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2019 Solo Trip - TBD

I'm looking to do some solo travel next year - could be April or anytime September-December. I would like to branch out a little from my favorite UK destinations but would like to go somewhere that offers excellent public transport so as to avoid a rental car. I can usually pick up/understand languages enough to manage the length of a vacation so I'm not English-speaking limited but I'm not fooling anyone if I pretend it's not a welcomed bonus.

Typically, 6 to 8 days on the ground is my length of travel preference and I don't want to hop around a lot. So I went to London and did a day trip to Paris, I went to Iceland and split the week between two base cities, I split one trip between London and Dublin (3 days each) and wandered over to Windsor for a half-day visit during the London portion. Next Month I'll be spending 2.5 days in Edinburgh, roughly 1 day in York and 4 days in London. And before anyone points it out, I do know that Paris, Iceland and Dublin are not UK destinations. :)

I love churches, museums and general history. You can see why the UK keeps calling me back. I'm considering either a Berlin/Prague or Belgium/Netherlands combination. I'm curious about about Greece and have the Athens pocket guide I've just started looking through. I have a rough plan to visit Italy with companions in 2020 and for some reason cannot find a lot of interest in Spain or further adventures in France.

All that being said, I would love to hear the experience of those who are more widely traveled and familiar with the various public transport systems for accessibility, ease of signage for stops, etc. I have no mobility concerns to impact me and am open to different "cost of visit" budgets as I fly on sky miles and often get lodging via reward points so am fortunate to be able to plan for the daily costs of my time away.

Thanks very much in advance!

Posted by
350 posts

I spent a week in Copenhagen with day trips and found lots to do. Easy to get around great public transportation. I know many will say that’s to long so you could and on Stockholm it was my next stop. Or even Oslo

Lots of possibilities. I took the train from Copenhagen to Stockholm


Posted by
7902 posts

Churches and museums, huh? How about Vienna and Budapest? Love'em both, and they cannot be beat for museums, palaces, etc.. I have good places to stay in each that are very reasonable. Train travel between the cities is about 3 hrs.

Posted by
15477 posts

Frankfurt + Strasbourg. Frankfurt is an underrated tourist destination with easy day trips to Mainz and Wiesbaden and medieval Buedingen. It's only a couple hours by train to Strasbourg. You can day trip to charming Colmar. Except for the food and wine, there's little in common between sophisticated, arty Paris and enchanting France.

I loved Greece on an RS tour but I don't think it has the transportation infrastructure you are looking for. Athens is great but not for a week.

I only went to Spain to see the Alhambra but, as long as I was going, planned a 3-week in-depth exploration of Andalucia. I was back 2 years later for another 3 weeks, and again a year later! 2 and a half years have passed and I long to go back. I can never get enough of Italy either. April is a great time for either country. Rome easily fills a week. Or split your time between Renaissance Florence and magical Venice.

Another great combination is Vienna + Budapest.

Posted by
4363 posts

From MSP, Netherlands and Belgium is easy with many nonstops to AMS. St Baafs is an impressive cathedral. Easy public transportation in these countries, and lots to see.

Posted by
3528 posts

I vote for Amsterdam. We spent 9 days there in the summer of 2015, our second trip. We did day trips to Haarlem, Delft, Edam for the Wednesday cheese market a dont miss, and Brugges. Wish we had stayed the night in Brugges. Plenty of museums, history and Hidden churches -google them, fascinating stories. Easy transportation and we did not meet one person who did not speak English.

Posted by
6411 posts

for some reason cannot find a lot of interest in Spain

You're going to need to fix that. If, as you say, you "love churches, museums and general history" you are doing yourself a huge disservice by missing Spain, one of Europe's best destinations. I think many Americans have a really twisted idea of Spain - conflating it with their images of Mexico, which is just crazy.

Go to Andalusia and you will come home happy (just don't go during the hot months - May or September are ideal IME).

Posted by
1717 posts

Hello MNFerst. You said you are considering going to either Berlin and Prague, or Belgium and Netherlands. So, do one of those trips. If you can not decide, flip a coin.

Posted by
14210 posts

Good that you're doing solo traveling on next year's trip. So will I in the summer.

"...not English-speaking limited...." Bravo!

If you're not too keen on going to Spain and are deciding on where to go, how about North and eastern Germany in terms of the famous churches located in these cities...

