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Any suggestions for someone who's never been to Europe?

Any suggestions for someone who's never been to Europe?

Old Jul 10th, 2016, 06:46 PM
  #1  
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Any suggestions for someone who's never been to Europe?

Something I've always wanted to do is a tour of Europe. It's something that I hope to accomplish in the coming years. However, I am not sure on how to best experience Europe and its countries. As of right now I already have an idea of a feasible tour:

London
Paris
Munich
Venice
Rome

I also want to visit:

Amsterdam
Berlin
Athens
Istanbul

however I feel like these cities wouldn't give me everything I want to see. Any suggestions on where I should visit?
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Old Jul 10th, 2016, 07:02 PM
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What interests you in these places? Scenery? Museums? Culture?

How much time do you have? Two weeks? Six weeks?

Will you ever go back? (Let's hope the answer is "yes!").

You have all big cities on your agenda. Europe is more than that.

London - Paris or London - Paris - Amsterdam makes a good starter trip. They speak English well enough for tourists (London obviously). You can do the three cities in about two weeks If you have more time, you can add more day trips. The two or three cities are easily tied together by train. You can fly into London, out of Paris or Amsterdam - an "open jaw."

Or you could do Italy, bookended by Venice and Rome, with plenty in between to fill as much time as you have. Again, all are connected by train.
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Old Jul 10th, 2016, 07:02 PM
  #3  
 
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I suppose a good place to start might be a list of what you want to see as well as the amount of time you'll have available to travel and maybe even the time of year. That's a mighty long laundry list. Will you have months? What kind of budget might you have? Get down some of the basics and you'll likely get more responses. Good luck.
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Old Jul 10th, 2016, 07:04 PM
  #4  
 
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Suggest you start with some guidebooks on general travel info for Europe.

The Rough Guide to First-Time Europe

Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door
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Old Jul 10th, 2016, 07:07 PM
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In order to "best experience Europe," it would be necessary to define just what "best" means to you. In case you have always assumed there is only one yard stick for best, consider endless possibilities of the meaning of "best" within certain constraints: neither of which are stated.

- most number of places
- most number of places matching someone's definition of top destinations.
- best for shopping
- best for amateur photographers
- best for souvenirs
- best for culinary experiences
- best for impressionist art
- best for Gothic architectures
- best for renaissance art
- best hiking trip
and on and on.

People travel within different constraints. It is not possible to "give me everything I want to see." You can optimize what you get out within your particular constraints. If you cannot articulate what they are, you will not have a way to sort out a long list of itinerary recommendations you would probably get.
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Old Jul 10th, 2016, 07:24 PM
  #6  
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well the things that fascinate me the most about European cities is their history, their culture, and their beauty. This may seem vague, so I apologize, but I'd like to experience what Europe has to offer.

I estimate that I can spend 2-3 weeks in Europe. However I don't know when the best time of the year is to visit Europe.

Will I ever come back if I make this tour? Yes. Germany, Italy, and the French Riviera are 3 places that I'd like to visit but I feel can't be accomplished in a single trip to the main European cities.
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Old Jul 10th, 2016, 07:36 PM
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My personal preference is September, if I had to choose. It's usually still decent weather but the kids are back in school - summer vacations are over so Europe tends to be a little less crowded.

With three weeks, you could do 3-5 of these cities pretty easily. London-Paris-Amsterdam are easily connected by train, but you could say fly to Berlin from Amsterdam (or take a long train). You could stop in Belgium on the way between Paris and Amsterdam.

For me, plane connections are usually a consideration. I hate lousy flights, so I try to find an open jaw city combination that works. But London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin all have good flight connections to North American cities. Sometimes the connections are better or worse depending on where you start out.

Try Kayak.com to check airfares.

Try http://www.bahn.com/i/view/USA/en/index.shtml to check train connections (it's the German train website but it has schedules for most of Europe).

You might propose a more specific itinerary and then ask more detailed questions from there.
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Old Jul 10th, 2016, 07:42 PM
  #8  
 
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If you have two to three weeks, it might help you to divide Europe into left or right, west or east, north or south. Then stick to contiguous countries in one of those sectors.

Italy and Greece, adding Istanbul if you can.

The Netherlands and Germany, maybe adding Paris if you can.

The first suggestion of London, Paris and Amsterdam is a good one.

In any of these cases, you would fly into one city (the nearest or farthest) and out of another. You can make your way between cities by train or plane, depending which you choose.

Many people take European cruises. A Mediterranean cruise would hit some of your places of interest.

