Your favorites

Hello. I'm a 28 year old female and I'm going to Europe for the first time (except for England) for 4 weeks from mid July to mid August. The first two weeks I should be with my boyfriend and the last two weeks I'll be on my own. I'm getting extremely overwhelmed trying to determine where to go with the time I have. Basically, I want to go everywhere. So far I've eliminated Scandinavia and want to plan that as its own trip in the future. I'll also considering skipping Italy and making it its own trip in the future because I could easily spend a month there. What I need from you is your most favorite places in Europe that you think I should include in my trip and why. Thank you!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17780 posts

Kirsten,

Since this is your first trip to Europe, my first suggestion would be to pre-read the Guidebook Europe Through The Back Door. That will answer some of your questions, and provide information on things like Itinerary planning, money, language issues and especially rail skills.

It would help to have some additional information. For example, where will you be travelling during the two weeks that you'll be with your boyfriend? Also, what places do you like to see, are you interested in mostly Museums and other historic sites, night life or ????

With two weeks for travel, my preference would be to try a "sampler" of different areas (including Italy), so that you'll have a better idea which countries you want to return to and spend more time on future trips.

Posted by Tom
Chicago
2876 posts

Often your best experiences in Europe will be off the beaten path, but as a young traveler you first have to trod the beaten path. All the great cities have their attractions, but 3 of my favorites are Paris, Prague, and Budapest. And if you really want to spread your wings, Istanbul.

Posted by Kirsten
Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
62 posts

Right now my schedule is wide open. I'm going to push my boyfriend to give me an idea of some places he really wants to see so I can get an idea of where to start. Flight prices might help me to make that decision as well. Its hard to give too specific of interests since again I run into wanting to see it all. I want to see some museums, see nature and scenary, just go for walks through the cities/towns, eat, theater, beaches, etc. I'm not a 5-star hotel kind of girl and love to get into the culture of the area and not just big tourist attractions. I'm not new to travelling, just new to Europe. I tend to want to try to do too much so I can fit everything in. I'm trying to be more realistic with this trip. I was hoping reading about people favorite spots might help strike an interest.

Posted by Kirsten
Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
62 posts

Also, some night life would be good but that's not on the top of my priority list.

Posted by Jen
W-S, NC, USA
2 posts

Amsterdam sounds like it fits with a lot of your criteria. My husband and I have been back countless times and always enjoys ourselves. It's a great start or end point for a journey and probably a good option for you as Minneapolis is a hub for a lot of Delta/Northwest/KLM flights to Amsterdam. It's also very easy to get to most of Europe via train from Amsterdam. It's more than sex, drugs and rock and roll :) (but if that's your thing, it's awesome x2)

Posted by JB
Redding, CA, USA
1568 posts

I would suggest Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Brugge, Belgium or Paris which would take several days.

Where ever you go Enjoy!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2696 posts

Hi Kirsten,

I went on a trip to Europe almost like yours (over 5 weeks) when I was 27. To answer you question on my most favourite places which you should not omit from your itinerary, that is simple to answer...Paris and Berlin. I know the feeling of wanting to go everywhere, but you must see Paris and Berlin, preferably with your boyfriend. I look for cities over rural areas and mountains, etc. Culturally and historically, Paris and Berlin are my two top priority places, with London being in third place.
You'll see why when you get to Paris and Berlin.

Posted by Galen
Dallas, United States
390 posts

The Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland. Why? Because of the beautiful, magnificent scenery. You can hike; gaze at the mountains, waterfalls, and the alpine villages; listen to the bells from the cattle; take gondola rides; and etc., etc.

My wife would say Neuschwanstein and Carcasonne because she likes castles and anything medieval.

Good luck!

Posted by Angela
Bloomington, IL, USA
64 posts

Well you can't go everywhere but you are so fortunate to have four weeks! I agree with the previous poster- read Europe through the Back Door. There are lots of itinerary and planning tips.

Based on my prior trips, if I could go only one place in Europe it would be Paris. Especially when your boyfriend is there! Why? It just has it all. It's beautiful, it's romantic, easy to get around, great museums and when you are tired of that there is so much else. Just writing this makes me want to start planning another trip!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17780 posts

Kirsten,

A few comments to add to my earlier post.....

I'd suggest not trying to fit too many places into your Itinerary. Don't try to see all the major sites in one visit. As Rick says in his books "assume you will return". One question though - are you both planning to include England on this trip?

When you've decided on the cities you want to visit, have a look at Guidebooks to get some suggestions for accommodations in your price range in each location. The ETBD books are great, as they provide listings in different prices and often in different parts of each city (and I don't think any of them are 5-Star). They also contain extensive information on sightseeing locations.

Also, using open-jaw flights would be the most efficient travel method.

I have lots of "favorite places" in Europe. Some that would provide a good overview:

Paris - lots of Museums, Galleries and other famous sights; good availability of flights to CDG

Munich - lots of history and good place for day trips to Neuschwanstein or other sites in the area; Berlin would be good also, but it would add to your travel times

Austria - Salzburg is very close to Munich, and is a wonderful city

Berner Oberland (Lauterbrunnen Valley) - beautifully scenic area, good for hiking and relaxing; Gimmelwald is a big favourite with many here

Cinque Terre (Italy) - the "Italian Riviera"; 5 small rustic villages; can be a bit touristy at times; most people visiting the area enjoy hiking the trails between the villages; this is where Pesto was invented

Italy - Venice, Florence, Lake Como (Varenna), Siena, Orvieto (and the small village of Civita di Bagnoregio) and of course Rome! With only 4 weeks, I don't think there's time for touring south of Rome

If you have a PBS TV station in your area, you might enjoy watching Travels In Europe, as that will allow you to see the areas, and may give you some ideas.