Dresden, Meissen, Naumburg an der Saale, (especially in this town), Eutin/Holstein, Leipzig, Lüneburg, Magdeburg. and, of course, Berlin.

Posted by
162 posts

Thank you to those who have provided insights to my request. It's fun to think of also considering different German towns or the Vienna/Budapest combination.

I'll tell you, I wish I could better explain the whole Spain thing. I've never been to Mexico and only have positive experiences with people in my life who have moved here from there so I would love to go visit and am pretty sure I am good with keeping Spain and Mexico separate from each other, I don't think it's an American bias. If anything, I feel like I'm a little nervous about eating vegetarian and getting too hot in the weather. (Chani, I think I remember that you eat vegetarian and you were ok though?) Maybe I'll do some more reading about Spanish history and see if it's simply not enough exposure that holds me back.

To Tom_MN's point, Netherlands/Belgium is an easy option from home (and I'm already in love with St. Baafs after reading the Wikipedia info). Ultimately, I will be able to make the decision (no coin needed, thank you) but getting the insights from people who have experiences is helpful so I appreciate the thoughtful replies you've all supplied.

Posted by
12154 posts

Best public transport is in Germany. It's a little cold in April but ideal for travel in September. Fly into and out of either Frankfurt or Munich and spend time in the Munich, Rhine plus maybe Salzburg.

Best April destination is in Spain. The Easter week celebrations and/or the Seville April fair are spectacular. For Easter week, I'd recommend Valladolid first (fewer tourists) but public transport works well for flying into Madrid then taking a fast train to Cordoba, Seville and Granada - you don't have time for more than those. Madrid is the most convenient airport but my least favorite city in Europe because it's about the same age as Baltimore, MD and has no historic center. I really like Toledo, however, because it was the precursor capital to Madrid and is virtually all old center.

Posted by
2871 posts

I also travel solo for the most part; and can highly recommend Copenhagen.
I was there 8 nights last December, and was so busy!
There are more historical sights than you will ever get to see in a week!
I got a Copenhagen Card, and with that had entry to many palaces ,castles, churches; and trains and buses too, with trips to Roskilde and Helsingor.
It's not a cheap country, but a beautiful one.

Posted by
3741 posts

Just thought that I would chime in defense of Spain, my home country. Spain offers much diversity in terms of geography, culture, and cuisine - to the surprise of quite a few people... who only have images of Flamenco and Paella.

From the great green north (Asturias, Basque Country) which looks like something out of Ireland - to the golden heartland (Castilla) a mountainous land dotted with vineyards, castles, and ancient ruins - to the sunny south (Andalucia) with its whitewashed villages and Moorish palaces - and the rugged Mediterranean coast (Catalonia/Valencia) with its wild coastlines and vibrant food scene. I feel that there's something for everyone.

For the most part, all of these places are well connected with one of the most efficient and fastest rail systems in Europe, the AVE. Hope this gives you some second thoughts about Spain! :)

Posted by
11294 posts

If you're not feeling Spain, you're not feeling Spain - and nothing any one says is likely to change that. Since you can only take one trip at a time, just go somewhere that is calling to you now. Perhaps in the future, you'll want to visit Spain. I've certainly had my travel wishes change over the years, and I've certainly had no desire to visit various touted places. To be clear, these are places that many others love, places that are highly recommended, places that aren't expensive, places that are perfectly safe - they just didn't call to me right now.

Of your list, Berlin is fabulous; while it's very spread out, the mass transit gets you anywhere you need to go easily. There's plenty of English around, although of course the more German you can learn before the trip, the more you'll get out of it. However, if you like "pretty" cities or you aren't particularly interested in 20th century history, Berlin may not be as meaningful to you as it is to me.

I always say (so I'll repeat it here) that while Budapest, Prague and Vienna are often spoken of as triplets, but they really are as different as apples, oranges, and bananas. Combining two or three of them in a trip is in no way duplication. Or, you can do what I did, and see them in separate trips combined with day trips and overnights in the respective countries. With Prague, I took overnight trips to Cesky Krumlov and Oloumoc. With Budapest, I took day trips to Vac and Szentendre, and overnights to Pecs and Eger. There's plenty of English in all three of these capitals; there's less in the smaller places, but I managed fine.

