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30 Days in Europe — where should be home base?

My husband and I are planning a 30 day (for our 30th anniversary 💙) stay in Europe in September of 2022. I have only been to Europe once & he has never been.
He will be working remotely part time but we definitely want to be able to take side trips as well.

So, where would you suggest we ‘home base’?
Also, where do we NEED to go on this first trip? We love cities, but also ‘off the beaten path’ is super appealing.
We love nature, active adventure, good wine, & cozy little markets.

All recommendations welcome!
Thank you for your help!

Posted by
8415 posts

the fall of 2022.

"Fall" spans from 3rd week of Sept to 3rd week of Dec.

Can you be a bit more specific of 'when'?

What sort of 'work' he can do may depend on what it is and where you are.

Posted by
836 posts

Choosing a place with good weather is key. I suggest somewhere in Spain or Portugal.

Happy anniversary!

Posted by
6239 posts

I’d opt for London.

As your husband has never been to Europe I believe he’d appreciate the familiarity of language. However, understand not everyone sound like Downton Abbey actors. They are other words and phrases for things. Crisps are potato chips, gas stations are petrol stations, traffic flow is opposite that what you are used to as they drive on the left side of the road. I’m chuffed to bits means I’m pleased. Cheeky means playful, would you like a cuppa translates into would you like a cup of tea. Fancy a pint is saying let’s go get a beer and don’t be surprised if you find children and dogs in pubs.

There are very interesting museums many of which are free. Absolutely see theatre in London. If you can do a same day performance check the 1/2 price ticket booth options on line. https://officiallondontheatre.com/tkts/
The London Rail 2 for 1 deal is great in order to cut admission costs to many of London’s attractions:
https://www.daysoutguide.co.uk/2for1-london

There are 3 different airports ( Heathrow, Stansted, Luton ) from where you can fly to Barcelona, Rome, Berlin, Dublin, Prague, Stockholm among other major European cities.

If booked far in advance you can obtain reasonable fares for the EuroStar train from London to Brussels and Paris. Numerous train stations such as Waterloo, Kings Cross/St Pancras, Paddington, and Victoria will transport you to other parts on England, ( Whitsable, York, Durham, Cornwall) as well as Scotland and Wales.

There are lovely parks in London neighborhoods. Hyde Park near Kensington Palace, the Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park where you’ll find Elk, Battersea Park Peace Pagoda. The Thames path is a great way to explore.

As far as “off the beaten path” outside London checkout Eel Pie Island, or Chilham in Kent. In England consider Lyme Regis on the Jurassic Coast, the Gap of Dunloe in Ireland, Provins near Paris, Orvieto in Italy and Haguesund, Norway.

Lastly, remember in the Fall daylight hours will be shorter. I’m often in London in November and it starts getting dark by 4pm. A fun November occurrence is the Lord Mayor’s Parade.

London is a vibrant city that is always changing yet always the same.

Posted by
5470 posts

You NEED to go to places that interest you, not us. For example, Stonehenge doesn’t interest me, so I wouldn’t go there and ditto Highclere Castle (where Downton Abbey was filmed), but I love National Trust properties Sissinghurst gardens in Kent and Cragside in Northumberland.

You brief doesn’t cut out any of Europe. If budget is a consideration, London, Paris, Venice, Madrid, Switzerland and Scandinavia are more expensive.

Do you want one home base or two? If one and you want to explore other parts of Europe, then you need to be based near an airport where the value airlines are based e.g. near Gatwick or Stansted not Heathrow in London. Alternatively, would you prefer to cover a smaller area, but see it in more detail? A month whilst working isn’t very long to explore a whole continent.

Most places have a decent WiFi connection although mobile phone signals can be spotty in rural locations.

Exactly when would you be travelling? If later in the year and you want warmer weather, then Portugal or Spain would be the best option.

Do you speak any languages other than English?

For different reasons my suggestions would be:

London - good access elsewhere, fantastic museums, transport, markets and history.

Edinburgh, Scotland - fantastic scenery on the doorstep plus history. Better for whisky than wine.

La Rochelle, France - great food, markets, history and a lovely coast with wine regions nearby, but less accessible to other countries as the airport is small.

Lisbon, Portugal - better weather and ticks your other boxes.

Tavira in Portugal smaller town with good access to Faro airport.

Seville, Spain - as Lisbon. I don’t like Spanish dining hours- I never get used to eating dinner at the time I am usually going to bed!

Budapest, Hungary - a great vibe and feels very different to say London.

Berlin - modern history, great airport for connectivity elsewhere, markets etc.

You could take a map of Europe and both stick a pin in blindfold and see if either options would suit and take you somewhere unusual.

Posted by
5516 posts

Is there just one "home base" you want for your trip? If just one, I'd agree that London is your best option, for a fantastic city with lots to do and see, great side trips available with excellent means of getting there, even cozy markets! You'll have outstanding opportunities for good wine, too, although it won't have been produced just down the road.

