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22 days in Amsterdam, Germany, Austria and Switzerland

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Jan 15th, 2015, 08:27 PM
  #1
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22 days in Amsterdam, Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Hello everyone,

I'm new to Fodors. Just wondering if someone can help me out plan our trip. My wife and I are planning to visit these countries this July. We only have 22 days. We are flying from Vancouver, Canada. We plan to start in Amsterdam. Highlights would include the canal cruise and check out a couple of museum plus the Annek Frank house and do a daytrip to Belgium. Not sure whether to see Brussels or Bruges. From Amsterdam, we want to head to Germany by train. We don't know where to buy the train tickets. The 2 cities in our list right now is Berlin to see the Berlin wall and Munich to see the castle. We are not sure what else to do here. From Germany, do we go to Austria first then to Switzerland or vice versa?

I'm looking forward to your comments and suggestions and we are thanking everyone in advance.
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Jan 15th, 2015, 10:04 PM
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First, Amsterdam is a city in The Netherlands.

A better plan would be to spend a few days in Amsterdam, then take a train to Brussels/Bruges/wherever in Belgium (what there is to see depends entirely on what interests you) and stay there a day or two, then take the train to Germany. If you head to Berlin first, being in Munich puts you close to Austria. And then from Austria you can go to Switzerland.

Best place to buy tickets would be from the Deutsche Bahn website. They have an English version here: http://www.bahn.de/p_en/view/index.shtml If the price says "Tariff abroad" or "Fares not available" then you must call the DB Travel Office at +44 8718 80 80 66 to book your tickets. It's their call center in England so no need to worry about a language barrier.

Protip 1: there isn't much of the wall left in Berlin. You might want to read this: http://www.theguardian.com/cities/20...-25-years-fall

Protip 2: Unless you are meaning the Nymphenburg Palace, there are not really any "castles" in Munich. Neuschwanstein Castle is in Schwangau, 120km outside of Munich near the Austrian border. More info here: http://www.muenchen.de/int/en/sights/castles.html

Protip 3: since you seem to have no real idea what it is you want to see or do, I suggest grabbing a couple of guidebooks then coming back here with a draft itinerary and let the Fodorites offer suggestions from there. We don't like being given a blank slate.
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Jan 15th, 2015, 10:36 PM
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If your whole trip is 22 days that means you really have 19.5 days free 'on the ground'. Which really isn't much for 5 countries.

I second sparkchaser's suggestion to get a couple of good guide books.
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Jan 16th, 2015, 06:56 AM
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"The 2 cities in our list right now is Berlin to see the Berlin wall and Munich to see the castle. We are not sure what else to do here."

There is a TON of things to do in Berlin and quite a few in Munich too. The Wall alone is probably not reason enough to go to Berlin. It's not there any longer (thank goodness.) Bernauer Strasse is a good place to see a few rusting, crumbling remnants. But to go to a place like Berlin you should have developed an appetite for its other charms.

The Castle?? If you mean Neuschwanstein, it's a nearly 5-hour train trip round trip from Munich. There's no reason to go to Munich for that. By the way - it's not a real castle. It's a late 19th century palatial residence made to look like a castle by a theatrical set designer. Yes, really. In German they call it "Schloß Neuschwanstein" - Neuschwanstein Palace. Real castles were built centuries earlier, in large part for the purpose of defense from invading hordes, with fortifications and the like.

Anyway, I think at this point you should be CONSIDERING Munich and Berlin - but you need to do much more study on those cities and on all of Germany before deciding. Realize that so much of Germany's charm lies in the smaller towns that were not military targets in WW II and were not devastated by allied bombing raids. Some examples:

Hannoversch Münden: http://www.hann.muenden-tourismus.de...annmuenden.pdf
Gengenbach (Black Forest): http://www.stadthotel-gengenbach.de/...innenstadt.jpg
Bernkastel (Mosel Valley): http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...astel_BW_2.JPG
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Jan 28th, 2015, 08:20 PM
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Hi guys,

Thank you all for taking the time to reply to my post and share your opinion. I'm listing down below our itinerary and again please feel free to make a comment. I'm also adding some queries that I'm not particularly familiar with.


Day 1: arrive at Schiphol airport. We are planning to take it easy because of the jet lag. Probably go for a canal cruise. Not sure where to put away our luggage as we will arrive in the morning and our hotel check in is around 3 pm.

Day 2: Daytrip to Brussels.

Day 3: Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, Heineken Experience, Red Light District

Day 4: take a train to Frankfurt. We are planning to stop by Cologne just to see the cathedral then we'll jump right back and catch a train to Frankfurt. In Frankfurt, we are planning to go and checkout the mall called Zeil for a few hours.

