My boyfriend and I are looking to travel to Western Europe in December for 2 weeks of backpacking adventures. Neither of us have been to Europe and so it is quite overwhelming trying to pick and choose destinations we would like to see while we are there. Although we would like to see as much as possible, we want to make sure we have a least have some "quality time" (if possible) in places that deserve longer stays. We are both in our mid-twenties, very active people and would love to do as much outdoors as we can handle, considering we know it will be winter weather conditions. While we definitely would like to enjoy experiencing the larger cities, we also thoroughly enjoy traveling through and appreciating the "smaller town" areas that don't get as much attention or tourism. We are aware that 2 weeks is not a great deal of time but were thinking of possibly covering these areas as a rough rough estimate during our adventures: Switzerland (Bernese Oberland?, Lauterbrunnen?), Italy (Venice?, Florence?, Rome?, Tuscany?), Greece? We are trying to gathering suggestions and get an idea for a realistic time frame for these destinations. Does this already seem like fitting in too much? We would greatly appreciate any advice! Thank you in advance!
Well I would skip Greece this time around , the islands are lovely but closed up mostly off season, and i don't think Athens will tick any of your boxes ,its one of my least favorite cities in Europe. Plus with 2 weeks you have already put alot on your wish list, you are aware that December will most likely mean some walking trails will be closed becuase of snow coverage, but if interested in snow hiking then it does mean bringing quite a bit of extra gear. Switzerland is amazingly beautiful though.
Italy , well there is so much to see there you could spend your whole two weeks there and still not cover have the cool places, you are going to have to edit on your own tastes. I think Rome needs 3 days at minimum, 5 would be better. Venice will be wet, so not as pleasant for just wandering around and cafe sitting, I think one can get taste of Venice in 2 nights easily( keeping in mind 2 nights is really only one full day at a destination) . Although you are aware its winter , I am not sure you mean you realize that you are likely to run into cool weather and rain .. in fact they have snow in Rome some winters.. so what are your sightseeing priorities.
The good news about the Berner Oberland is if you go in early December it should be less expensive. Avoid Christmas as that's very high season in the ski resort areas. Lauterbrunnen would be a fine place to stay. There are winter walking trainsin the area. Buy plane tickets into Zurich and back from Rome. Skip Greece,,Pat is right. Spend 2-3 nights in Lauterbrunnen and then start working you way south through Italy. You would probably be fine traveling without lodging reservations, but younwillmsave on train tickets buying in advance. So you have to decide how important flexible time is to you.
As others have said, I'd avoid Greece in winter and concentrate on Switzerland and Italy. December in Europe means Christmas markets, so be sure to fit one in somewhere on your trip. Jim.
"While we definitely would like to enjoy experiencing the larger cities, we also thoroughly enjoy traveling through and appreciating the "smaller town" areas that don't get as much attention or tourism." Keep one thing firmy in mind about winter in Europe. From about late October until around April, the weather is usually cloudy and overcast. Also, the days are very short in December. What this means is that all that glorious technicolor rural scenery that you see in travel videos and postcards is usually hidden behind a dull gray cloak. At this time of year, if you're not interested in skiing or other winter sports, I would concentrate on cities.
We very much appreciate these replies so far! They are all very helpful in getting a clearer idea of what our planning/itinerary outline should look like and how we should think about using our time there. Thank you!
You list the area of Tuscany. Just keep in mind that in small towns in Italy, a number of venues will be closed in winter. It's still pleasant to wander, but you'll find fewer hotels, restaurants, etc, open.
At that time of year, though the daylight hours are few, the Christmas markets are in full swing over many parts of Europe, so you can spend evenings visiting them, shopping, eating and drinking and people-watching. I try to find central cities that I can use as bases to day-trip to other destinations, which saves the rigmarole of repacking, checking in/out, etc. For instance in Tuscany, Florence or Siena can be a good place for seeing the other and a few more towns.