switzerland (and especially the Alpine peak attractions) are really expensive even compared to Austria. Austria is also a bit more on the way, so the train trips would be a bit easier.

    As for Austria, I really love Salzburg and I highly recommend it, even though the views aren’t nearly as spectacular as those in Switzerland. Vienna is an interesting city, but for me it’s a bit too formal and stodgy unless you really love the opera and waltzing and palaces and such. From Interlaken to Berlin the train ride is a bit over 9 hours, so you’d probably be better off just taking the train to Zurich Airport and flying to Berlin from there. It might even be cheaper that way. On the other hand, if you go through Salzburg it only takes another 6.5 hours by train to Berlin, and I’d rather do that than fly.

    After Berlin the easiest two options by train (and train travel is MUCH more enjoyable than flying in general) are Prague and Amsterdam. Both are excellent places and very different from all of the other places you’ll be going. That said, if you don’t think you’ll be getting back to Europe anytime soon I’d be tempted to suggest Paris for those last four days. Those Italian cities are all amazing and so is Paris. You’d have to fly from Berlin to Paris and then possibly fly from Paris back to Rome in order to get the best airfare home, and that would be kind of a pain. But four days in Paris would be fantastic and you might have to fly from wherever you are to Rome for your flight home anyway.

    Again, all of the options you mentioned would be really good. I would have mentioned Munich as well, but as you may know the Oktoberfest will be going strong during that time and it’s better to avoid it for those weeks unless you are really going to live it up doing the Oktoberfest thing. As always, let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Karen says:

Hi Roger, I stumbled upon your website and love your commments and suggestions.
My husband and I are planning a 3 week trip to Europe in september from 06-28.
We have a few places in mind that would like to do but i think we are a little bit over the map.
We fly into and out of london.
Places in mind, Amsterdam, germany, prague?, possibly austria and would like to do either Greece or Croatia for the last bit of our trip.
What do you suggest ?
thank you in advance,

 

    Karen,

    I appreciate the kind words. Your plan sounds really good. With 21 days like that I’d try to choose 6 or 7 cities to visit including London as it’s usually ideal to spend 3 nights in each city if you are trying to see as much as possible. You don’t mention that you’ve been to Europe before so I’m guessing this is your first visit. If that’s the case you could have a very efficient trip by going from London to Paris on the Eurostar train and then to Amsterdam and then to Berlin and then to Prague and then Salzburg and/or Vienna before flying back to London for your flight home. Those are all enjoyable train journeys that are much faster and better than flying.

    Adding in Greece or Croatia would require more flying, but it could be done pretty easily and late September is nice in those areas as the weather is still nice yet the crowds are moderate. You could do the above and then from Berlin (or even Prague) you could fly to Athens and spend 2 or 3 days there and then take a flight or ferry to Santorini or Mykonos or one of the other islands for a few days before taking a direct flight back to London from there. Or you could fly into Split and spend a couple days there before taking a bus down to Dubrovnik and then home from there. I really like Croatia, but if you haven’t been to any of these places I think I’d go to Greece instead. Athens is a world-class city and two days there will be very memorable. The Greek islands are also more iconic and memorable than the Croatian cities.

    I hope this gives you some ideas. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Steve says:

Hello Roger, is there a “gold standard” company that you recommend for booking excursions? There are so many options and companies when it comes to booking excursions. For example, I am interested in booking an excursion to visit the Vatican museum and every company on the Internet states, “skipping the lines, etc”. Expedia? Viator? Should I try to book with the actual museum or site? Your advice is greatly appreciated.

 

    Steve,

    Companies like Viator, TripAdvisor, and Expedia should all be trustworthy, but they also charge a LOT for the convenience of dealing with an American company. If they sell, say, a Vatican guided tour for US$100 per person, it means they are paying a local company maybe US$50 per person to provide the tour, and keeping the rest as the sales agent. I’d definitely start with the official website of the Vatican or whatever attraction you are interested in.

    Another thing to consider is that once you arrive you’ll be able to book pretty much the exact same tours and such through your hotel, at a much smaller markup. Your hotel might sell that same tour for US$60 and only keep $10 per person for the service of calling the tour operator and arranging for them to pick you up at the hotel at a certain time. Just about every hotel in these touristy cities offers that service and the commission charge tends to adjust to the price of the hotel. In other words, if you stay at a 3-star hotel for €120 per night they might charge that extra US$10 for the tour, while a 5-star hotel for €350 per night with a fancy concierge desk might charge US$20 or even a bit more extra for the same tour.

    Lastly, sites like Viator make it seem like a tour is always on the verge of selling out, and if you don’t book soon you might be out of luck. In reality, almost every tour can adapt to any demand and it’s almost always possible to book the same thing just before the tour starts. Sometimes it’s even cheaper that way if they want to sell a few more spots on a tour that is about to leave, so they wheel and deal a bit because the marginal cost of having a few more people is zero. I hope this helps. -Roger

     
Steve says:

Hello, I am trying to plan out my itinerary for Paris. I am trying to pre-book all of the major museums (Louvre, Orsay, Monet, Rodin, Orangerie) and Versailles. Are there any “must see’s” or “must do’s” that you really recommend? Any guided excursions that you would recommend? I am looking for activities that I would do after the museums close. Do you recommend the Paris museum pass or booking directly with each museum?

Your advice is greatly appreciated!

Steve

 

    Steve,

    At the risk of this sounding like a commercial, I think the Paris Pass would be ideal for a trip like yours. It includes 3 elements: a Paris Museum Pass, an unlimited transport pass, and a Paris Attractions Pass. One reason I’m such a fan is that the Attractions Pass covers two things that I highly recommend even for those not getting a pass. One is the hop-on, hop-off bus tour, which takes about three hours and is an ideal way of orienting yourself on your first full morning in Paris. I’ve done probably about 40 hop-on, hop-off bus tours in different cities and the Paris one is my favorite because it follows a fairly compact route that shows the city’s amazing architecture from an excellent view on top of a bus.

    The other “must-do” for me is the Seine River Cruise. I highly recommend taking it right around sunset. It leaves from in front of the Eiffel Tower and that allows you to see the historic buildings and all of the bridges as they are flood-lit for the night, and then allows you to see and photograph the Eiffel Tower at night as well on your way back.

    The Paris Pass also includes quite a few other worthwhile attractions, including a cool wine-tasting experience next to the Louvre where each adult gets a full bottle of wine to take with you at the end. The Attractions Pass also includes the observation deck at the Montparnasse Tower, which is open until 23:30 each evening and has great views of the city day or night.

    One thing I highly recommend that doesn’t need a pass is to spend part of an evening in the Montmartre neighborhood, which is extremely colorful at night. You can take the funicular up to the base of the Sacré-Cœur cathedral for great views and then walk down the winding streets past many outdoor restaurants and cafes toward the center of town again. It’s an unforgettable experience and it costs nothing. I hope this helps. -Roger

     

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