Day 5: take a daytrip to Heidelburg and Rothenburg

Day 6: head to Berlin. Points of interests are the Berlin wall, Brandenburg, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, Holocaust memorial, bunkers. Not sure what else to see.

Day 7: ? means not sure what else to do

Day 8: ?

Day 9: ?

Day 10: head to Munich. Visit the square

Day 11: Daytrip to see the Neuschwanstein Castle

Day 12: Daytrip to Dachau concentration camp

Day 13: more sightseeing?

Day 14: Head to Lucerne. Planning to have Lucerne as our base in Switzerland.

Day 15: Jungfrau trip

Day 16: check out Lake Geneva and other sites

Day 17: more sightseeing?

Day 18: head to Vienna

Day 19: checkout Salzburg

Day 20: more sightseeing in Vienna

Day 21: leave for Vancouver, Canada

Thank you again in advance!
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Jan 28th, 2015, 08:32 PM
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By the way, if we are going from one country to another, is there a railpass we can purchase and use throughout the duration of our trip instead of buying a train ticket one at a time? Also, do we need to make a reservation every time we take this train? Is it better to fly or take the train from Berlin to Munich?

Jus to mention that our main interests include seeing WWII sites like in Berlin, building architecture, some natural landscape and some popular museums. We are not particularly interested in going to night clubs and wild parties.
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Jan 28th, 2015, 09:37 PM
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I'm afraid I have bad news.

Overall, you are trying to cover far too much of Europe in the time you have. Your day trips really aren't working out too well either. They are covering too much territory and turning your vacation into a series of very lengthy train rides. I suspect you have not actually looked at the true travel times involved.

A day trip from A'dam to Brussels requires 4-5 hours on the train. Munich to N'stein takes about 5 hours round trip (for a 30 min. tour.) You will need 8+ hours for Luzern-Jungfrau-Luzern.

A day trip from Frankfurt to Heidelberg to Rothenburg to Frankfurt will require 8 hours too. Almost no time to see either place.

When you are in Munich, you are only 100 minutes from Salzburg. But then you plan a long trip to Luzern - and then do a 180 for another trip of 7 hours back to Salzburg and then on to Vienna.

I could suggest cities to drop and a sleeker route, probably one that would keep you more or less on a north-south trajectory between A'dam and Luzern, with Bavaria and Austria after that, and with doable day trips... You could see some WW II things, some castles, some old-world villages...

A'dam (3 nights, maybe a day trip to Zaanse Schans) -

Brussels (2 nights w/day trip to Bruges) -

Frankfurt or a Rhine town (3 nights w/ a long stop on Day 1 in Cologne for cathedral and Nazi Doc Center, and day trip to Rhine castles/villages in about 1 hour+) -

Heidelberg (2 nights w/ day trip to Ladenburg and a Neckar River village) -

Interlaken (3-4 nights w/day trip to Jungfraujoch and other trips?) -

Munich (3-4 nights w/ day trips) -

Austria (2 nights Salzburg, 2 nights Vienna?)

Something like this would give you doable train trips and day trips.

BUT... I really don't know what's most important to you. Actually, I am unconvinced that you know this yourself at this point. I think you need to sort that out first.

Your destinations are similar to those Rick Steves recommends. You should have a look at his routing at the following page with the number of nights in each place. NOT that you should do this route, or that I recommend it - in fact I would not recommend much of it! But just so that you have an idea of how much travel MIGHT be feasible in 2 weeks if you had a tour bus driver, a tight schedule, and you were as skilled and as organized as his tours no doubt are.

https://cdn4.ricksteves.com//Project...our-map-14.jpg
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Jan 28th, 2015, 09:39 PM
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I do not usually comment on itineraries like this, as many other posters jump in earlier about the insanity proposed. What caught my attention is the back and forth going on between Day 16 and Day 20: Geneva to Vienna to Salzburg to Vienna? Please do yourself the favor that Sparkchaser suggested, and either purchase some guide books or check them from your library. Once you have the books, sit down with a map and seriously look at your proposed travel.
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Jan 28th, 2015, 09:47 PM
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Having noted that Berlin matters to you a lot (even though you aren't sure what you're doing there) I suggest you consider reworking the above-suggested itinerary a little - if you like it overall, that is - to include Berlin after Munich. Salzburg is feasible as a day trip from Munich. So by cutting Vienna and a day in Salzburg you suddenly have 3 nights in Berlin, instead of dropping it. Maybe find another night somehow? Fly home out of Berlin. Still, substituting Berlin adds a 6-hour train ride after Munich (Munich-Salzburg-Vienna would be about 4 hours.)
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Jan 28th, 2015, 09:53 PM
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"...is there a railpass we can purchase..."

