Do you prefer big cities? Or?

On another topic, Ilja, from Seattle, postulated that, "Maybe most American tourists prefer big cities".

Do you? I don't, but then again, most of my vacations in the US, both as a child when my parents planned then, and later, when I planned them, have been to places other than cities. Cities bore me. I'm not an art museum person.

I think most Americans, particularly those who have never traveled to Europe, are pretty ignorant about the continent - probably knowing about only a few major cities- so when they plan a trip, that's where they go. Tour companies are not mu;ch help either, offering tours that only go to the familiar places (If the is Tuesday.....).

Sometimes I think most Americans visualize Europe as a few major cities - London, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, etc - surrounded by unpopulated desert. How many times have we seen a post titled "1st timer, is this itinerary possible". They are going to London, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Berlin, all in one week!

I suspect people on this website, particularly those with more than a few trips, are much more knowledgeable and branch out a bit more.

So, how about you? Do you prefer to spend most of your time in big cities? Or do you look for the small towns and scenic vistas?

Posted by James E.
4489 posts

Absolutely Yes .................................. and No. I travel for very particular reasons and for absolutely no reasons. Sometimes that takes me to a major city for an interest or a purpose; sometimes I just go fishing in the country; and there are tens of thousands of variables in between the two extremes. BUT, if someone were to say that they had 15 days and could go anywhere they wanted on their first trip out of the U.S. I would say London, Paris and Rome. And only after they saw that much then they should branch out.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
1123 posts

Most time is spent in smaller cities and villages...savoring the rural bits especially.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
14168 posts

The company I worked for in the 80s sent me to London for three days (2 nights), then twice to Paris for 1 night each time. I don't ever plan to go back to either cities, and I've never been in and don't ever plan to go to Rome. On the other hand, I love Munich and have spent close to a month there on eight trips. I've spent over a week in the Rhein and Mosel valleys, 5 weeks (5 trips) in a small village next to the German Alps, and a couple of weeks total in four German national parks.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5691 posts

Well, I am never bored no matter where I might be. Writing off museums as though they are all just art is kind of sad. Going to a fun and fascinating museum where they have science, archeology, film, specific history, applied arts, is nothing like going to one art gallery after another. I like to break out of the mold and go explore something different, let myself be astounded.

Big cities have the churches and architecture I want to see, the historical buildings I enjoy, and the markets, festivals, and liveliness.

Small towns also have the churches and architecture I want to see, and festivals, markets and a sense of community that is enjoyable.

As a good example, this coming week, there will be the Luminale in Frankfurt. It only comes every 2 years and I am so excited to see what all of these creations made of light will look like. I will spend every evening running around the city, thoroughly enjoying this unique and special event, and taking 100's of photos. Something like this will only be in a big city.

I will go to a small town like Idstein for their Witches Market though, or a small, one weekend only Christmas Market in Eppstein. Sometimes, I don't even have to leave Frankfurt to get a small town feeling as all of the neighborhoods offer this. They have their own small street fests that they have been doing for 100's of years, with the community participating in special, traditional ways. They have their own markets where everyone knows each other, and believe it or not, their own dialect. So, I have the best of both worlds in one city.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7740 posts

Cities. I live in a rural/small town area where I have to drive everywhere. The last thing I want to do when I'm on vacation is replicate that. I want the complete opposite experience:
-world class museums
-stunning cathedrals
-public transport
-hustle and bustle
-cinemas that show movies without CGI
-theater that doesn't involve students or amateurs
-overpaid soccer players
-public protests with riot police
-rich people showing off their wealth

If I want a quaint small town experience I can do that around here and save thousands of dollars.

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
1626 posts

I grew up in big cities and like them fine. With limited time, I focus on them. We've spent two weeks each in London and Paris without tiring of them. But after seeing the big places, or with more time, I like to see smaller places and the countryside. Our last two trips to France have started in Paris and then we've driven to other regions, staying in medium-sized towns. I like the country, especially the American west, but doubt if I'd plan a vacation around a rural location in Europe.

On the other hand, I'd love to walk Hadrian's Wall, so there you are!

