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Long trip - itinerary suggestions welcome

After saying my 54-night Europe trip in 2017 was a "one and done" international trip, I have the itch to go again in 2023. I was very happy with my style of staying in hostels as the one economy measure on the earlier trip, and plan to do that again. I love cities and architecture, art, history, and good eats. Since I'm still relatively inexperienced in Europe, getting the right overview (from the perspective of a retired city planner) is more important than seeing every sight.

Keeping in mind that I travel pretty fast for a 75-year-old, that unpacking/packing in a hostel takes about 2 minutes since there's no place to unpack, and that all transportation will be train, bus, or ferry, I'm looking especially for these types of feedback on the itinerary below:

  1. Are cities in the wrong order?
  2. Are there holidays/shutdowns/special events that I need to be careful about? (The date of the first night is shown after the number of nights in each town.)

I'll take into account all feedback, and thanks for the help.

Athens, 7 nights starting 4/25 (day tours: Delphi, maybe Corinth)

Thessaloniki, 1, 5/2

Sofia, 2, 5/3 (part-day tour: Rila Monastery)

Belgrade, 3, 5/5 (day tour: Timisoara)

Zagreb, 3, 5/8 (day trip: Ljubljana)

Budapest, 3, 5/11

Vienna, 8, 5/14 (day trips: Bratislava, Melk)

Prague, 3, 5/22

Dresden, 2, 5/25 (day trip: Boleslawiec)

Berlin, 6, 5/27, been before (stopover en route: Leipzig, day trip: Wittenberg; day tour: Sachenshausen)
Copenhagen, 5, 6/2 (day trips: Malmo, Louisiana Art Museum/Helsingor Castle)

Amsterdam, 4, 6/7 (part-day trip: Leiden)

Rotterdam, 3, 6/11 (the lodging's the thing; day trips: Delft, The Hague, Kinderdijk)

Antwerp, 2, 6/14 (day trip: Gent)

Paris, 6, 6/16, been before (part-day stopover en route: Brussels, day trip: Nancy, day tour: Normandy beaches)
Nice, 6, 6/22 (day trips: east to Monaco, west to Cannes/Antibes, north to St. Paul de Vence)
Lyon, 2, 6/28

Geneva, 2, 6/30

London, 6, 7/2, been before (day trips: Windsor, maybe another)

Edinburgh, 4, 7/8 (day tour: Stirling/Kelpies/Loch Lomond)

Glasgow, 2, 7/12 (day trip: New Lanark)

Liverpool, 3, 7/14 (day trip: Manchester)

Dublin, 7, 7/17 (day tour: Kilkenny/Glendalough/Wicklow Mtns.)

Belfast, 2, 7/24 (day trip: Omagh)

Posted by
14428 posts

I will stick with the part I know enough about. You didn't say how you were getting from A to B. I know good guides with cars in Bulgaria and Romania if that is any use to you. Dont let "guide" scare you, the prices are a lot different over there.

Athens, 7 nights starting 4/25 (day tours: Delphi, maybe Corinth)

Sounds about right to me if you are doing a few day trips and an overnight or two ... at least 5 nights if not 7. Otherwise Athens proper might get a bit boring after a few days.

Thessaloniki, 1, 5/2

Haven't actually been there but hear wonderful things about it. My favorite Bulgarian tour guide keeps trying to talk me into a trip there.

Sofia, 2, 5/3 (part-day tour: Rila Monastery)

Two nights is a bit of a shame, to have traveled so far and miss so much on a short stay. I would steal at least one night from Athens and put it there ... maybe two. One day for the city is fine, but there are a number of really good day trips.

Belgrade, 3, 5/5 (day tour: Timisoara)

Yea, Belgrade not one of my favorite destinations as its not that exciting. Then there are some political issues that turn me off right now. Three nights ? Wouldn't do it. Spend a night if you have to in transit, but I would find another route. That day tour of yours will cost you six hours of drive time I believe. Think about going to Bucharest and traveling to Budapest. Three nights across Romania is fascinating and beautiful.

