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Can only visit one (maybe two) cities. Which one?

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Dec 7th, 2017, 12:22 PM
  #1
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Can only visit one (maybe two) cities. Which one?

Hello,

My wife and I (plus my 14-year old son) are considering going to Europe for the first time in early March 2018 (Spring Break). This means that we will only be able to stay for around six days (leave Friday night, get back Thursday night). Obviously not ideal, but our summers are usually full and my son can't really take much time off school. We may be able to stretch it to Thursday-Thursday, though.

Anyway, we have a budget of $3000 since this is a short trip and are considering a whole mess of cities:

Vienna
Amsterdam
Oslo
Stockholm
Copenhagen
Geneva
Zurich
Reykjavik
Madrid
Berlin
Turin
Paris

We'd like to "do" stuff and also take a day trip or two into a small town. Also, we'd enjoy somewhere with great inter-city public transportation just for the sheer novelty of not having to ride in a car everywhere like in the U.S.

So what's the best "bang for your buck" city for us?

Please help us plan! Thanks
John117 is offline  
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Dec 7th, 2017, 12:30 PM
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I would pick just one out of Paris, Rome and Berlin.

So far as your 14 year old is concerned, if he's anything like my DS at that age, he would love Rome. The colosseum, the size of the buildings generally, the wonderful food - it's a fabulous place for your first visit to Europe.

It might have some nice weather too!
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Dec 7th, 2017, 12:33 PM
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Looks like your first post; welcome to Fodor's!

The weather isn't going to be terrific in any of those places, but for my money I'd pick Amsterdam.

Why? Because it's very compact, everybody speaks English, getting to and from the airport is super easy, the public transportation offerings are great, and it's beautiful. Amsterdam has lots of historic interest and plenty of places to visit indoors in case the weather's lousy, and you can take short, easy trips to various smaller places, like Delft, Haarlem, Edam, the coast...

I regard Amsterdam as a superb "soft landing" destination for Europe first-timers.
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Dec 7th, 2017, 12:54 PM
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Since you are traveling in early March I would go as far south as possible, although Madrid also gets cold winters. I would consider Barcelona, Lisbon or Rome. All three have plenty of public transport and lots to do, plus day trips.
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Dec 7th, 2017, 01:17 PM
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Rome.

I look at language a little differently. Go somewhere, even on a first trip, where language can be a challenge now and then. It’s a good experience for people that are used to English and more English. It certainly helped our kids appreciate the challenges facing non-English speakers here at home.
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Dec 7th, 2017, 01:31 PM
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Thanks for all the replies so far, I'll reply more in-depth when I get home. Just wanted to note that we live in Florida, so we aren't exactly lacking in warmth. Cool would be a nice change of pace, especially since my son has never seen snow, though we are used to the warm.

As for Barcelona, we'd prefer not to go until the whole Catalonia thing dies down, perhaps if we do an extended Europe trip in a few years.
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Dec 7th, 2017, 01:38 PM
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How about landing in Paris

stay 3 nights

and take high-speed Thalys train to Amsterdam for another 3 nights- train just takes 3.5 hours and goes up to nearly 190 mph- to experience your train wish.

See a bit of both - otherwise Paris or Amsterdam or Rome.

for train info check www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

Amsterdam would be great by itself and Paris too but the train trip could be cool for kid and you. See highlights of Paris and in Amsterdam the city itself IMO is the highlight plus things like Anne Frank House - which kid will be studying in school if has not - and world-classs art museums plus canals - early March however will see often blustery wet weather in northern Europe - if that is a factor Italy would be great.

Could do Rome and say to experience high-speed trains do a day trip via Naples to Pompeii, again something kids will study in school some day.
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Dec 7th, 2017, 01:44 PM
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A first trip to Europe should be to PARIS.
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Dec 7th, 2017, 01:45 PM
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More cold and grey and damp. Plus less daylight as much further north. Amsterdam is further north than Newfoundland, and several of your picks are further north still.

If you want snow you should be thinking mountains, not cities.
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Dec 7th, 2017, 01:55 PM
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Plus less daylight as much further north. Amsterdam is further north than Newfoundland, and several of your picks are further north still.>

flunk geography? Early March is quite close to the Equinox when all places on each have about the same daylight?

Spring equinox | Define Spring equinox at Dictionary.com
www.dictionary.com/browse/spring-equinox
1. the time when the sun crosses the plane of the earth's equator, making night and day of approximately equal length all over the earth and occurring about March 21 (vernal equinox or spring equinox) and September 22 (autumnal equinox) 2.