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
14168 posts

Michael, what you describe sounds a lot like NYC. One and a half hour drive, $16 for gas according to ViaMichelin. No need to spend thousands going to Europe.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
2665 posts

I think I like a mix. I spent about 10 days in London this last Sept and enjoyed it and the sights, but I really started to feel comfortable when I got to Wales. Over the last many years I have moved to smaller and smaller communities, finally landing in a place with fewer than 800 residents. I realize I don't really care for the noise and confusion of a big city. I am willing to put up with it to see neat stuff, but I would just as soon walk out of the back door of my lodging and head up a mountain path.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
6030 posts

Not all big cities are the same. Not all small towns are the same. I never appreciated large cities until I went to Europe. I found out I really like the variety and excitement that comes with being in cities. I like being able to get around on public transportation. I like a mixture of cities and smaller towns to balance out my travel experiences. Smaller towns each have their own personalities. I like scenery and the different ambiances of smaller towns. I also enjoy small cities. I guess I just like it all!!

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
3136 posts

I've LOVED or really enjoyed most of the 'big' cities we've visited. London is awesome, and after more than 40 visits, I'd go back again and again. Oslo is beautiful! Vienna is wonderful. Edinburgh is constantly interesting. The only places that left me flat, so far, are Zurich (seemed to have no real character- just another city) and Paris (the people were rude, the city was dirty...). But I also love the smaller cities, villages and more rural places. Drumnadrochit, Aviemore, and Inverness and all the Highlands of Scotland... they have my heart. Salzburg and the surrounding area is amazing. There are times I want the big city (like another poster, I LOVE the public transportation available) with it's theatre, museums, gardens and atmosphere. Other times, I want the natural beauty, the lovely sunsets, the peace and quiet... of the countryside. I know I don't have to pick one or the other... I CAN have both!!!

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7740 posts

"...Michael, what you describe sounds a lot like NYC. One and a half hour drive, $16 for gas according to ViaMichelin. No need to spend thousands going to Europe...."

The more I travel overseas, the more I hate the Big Apple (I've been to Newark more times in the past ten years). It's a harsh city that hates it' residents, hates the people that commute to work there, and hates the people who visit. I'd rather spend time and money in metropolises that seem more humane like London, Paris, or Berlin....and a rail buff like yourself should know most people take the train into the Big Apple. Poughkeepsie to Grand Central on the Hudson Line, considered to be one of the most scenic train lines in the world.

Posted by Anna
Seattle, WA, United States
761 posts

I prefer visiting big cities, though it's nothing to do with my ignorance of the surrounding areas or being more or less knowledgeable. I just prefer a dense urban environment over living in the suburbs or rural areas, too. If I were to grossly generalize, I'd pin the difference on age groups - I think younger people are more likely to be drawn to cities and aren't necessarily as interested in spending a lot of time in the picturesque countryside. Like I said though - I'm just grossly generalizing here, and I certainly don't mean to say one preference is superior to the other :)

Posted by Karen
508 posts

I prefer small cities, towns and villages. I have been to several large European cities to see some historic sites, but I really don't like to spend my time in larger cities. Munich is my favorite, bigger European city, and I think it is because to me it has a smaller feel.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
908 posts

I like a mix of both and the ones in the middle! Love New York (NOTHING like Newark BTW) loved Monteriggioni and Mainz. I always put a visit to a smaller city or town in between a few big city visits just to catch my breath. Paris, London, Barcelona, Berlin - love em all & more!

Posted by Carroll
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
1607 posts

I like both. Cities (at least the good ones) have so much to see and do with a wide variety of experiences. It's nice to be able to stay in one place for a while and have lots to do, including (ideally) day trips. But there is something about small towns and villages that tug on my heartstrings. They are often full of charm and almost always more relaxing.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
4632 posts

Why do I have to choose? I lived in Wisconsin for 20 years; now I am in NYC. I enjoy different in both places and it's the same when I go to Europe.

Do I enjoy London? Oh, my God, of course! Do I love Harris and Lewis? Oh, my God, of course! In London I get to see amazing art and explore history in direct ways. On Lewis and Harris there's also history and art, but there is also a wildness and a beauty of nature.