Yes. But there's no real point in actually buying it until summer. You might have a change of plans. Stuff happens. Worry about the pass later, plan your destinations and routing first.
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Jan 28th, 2015, 11:12 PM
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Drop the daytrip to Brussels. You'll have just one and a half day for Amsterdam, which is much more interesting than Brussels. And from the sites you mention in Amsterdam, I would drop the Heineken Experience and the Red Light District. Unless you're really interested in mediocre beer and hookers behind glass windows.

Leave some time to wander around, get over jet lag, sit in a cafe.
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Jan 29th, 2015, 05:55 AM
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The best transport in Amsterdam is the Trams. They connect all over the city. Coming out of the train station (Central) you can go to the GVB building on the left beyond the tram tracks. Buy a ticket for the number of days you will be there. (It's @ 33E for a week).
Then use the trams to see the city as well as how to reach museums and restaurants. You can get on it 15 times a day for the same ticket price.
On Museumplein there are 3 art museums: Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk (contemporary), and the Van Gogh. They are wonderful. See at least one. Across the street from these is the Concerthall. There is a free concert every Wednesday, go early to nail a seat.
My feeling is that both the canal trip (very expensive) and the Anne Frankhaus (very long lines) will absorb more time and money than they are worth.
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Jan 29th, 2015, 06:22 AM
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as for railpasses you may want to investigate the Benelux-Germany pass (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany all on one pass) and the Swiss Pass if in Switzerland more than a few days or the straight up German pass - or go the cumbersome discounted ticket route and put up with restrictions on changing from a specific train that must be booked weeks ahead of time to get the limited in number discounted seats sold on each train - a railpass lets you hop on virtually any train anytime - with a few exceptions like the Thalys trains which you do not have to take unless going to Paris from Belgium.

Great sites for loads of info on European trains and passes: www.seat61.com - good info on discounted tickets; www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com - chekc out their free online European Planning & Rail Guide for lots of rail itineraries in those countries.
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Jan 29th, 2015, 08:51 AM
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Only a single day in Amsterdam is not enough to see the main sights let along the pure joy of this town - wandering around the old canals, etc. Brussels lets many down - consider staying and enjoying more of Amsterdam that day - better spent for most than in Brussels, to me one of the least romantic cities in Europe.
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Jan 29th, 2015, 09:19 PM
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You guys are amazing. Thank you so much for all your comments and suggestions! They made me realize a lot of things. Trying to see so many things with very limited time with poorly planned itinerary. I guess I need to sit down with my wife again and go back to the drawing board. Actually, we were initially planning to go to Spain and Portugal then got changed to Greece and Turkey and now these. I will seriously look at all your suggestions and go from there.

Best regards to everyone!
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Jan 29th, 2015, 09:31 PM
  #16
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Just a few more questions:

1. Where do you find the hotel you will stay at? I only use Hotels .com and Expedia.
2. How much Euro and Swiss Franc will I need per day? I will be using a credit card most of the time but will use cash if and when needed.
3. Have you used Viator.com?

Thanks again!
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Jan 30th, 2015, 05:25 AM
  #17
 
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Once you have decided on dates buy your tickets for the Anne Frankhuis online, with an early entry time. Probably a good thing to do on your second day when jet lag has you waking up early.

Drop Brussels as a day trip. You will have enough to see and do just in Amsterdam.
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Jan 30th, 2015, 11:05 AM
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Yes drop that day trip to Brussels - whatever you spend that day on in Amsterdam will be better for most than anything busy modern Brussels has to offer on a day trip anyway.
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Jan 31st, 2015, 11:28 AM
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You may want to make a separate post on the hotels in general question - will get a lot more response with a separate heading - here only a few will see it - as a thread gets older fewer folks open it and ti sinks into Fodor's Black Hole.
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Jan 31st, 2015, 04:44 PM
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What do you plan to use can for? If you have credit cards that charge no foreign exchange fee, use credit cards most of the time. There will be times when you will want cash, but relatively few. (Are you aware of the recent float of the Swiss Franc in relation to the Euro? Everything in Switzerland is now 20-40% more expensive.)

What do you want to use viator for? They are a company that uses local companies for tours and such. It's always more expensive that getting a tour on your own, if you want a day tour. Personally, I find very few places where I want a tour. Preparing ahead of time by reading guidebooks is or specialty books on particular sights is usually all one needs.
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