1 week in Europe. Starting in Munich. In January.

Following a 2 week family X-mas vacation in Bavaria/Austria, I'm tacking on an extra week to travel solo. I've travelled pretty extensively in W. Europe, but not much in Germanic lands, and certainly never at that time of year. My intinct is to stick to bigger cities, where the weather will presumably be more tolerable. I like art and architecture, monumets and history (Aachen and Bruges are on my bucket list, as are several French Gothic cathedrals). Overnight train to Venice for a couple days then meander towards Milan to fly home? Up the Rhine to Cologne, Aachen, Bruges, fly out of Frankfurt?
Roundtrip Krakow? (Prague is out since I was just there last year). Prefer to stick to rail. Love to sleep on trains. I would love any suggestions or advice. Feel free to PM me. -Jason

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9133 posts

Your idea of keeping it urban is a good one for that time of year. With the short daylight hours and overcast days, those beautiful postcard views of the countryside are usually absent in winter (although there may or may not be snow to lighten things up). I'll leave it up to others for specific recommendations.

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

Hi Jason. I really liked Aachen and Cologne, and depending on which French cathedrals you're interested in, you could visit the two German cities, meander through France, and fly out of Paris. Which cathedrals are you interested in?

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3511 posts

Venice, Verona, Vicenza, Milan - not the best time of year, but certainly lots to see. I rather like the idea of another week in Germany. Aachen, Cologne (not sure how Bruges got in there - Liege is close to Aachen, haven't been there so can't advise), then to Frankfurt. Aachen was quite pretty, and the cathedral is worth seeing, and the museum too. Except for the cathedral, I was unimpressed by Cologne, though. Definitely worth stopping for the cathedral. I'd add on Mainz, the Stephanskirche with the Chagall windows, the cathedral, a couple of really good historical museums, and do take a look at what Frankfurt offers before you write it off. It turned out to be my favorite place in Germany. That trip keeps the distances pretty short, so you have lots more time for sightseeing.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9133 posts

"Liege is close to Aachen, haven't been there so can't advise)" I have and I'll advise... a rather ugly, depressing city. With only one week, skip it.

Posted by melissa
Austin
799 posts

For the time of year you're traveling, I vote for northern Italy. We had a week in Venice and Milan last December when the arctic winds were causing trouble in the northern European airports' had several lovely sunny days, a day of snow in Milan and 2 rainy days in Venice. Three days in Venice and Milan each sounds delightful.
I always have a good time in Munich, and there;s at least 4 or 5 days of things to do there, tho it is chiily. The train between Venice and Munich is longish but has lovely views.

Posted by Jason
Nederland, CO
108 posts

Hi all OP here, thanks for your input. Keep it coming! @Sarah-I have yet to visit Laon, Beauvais, Amiens, and Metz cathedrals, as well as the Basilica at Vezelay. Or Cluny, or.... @Chani-yes, another week in Germany has it's appeal. I'll be accustomed to language, etc. BTW - Bruges is in here because there's a Michelangelo there. I can get a direct flight home from FRA, but maybe I put too much value in that. @melissa- Yeah...I've always liked Venice, and that time of year there are fewer tourists, and I can get a canal-view room for pretty darn cheap.... Not big on Milan, but haven't been to Verona, etc. Will have had my fill of Bavaria/Austria during the previous 2 weeks, so I'd like to high-tail it out of Munich. It's really the timing of this trip that's throwing me for a loop. Planning a month in June is one thing, but a week in January is outside my comfort zone. What can I expect??? Any thoughts on Krakow? I'd like (for lack of a better word) to see Auschwitz someday...but in January? Would that be just too depressing, or would it instead result in a more powerful, realistic experience? Lastly, my 1st night will be New Years Eve, for what it's worth!

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10888 posts

With one week especially in winter I would keep the travel distance short. Trains are great except with lots of snow and ice, then it can be a big problem to go a short distance. It is long ways and through some rugged country to get to Venice. Venice in January can be miserable. With just a week I would hit Salzburg and Vienna and come home from Vienna.

Posted by Jason
Nederland, CO
108 posts

Frank-The Brenner Pass-in-winter thing occurred to me too. But if it's an overnight train, and with a bottle of Gerwurztraminer in my cabin, I think I'll make it through the night just fine. I will have just been in Salzburg, and I was in Vienna just last year, so I'm looking for a change from the Alpine/Germanic-Catholic world. Thanks for the thoughts...keep them coming! We should all have such problems, eh?

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

If you decide on a northern itinerary and Bruges is a convenient stop, then by all means go. But if you're really interested in Michelangelo and the only reason you want to stop in Bruges is to see the sculpture, I would suggest going to Italy (Florence and Rome) for a week. The weather might be a little nicer and the number of Michelangelos in those cities is dizzying. If you want to visit Aachen and Cologne and then do the French cathedral itinerary, it makes the most sense to visit Laon, Beauvais, and Amiens. Metz, Vezelay and Cluny are a little far, especially since you'll be moving to a different city about every day. I think that's okay, since you'll be visiting smaller cities and the distances aren't that far. Map out a route and see what you think.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3511 posts

If you want Michelangelo, go to Florence from Venice. It's only a 2-3 hour train ride. 3 days and you will see some of his best works as well as the art and architecture that influenced him. Auschwitz in winter. . . when I think of Auschwitz, I always picture it in winter, desolate, icy cold, barren, etc. Depressing, yes. Realistic - definitely. Thanks for the reminder about Bruges. I had forgotten, and I'm thinking about going there next summer anyway.

Posted by Jason
Nederland, CO
108 posts

Thank you for all the replies. I've booked a flight home from Frankfurt 7 days after I leave Munich. That's all I'll commit to for now. I'll research more, and probably make up my mind last-minute depending on the weather forecast (gotta love solo travel). Expect many more questions over the next few months... PS-Clarification: I want to go to Bruges because there's a Michelangelo there that I have never seen. I've seen all his works in Italy many times (and will again). -Jason

Posted by Brad
Charlotte, NC, USA
214 posts

Aachen was on my bucket list as well and I finally made it there this week. Totally worth it, despite not being on the Rick Steves hit parade. The chapel was beautifully lit in the evening. Bruges is not over-hyped but might be a bit far. Cologne disappointed me, but maybe my expectations were too high. If you have not been to Reims you may want to consider it.