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Suggestions for 3 city 10 day EU trip

Hello from Austin TX!

My wife and I had our first trip to Europe thwarted by the pandemic in 2020, but we got all credit back through Tripmasters, and are planning our Sept 2022 make-up trip now.
We're trying to decide on 3 cities that are relatively close, to minimize travel while over there, but also pick cities that will have good day trips close-by.

Right now we're looking at Paris , Brussels, and Cologne(or Amsterdam) , but open to suggestions.
We love to sightsee, and go to museums, and are huge foodies.
Any other itineraries we should maybe consider?

Thanks! - Jeremy

Posted by
3210 posts

Joe's idea is good. Not the least because it is within a single country. With the current uncertainty and rapidly changing restrictions between countries, limiting yourself to one (or 2 if you really must) makes a lot of sense. Of course who knows what the situation will look like in Sept.

So I'd pick a country with a few places that really interest you. France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and England are all likely suspects for first timers

Posted by
4341 posts

When I hear “Huge foodies” , I would recommend either France or Italy. There’s a lot of variety within France. Paris, and the French Riviera both have lots of great museums. We really liked the museums in Lyon, also. - the Roman Gallo museum & many others. The French Riviera is gorgeous, and there’s also the Loire Valley region with the stunning chateaus & fortresses. Just to simplify any Covid country-specific requirements, I’m strongly considering just keeping within one country per trip for 2022.

Posted by
9510 posts

I agree with CJean and Jean - try to minimize the number of countries. It’s hard to keep up with the changing guidelines for just one country + the return to US hoops.

I’ll also ask for clarification- by 10 days do you mean 11 nights plus a day on either end for travel? Or does the 10 days count Day 1 as the day you leave the US, arriving on Day 2, then catching your return flight on Day 10?

To me 10 days, however it’s counted, is not enough for 3 cities. If you have 3 nights in each city that’s only 2 full sightseeing days so not really enough time for day trips.

I’d pick 2 cities if you are going to do day trips. Or, laughing…I am crazy for Paris and can easily spend 10 nights there. I know that’s not what most want on a first visit though.

Posted by
684 posts


Who knows what travel will be like in September 2022, but with 10 days for a trip, I agree with some of the other posters, it would be easier to pick one country. It minimizes any issues you might have with different country restrictions. As a fellow foodie, I would recommend either France, Italy, or Spain. Each of them have great food scenes, world class museums, and a variety of different sightseeing experiences. For France and 10 days, I would recommend Paris and Nice with 6 days in Paris and 4 in Nice, taking side trips from each City. For Italy, I would pick Venice, Florence, and Rome, spending 3 days in Venice, 3 in Florence, and 4 in Rome. For Spain, I would suggest you split between Barcelona and Madrid or Madrid and Seville.

Once you pick your itinerary, come back to the forum. The people here have helped me many times on creating a memorable trip.


Posted by
2678 posts

I agree with the idea to pick one country.

Italy - Venice, Florence, Rome is the classic for a reason. If you prefer you could do Rome (or Venice) - smaller town in Tuscany - Florence

Spain - some combo of Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Granada. Pick 3.

France - I’m not as familiar with France outside Paris but Paris - Beaune - something in the south comes to mind first.

Posted by
5473 posts

I agree with Pam. Three bases plus day trips isn’t feasible unless you want the trip to be a blur.

Your first day, if not your first and second day is likely to be affected by jet lag. Exactly how many full days do you have on the ground excluding arrival and departure days?

You are going to lose half a day plus by changing bases. If you have a big hitter such as Paris or Rome, pick one other base and in the same country.

I think for foodies that France is better than Italy.

Posted by
3140 posts

Italy for sure-fast trains between those cities make it easy to connect those dots.

Posted by
13329 posts

Throwing my hat in with the others, Jeremy; 10 days isn't enough for 3 countries. Shoot, it's barely enough for 3 attraction-packed cities, and definitely not enough for any day trips from 3 different bases. As already mentioned, best not to underestimate the time it takes to move from one base to another, and acclimate to a new city.

Additionally is the current situation of continually changing COVID mandates from one country to the next. Will those still be a challenge this September? Anyone's best guess but something to consider, especially by tourists new to Europe as they can be confusing even to seasoned travelers (take a spin through the forums and you'll see what I mean).

