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Europe first timers

Hi there,

My partner and I are in our early 30's and looking to travel to Europe for the first time next May/June for 5 weeks. We would love any input on our (very) rough itinerary, particularly re: if we should spend more/less time in some places or reduce the places we are visiting (and if so which ones)? Or whether we should reconsider different places all together! Any help or advice or tips would be wonderful.

Our first thoughts are :

Arrive London (5 nights) - incl day trip to Bath

Paris (6 nights) - incl day trip to Chateau de Versailles, incl day tour to Reims

Bruges (3 nights)

Amsterdam (3 nights)

Venice (3 nights)

Florence (5 nights) (day trips out to Pisa & Cinque Terre & maybe Siena if time permits)

Depart Rome (5 nights)

We have 2 nights still spare - any suggestions on the best place(s) to add them to?

We would love to have Prague, Budapest and Vienna in the mix but I just don't think we'll have enough time? Germany will also have to wait for another day I think.

All feedback, advice etc is completely appreciated! Thank you :)

Posted by
1994 posts

It's wonderful to have that much time on your first trip. I think your plan looks quite realistic. I would not add another country – that's going to waste a lot of travel time for a VERY short stay. Instead I would take the two extra nights and add one of them to Rome, and add the other to either Florence or London (depending on which city most interests you).

Posted by
14917 posts

Overall t's a good plan for somehwat fast-paced travel. Have you taken into consideration travel time? On average, you lose 1/2 day to travel time with each location change when you factor in the time to pack, check out, get to train station, then find your new hotel, check in and drop your luggage. When you fly (Amsterdam-Venice?), add extra time to get to/from the airport, airline check-in, security and luggage collection on arrival. Rule of thumb: X nights equals X-1 days for sightseeing.

Consider reversing your itinerary so you are in the south (Italy) earlier, when temperatures will be somewhat less hot, and in the north later, when it may be warmer with less rain. Consider flying into Venice from home, then flying from Rome to the north. Venice is a great place to get over jetlag while absorbing the atmosphere. Prices and travel times may not be significantly different.

Unless Bath is a high priority, plan a day trip closer to London like Oxford or Cambridge. You can easily do an independent day trip to Reims, you don't need a tour. Consider staying in Ghent rather than Bruges. Spend a full day seeing each. Ghent is lovely in the evenings. The Cinque Terre take too long to get to. Either plan to spend at least one night or skip it. Pisa is a 1/2 day trip from Florence or if you're staying overnight in the CT, you can stop on the way to visit (store your luggage at the train station). If you leave Florence fairly early in the morning, you can be in your hotel in the CT by mid-afternoon (after Pisa). The next day you can get a late afternoon train to Rome. If you start your trip in Rome, you can reverse the order here.

Posted by
3580 posts

For "a vacation from your vacation" I suggest going to Cinque Terre for 3 nights after Venice. Stay one night less in Florence, then wrap it up in Rome. I think you have a good plan and are fortunate to be able to travel with more leisure than is possible for many travelers.

Posted by
605 posts

You've got a lot of city time in here. Since you don't necessarily know what you like in Europe, I would diversify your trip portfolio by mixing in some overnights in quaint countryside type places. I would do this by cutting out London or Amsterdam/Bruges altogether. Here's a rework:

Arrive Amstedam (3 nights)
Bruges (3 nights)
Paris (5 nights)
Beuane (3 nights) (stopping at Reims on the way there)
Chamonix (3 nights)
Cinque Terre (3 nights)
Venice (3 nights)
Florence (3 nights)
Sienna (2 nights)
Rome (4 nights)

Posted by
697 posts

We loved our day trip to Bath with London Walks. I wouldn't skip Bath. If you have two extra nights, I would add one to London and one to Paris. Both cities have so much to see. Have fun!

Posted by
601 posts

Buy the book RICK STEVES EUROPE THROUGH THE BACK DOOR 2016 --- it's even on SALE THIS WEEK ON THIS WEBSITE.

We think it is a MUST READ for anyone traveling to Europe. We've read it twice now, but really wish we had known about it before we ever went to Europe for the 1st time. It has FANTASTIC info on money, debit cards, packing, tipping, theft, passports, etc - and also GREAT info on each country.

And, if you need a great B&B in Amsterdam, I HIGHLY recommend Boogaards B&B - you can read amazing reviews on TripAdvisor and the website. If you plan on doing the Anne Frank House, get your tickets online super early.

In Florence, check out WalkAboutFlorence for day trips... you can read reviews on TripAdvisor and read about the tours here -
https://www.walkaboutflorence.com/italy-tuscany-florence-tours?gclid=CNuH7b_o08cCFUQ8gQodbZ8Aaw

Posted by
56 posts

That's a great itinerary and I agree with the previous comments. Once you do the research, choosing where and when to spend your time is subjective. For me, one night in Bruges is plenty and I might save Rome for next time, adding a stop in Germany. Again...all personal preference. No matter what you decide, this looks like great trip!