The best time to visit Europe? Well, it's a big place and weather varies. I myself like spring and fall. However, for major European cities I also like winter because prices and can be good, crowds less, and there's plenty to see indoors if the weather is awful

In two weeks, I would pick three cities, and have a chance for daytrips. I wouldn't stretch it to four cities unless I had three weeks.

Have you looked for organized tours? You could Google tours of Europe to see what's available. I've heard decent things about Rick Steves' organized tours.
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Old Jul 10th, 2016, 08:02 PM
  #9  
 
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You are right. Just making a list of cities you have heard about will not give you everything, probably not even close to most of what you might want to see.

No one can tell you where to visit without knowing more about you!

Start with your personal interests and activities. Narrow them down to things that really are important to you. I was an Art Major, so knew that if I went to only one country, it would be Italy and if more, then cities - Paris and Amsterdam for the museums and specific Art peices. I am a cafe sitter, not a hiker, and a day at a lake is enough nature for me. LOL. That sort of thing helps you focus and helps others give you good advice.

Some people love nature and landscape and hiking, and think mountains and tiny villages, and lakes, so they want to see the Alps in Switzerland and parts of Austria, Italy, etc.
Others are into ancient history and ruins like Pompeii.
Others think of Europe as medieval villages, or great wine and food, and many think about the arts and architecture, so museums, cathedrals, etc.
Add in the things everybody has seen in books - Eiffel Tower in Paris, Colosseum in Rome, etc., and the lists become years of sightseeing.

Some people do like fast travel, picture stops, so to speak, but you said you want to "best experience Europe and its countries." IMHO, that takes time. Each city can take days, even weeks to explore. Just the cities you have listed, done at a fairly quick pace of 3-4 days in major cities and 1-2 in others, would take a couple of months because you must include travel time getting from place to place. Only cities also misses on countryside and small towns and villages that have so much to offer. It is great to have different bases and do short day trips to exciting nearby places, or to fit some of those places in between your major bases.

No matter how tempting it is, flitting from place to place costs a lot and you miss a lot. It is usually better to choose a country or place of major interest and do more there. Travel less. See more. Do more.

It seems daunting before you go, and you may feel you have to do everything in one go, but especially for a first time, it would be wise to plan one trip that does some of the things you want most to experience. If you can't take the exact trip you want, take the trip you can, as soon as you can. Just take a trip! Two weeks now is better than hoping for a month next year.

When are you planning to do it?
How much time will you have for a first trip?
Solo or with a companion?
Budget?
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Old Jul 10th, 2016, 08:13 PM
  #10  
kja
 
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The problem, IMO, is that with ANY interests, your options are unlimited -- and you've already recognized that and been wise enough to limit your options! So I agree with thursdaysd -- consult some good guidebooks! You'll learn all sorts of things you never even thought to ask. ;-) I'll also second her recommendation for the Rough Guide.

IMO, the "best" first trip is the one that YOU most want to take. I wouldn't worry too much about whether the city or cities are "easy" or "hard" to visit, or whether you are visiting only cities -- with a little research, you'll find a way to manage and -- at worst -- end up with some great stories!

Some things that I've considered:

- Including places with very different climates in the same trip can make packing much more complicated (or your suitcase overly full).

- Although language is unlikely to pose a problem in major European cities these days for English-speakers, I like to be able to at least manage the civilities -- and since I'm not very good at languages, I try to keep the number of countries where language might be a challenge to a minimum on any one trip.

- The time spent traveling between cities can be a great chance to relax or a waste of time and anything in between. I try to minimize unnecessarily long distances between locations, while making most of the scheduling of transit (however long) to maximize my use of whatever time I do spend in transit.

- Including places that are in different countries can be a great way to see how things differ in different countries -- but ignores the fact that modern countries are amalgamations of historically distinct cultures. You might actually have more diverse experiences by going to multiple places in the SAME country than crossing borders.

FWIW: My strategy for many trips -- a strategy I've found very successful! -- has two separate prongs: First, I come up with a list of my 5 or 6 highest priority destinations -- and you've already done that! Then I do some research about each option in turn:

For my time and budget (and the climate and language, etc.), if I select place whatever, what OTHER PLACES would I make a priority?

I usually find that some options drop out for one reason or another (such as I'd love to go there, but it's too far from other priorities). I eventually end up with just 2 or 3 options.

