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Four- to six-hour train stops worth making

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The constant advice on this forum is to slow down and smell the roses, and I certainly appreciate that. But my personal view is that for someone who is traveling reasonably light, it can be highly rewarding to hop off a train, check one's suitcase at the station, and walk and see a sight or two before continuing one's journey. This often works well with a nice meal.

I'm not suggesting that one should blow through Europe visiting four cities a day. But I also think it's foolish to just pass through certain cities without getting off to look around. So at any rate, I'm going to list a few cities that I think are ideal for a stop of a few hours. Their inclusion doesn't mean they aren't worthy of a stop of several days; just that a few hours is better than none.

COLOGNE -- The Cathedral, very close to the train station, is ranked by many as the top sights in Europe. And after the Cathedral? Well, not so much. Nobody should pass through Cologne without taking two or three hours to see the cathedral and perhaps climb the towers.

BRUSSELS -- Some declare this city "boring," but the Grand Place is still grand. I've stopped in Brussels twice for a five or six hour break and enjoyed it both times.

PADUA -- You have to go through here to go from Venice to Florence. Why not stop for two hours and see the Scrovegni murals? Book ahead.

FLORENCE -- Okay, I think it's dumb to go to Italy and visit Florence for four or five hours. It's even dumber to just take a train from Rome to Venice and skip Florence altogether. At the very least look around, see the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio, maybe have lunch or at least a gelato!

Does anyone else have cities that are on regular rail routes that they think are ideal for a quick stopover visit of just a few hours? If so I'd love to hear them!

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