Zagreb, 3, 5/8 (day trip: Ljubljana)

Lovely and you can weave it in before or after Budapest.

Budapest, 3, 5/11

Three nights is the minimum. I talk to a lot of travelers in Budapest and the overwhelming majority that spend 3 nights think they cut it too short. But you can still see and do a lot in 3 but do remember that you arrive late on the first day (1N), you have the full second day (2N), the full third day (3N), then you bug out.

Vienna, 8, 5/14 (day trips: Bratislava, Melk)

This is where personal taste comes in. I would be berserk by night 4, but thats just me. Actually going berserk on night 4 is what got me to Budapest the first time. Also think about stopping in Gyor on the way to Vienna, spend the night and see the Archabbey at Pannonhalma. Lovely town + an abbey like Melk (but way different).

Prague, 3, 5/22

Not a huge Prague fan either.... beyond the standard tourist destinations ..... which are fabulous. So, sure 3 nights.

And I stop here as while I have been to about half of the rest of your destinations I cant say I spent enough time to be accurate or useful.

Posted by
6134 posts

Liverpool, 3, 7/14 (day trip: Manchester) -- you could eliminate that, and instead go to York or The Cotswolds and Stratford Upon Avon.

Posted by
9218 posts

If you are interested in Normandy and the D-Day sites I suggest you take 2 nights from elsewhere and spend them in Bayeux, where the tours start. We took an Overlord tour last month and I highly recommend them. If you do a tour from Paris you will spend more time in transit than you will seeing what you went there for.

I personally think 7 nights in Dublin is far too much time, even with a day trip or two. If it were me I would spend 4 nights for one day trip or 5 nights for two day trips. That still gives you two full days to explore Dublin.

If it were me I would take a day from Nice and add it to Lyon. Earlier this year we spent 5 nights in Nice and 4 nights in Lyon. There’s more to see in Lyon than one might think.

You have four 2 night stops, giving you one full day in each, but plan day trips for those days. Are you not interested in seeing the places you’re going to be staying?

Don’t forget to allow the time it takes to take locations. It’s more time than you might think it is when you factor in getting to the train station from your lodging, or what mode of transportation you are using, the time in transit, then the time it take to get to your next lodging. If often takes a minimum of a half day. More if you’re going longer distances.

Whatever you decide on, I hope you have a wonderful trip.

Posted by
1550 posts

I'll agree with the two night stops. Antwerp is a beautiful city-so is Ghent but it looks like you won't be able to see much if you have a day trip to Ghent with only two nights.

Plus life after Covid trains can be very different and not on time. I think you are minimizing just how long getting to the train station, getting on a train and getting to your hostel takes. Even as a person almost 30 years younger, getting up and on trains everyday can wear you out on vacation. Sometimes it's just nice to stay put and actually see the town.

Posted by
2268 posts

Athens – add a day trip to Hydra: https://www.ferryhopper.com/en/ so you have at least one island experience. I would cut out a night or two in Athens.

Zagreb, 3, 5/8 (day trip: Ljubljana)

Zagreb is worth two nights and you’ll find good meal options along the quaint Tkalčićeva Street. A day trip to and from Ljubljana takes 2h 30m each way meaning you would spend five hours on a train. Slovenia deserves a minimum of two nights if you depart Zagreb in the morning so you can explore Ljubljana in the afternoon. The next day take a direct bus to Lake Bled (1h 15m) and walk along the path so you can see this alpine lake with an island in the middle and where the ducks are bigger than average size. Be sure to stop along the way and eat the cream cake.
Paris – how do you plan on seeing the Normandy beaches?
A direct train from Paris to Nice takes 6h. How about a direct overnight train from Paris to Nice and rent a couchette (sleeper car). You have to sleep somewhere so why not end your day in Paris and wake up in Nice. This way you kill two birds with one stone.
Dublin – you can sign up for a half day tour to Brú na Bóinne at the visitor center, it’s worth it.

Also, not sure if you’ll be affected by this but May 9 is a public holiday in Europe.

