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2 week winter honeymoon

We plan on getting married this winter, haven't settled on a date yet, but likely will be going on our honeymoon soon after, say mid to end of December. We have two weeks to work with and we would like a trip that mixes casual/comfortable venues, with some active portions. This is the itinerary we had in mind:
Day 1-5: Paris
Day 6: Bruges/Ghent
Day 7-10: Prague
Day: 11-13: Vienna

The question we have is whether this itinerary would provide enough time to explore the cities without feeling rushed? I've never went to Europe so I honestly have no clue. Also, we welcome any suggestions for better itineraries that captures both the active and laid back vacation we envisioned for this trip. Thanks to you all.

Posted by
16894 posts

The cities tend to have more activities and indoor sites available in the winter, so your focus on cities makes sense. See also http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/trip-planning/timing-your-trip. Bruges/Ghent is worth two days. Of course, you should plan your trans-Atlantic flights as an open-jaw or multi-city itinerary, such as into Paris and home from Vienna.

See http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/cost-maps for an overview of train travel time and full-fare, 2nd class ticket prices. If you book the Thalys train departing Paris 3 months ahead, you can get it much cheaper. From either Paris or Brussels to Prague or Vienna, flying will be faster and cheaper than trains. See www.skyscanner.com to compare flights.

Posted by
7648 posts

Advance congrats on your wedding! France is a fabulous place for a honeymoon (ours was in late Summer in Paris & the Champagne region), so you're starting things off well. If you're using Rick Steves' guidebooks, you'll also have an outstanding reference for lodging and sightseeing suggestions. Food in Paris is often pricey, so we've gotten many meals at "ethnic" middle-eastern places with good, inexpensive falafel, kebabs, etc. We endulge in Parisian bread and pastries, though. Markets are a great place to pick up picnic lunches, but if you're going in December, picnics may not be on your agenda.

December can be a great time to visit Europe. We were in Rome, Sicily, and the Sorrento-Naples areas in December 2012, and Christmastime added a new element to sights and events that aren't there at other times of the year. The summer hordes of tourists won't be there, so musuems and other attractions should be much less crowded. Hours of operation could be shorter in December, though, with places closing earlier than they do in summer, so schedule accordingly. Also, your plans are in northern Europe at a cooler time of year, and you could encounter rain/snow. We had frequent rain in Italy that December, and it was sometimes cool, but not outright cold. However, this past November in northern Spain had some actual cold, rainy days, so farther north, you may need to snuggle to stay warm ;-)

You mention only one day for Bruges/Ghent - are you kind of just passing thru on your way from Paris to Prague? I'd try to fit in at least 2 days and 1 night in Bruges, if possible, but that might take away from your other destinations . . . maybe one less day in Prague? Depending on what you plan to see/do, you might want to see if allowing any more Bruges time is possible. Belgium is one of the world's great bicycling centers, and not sure if you would consider renting & riding a bike, especially in December, but that could be an active portion of your trip, if applicable. Lately, our trips have generally been spending more time in a smaller area, rather than less time in lots of places. Your plans allow for at least a few days, each, in some great destinations, so except for the quickie day in Belgium, you're not considering just a hit-and-run schedule, and it seems reasonable & doable. How are you planning on traveling between destinations - quick, cheap flights, train, rental car? Your transportation modes & times can affect what you will have time for seeing and doing, and could also affect your energy level and how casual/comfortable you are on your honeymoon.

Posted by
12040 posts

"Active" is tough in the winter, unless you head to the mountains for winter sports. The weather elsewhere is usually damp and cool/cold.

Days 6-7 are not physically possible, much less desirable.

Posted by
818 posts

Ghent is wonderful. We enjoyed it much more than Bruges.

