France and Italy: Best 2 to 3 week itinerary for first-time visitors

France and Italy make for a perfect first visit to Europe, but there are so many potential places to visit that planning well is extremely important. Of the two, Italy is a bit more straightforward because it has a “Big 3” of tourist cities consisting of Rome, Florence, and Venice. France, on the other hand, has Paris, but beyond the capital it can be hard to know where you should go.

These two countries contain several of what I consider to be the best cities in Europe to visit for anyone, so it’s just a matter of narrowing down where to go and how much time to spend in each place. In the article below you’ll see the best option to string together a tour of these countries in two or three weeks. There will be options and decisions you’ll have to make based on your own tastes, but no matter how you do it this should be an unforgettable trip.

This article was most recently updated in August, 2022.

How many cities to visit?

This is perhaps the most challenging question when planning an itinerary. Newer travelers always assume that more is better and overly-seasoned travelers always preach that virtually any city anywhere deserves at least a week. As with most things, the best answer probably lies somewhere in between. If you only have two weeks per year it would take a lifetime of trips to explore even half of Europe at the slow pace, so it makes sense for newer travelers to move at a good clip.

There are many reasons why fast travel might be your best option, but only up to a point. With only a few exceptions, 3 nights per city is a good minimum even for those wishing to see as much as possible, or 2 nights in the smaller cities.

If you are going to France and Italy for sure then start with Paris and Rome as the foundation and add cities in between to the degree you’ll have time. France is a deceptively large country so travel will eat up some time unless you are flying or taking the bullet trains.

>>>Going just to Italy?Here are the best first-time Italy itineraries for 3 days to two weeks

Flying in and out

Unless you are starting from elsewhere in Europe, you’ll want to carefully choose which airport to fly into. It used to be that Paris was one of the cheapest, and it’s still competitive, but it doesn’t rank high on the list of European cities that are cheapest to fly into.

Two one-way tickets is ideal

It used to be that round-trip tickets were always much cheaper than two one-way tickets, but often that is no longer true. Sometimes the one-way flights are exactly half the round-trip fare, sometimes a bit more than half, and other times they are double. It’s hard to predict so it’s worth comparing them yourself.

The first thing to try is this:

  • (your city) to Paris one-way
  • Rome to (your city) one-way

Compare that to this:

  • (your city) to Paris round-trip
  • (your city) to Rome round-trip

If the two one-way flights are within US$150 or so of either round-trip, then they are your best option. If the round-trips are much cheaper then your best option is to buy one of those as well as a one-way flight between the cities (for around US$100) for just before you fly home. It would cost more on the train and also take 14 hours, so flying that last part is the way to go unless you are planning on using the last leg of a Eurail Pass on an overnight run.

Getting around once in Europe

Flying around in France and Italy doesn’t make much sense. The flights on low-cost carriers can certainly be cheap, but most major cities are only 2 to 5 hours apart by train, so riding the rails is faster, more pleasant, and far more scenic.

Even on trains, you still have three main options:

  1. Buying a France-Italy regional Eurail Pass
  2. Buying individual train tickets in advance
  3. Buying individual train tickets one at a time when you get there

If you are under 26 you can qualify for the 2nd Class Eurail Pass, which will be ideal for many people. If you are over 25 you have to buy a 1st Class Eurail Pass, and those are probably only best for those with a bit more money to spend.

Best cities in France and Italy for first-time visitors

Paris (minimum 3 nights but even that is rushing it)

Obviously you’ll want to visit Paris, and it makes sense to either start or end your whole journey here. If it’s your first stop you should add at least one extra day to help deal with jet lag, but you should plan on staying as long as possible because the French capital is one of the world’s great (and most beautiful) cities by any definition.

It’s true that you can’t just all of France by just visiting Paris on your first trip, but it’s still not a bad idea because this city is the center of almost everything and even the areas surrounding it are filled with great sights, amazing histories, and plenty of things to do. It’s almost impossible to get a bad meal in the city and most of the food is reasonably priced considering the quality. Be prepared for a small hotel room, even if you pay a lot, so it’s more about paying for the location rather than for a luxurious and large place to sleep.

The sights in Paris are almost all worthwhile, but don’t think you have to spend an entire day in the Louvre in order to enjoy it. In fact, I highly recommend taking the 3-hour double-decker sightseeing tour (run by several companies) on your first day in order to see at least the exteriors of all of the famous landmarks. If you want to go inside at least a few of the big attractions you might consider getting a Paris Pass, which also covers the bus tour and a cruise on the Seine.

Spend at least three nights in Paris itself and if you have extra days you might do a day trip (tour buses are a great choice) of the nearby Loire Valley. It’s filled with famous castles and palaces where the rich used to live outside of the city, and many are available for tours.

Paris to Nice by train: About 6 hours

Provence region (optional 2 or 3 nights)

Probably the most efficient first trip to France along with Italy is to spend a few days in Paris and then head to Nice (see below) to explore the French Riviera, but if the beach scene doesn’t interest you, or if you are coming in the cool months (the beach areas are pretty dead from November through March) you might instead stop in the Provence region. This area is famously where Van Gogh was based and got his inspiration, and also home to a Papal Palace where 7 popes lived during the 1300s.