Posted by
2487 posts

Only a couple comments as unfortunately, I have not been to most of the places on your itinerary (yet).
First, thank you for the spaces between your destinations, makes it much easier to read.
Second, agree with Andrea that 7 nights in Dublin, a tad too long. Add a day trip to Newgrange.
Impressive trip, lucky you!

Posted by
104 posts

Thanks for all the help. I'm considering all comments.

At this point I have just a few replies:
1. I don't see how to cut out any days from Athens or Vienna. I've penciled in the actual sights by half-days and don't think I can condense further. I could cut out the one trip out-of-town from Dublin, but you folks already have suggested other day tours.
2. The suggestion to consider something other than Manchester is excellent. I saw there were whole-day tours from Liverpool to the Cotswolds and Lake District, but decided I wanted something more urban to satisfy my urbanologist self. But then I kind of forgot about York, which I understand to be more "charming" than Manchester, but more to the point, right on the way between London and Edinburgh.
3. All trips are by train except for some bus trips in the Balkans, and taking the big ferry from Holyhead to Dublin. I do have all of the schedules noted in my spreadsheet, but yes, there will be some delays and maybe more delays this time than on the previous trip. I've tried not to plan the most special things on arrival day, even if the schedule looks favorable.
4. I'm confused about May 9 being a holiday; I saw that somewhere else too. Are both May 8 and May 9 holidays? Or just one of them each year, with the holiday on May 9 for some reason in 2023?
5. I agree Lyon looks very cool, and if I'm going to stop there I want to be really on the go. I'll see if I can wrangle another day for it somewhere.
6. I'm considering carefully the suggestion to either add more time in Sofia to add day trips, or to skirt that entirely and go through Romania instead.
7. That brings me to the next comment, which is that yes, a couple of destinations are there just because they are a place to stop; I'd say Sofia and Thessaloniki both fit that bill. If I have a few hours worth of walking around in Sofia and just wander in Thessaloniki I'll be happy (I too hear good things about the latter.)
8. Now on the other hand, I get up and out the door early and will be really likely to do that on the upcoming trip because fewer hostels are offering free breakfast than before Covid. So if I'm arriving at Antwerp at 8:16 a.m., in the worst case I should be in the newly reopened KMSKA by 11 and finished by 3 (since the museum itself says it's a two-hour visit). Then I mess around the rest of the day and evening. The next day I go to Ghent for the high-priority item of St. Bavo and then the art museum to watch some restoration of the altarpiece. Again, I expect some extra time to walk and be in Ghent, but if it doesn't happen, so what.
9. After lots of painful deliberation I decided to do the one-day Overlord trip from Paris to the beaches. Originally I was thinking of spending two nights in Bayeux, but when I consider my degree of interest in this, I think the half-day or three-quarters day they offer, geared to the train arrival time from Paris, will be plenty.

Thanks so much for all viewpoints.

Posted by
10998 posts

"The next day I go to Ghent for the high-priority item of St. Bavo and then the art museum to watch some restoration of the altarpiece."

The restoration is finished and the altarpiece is in place in a chapel behind the main altar. You will need to book ahead to see this and I recommend you do the Augmented Reality tour in the crypt. You wear glasses but can still see thru them to the floor, walls etc so I did not find it disorienting like I have some of the virtual reality programs. I actually went twice in one trip I thought the AR was so interesting. If you have binoculars, take them with you. The altarpiece is in a big glass cube so if you have binoculars you can focus in on the individual flowers that Van Eyck painted, see the attributes of all the saints to try and recognize them, etc. It is a stunning piece.

https://www.sintbaafskathedraal.be/en/buy-tickets/

The museum there is fine, not stellar for my taste but I'm sure others who have more of an art history background will disagree. I did go to the museum in 2019 to watch the restorers at work and then again this last May on a guided tour.

BTW, with the renovation of the area for the AR program and the access to the altarpiece they have added some nice new bathrooms, lol. You can go at the TI across the square (basement level) or they are nicer and cleaner at the Cathedral.

editing to add: BTW, the Old Masters Museum in Brussels and the Reubens House in Antwerp (which closes in January 2023 until 2027) are 2 of the few museums I've visited that my standard LeSportSac Everyday bag were deemed too big for the museum and I had to check them. I sized down for my Fall trip to Italy with a smaller Baggallini and an even smaller purse to wear on the plane. Just mentioning that so you can consider what your daily purse might be.

