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

Planning your first trip to Europe can be challenging because we hear so many great things about so many different places, it’s tough to know which to see first. There are interesting cities like Copenhagen and cheap cities like Krakow and even some cities that are interesting and cheap at the same time such as Cesky Krumlov. Still, I’m here to recommend starting with the classic and famous cities first and then exploring other places starting on your second trip (and there WILL be a second trip).

The list of 5 cities below can make for a perfect first-time to Europe itinerary all by itself if you have two weeks or so to spend, and I even tell you exactly how to do that at the end. Traveling can seem competitive in certain circles and it’s hard to brag about having visited Belgrade or Riga if you haven’t been to London, Paris, and Rome before. We keep an updated list of European cities from cheapest to most expensive and most of the cities I mention in this article are on the expensive end of the list, and they are still worth it.

This article was last updated in August, 2022.

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

If you are planning your first trip to Europe, hopefully it will be the first of many. Once you get a taste of the place and the crazy variety you’ll experience there, you’ll be ready to start planning your second trip before you even get home from your first.

While it might be tempting to start by visiting some of Europe’s cheapest cities, it’s actually much better to start with the classics to see what all the fuss is about before you branch off into more obscure destinations. And good news for Americans in 2022 who are planning a trip because the Euro and British Pound are both very weak right now so even the top cities such as London and Paris will be relatively cheap, even compared to visiting, say, Chicago, this year.

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.

>>>11 Best itinerary ideas for your first trip to Europe

Once you at least scan that article you’ll have some itinerary ideas for your own trip and I’ll be happy to answer questions at the bottom of that one. If you want to choose just one country to visit on your first trip to Europe, your best choices are England, France, or Italy.

Europe's 5 Great Cities for visitors

1 – London

The 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 first time you see Parliament and Big Ben just around the corner from the London Eye, you’ll know you are somewhere important and unforgettable.

London also used to be famously expensive and it still can be if you are holding money in Euros or British pounds or some other currency that is low at the moment. But if you are from the US or Canada, London has come down in price quite a bit in the last few years due to a currency drop. It’s true that there is inflation as well and some prices have gone up for visitors, but generally London is relatively cheap for most people in 2022.

This is also a perfect place to start your first Europe trip because there won’t be a language barrier (although some accents are harder to understand than others) and you can get the feel for Europe and the time zone without also having to worry about being understood by the people you meet.

  • 2022 Backpacker Index: US$92.67 per day

2 – Paris

Definitely 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.

Another thing to mention is the food. Somehow, the French people care a lot more about food than any other nationality and they are amazing at it. Seriously, it’s almost impossible to find a meal that isn’t unusually great. You can even order the Plat Du Jour (plate of the day) at the closest neighborhood restaurant to your hotel and it is almost guaranteed to be amazing and also reasonably priced.

  • 2022 Backpacker Index: US$85.11 per day

3 – Rome

Unlike 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.

In 2022 all of Italy is relatively inexpensive because of the low Euro, so it’s a good time to visit some of the normally expensive cities like Rome. There are probably 10 famous attractions in this city that are each more amazing and interesting than any attraction in most other European cities such as Berlin or Brussels.

  • 2022 Backpacker Index: US$71.49 per day

4 – Venice

Some 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.

Try to visit Venice when there are no cruise ships parked nearby, although that can be tricky in summer. You’ll enjoy how empty the island feels in the early morning hours and also late into the evening. The restaurants tend to close early and there isn’t much raucous nightlife, so after 10 PM or so the walkways are mostly empty and it’s another great time to enjoy Venice.

  • 2022 Backpacker Index: US$90.97 per day

5 – Amsterdam

Some 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.

Hotel prices in Amsterdam have gotten somewhat out of hand so it’s a good thing the Euro is lower if you are coming from outside the region. Still, as good as the public transportation system in Amsterdam is, you’ll have a better time if you pay a bit more to stay in a hotel or hostel in the compact city center, roughly from the Princengracht canal ring to Centraal Station and anywhere in between.

  • 2022 Backpacker Index: US$93.69 per day

The most efficient way to visit all of them on one trip

If you are planning your first trip to Europe and you’ve got about two weeks to spend there, it’s quite easy to visit all 5 of the above cities on one efficient trip. You can even sneak in another amazing city for a day or two if you’ve got it to spare.

You can do the following itinerary in either order, but I do think starting in London is better than starting in Rome on your first trip.

