Please sign in to post.

Help us with a fun, ambitious 15-day itinerary.

We're flying into Frankfurt for 15 days in June/July (booked a flight using miles). It's my first time in Europe, but my wife has already spent a summer in Germany and would prefer to see other countries/cultures also. We are totally open to various itineraries provided that we start and finish in Frankfurt. Probably leaning towards taking trains, but have not ruled out driving or even a one-way inter-Europe flight. We've been researching destinations and those below intrigue us the most:
Salzburg & Salzgammerkut region
Switzerland (Bernese Oberland)
Italy (Cinque Terre particularly)

Not sure if these could all be reached via a "loop" trip to/from Frankfurt? Italy might be dipping too far south, but getting a taste of Italian culture, food, scenery, etc. sounds really great (especially since all other areas on our list are German speaking).

About us: we're 30 years old, and our tastes usually dictate that 2-3 days in a city/area is usually enough to get a good feel for it -- we are not the "linger all day in a coffeehouse" or "spend the afternoon reading in our hotel room" type of travelers. Nor to we feel like we need to see the "major tourist sights" or every palace, museum, or castle in every city -- we are simply big walkers/hikers who love culture and nature and are energized by being on the move.

All that said, can anyone help out with itinerary planning and/or travel logistics to make this a fun trip for us?

Posted by
9 posts

I'd recommend both you and your wife purchase a Eurrail pass to use the trains. If you get it with Rick Steves you get a 20% discount on travel items. I saved $120.00 on things I purchased. The trains really do allow for optimum travel. The last time I was in Europe I was centered in Salzburg, and because of the train system, I was able to travel weekends. I went to Vienna, Melk, Austria (beautiful Monastery above the Danube), Venice, Rome, Munich and took a night train in a couchette to Paris. I felt that I got to see so much of the country that way. The time spent on the train did not feel wasted at all. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
4132 posts

For an ambitious, pack-it-all-in 15 days I would not (personally) plan to visit both the Bernese Oberland and the Cinque Terre. Getting to and from these places, and the time you spend there, would take up nearly half of your trip. If you do visit Italy, plan to fly home from there (Milan perhaps) and save a long trip back to Frankfurt.

A more logistically direct way (than Italy) to catch some Latin culture might be a side trip into France from Berne. You could swing though Alsace, or even end in Paris (flying home from there). That said, Italy is wonderful--it's just a question of what works for you.

Eurail passes may or may not be useful, but trains are a great way to get around.

Posted by
190 posts

Four years ago my daughter and I took a 26 day trip through Europe which included Ireland and the UK. So your continental trip is about the same length of time as the continental part of ours. I would suggest you first write down all of the places you want to visit, find out how long it would take to go to all of them, how long you want to stay in each place, and start whittling it down. And take Rick's advice to take overnight trains. Here's an idea for an itinerary: Frankfurt to Luxembourg City (great HI hostel there!Try their veggie lasagne for dinner; great hop-on/hop-off bus tour,too); Lux to Amsterdam; Amsterdam to Bruges/Brussels; B/B to Paris; overnight train to Florence; Florence to Venice; overnight train to Switzerland; Switz to Salzburg; overnight train to Frankfurt. Good luck and have a great trip!

Posted by
25 posts

There is also an overnight train from Munich to Venice (we took the reverse when we were there) that was awesome! This may help you get into Italy. Then you could do Venice, Florence, and the Cinque Terre and maybe still have time to stop somewhere in Switzerland or France (Alsace) on your way back to Frankfurt.

Posted by
683 posts

Why not Austria instead of Switzerland? Easier to get to, less timewise.
Innsbruck, Salzburg and Vienna are all worthwhile.
Northern Italy is captivating. You needn't waste time on Milan, except to transfer trains there. Bozen (Bolzano) is a northern city where German is more often spolen than Italian, Venice is enchanting (especially late in day and at night when crowds dissipate).Rome is not to be missed. Anything more in such a few days would be overkill and would make you feel harried.

Posted by
5 posts

Hi Pete. I would go to Murren in the Bernese Oberland and do the Schilthorn in the morning. While the town is full of tourists, there are a lot of hiking trails from there and the food was great. Scenery was spectacular, and I would go again. Plenty of hotels and the people are friendly. Dave

Posted by
4132 posts

On the question of reservations: You can travel without reservations in high season (which June 25 is) by calling ahead in the morning IF you are flexible and won't care having to sleep someplace that is not your first pick.

On the other hand, if your vacation would be ruined if there is no room at a special hotel or if one of your stops is a small town with limited facilities, then travelling without reservation is risky.

I'd certainly make a reservation for your first night.