So limiting yourself to one country has its advantages. Three bases in that country? Depends on how you are counting those 10 days; arrival days are partials and usually don't count as they can be a fog of jet lag. Transfer days between locations are also partials. Rule of thumb is that 2 nights = one FULL day of sightseeing. Example? Say you choose Italy, and the 'Holy Trinity' of Venice, Florence and Rome. Let's say you're NOT counting your travel day to Italy or your travel day home. A sample 3-city itinerary might look like this:

Travel day/night to Italy - not counted
Day 1: Flight arrives in Venice/partial day; sleep Venice
Day 2 - Venice; sleep Venice
Day 3 - Venice; sleep Venice
Day 4 - Transfer to Florence/partial day; sleep Florence
Day 5 - Florence; sleep Florence
Day 6 - Florence; Sleep Florence
Day 7 - Transfer to Rome/partial day; sleep Rome
Day 8 - Rome; sleep Rome
Day 9 - Rome; sleep Rome
Day 10 - Rome; sleep Rome
Day 11 - fly home from Rome

That's 9 days + 1 partial day on the ground in Italy, and 2 partial days for transfers.

Museum lovers? You might skip Venice entirely and spend all of your time in Rome and Florence. Florence is just PACKED with great museums, and you could easily day-trip to a Tuscan town or two if you felt like you'd seen enough. Fly into Rome and train immediately to Florence; spend 6 nights there, and the last 4 nights in Rome.

Belgium? Also a great place to spend 10 days; we didn't have a lot of time in Brussels but enjoyed the museums/sightseeing attractions in Antwerp, Bruges and Gent more than we thought we would, and also ate (and drank) VERY well! Paris and Amsterdam is another good combo (we've done that). I'd skip Brussels, spend 6 nights in Paris and 4 in Amsterdam. So some stuff to think about?

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks for the replies thus far everyone! To clarify, we were looking at 11 total trip days, with the first and last day being plane days...So 9 nights in EU.

Posted by
20802 posts

So that's only eight full days. Definitely not enough for 3 major cities. I'd stick to two bases, and depending upon what they are, I wouldn't necessarily do any day trips. Alternatively, you could spend all your nights in one major city that has a lot of attractive day-trip options.

Posted by
180 posts

I’m going to be the dissenting opinion here and say that 10 days is the perfect amount of time for 3 cities. I have done many trips with that itinerary and have never felt too rushed. I do tend to travel fast though and that’s just my style so if you don’t mind being pretty go go go you’re whole trip than doing three cities will be fine. Florance, Rome, and Venice is the classic combination, with a day trip to Pisa a possibility. Poland is a great country with lots to explore. Wrocław, Krakow, Warsaw or Gdansk, Warsaw, Krakow are good combinations and Krakow and gdansk offer great day trip options. I always like suggesting Prague, Vienna, Budapest. Judging by the last two summers, the warmer months seem to be pretty stable restriction wise so I don’t see a giant risk doing overland travel within schengen. But other people are more risk adverse than me so that’s for you to weigh the alternatives and judge.

Posted by
20802 posts

Christina, nine nights on the ground in Europe is not ten days.

Posted by
13329 posts

Right, Nine nights on the ground is only 8.5 sightseeing days, and that .5 arrival day could be a jet-lagged write-off. So, Jeremy, my sample Italy itinerary for 3 bases would now look like this:

Day 1: Flight to Venice
Day 2 - Arrive in Venice/partial day; sleep Venice
Day 3 - Venice; sleep Venice
Day 4 - Transfer to Florence/partial day; sleep Florence
Day 5 - Florence; sleep Florence
Day 6 - Florence; Sleep Florence
Day 7 - Transfer to Rome/partial day; sleep Rome
Day 8 - Rome; sleep Rome
Day 9 - Rome; sleep Rome
Day 10 - Rome; sleep Rome
Day 11 - fly home from Rome

Lots of moving around for that short a time. With 8.5 days/9 nights on the ground, I'd personally consider just two bases: Rome + Florence or Paris+ Amsterdam. Brussels+ Bruges or Gent +Antwerp is a possibility as we did it in 8 nights: Brussels (1 night), Bruges (4 nights with day trip to Gent or vice versa), Antwerp (3 nights). You could add that extra night to Brussels.

Posted by
3087 posts

For a simple, relaxed trip with excellent restaurant options and also many day trip possibilities, consider pairing a larger city with a smaller city like:

Rome and Orvieto


Bologna and Venice


Paris and Lyon

Posted by
1248 posts

As long as you know that wanting to see three cities in 9 days will give you just a "taste" (and a longing to go back and spend more time) you should be fine and use the rule of a minimum of two nights in any one place. With airfare being inexpensive inter-Europe it is more convenient and time saving to fly. I would always choose Paris and Rome/Florence.

