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My 1st time ever in Europe. Portugal or Italy & Croatia??

Hello- Hubby and I are planning a 10-day trip to Europe late April. This will be our first international trip without our baby so we're extremely looking forward to it. We will spend 3-4 days in Paris.

Do you recommend Portugal, Italy, and/or Croatia for the rest of our trip?

I've heard great things about Florence &Tuscany but I also want to experience the coastal cities in Portugal and Croatia.

We want to see beautiful castles, cathedrals, beaches, countryside, do some wine tastings, and stay at nice resorts.

Posted by
1462 posts

10 days is short. You'll go back. Stick with France. It's a wonderful country. If you spend 3-4 days in France, you can go to the Loire Valley for some castles. Cathedrals? What about Chartres, close to Paris. We spent 4 nights in Chartres in 2017, a small town but very interesting. You can go to Normandy for beaches and WWII. If you like wine, Burgundy is a thought. You say wine tastings - that's what I would do.

I know that you want to do many things, but you will get more out of doing France well than by doing Croatia (my favorite European country) and Italy poorly.

Stick with France. You'll enjoy it. It's a wonderful country.

Posted by
4150 posts

He's right. A 10-day trip is too short for what you're proposing....way too short. The worst thing you can do is try to cover too many laces in limited time - and your time is very limited.

Be smart, resist the temptation, save other countries for other trips. There's way too much great stuff to see/do in France, and with the time you have you will only be able to get a small taste of it. You would waste too much time getting to/from Portugal, Italy or Croatia.

Posted by
3123 posts

Another vote for France. With jet lag, you aren’t going to see much of Paris in 3 days.

The weather in Normandy and Brittany in late April maybe mixed - at that time of year, I would head further south. There is plenty coastline to visit that would tick your wish list boxes.

Instead of being predictable and heading to the riviera, I would be tempted to head down the west coast, which is one of the sunniest parts of France if you stay north of the Bordeaux area, when you tend to get more rain.

La Rochelle is a great base, with a fantastic food market and long, sandy beaches. Have a day boat trip to the uber chic island of Ile de Re. The aquarium is world class. There is the old fort and plenty of WW2 history plus some of the original mediaeval houses survive. It’s 2.5 hours by train from Paris.

The Loire is the best place for castles, but it’s inland, so no beaches.

Posted by
2769 posts

Listen to experienced travelers. 4 days in Paris leaves you 6 more days. Don't waste your precious time traveling hundreds of miles away (also airfare).

Go to Normandy, visit the D-Day beaches and see the 900 year old Bayeux Tapestry.

Take in the Loire Valley of France.

Posted by
143 posts

I would choose Italy out of your 3 choices. There is an overnight train, the Thello, fall asleep in Paris, wake up in Venice. (but buy beds in a private compartment, bring your own picnic and wine).

3 nights/4 days in Paris
overnight to Venice
1 night in Venice
train to Florence, 4 nights in Florence or Siena or Pienza or other beautiful part of Tuscany

Posted by
11129 posts

Of the three Italy would be easiest, least time wasted getting there and back. Direct flights are relatively easy to Italy and there is good train coverage on the Venice, Florence, Rome route.

I probably wouldn't choose Croatia in April. Everything is closed, the water is cold and not much is going on. I toured Burgundy in May and felt it was too early to be there too. It was still cold and not much was open or growing. It's nice to be outside the main tourist rush but you want to go when it's a good time to visit.

Germany is another option that is as easy or easier than France both for direct flights to and from and train transport on the ground.

Spain isn't necessarily easy but a vacation that included Sevilla and Granada would cover two beautiful cities at a great time to be there. If you time it right, you can enjoy Semana Santa or April Fair in Sevilla (I think both are very late in 2019, Easter is the 21st so April Fair is probably in May).

It really depends on what you like most. If you are most happy going to Croatia, you should go to Croatia. Just have realistic expectations on how much ground you can cover, and what you can see, in a relatively short and off season vacation.

Posted by
2690 posts

I know this sounds repetitive, but I agree with those who advise sticking with France. I’ll go further and say stick to north and central France. With so little time, you want to minimize how much of it you spend in transit. Referring back to your list of desires, France fulfills all of them. Castles? Do I need to even mention the Loire Valley, or the many around Paris? Cathedrals? Reims, Chartres, Bayeux, etc., etc.

The countryside of Brittany and Normandy is very beautiful. In late April, you will probably catch something in bloom, like apple orchards. There are myriads of picturesque villages full of half-timbered buildings.
None of the places you mention is going to be good for beaches in April, except for sightseeing. Not only is the water very cold then, but facilities’ openings are quite restricted. As part of the countryside, however, the beaches of Normandy and Brittany are dramatic and beautiful.
As to wine tasting, Burgundy? the Loire?

Posted by
312 posts

If you're already locked-in to Paris, then stay in France. Italy is the easiest to manage for first-time travelers looking to maximize time/budget/attractions. 10-days, isn't really much, you loose a day and half flying from the US, so you really only have 9-days. You're not going to be able to take it all in and no doubt, you'll have an appetite to return.

With such a short amount of time, you're looking to maximize your experience:
3nts Paris, include a day to visit Versailles
3nts Normandy, include D-Day beaches, Mont. St.Micheael, Bayeux, Giverny
3nts Loire Valley, chateaus, Amboise

Save Italy, Portugal and Croatia for another trip. This is your first trip, which will be the first of many more, use this trip as a appetizer in getting used to listening/deciphering different languages, currency conversion, negotiating transportation networks, navigating airports, trying to string together itineraries and trying new foods.

