My husband and I will be spending December 23-January 6th in Europe. We are flying into Paris and out of Zurich. I would love your advice on lodging, trains, and the amount of time to spend each place. We are looking for nice, but inexpensive lodging. Here is the plan: 2 nights in Paris train to Interlaken Switzerland 2-3 nights in Murren, or Lauterbrunen Valley area train to Venice 3 nights in Venice train to Rome 2 nights in Rome (should we stay in Rome or Orvieto) train to Florence 3 nights in Florence (day trip to Sienna) Last night in Zurich by airport
Seems like you will be spending most of your time on a train.
I am not sure why you opted to fly into Paris and out of Zurich. A much better scenario would have been to fly into Paris, go through Switzerland and visit your locations there and then onto Venice, Florence and Rome and fly out of Rome. As the previous poster stated, you are going to be spending a lot of time on trains this way. Paris to Interlaken is about 7 to 8 hours. Murren to Venice is another 7 to 8 hours. Travel time between Venice and Rome on the train is about 4.5 hours on Eurostar and about 6 on the slower trains. Rome to Florence is about 2 hours on Eurostar and Florence to Zurich is about 6 hours. So basically, about 4 days of your trip will be spent on trains. One option you might look at is to try some of the budget airlines in Europe instead of the train.
We did one of those trips 16 years ago -- never again. Judy is correct -- you will be spending a lot of time on trains. But another huge time waster is finding/checking in and out of hotels, packing, unpacking, finding train stations, waiting for trains, getting oriented in the new city, etc. We now plan on losing at least a half day in addition to travel times each time we change locations. In addition you have no planned down time. We now plan at least a half day if not a full day of dead time every three to five days just to recover and get reorganized. Efficient traveling is hard work.
Judy's suggestion for the airline may not be totally workable. We consider air IF the train travel is more than 6 to 8 hours. While a flight is quick, getting on and off the airplane is not.
Personally I would save Rome and Florence for the next trip and add some areas in France, Germany, and Switzerland. And I might drop Venice simply because the winter weather, high water, etc. can make Venice very marginal in winter.
I have to agree with the other posters. Your dip down into Italy is going to really add travel time and everything will be a blur from the train window and getting orientated. I would drop Italy. Focus on France and Switzerland. Both countries have so much to offer, I don't think you will miss what you don't have. Plus by dropping Italy, you will give yourself more time to enjoy where you are. Having said that - we stayed at Hotel Londres Eiffel in Paris. Great Location. Best bakery in the world around the corner. At the doorstep of the Eiffel Tower. www.londres-eiffel.com. We stayed at Walter's famed place in Gimmewald, Hotel Mittaghorn. Loved it. We stayed at Hotel Italia Roma in Rome. Nothing special as far as a room, but great location. Walking distance to most everything. www.hotelitaliaroma.com. In Siena we stayed at Hotel Chiusarelli. Decent enough place to stay, nice breakfast. It caught my eye for the wine tour they offered which was great. www.chiusarelli.com. In Venice - Hotel Campiello. Just around the corner from St. Mark's Sq. Another great breakfast and cute comfy room with a shower!! A real shower!! That was a highlight for the last days of my trip. Anyone paying attention will no doubt see these are all Rick places - but hey, he's never done me wrong. :) Oh and one more thing - I strongly recommend you try to give Paris 4 nights. I have vowed to always give myself 4 nights wherever I stop first to deal with the jetlag. Plus Paris has so much to offer, 2 nights is just so little. Good luck, hope you have a blast.
Shane, I agree that Italy has everything to offer - but I think her plane tickets are already bought for Paris/Zurich. And France and Switzerland have a ton to offer, so Italy can come at another time.
Depending on what time your flight leaves Zurich, I would spend my last night in Luzern. It is only about one hour from the Zurich airport and the train runs from the Luzern train station to the Zurich airport. Luzern is a much nicer than a hotel near the airport.
I heartily disagree about Rome vs. Paris. I think Paris is much more beautiful, but Rome - as a city we didn't enjoy it - has so many incredible sights: The Vatican, Roman Forum and Colosseum are musts. We stayed at Finestra su Roma, inexpensive and a good location near the metro. Maria, who runs it, speaks perfect English and has lived in the states. In Florence we stayed at Casa Rabatti and Mama Rabatti treated us like family (see Rick's book). As a matter of fact she gave our 12-year-old son his first taste of wine. You should have seen his eyes when she poured it (not to mention ours). Tell them both I say, "Hi." I forget the name of where we stayed in Venice (Hotel Albergio maybe) near the Rialto, also in Rick's book. A beautiful old palace includes a nice breakfast.
... or maybe it's Hotel Guerrato (spelling??) in Venice.