That would be about 15 minutes less daylight than any other place if that!
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Dec 7th, 2017, 02:03 PM
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Oops. Never seemed to make that much difference in England in March!
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Dec 7th, 2017, 02:37 PM
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I think it depends a lot on your interests. What are you excited about? Seeing the Forum or the Louvre? Italian food or French?

It would be either Rome or Paris for me. I really love both, but there’s something about Rome and its squares and Fountains that feels entirely different. It just made me happy to wonder around and see everything. Plus, I think weather wise, that would be a great time to be in Rome.

I don’t think there’s any wrong answer, really. You’ll get back from that trip and start planning your next European adventure.

Money wise, it was my experience that Rome was less expensive than Paris. And I ate better too.

Iceland would KILL your budget. And it’s not transit friendly. I’d scratch that right now. I’d consider Munich instead of Berlin but anywhere in Germany would have great day trips and be even cheaper than Rome.

I’m somewhat curious that you don’t have U.K. listed. London is expensive but probably not much more than other places on your list. And great history, fantastic transit, multicultural, probably a lot of stuff your son has learned about in school. And it rather depends on where you live, but if it’s somewhere Norwegian Airlines flies out of, chances are the flight to either EDI or Gatwick might be much less than other destinations.

Alternatively, if you stretch your dates a bit, you could fly with Icelandair, and do the free stopover for 2 nights in Reykjavik and 5 nights in another city. Your 14 year old would get a kick out of Blue Lagoon and probably be the envy of his online friends.

I would try to stretch Thursday to the following Sunday if at all possible. That’d give you 10 days which would be better for a major city and day trips. If you haven’t been before, you don’t know how jet lag may affect your family. 6 Days is not much time- jet lag kills me for 2-3, which would leave only 3 Days of really active sightseeing. (I do live on the west coast though, so considerable time difference).
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Dec 7th, 2017, 02:44 PM
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London and Paris could work for 3 nights in each -yeh not enough time in either many will say but for a first trip get a taste of each perhaps and do that high-speed train between them and experience going thru the Channel Tunnel. www.eurostar.com. And see bits of England and France in between London and Paris.

Fly into London and home from Paris.
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Dec 7th, 2017, 02:50 PM
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Cool would be a nice change of pace, especially since my son has never seen snow, though we are used to the warm.>>

I'd say go to Geneva and Zurich then - or simply go to the Alps and let your DS have a go at skiing.

Amsterdam, Paris and London are quite likely to be cold and wet in March - not pleasant for anyone even if you like the cold.
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Dec 7th, 2017, 03:02 PM
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For "bang for buck," I would remove
Oslo
Stockholm
Copenhagen
Geneva
Zurich.
Otherwise, flip a coin, go where you get the best deal--anywhere will be great! Since you mentioned the transport thing, Amsterdam could be a hoot, and I found it easy to day trip to smaller towns there.
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Dec 7th, 2017, 03:03 PM
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Geneva or Zurich unlikely to have snow I think but yes the Alps are close by - land in Zurich and take train to Interlaken area and stay in a mountain village like Grindelwald or Wengen and frolic in snow for sure - Swiss trains are great - www.sbb.ch for info. Spend a few days in Lucerne maybe - really close to Zurich by train along with the Interlaken area - experience Swiss trains -especially thrilling mountain trains in Interlaken (Jungfrau) region.

Take the Jungfraubahn train to Europe's highest train station at over 11,000 ft and a perpetual world of ice and snow, ice grottos and walk to a nearby glacier:

https://www.google.com/search?q=jung...w=1536&bih=759
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Dec 7th, 2017, 03:16 PM
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How about Rome and Venice? Just 3.5 hours apart by mainly high-speed train - 4 days in Rome 2 in Venice - fly into one and out of the other.
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Dec 7th, 2017, 04:43 PM
  #19
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Thanks everyone for the replies. Any opinions on Vienna or the Scandinavian places I mentioned?

We could stretch to Friday, but we'd like to be home for a few days and de-jet lag ourselves before my son has school again.
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Dec 7th, 2017, 04:49 PM
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You will only have 5 night in Europe -- so pick ONE city and leave it at that. The first day+ at least some of you will be dealing w/ jet lag.

Now -- before we go any farther . . . you say $3000 budget. does that include airfare? If so your budget is woefully short for a 5 night trip for three people. Airfare alone will eat up most of your $$$

If (hopefully) you have $3000 plus airfare, it is still not that much. Less than $550 per day for everything - accommodations, 9 meals most days, museum and sites admissions charges (basically about $10 - $20 for each adult sometimes less for your son), ground transport. It adds up fast. Can be done but not room for splurges (nor for anywhere in Scandinavia or Switzerland)
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