Posted by
3892 posts

Holly, if you haven't already got his books, excellent for first-time-in-Europe, look in the top left corner menu for our host's free Travel Tips. You have a lot of research to do, starting with the general rail maps, open-jaw flight ideas, and good use of limited time. You will get better advice if you edit your profile so we can see roughly where you live. (It's bewildering to read an American (?) asking about beaches in April.)

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks everyone for your valuable suggestions! Looks like 10 days in Europe is way too short to visit multiple countries :)

Posted by
255 posts

Well yes and no to that last comment. It is not crazy to visit two countries in 10 days (more than that would be) and Italy would be a good choice. But obviously France is large and diverse enough that 10 days there won't begin to cover it either. So really, neither is a bad choice. If you want a taste of Italy as well as France then I'd split the trip roughly in half, probably fly from Paris to where ever you choose in Italy and fly home from there. But choose one (or two close by) place(s). So either Venice and Florence or Florence and Rome, etc. If you did that I'd say stay in Paris the whole time (don't waste time changing hotels) and if you want once you get there add in a day trip. You may well find you don't have time for one, five days in Paris is not too much.

On the other hand you could also have a great trip with maybe 4 days in Paris and the rest in one other location. At that time of year I'd go south to Provence (easy train from Paris to Avignon for example) or Cote d'Azure (could train, or fly to Nice). Another pretty easy possibility would be Strasbourg or Lyon or Dijon to combine with Paris.

Posted by
521 posts

As others have said April isn’t the best beachy time for Europe. Have you thought about the Eurostar to London? Easy train ride, lots of castles, breweries and gin distilleries and relaxing countryside things to do. Or take train to Brussels and day trip to Bruges (canals, relaxed, Belgian beer!), then finish in Amsterdam. Lots of great countries nearby to do by short train rides instead of dealing with airports that suck up a whole travel day.

Posted by
35 posts

It looks like you are pretty well settled on a France-only tour for this year's 10-day outing, and that makes best sense to me. Should you still be considering another area, Italy has been easy-enough independent travel for us (and I speak passable German, not Italian). Having seen some Adriatic countries both on-tour and alone, with the RSE Eastern Europe tour in 2012, I agree with the appeal of Croatia and neighbors, but that is too much distance to cover in a short visit. {Our shortest continental stay has been 21 days, with kids aged 12 and 10.} Again, considering possible futures, Barcelona is accessible from Paris, and worth a stop of 3-7 days. Also, the Basque country in south-west France and north-central Spain would be worth considering, nearly as accessible. Ground transportation into and out of Portugal is a bit more difficult, but a worthy visit for sure. Happy travels, both now and for many returns!

Posted by
9046 posts

it's all good. look for the cheapest direct flight and choose that way. Personally I would choose Budva.

Posted by
11508 posts


I vote for Croatia. After the Paris visit, fly to Croatia "for the rest of the trip."

Posted by
1734 posts

Of the countries that you list, Italy would make the most sense. Have you looked into how easy and costly the options are on travel between countries? It's very common for new travelers to try and cover too much ground. The idea of doing two countries over ten days is a mistake, in my opinion. You are going to want four full days in Paris, not counting day of arrival, anyway. There is a lot you could do with the remaining time within France, there is so much more to the country than Paris.

Posted by
302 posts

James E, what have you done with the real James? I'm certain the real one would have recommended a particular city in Hungary as an option for Holly.

Posted by
9046 posts

The request was for a coastal city. That sort of rules out modern Hungary.

Truman was told that Hungary had declared war on the US. He didn't know anything about Hungary. So the Sec of war Patterson fills him in.

Patterson; it's a kingdom
Truman; who is the king?
Patterson; they dont have one, they have a Regent
Truman; who is he?
Patterson; Admiral Horthy
Truman; does the admiral have a large navy
Patterson; they have no coastline and no navy
Truman; a kingdom with no king ruled by an admiral with no navy?

Posted by
11508 posts

By the time good old Harry was president, Horthy was history...gone. Yes, he was the admiral with no navy. Budapest had already been taken by the Russians. Hungary had no king because twice they refused Charles (the last Habsburg) in the same year, 1920 (?) when he returned to claim his throne.

Under the "Compromise of 1867" (that's how that event is translated in English), the original word in German was "Ausgleich" a Habsburg would be crowned Emperor (Kaiser) of Austria and only King (König) of Hungary, which was rendered into English as the Imperial and Royal Monarchy. In the original German, it was the k&k Monarchie.

"rules out modern Hungary." yes, it rules out landlocked Hungary in the inter-war years after the draconian Treaty of Trianon in 1920 Both the Austrians and the Hungarians in their post-war treaties were denied a port, the Austro-Hungarian naval base at Pola (Pula today).

Posted by
9046 posts

I dont know how true the story is, but its amusing. If true, he would have had to have been a senator at the time.

Posted by
11508 posts

Horthy was known as the admiral without a navy when he became Regent. That's correct if the story was told to Truman, he was a senator. Here's a bit of irony... when Truman became President, the Russians now having to deal with this new US president remembered what he had said at the time when Hitler invaded Russia, basically expressing a sentiment displaying no sympathy for Stalinist Russia.