This dichotomy is the same whether I am in Europe or in the US. I live in NYC and can go to MOMA or the Guggenheim or the Whitney or the Frick any time I want. Or I can go to the NYC Historical Museum or other incredible places. I can also hop a train and go to the Adirondacks and see spectacular mountains and lakes. In France, I can go to Paris and see the Louvre and all the other museums that help us understand the history of France and what makes France, France. I can also go to Chamonix and see the mountains that have been there forever and have their own timelessness.

So, I don't want to choose. I will take both and I will enjoy both.


Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
2899 posts

Where's that "agree" button. Pamela said it best. Who says we have to choose.

Posted by Ilja
2732 posts

I get high and pumped up on big cities and then I have vacation from vacation (as R.S. says) somewhere in nice countryside. I enjoyed 4 days in Cinque Terra after 3 days in Rome tremendously. I do it almost always on my frequent trips to Europe.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
5077 posts

Given the choice of picking either big cities or smaller town/.villages, I would choose the big cities. I feel perfectly comfortable in big cities. My first big city outside the US was London, where I spent 4 days. Looking back I should have added two days to my first time there. Normally the hectic, the pace of life, heat noise, etc in a city doesn't bother me in Europe but it certainly did one time in Paris, so I spent the day in a town, Fontainebleau, it worked.

I prefer the big cities: the museums, churches, architecture, public transportation, etc. , just walking around in Frankfurt, Berlin, Paris, Munich, Hamburg, Vienna, London, Warsaw, Krakow, but in the smaller cities and towns are also museums, esp the esoteric ones on history. Towns are not excluded form the intinerary but if I am to visit a particular small town, there is a specific reason behind it. Certain cities I've gone back or have started the tradition of returning to see the changes in almost every trip....Paris, Berlin, London, and Vienna, and possibly Munich. Most definitely, so far it has been Paris and Berlin.

Depending on the time factor, I would suggest to the first timer going over to include both big cities and towns, know what the priorities and interests are, and whether the trip should focus on big cities.

Posted by BB
161 posts

City gal, here.

I love exploring cities and enjoying their museums, galleries, shops, restaurants, theatres, architecture, public art, etc. I'm definitely not one to sit around a cabin or even a beach for very long. (Don't get me wrong, I love beaches, but I love them more if they're in or near cities.)

Small towns and rural scenery have their appeal, to be sure, and I love seeing those, too, especially when I'm travelling between one city and another. ;)

Posted by gone
2081 posts

I guess if they were to put the Louve on Pitcairn Island, i would go there, but they didnt. So i go to the attractions/things to do/see. Guess what, they usually put those things in the "big" cities.

For natural wonders, its more geology so that can be anywhere. IE, like the Grand Canyon, or Crater Lake. they are in the back 40s, so you have to drive. Not much else around them either. When i go to Lascaux France, its out of the way, but its something i want to see. Im sure the people that made it wasnt thinking of the location at the time, but who knows.

As i said, i travel to the things. chances are they are in the cities/towns and such, but so be it. Some of the things i want to see arent, but i will get there using public transportation as much as possible since i hate driving. Now i will travel to the cities too since i think that some of them are cool. ALso i feel that some of the little things make a city what it is.

Also, the way i travel and do things i go to the "big" cities first if they warrant it. If there nothing of interest me there, i will skip it unless its a transportation hub or something. I go the "big" cities first so i can get familiar with them so when i return, im not spending as much time getting orientated or figuring how things work. I also feel that the costs are more in the "big" cities so i get that out of the way to make way to the other areas where i hope that some of the costs are less so i can spend more time there.

happy trails.

Posted by Devon
833 posts

Like Pamela, I enjoy both. I love visits to some big cities in the US and many in Europe. When I lived in Italy for a bit, I was glad to be in a smaller city rather than Rome or Florence. I had to practice Italian, I had huge Sunday dinners with my relatives... You can use Italian and hang out with Italians in Rome and Florence of course, but I think as a student it's easy to fall into an American bubble in those cities (I know friends who did). I got more out of living in a smaller city than I would in a major one over there. But there's nothing wrong with visiting and enjoying major cities. I loved visiting Köln, Istanbul, London, etc. On the other hand, some of the other places I've visited aren't prime tourist destinations like Thessaloniki and Bratislava but they were some of my favorite trips. I guess to sum it up, I just enjoy traveling. As Pamela said, I will take both and I will enjoy both.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
14168 posts

James, if we refuse to choose, aren't we choosing to refuse to choose?