The main city is Arles and that is probably the best base, although Avignon (where the Popes lived) is also very tourist friendly and could be a good choice. In fact, Avignon is the beginning of the famous Côtes du Rhone wine road, which connects a series of hill towns with amazing scenery and of course wine tasting. Something like this might be better for a second or third trip to France unless you’ve got weeks to spend here. Provence is also known for its cuisine, as it stands out even within a country where the food is amazing virtually everywhere you go.

Paris to Avignon by train: About 3.5 hours
Avignon to Nice by train: About 3 hours

Nice, France (minimum 2 nights)

Nice is the largest (and cheapest) city on the Côte d’Azur (AKA French Riviera) so it’s the perfect base to explore this stunning part of the world for a few days. It can still be quite expensive during July and August, when most French are filling their own beaches, but in other months it’s not too bad.

Nice has a famous beach (made of pebbles rather than sand), but it’s also an important cultural capital with great museums and a thriving food scene. You could easily spend 2 or 3 quick days in Nice alone, but you might also consider spending a few hours in Cannes and/or Monaco, which are both only about 30 minutes away by train in either direction. The cheaper hotels in Nice are near the train station anyway, so that’s something to consider if you want to visit all 3 places in one short trip.

Nice to Milan by train: About 5 hours
Nice to Venice by train: About 7.5 hours

Milan (1 night or just skip it)

Milan is famous, though that alone is not enough of a reason to stop there. If you skip it you won’t be missing much, or you might stop for one night just to break up the journey a bit. On the plus side, Milan has one of Europe’s most photogenic gothic domes at its heart, and it’s the home to Da Vinci’s Last Supper (if you make reservations well in advance).

The down side, however, is that Milan is mostly a business/financial city that isn’t as charming as the rest on this list. It’s one of Europe’s fashion capitals as well, but the casual visitor wouldn’t notice. Worst of all, accommodation in Milan can be insanely expensive if there is a trade fair or event in town. If you are coming through in between fairs and events, hotels can actually be unusually cheap, so it’s worth checking rates if you are considering stopping. Generally speaking, I recommend skipping Milan at least on your first trip.

Milan to Venice by train: About 2.5 hours

Venice (1 night minimum, 2 nights maximum)

Certainly one of the most beautiful and unusual cities on the planet, Venice is something that everyone should see, though it can be a bit tricky. The thing is, between about 10am and 5pm every day of the year, the main walkways in Venice are a slow-moving parade of more tourists than seem possible or even safe. Many of them stay in hotels nearby on the mainland, while many others just come in for the day on part of a bus tour. The point is, Venice is very frustrating during those hours, so to appreciate the city it’s important to work around them at least a bit.

The trick is to stay at least one night, if not two, on the main island itself. Perhaps surprisingly, Venice shuts down early, with most restaurants and bars closed by around 10pm. But in those evening hours as well as the morning hours on the following day, the place can feel magical and like a fairy tale destination. Venice is also quite compact so seeing the main highlights in 24 hours isn’t difficult. Depending on your budget, spend one or two nights on the main island and you’ll be quite satisfied by the time you leave. You’ll be sick of the crowds by then anyway.

Venice to Florence by train: About 2 hours

Florence (2 nights minimum, plus side trips)

With fewer than 400,000 residents, Florence feels more like a small town than the others, even though it’s much larger than Venice. As the largest and most central city in Tuscany, Florence is a cultural capital filled with famous museums, cathedrals, and other sights, but it’s also the ideal jumping off point for day or overnight trips into some of the nearby hill towns.

Whether you are coming from Venice or from Rome, this is the point on your trip that you’ll be able to catch your breath a bit. It’s also the cheapest city on this list so lingering here will be more affordable in addition to relaxing. The cuisine here is, of course, world famous, and it can get even better and cheaper if you spend a day or two in one of the many scenic villages in this part of Italy.

From Florence to Rome it’s only around 90 minutes by train, so another easy and pleasant travel day.

Pisa (a few hours on a day trip at most)

If you are spending several weeks exploring Italy then perhaps you’d want to spend a night or even two in Pisa. But for a quick trip where you are trying to include as much as possible, Pisa is best for a day trip. It’s about an hour by train or bus from Florence, so you can literally do it in half a day there and back. And being honest, the Field of Miracles (which includes the Leaning Tower) is definitely worth a look, but the rest of Pisa doesn’t really stand out.

Regardless of your starting point, you can go to the Pisa Centrale train station and walk about 25 minutes to the Leaning Tower area, or take a train to the Pisa San Rossore train station and 7 minutes to the Field of Miracles. There are also bus tours from Florence that take you all the way there, but those come with the slowness of large-group travel.

Cinque Terre (1 night, optional)

If you were to be spending all 2 or 3 weeks in Italy and saving France for another trip, then you’d want to considering spending at least a day and perhaps a night in this stunning little group of 5 towns perched on rocky cliffs overlooking the sea. They are on the west coast a bit north of Florence, so they are a bit out of the way if you are headed to Rome. Of the 5 towns, Vernazza is probably best for a short visit and it’s definitely the most scenic.

When you see a photo of these villages it’s hard not to be drawn in so if you are in that group you could add a day or two in this area either before or after Florence. Note that the scenic footpaths connecting the towns are partly closed down at times due to instability, so a quick tour by train or even by boat might be a better option.

