Germany or Paris first?

I am taking my 18 year old granddaughter to Paris, Strasberg, Munich, Nuremberg, Berlin then back to Los Angeles. I would like to reverse the order, so that we end our trip on a happier note than the history we will be seeking in Germany. BUT, we will be travelling for 3 weeks ending around the 10th of Sept. 2013. I read that to visit Paris it is better to be there in August instead of September, to see the "touristy" free events like performers on the sidewalks, etc. Is it true that Paris is better in late Aug. rather than Sept.? We need to see free things if possible, then of course will do the regular things like the museums and sites that will still be there. Also, do the trade shows make the hotel prices go up? We will be there for a week, our first and only time.
Thank you all!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4871 posts

The advantage of Paris in August is that lodging is often cheaper. When I was there for an early August visit, a section of the right bank of the Seine had been turned into a beach with fun activities. Sidewalk performers don't leave on 9/1. You can find them in September too. You can find lodging you are interested in and compare the prices between the two months. For a one week stay you might consider an apartment, especially if budget is a concern. It is usually less expensive than a hotel, you will have more space, and you can save money by not having to eat each meal out.

Posted by Tom
Stafford, Virginia, USA
138 posts

We visited Paris in September a couple of years ago and it was gorgeous. I wouldn't have any qualms about being there then.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7827 posts

Hotel prices in Paris in August, well many but not all hotels do offer "L'Ete Promotions" ( summer sales) prices from about mid july thru August, then yes, September is high season again ( not about the tourists, there are still quite a few of them, but its about the trade and fashion show season which fill hotels and keep rates high).. The "Paris Plage" which is a rather fun beach scene set up on the banks of the Seine is usually not all summer, I think they closed it second-third week in august this year. It is a manmade beach along the bank of the river ( right bank) and it is very very nice to stroll along in evening , street musicans, many families picnicing , kids playing etc. I have been to Paris in May, June, July , August, September, and October. There are pluses and minuses to each month. I would choose to go in any of those months again ( well I do of course) . Weather is a total crap shoot, been cold in August and hot in May. If you choose to go in September then do book hotel early, by feb-mar latest to get your first choice, there are always rooms somewhere, but the good budget to moderate places get booked up fast, september is still very popular with tourists( who all think they are avoiding the other tourists, lol )

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9131 posts

"so that we end our trip on a happier note than the history we will be seeking in Germany." I wouldn't describe Nürnberg, Munich or Berlin as gloomy or overburdened by history at all! Let me quote my neighbor: "Why do so many American tourists seem to think that German history began in 1933 and ended in 1945?"

Posted by Debi
Sherman Oaks, CA, USA
257 posts

I just spent two weeks in Paris is September, my absolute favorite month to be in Paris. As a matter of fact it is usually just like our beautiful
CA weather!! I would say that most places we went to were not crowded like the summer months. Consider an apartment, cheaper and more room than a hotel for sure. Happy Travels!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2696 posts

I can think of numerous reasons why these American tourists would think that way. @ Kris...If you want to find those sites of gloomy history in Munich, Nürnberg, and Berlin, you can absolutely find them, I have...a lot of them. The same can be said of Paris too. (Look for plaques on walls that say "fusillés.") To avoid all that in Munich, Berlin. and Nürnberg is also easily done, probably the easiest in Munich. As pointed out above, some hotels in Paris offer a reduced rate in August as they do in Germany. In Sept. you run the risk of trade fairs in certain German cities where the hotels increase the rates.

Posted by James
Frisco
1799 posts

Kris, seek out the history in Germany. When history is forgotten it is repeated. I made the "mistake"(?) of visiting Central (Eastern) Europe first and now I havent really wanted to go to Germany. I sort of wish I had done it the other way around. My issue, no one elses. For me, even being from Texas, August in Europe is not pleasant. These folks havent learned to appreciate (or install) the air conditioner; and now with the current global warm spell its worse. I gues if I had to go some place in August i would choose Germany. Check Weather.com it might be a little cooler in Germany than Paris. I also agree with others that September is a pretty ideal times to visit Paris and Paris is one of those places that should be seen under ideal circumstances. My other problem with August is that its the High Tourist Season throughout most of Europe which i also find miserable. Oh, finally if you enjoy theater (really a great thing to do in Paris) you might check and see what theaters are open in August. In a lot (most?) of the world they shut down for July and August; which I am guessing is a tradition due to the heat of the summer and no air conditioning in the old days (and now in many great theaters).