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
4235 posts

"If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice...I will choose a path that's clear...I will choose freewill."

And thank you, Neil Peart


If I'm going all the way to Europe, I want to 'see stuff' (and I don't mean some arbitrary checklist) - museums, major sites of whatever kind, have easy access to transportation (air, train, bus, rental cars), and maybe some 'big city amenities' (travel services, grocery stores and other shopping open late/on Sundays, etc.). Many people don't want to be in BFE Tuscany where there are NO buses running that particular day, the town is completely shut down, not enough English spoken, and they have a painful ear infection; they want to walk down the street to the pharmacy and/or see a 24/7 doctor. I personally like to check out smaller towns in between the cities, if possible, but they'll have to have something to offer besides simply 'NOT being a city'. I don't go to Europe for a relaxing vacation; I spend months studying what I want to see and then I go and see it. (When someone pokes his head into a building at Pompeii, glances around disinterestedly, then goes on his way, I have to resist the urge to go grab him, hold him there for 30 minutes, and explain to him the what and why he is looking at and why it's so important/unique/etc. LOL! ) I don't set out on My European Adventure meaning to only hit the big cities. If I come across a small town with something of interest to me, then I'll happily go there. Got Mosaics/Frescoes, Will Travel to your tiny hamlet ;-)


I get plenty of scenic vistas in my cities, and am reasonably knowledgable, and I don't think knowledge means much when it comes to Cities vs Small Towns. I think it's absolutely understandable that a first-timer hit The Big Ones on their first trip, and that tour companies do, too. There is a market somewhere for the 'Hallstatt/Bogny-sur-Meuse/Breisach' tour, but it's tiny. If I have a choice in my first, second, or even third trip to Europe to see Paris or Sambuca, I'm going to Paris. Hopefully, I can get to Sambuca One Day while traveling between Siena and Florence...but not at the expense of Paris. I know - some of you are yelling, "What about 'at the expense of Sambuca?!?'" LOL! C'est la vie, que será será, variety is the spice of life, and all that...

When traveling in the USA, I usually end up in a smaller place, simply because we want to spend a relaxing week in a cabin in the woods, at the beach, or within/near a state or nat'l park. We also try to choose places that are within a day's drive, NOT an ordeal over The Big Blue. An ordeal over The Big Blue for me means an itinerary, and that's typically found in a larger city/metropolitan area.

Posted by Janet
Boise, ID, USA
620 posts

I'm with you, Michael. I live rural, but come alive in a city. Public transportation is my dream! I also generally mix in smaller places when I'm in Europe, but it's the cities I love.

Posted by James E.
4489 posts

"James, if we refuse to choose, aren't we choosing to refuse to choose?" Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!

I've seen most of the major cities and I am glad I did and I love them and I return to them when possible. Lately it hasn't been about city or rural; its been more about activity or event or assimilation. Things as diverse as living in a neighborhood for a week in a major city, grocery shopping and neighborhood restaurants and bars. Or an annual festival in a small town or that incredible lake full of trout high in the mountains of a country where there are very few tourists. Then again the evening vista from a hill down on the river that runs through the great city with all of its lights is spectacular and worth all the efforts to be there.

Posted by Lo
1682 posts

It's been fun reading all these responses, but does anyone have a definition of a big city vs. a small city vs. a small town? Is it by population? History? Fame? Some other criteria?

Posted by Ilja
2732 posts

Big city: over 1 million inhabitants, small town under 50 thousand, midsize town in between if I remember it correctly from school.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
5077 posts

That definition of a big city is fair enough. Oh well, SF is not a big city , in spite of how it views itself. C'est la vie.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5691 posts

I think a million is bit high. With that criteria, Frankfurt, Cologne, Dusseldorf, and Stuttgart don't make the grade, though I think all of us would say these are big cities. Even my hometown, Columbus, Ohio doesn't even have a million and it certainly is considered a big city. For, me I would think anything over 500,000 or even as low as 350,000 is a decent size city.