Florence to Rome by train: About 90 minutes

Rome (minimum 3 nights)

Again, it makes the most sense to start and end your visit in Paris and Rome, and if you are starting in Rome you should add an extra day just to get your footing. Similar to Paris, Rome is crammed with amazing sights too numerous to mention, but unlike Paris, Rome can be a frustrating place to visit. No one regrets their first visit to Rome, but many swear that it’ll also be their last. It’s the traffic and general sense of chaos (multiplied by the summer heat) that wear on visitors.

All of that said, Rome is absolutely a must-visit, although you won’t be blamed for hustling through the city quickly and efficiently so you can spend more time in the relative serenity of anywhere else. The Eternal City is also quite expensive, especially by Italian standards, which is another reason to save only a few days there rather than a full week.

Naples/Pompeii/Sorrento/Amalfi Coast (optional up to 4 nights)

The “big 3” in Italy are Rome, Florence, and Venice, and if you have time for only 3 cities those are the obvious ones to choose. But if you want to dig deeper into Italy and you have enough time, your next best choice will be to base yourself in Sorrento and use it to explore Naples, the ruins of Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, and the island of Capri.

Naples is a large and gritty city that has an unfortunate reputation for pickpockets and other street crime. In reality, any daytime visitor who uses the typical precautions will be fine. Naples is also famously the birthplace of pizza and home to one of the world’s best archaeology museums so it’s worth a day trip for sure. The great news is that Naples is very easy to visit from nearby Sorrento, which is a lovely and friendly place where most people know English.

Stay in Sorrento

To reach Sorrento you’ll take a train to Naples and then change for a one-hour local train (known as the Circumvesuviana) to its final stop. Once you are checked into a hotel there, you can take the same train back to Naples, or an even faster boat. Halfway back on the Circumvesuviana you can jump off in front of the stunning Pompeii Ruins. Those in a hurry can spend half a day in Naples and a couple hours seeing Pompeii and be safely back in Sorrento for an unforgettable dinner.

Amalfi Coast and the Island of Capri

Not only is Sorrento the perfect base for a visit to Naples and Pompeii, but it’s also the gateway to the Amalfi Coast and a short ferry ride from the touristy island of Capri. On a quick visit you can hop on the local bus in Sorrento that takes you through Positano and Amalfi to Salerno. You’ll see all the famous and amazing Amalfi Coast views, and you can return either by bus or boat for an ideal day out.

The other main nearby attraction is the famous tourist island of Capri, which is best known for its Blue Grotto attraction. The ferry from Sorrento only takes 20 minutes each way and leaves hourly most of the day. This is another easy and ideal day trip where you can have breakfast and dinner in Sorrento and a wonderful time in Capri in between.

Filling in the rest of your itinerary

If you have only two weeks total then the above minimums will also pretty much be your maximums, give or take a day. But if you have three weeks you will be adding days to these cities or adding new cities altogether. Honestly, if this is your first trip to these countries, you’ll really get the most bang for your buck by adding extra days in Paris or Florence or both.

Rushing around for two weeks can be exhilarating, but rushing around for three weeks can really start to get exhausting. It’s better to plan to go slower and if you are getting bored you can do a day or overnight trip to something nearby. But you won’t get bored, and if you do you are probably doing it wrong.

Cinque Terre photo by World Walk About on Flickr

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  1. Neeti says:

    Hi, this article is very informative. My husband and I are planning a trip to Europe in the second half of June 2015. We are both first time visitors. We plan to fly into Amsterdam/Belgium and fly out of Italy. Here is a rough plan:

    Amsterdam : Two nights

    Belgium: Bruges – Two nights

    Frace: Paris – four nights (Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, a day trip to Burgundy for the vineyards) and Nice – Two nights

    Switzerland – Geneva – One night, Interlaken – Two nights and Lucerne – Two nights

    Italy: Venice- Two nights, Florence – Two nights, Rome – Two nights

    We plan to travel by train internally and will be flying out from India. We are not totally into history and art but do not mind visiting a few museums. What interests us is scenic beauty and nightlife. Please let me know if this plan sounds do-able. Thanks!

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Neeti,

      Your plan looks really good and I only have a couple of small suggestions for you.

      For one thing, Paris and Rome are both huge compared to all of the other cities on your list, and I recommend a minimum of 3 nights in each if possible. With the other cities on your list you can cover most of the top sights on a 2-night visit, but in Paris and Rome you’d have to cut out some things and rush around in two nights. On the other hand, Venice is small enough (and quite expensive) that you can see most everything that you’d want in a visit of around 24 hours. Also, Venice is unbelievably crowded (it might remind you of cities in India) during the middle of every day with people on bus tours coming in for the day, so it’s best to focus some of your time in the morning and evening, when it’s mostly empty.

      In Switzerland I’d highly recommend 2 nights in Interlaken (actually in Gimmelwald or Murren, just above Interlaken) and 2 nights in Lucerne. Geneva has a famous name but it’s actually a dud for tourists with every little to see. If you have something specific to see or do in Geneva, then go, but if you just want to see the best of Switzerland then focus on Interlaken and Lucerne. If you want to see a city in Switzerland then Bern is probably the best choice.

      Aside from those possible changes, I think your plan looks very solid and is doable. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  2. Steve says:

    Roger, this is a great site. My wife and I are planning a 15 day trip to Italy in mid September. We fly into Milan and out of Rome. I am trying to decide if a trip to the South of France would make sense? We have never been to Italy or France so we are deciding between the South of France at the beginning of the trip or Naples at the end before Rome.