  1. Fly into London and spend 3 or 4 days there
  2. Take the Eurostar train (90 minutes) to Paris and spend 3 or 4 days there
  3. Take the high speed train from Paris to Amsterdam (3 hours 20 minutes) and spend 3 nights there
  4. Fly from Amsterdam to Venice (or nearby Treviso) and spend 1 or 2 days there
  5. Take the train from Venice through Florence (2 hours) to Rome (another 90 minutes) and spend 3 or 4 days there
  6. If you have one or two days to spare, stop in Florence in between Venice and Rome
  7. Fly home from Rome or back to London to board your flight home

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All Comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    Hi, I just found your website and love it! My husband and I are celebrating our 25th anniversary this year and would like to visit Europe. He has never been and I was 16 when I went on a school trip. We live in the midwest/southern part of the U.S. and have about $10,000 saved for everything (flights, hotel, train, food, activities, souvenirs, etc.). Can we do a 2 week trip for that price or would we be limited to more like a 10 day trip? What would be a suggested itinerary and what month is best? I know we cannot do all of these but would like to know which countries/cities are easier to combine on this trip for maximum enjoyment and which would be good combinations for future trips…London, Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Greece, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland …Thank you in advance for your help and suggestions!

    1. Roger Wade says:


      I’m glad you find this site useful. You should easily be able to do two fantastic weeks including everything for US$10,000, but of course you’ll have to choose hotels that fit your budget. You should be able to get flights for $3,000 for both of you roundtrip, and hopefully a bit less. That leaves you about $500 per day for hotel, food, and activities. You’ll be able to get pretty good hotels for around $200 per night, or perhaps more like $250 per night in some cities, and that almost always includes breakfast. So as long as you can do lunch, dinner, activities, and entertainment for $200 for both of you, you’ll be fine.

      I get questions like this a lot and in my opinion the best first-trip to Europe for maximum impact is this. Fly into London and spend 3 or 4 nights there. Then take the Eurostar train to Paris and spend 3 or 4 nights there. Then fly to Venice and spend about 24 hours there. Then take a short train ride to Florence for 3 nights and then a short train ride to Rome for your last 3 nights. Then fly back to London for your flight home. Those train rides and flights should total under $400 per person, not including the round trip to London. But you have to buy those train tickets and flights at least a couple months in advance for the best prices. Also, when flying back from Rome to London it’s important to fly into the right airport. Your flight home will probably fly out of Heathrow so it’s better to pay a bit more to fly from Rome into Heathrow a few hours before that. Flights into other London airports will be cheaper, but it takes a long time to get from any of them to Heathrow so it’s not worth it. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  2. Francesca says:

    Dear Roger,

    I been reading through all the mails, and appreciate your detail. I wish for your advice as well.

    We as a family of 4, my husband and two boys ages 17 and 8 wish to plan a Europe trip, our first time during the July break for 2 weeks We reside in Bangkok and would like to visit England (London), France( Paris), Rome (Vatican), Spain (Barcelona) and either Germany or Amsterdam. I need your help to plan out an Itinerary. MY little boy of 8 is crazy about football and would definitely wish to go some places which have the Maradona Memorabilia. My older boy wishes to study in Europe and hence this. Don’t know how to make this trip workable for both the boys, and for my wish to be fulfilled by making it to the Vatican.

    Thank you

    Francesca Albuquerque

    1. Roger Wade says:


      I’ll be happy to try to help. First off, your plan is very ambitious. If you’ve got 14 nights on your trip I’d recommend limiting your destinations to a total of 5. It’s best to stay three nights in any city you visit, even if you are trying to see as much as possible. It’s also best to choose destinations that are reachable by train from each other. London and Paris are both amazing and you can get between them on the Eurostar train in a bit over two hours. I’d spend 4 days in London if you can, and you’ll have the chance to tour the Arsenal stadium and/or the Chelsea stadium. I’ve done both of those and they are really great if you are a fan.

      From Paris you could take a train in 6 hours to Barcelona, or to Amsterdam in a bit over three hours. Flying around Europe is kind of stressful because you always have to get to the airport early and the flights are always packed. The train is far more comfortable and the scenery is usually really nice. From Amsterdam you’d have to fly to Barcelona and then fly to Rome. The flights are pretty cheap if you buy far enough in advance. Many people would do London, Paris, then a flight to Venice for 1 or 2 nights and then a train to Florence for 2 or 3 nights and then a train to Rome for 3 nights. The Vatican is very central within Rome and visiting the excellent Vatican Museum (which includes the Sistine Chapel) and St. Paul’s Cathedral next door will take about 6 hours.