One other consideration: Some people LOVE to take "tasting" trips (i.e., assume you'll go back, visit LOTS of places to get a sense of what they offer so you can maker wiser choices later). While I recognize that this strategy works for many people, I'm not a fan of that strategy, for at least two reasons: (1) Some of the things I have most enjoyed in various locations are the things I would NEVER have seen on a "tasting" trip and (2) I’ve realized that if I can return to an area, the LAST thing that I am likely to do is spend my time is revisiting places and re-tracing all that extra travel time just so that I can go back and finally see the things I skipped the first time. In fact, I might end up not returning specifically because it would mean wasting so much time going from place to place!

One other thing: We all travel for different reasons, at different paces, and with different priorities. And I think that is absolutely wonderful! (Wouldn't the world be awful if we all traveled in the same way?) So don't think there is a right or wrong way to approach your decisions: do some research, think about your options, and realize that no matter how much you omit (and you will skip a LOT), you will also have some wonderful experiences that will be with you the rest of your life.

Hope that helps!
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Old Jul 10th, 2016, 08:41 PM
  #11  
 
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I am going to tell you something that will be unpopular on this board. I have been to Europe over a dozen times. Only twice have we taken guided tours. Our 1st time was in 1996. We took one of Globus's Grand Tours of Europe. It was the From the Thames to the Tiber Tour. We had a fabulous time and it was a great introduction to Europe. We have explored Europe on our own in great detail since then
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Old Jul 10th, 2016, 09:18 PM
  #12  
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im liking all of your suggestions, I'll probably look through a guidebook to see what interests me.

I'm definitely interested in history, both ancient, modern, and everything inbetween. Roman structures such as the baths at Bath, England and maybe Pompei if I can travel there from Rome are definitely on my list.

The architecture of the cities also interests me. Paris is famous for it's beautiful buildings, and I'd love to see them. Cities such as London and Berlin also interest me with their variety.

Museums are also something I'm interested in. Two of the places I'd love to visit is the Lourve in Paris and the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. I also might want to see Rennaisance paintings in Italy.

Cruises and tours seem to be great ways to travel, but I don't think I would enjoy them personally. I'd like to not have to rush myself. Also I get seasick lol

I am interested in the countryside and small towns, and while I do want to visit little German or Italian towns Im not sure which ones to visit. I guess I'd just like to visit little villages with history, lovely culture, and beautiful scenery.

Im starting to think that instead of having one big European tour I should experience counties such as Germany, Italy, and Spain on different trips. However I do really want to experience a taste of these countries through cities in one amazing trip.

There still a lot I'm unsure about though, however I'm loving all of your suggestions.
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Old Jul 10th, 2016, 09:24 PM
  #13  
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Also I'm liking the idea of a simple London-Paris-Amsterdam trip, with maybe Berlin and Rome thrown in there.

Btw the reasons why I chose London Paris Munich Venice and Rome originally for a European tour because I thought that they would give me a great taste of each country they were located in. Also Munich is munch closer and easier to travel to than Berlin on the original travel plan.
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Old Jul 10th, 2016, 09:40 PM
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I recommend the Rick Steves guidebooks especially for novice travelers (though I've been on eleven trips to Europe now and I still use Rick Steves's books). If you read through a few guildebooks, you won't have to ask "which towns?" - you can read about them.

You can watch most of Rick Steves's PBS travel shows for free you YouTube. I suggest watching the episodes about London, Paris, and Amsterdam, at least.

Also, there are many trip reports posted here for all of those places. You can read them to see what people did, what they liked, and how they got from place to place.
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Old Jul 10th, 2016, 09:40 PM
  #15  
kja
 
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Take your time to reflect on the various approaches that have been suggested here; think about them and how they might fit with your interests, and let all these ideas sink in a bit before making any decisions. After all, it's been just over a day since you posted your question, and you might still get great advice tomorrow -- not all experienced travelers check in here every day! And you have a LOT of interconnected choices to make...

And please, don't look through just ONE guidebook -- consult several! They are designed for very different purposes. Some work best to inspire (the ones with really high quality photos); some give detailed information about selected destinations; some provide comprehensive information along with the nitty-gritty that lets one actually plan (but only once one makes some decisions).

No bad choices, but some very hard ones!
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Old Jul 11th, 2016, 10:15 PM
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Sounds like you have some great ideas. Please do not think that by visiting London you will get a flavour of what the UK is like. London is like a country in itself - Nothing like the rest of the UK.

Quick note - If travelling London - Paris consider the Eurostar. We find it quicker, cheaper and a nicer way to arrive in Paris, 2 hrs 20, city centre to city centre. Enjoy your trip!
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