    Milan – 2 nights
    Venice – 2 nights
    Cinque Terre – 2 nights
    Florence – 2 nights
    Naples – 2 nights
    Rome – 4 nights

    Milan – 1 night
    S of France – 3 nights
    Venice – 2 nights
    Cinque Terre – 2 nights
    Florence – 2 nights
    Rome – 4 nights

    Any suggestions or modifications you would recommend. We are very open to input and just starting the planning. If the S of France where do you recommend?

    Thanks,

    Steve

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Steve,

      Thanks. If you were to visit the south of France, the obvious choice is to base yourself in Nice, which is described a bit in the article above. For one thing, it has by far the most accommodation choices in the area, and it’s also very close to both Cannes and Monaco, both of which are worthwhile day trips (you can actually visit both in the same day).

      My main thought on this is that if you think you’ll do a proper visit to France on an upcoming trip (within the next few years), then probably save the south of France for that trip. But if you think that this will be your only visit to the area for the foreseeable future, then it’s probably worth going to Nice on this trip. Nice actually used to be part of Italy so the architecture and such will be pretty similar, but otherwise the food and culture are quite different and experiencing France should be eye-opening.

      By the way, I’m going to add this to the article above very soon (maybe by the time you read this reply), but instead of Naples you’ll probably want to stay in Sorrento, which is a bit to the south. Sorrento is about an hour south of Naples by train, and it’s a wonderful town that is safe and friendly. Naples is interesting but it’s also gritty and a bit stressful, so doing it as a day trip from Sorrento is highly recommended. Sorrento is also the gateway to the Amalfi Coast, and it’s close to Pompeii for a day trip. There’s also the island of Capri with its Blue Grotto, not to mention that Sorrento is a really lovely place where most people speak English. One problem with going to Sorrento is that you’ll want to spend 4 nights there just to see all the great things nearby, and you probably won’t have time for that.

      Also, if you do your Italy itinerary, you might want to land in Milan and then take a train straight from the airport to Venice. After that you can come back to Milan for two nights and then take the train to Cinque Terre with less backtracking. Once you’ve seen the main cathedral and the square around it, Milan is the least interesting city on your list, so you might even just do one night there or skip it. If you want to see the Last Supper you’ll have to make reservations in advance, and that can be worthwhile.

      Have a great trip and let me know if you have other questions I can help with. -Roger

  3. Sumit says:

    Hi Roger, my wife & I are planning a 2 week vacation in Italy in May. This will be our first trip to Europe. We are planning to include either Nice & Cannes or Barcelona & Madrid in our itinerary along with Italy. We liked your itinerary and are planning to do something like ; Fly into Rome from Bangalore and fly out depending on whether we should do Spain or Nice area in France. We are interested in seeing the cities and the countryside of Italy. Please do recommend if you think we should combine 2 countries or just do 1 in our first trip. Thanks for your help & the great blog !

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Sumit,

      I’m a bit confused by the question, but I’ll try to answer anyway. Two weeks is long enough to enjoy much of Italy and still see something else, and the Nice-Cannes-Monaco area is faster and easier to reach from Italy. My recommendation would be to save Spain for another trip because you’d really need 3 days in Madrid and 3 days in Barcelona in order to appreciate them without rushing. Adding 3 days or so in Nice would be easier and you can easily get there by train.

      By the way, I’m going to update the article above soon, but for now I’ll also recommend Sorrento as another recommended stop in Italy. It’s a wonderful town where most people speak English, and it’s perfect for day trips to Naples, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, and the island of Capri. So from Rome you could pop down to Sorrento for 3 days or so and you’d be able to see a lot in a short time. Have a great trip. -Roger

  4. Shawn says:

    Hi Roger! Great great site and very helpful information. I’m so glad I found your site before my trip to Europe. I’m planning a trip with my husband and my in-laws in mid-April to early May. (Total of 14 night and 15 days) THIS WILL BE OUR FIRST TRIP TO EUROPE! We are flying into Paris and out of Rome. Here are my initial itinerary and would love to hear your feedback on this.

    1. First go to Paris – 4 nights/ 5days (my flight lands in Paris around 11 AM)
    I saw your Paris pass page and modified my detailed trip according to that. I’ll leave my questions on that page. 🙂

    2. Switzerland – 3 nights/4 days
    3. Venice – 2 nights
    4. Florence – 2 nights
    5. Rome – 3 nights

    My questions:
    1. Do you think this is too much for a first timers? Is there anything that we should modify?

    2. I’m planning to use my credit card there with SMART Chip embedded,(since i’m gonna use card with no foreign transaction fee) but I read somewhere that using cash (according to this person, just withdraw cash from ATM when needed) is better. Do you agree with that statement?

    3. I’m not planning to rent a car at all, but do you think we should? If so, in which city?

    Any suggestion is welcome as I have no idea!

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    Shawn

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Shawn,

      Thanks for the kind words, and I’m sorry you had to type the comment twice. This site, like millions of others, holds comments from new users in moderation until I approve them, to keep spam comments from getting published. Anyhoo…

      1. Your plan looks fantastic, and it looks exactly right for a first-time visitor who wants to see as much as possible in two weeks, without going overboard.