      As for Maradona memorabilia, I’m sure they sell some at Camp Nou in Barcelona, which is another popular tour. There’s a little Maradona shrine in Naples and they sell stuff there, but it’s probably too far out of your way for the amount of time you have. I hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  3. Claire says:

    Hi Rodger,
    I am looking to arrange a 3 week trip to Europe for my husband’s 40th in August. We would be travelling with our 9 year old daughter so its really important to us to pick the right places and route.

    The places we would like to travel to are Rotterdam, Rome (and possibly Venice or Florence – which would you suggest would be more interesting to a 9 year?!), Salzburg and then finish in Paris with a few days at Disneyland Paris to then come back home to London.

    Do you have any suggested routes? We would like to spend 3/4 days in each destination.

    Your advice would be really welcomed.
    Many thanks

    1. Roger Wade says:


      That sounds like an amazing trip and it’s great that you can spend 3 weeks there. Your idea to spend 3 or 4 nights in each place is ideal, although Venice is small enough that most people are happy with 1 or 2 nights there (partly because it’s also so crowded). So in 3 weeks you’ll want to pick about 6 or 7 cities to visit.

      To be honest, Rotterdam is kind of an odd choice unless you’ve got relatives there. Even if you are staying with relatives they will probably agree that you should spend most of your time in Amsterdam, which is only 41 minutes away by train. Rotterdam was almost completely leveled in WWII so almost everything you see is new buildings, even if many are built to look old. Amsterdam, on the other hand, was mostly spared to its 16th Century architecture is still mostly intact, and it has all of the country’s top museums and other attractions.

      It’s probably best to start in Amsterdam and then head south. You could take the train to Munich and then Salzburg and then cross the Alps by train (a gorgeous ride) to Venice and then Florence and Rome. It would be best to fly from Rome to Paris because the train takes forever and is far more expensive than flying. I’d do Venice for 1 or 2 nights because it really is amazing to see in person once in your life, and your 9-year-old will also be impressed. Florence is also worthwhile as its the capital of Tuscany and home to many of Italy’s top sights on its own. The promise of gelato each day is enough to keep most young people moving with you, and the actual food will be a hit as well.

      That’s the route that I think makes the most sense and can be done almost all on the trains. Another option would be to substitute Interlaken and Lucerne in Switzerland for Salzburg. I really like all of those places, but to be honest the scenery in Switzerland is even more amazing than Salzburg. As always, let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  4. Angela says:

    I have appreciated reading many of your comments/advice on people’s travel plans & hope you can help us with ours. We are a family of 6 – the youngest is 13 & are planning to take our girls on a surprise trip to Europe over the February school break next month. We have never been to Europe before – we would arrive in London on the morning of the 15th & leave on the 25th. We plan to take the train to Paris & Amsterdam, & spend part of a day in Brussels. Being only 5 weeks away what are our best options for ticket prices for train travel? Also what order would be best to travel in after being in London? We want to fly home of of Amsterdam or Paris to save on travel time. Do you think this itinerary is workable or what changes would you make? Thank you very much.

    1. Roger Wade says:


      Your plan sounds really good. For a trip in February you’ll really want to get all of your travel locked in ASAP. Fortunately that is the cheapest time of year for airfares and hotels, so you’ll get really good value. Still, the airfares and even some of the train fares are going to be going up soon. From the US or Canada it’s usually much cheaper to fly in and out of the same city, but it’s worth paying more if you can buy an open-jaw ticket like that. You’ll have to check fares and decide. The ideal way would be to fly into London and then take the Eurostar train to Paris and then the high-speed train to Amsterdam and fly home from there. That train goes through Brussels so you can book it so you have a few hours in the city before leaving again for Amsterdam.

      I’d do London for 3 or 4 nights and then Paris for 3 or 4 nights and then Amsterdam for 3 nights. If the airfares are hundreds of dollars more to fly into London and out of Amsterdam you should be able to book a morning flight out of Amsterdam to London and then board your flight home from there, but if you do that you have to be careful of the airports because most trans-Atlantic flights are out of Heathrow and most of the cheaper flights within Europe are out of London’s other four airports. It takes a long time to get between airports so you’d want to fly into the right now.

