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2-2.5 weeks in Europe

We are planning a 2-2.5 week trip with our 15 & 10 year old boys. I'm a history geek but my husband and kids can only take so much of that. Any suggestions as to where to go? Initially we were thinking of starting in Barcelona and then driving to Nice and Cinque Terra but I'd love to know what others would do.

We would be flying in from San Francisco, and are open to travel by train or rental car while in Europe.

Thanks for any recommendations!

Posted by
397 posts

When are you planning to go?

If renting a car, know that the fee to pick up in one country and drop off in another can be hundreds of euros. Also, when renting a car consider how much luggage you’ll be bringing so you can fit it all!

What do your husband and kids like to do? Hiking? Water parks? Beaches? I would get them in on the planning and work around what interests them. You can then learn the history of wherever you decide, and be the family’s private guide.

I’m a history geek too. I love ruins and castles and walled towns. We spent three weeks driving through Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Italy in June/July 2018. We went to one museum - an air museum for my WWII geek son. That was enough museums for my family. But we went to several castles (preserved and ruins), wandered ancient towns, and slept in an 800 year old inn. History doesn’t have to mean boring museums.

If you’re planning this for the summer, consider the weather and crowds. If you must go in summer, go as early as possible. We started our trip along the Rhine river in mid-June (2018) and it wasn’t crowded or hot at all. By the time we got to Venice in early July, it was CROWDED and HOT.

Posted by
1992 posts

May I ask what part of history are you most enthusiastic about?

Posted by
14206 posts

Just guessing here that with school-age kids you are planning to go in summer. The route you're suggesting will be filling with tourists, especially the Cinque Terre, and high season prices especially on the French Riviera. The area is well-served by train.

Have you been to Europe before? Where? Driven a car there? Do you want beach time?

Posted by
5 posts

Sorry, here’s some more info. We’re planning to go the last 2 weeks of June. We have been to the UK and parts of Italy before. We took a train from Paris to Florence & then drove to Rome and eventually Cinque Terre.

I like all European history. On past trips the boys have enjoyed various parks, science & military museums, beaches, etc. My husband is a musician and sports fan.

Thanks for the help!

Posted by
6553 posts

For the last of June, you might want to remain a little farther north than the Mediterranean coastline. Maybe Vienna, Salzburg and Munich would be better as they're very much music cities. Great castles and palaces too. And the WWII history's sure there.

Posted by
202 posts

You could drive up into the Dordogne region and back. Fly into and out of Barcelona (a fairly cheap town to fly to), rent a car, visit Cathar castles with great views giving your kids a chance to scramble around on the way up, stay in smaller towns or in the country (that shouldn't be too expensive), stop in at Albi, visit some markets, visit a winery, medieval sites everywhere, boat down the Lot or Dordogne rivers, visit a prehistoric cave or two, perhaps a stay in Collioure on the coast on the way up or back? Plan on about 4 or 5 days without a car in and around Barcelona either at the start or on your return.

(I am planning on doing such a trip this September, adding a leg in the Pays Basque on the way back, as we will have about 3 1/2 weeks).

Posted by
978 posts

Thats such a big question. So many possibilities. So you've already been the the CT - do you want to go back? I travel with my similar-aged kids, so understand the balance required in planning. We aim for outdoor, sporty experiences (usually including water) and culture/history. We liked Barcelona but didn't love it, liked Girona and Figueres (both north of BCN - Girona has a walled section and stairs used in Game of Thrones; sort of fun. Figueres has the Dali museum, which my kids enjoyed-ish). Cadaques, on the coast from Figueres, has Dali's house but also a swim opportunity. We loved Cassis, which is on the French riviera just east of Marseille. We hiked to the Calanques. D'en Vau was so fun for a ½ day. There is cliff jumping that my then-13yo son was thrilled to do for hours. Then we drove to Nice to catch a train into Italy. Nice wasn't our thing. We went to the CT as well, and loved the hiking and swimming (another cliff jumping spot in Manarola), but since you've been to many places in Italy, why not somewhere new? There are many places in northern Italy that could be alternates. You could train from Spain to Marseill, rent a car for the coastal time in France, drop it in Nice and train into Italy for a few days.
That said, this is a LOT for the time you have. I would think in terms of Spain and France. We spent 3 ½ weeks just in Northern Spain this past summer and it was SO fun.
To start, I would be leery of spreading yourself too thin and I wouldn't repeat a place you've been...

Posted by
1992 posts

Considering you have posted this question under the Spain section, I assume you would like to see more of Spain, beyond Barcelona, before making a b-line to France/Italy etc.?

If that is the case Spain offers plenty in the way of history, parks, science, military museums, beaches, etc. Why not start in Madrid and make a road trip to Barcelona? Along the way you will find incredibly preserved Roman ruins, Crusader Castles, Royal Monasteries, a medieval town hanging on a cliff, and the most beautiful village in Spain. I'd recommend this route:

Fly in to Madrid
Madrid (3 nights) - See Spanish Naval Museum, rent car
drive south to
Toledo (2 nights) - See Spanish Army Museum
drive east, stop at the Roman city of Segobriga, continue to
Cuenca (2 nights) - stay at the Parador, hiking daytrip to Ciudad Encantada
continue east until
Valencia (3 nights) - see City of Sciences, day trip to Albarracín (prettiest village in Spain)
drive north along coast, stop at the Knights Templar Castle at Peñíscola, continue north
Tarragona (2 nights) - see Roman ruins, day trip to Poblet Royal Monastery (UNESCO Site)
continue north to
Barcelona (4 nights) - drop off car
Fly out of Barcelona

I think you and your family will have a much more rewarding time if you use those 2.5 weeks to focus in on Spain, considering you have already been to France and Italy.

Posted by
1992 posts

Also if you are looking for a unique beach look no further than this one, nice and sandy and in the shadow of a 13th century Knights Templar castle to boot! just north of Valencia -

or this one too, Tossa de Mar, just north of Barcelona (also in the shadow of a Castle):