If moving to France for some additional experiences sounds appealing, Avignon, in Provence would be a great base farther south. It would also check the boxes on your list, and the wine would even be local! If you'd want to be closer to Paris, opt for Lyon - arguably the food capital of France, and you could even visit the Alps from there.

All this if you didn't have any other country on your must-see list.

Posted by
191 posts

I would actually disagree with London (don't get me wrong--it's a favourite city) simply for the sake of geography. Sure, you can fly to Prague for the weekend, but you could also take a train to Prague from Munich or Milan. From London, you have to fly everywhere. From somewhere more centralised, you have other options.

For what you are describing, I would actually consider something like the French Alps or the Dolomites. Maybe renting an apartment or a small cabin on the edge of a city or in the centre of a mid-sized town. That could give you cozy villages which likely have markets and good wine, access to hiking or other mountain activities, and easy trips to places like Geneva or Monaco or Venice or Munich. But that's my interpretation of your very broad description. And of course weather is a big factor--if you are talking September or November is a big difference. At the end of the day remember that ease of travel is great, but you might end up, for various reasons, spending most of your time in that place. And that's great! So make it a place where you can look out the window and enjoy it, possibly meet some locals during your month there, maybe get involved in a local event, etc.

The good news is that there is no right or wrong choice. I personally could spend a month in London and never cross off half my list. I could also spend a month in a cabin in the Pyrenees hiking or learning the local language while working from the coffee shop by day and wearing fluffy socks and watching the fall colours in the evening. Both would be amazing.

Realistically figure 2-3 side trips to a place you really want to see. You can't do it all, so pick the things you most want to see and do, and do them well. Enjoy the planning!

Posted by
842 posts

Most of the replies so far favor London, mostly because you can fly from there to almost anywhere else in Europe for very little cost. Pre-pandemic EasyJet,etc. would take you almost anywhere for about $50 IF you got tickets a bit in advance (prices go up the closer to the date you travel). So if you planned in advance you could easily go to anywhere every few days if you wanted. London itself if a wonderful city (and yes, major museums are free) and so is the rest of England.

The downside to basing the whole month in London is that it is an expensive city. IF you can find a reasonable priced rental then it would work, but otherwise, you would be paying quite a lot for an apartment (flat) you wouldn't be in half the time while you were traveling elsewhere. If you chose a smaller city in one of the less expensive countries you could probably save half the rent.

I would first of all do some research and figure out which areas you most want to see. Thirty days is nowhere close enough to see very much. Once you know which main area you are interested in, and also which other ways you might want to spend a few days in, then look at the EasyJet (and other) websites and see where you can fly between. For example, some of the 'secondary' cities in Italy have connections to more places than others do. Same for other countries.

Have you watched all the Rick Steves TV shows (all available on this site). He gives a decent overview of pretty much everywhere. I'd spend a weekend binge watching that and see which places grab you.

Posted by
5470 posts

If you opted for “London” I would suggest that you avoid central London which has high rental prices and stay somewhere within easy reach of London by train or the outer underground stations, which would offer better value. Supermarket shopping in the U.K. is much cheaper than say France and Italy.

Posted by
4583 posts

You'll have outstanding opportunities for good wine, too, although it won't have been produced just down the road.

There is some fantastic English wine being produced at the moment with some vineyards "just down the road" figuratively speaking from London. In blind taste tests English sparkling wine frequently beats Champagne which isn't a great surprise as the much of the terroir of southern England is very similar to that of the Champagne region.

Posted by
281 posts

I feel like a 30 day home base is good if you want to immerse yourself in a city/culture and really live like a local. I am considering 30 days in Rome or Florence since we absolutely loved our shorter stays in those cities.. But you did say "30 Days in Europe", not 30 days in 1 city. So I would suggest considering several home bases maybe up to 5 or 6. That would mean moving every 5 or 6 days, but you could get a feel for more areas without being too rushed. Maybe even look at RS best of Europe tours as a framework. So many possibilities depending on your interests. In Fall, start North then head South. Amsterdam, Paris, Munich (Octoberfest), Lauterbrunnen (Hike the Alps), Provence, Rome off the top of my head!!! What an awesome trip you have upcoming, whatever you choose!!!!

Posted by
2 posts

Wow - thank you for all of these thoughtful replies!
You have given me great direction for more research. I have been overwhelmed with just picking a home base, but your comments about limiting our expectations about what we can see on this trip are very helpful!

I will binge watch the Rick Steves shows immediately! As soon as we decide on where to ‘live’ for the month, I will be back for your fun ideas for 2-3 side trips.

Cheers!