      As for the train tickets, the Eurostar from London to Paris and the Thalys from Paris to Brussels and then Amsterdam will still be fairly inexpensive if you buy soon. As more seats are sold the fares start going up and if you buy at the last minute they are very expensive. It’s best to buy most train tickets from the official websites of the national rail companies, but the Eurostar from London to Paris is available from many places at similar prices. There is more information on this article about buying European train tickets in advance. -Roger

  5. Barb Light says:

    FIRST TIMERS. We are looking at 16 days the end of June 2019. We would be flying in from Canada to Paris. We would like to see Switzerland and Italy. We would love to be able to join in pasta making to enjoying the fruits of our labour. From your comments I believe we would enjoy the Sorrento area and do day trips. We aren’t BIG city folks but are open to ideas. The interlaken areas sound like they might appeal to us. We aren’t big hikers but enjoy a great view. Also Amsterdam might be of interest if it’s not too out of the way. Any recommendations would be helpful. We would fly home out of Italy is our intention.

    1. Roger Wade says:


      Based on your questions it sounds like you’ve read quite a few of my Europe travel-planning articles, so thank you for that. I think your plan sounds very good. Italy and Switzerland are both amazing in different ways, so they are a great combination. If you’ll be sightseeing in Paris I’d recommend 3 or 4 nights and then taking a train to Interlaken for two to four nights. The views there and especially in the Lauterbrunnen Valley are some of the most stunning in the world, and you can enjoy them with little or no hiking. I’d highly recommend getting a Swiss Travel Pass for your stay, which includes the full trip up and down on the cable car to Schilthorn. You can enjoy some of the most amazing views in the world without walking more than a couple hundred steps on flat paths.

      If you aren’t interested in Italy’s Big 3 (Venice, Florence, Rome) then I do think that Sorrento is a very nice choice. It’s a smaller town with very nice views and it’s quite easy because so many people speak English (which isn’t true even in the Big 3). If you can find a hotel or Airbnb within a reasonable walk of the train station then you can do something incredible each day. The train gets you to Naples and Pompeii, and the buses to the Amalfi Coast leave from the parking lot. The ferries to Naples and the Isle of Capri leave from the harbor not far from the train station, but the town is small enough that anywhere in or near the center should work. I’d think that spending 7 nights there would be plenty or maybe even more than enough.

      Starting in Paris for a few nights you could then take the high-speed train to Amsterdam in about 3.5 hours and then after 3 nights there you can fly to Naples (or Rome) and then the train to Sorrento. Amsterdam is also fantastic (I lived there for awhile) and it’s very different from the others. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  6. Karen says:

    Hi Roger. My daughter won the Kia AdAge Driving Creativity contest. She will attend the Lions Film Festival in Cannes,France in June 2018. We decided to turn this into a trip for our family of 5. Our kids are all in their early 20’s. Being that we have always wanted to visit Italy, it seems appropriate to do so. It appears so close. We can take at least two weeks from work. I would like to visit Paris, Venice, Sorrento and we should see Rome. We will want to travel with our daughter so we will need to start by flying out of Newark, NJ or JFK, NY to Cannes. We need to keep this affordable. I’m imagining we will need 2 hotel rooms everywhere we go. Could you recommend an itinerary that would be memorable, affordable and not too daunting to a family that has never been out of the US? Thank you kindly for your expertise!

    1. Roger Wade says:


      Congratulations to your daughter! That is amazing. I think I’d fly into Paris and spend 3 nights there before taking a train down to Nice, which is 20 minutes away from Cannes by train. If you have free accommodation in Cannes then great, but if not you’ll find that Nice is probably more affordable and it’s a short train ride away. After Nice you can take a train to Venice and spend one or two days there, as it’s quite compact and also so crowded that most people are ready to move on after seeing the main sights.

      After Venice most people would stop in Florence, but if you aren’t interested you can take a train directly from Venice to Rome and then to Naples on your way to Sorrento. I’d stay 3 nights in every place except Venice, which is good in 1 or 2 nights. Oh, I just noticed that you are flying into Cannes, which probably means flying into Nice. If that’s the case you can save Paris for the end and fly there from Naples or Rome.