      2. If you have a credit card with a chip AND no foreign transaction fee, then I’d use that for pretty much everything. Generally, the farther north you go in Europe, the more ubiquitous credit card use is, and the farther south you go the more likely you’ll find places that don’t accept them. In other words, in Paris and Switzerland, pretty much every business will take credit cards, except of course for street vendors and such. Once you get to Italy you’ll be able to use credit cards at all hotels, but there will be plenty of restaurants and cafes (in Italy, cafes are called “bars”, weirdly enough) that insist on cash.

      In Switzerland they use the Franc, but in France and Italy they use the Euro, and ATMs are everywhere you’ll go, including at airports. So mostly use credit cards, but obviously you’ll want some cash for smaller purchases.

      3. No, definitely don’t rent a car. Europe purposely makes driving expensive and frustrating with high fuel prices and expensive parking. The trains between the places you’ll go are ideal, and reasonably cheap as well.

      From your other comment, yes, I think a 2-day Paris Pass is a great tool for first-time visitors who are planning on seeing the main sights in a short time. And the included bus tour and Seine River cruise are quite nice ways to get oriented on your first day in Paris.

      In Switzerland, you have two wonderful options, and you can probably hit both of them, although 3 nights is tough. One of them is Interlaken, or more specifically, the villages just above Interlaken in the Alps, called Gimmelwald and/or Murren. This area is among the most beautiful in the world for mountain views and activities. I get this question a lot so I’m soon going to write a long article that explains exactly where to go and what to do. If you check the homepage of Priceoftravel.com in the coming two weeks or so, you’ll see it and it will make planning MUCH easier. The other place to go is Lucerne, which is on a gorgeous lake and has plenty of worthwhile things to see and do as well.

      I’d recommend a train from Paris to Interlaken for two nights in Gimmelwald (you have to take a lift to get there, but it’s cheap and easy), then take a train to Lucerne for one night, and then onto Venice. Actually, Venice is quite compact and pretty easy to see in one day and one night, so you might even consider two nights in Lucerne and one night in Venice.

      Please let me know if you have any other questions along the way. It looks like you have a really thoughtful itinerary already, so well done. -Roger

      1. shawn says:

        Ah.. thank you Roger for your prompt and detailed response. (ah.. i now understand why my post disappeared.)

        I will def. take our suggestion into consideration and modify my itinerary and I can’t wait for your new post on Switzerland!

        My friend just told me that there are a lot to see in Rome so staying 3 nights seems too short. Is there a MUST see place in Rome in three days?

        I didn’t put my bus tour and the cruise on my first day because my flight gets in around 11 AM and by the time I get to my place, which is located near Montmarte, i’ll lose whole day. So thought it will be better to use it on 2nd and the 3rd day.

        Again, thank you Roger for your help! I’ll probably come here very often!

        Shawn

        1. Roger Wade says:

          Shawn,

          Personally, I think 3 days and nights is the perfect amount of time for a first visit to Rome. It’s loaded with world-class attractions, but it’s also chaotic and a bit frustrating at times. The most famous attractions all live up to the hype, so as long as you hit those you’ll have a great visit. Specifically we are talking about the Colosseum, Ancient Rome, the Pantheon, the Vatican Museum (including the Sistine Chapel) and St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Trevi Fountain. Just those are about two days, so you still have a day to wander around and enjoy all the rest.

          Yes, for the Paris Pass and bus tour and cruise, I recommend starting it on your first full day rather than the day you arrive. You’ve got the right idea. -Roger

  5. Kat says:

    Hi Roger,

    What a blessing to chance upon this website which has very useful insights for those people traveling to Europe.

    This will be my first time to travel in Schengen countries. I am from Manila, Philippines. Kindly help to suggest a good itinerary. Will be flying to from Feb23-Mar7 Manila-Paris-Manila.

    I will be traveling with my husband and would like to visit Italy too via domestic flight from Paris and vise versa. Can you help us build our itinerary on which places in Italy to visit. Appreciate much if you could also provide website where can we book our airfare ticket as well as train ticket and hotel.

    Thank you and looking forward for your reply. Thank you very much.

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Kat,

      I appreciate the nice words and I’m happy to try to answer questions that people have about planning a Europe itinerary, but I hesitate to actually start from scratch on the planning part.

      Since you have 12 or 13 days, however, you don’t have too many options to get really creative, so I will provide a basic suggestion.

      Fly into Paris and spend 4 nights there. This is plenty of time to see the main and famous sights, and also spend half a day at the Palace of Versailles.

      Then fly from Paris to Rome (which is still an international flight, by the way).

      Spend 3 or 4 nights in Rome. In 3 days you can see the main sights, and in a 4th day you could even visit Naples and/or Pompeii on a day trip. Then take a train to Florence and spend 3 nights there.

      Florence is in the heart of Tuscany and is one of Europe’s best tourist towns. In three days you even have time for a day trip to nearby Pisa to see the Tower and Cathedral. Then take a train to Venice.

      Spend 2 nights in Venice, which is plenty of time to see everything there. From Venice (or nearby Treviso) you can fly back to Paris for your flight back to Manila.

      That itinerary hits all the best highlights of France and Italy, or at least those that you can see in 13 days. It would even leave an extra day or so to go somewhere else or take more day trips. Without knowing your interests and budget, this is about all I can suggest.