Posted by
22481 posts

You do travel fast. I don't, so I'm not sure my comments will be helpful. But I do like architecture, art and cities a lot, and I've been to many of your planned destinations (not Belgium, Ireland or Slovakia).

I'm not sure what your goal is for the blitz through the Balkans. There are so many interesting places there, but you're going to spend a huge amount of time sitting on trains (extraordinarily slow by the standards of Western Europe) and buses. It's not an area you're very likely to return to (I would guess), so I'd want to see more while there, starting with Plovdiv and Veliko Trnovo in Bulgaria. Romania has a lot of lovely cities, including Timisoara (also interesting as the starting point of the revolution), but I wouldn't take such a long day-trip there. If I didn't have time for a stay of at least a couple of nights, I'd consider a different day trip. Novi Sad (Serbia) would be one possibility.

Note: You're going to need to take some buses. Border-crossing buses are generally infrequent. You need to dig deep for schedules before locking down your itinerary. Some of the fastest buses run overnight, which most would consider a miserable experience. Verify departure times as soon as you arrive in a new city. I'd give that warning even if your itinerary were not so rushed. As it is, the whole thing could collapse if the bus you were counting on turned out to run only Monday to Friday.

You'll have barely two full days for Zagreb and Ljubljana, both very attractive cities and quite different. It seems a shame.

I agree that trying to see the Normandy invasion sites from Paris is not the best idea. If you absolutely must do that, check out Overlord Tours' one-day small-group tour designed for folks staying in Paris that picks you up at the Bayeux train station right after the early train arrives and then returns you to the station at the end of the day. You get just about the same amount of time as the full-day tour from the center of Bayeux, whereas a bus tour from Paris will cover much, much less ground in Normandy.

I thought Nancy was worth more than one full day (architecture!) and can't imagine treating it as a day trip from Paris.

Is there a special reason for including Geneva? I'd delete it and throw that time to the Balkans.

Glasgow has a lot of interesting Charles Rennie Mackintosh architecture, but you're not really going to have much time to see it.

I liked both Liverpool and Manchester. York is also good but a very different beast.

I haven't been to Ireland, but nothing I've ever read (I'm 71) has led me to believe that Dublin is worth a lot of time. By comparison, you have just 3 nights in Budapest and 3 nights in Prague.

Posted by
104 posts

Acraven, thanks for your thoughtful review. Your point about the possibility of not being able to get a bus on the day of the week I want to travel is an excellent one. I had researched that at one time, but it's likely my days of the week have been juggled since then. Even if it looks good now, it seems like it would be prudent to add another day each to Sofia and Belgrade just to be on the safe side. I saw that Plovdiv looks quite attractive and Novi Sad too. At least Plovdiv looks like it would be easy enough on my own.

I once had a longer stay in Zagreb in mind, but many sights remain closed due to earthquake damage. I may add one more day though. Ljubljana isn't closer to any other destination on this trip, so I will need to consider whether I want to just make the 2.25 hour trip there and stay all night, and then come back to Zagreb a day or two later to resume.

I had taken Geneva out at one point, but I kept wanting to put that back in. I'm very interested in Protestant Reformation history, as well as international organizations, and Geneva hits both of these. Also I want to go to CERN. But omitting Geneva is still an option if other additions become a higher priority.

It does seem that adding a day to Glasgow would be very worthwhile. You and others are doubting the 7 nights for Dublin. Well, I get there after 5 pm and have already said maybe I can forego a day trip from there, so now we are talking about 5 real days. One of them is completely absorbed by literary sights that wouldn't be on most people's radars. But beyond that, maybe people are thinking that the National Gallery and the National Library are not worth any time, but I don't think cutting those out would mean a whole day of savings. I like (and know about to some extent) Irish traditional music, so I'm going to want to spend some evenings with that and may not be up and out the door as early as usual. So I am reluctant to delete more than one day in Dublin--and I note that others up-thread had suggestions for day tours from there.