If you're looking for more destinations in the UK, I had a great visit to Glasgow, Manchester, and Liverpool (with a day trip to Chester) a few years ago. The first two get few tourists, and most of the tourists in Liverpool seemed to be from other parts of the UK. Details in my trip report here:

You could look into Scandinavian cities, although they're best in the summer. Of your times, you would want to go in earliest possible September (I went to Copenhagen in September 1991 and enjoyed it, but wouldn't want to go much later than that).

Finally, even though you have a plan to visit Italy in 2020, that doesn't mean you can also visit before or after. As Chani says, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who goes to Italy once and feels they're done - there's always more of Italy to see. So, the way that people "pregame" with alcohol before they go to a bar, why not "pregame" with an Italian trip before the one you're taking with your friends? This is particularly useful if they want to go to typical first time places (Venice-Florence-Rome-Cinque Terre-Pompeii etc). You can either see these places and focus on less visited sights there, or go to places that most people only go to on later trips (Turin, Ravenna, Ferrara, Naples, Padua, Parma - the list of great places is endless).

Posted by
16613 posts

Berlin/Prague or Belgium/Netherlands

For 6 to 8 days on the ground. So lets look at that

Fri Depart the US
Sat Arrive about noon, pooped out. Lets say Prague
Sun First good day. Prague again
Mon Second good day. Prague again
Tue Third good day. Leave Prague to Berlin by Train. At best its a 4 hour train ride. Figure another 1.5 hours for getting to and from the train stations plus a little time to find the departing platform. For me I would figure 2 hours, but i worry a lot. So half a day gone.
Wed Fourth good day. Berlin
Thur Fifth good day and = 6 days on the ground. Berlin
Fri Sixth good day. Berlin
Sat Seventh good day = 8 days on the ground. Berlin
Sun Return

Not half bad actually. 2.5 days in Prague (as much as i can take in the crowds) and 4.5 days in Berlin - our you could evenly split it. And you only loose the better part of one day traveling from one city to the next. And open Jaw tickets can be almost as cheap as typical round trip tickets. Actually i have one occasion where the open jaw saved me $50 over round trip to either city. But you are flying in miles so that doesn't matter.

Oh Belgium/Netherlands? Neither are cities and 6-8 days isn't enough for 2 countries. And my personal taste isn't very much in tune with either so I leave that to someone who appreciates them.

Speaking of my personal taste, for such a short trip I would find one destination that could keep me occupied the entire time. Some here will be surprised, but I would suggest Budapest. 5 to 6 days (including arrival day) is the ideal "stay in Budapest" trip and 7, or 8 days opens up a number of day trip options or an overnight trip.

Hard to find better or cheaper public transportation and most everything you would want to see is withing a few minute walk of a tram or metro stop... mostly trams (so you aren't buried underground and you can enjoy the town). The 7 Day TravelCard will set you back 4,950 Hungarian Forints. That's a whopping $2.50 a day for unlimited public transportation use.

Here is a sample of the public transportation:!Ai7Zk-szxfTJhaxCz1GluUBxE5uK6g Yea, I know, not too great.....

Posted by
1806 posts

6 to 8 days is not enough for 2 countries. I disagree with that statement when those 2 countries are Belgium & Netherlands. It's doable. Will you see everything in those 2 countries? Of course not, but you can cover some decent highlights if you carefully base yourself in 2 cities and plan some easy day trips via a good train system.

Given your interests, I'd suggest you base in Utrecht which will cost a little less for lodging and has easy rail or bus access to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Kinderdijk, etc. I love museum hopping and even after multiple trips to Netherlands/Belgium, I still haven't seen them all and they have a fabulous variety to choose from.

Many like to base in Bruges for Belgium, but I find the nightlife to be rather dull there and after you've seen the canals in Amsterdam and Utrecht, it may feel a little repetitive. Antwerp has an impressive Cathedral, good museums and you can easily day trip from there to Bruges, Brussels, Ghent...

Props to trying to learn some of the language wherever you go, but English is widely spoken in both Belgium and Netherlands. My friend is vegetarian, bordering on vegan and she found Netherlands in particular to be a very easy place to find some really good vegetarian dining options. She loves Spain, but it was harder for her to find a good meal, especially outside of Barcelona or Madrid. Do some research ahead of time wherever you decide to go on HappyCow website which lists vegan and vegetarian restaurants.