      There are booking tools on this website that will give you the best airfares and prices on hotels. There are even recommended hotels for Paris and Rome if you look in the middle column of those pages, which also provide other useful information.

      For train tickets you’ll want to book in advance with the Italy rail official website. The earlier you book, the cheaper the fares will be.

      This should at least get you started with a plan of your own. Let me know if you have specific questions as you plan. -Roger

      1. Kat says:

        Thanks Roger. Will do as suggested. God bless.

  6. Beverly Rosas says:

    Dear Roger,
    I really hope you could help me. My husband and I, with our 3 girls, (21,17 and 13) will be going to London on May 24, arriving at 10 pm., then heading back home from Paris, on June 12. That gives us 18 days to go around. I feel that we could add one more country, and was thinking of Scotland, since the visa to London is quite expensive, so we would like to maximize our visit to UK, and I heard Scotland is a beautiful place to visit! I am overwhelmed planning the itinerary. I would like to spend a weekend in London for their markets, before going to Paris. Is it possible upon arrival in London at 10pm, we take a train to Scotland to spend the first few days there? How many days would you suggest.. and is it best to stay in Edinburgh? In London, kids of course want to see Harry Potter aside from the usual sites. How many days do we stay in London? Then we go to Paris. We plan to do side trips if possible.. like Nice, or Lourdes? I am open to suggestions really. Or do we just spend a whole week in Paris? What kind of train tickets do I get? Is there a multiple pass for this kind of itinerary? I would appreciate your reply as soon as possible so I can look for our place to stay next.

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Beverly,

      You’ve got quite a few questions here and I’ll try to answer as many as I can in the order they came up…

      Scotland is definitely a good choice, especially in summer, but it will remind you a lot of England so you won’t be getting too much contrast.

      I don’t believe there are overnight trains between London and Edinburgh, so you’d want to leave for Scotland in the morning.

      I’d say it would be worth at least 4 days in Scotland to make it worthwhile. Edinburgh is gorgeous and interesting so you’ll want a minimum of two nights there. And the second best place would be Inverness, which is the gateway to the Scottish Highlands. Spend at least two nights there, and think about a bus trip during the day taking you to the island of Skye and elsewhere in the Highlands. But my advice is to skip anything having to do with the Loch Ness Monster. The lake itself is a big disappointment, and the Loch Ness museum attractions are terrible.

      In London I’d plan on at least 4 nights. You won’t get bored no matter how long you stay, but London is crowded and expensive so 4 or 5 nights should be plenty. I don’t know much about the Harry Potter sights except for that train platform.

      Paris is similar to London in that it’s huge and fascinating, but after 4 nights it’s probably to go elsewhere to mix things up. Versailles is a popular day trip. For an overnight trip then Nice is great, and Lourdes would be as well. There are dozens of great possibilities so it’s tough to say one is best for you.

      You’ll want to take trains between all of these cities. From London to Paris you’ll have to take the Eurostar train. Within the UK there are many train companies but you can search and book them all in advance from any of the websites, including this one, which is my favorite. Here is an article that talks about buying European train tickets early to save money. In all cases, the earlier you buy the train tickets, the cheaper they will be. There are no good rail passes for what you have in mind, so just buy early. -Roger

  7. Jora says:

    Hi Roger,

    I’ve been to Europe in 2011, I’ve been to Frankfurt, Paris, Belgium and Amsterdam. If lucky enough, I’ll be able to go back this March. As much as possible, I would want to cover the other cities as it is a rare chance to be in Europe (too expensive for a Filipino like me).

    I would like to visit the following cities: other German cities like Munich or Berlin, Italy and Switzerland. I’m quite puzzled which cities to prioritize and how to cover each city.

    Frankfurt should be the jump-off and end point of the travel (I’ll be attending a fair in Frankfurt). Travel dates are from 12th to 21st March (10 days only).

    Can you suggest which cities should I prioritize? Would it be wise to book for a Eurail pass to cover the cities I’m interested in?

    Would appreciate your kind reply! Thanks!

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Jora,

      Ten days is not a long time to cover 3 countries, but I can give you some ideas. First of all, Frankfurt is kind of a dud of a city for tourists, which you probably know, so the other places you go should be far more interesting.

      In Germany, Berlin is probably the most fascinating place, and it’s relatively cheap as well, but it’s quite a long way from the other places on your list. Munich is much closer, and it’s also worth at least two days if you can spare them. And on the article above you’ll see Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which can be enjoyed in one day and is a major highlight for many tourists.

      In Switzerland, there are two great options for visitors. One is Interlaken, which is a town at the base of the Alps. It’s really better to stay in one of the small villages just above Interlaken, specifically Gimmelwald or Murren. This is where you go to see the most amazing views of the Alps with plenty of great walks and things to do. The other possibility is Lucerne, which is a gorgeous town on a lake. There are many things to see and do in that area, and it’s quite beautiful, but if you want to see the Alps then Interlaken is better.

      In Italy you should consider the “Big 3” which are Venice, Florence, and Rome. You can get a great look at Venice is a stay of only one night. For Florence you’d want at least two nights, and in Rome it would be a shame to spend less than 3 nights. One great thing is that those 3 cities are about 2 hours apart by train, and the trains are cheap if you buy in advance.

      As mentioned up top, it would be tough to see ALL of those in a 10-day trip, but if you moved quickly you could see most of them. Once you do a bit more research you can decide which ones are most appealing to you.