All in all, thanks for your comments.

Posted by
2867 posts

You are correct about Zagreb’s museums still being closed. When we were there in June and the 3 churches in the upper town were also closed due to earthquake damage or renovations. The cathedral was at least being worked on, but not the others (St. Mark and St Katherine).

Posted by
7403 posts

Nancy: We used to travel as far and fast as I could in 2 weeks and three weekends. And by rental car, we could see a lot. But at the time, we didn't realize that traveling slower is better. It's easy to make an itinerary that's doable, but your trip will be difficult to execute with so many cities to visit.

Every time you move from one city to another, you're losing at a whole day. It also takes a couple of days to get used to a new city and how to navigate getting around. Every great European city is worthy of at least 4 days visit.

Another issue is planning a long and detailed itinerary. It just puts too much pressure on the traveler to make so many decisions about when and where to stay. Keeping to a set schedule for week after week is just too difficult. Things happen and you might run up on a place you would like to extend your stay to.

Sometimes it's best to fly into one city and have a room reservation waiting on you. And know where you're flying out of on a specific date and have room reservations there. With a tablet, it's easy to research transportation and room reservations on the internet for the next week or so.

Your itinerary might be fine for a couple of 20 somethings traveling with a backpack. But it's not something that I as a 70 something but fit senior citizen could do. We now try to stay in places for 4-5 days and do day trips. Then move to the next city. When we get tired, we stop for a few days. You're itinerary also has a number of cities that are not easy to travel to.

But my hat's off to you for trying to grab all the gusto on one trip. We've been to just about every place we want to visit, but it's come from going once or twice a year for the last 50 years. Because we will return for another trip.

Posted by
13530 posts

Great that you have this pace. Your trip to Leipzig and Lutherstadt Wittenberg from Berlin Hbf is on the same ICE line. Lutherstadt Wittenberg is ca. half way between Berlin and Leipzig. I've been to Wittenberg once in 2014. The DB staff guy thought I was gong from Berlin to Leipzig, a logical assumption going from one big city to another, I told him instead, Wittenberg.

Re: May 8 or May 9 as holidays: In eastern Europe, ie, those countries that became of the Soviet bloc, the end of the war was not the German surrender to the Anglo-Americans at Reims, France on May 8 but rather the German capitulation to the Soviets signed in Berlin-Karlshorst on May 9. To them the end of the war took place on May 9, which explains why that date is considered as the holiday.

In Paris, Leipzig and Vienna a hostel is located 2-3 mins. from the train station. In Dresden the hostel is ca. 10 min walk from Dresden Hbf. I've stayed in the hostels in Vienna and Dresden....all very convenient and close.

Posted by
104 posts

More thanks are due.
@Pam--I appreciate knowing about the altarpiece. I just grabbed the Gent day from an old itinerary and hadn't checked on current hours, reservation requirements, etc. Maybe I'll do something else other than going to the art museum.
@David--thanks for sharing your travel experience. All I can go on is my previous 54-night trip, when I enjoyed both the quite long stays and quite short stays.
@Fred--thank you for helping me understand the May 8/May 9 holiday situation. That will certainly inform that part of the trip. Yes, I know Leipzig and Wittenberg are on the same train line and will look at how to make the Germany cities more efficient. Your hostel tips are always welcome. I didn't find a good one in Dresden, so I'll look again.

Posted by
13530 posts

@ nancy....You're welcome.

In the summer of 2009 was my first time staying in Dresden. I stayed in the DJH hostel "Jugendgästehaus" located on Maternistrasse 22. Unlike other times staying in a hostel, this time I took a private room rather than a dorm room. This is a large building, used to be a barracks used by the East German Army (NVA), Very nice, very good food, their culinary awards posted on the wall attest to that. Dinner time was packed with guests. One does not have to be a guest at the DJH hostel to have dinner there.