-3 Nights Rome- (Evening Walking food tour with company "Eating Europe" we have done the Twilight Trastevere twice, so much fun) Look into Walks of Italy for great walking tours in Rome and Florence
-Train to Florence (90 min train ride)
-3 nights Florence -(day trip to surrounding towns- we used tour company "Walk About Florence" for an all day tour) -Check out the Mercardo for food (Mercato Centrale) and go to a local restaurant to indulge in the famous Bisteca
-Fly to Paris from Florence
-3 nights Paris (Great walking food tour with Secret Food Tours and walking tours with Paris-Walks)
-Fly home

Just my .02 on your travel plans. Lot's of great suggestions already.

Posted by
1043 posts

First I would skip Cologne and Brussels. Not because they are in different countries, but because they are not all that exciting. I do agree with others to stick to two cities. You can always day trip one or two days.

Keeping your "huge foodies" comment in mind and sights, I would consider.

Athens-A Greek Island???

Posted by
1244 posts

First moved to Austin in 1969, things have changed a bit. Hmmm, might be easier to get from Paris to London than Georgetown to downtown Austin.

1) Relocations = additional travel stress + additional expense - diminished time to absorb destinations
2) First trip to Europe has a learning curve (under any circumstances)
3) Tough to do, but please strive to reduce internal pressure to "see more" in order to justify time, money spent and self pressure to get most out of vacation. "Slow down you move too fast, find a way to make the moment last." Consider how vast and deep is the menu of opportunities in Paris alone. So many layers to unwrap and absorb to help create wonderful memories of your first journey to Europe. While you are there start planning your second trip.
4) Suggest considering either A) one destination offering ample day trip opportunities or B) Two locations offering ample big menus and ease of travel between them. Example of "B" could be Paris with a high speed train connection made to Barcelona. The high speed train offers a great experience not found in USA and departure in evening is judicious use of travel time. This example provides a wonderful visit of two different countries, and cultures. Definitely purchase Open Jaw airfare if you choose option B.
5) Do not overpack! Huge first time mistake.
6) Consider renting an apartment if you choose one or two destinations. They offer great value, a kitchen which helps reduce eating out expense, space to spread out and often have an owner vested in helping with your journey.
7) Enjoy the planning experience and keep posting on these forums to help gain insight to your travel alternatives.

Happy New Year!

Posted by
68 posts

Would join the "Start with one country!" chorus. Venice-Florence-Rome an obvious one -- variety, amazing art, there's nothing in the world like Venice, and the food is terrific. That's what I did on my second trip to Europe. My first trip was 10 days, too, and I tried to fit way too much into it (Berlin-Dresden-Bavaria-Salzburg) and didn't appreciate the learning curve. Italy trip was much more relaxing and fun.

Posted by
763 posts

My first trip to Europe was Paris and London for 11 days. (We spent most of it in Paris.) So, that is one option, as they are not too far apart. You can fly or take the Eurostar. In that time we saw the Catacombs, the Eiffel tower, the Louvre, the Tuileries, the Orsay, the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe, the Place de la Concorde, the outside of Notre Dame (sob--our biggest regret is missing the interior, even though we were staying just a couple of blocks away), Versailles, the Pompidou, Les Halles, Sacre Coeur, Montemarte, the Dali museum, and Disneyland Paris. We also wandered around both the left and right banks--saw the outside of the Sorbonne, walked around the Marais, saw where Victor Hugo lived, etc. We would have gone to the Pere Lachaise cemetary, too, but a huge storm came up when we were on our way there, so we had to skip it. That was in 8 days. In 2 1/2 days in London, we saw Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus, Oxford Circus, Carnaby Street (shopped there), Buckingham Palace (outside), Big Ben, Westminster Abbey (toured it), the Tower of London (toured it), the Tower Bridge, London Bridge, the Wren monument to the Great Fire, (climbed it) the London Eye (rode it), Hyde Park (including the statue of Peter Pan and the Victoria and Alberta monument), Kensington Palace (toured it) and gardens, the Abbey Road crosswalk, and we attended a show (Billy Elliot). We also did some wandering around and, believe it or not, did not feel rushed.

So, I think you can see a lot and really enjoy a trip to Paris and London in 10 days.

If you choose Italy, here are my suggestions, keeping in mind that, of course, you can see only the highlights in the amount of time you have.