Posted by Kris
Los Angeles, ca.
32 posts

Thank you all for your responses! I have responded to all privately and encourage further input! I don't mean to slight Germany; we will be there half of our 3 weeks, but I was trying to make my questions about Paris to the point. My granddaughter is studying WWII history is why it will be impactful to end with.
ALL ADVICE ABOUT FRANCE AND GERMANY IS WELCOME! I AM A EUROPEAN TRAVEL VIRGIN! Like I don't know where to buy euros, just any random advice anyone has would be great! Thanks again all, Kris

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

Use your ATM or debit card to get euros from ATMs in Europe. If you want to buy some before you leave (I like having some local currency on me when I arrive), ask your bank or AAA how much it costs to purchase 50 or 100 euros. Be sure to notify your bank and credit card companies about your trip - tell them which countries you'll be in and when, so they won't flag your account if they see a transaction. It sounds like you'd really benefit from reading "Europe through the Back Door." Rick Steves can answer a lot of your questions, including questions you didn't even know you had!

Posted by Mark
Santa Barbara, CA, USA
144 posts

Kris, if your granddaughter is interested in history, I would highly recommend the German Historical Museum. They had recently a very interesting special exhibit on the German Democratic Republic (focus on the DDR). For some reason the day I visited it was free. Germany has a lot more to offer than what is listed in the RS guide so I would advice to look at other sources as well.
I really do not feel that the visiting order will make a difference. France has many sobering sites from WW2 that have been preserved if this is the focus of your trip.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

I wouldn't worry about seeing Germany first or Paris first. Pick the one that works best with your flights and hotel rooms. Yes, for money information, read Rick's excellent summary here. For lots of other useful information for first timers, definitely get Europe Through The Back Door. And yes, if you want to see "unhappy history," it's all over Europe, not just in Germany. And if you want to avoid unhappiness, you can do that everywhere too. I just went to Berlin and Dresden with my mother in September 2012 (my trip report here). One of my mother's specific demands was that we avoid Nazi sights (I had been to Berlin twice before, so I had seen many on those trips). We did, but we hardly ran out of other things to see and do. Berlin, like New York or London or Paris, has a lot of variety; you could spend a whole vacation just on Jewish sights, or just on fine art museums, or just on architecture... If you need a break from anything "heavy" in Berlin, I recommend the aquarium. The zoo is more famous, but I enjoyed the aquarium much more.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2696 posts

Kris, I have been in both Paris and Berlin in August, depending on which trip. Yes, the heat can get oppressive, but it is in August where you could get reduced rates. Between the two I prefer to be in Berlin in August. On seeing the history as an overview, I suggest going to the Ger. Historical Museum (DHM) on Unter den Linden, as recommended above, and also the French Army Museum at Les Invalides; compare how the WW II history is treated. If you don't read German, the English explanation is provided next to the exhibits at the DHM. Depending on the level of your interest in WW II, there are numerous other museums, cemteries, and the Nazi sites, some of them pretty poignant. Anything in particular you are looking for in Berlin? If you're lucky you just might stumble on to an open air symphony concert (Konzert im Freien) on a Sunday afternoon at Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin Mitte. It's quite an experience to say the least.

Posted by Kris
Los Angeles, ca.
32 posts

Thank you all and Fred. ....... rates. Between the two I prefer to be in Berlin in August. (from Fred) Me- Because of the heat or the events? I'm reading that the fun free "touristy" events in Paris end in August. Do you know? We will be more back door and people-oriented in our other 3-4 sites, but in Paris will be in tourist mode. That is my hesitation about missing Paris in August. Any advice anyone? Fred-On seeing the history as an overview, I suggest going to the Ger. Historical Museum (DHM) on Unter den Linden, as recommended above, and also the French Army Museum at Les Invalides; compare how the WW II history is treated. Me- I like advice on museums as there are many,,,,are these in Berlin or Paris? Fred-Depending on the level of your interest in WW II, there are numerous other museums, cemteries, and the Nazi sites, some of them pretty poignant. Anything in particular you are looking for in Berlin? Me- Well she wants to see the Berlin Wall. I told her there isn't much of it left, but that is what is on our agenda so far. We will go to the minor Nazi camp nearby, but we will have a few days there so suggestions are welcome! Fred-If you're lucky you just might stumble on to an open air symphony concert (Konzert im Freien) on a Sunday afternoon at Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin Mitte. It's quite an experience to say the least.
Me- I am fluent in Spanish so can read French and will probably learn quite a lot before we go, but German is pretty different so that will be on flashcards for me to show to people when we need something. Does this above mean "middle Berlin?". Do you know how we can find out when such events may be taking place when we are there? Thanks Fred and all! This really helps! Kris