Posted by
169 posts

If you want to see a lot then stay somewhere more central than Londen. I would suggest Germany. Cheap flights in Europe are a good value but a bit of a headache-they limit luggage weights severely and try to nickel and dime you for everything. I'd travel by train. Germany could put you in a different country every week-France, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands and of course, Germany is huge itself. It's also much cheaper than London, which is one of the most expensive cities in the world! Lastly, the English is plentiful and the culture closer to the US/UK than a lot of countries.

Posted by
3886 posts

You need to go to places that interest you, not ones that people say you should visit. When choosing locations consider how you’re getting around whether it be train, bus, rental car or a combination. With 30 days you could conceivably spend a week in a few different countries or a couple weeks in a couple countries. Personally, I could spend 30 days in just 2 regions of Spain. That time of year the further north you go, the cooler it will be, so you also need to base your decision on weather.

Posted by
20802 posts

There are wonderful things to see and do all over Europe, but some locations will be better than others for making side-trips. Your range will be greater if you stay in a city with fast train service heading in multiple directions. Your range will be a lot more limited if you stay in a town with only comparatively slow regional-train service.

If cultural variety is important to you, consult a map to be sure you aren't going to be deeply embedded in a country or region and need hours to get to another one. For example, places like Brittany, Cornwall and Puglia (wonderful though they are) would not be good bases if you want to do a lot of traveling and visit other countries.

Yes, I know there are flights, but the time-overhead when you fly is significant (it's going to be close to 5 hours each way, door to door), and the cheap tickets usually need to be bought well in advance. If you're thinking about taking only 2 or 3 major side-trips (I assume you're counting just trips requiring an overnight stay), I assume that means you plan to take a lot of day-trips. (If not, you need to choose a sight-rich big city as your base). If so, you should choose a base city with a lot of good destinations within a 90-minute train ride. Madrid is a great example, but staying in Madrid would limit you to seeing parts of Spain unless you hopped on a plane.

The more traveling you want to do, the more money you're going to be spending on train tickets, so if the idea behind staying in just one place is to save money on lodging, there's going to be a trade-off. And lots of traveling out-and-back will eat up precious time. Unless there's a very good reason for doing so, I would not choose just one base. I'd stay in multiple cities. The amount of time spent in each one would depend on how much time I needed to see the local sights and how many nearby side-trips interested me.

One thing I try really hard to avoid is needing to make two day-trips to the same destination. If there's that much to see there, I want to spend a few nights.

Posted by
3281 posts

Since you are relatively new to Europe, I would lean toward 2 bases at minimum and up to 4, max. That way you can get a good taste of places without wearing yourselves out with frequent moves.

London, for sure. It’s one of the greatest cities cities in the world. You do speak the language (sort of), so it’s a good way to get your feet wet. There are plenty of easy day trips you can do, and it’s got plenty of transportation connections to the continent when you are ready to move on.
Italy is our favorite country in Europe, so I’d recommend it for another part of your trip. We once rented a cottage near Perugia for 2 weeks and never ran out of things to do. Being near Florence would be a good location, giving you access to both urban and small town/ rural pleasures (WINE!). Having a car would be very convenient. Italy is also extremely varied. The north is geographically, culturally and even linguistically quite different from the south. In parts of the northeast German is the first language.
As I’m writing, I’m beginning to think that no more than 3 bases might be ideal. So, France? Germany, Austria? Hard to make a wrong choice.
One practical thing you should be aware of is “open jaw” flights; that is, flying into one city and out of another. On airline sites it comes up as “multicity.” It’s rarely significantly more expensive than straight rt, and it saves time and the cost of getting back to your starting point.

Posted by
5324 posts

Since neither of you have had much European travel, I recommend a major city that will, by itself provide much to see.

My top choices would be:

London
Near London, you can take day trips to visit: Windsor Castle, Canterbury, Cambridge, Oxford, Bath, Winchester, the Cotswolds (perhaps a weekend) and Salisbury. Don't miss Stonehenge. A day trip to York would be too much, but consider a weekend.

Paris
There are fewer places of interest for day trips from Paris, but several for weekends: The Loire Valley (we stayed in Blois) is Chateaux country. Also, Normandy and Reims.

Rome

My favorite city in Europe with so much history. Still, day trips can be a bit far. Still your can visit Ostia Antiqua, Naples/Pompeii/Sorrento/Capri and Florence. All better for weekend. Also, Orvieto would be good.

You might consider splitting your time with 17 days in London and 13 days in Paris.

Posted by
3140 posts

I like the idea of 2 weeks in London and 2 weeks in Rome.

Posted by
1092 posts

Too bad there is a waiting list or you could of signed up for Rick's Best of Europe in 21 Days tour and divided the remainder of your time/days to the beginning and end cities of the tour. The tour would of given you a taste of multiple countries.

What ever you choose, I hope you enjoy the adventure.