On the distinction between May 8 and May 9 surrenders, the last one signed by the Germans was that with the Soviets. In 1945 the Germans signed 4 surrenders, one when Hitler was still alive.

Posted by
13530 posts

part 2 here....In Vienna the hostel I am most familiar with is the private, independent hostel chain Wombats located across the street from Westbahnhof on Mariahilferstrasse, stayed both in dorm rooms and also in a private room,.... just depends.

Three hostels are located close by to Westbahnhof if you want to be within walking distance to a train station, ie, no need to rely on public transport or a taxi. Wombat is a great hostel, has coin laundry facilities, great service and security. Stayed there several times. The tram takes you directly to Wien Hbf, whereas with the U-Bahn one change is needed.

Posted by
104 posts

Fred, I owe you double thanks I see. The Dresden hostel did not show up on hostelworld any of the times I was looking, so that is especially welcome information. I had made a note to myself that I wanted to be south of the Elbe and didn't see any hostels there. Now I know! Also, probably due to your earlier posting, I am going for that Wombat's in Vienna. Such is the value of the forum.

Posted by
13530 posts

Hi,

From the looks of the travel plan, I assume you have earmarked 6 full days in Berlin. If so, I would suggest seeing the districts of Spandau, Karlshorst, Pankow, and Koepenick. The lateral line S-Bahn 3 fits that purpose. Tons of places to visit and explore in Berlin, not merely the famous and usual sites. It all depends on the level of your interest in tracking down the esoteric historical and cultural sites prior to WW2.

If you decide to spend a few nights in Leipzig, (well worth it) instead of the projected day trip, there is one big hostel across the street from one of the exits in Leipzig central station. My first venture to Leipzig I did on my first post-retirement trip in 2009, got distracted by the huge station , Leipzig Hbf, one of the very largest in Germany, and spent time checking that out, which, as a result, saw this hostel, the A&O Hostel, useful for future reference. I never stayed in an A&O hostel. My main reason then for doing the days trips to Leipzig was to see the big historical site that dealt with Napoleon.

Outside of the same station exit from which the A&O can be seen across the street is a bus depot, the terminus to several lines.

One of these lines has as its terminus "Colditz" , ie the town where British POWs were held in its castle and famous for that well-known break-out, if you're interested in seeing a WW2 military site.

Posted by
104 posts

Fred, yes I'm planning six nights in Berlin as of now. I was there seven nights on the previous trip but was sick during that time, so I need some repeats. Thanks for the tips on neighborhoods. On a previous draft itinerary with an overnight or two in Leipzig, I did see that hostel and had written it down. I'll be sure to pay attention to the station there.

Posted by
13530 posts

@ nancy....Obviously, no fun being ill in a city one goes to visit. I've been through that too in Europe. In Berlin I prefer staying a Pension, am a regular customer there, obviously no AC, no credit payment, no elevator, etc but has that traditional old time Berliner Milieu. It's located near Kantstrasse. Guests are 99% German.

I did check out 2 hostels in Berlin in 2009, ie the DJH hostel on Kluckstrasse, which has been there for decades, centrally located, ca. 300 meters to the Resistance Museum on Stauffenbergstrasse , should be you be interested in seeing that iconic and poignant place. Signs point the way from the hostel.

There is also a Wombats located in Mitte. The difference between the private and independent Wombats with that DJH hostel is that no dinner is served in Wombats. The DJH hostels serve a hot dinner. Who eats there? Basically, all Germans, not the twenty somethings but grown ups, from late 30s with their kids and retired people, single travelers (einzel Reisende) and groups, eg, a women's group I saw in 2009 in the Dresden JH. No personal hostel experience in Berlin, minus the dinner experience in the DJH. on Kluckstrasse.

Posted by
139 posts

Wow, sounds like an amazing trip with some great logistical planning already! FYI, Greeks will be flooding out of Athens on Friday, April 28th as April 29 to May 1st, 2023 is a 3-day weekend. May 1st is Labor Day, locally know as "Protomagia", which I thought was interesting. https://www.officeholidays.com/holidays/greece/labour-day. IMO, what about a smaller town like Oxford, take 2 nights out of London, it certainly qualifies with fantastic architecture & the amazing Ashmolean Museum. (Oxford is closer to London, so less expensive than traveling to Bath). PS, Should have added you can take a bus from Oxford to Woodstock & visit Blenheim Palace for the day. I've only driven & then hiked in the Cotswolds, but would second that as a beautiful area.