Posted by Ilja
2732 posts

Well, of course we won't be investigating Wikipedia to find out if it is a big city. If it feels big it's big. Seattle officially has under 700 hundred thousand but looks much bigger. Well, because really it is bigger. For example the north border of the city is 145 Street North. But there are many more, people living north of there have still Seattle address, maybe some of them changed it to Shoreline, but not that long ago the address was Seattle even technically it was not. So it would be better to go with Metropolitan area which in Seattle case is 3 million. So San Francisco is also big city (certainly above million, I would say at least three). I have this example:
Brno - has only about 400 thousand but looks like a big city in the center. I traveled recently around Russia and for example Jaroslavl has 700 thousand and in the center looks like a small town. Almost all big cities in Russia looked smaller than they really were (Cheboksary, Samara, Saratov, Astrakhan, etc.).

Posted by Bets
3359 posts

Never stopped to think about it, but now that you've put it out there... I realize we still hit the big cities in the US, used to go to big cities in Europe and elsewhere, but in the last ten years we've tended to meander the back roads of Europe with just a week or two of a big city thrown in at the beginning or end of the trip.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
5077 posts

SF's pop is certainly still under a million, but it is perceived to be a big city regardless of its actual population, even 30 years ago when the pop stood at 700,000 plus.

In addition to Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, etc under a million, there's Dortmund too.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2396 posts

I think "Americans" is just too big of a group to be lumped together in terms of their travel preferences. This is different than saying most people in US have a mental map of Europe that remembers mostly big recognizable cities, in the same way many Europeans have this idea of US being a bunch of cities in the Northeast, Chicago on the lake, Miami, some "stuff I don't remember well" in the middle and then California. Actually, if you go to travel forums geared towards Europeans going to US, you'd see how many are shocked when they learn Los Angeles - New York are separated by 5h non-strop red-eye flights and that Chicago is not just a short hop from Washington. Things get worse when it involves getting a grip of distances in the West - Grand Canyon to Yellowstone requires 18h of driving time and cannot be visited in consecutive days, driving to Alaska from Seattle takes 2 full days minimum, Denver is really far from Chicago and Yosemite is not just across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco... Many travel plans for Europeans wanting to go "off-the-beaten-path" in US are shattered when they get a grip on geography, especially 'idyllic' ideas like 'driving the old route 66', RV road trips to a laundry list of National Parks etc.

So I discount this perception of Americans on Europe as normal, at least until they get involved in actually planning a trip.

As for my own preferences, I can appreciate both big and small places. What I don't like much are big places that look like small ones, like capitals with businesses closing in the middle of the day.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1853 posts

I can vouch for Andre's claim that Europeans are also ignorant of geography. For a while, I was reading TA's New York forum, for a (now delayed) trip to NYC. A common question from Europeans was about zipping up to see Niagara Falls and getting back in time for dinner.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
8198 posts

Big cities have the sights - museums, cathedrals, opera, theater, etc. - that are must-sees on many people's lists. If you only have a little time to see must-sees, you are naturally going to gravitate toward the big cities.

If you have time to slow down and experience the people of a country, you get much more by being outside of the cities. The country is where traditional language, food and culture thrives. Like in the U.S., the pace is slower outside the cities and it's much easier to get to know the locals.

I try to experience both but prefer smaller towns and countryside to big cities.

Posted by Amanda
Dreaming of Europe
47 posts

I like both. Big cities provide an opportunity of having more to do while small towns leave you relaxed. For me, when I travel, I always start out in a big city and end in a small town. It allows me to enjoy a fast paced city by knowing I can get some relaxation at the end. Although as I write this, I'm going to contradict myself. I've started craving more of a small city approach, i.e Salzburg or cities like it. Walkable without the mass hoards of people, although I'm sure there will be lots of tourists, but there is just a sense of comfort in a smaller city. I live just outside the nation's capital, so I'm surrounded by traffic, transportation and loads of amazing museums within a 20 min metro ride, so lately when planning my next trip, I"m looking for a city/town with things to do but without the chaos of a large city.

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
515 posts

The whole question makes little sense. Where in the world would first time European travelers go if it wasn’t to the big cities.

I think most Americans, particularly those who have never traveled to Europe, are pretty ignorant about the continent - probably knowing about only a few major cities- so when they plan a trip, that's where they go. Tour companies are not much help either, offering tours that only go to the familiar places (If the is Tuesday.....).
To even think people are ignorant because they like big cities show’s real ignorance’s. Gain a little more travel experience and then again try and show off your talents. You cannot be a critic of another person’s travel likes unless you pay the freight.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
11075 posts

I'll take a walk through the woods or the pastures any day over a walk through a city.