Posted by
1248 posts

Is your husband going to be able to use any Vacation time during your stay to explore a bit more?
I would pick Florence Italy as a home base and rent an apartment for two weeks and explore Italy by train. From Florence you can explore big cities like Rome, the whole Tuscany region, and the Amalfi coast.
I would then spend the next two weeks in Paris again renting an apartment, and train/drive around France making sure to visit Nice and the surrounding coastal towns, you can even take a train from Nice to Monaco for a fun day trip, and from Paris you can take a train to London for a few days.
Those two places would keep us very busy for a month.
We usually travel end of September/October and have found wonderful weather in all the places I mentioned, not too cold to hit the coastal cities. But once we got deeper into October Paris was VERY cold, but cozy, scarfs, boots, shorter days.

Posted by
3140 posts

"Off the beaten path" could be harder to do without a car. Most of the other places mentioned have great train service, which is definitely the easiest way to get around.

Posted by
24 posts

If I had a month, I'd probably do two bases, or stretch to 3. Perhaps London, Budapest, Florence. Each for 9 days with side trips from each as desired. See the city and rent cars or take trains only for short day trips in the surrounding areas. Any one of these would provide enough for the whole month but this would give you a flavor of 3 different centers and a variety of day trips.

Posted by
1043 posts

I think you might be putting the cart before the horse. Don't worry about a home base until you select the places where you really want to visit. Once you do that, picking a home base will be simple. If you pick a home base first you might be limited by distance to the places you want to visit.

Map out the places you want to visit and pick a major rail line city in the middle. Have fun.

Posted by
160 posts

I would also consider two bases. From London, you can do Eurostar to Amsterdam and Paris, and cheap flights to Ireland. Munich or Vienna might be a good hub for the other portion - easy to get to Budapest, Prague, etc from there.

Posted by
759 posts

You should not have a "home base". Don't spend more than 5 nights in any one city. 6 max if you really find that a big city has a lot that interests you.

Make up a 30 day itinerary. Try to list one to two major activities you want to do each day. There is no such thing as places you "need to go". I like art museums, I don't care about beaches, some travelers don't care about art and just want to sit on beaches for hours at a time. Some novice travelers think of their trip as "seeing Europe", which often means just going to big and popular cities in Western and Southern Europe like London, Paris, Florence, Rome. I am going to Spain next if they don't ban American tourists again. You could spend 30 days in just one region or country the size of Spain, or you could just go to the Alhambra in Granada and decide you could care less about seeing any other place in Spain. You should probably focus on one or more specific neighboring countries rather than thinking that you are "seeing Europe".

If you post your itinerary, we will see if it looks doable.

Posted by
959 posts

Hmmm. I think I would pick Alsace. It is in France, close to Alps (french or swiss); close enough to wine areas; easy to get to Black Forest and perhaps Rhineland (depending on where in Alsace); not too far from Paris; could reach places like Lille; you could take a mini-ca to the coast, like Nice. Access to cities and rural escapes.

On the other hand, I was just saying to a friend today that Italy has a full package of mountains, cities, southern coast, etc.

One thing that has helped me: I have an old-fashioned atlas that I can open to Europe and see everything at a glance. It helps over having the teeny-weeny Google-type maps available on the interwebs,

Wish I were picking this for me! I speak German, and have another area scoped out for my next visit. Can't wait.

Posted by
1830 posts

For sure I’d pick 2-3 home bases. You have plenty of time! I always love to stay in contrasting locations. Like Paris and then the Swiss alps, or Italy and Germany. Seeing very different cultures is part of the fun!

Posted by
341 posts

My recommendation is for France. I work remotely and have traveled France for 3 weeks while working and that was in 2013. I've been back since but my point is that working remotely while traveling is not hard to do if you book places that have WiFi and you have a back up plan using a mobile connection.

France has all of what you're looking for (and so do lots of other European countries) but the diversity of the country is what appealed to us. We basically followed the 3-week plan Rick mapped out in his book, skipping the Riviera because we had already been and that held less appeal. I'm not sure of his 3-week itinerary now, but we spent the first 16 days driving in Normandy, Loire Valley, the Dordogne (lovely markets in Sarlat), Carcassone, over to Annecy (a personal favorite of ours), Chamonix (amazing hiking for the active adventure), Colmar, and then ended with 5 nights in Paris. It wasn't too rushed; it was our favorite trip.

But, if you want a home base, I'd suggest Paris and then perhaps one in Loire and one in Annecy/Chamonix.

Posted by
66 posts

Interesting question and fun to consider.

Possibly consider several cities starting in London moving to York and going north to Edinburgh.
Then fly to Amsterdam and see that great city and a few towns around, moving to Prague and finishing in Florence, flying out of Milan.

Many different cultures, and all great cities.

Posted by
13394 posts

Budapest. It's the hub for Wizzair which will get you to most of Europe in under 2 hours for about $60 each way.