      Hotel rooms in all of these cities are all small by US standards, so you’d definitely need two rooms. However, you might look into apartments and airbnbs in each place because 2-bedroom or apartments that sleep 4 people are quite common and should be at least a little cheaper than two small hotel rooms. I’m happy to help more if you have other questions. -Roger

  7. Craig Nelson says:

    Thank you Roger for this very detailed website. Very informative. We are planning our 1st Euro trip and my 5 cities I’d like to see are Dublin, London, Paris, Madrid and Rome. I save Rome for last because I’m hoping to have enough time in Italy to see Venice also. We are hoping to have 20 days to do all of this if possible. Could you please help me plan my travel?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Roger Wade says:


      I’m glad you find this useful. Five cities in 20 days is plenty of time, and you might even consider adding Florence and/or Venice to your Italy leg. The only tricky thing about the cities you’ve chosen is that getting between most of them will take some time. It’s probably best to fly into Dublin (and try to get out of the city to see some countryside in Ireland) and then fly to London. You can then take the Eurostar train to Paris in a bit over two hours.

      From Paris you’ll have to fly to Madrid and then fly to Rome or somewhere else in Italy. The flights should be nicely cheap though, especially if you buy as early as you can. I’m not sure whatever help you need so feel free to ask other questions if you have them. -Roger

  8. L.A says:

    Hi Roger,

    Thank you for all your inputs. Very informative site. My husband and I would be going for a Europe trip coming from Geneva Switzerland and would like to skip Switzerland (as we’re staying there after our Euro trip). We have 9-10 days to spare for euro trip excluding Switzerland. We need to be back to Geneva after the Euro trip. This is around end of Dec to first week of January 2019. So will be spending new year somewhere in Europe.

    We are looking for the best itinerary. Cities we would like to visit are Rome, Florence/Venice,Barcelona,Paris, Amstermdam,Bruges and other interesting cities you can recommend.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Roger Wade says:


      If you have 9 or 10 days I’d recommend choosing 3 or perhaps 4 total cities. Have a look at my article on the best December destinations in Europe. Most of the cities on your list are in that article, and it should help you narrow down your choices. If you’ve never been to Paris I’d recommend you include it for 3 nights. The fastest trip that I recommend would be 3 nights in Paris and then a flight to Venice for a stay of one night. Venice has those Acqua alta floods sometimes in December, but the worst of it usually only lasts a few hours at a time. From Venice you can take a short train ride to Florence for two nights and then another short train ride to Rome for 3 nights. If you have 10 days it would be better to spend 3 nights in Florence because there is a lot to see and you could also spend half a day in Pisa, which is an hour away by train. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  9. Jenny and Jack says:

    Thanks for your detailed reply.

    We are looking at flights tickets from Sydney.
    We are getting cheaper fare by ~200$ per person if we choose to fly out to Sydney from Amsterdam instead of Rome. We will fly in to London from Sydney.

    So in this case, after London should we go to Rome and do reverse trip? Rome, Florence,Paris, Amsterdam?
    If yes, what is the best way London to Rome? Flight? Do you see any issues in doing such reverse trip?

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Jenny and Jack,

      That isn’t too surprisingly since Rome tends to be expensive for long-haul flights compared to other large and popular cities. So yes, I’d do it in reverse, and flying is definitely the best way from London to Rome. You should be able to get a cheap flight to Rome, probably out of one of the other London airports like Stansted or Luton. I just checked and it looks like most of the big low-cost carriers do London to Rome nonstop, and if you buy far enough in advance it looks like they start under US$50, not including checked bags. Of the cheaper ones I’d recommend Vueling (a Spanish airline) or Easyjet rather than Ryanair.

      If you are including Interlaken then the train ride from Florence or Venice through the Alps is amazing and then you can go from Interlaken to Paris and to Amsterdam by train. If you are skipping Switzerland then it would be best to fly from Florence or Venice to Paris and then the train to Amsterdam. It’s probably even a little nicer to do it this way because Italy will start to get hotter as summer approaches, while Paris, Amsterdam, and London are almost always mild. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  10. Jenny and Jack says:

    G’day Roger,

    We would like to get your opinion on our plan. Sorry, this is going to be long post but its better to get detail idea from someone like you.

    Roughly 30days trip from Sydney
    2 Adults (35yrs and 33yrs) and 2 kids (4 and 6yrs)
    Travel Time : Late May (2019) – Mid June(2019) — depending on less flight fares from Sydney.