Posted by
104 posts

Thanks, sandancisco. As luck would have it, now I've moved the trip to around a week earlier, so won't be celebrating May 1 in Athens, but rather in Belgrade. That should be an adventure, but I've planned all outdoor things--hope it doesn't rain. Nonetheless I enjoyed your background about the May holiday in Athens; I had read that protests were the order of the day in Syntagma Square.

Posted by
6134 posts

1) 8 days in Vienna and 3 in Budapest. I would do 6 days in Vienna and five days in Budapest.
2) Glasgow, been there, wouldn't recommend going there.

3) Liverpool, been there, recommend visiting York instead.
4) Manchester, what exactly do you want to see there? I researched when we did Britain and found little of interest compared to York, Durham, Hadrian's Wall, The Lake District, Warwick, Stratford Upon Avon and Oxford.

Posted by
104 posts

Thanks for those helpful thoughts, geovagriffith. Based on the method of writing down things I want to see and do, and slotting them into half days, I can't really see fewer nights for Vienna. It coincides with particular interests of mine so well. With some regret, I cut out Budapest entirely, since something had to give in terms of nights away from home and expense, and I never developed a strong interest in any particular sight or experience there. As I was making lodging reservations yesterday, I did leave flexibility to change up the cities in England and Scotland, so Liverpool and Glasgow are still up in the air. I'm interested in Liverpool for the slavery museum and the onward progression to Holyhead to take the big ferry to Ireland, but Glasgow is somewhat less of a must-do. But someone up-thread recommended more time in Glasgow than two nights, so now I have three. But Liverpool, Glasgow, and Belfast remain in flux, as no reservations have been made.

Posted by
22481 posts

The slavery museum in Liverpool is definitely worthwhile and takes quite some time to see. I also appreciated the Western Approaches HQ historical site. This is a bit reminiscent of the war rooms section of the Churchill War Rooms in London (without the Churchill Museum component). They've done a good job of developing the previously-abandoned WAHQ site into a sort of museum with good explanatory material throughout. There were very, very few visitors when I was there. WAHQ is below street level. They're developing a new section on the WRNS (Women's Royal Naval Service). The displays include a number of interesting personal stories, but I began sneezing soon after I reached that area. I have a strong suspicion that it's quite damp and may have mold behind the walls. Folks with significant allergy issues, asthma or mold sensitivity (I have none of those) might need to skip that section, or at least bail quickly if symptoms appear.

There's quite a bit of Art Nouveau and other intersting architecture in Liverpool. I thoroughly enjoyed the city.

I've only day tripped to Manchester, but I thought it was worthwhile as well. But I do like architecture from the late-19th and early-20th century.

Glasgow is a must for folks traveling nearby who have an interest in Charles Rennie Mackintosh architecture, of course, and the city has a lot of good museums. It's larger than Edinburgh and not nearly as touristy.

Posted by
7403 posts

I'm getting tired just reading about all these travel stops. For a long odyssey, I prefer to know where I'll be for the first couple of days and the last night before departure.

Trying to keep to a set multi city schedule is just too difficult to execute. You never know what or who you'll run into while traveling.
With a tablet or even a smartphone, it's not at all difficult to find a room for the upcoming few days.

Just take every day as it comes and realize that long trips evolve as you go to place to place.

Posted by
104 posts

acraven, thank you for the helpful information as usual. Thanks especially for the tip on the Western Approaches HQ. The new women's section sounds interesting. This is why travel is so rewarding for me right now; I didn't even know what Western Approaches meant, and now I do.

I'm glad I've found a way to include three days in Glasgow, since I'm sure I'll enjoy the Macintosh designs and the feel of a bigger city than Edinburgh.

