Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland - too ambitious?

I live in the USA and will be going to Poland for all of August to stay with family. On September 5th (Friday), I am planning on flying from Krakow to Brussels to meet up with a friend. After about a day and a half in Brussels, we are going to arrive in Amsterdam on Sunday. After that, we arrive in Cologne on Tuesday and spend Wednesday along some of the towns (like Koblenz) on the Rhine south of Cologne. Then on Thursday we hope to make our way south towards Switzerland, and might stop by Strasbourg. Sometime early Friday, we hope to arrive in Zurich or Lucerne. One day will be spent in one of these cities, and another will be spent somewhere like Mt. Titlis, with a great view over the alps. Then on Saturday we plan on travelling to Munich, but we would love to visit some of the castles in Bavaria, especially Neuschwanstein. Then on Saturday or Sunday we make it to Munich and spend two or three days in the region before it is time to go home.

I am a college student at a quarter-system school, which is why I'm able to do this trip in August-September. Is the Western Europe trip too ambitious? I'm afraid that it might be just too much travelling for slightly under two weeks. We were hoping on getting around by trains. Thanks for the feedback, and I appreciate any advice!

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
4763 posts

"I'm afraid that it might be just too much travelling for slightly under two weeks."

Your fears are well founded. You are going to have a great tour of European trains and train stations, and will be able to say you "set foot on" a large number of countries, but you won't have time to see or enjoy anything at all. And a day and a half in Brussels is, for me, a day too long, particularly on such a short and rushed trip.

Start by looking at train schedules on the Bahn (German Rail) website, using Rick's tutorial: http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/db_tips.htm. This site will only have prices for trains that start or end in Germany, but has schedules for all of Europe.

Next, cut your number of destinations in half, and this can become an enjoyable experience instead of an endurance test.

Posted by Tomasz
2 posts

Thanks for the reply, Harold. I was thinking about trimming either Brussels or Munich out since they're on the ends of our trip. Does anyone have any recommendations as to how long we should stay in each of the above cities? In previous years, I always did 1-day visits with a tour guide and bus to cities like Prague, Venice, Florence (though I did spend two days in Rome), so I figured that two days per city would be fine. Perhaps cut Cologne out? The Cathedral and some of the Rhine River towns look amazing, but perhaps it isn't worth it for a rather short trip?

Thanks!

Posted by Thomas
Hermosa Beach, CA, USA
115 posts

When we drive around the continent, we like to stay at least two nights in each town where we go. Otherwise, it feels like we're unpacking and packing all the time vs. really enjoying a city.

Posted by Rosie
Rick Steves' Europe
113 posts

You're definitely squeezing in a lot and it's a fair amount of train time but it's not something that's out of the realm of possibility. You've got two nights in Brussels and Amsterdam which is ideal. One night in Cologne and one on the Rhine are fine. The train to Strasbourg is about four hours and then it's another three down to Lucerne so that would be a long day if you planned to do that all the same day. It starts to get tricky when you get to Switzerland. You said you planned on Friday and Saturday to do both a city and mountains and get to Munich Saturday night but that part is pushing it. I would weigh what you value more - hanging out in the mountains, getting some time to really enjoy the scenery and do some hikes, or more time in Munich getting to see the sights in the city as well as get out to some of the castles in Bavaria. That would be the one part of the trip I would adjust - either keep the 2-3 days in Munich and cut out any mountain time in Switzerland or extend 1-2 nights in Switzerland and just have one full day in Munich.

Posted by Sara
104 posts

Hello Tomas,

This is a lot to do but with a little tweaking you could do it like this: Arrive Brussels, drop luggage at train station, 1/2 day tour of city, evening train to Amsterdam on Sept 5th. weekend in Amsterdam. Monday morning train to Frankfurt then head to Bacharach on the Rhine. 2 nights one full day (stay in the hostel Castle! explore the Rhine by ferry). Sept 10th train to Strasbourg in the AM, tour the city in the afternoon do an overnight then push on to the Berner Oberland (Lauterbrunnen) on Sept 11th-13. Take a train to Zurich in the AM Sept 14th-15th. Train to Munich AM of 16th. Spend 3 days/nights in Munich. Day trip to Neuschwanstein.

This is a fast itinerary and you will be tired, but you can get it done. None of the train trips I suggest above are full day travel. Munich to Zurich is only 4 or so hours depending on the train route. My biggest concern is Oktoberfest which begins on Sept 20th. The city will start to fill up so you need to look into your hotel for Munich ASAP, especially if you are staying in Munich on 19th or later. Oktoberfest is very fun to do and worth a peak. Opening day is really pretty cool! If you cannot find accommodations consider Salzburg or Fussen as an alternate place to visit. Many of the day trips available from Munich can be done from Salzburg too, but not Neuschwanstein. For that you must stay in Fussen if not Munich.