Where to go No. Europe

Hi there, I'm new to the site, so sorry if this has been posted in the past (I looked a bit but not too deep). I'm going on my first ever European trip in just a few months and need advice. I'm trying to figure out where to go and what to see and it seems like I need to see everything, but obviously a month isn't enough. My plans thus far are Ireland, England, Scotland, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, then Switzerland, Norway, and/or Czech Republic if possible. I will be traveling alone for the most part. I also have wanted to keep my schedule as open as possible excluding possible must travel dates for good deals on Ryan Air. I do have a friend in Brussels that will take some time off to travel a bit with me. Since he's Danish and speaks Swedish, I figured he could show me his country of Denmark and my ancestor's country of Sweden. I did want to try to see Plitvice Lakes or just a bit of Eastern Europe for a taste of it on this trip with future trips there planned. I just don't know what is reasonable for a little over a month. (It's 30 business days I get off of work, so it's about a month and a week I have over there.) What I'm looking for are MUST SEES!, ideas for travel (which I am reading up on using the links the FAQs as well), potential time I may want to spend in various locations so I can maybe use Ryan Air to get to places like Sweden. Where should I stay? I was thinking hostels and was just informed about convents as well. Because most people I've talked to have done Southern Europe, they don't have as much advice for my ideas. So any and all help to get me started on my itinerary would be amazing! Thanks in advance everyone!

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

I don't have much to say as I prefer a slower travel style, but I will add this, please look at Easyjet rather then Ryanair for some of your flights, Ryanair often uses airports that are really nowhere near the city they say is the destination, for instance, for Paris( not one of your cities but one I know) they use Beauvais airport, not Charles de Gaulle or Orly. Beauvais airport is not convenient to Paris, its almost 100 kms from Paris and has no direct train in, you would have to train and bus, and it will cost you an hour and a half. On a tight scedule you don't want to waste three hours commuting back and forth to airports ( on top of the 1.5 - 2 hrs you have to be there ahead of time) Also, when planning your stops, rememember two nights in one place actually equals only one full day at the destination.

Posted by Marty
Rockville, MD, USA
70 posts

Of the places you mention I have been to England and Scotland, and one city each in Germany (Munich), Holland (Amsterdam) and Austria (Salzburg). As Pat mentioned sightseeing time is lost when you travel from one place to another. For my next trip I'm spending four or five days each in London, Normandy (Bayeux), Amsterdam, and Berlin. You've probably already read about the "must-sees" in your guidebooks. In London you don't want to miss the Tower of London. I'm also a big fan of the London Eye. After that think about your interests and plan accordingly. Do you want to visit art museums, famous gravesites, battlefields, castles? If your answer is "all of the above" don't stress too much about what you can and can't fit in on a visit. Pick a few and see the rest another time. I tend to travel by train so I can see the countryside. In some cases it will be more expensive and it's usually more time-consuming, but trains often leave from the center of town and you don't have to be at the station two hours ahead. I've even done two weeks in Scotland by train and bus, which was the only way to get to the Isle of Syke without renting a car but I would encourage anyone brave enough to drive on what for me was the "wrong" side of the road to rent a car. Have a great trip!

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

Stacy: It will be virtually impossible to plan such an itinerary to 12 countries in 5 weeks. Whirlwind tours are usually done on organized tours, as only they have the resources to travel so efficiently. Most experienced travelers are trying to take a slower approach and seeing cities from closer up, rather than just zipping through a city. It's great that you have a travel partner that can show you Denmark and Sweden. A cruise/ferry over to Helsinki is extremely popular from Stockholm. Oslo and Bergen, Norway would also be great places to visit while you're relatively close by. I prefer to fly open jaw into one city and out of another. I also like to travel in straight lines (through regions), and not backtracking. From city to city, it's trains, and budget air carriers when moving to another region. Try to stay away from Ryanair, as they're difficult to deal with. I'll rent a car to see the countryside if the suburbs and area outside town is scenic. My favorite 10 day itineraries are: Paris and London Amsterdam, Cologne and central Germany Munich, Salzburg, and the Austrian Alps Prague, Viena, Budapest Venice, Florence, Rome Barcelona and Madrid Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki You might want to reconsider a looser itinerary, and organize it in segments.
And research where you're going, but don't over plan your trip.

Posted by Stacy
SLC
2 posts

Thanks for the responses everyone, I am thinking of reworking my destinations thanks to good info here so far. One thing I should mention, I'm definitely into nature, not so much the arts, unless there's something I really should not miss. I like historical sites, good photo ops, good local areas that aren't so touristy, and good museums for history (Holocaust in particular). I have a few ideas, but would love to hear how you all have done it and what you regret missing or regret seeing on your trips.