    > London : Stay with in-laws/cousins for ~10days
    > London to Amsterdam (by train) : Stay 2nights
    > Amsterdam to Paris (by train?) : Stay 4nights
    > Paris to Switzerland (by train) : stay 2nights –> but to which city?
    > Switzerland to Italy (Florence) (by train) : 3 nights
    > Italy (Florence) to Italy (Rome) (by train) : 3 nights
    > Fly out from Italy (Rome) to Sydney (Australia)

    Q1 : With kids of these age we are trying to understand how much time it takes during these each points in above list?
    Q2 : Which city do you suggest in Switzerland?
    Q3 : If all above places are connected by same train line? something like eurorail or ? Do we need to book all these travel tickets for train beforehand?
    Q4 : Tips on visiting Eiffel Tower esp how to manage long queues, wait times etc when we have kids with us?
    Q5 : Appro for a decent accomodation at each places above, what accomodation cost we are looking at each of them?
    Q6 : Luckily, we have family in London so it saves our cost of accomodation etc in London, so given above plan for 4 of us. roughly/appro how much do you see $$$? I know there are many variable things here, but just to get some rough idea.


    1. Roger Wade says:

      Jenny and Jack,

      I’ll be happy to try to help.

      A1: I’m not sure I understand the question, but I do think you are scheduling enough time in each city. My normal strong preference is 3 nights in any city you visit, although some smaller cities like Venice or Bruges can be enjoyed in a day or two. Two nights in Amsterdam is a little quick, but you can still see a lot in a short time there.

      A2: I have a whole long article about where to go in Switzerland on a short trip. The short version is that the Interlaken area has the most dramatic Alpine highlights. Two days is a pretty short visit and you have to hope you don’t get unlucky with the weather, but it’s a good stop between Paris and Italy.

      A3: From London to Amsterdam you’ll take the Eurostar train, which is not part of the Eurail system, and trains within the UK are not part of the Eurail system either. For this itinerary it will be cheapest to buy individual tickets at least two months or so in advance. Many of the tickets will be surprisingly cheap when bought in advance like that, especially the ones within Italy.

      A4: The Eiffel Tower is usually least busy in the mornings, and it’s crowded all afternoon and then as sunset approaches because many people like to try to experience day and evening up there. You can book tickets in advance (at least a couple weeks in advance) on their website and reserve a time to go up. If you choose a time as early as possible it will be the easiest. When you arrive you have to go through airport-style security, and the queues are usually pretty short in the morning. After you get inside the fenced area you just look for the elevator queue for people with reservations at your time. As long as you are on time (or close) you should be on your way up the elevator no more than 10 or 15 minutes after you arrive. That said, the views from the top of the Eiffel Tower aren’t as nice as you’d expect because it’s so high. You actually get better photos from the second floor or from the top of the Arc de Triumph.

      A5: Hotel rooms in Europe’s large cities tend to be quite small compared to those in Australia or the US. I’d probably try to look for airbnbs or other short term rentals instead of hotel rooms. The downside is that the larger and more affordable ones are never in the heart of the tourist district. One upside is you can save money by doing a bit of cooking or doing picnics instead of sit-down meals 3 times a day. All of the cities on your list are on the expensive side for Europe. For a family hotel room with 2 or 3 beds with a good location in May or June it will probably be around £150 in London and €150 in the others. You can definitely find cheaper places than that, but you almost always have to sacrifice location for cheaper hotels or apartments. I think especially with young children it’s worth paying more to be within walking distance of the main sights rather than having to ride a bus or tram or subway into the city center every day.

      A6: Oh yes, free stay in London. That will obviously help a lot. It’s very hard to guess on a budget like this because everyone travels so differently. If you tried to do this frugally (and still with conveniently located accommodations) you could probably do it on €250 per day including €150 for a hotel (and usually breakfast). But the Eiffel Tower, for example, will cost you about €62 for all four of you to go to the top, so the more expensive attractions like that you do the more each day will cost. You CAN enjoy a trip without spending a fortune on attractions, but on the other hand is it worth it to spend thousands of AUD$s getting everyone there and then save a few hundred by skipping the Louvre or the Tower of London? That’s why it’s so difficult to predict costs.

      You might have a look at our 3-star traveler index for Europe, which shows a typical budget for each city (per person based on double occupancy) including meals, transport, attractions, and 3-star hotels. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger