My mom and I were planning on going to Egypt to stay with some family for a 2 week vacation late Jan/early Feb. Since conditions aren't so great over there, we're now reconsidering a two week trip to Europe instead. But we don't know where to go!! There are so many options! And we've both been to several European countries so we want to go somewhere new! So far I'm thinking Paris and London since I've never been. Also, we'd like to do something in not such an urban setting, like the cliffs in Ireland or Swiss Alps! But we've been Googling top places to go and there are just so many suggestions! The Italian Riviera looks amazing and we're just overwhelmed! So I wanted to post and see if anyone had some suggestions for us. We'd probably visit 3 or 4 cities over the 2 week time span. Anyone know of some amazing small towns in Europe that maybe aren't listed on Google searches of top places? Sometimes talking to real people gives better insight than Googling:) Any suggestions are helpful! We're very unorganized and not planners at all so we're very lost right now! Thanks!!
How about Paris plus Swiss Alps? It is only 3.5 hours by train from Paris to Lausanne. You could stay a night or two there, then head to one of several alpine villages for a few days. Most offer lots of activities for non-skiers, including winter hiking on cleared paths, snowshoeing, sledding, and sleigh rides. Good choices would be Wengen or Mürren in the Berner Oberland, Kandersteg which is closer and has a beautiful lake (frozen in winter) nearby, or maybe Zermatt in the Valais where the weather might be better. Or my favorite village Bettmeralp, perched high above a valley on a south-facing slope. http://www.kandersteg.ch/en/erlebnisse/winter www.oeschinensee.ch www.bettmeralp.ch www.zermatt.ch www.wengen.ch
For a trip during the middle of winter, I would suggest visiting bigger cities. That way, if the weather is bad, you have more options of indoor things to do. Of course, if you're skiers, then Switzerland would probably be a good option. Sorry, I don't know anything about skiing in Switzerland so can't suggest specific resorts. Paris and London would be wonderful choices. You could easily spend two weeks in just those two locations, and take day trips from each of those cities, depending on your interests and the weather.
How about Andalucia? Seville, Granada (Alhambra), Cordoba, maybe some hill towns. Add Madrid (and Toledo) since you will probably find it easiest to fly into Madrid. Spain is amazing, especially if you love exploring historical sites. You are visiting buildings that may be 1000 years old! And the people are very welcoming. Plus, it is much less expensive than London, in particular.
Thank you guys for responding! I really appreciate it! Yeah, I guess weather should probably be a factor when deciding! We aren't skiiers but the thought of the Swiss Alps just seems so amazing! So it sounds like Paris and London are good choices so far. I'm just second guessing because I feel like they are such urban, busy cities and it might be nice to spend a few days relaxing in a smaller town with better sights. But maybe we should just stick to those 2. As for Spain, I forgot to mention I lived there for a few months last year (in Toledo actually!) so that's why it wasn't on our list. I've been to all of those places you listed though and they were AMAZING! It was definitely the best country I visited, so good suggestions:) My sister is studying in Barcelona so that's the only reason we'd go there. I also plan to move there next year so I'm trying to see some other places. .
Embrace the cold. In my humble opinion, if you go to a place that is somewhat warmer than the average European destination in February you stand the chance of having the opportunity to see all the stuff that would have been really great had the weather been warmer. I enjoy Paris but in February? They aren't built for February. We travel a lot in the winter and have decided that If you must go in the cold then go to someplace where the cold is a benefit and not a detractor. Look at Northern Europe and what Rick Steves calls Eastern Europe. There you will find places where an entire culture revolves around the cold as opposed to attempting to survive it until it gets warmer.
We have been to Paris several times in January and loved it. No lines anywhere, the cafe's all have covers and heaters in their outdoor sections and the weather is usually decent - the average in Feb is about 48. You also might consider southern Italy - Bari and some the towns near there. Heidelberg Germany is also a lovely smaller German city - we enjoyed it very much in January. Traveling in winter can be very nice - just pack for the weather.
Paris and London would be my top choices, in that order. Like Lexma said, you can take day trips out of the city if you want to. Paris not built for February?? Wow. Of course it is. Paris is amazing any day of the year. Compared to Minneapolis in February, Paris will seem warm.
Rome is also lovely in February. Weather in the 40s to 60s the years I've visited. No lines at major attractions, and you might find you have some lesser attractions mostly to yourself, which was amazing.
A few years ago I went to Venice in the middle of February. While it was freezing cold, the city was deserted; almost had the place to my self. Didn't think that was possible in Venice;)
We've been to Munich, Innsbruck and Venice in February, and we about froze our tails off. The farther north you go, the better chance of inclement weather. You certainly won't find me in London that time of year.