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1361 posts

Hello Stacy. For this trip to be pleasant, I recommend : go to six countries, maximum.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Stacy I can't help with most of your destinations, of your choices I have been to only Germany, Austria, England, Holland, and Switzerland( so none of your northern or eastern choices, I too have done a bit more southern, France, Italy , Spain, Greece ) . I did really enjoy Switzerland, it is however incrediblily expensive, I think even eating at McDonalds was expensive. You did mention Holocaust sites/museums, and in Paris my daughter and I spent a sobering but fascinating few hours at the Shoah Musuem/memorial. In London the "must sees" for me are the Tower of London, The Royal British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. I enjoyed a daytrip to Bath to see the Roman ruins etc. So sorry can't help with itinerary though, as I said I haven't been to half of your wish list, but I do suggest you half your list anyways. When people rush around alot their trips start to revolve around logistics, getting from train to hotel , hotel to bus, airport to hotel etc etc instead of just enjoying and the vacation aspect of their holiday.. just personal opinion though.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3511 posts

Hi Stacy. Over the years, I've spent many weeks traveling in the Western U.S. by car and enjoying nature. However, I have done little of that in Europe because it's always seemed to me that it would require renting a car. Norway is the one exception that I know of: the trains and ferries reach the small coastal towns and there is much nature to be enjoyed. It's also a good candidate for most expensive country in Europe. Must-sees are very individual, so I won't try to list my favorites here. I do agree with other posters that you should pare down your itinerary and concentrate on no more than one area for every 4 to 7 days. The good thing about staying in hostels is that you can easily hook up with others for short trips and to share experiences. When are you planning to go? Timing can very much impact preferred destinations. Lastly, visit the Lonely Planet travel forums (Thorntree), which is much more oriented to backpack/hostel/nature/adventure travelers. PS - I envy you!!!

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

First, lop off Ireland and the Czech Republic and probably Austria. Check a map and see how the other countries relate to each other. Look at a railroad map and look for connections. Train travel would work for most, although I don't have experience with Scandinavia. From England (London) you could take the Eurostar train to Belgium, and then on to Holland. And from there, connect to the rest of Europe. Once you have a rough idea of your itinerary, plan to fly into one airport and out another so you don't have to loop back. It's called "open-jaws" and may show up on the flight reservation site as "multiple cities." You will probably need to return for an additional 4 weeks to do all these countries. Once you have the experience of traveling in Europe, you may want to go back and see more. I know I did. My first trip was a 4-wk whirlwind with a Eurail Pass 6-8 countries except England. I've been back many times. Get a guide book or two and start studying. You will get a basic understanding of European travel from a book such as the Rick Steves' EUROPE THROUGH THE BACK DOOR. Come back to this Helpline with more questions. We like to help. We're better with specific information rather than the open-ended "where should I stay" type question. Have a great trip!

Posted by Ilja
Seattle
1470 posts

Stacy, I think even in 37 days you got it is too ambitious to see all these countries you listed. Your memory will be mostly of airports and railroad stations. To enjoy the trip I would put the above countries logistically into three groups and then attempt to see just one group. First group: England, Scotland, Ireland, second: Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, third: Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic. Since you have a friend in Brussels choice would be easy.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
648 posts

Having been to all those places except the Czech Republic and with your short time, I would concentrate on the north IF the time of year is good for that. England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and northern Germany. I love Scotland for its wildness, especially around Inverness, but unless you fly into Edinburgh, it's a long train ride from London. Having said that, you might look into the options via Icelandair for a stopover there and on to almost any of the other places. I know Iceland is not on your list, but it is unique, wild and fascinating and worth a couple of days to get over jet-lag and then on to you next stop. Otherwise, one search site not often mentioned is Matrix Airfare Search. If others know anything bad about this source, please let us know. You cannot buy tickets from them, but you can see what the airlines have to offer Multi-City and select the one to use, then go to it to get your tickets. Iceland: It's all about the Blue Lagoon and the terrain, not the towns.England: You'll get lots of help with this. A must see for me not yet mentioned is Westminster Abbey in London. Much better than I expected.Norway: A fjord trip on a boat. Scandinavia in general: Viking ships and stave churches.Sweden: Wallender tour. Haven't done this yet. Hope to next year.Denmark: Kronborg Castle in Helsingor. Hamlet anyone? Munich: If you get that far south, Dachau.Netherlands: The north sea and reclaimed land. In addition to Amsterdam, of course. Open air museum in Arnhem.Belgium: Woodsy to the east, sandy to the west. But your friend in Brussels will be the expert in Belgium. That's all I can think of now except the obvious that you will find in most travel books and online sources, and some of these are obvious themselves.