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
515 posts

So would I but first time travelers come here for information about cities they have dreamed of going to all their lives. How could anyone give good information without traveling to those cities and then refer to their travel plans as ignorant.

Posted by bronwen
maplewood, new jersey, usa
792 posts

I LOVE NYC. I commute in everyday and come in many weekends just to stroll or go out to lunch or get my sons haircut. But I have no interest in returning to London and Paris didn't thrill me. I like nice sized hopping cities - college towns are lots of fun. Favs - Bologna, Krakow, Bamberg (a bit slow but oh the beer ...)

No interest in spending times in sleepy villages though.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
2665 posts

I'll add to Andre's and Karen's remarks and say many Americans have no idea about the size of the US. I just fielded a question on TA from a person that wanted to drive from Ohio to Yellowstone to Portland to Grand Canyon to Durango CO and back to Ohio in 2 weeks with time to see everything along the way and visit with the friends in Portland. She had no idea she was looking at 6000 miles as a conservative estimate.

Posted by Jean
926 posts

Hi Lee,

I don't feel like I'm completed a well-rounded itinerary for us until there's a nice mix of both city & small villages, and a mix of some time in the mountains & also one location near water, and a mix of outdoor and indoor activities. Venice & Paris will always be the special cities in our mind. After that, favorites like Moena (small/Dolomite Mts), Verona (mid-size), Cinque Terre (small/water) or Siena (mid-size) all come to mind for Italy, for example.

Thankfully there's not one "fits all" itinerary, or we'd all hate vacationing in Europe!

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
4235 posts

...and then there are the small towns overrun with tourists, and the doesn't-feel-all-that-large-nor-crowded cities...

'I want a small, bucolic town like Rothenburg odT...'

Posted by Jaime
20 posts

I don't mind big cities for short stops, but honestly, once you've seen four or five of them (in Europe anyway), there's not a great deal that differentiates them except for a handful of specialties. There's only so many old cathedrals you can photograph before you can't tell them apart without context. But for a first-timer, hitting up the big cities is a comparatively easy and safe way to rack up a little experience without the additional complications of, say, being in the countryside, 45 minutes from the airport when you have to be at the gate at 5am. My first time out, I went to London and Edinburgh. But I also ventured out into small-town Wales and small-city England.

Big cities are still fun, don't get me wrong. I enjoyed Edinburgh a lot. But at this point in my life, I usually don't need to spend more than two days in any one city, maybe three if there's a lot that appeals to me. I much prefer to stay with local friends, who might be in a nearby suburb or ten miles out into more rural areas. There won't be much in the way of architecture and historical artifacts, but it feels a lot more authentic in terms of experiencing the culture and way of life. It's a little more complicated, but a lot more rewarding for me.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
7373 posts

@Ms Jo: Columbus, OH is a big city? (from your neighbor down the road in small-city Toledo).

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
829 posts

We prefer small towns and visit big cities in smaller doses. Last trip to Italy, we spent only 2 nights in Rome, and 11 nights combined between Monterosso, Montalcino, Orvieto, and Sorrento. We went non-stop for 48 hours in Rome, but small towns seem to be a bit more conducive to building in "do nothing" time, and it's quieter. I also tend to pick hotels with balconies or terraces (with a view if possible) so we "feel" like we are outside even if relaxing in the room.

Next trip to Scotland, we'll spend 4 nights in Edinburgh, 1 in London, and 9 nights in small towns. Maybe when we retire and aren't trying to "escape" the stress of our jobs, we'll spend more time in cities, just because we'll be able to take longer vacations than we are able to now while working and we wont have the work stress to release.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
4632 posts

I really disagree with the definitions of city/town sizes that was set forth at one point! I lived in Madison, WI for many years and I would never call it a big city, but it is a city. It has all the complications that a capital has and county of over half a million people. I sure would need to add the adjective, "large" to any town of 50,000 people. I think we called Appleton a small city of 65,000 back in the early '70's. It's probably bigger now, but still a small city. Also, is the village/town/city part of larger metropolitan area? Naperville, Illinois is over 100,000 people, but would your really call it a city? The definitions really need to go beyond population counts.