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2696 posts

Hi, I'll address a few of the museums (historical) in Berlin. As recommended above, the Ger Hist. Museum (DHM) on Unter den Linden is the one to see on getting an overview on German history. I recommend it too in regards to the historical concepts it covers, for non-German readers the English explanation is given for each exhibit, comprehensive in its coverage. Another recommended museum is in Berlin-Karlshorst, take the S-Bahn 3 (Direction: Eckner). It's pretty far east from Berlin Hbf. Once out of the station signs point the way. This building (as a WW II site) is where the Germans surrendered to the Soviets in 1945 a day after they did to Ike in Reims (which makes a good trip r/t from Paris Est). If you want to see WW II other than from the Anglo-American perspective, ie. from the German and the Russian, I heartily suggest it. I've seen this a couple of times. In Berlin-Wedding there is the Anti-War Museum, accessible on the U-Bahn. I have not gotten to this one yet. Near the HI Youth Hostel on Kluckstrasse, the sign points ca. 300 meters, is the Resistance Museum (Gedenkstätte deutscher Widerstand). This museum opened up in early 1989 and it in August I was there. Of course, it has expanded a lot since then. The museum is all in German but you can get the audio guide head-sets, which was not the case in 1989. The emphasis here is to show that the resistance was not merely a military one. Re: why August? I found the weather in Berlin more constant, ie. sunny and hot. In Paris I've experienced weather where it rained in August.

Posted by Rik
Vicenza, Italy
702 posts

Paris is practically a suburb of Berlin. That's why the French and the Germans have always been allies...

Posted by LaRae
spokane
472 posts

Unless you do a tour of a concentration camp I don't think you have to worry about feeling unhappy.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

I have found so much of Europe takes the month of August for vacations, and the month of September is a much better time to start a trip there. The weather in September is also much more favorable, or not as hot. They're not as air conditioned as well as the U.S. Your reverse order for itineraries would be preferable, as leaving from Paris would allow you to leave with great memories of that incredibly beautiful city.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

Since your granddaughter is interested in the Berlin Wall, be sure not to miss the Bernauer Strasse section of the Berlin Wall (particulary the videos in the visitors center), and the exhibit inside the Nordbahnhof S-Bahn station. All of this is free, and quite fascinating and well done. My mother went mostly to please me, but agreed it was one of the highlights of our trip. We also liked the DDR Museum, and agree that the German Historical Museum is a must. Yes, Berlin Mitte is the district in the middle of the city. Guidebooks (I used Rick Steves and was pleased with it, but of course there are others) will explains some of the other districts, like Charlottenburg and Kreuzburg.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

I would do Paris first for the reason that August is "low season" in Paris, and hotels become more expensive and book up more in September as the locals return and conferences and fashion stuff gets started again in that city. Europeans vacation in August, so you'll find any major city less "busy" than usual during that time in terms of locals. The downside is that some restaurants and shops close in Paris for all or part of the month, but it's worth it probably for the hotel deals you're likely to find compared to September. Weather is unpredictable in either place in both months, but I'd expect hot and be pleasantly surprised if it's not. In both cities but Paris especially I'd get a hotel room with A/C if you're not used to sleeping in a hot room. You might get "lucky" and be there during a cool and/or rainy spell and not need it, it's hard to say, but a heatwave in Paris without A/C in the hotel is unpleasant indeed. It's not a dry heat like L.A. I don't think Berlin is depressing at all. The history there is sobering, but it's also such a lively, fun city that I think it would be hard to feel depressed about it the entire time. And as others have said, Paris has plenty of depressing sites and memorials as well. You can't really escape WWII history in most of Europe. For a "fun" history museum, the DDR museum in Berlin is great. While people suffered under the regime, it wasn't all bad (hence "Ost-ologie") and the museum presents the time in an informative, entertaining manner.

Posted by Tom
Oak Brook, IL
160 posts

Kris, In the intersst of WWII history, have you considered a day or two in Normandy?

Posted by Angela
Sammamish, WA
403 posts

We were in Berlin with our 2 teenagers this past summer. If you are both able to do basic bike riding, I highly recommend Fat Tire Bike Tours for first timers in Berlin. We had a blast with a youthful, English-speaking guide who covered lots of history without making it too heavy. We did the half day city tour. It was a great way to get an overview of the sites and pick what to visit in depth later. Berlin is totally flat, and the bikes are very comfy so it is quite easy to do.
Both Berlin and Paris have innumerable layers of history, but are also vibrant modern cities. I wouldn't worry too much about getting bogged down in either one. See the thought-provoking stuff; it's important. And then have some fun in these world class cities. Both are fabulous, and I don't think it matters which comes first. You won't be bored either way!