David, I admire your sense of adventure, but traveling without a city-by-city itinerary and lodging reservations just isn't my style now. Certainly sometimes on the last trip I wished I had more or less time in a particular city, but still, a bit of structure is essential to my sense of safety.

Posted by
22481 posts

My preference is for a flexible itinerary with few advance bookings, but that can be a costly approach. For folks who care about the decor and size of their hotel rooms (which I really do not), there's also the fact that the rooms available shortly before arrival day will mostly be the ones no one else wanted.

Some of the cities on this itinerary (looking just at the initial posting here: Vienna, Prague, Amsterdam!, Paris!, Geneva!, London!, Edinburgh!) have quite high hotel rates. I would want those pinned down well ahead of time, because I'm not up for staying 45 minutes outside the center of town and commuting in each day to keep room rates down. On a long trip like mine and Nancy's, an extra $30 to $50 a night adds up to a great deal of extra expense.

My book-2-to-4-days-ahead approach usually works OK with smaller cities (not so much in Scandinavia and probably not in Switzerland), but if destinations are far enough apart (as Nancy's often are) that there's a lot of money to be saved by purchasing rail tickets well in advance, that already eliminates a lot of the potential for flexibility.

Posted by
104 posts

Yes, overall costs are dictating a lot of my decisions, so advance rail purchase is very helpful. Also I do not like being stuck far from where I want to spend my time, so early choice is indicated.

Note that when I was making reservations at the end of the week, Berlin, The Netherlands and Edinburgh were already sold out for the lodgings I had penciled in. I emailed them directly to make sure they weren't simply withholding a block of rooms from booking services or even their own online portals, but they said no, they really were sold out already for next summer. Prices were meaningfully higher than they had been just a couple of months ago in some locations too, again notably in The Netherlands but also in Paris. Another method in my madness is to try to provide an element of inflation protection by prepaying or at least locking in rates.

Posted by
13530 posts

Hi,

Re: "sold out." pertaining to Berlin....does that mean for any of the hostels or those two I listed above, or do you plan on staying in another establishment.? I plan to be back in Berlin in the summer, as usual regarding European travel, but this "sold out" thing has me concerned.

Posted by
104 posts

Fred, for a Berlin hostel I'd wanted to be near Alexanderplatz, but ended up east of the East Side Gallery. Reviews were positive, but it's well east of center. Of course it could have been my specific dates too (starting May 19), or some of my dates since I was trying to reserve six nights. I didn't try breaking up the stay into separate chunks, since I wasn't so set on a specific location that I wanted to change hostels in the middle of the time there.

Posted by
13530 posts

@ Nancy....A good time to be in Berlin...mid-May or so, weather generally good, not usually a broiler, etc. I've stayed in Berlin often in the course of May aside from June and July during "broiler" times.

Re: "east of center".... Berlin-Alexanderplatz is a very, very popular place, packed with 20 somethings, a massive junction center, etc. If I recall correctly, the Wombats in Berlin is a bit east of that, checked it out some years ago, but there are numerous hostels in that area anyway.

If you are going to spend time there anyway and want to go to the oldest restaurant in Berlin for that traditional Brandenburg and Berliner Küche (cusine), that place is easily accessible from Alexanderplatz, ca. 10 min walk (leisurely). The restaurant is "Zum letzten Instanz" (don't know about the cash / credit card payment thing, I don't remember how I paid, been there twice.)

Another very close by (on foot) with likewise dining options, aside from the culture sites, ie, Lessing's house/museum, is the Nikolaiviertel (Nikolai Quarter). In the summer, ie May, Nikolaiviertel is also packed, lots of locals and tourists alike.

Posted by
104 posts

Fred, thanks once again. I stayed in that Alexanderplatz area when I was in Berlin before, and loved it. Yes, lots of twenty somethings, but sometimes I really enjoy that. Couldn't find anything in that area. But the Zum letzten Instanz restaurant is on my list. My notes said Beethoven and Napoleon frequented it. I didn't know about that Lessing's house/museum or the Nikolaiviertel (Nikolai Quarter), so I will check them out.