10-12 days in Europe for a first timer [INVALID] Where to go?

I have never posted here before, so I hope this is an appropriate question for this board... My husband and I are in the early stages of planning a trip to Europe in September. I want to visit pretty much every city that I read about, so please help me with recommendations of where we should go! The facts: - We'll have 10-12 days. - I'd like to spend time in two or three cities, plus day trips. - Important: I'd like at least one of these cities to be a smaller or mid-size city with a more laid back and quieter pace that the big cities. - We're most interested in immersing ourselves in history. We want to see historic towns, castles, and churches. - Other things we enjoy but aren't requirements for this trip: good food/drink, outdoor activities, walkable cities, scenic drives. - We're "busy" travelers and like to see and experience as much as we can on vacation. We're also used to multi-stop vacations. - We would prefer destinations that won't 't be too much of a logistical headache to get around. - The major cities that we're most interested in are London, Paris, Munich, and Rome. Obviously, we won't be able to visit all of these on this trip we need to narrow it down to one or maybe two of these hubs. What do you think? Where should we go? Thanks in advance for your input!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
22090 posts

Keri, As this is your first trip to Europe, my first suggestion would be to read Europe Through The Back Door, as that provides LOTS of good information on "how" to travel in Europe (and avoid problems). Use the country or city-specific Guidebooks to plan Hotels, sightseeing, etc. Given the VERY SHORT time frame of your trip, I'd suggest focusing on two cities, with a few day trips. Some of the possibilities are London & Paris, Paris & Munich or Paris & Rome. The day trips will allow a bit of a "mix" of urban and rural areas. Which of those city combinations would interest you the most? Of course, using open-jaw flights are highly recommended! Have you allowed for the two days you'll lose in travel at the beginning and end of your trip? You'll likely arrive in Europe the day after you depart, and will be jet-lagged for the first day or two. All the cities you mentioned have excellent public transit, so you won't have any "logistical headaches" in getting around. Travel by rail between cities is the easiest method. Within the cities, Metro, Bus or Trams are very easy. The Guidebooks have excellent information on that. It's good that you're starting to plan now, as it will take some time to get the "fine details" worked out. Also, it would probably be a good idea to pre-book accommodations. Hopefully room prices in London will have "settled down" after the Olympics. Good luck with your planning!

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
3077 posts

If you are really interested in ease of travel and visiting a 'smaller city' or a more rural area with some outdoor activities, I'd suggest you stay in the UK. Here's a possible intenerary that address most (or all ) of what you mention: Fly into London- 3-5 days. Visit St. Pauls and Westminster, British Museum (and possibly others), do day trip(s) via train to Windsor and/or Dover or Winchester to see castles and towns. Train to York- 1 (possibly 2) night- walk around town, see and shop in the Shambles & the market and wisit the Minister.
Train Aviemore- 2-4 nights- Hiking and walks, canoeing, horseback riding all avaliable. Lots of whisky distilleries within short bus or train rides. Go up Mt. Caringorm in funicular (and ride or hike down), do restored steam train ride (roundtrip about an hour), visit microbrewery. possible day trip via train to Blair Castle in Blair Atholl. Train to Inverness- 2-4 nights. Lots of day trips available- cruise up Loch Ness with stop at Urquart Castle ruins and at village of Drumndrochit. Possible cruise on Firth to see Dolphins, etc. possible day trip to Isle of Skye and Eliean Donan castle, Great Glen, Glencoe, etc. Train to Edinburgh- 1-2 (or more) nights. Tour Castle and possibly House of Hollyrood Palace. Walk Royal Mile for shopping, etc. Visit Princes St. Gardens, possilby botanical gardens and Britanina (royal yatch). Fly home from here. Lots of variations possible.