      For transport, and especially since this is a short trip, you should go by rail and buy your tickets online at least a month or more in advance. The tickets will be quite cheap if you buy early, or somewhat expensive if you buy as you go.

  8. S.A. says:

    Hi Roger,

    My husband and I will be going to Europe for the first time this May. I came across your website while researching how to come up with an itinerary and it is been the most helpful resource by far!! It’s refreshing that you acknowledge that while it’s not ideal to jam pack too many destinations in one trip, that some do want to see as much as they can, because they don’t know when they can go back to Europe again (as it is in my case). I am trying to obtain that balance: go to as many destinations as possible, but spending enough time in each place. We are in our mid 30’s, so we can handle a little “craziness”. We have 21 days to travel, do you think this would be a realistic itinerary:

    London – Paris – Rome – Florence – Cinque Terre – Venice – Barcelona – Madrid

    If not, what would you personally take out? How many days would you recommend in each? Anything you can suggest would be so appreciated!!

    1. Roger Wade says:

      S.A.,

      I always enjoy hearing that this information and advice is useful, and I’m also disappointed by so many other writers who chastise trip-planners for wanting to cover a lot.

      Your itinerary would make a very busy 3 weeks, but it could be done and you’d definitely enjoy it a lot. I’ll start with my recommended minimum stays in each city, and you’ll see that you are right at the edge…

      London 3, Paris 3, Rome 3, Florence 2, Cinque Terre 1, Venice 1, Barcelona 3, Madrid 3.

      That adds up to 19 nights, and if you did it you’d be pretty worn out by the end. Also, keep in mind that for most of your journeys you’d spend about 5 hours in the middle of the day for the travel part. The Italian towns are closer together, but the rest would require a train ride or flight that will use most of the sightseeing time for that day. Also, doing it this way you’d definitely want to fly from Paris to Rome and from Venice to Barcelona in order to pull it off at all.

      If I were you I’d consider perhaps skipping the Cinque Terre on this trip, or saving Spain for a future trip altogether. If you did either of these things you’d have time for a trip that brings you to many great places without racing around. And you’d have more time for side-trips or other nearby stops. In my opinion, the Cinque Terre isn’t all that special and would be better appreciated on a future Italy trip where you are digging deeper. Those cities in Spain are both fantastic and worthwhile, so the issue is that they are quite remote from your others and it would be more efficient to substitute in some places that are easier to reach.

      For example if you saved Spain for later you could spend a couple days in Nice, France, to also visit Cannes and Monaco on short day trips. Or you could spend more time in Italy (including Cinque Terre), and perhaps add Sorrento for a few unforgettable days (day-trip to Naples, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Island of Capri).

      So those are some ideas, and I think any of these possibilities, including your original plan, should work well. Have a great trip, and feel free to follow up if you have further questions. -Roger

      1. Tashi says:

        Hi Roger , I went through your itinerary here and trust me this is one of the best I have come across. My husband and me , along with our 2 year old kid are planning to visit Italy and France from 7th March till 20th March . Hope this is a good time to visit ?

        Now this is the way we have planned :

        > We start with Paris : 3 days
        > Nice : 2 days ( with visit to Cannes and Monaco)
        > Venice : 1 day
        > Florence 2 days : visit to Pisa / i more country side
        > Rome : 3 days ,
        > then back to Paris and home .

        Now do you think Buying a euro rail pass Italy -France will be beneficial and how do we travel within each of these cities to visit attractions? . Especially Paris and Rome .

        I also read about Paris pass and Rome Pass ? are they good? worth the money ? or rail pass and individual attraction tickets make more sense ?

        Awaiting your reply .

        1. Roger Wade says:

          Tashi,

          It will be quite chilly in March, but otherwise the weather should be pretty good and the crowds will be very low so I think this is a good time in southern Europe.

          I think your itinerary looks quite good, and very similar to what I recommend in this article. On the other hand, you seem to be allowing the minimum amount of time in each place, so you are going to feel pretty rushed during the whole trip. For a 12-day trip I think you’ll enjoy it and won’t regret being ambitious with your itinerary. However, the other option to consider would be to save Nice for another trip, and spend an extra day in Paris and another day in Florence. Nice (and Monaco and Cannes) are more geared for warm-weather visits, so they won’t seem as lively during March. On the other hand, they are totally packed in the main warm months, so your visit might even be more pleasant. Also, Monaco in particular in stunning. Even so, stay in Nice and take the 20-minute train ride to Monaco to see it.

          If you were to cut out Nice you could fly from Paris to Venice (or nearby Treviso) on a cheap airline, and you’d cut out your longer train rides (for better or worse).

          You don’t want a Eurail Pass for an itinerary like this. Those are only good value for longer trips and especially those where you aren’t sure when you want to go from one city to the next. In your case you’ll want to take the trains and buy your tickets online in advance. If you buy them about 3 months ahead of time you’ll find that they are surprisingly cheap. Here’s my article that tells you how to buy European train tickets in advance from the official sites. Most don’t go on sale until about 3 or 4 months out, by the way.