Posted by
18785 posts

I like the Prague and Vienna portion more than the Paris portion. I love Paris but for the winter I would look more to places that do Winter better than Paris. Maybe Salzburg, Munich and Budapest. But I would stop with three locations. That gives you 3 or 4 days to be romantic in each town with one day of travel between each town. Here are some activities:

Yes, bath houses are open in the winter http://baths.topbudapest.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Picture-100.png

Christmas markets from about 15 November until New Year http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/11/15/article-2507853-196E40C900000578-792_634x403.jpg

Great Theater http://images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium-large/the-people-at-the-budapest-opera-house-madeline-ellis.jpg

ice Skating http://budapestchristmas.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Skating-Rink-Budapest.png

Great Food in magnificent rooms http://cdn5.agoda.net/hotelimages/721/72120/72120_120118213548311_STD.jpg

Great Food with Music http://restaurants.topbudapest.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Picture-16.png

the snow http://budapestchristmas.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Vajdahunyad-Castle-Budapest-in-winter.png

the streets https://a0.muscache.com/pictures/20701971/large.jpg

of course those are just my favorite city. The others are great as well.

Posted by
12 posts

WOW, Excellent responses by everyone! I truly appreciate the assistance. Ya, we weren't sure how much we could fit in reasonably given the weather, but we've also heard this area of Europe is incredible around the holidays. We would like to spend at least a day in Bruges/Ghent, but I think we can work in another day possibly.

I didn't consider the Budapest option. That might work in lieu of Paris, and allow for more time in each of the other sites. Although my only concern was that I was informed by one of my colleagues that Prague/Vienna/Budapest have similar cultural vibes and environments, which is why I favored Paris, since it has a personality all to its own.

Posted by
18785 posts

I just linked to the Budapest sites because that's what I had handy. Prague, Budapest and Vienna don't really share that much in common culturally or aesthetically. Prague seems to be more popular among younger, has well defined tourist zones with architecture dating back to the 13th century; and of the three probably has the most energy and the most tourists per square foot. Vienna reflects its 18th and 19th century Empire in grand buildings and endless museums. The Budapest you see today was almost entirely constructed between the mid 1800's and the very early 1900's and of the three is the least "restored". The three countries have three languages and three currencies. Another comparison is that if i were 21 and wanted to go drink with the guys for a week i would go to Prague, if i wanted to study history including the arts i might choose Vienna and if i wanted to be laid back for a week and just see beautiful scenery and eat good food i would choose Budapest. I have never met anyone that returned and thought all three were in anyway similar and the argument about which is "best" is one of the great (and silly) arguments in the forum. Still, its just an idea. You really cant do too wrong no matter where you go. I just try and match seasons to places that support those seasons well.

Posted by
11294 posts

"Prague/Vienna/Budapest have similar cultural vibes and environments"

As I've said many times on this board, while the three cities have geographic proximity and shared history, they are as different as apples, oranges, and bananas. And it's important to know this going in, or risk disappointment. My sister loved Prague, and she expected Budapest to be similar. She spent all of her time in Budapest unhappy that it wasn't like Prague at all.

As long as you're prepared to appreciate each place on its own terms, you can certainly see two (or all three) on one trip, and not in any way have "duplication."

Posted by
15 posts

How is the weather in Prague, Vienna and Budapest around the New Year?

Posted by
10344 posts

@Donald, these are Northern Europe inland locations, not near the moderating influence of the ocean, that you're asking about, and the weather will probably be what you would expect of a northern latitude inland location in winter. Maybe not any colder than, to name one in your area, Chicago.
The time of sunset and civil twilight (the more important of the two) limits how much light you have for seeing things outdoors.
Tom, as a resident of this general area (Hessen in his case), could provide more details if he sees this post.

Posted by
12040 posts

Picking up where Kent left off, I would say the inland locations are similar to Chicago without the lake effects. As noted, Paris and Belgium, although they can get quite cold, are somewhat moderated by the effects of the Gulf Stream current, so not as cold as you might expect by the latitude alone.

PS- the part of Hessen where I live is in the broad upper Rhine valley, and some meterological quirk which I won't pretend to understand makes this one of the warmest areas of Germany.