Posted by Richard
Lafayette, LA, USA
161 posts

Given your time limitation, I think an itinerary worth considering for a first trip to Europe would be London and Paris. I know that there are many who would say that Rome belongs on the list of Europe's truly great cities, but I think the great cities of Europe are London and Paris. With 10-12 days, you have a chance to thoroughly visit both cities and take side trips, and the train ride from London to Paris is only a few hours. If your trip will be 12 days, a third city or region becomes an option, possibly Munich, Salzburg (which would fit the smaller city criterion), Amsterdam, Belgium, the Mosel area. But your challenge is limiting your travel time given that you have only 10-12 days. The train ride from Paris to Munich is probably seven hours or so. Salzburg is probably another two or three hours. If only 10 days and you are insistent on spending time in a smaller city, the options outlined by Russ look good.

Posted by Cynthia
Gig Harbor, Washington, USA
1274 posts

We also prefer busy schedules when we travel - if we want to kick back we do California weekends. ........We love both London and Paris so I would suggest those for your two big cities. Since you would also like a smaller historic city, I would suggest flying to Paris, then to Edinburgh (Easy Jet flies Paris - Edinburgh) for one full day, train to York for one full day, train to London for the rest of your time. Fly home from London...........If you would like scenic drives, you could rent a car in Edinburgh and drive through Northumberland and Yorkshire to York instead of using a train for that section. That area abounds in castles, abbeys, and scenery.........You can take lots of scenic walks by the river in both Paris and London.........This entire trip could also be done in reverse..........If your budget permits, you could fly to Europe on a Saturday and return two weeks later on a Sunday, which would extend your trip to 14 days on the ground.

Posted by Ilja
2122 posts

I would suggest for first timers in Europe London and Paris. They are three hours apart by Eurostar. As a smaller town see York. 2 hours plus by train from London. To avoid some backtracking, fly to London then York, back to London, to Paris and fly back from Paris.

Posted by Toni
Long Beach, CA, USA
356 posts

London and Paris would be perfect. Easy connections, great for day trips and perfect for 10-12 days.
A great start for first time to Europe.

Posted by Keri
20 posts

Thank you to everyone who replied! Your suggestions have been very helpful.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2029 posts

Paris-Berlin could also be a fun trip, too. You could consider flying inbetween the two to save time (and maybe money). I wouldn't rule out flights between Paris and Munich, either. As much as I like training, when you're limited by time any destination further than 5 hours apart by train starts to become potentially worth it to fly to.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
4242 posts

Hi, If you are mostly interested in seeing London, Paris, and Munich and Rome on this first trip, I would suggest the first places. On my first trip I made sure I saw London, Vienna and Berlin. How much distance do you want to cover within the realm of logistics? If it doesn't matter too much, then I'd say London, Paris, Berlin. If you decide to skip London, then Paris, Berlin, Vienna. From Paris as a day trip, I recommend Fontainebleau, Bayeaux, or Amiens.

Posted by Lee
1017 posts

I agree with the suggestions for London and Paris. They are very different yet have everything you like apart from scenic drives. For a smaller city, you could train it to Oxford-one hour-and maybe take a day tour of the Cotswolds for the scenic drive.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3276 posts

Hi Keri... (from another Michigan resident) All the places you have mentioned are such completely different areas... Is there one spot that really calls to you? I think pairing London & Paris would be a good mix, and I would spend some time outside of each of those cities to get a feeling of the countryside. If you decide on Munich, you could add Austria as well (Salzburg) and make it a bit of a Castle tour seeing the south of Germany. If you decide on Rome I would pair that with some time in the Tuscan area as well as a day in Florence and do only Italy, or maybe you could add Venice by flying into Rome and out of Venice. You don't have a lot of time but if you are an energetic traveler and don't have to investigate every nook and cranny of an area you can get a great overview of a city in a few days, and you can decide if you would like to return.
Have fun!

Posted by Sam
20 posts

I'm going for fourteen days this summer, flying into Frankfurt. The Itinerary I've come up with is this: Day 1: train to Munich Day 2: Munich Day 3: Munich / Night train to Rome Day 4 :Rome Day 5: Rome Day 6: Rome Day 7: Siena Day 8: Siena Day 9: Venice Day 10: Venice Day 11: Venice / Night train to Munich Day 12: Munich Day 13: Frankfurt
Day 14: Fly home Whatever your plan, From your starting point, go to your farthest destination then work back towards your starting point, unless you have the advantage of an open jaw ticket.