Good luck with your planning!

Posted by Ali
Newton, MA, USA
278 posts

Hello Kirsten - I went to Europe for the first time (ever) in 2008 at 34. I bought Best of Europe which helped me plan and did a lot of reading on this website. I did more of a sampler trip that was slightly dictated by a surprise concert in Cologne, Germany so that was a challenge in itself. I don't think my trip was what one would call 'normal' for a first time Europe experience but it was fabulous to me. We did Prague 3 nights, night train to Switzerland 3 nights, train up the Rhine river staying in a couple villages, onto Cologne and then ending in Amsterdam (I think also a great place to end a trip).

I did the reading and started the itinerary based on what just sounded good to me. We are planning our 4th trip for May 2010 and I still haven't been to Paris! My point being, try to get a feel for what YOU want to see and do and go from there.

Posted by Kirsten
Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
62 posts

Thank you everyone! I'm already starting to get some ideas. It looks like it's possible my boyfriend is only going to be able to get away from work for a week but we're crossing our fingers. I'm still going for 4 weeks though. I spent 2 weeks in England last spring so I'm planning on skipping it this trip. So far I think Paris is a must and I'm pretty sure he's up for going with me there. I'm also up for taking flights inside of Europe to save some time if need be. I'm thinking of having my boyfriend fly there with me so he's there with me to start my travels.

Posted by Amy
Madison, WI, USA
456 posts

Based on your thoughts, first I commend you for knowing Italy could be a trip in itself and not trying to squeeze everything in one trip.

So for my favs - yes Paris. For 4 weeks, I would try to do a France, Germany, Switzerland route.

Paris, Provence, French Riviera, Rhein River Valley, Munich, Lucern, Lauterbrunen Valley, fly home from Zurich. If you gave yourself 4 nights in each location (roughly), that would put you at 4 weeks. That would be one great trip for me!

Your boyfriend could fly home from Nice giving you a wonderful French Romantic vacation.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

Hello Kirsten. We are happy residents of Minneapolis, too!

I don't really feel comfortable giving you a list of places to go. I haven't been everywhere yet (working on it) and everyone is bound to have the places they have been on their list of favorites, but if you haven't been there yet, how could you really judge? So I will avoid that trap. Instead, I would like to share some general observations.

First, it is very wise of you to relegate Scandinavia and Italy to a different trip. But do go, particularly to Scandinavia some day as that doesn't get as much attention as it deserves. For logistical as well as heat-related reasons, I would save the Iberian penninsula (Spain & Portugal) for another trip (in spring or fall). That leaves the very heart of Europe, which actually isn't that large an area to deal with. For some perspective, that's about the size of MN, ND, SD, IA and WI put together. You could, if you wish, cover quite a lot of area.

I would like you to create a well-balanced trip in two respects;

1) Urban vs. rural; most of the cities are wonderful, but they do begin to look alike after a bit. Fortress on a hill, cathedral, river, old town, new town, grand museums, etc. So it would be a shame to simply travel from one urban core to another. Try to break this pattern by spending a night or two, or at least a 1/2 day en route in one significant rural/small town location.

2) East vs. West; You have time to see important things in the west like Amsterdam & Paris as well as the less visited (but perhaps even more intriguing) east like Prague and Krakow and Budapest.

Read RS's "Best of Europe" to get a general idea of how to string a sensible worm-like path through Europe. Then narrow things down and include non-urban visits. Fly open-jaw to avoid backtracking. Stay in Hostels and meet people. Keep your itinerary flexible.

And return here for more specific questions when you have them. Enjoy!

Posted by margaret
nanaimo
156 posts

My choices, easily accessible in a round trip,would be London, Berlin and Vienna. Easyjet is so cheap from London Gatwick to Berlin and Vienna cost us 60 Euro each one way with Air Berlin unless you took the train from Berlin to Vienna and stopped for a couple of days in Prague on the way.

Posted by Jim
Oklahoma City, OK, USA
430 posts

Some great advice so far. I particularly liked Randy's post about creating a balanced trip.

Actually listening to your question, I'll eliminate both Scandinavia and Italy as destinations for reasons you've already explained.

I've got to ask a follow-up question, though... are you looking for our favorite places in which to spend the 2 weeks you are alone, or our favorite places to spend the entire 4 weeks?

If you are talking about just the 2 weeks, a few groupings that immediately come to mind include:

Paris-Nice-Evian-Lyon-Amsterdam-Brussels-Brugge-Paris

Frankfurt-Rhine-Munich-Salzburg-Berlin-Koln-Frankfurt

Munich-Salzburg-Zurich-Lucerne-Bernese Oberland-Freiburg-Basel

Options abound...

Each of those groupings offers the ability to have a mix of city/country culture/nature tourist/local.

Tell us a little more about your interests, hobbies, comfort level with new things, and most importantly (to me at least) more specifics about your time constraints. Do you already have your gateway cities determined? (e.g. flights bought)

EDIT: Upon re-reading it looks like you are working to fill the full 4 weeks... in which case I'd pick 2 of the groupings I listed and work to flesh those out, including 4-6 major cities plus side-trips and stops along the way. Give more 'interets' details and we'll try to help.

Posted by Michael 1
Phoenix, AZ, USA
1035 posts

"We are planning our 4th trip for May 2010 and I still haven't been to Paris!"

You don't know what you are missing..... I hope Paris is in your plans for May.

Posted by Ali
Newton, MA, USA
278 posts

Michael - Nope! I don't feel a bit bad about it either... I'll have been on 4 trips since May 2008 so I'm not worried about going to Paris...it's not going anywhere. May plans are Baltics and Russia and I'm very excited!