Have you considered moving your trip up to the end of March? The winter weather breaks then, and the chance of having a GREAT trip improves dramatically.
Venice definitely will not be uncrowded in late January/ earlyFebruary in 2013. That is Carnevale. But that might be a great reason to go. How about Venice, Verona, and the Dolomites ( for beautiful alpine scenery at Italian prices instead of Swiss).
Rome and Paris. Shopping, Cafes, Museums, Restaurants, Sightseeing: lots to do both inside & outside.
Wow! Thank you all for your suggestions and replies! I have read everyone's comments and we are still working on our itinerary. We are working with a travel agent that I found online and it looks like we will be doing London 5 nights, Paris 5 nights, and Geneva Switzerland 4 nights! I think we are getting a reasonable price but for those of you who've been there, if my mom and I are there for about 2 weeks, do you think $2,000-$3,000 is enough spending money for us both? I've heard these are expensive cities so I'm just wondering how much we should have saved by then. That amount is just for spending, and our hotels and flights will already be paid for. It might be a subjective question but just thought I'd throw it out there. Any suggestions for things to do in these cities would be appreciated as well:) Again, thanks everyone for your help!!
I know you're thinking Europe instead of Egypt, but if you have some extra spending money, what about Abu Dhabi or Dubai (or both)? Expensive? Yes, but it will be in the mid-70s...perfect during a nasty MN winter. I'll admit I've never been to either, but they're on my list for someday.
Geneva would not be my choice in Switzerland, especially for 4 nights. Montreux maybe, or lausanne, or one of the smaller towns along the liake such as Vevey (Charlie chaplin's home for 25 years) or Morges (Audry Hepburn's home for 30 years). But in winter the lake can be gray and gloomy. Whey not go into the mountains?
For a totally European experience I would suggest Germany for Rosen Montag (Rose Monday.) This year it's February 11th. It is called Germany's "fifth season" – or Karnival. The most famous places are along the Rhine – Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz. BUT – for something much more authentic I would suggest southwest Germany in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg. For a number of years we went to the small city of Bad Waldsee. The idea is to have as much fun before lent begins – so starting on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday normally stoic Germans dress up in costumes – some with origins that go back to pagan roots, and sing, dance and yes, have a few drinks. Carnival societies have street parades, kids events and in general an amazingly good time. Even with no or a limited knowledge of German you would be made to feel welcome. Do a search on the word "Fasnet" and/or "Fasnacht" (different areas have slightly different dialects,) and you'll see lots of information. But it's all over by the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday – so don't delay.
I have traveled to Europe during the winter to ski. That said, I have enjoyed touring before my ski holidays. Given that a ski event or tour is the primary purpose of my winter travel, I like to arrive several days early to provide margin for lost/delayed baggage (ski gear) and to adjust to the time zone shift ahead of my event/tour. This pre-event time has allowed me to explore and enjoy Euorpe in the winter, a low season period of time. A Norwegian saying goes something like: There is no bad weather, only a bad choice in clothing.
If you want to escape the cold and snow, then I would suggest Southern Europe - places such as Italy or Portugal. However, I have found winter travel in much of the rest of Europe quite nice. Prague is enchanting, even with a bit of snow and while generally cities such as Salzburg or Vienna are a bit more active, I equally enjoyed more rural settings that have significant sites. For example, the Loire Valley is a whole different experience when you enter a chateau and there is a fire burning in the fireplace (plus no crowds either) and to walk about Czesky Krumlov by yourself is amazing in the early evening. Also certain things are actually more accessible in the off season - for example actually walking among the stones at Stonehenge at sunrise. The hours are shorter, daylight less, but tourist oriented places have more time for your questions and even go a bit more out of the way to help; often you are their only customers. Excellent trips I have taken in February included Germany, France, Croatia, Austria, England, and Denmark. You just have to pick what you want to see and experience and go for it... just take an umbrella, scarf, and be prepared to layer...
To answer your more recent question, Selena, $3000 for two people for two weeks is a little over $100 per person per day (but you knew that, right? ;) For London and Paris, that would probably be enough for meals, local transportation, admissions, and incidentals if you don't go overboard on the gourmet eating. I don't know Geneva, I've heard Swiss prices are higher, but seems doable there too. This assumes that your airfares and hotels are paid for otherwise. People recommend picnic lunches to save money, getting some bread and cheese and sitting on park bench, but that might not be so attractive in February. Still, London and Paris have lots of low-cost places to eat in or take out. As for admissions, consider the Paris Museeum Pass, which pays for itself in a few days of high-energy sightseeing, see http://en.parismuseumpass.com/. Have a good trip!