Posted by Kris
Los Angeles, ca.
32 posts

I keep avidly reading, all! Thank you all. Since you are so kind, I'll nw ask if anyone has favorite areas around Strausberg France or Munich. I have just sort of randomly picked Strasburg ( sorry about the spelling) but have connections in Munich. Those 4 areas will be our 21 day trip....Paris, Strausburg, Munich, Berlin. What do you all think? Does that sound sane and any other must see's from you? We want to see castles. Does anyone know if one can sleep in a castle anywhere in those areas?
Thanks! You all are totally making my trip! Kris

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1560 posts

Loved Strasburg. Are you driving? Someone suggested you get Rick's tour books, great idea as you have so much time before you go. Start with the Europe Through Back Door, then move on to country specific books. Also suggest you look at Graffiti section of this site for tips such as tourist scams, food in each country, packing light, you might make granddaughter zone in on that, LOL. Also suggest you get a loose leaf book and organize it by category so not overwhelmed with first trip.

Posted by Kris
Los Angeles, ca.
32 posts

Great ideas, all! Thanks! I think I am decided on that itinerary. A loose leaf notebook sounds good so I can cut up all the notes that I am taking and see them hard copy. I'll check the graffiti wall more. This site is terrific! Anything else I should ask Santa for besides the Through the back door book and the France and Germany RS books?

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

I love Strasbourg and it makes a logical stopover from Paris to Munich. It's cathedral is the most beautiful one I've seen in Europe. Strasbourg is also well positioned between the Alsatian wine road and the Black Forest in Germany, meaning sights in both are easily accessible for day trips. I'd plan on at least one full day (maybe a day and a half) to get the most of Strasbourg (Alsacien museum, cathedral, cathedral museum, boat ride, just wandering around, maybe the European Union site), and then a day trip to one of the Alsatian villages (Colmar, most of a city than a village, is charming and easily accessible by train. If you're driving, you have a ton of options - see the RS France book for more info) then maybe a stopover in the northern Black forest on your way towards Munich.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2696 posts

Kris, Re: the open air symphony concerts you asked about. I know of three sites for the Tourist Office in Berlin, (used to be called Verkehrsamt), now Tourist Info. Two of the sites are easiest for you to access, one is at Berlin Hauptbahnhof on the ground floor facing the Invalidenstrasse exit. (It's also the street where the Prussian military cemetery is located ca. 20 mins from Berlin Hbf.) The other one is on the eastern side of the Brandenburg Gate at Pariser Platz. Every staff member at TI speaks good English. I would ask at the Tourist Info about any Sunday open air concerts esp. if you're into classical music and Beethoven.

Posted by Kris
Los Angeles, ca.
32 posts

Thanks, Fred! Will do these! Kris I'm having trouble with tripadvisor and don't want to make another general post as I feel I am overcoming my welcome, but if anyone reading this knows how to use it I would appreciate some input. I asked for Paris apt. sites and someone responded but I can't read the response. I get: Here's the you requested. Someone's just posted an to the forum post Seeking advice from Pat and others-Paris apt.. To read the new post, click here. Note: this is the only alert we'll send on this topic until you visit it again.
To stop receiving alerts on this topic, click here. In my email but it says it is removed on the other end I can can't find my question to read responses. thanks

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8756 posts

Kris, that is something I have never seen on TripAdvisor. You haven't wound up on a spoof site have you? Kris, you certainly haven't overstayed your welcome. Keep 'em coming. What else can we help with?

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
2899 posts

Kris, It is possible that the tripadvisor post you wrote was closed for some reason. That can happen if you accidentally posted to the wrong forum. On Tripadvisor you can see easily see all the posts you have ever written. To do this: 1) Logon to tripadvisor 2) On the top left, point to "Your Tripadvisor" and select "contributions"
3) On the left side, under "Profile" select "Forums" and you will get a complete list of every question you have ever asked or responded to. It is one of the great features about tripadvisor that I wish this forum had.

Posted by Kris
Los Angeles, ca.
32 posts

Thanks for your kind responses. I have spent a lot of time trying to make things work but I guess tripadvisor is just not going to work for me.....Thank goodness for you all on RS!