Venice: 2 days. St. Mark's Basilica and Square, Doge's Palace. Ride down the Grand Canal on a vaporetto. Rialto Bridge. Wander around. If you have time, take a vaporetto to Burano and wander around there. (You COULD take a day from here and add it to Rome, depending on your interests. You would skip Burano, in that case.)

Florence: 2 days. (I found 2 days to be plenty for Florence. We had 4 1/2 days and ended up taking day trips on 2 of those.) Duomo climb, Uffizi Gallery, Accademia Gallery, Boboli Gardens. Ponte Vecchio (can't miss it, really). Wander around. If you have time, there are other parts of the Duomo complex to see.

Rome: 4 days. Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill, Vatican museums and St. Peter's Basilica and Square, Pantheon, Capitoline Museums. Wander around. In the process, it is easy to see the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and Piazza Navona. If you have time, consider a day trip to Ostia Antica, Hadrian's Villa, or Orvieto. Another option, if you have time, is the Borghese Gallery and gardens.

It would be a busy trip, but entirely do-able, depending on your energy levels.

You'll find that most people here will suggest a slower travel experience, and I agree that that is the ideal, but that doesn't work for everyone's circumstances.

Cheers! Let us know how it goes, whatever you decide.

Posted by
814 posts

For a first trip to Europe for foodies, and the current complications of multiple countries, I would choose France. Split the time between Paris and Colmar, or one of the smaller villages in the Alsace area (Equisheim, Riquewihr). This would give you two very different types of experiences (city vs village) within the same country.

I echo the idea of only two bases with your limited time.

Posted by
7423 posts

Again, I urge you to stay in one country. Places that are normally easy to get between are a pain these days due to changing Covid restrictions. One hopes that would be better by September, but I bet people traveling in December didn’t expect not to be able to travel between London and Paris, either.

One country, nine nights in Europe, first trip to Europe, and you're foodies: go to either France or Italy, with a slight preference for Italy.

Posted by
3042 posts

Keeping your "huge foodies" comment in mind and sights, I would
consider. Paris-Lyon Rome-Florence Madrid-Barcelona Warsaw-Krakow
Athens-A Greek Island???

Or maybe Stockholm-Copenhagen?

Posted by
13395 posts

I am not too worried about what COVID restrictions will be like in September. Cant be worse than now, and RS people seem to be dealing with it.

But two options. One sort of conventional and one picking countries that have had a consistent track record for easy COVID requirements. Both seem to fit your

We're trying to decide on 3 cities that are relatively close, to
minimize travel while over there, but also pick cities that will have
good day trips close-by. ... We love to sightsee, and go to museums,
and are huge foodies.

Day 1 Depart
Day 2 Arrive Prague
Day 3 Prague
Day 4 Prague
Day 5 Train to Vienna (5 hours)
Day 6 Vienna
Day 7 Vienna
Day 8 Train to Budapest (3 hours)
Day 9 Budapest
Day 10 Budapest
Day 11 Home

An option on that one (my preference actually) is Fly Prague to Budapest then train north to Vienna. A few hours shorter that way, even when considering time in the airports.


Day 1 Depart
Day 2 Arrive Budapest
Day 3 Budapest
Day 4 Budapest
Day 5 Fly to Podgorica, Montenegro (Wizz Air Non-stop under $100 in about an hour); then transfer to Budva (easy, a taxi even)
Day 6 Budva
Day 7 Afternoon drive up coast to Kotor and and arrive in Perast
Day 8 Afternoon, drive up coast from Perast to Herceg Novi and arrive Dubrovnik
Day 9 Dubrovnik
Day 10 Dubrovnik
Day 11 Home

So its really two cities and some beautiful small towns. Hungary, Montenegro, Croatia all have had for a very long time, very "convenient" COVID restrictions and this is my favorite part of the world. I know a company that can take care of all the ground transportation.

Herceg Novi

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you ALL SO MUCH for your thoughtful suggestions and valued insight. We took to heart a lot of the recommendations, and just booked our trip: 5 nights in Paris with day trip to Versailles, and 4 nights in Lyon w/ a day trip to Annecy. We both felt good about this, as we realized we were likely to be overwhelmed adding another relocation/city.
We're doing our research but will of course take suggestions on places/restaurants/events we might not discover on our own.

Posted by
4341 posts

Your updated itinerary sounds so much better for 2022!

Check out the Lyon Card for transportation and/or museum entries, etc. Annecy has boats or bikes you can rent to enjoy the lake - either on it or riding the perimeter. After either, stop for a gelato in the cute town.

Have a great time!