          To get around within these cities you’ll mostly want to take public transport. The Paris Metro is great, and there are stops everywhere. Nice and Venice are both pretty walkable. In Nice you probably want to stay near the train station to make those day trips easier. In Venice you’ll walk pretty much everywhere, although there is the vaporetto, which is sort of a canal bus, and also very easy to use. In Rome the subway isn’t quite as helpful as in Paris because it doesn’t cover much of the city, but it can take you to the Vatican Museum. Most of the rest of the sights are within walking distance for most people if you stay near the center. If not, there are buses.

          Here’s my review of the Paris Pass, which could be ideal for you because it’s best for people on their first visit who want to cover the main sights in two days. The Rome Pass is new and I haven’t reviewed it yet, but I will soon and I think it’ll be similar. In the other two cities the main attractions are cheaper if you just pay as you go. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  9. ML says:

    Hi Roger, my fiancé and I intend to arrange a 20 day to Europe in January. Issue is that the weather may be wet and cold. It seems that the southern Europe (South Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal) may make more sense. Can you suggest an itinerary for us? I am thinking of Rome – Venice – Florence – Barcelona – Madrid – Rome – Greece – Rome (quite confused thoughts). Sincerely appreciate your advise.

    1. Roger Wade says:

      ML,

      I think your plan sounds pretty good, although you might get unlucky with rain even in the south. Still, I think Italy and Spain are probably your best bets in January, and they are top-notch destinations any time of the year. But I think I’d save Greece for another trip. Athens is worth 2 or 3 days, though most of the islands are pretty much shut down in winter, and it’s nicer to combine Athens with an island or two to justify going all that way.

      So I’d recommend at least 3 nights in Rome, at least 2 nights in Florence (add another night if you want to do a day-trip to Pisa, and then 1 or 2 nights in Venice. Be aware that Venice is partly flooded during parts of winter, though usually only for a few hours at a time so you can still see the sights and get around. Take trains between the cities in Italy, and then fly from Venice (or nearby Treviso) to Barcelona or Madrid. Those cities in Spain are good for at least 3 nights each, and you can go between them by high-speed train (much cheaper if you book well in advance). You could still have time to add another Spanish city or two, and Seville and Granada could be good choices. Or you could visit Lisbon, which has the best weather in Europe in winter, and perhaps Porto as well. In twenty days I think I’d visit no more than 6 or maybe 7 cities in total. Otherwise, you’ll visit a lot of places but spend nearly half your time on trains or in train stations.

      If you need to fly out of Rome then book a flight back there. There are several low-cost carriers on those routes, and the fares are cheapest the earlier you book. Let me know if you have other questions I might help with. -Roger

  10. Devaana says:

    Hi Roger,

    I’m from Malaysia. It’s my first time planning a holiday trip to Europe next year (May) and your website has been an invaluable resource. 3 of us will be travelling between the age group of 27-34. I hope you can guide and suggest me in our planning for 21 days trip to Italy, France & Spain. Our base for now would be Rome(round trip)

    The rough idea is:

    * Rome – Florence + Pisa – Cinque Terre (Monterosso only) – Venice – Milan (Lake Como) – (Nice & Cannes / Paris) – Barcelona

    Need your advice, do you think this is doable? Are there any places that you consider are not worth the visit? Maybe other places you can recommend to fill in the gaps. Regarding transportation, what would you recommend? (I know I would have to decide between trains with pass, trains point to point or airlines). I plan on travelling as cheap as possible, with hostels/apt(b&b) in mind. I hope to add one more city in Spain (if possible).

    Hoping to hear from you. Thank you so much!!!!!!

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Devaana,

      It’s always great to hear that this information is helpful to people planning trips. I am also quite a fan of Malaysia so I know how different all of this will be for you.

      I think your plan so far looks quite good and would be very doable. Most of your planned stops are great. The only one that is a bit unusual is Milan and Lake Como because Milan itself isn’t really a top tourist city for Italy (it’s more of a business/banking city), but Lake Como is lovely and many people go there as a day trip from Milan or even an overnight stay. Otherwise your plan is all highlights and no filler.

      You should have time to include Madrid after Barcelona at the end, and I’d schedule 3 nights in each one if you can. Madrid and Barcelona are both large, important, and quite different from each other. You should also be able to get a cheap flight back to Rome from Madrid to board your flight home. With the addition of Madrid, I think you’ll have a nearly perfect 3-week trip planned. I wouldn’t add anything else to it, or you’ll start to have to hurry around so much that you won’t enjoy the main places you are flying all that way to see.

      As for getting around, you’ll want to do most of it by train for sure. The trains between Italian cities are fairly inexpensive even if you buy them on travel day, so a rail pass probably wouldn’t be good value. The absolute cheapest way to do this trip would be to buy all of those train tickets online at least two months in advance. Those advanced fares can be very cheap (€19 from Rome to Florence on a high-speed train), and the prices go up as more seats are sold and the travel day approaches. Even the longer rides like Milan to Nice, Nice to Paris, Paris to Barcelona, and Barcelona to Madrid can be fairly cheap if you are able to buy them at least a month or more in advance. Here’s more information on buying advanced train tickets in Europe.

      If you REALLY wanted to just decide on your plan as each new day arises, a rail pass could save you money because those walk-up train fares can be expensive (€150 or more for longer ones). So either you sacrifice spontaneity and save money, or you pay a bit more for a Eurail Pass, which would at least be cheaper than buying as you go.

      Hopefully this helps, and feel free to follow up with more questions if you have them. -Roger