I think one of your major decisions will be booking rooms in advance. Make sure if you do, you keep a good email record and understand the cancellation policies of your hotels, B&B's, etc. On a trip this long, you may find yourself shortening stays at some locations and lengthening others. Happy travels!

Posted by
116 posts

An interesting question with an infinite number of answers :-).

Actually I like Matt's revision ideas as shown above with his alternative suggestion of subbing London for Amsterdam and Bruges. Spending a bit of time outside the big cities is a good idea and Beaune is a lovely place. As always, personal preferences will dictate. For me, Pisa is missable but Sienna is a must. Cinque Terre is interesting but will be so crowded as to be frustrating at that time of year. If you go there stay overnight as most of the crowds are day trippers.

I also suggest that in at least one of your places you consider an apartment rather than a B&B or hotel. We have done this in Rome and London (Vienna in October). In Rome we got a place 2 short blocks from Piazza Navona for 5 nights. It was interesting to become a temporary local, to shop in the grocery store and the street markets and become a local at the corner coffee stand. If interested take a look at VRBO or Homeaway web sites.

Enjoy, Robbie

Posted by
3621 posts

Since you ".. have 2 nights still spare.." and want suggestions about using them, I would add one to London and one to Venice. One day in London might be "lost" to jet lag recovery, and three nights in Venice only gives you two full days and perhaps part of another depending on arrival time. As someone mentioned, travel between places will eat up more time than you think.

Posted by
30 posts

Hi,

My wife and I just got did three weeks in Europe and these are my thoughts. We also arrived via London (cheapest airfare into Europe is through London.) We flew out of Venice to Abu Dhabi. London is a lot more expensive than the rest of Europe so if money is tight, you could cut a day or two from there. 3 nights in Venice seems a bit much. 5 nights in Rome also seems a bit much unless you plan to go to Pompeii or Hadrian's villa.

Posted by
697 posts

"3 nights in Venice seems a bit much. 5 nights in Rome also seems a bit much unless you plan to go to Pompeii or Hadrian's villa."

I disagree. We spent 3 nights in Venice and it was perfect. We also did 5 in Rome with no day trips and we had plenty to keep us happy & occupied. We also did a week in Paris and, as always, its never enough. Enjoy your trip, however you plan it. I agree with other posters, its your trip so you get to decide what to do. That's the fun part! Enjoy.

Posted by
2914 posts

I think your itinerary is very good. Personally, I would add a day to Amsterdam, and if you really plan on having three day trips from Florence, I'd add a day there. If you are into art history/architecture/craft/food, Florence is particularly important and I'd pick Siena as the only day trip. I say this having been to all those base cities except Bruges. I can have a vacation from my vacation in any place I visit, I don't need to go somewhere in particular to do it...I never understood that philosophy. Besides, I think if you need a vacation from your vacation you are doing it all wrong. My goodness, I sound cranky today... Best, Wray.

Posted by
544 posts

Since it's your first time, a word of advice is that European cities are typically a more crowded experience than most cities in N. America. Think Manhattan-like busy. It can be exhausting dealing with all the crowds all the time.

I highly recommend adding as many, at least two-night stays, in small towns between your big city stops as possible. Besides being less busy, small towns also are easier spots to connect with locals and other tourists.

I also suggest to start in the south and head north so that you're in Italy as early as possible in your trip and it's less hot.

I'd also probably either cut out the UK for this trip, or do it last. Just to save time for more on the continent.

Lastly, try and avoid too many non-refundable reservations, that way you can adjust your trip as you go if you decide to stay somewhere longer. Cheap fares on express trains and airlines can be compelling, but flexibility is worth a lot too.

Good luck with your plans!

Posted by
2 posts

Wow, some truely amazing feedback here and great suggestions. Thank you all for taking the time to do that, I greatly appreciate it. I think a few nights in Cinque Terre will be on the itinerary now, and maybe some time in Siena or Lucca with the other nights up our sleeves. Italy is at the top of my list in terms of where I'd like to spend the bulk of time, but of course I must compromise with the boyfriend who would enjoy time in London, Bruges and Amsterdam. We are hating to have to leave Barcelona out as it's on the top of both of our lists but it is definitely an outlier in our itinerary....

Posted by
537 posts

Hi
Reading your last post brought back memories from the early years of my marriage when we were fortunate enough to able to travel to Europe every other year. After the first trip (when we explored England); we took turns choosing the region . So I choose Switzerland and Austria for the 3 weeks that year. his turn- he choose Italy -I groaned inside BUT Italy turned out to be one of our best trips and 'if-I could live abroad' choice.
Other posters have said= always plan as if you'll come back=
I think your plan looks good - but I might remove London and add more time in Paris
Agree with the poster who suggested apartments - we did that in Paris and Florence and it worked great- nice to have the space to stretch out
enjoy

Posted by
618 posts

Looks like a great plan for a wonderful trip. I second the idea of picking a smaller Italian town for a two or three night visit. My husband and I stayed three nights in Orvieto on our honeymoon and loved it. You can also visit Civita di Bagnoregio from there if it catches your fancy. Just one of many lovely towns to pick from!