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

Not long ago, I scrolled down the homepage of this website – – 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

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 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

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.

  • Backpacker Index: US$79.04 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.

  • Backpacker Index: US$80.38 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.

  • Backpacker Index: US$90.26 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.

  • 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.

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All Comments

  1. 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.

    1. Roger Wade says:


      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

  2. 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!

    1. Roger Wade says:


      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

      1. 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!

  3. 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.

    1. Roger Wade says:


      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

      1. 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!

        1. Roger Wade says:


          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

  4. 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.

    1. Roger Wade says:


      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

  5. 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 🙂

    1. Roger Wade says:


      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, for example. For Italy it’s 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

  6. 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!

    1. Roger Wade says:


      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

  7. Jay says:


    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.


    1. Roger Wade says:


      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

  8. 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!!


    1. Roger Wade says:


      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

  9. 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


    1. Roger Wade says:


      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

  10. 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.

    1. Roger Wade says:


      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