And yes, I might recommend that someone going to Europe for the first time go to the countryside first. I'd send them straight to the Scottish Highlands or the Lake District. I'd maybe send them fjords of Norway. What about Provence? Normandy? There are a lots of places not in cities where you can get an introduction to Europe. And depending on the person, they might be the better way to start an exploration.


Posted by Mira
631 posts

I prefer cities. I've done multiple trips, and my favorite mode of travel is to spend up to a week in a city, doing the major sites and also digging into smaller neighborhoods, markets, etc, then a few days in a nearby smaller town. I generally only get to travel for a week or two at a time, so a couple cities and towns are about all I can do at once. For example, Paris then on to Beaune. Madrid, then on to Toledo and Segovia. London, then Bath. Etc. I don't like the Tuesday in Rome, Wednesday in Paris style…I like to dig into a city, but just because it's big doesn't mean there aren't worthwhile cultural experiences there.

I live near Chicago (well, within a few hours, not in the metro area), and after multiple trips a year never get tired of it. I also go to NYC and DC frequently and feel the same way. I suspect after 10 trips to London or Paris, it will be the same. I also like smaller cities that are still cities (Seville and York both come to mind immediately, I'm sure there are others). My personal preference is for cities, then towns, then true rural areas. I enjoy a rural trip occasionally, but mostly in the US, for the National Parks.

Honestly, I'd send a first timer to Europe to one of the cities or mid-size towns. As nice as the countryside is, if the person has traveled in the US at all, it won't be as different as a medium size town. The Alps are wonderful, but so are the Rockies. Also, cities are just easier navigation for a new traveler. That is, assuming they are used to US cities. If someone came to me and said "design a good first Europe trip, wherever in the continent you want to send us, 2 weeks", I'd have them arrive in London, go to Bath, then either Amsterdam and smaller Dutch towns, or Bruges. Easy language and logistics, great sites, balance of art/history/architecture/ambiance and not overwhelming. I'm working on a Balkans road trip for next year if possible (barely out of the conceptual stage, will change), and it's overwhelming. Bled, Zagreb, Plitivice Lakes, Dubrovnik, Mostar, Montenegro…I'm super excited, but it's not for beginners unless they are way, way more adventurous than I am. I needed to work up to this trip, then maybe in a few years I can dive into Asia :)

Posted by Ian
150 posts

There is a practical aspect to it too. You will see more monuments, museums, and art by visiting three major historic cities than you would in 15 provincial towns. There are a lot of fascinating things to see in smaller towns and villages, but you have to factor in time and travel between them. Cities have a lot of things concentrated in one spot.

Posted by Thomas
Snyder, Texas
504 posts

My wife and I travel quite a lot, both in the US and in Europe. We have enjoyed every city we have visited, and we have always enjoyed the small villages and countryside in between. I believe that with both cities and rural areas, a much better view of the country can be attained. We love to rent a car and explore the countryside for part of our trip and visit a city for the other part.

Posted by Paul
NYC area
2052 posts


We always base in smaller villages. As another poster said, we love having a room balcony with terrific alpine views. Nothing like relaxing with a coffee or beer on the balcony after a day of sightseeing or even just hanging out with a coffee in the early morning and soaking in the views. While we loved all our visits to Salzburg, Innsbruck, Bressanone, etc., we would never stay in town. Much prefer the scenic villages, alpine views and "country" atmosphere.

Posted by Wray
Boston, ma, usa
518 posts

I will take any opportunity to travel, so I will travel ANYWHERE, large or small. I find everywhere interesting. As far as living, which wasn't a part of the question, but affects my choices, I chose the city as I was raised in an insulated small town, and I left for the city and never turned back. I like lots of energy. Anyway, if I still lived in a small town, I would never choose anything but BIG. But, this is me. There are so many factors that go into our choices, I don't believe we can generalize. The USA is a large country, and it takes several flights for many people to get to Europe. They just might not want to add one more transport on to their trip/schedule to get to a smaller city, etc. They don't want to waste their limited vacation on transport time. Also, if people have one trip to Europe in their lifetime planned, wouldn't you want to start with the cities? Just rambling...