Posted by
4 posts

We have traveled twice around western Europe using rail passes and think that is the way to go. We about 10 years older than you but very active travelers. As a previous post suggested, seriously consider overnight trains. We actually seek them out so that we can travel while we sleep and arrive at our next location without having wasted time traveling. AND, the overnight trains are a great experience. We have done both the couchettes and private sleeper cars. Both are experiences worth doing. We are going again this summer, with our teenage boys and are taking and overnight train from Munich to Florence, then on to Cinque Terre.

Both of our prior trips included a few days in Gimmelwald, it is definately a terrific experience. Make sure you head out early to beat the crowds if you want to get to the Schilthorn.
Enjoy yourselves.

Orange County CA

Posted by
30 posts

If you are as far as Salzburg, I would continue on to Hallstadt. It's a great little town with lots of history. Do the saltmine tour and see the little church where they move the bones. It's a beautiful drive around the Traunsee to the east if you want a different route. Have fun!

Posted by
1568 posts

The logistics will be interesting because you have included Italy.

I would suggest Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. One of the most majestic places I visited.

Excellent for hiking.

Ideal for day trip to Murren, Wengen, Gimmelwald and the Schlithorn...Piz Gloria.

We stayed at the Valley Hostel which was immaculate. From our 2nd story room we had an excellent view of the Eiger, Monch and the Jung Frau.

Franokfurt to Interlaken OST (5:15) Interlaken OST to Lauterbrunnen (20 mins).

Die Bahn -

Swiss Rail - SBB

Austria Rail -


Posted by
3 posts

Thanks to all who replied -- just wanted to update with our semi-final itinerary for those who may be interested. Most of this is "booked" but any tips/pointers for more fun and smoother travels along the way would be appreciated:

Day 1 -- Arrive Frankfurt airport; train to Munich
Day 2 -- Munich (jet lag day)
Day 3 -- Morning in Munich, train to Salzburg
Day 4 -- Salzburg
Day 5 -- Depart Salzburg, early AM train to Venice
Day 6 -- Morning in Venice, train to Florence
Day 7 -- Florence (museum day)
Day 8 -- Morning in Florence, train to Cinque Terre
Day 9 -- Cinque Terre (hiking day)
Day 10 -- Morning in Cinque Terre, train to Switzerland (overnight in Spiez to break up the journey)
Day 11 -- Morning in Spiez, train/lifts to Murren
Day 12 -- Murren
Day 13 -- Murren
Day 14 -- Morning/afternoon in Murren; train from Murren to Bern.
Day 15 -- Depart Bern; early AM train to Frankfurt Airport, fly home

Posted by
2779 posts

Frankfurt is very well worth a visit... it looks like you weren't even gonna spend at least half a day in the home town of Goethe, the birth place of Anne Frank etc. Other than that: Itinerary sounds fun, makes sense...

Posted by
152 posts

I guess I'm late on putting in my two cents. We have lived in Germany and traveled quite a lot. We do not like the trains. The only place we do them is Zurich to Interlaken area. We are staying in Lauterbrueen this summer. That is our favorite place of all. Will get the 5 day pass and just jump on and off. We loved the Schilthorn, but the weather was too bad to go two years ago. If it isn't clear don't waste your money. All the hotels have a webcam. We were in the Cinque Terre area in the summer and it was way too hot for us. The hotels and restaurants were not airconditioned and we waited until very late to eat. The train was crowded and late. My husband is a hiker and I do downhill. It was too hot for him to hike. We will go back sometime in the off season.
Salzburg was hot, but the area around Zell am See was great and lots of hiking. We are staying in Maria Alm in a time share and will be able to hike all the ski areas around. We are so lucky to have a month.

Posted by
316 posts

Don't worry about a jet lag day. If you're taking a train to Munich, you can "jet lag" then. Usually that's my slow day. By my first full day, I'm ready to go. On my last trip to Italy in November, I didn't even have jet lag on the day I arrived. Even if you feel a little sluggish, get out and get moving. You'll feel better and get past the jet lag quicker. You made a good decision not to drive since you would not be able to take a rental car from Germany to Italy or at least we couldn't a few years back. Sit back on the train and enjoy the scenery. Have a great trip.

Posted by
3 posts

We're back from our trip -- it was absolutely amazing. The itinerary timing was perfect for us; probably wouldn't have changed a thing (though we were a bit tired in Venice and turned off by the masses of tourists). The trains were great and, with a few minor exceptions, everything went off without a hitch. A few gems not covered Rick Steves' materials were:

1) Tourist House Ghiberti in Florence. Not expensive at all, but the nicest room I've ever stayed in, in the building where the Gates of Paradise were forged 600 years ago.

2) Trattoria Dal Billy in Manarola, Cinque Terre. Beautiful food and beautiful view.

3) "Tham" snack shop in Muerren, Switzerland. High in the Alps, the best and freshest-tasting Chinese food I've ever eaten, and I live in a city with some great Chinese food.