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First time in Europe.. France and Switzerland?

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Jun 10th, 2018, 02:45 AM
  #1
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First time in Europe.. France and Switzerland?

Hello,

This is my first time to Europe and I need suggestions on where to go. The only solid part is that I will be arriving and staying in Paris for 5 nights so I need to think of the rest. I'm thinking of 3 cities in total so I can spend 5-6 days in each (total 2-3 weeks) unless you guys think I can go to more in that time.

Couple of itineraries I thought of:
-Paris+Belgium+Amsterdam
-Paris+Switzerland+Undecided
-Paris+Spain+Portugal

I'm leaning towards Switzerland as the second place to visit (maybe Luzern because it's a compact city on a Lake). But I don't know what the third should be.

Things to consider:
-I am going by myself
-Total duration: 2-3 weeks (flexible) in August
-Must be able to walk or take public transport in the city
-I love museums, walking tours, boat cruises, and architecture
-I will be traveling between cities by train (unless plane is cheaper)

Thanks!
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Jun 10th, 2018, 03:02 AM
  #2
 
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For Switzerland you may have a look at https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-ch/home.html
I suppose you know that France too has a lot to offer (not only Paris).
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Jun 10th, 2018, 05:19 AM
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France, Switzerland a bit of Italy could work - fly into Paris and outof Rome, etc. Trains are great everywhere - for lots on understanding trains and passes and such check www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com and BETS-European Rail Experts - what to see the Alps at their most awesome - I suggest going to Interlaken area and up to a neat mountain village like Grindelwald or Wengen. Lucerne is really nicer -I'd suggest Lucerne and the Interlaken area then head for Italy.
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Jun 11th, 2018, 09:02 AM
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Paris, Switzerland, Italy

or

Paris, Cote d'Azur, Italy (this is what I did my first trip to Europe). Paris, le Train Bleu to Nice (Cannes, Monte Carlo), then Nice to Rome (all utilizing sleeper trains). That was 30+ years ago....
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Jun 11th, 2018, 09:23 AM
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-I will be traveling between cities by train (unless plane is cheaper>

Well if do Paris - Spain - Portugal you may want to fly Paris to Lisbon - work way thru Spain and to Barcelona then either fly or train up thru France by high-speed TGV - Avignon area right on way would make a beautiful few-day or longer stop to see that wonderful city and many neat places near it by public transit.
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Jun 11th, 2018, 10:02 AM
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You've mentioned a number of wonderful places that are pretty different; also, you listed entire countries, but it sounds like you want to visit cities. Give some thought on what appeals to you in Switzerland - is it lakes, or mountains, or both? What draws you to Spain and Portugal - certain cities, or descriptions of scenery or food, or museums? And the same question for Belgium and Amsterdam.

Three destinations, especially if you have three weeks, seems good. If you really want to spend time at lakes (and/or mountains), then make some place in Switzerland part of your trip. I haven't been to Switzerland much, and when I did go, it was to go hiking in the mountains, so I can't give any good advice about Swiss cities or towns on lakes. If you stayed in Interlaken, as mentioned above, you could visit Grindelwald or Wengen, and be able to enjoy both the lake and be up in the mountains.

If you like museums, especially art museums, then I would definitely recommend Amsterdam, in addition to Paris. Brussels and Bruges (both in Belgium) have a number of museums that I like, though I think most people don't go to those cities/towns for the museums, but also visit Bruges for its charm. In Spain, there's the Prado in Madrid (which is fantastic), as well as a number of other great museums. If you like architecture (especially Gaudi's work)), then you might want to go to Barcelona. (I haven't been to Portugal yet, so I have no advice there.)

All of these locations will have good walking tours.
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Jun 11th, 2018, 10:27 AM
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Most of Spain and Italy will be sweltering in mid-August - northern Europe is much more temperate and even cool at that time.
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Jun 11th, 2018, 05:53 PM
  #8
kja
 
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I’ve traveled to all of these locations except Portugal as a solo traveler who loves museums and architecture, and prefers train (or even bus) to plane when traveling within Europe. Any of your options could be wonderful!

FWIW, much as I love Spain, I wouldn’t go there in August – too hot! Maybe your tolerances are different, but you can check historic climate data quite easily for some idea of what to expect.

I like that you are planning at least 5 or 6 days in each location – but trust you realize that 5 nights in Paris actually gives you only 4 days, which is not much for a first visit to Paris, particularly for someone who enjoys museums. And, of course, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, and Portugal are all countries, and so could easily take weeks or more just for a cursory glance.

Since you mention Switzerland as your ‘second” preference after Paris, you might want to think about what that means for you (as Lexma90 suggested): Switzerland has mountains and cities and at least 4 (if not 5) distinctly different regions (roughly defined by the predominant language – German, French, Italian, or Romansch). You might find some useful information in my trip report:

My delightful sampling of Switzerland’s gems, with many thanks

The good news: You won’t go wrong with any of these destinations!

Hope that helps.
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Jun 12th, 2018, 05:51 AM
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If you plan to do several Paris museums look into the Paris Museum Pass which also gives you priority entrance at say the Louvre - also at Versailles. Buy it at any participating museum.

Paris Museum Pass | Official Website
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Jun 12th, 2018, 11:56 AM
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Sundays, however, many museums are half-off or free like Louvre on first Sunday of month so not best days to use Paris Museum Pass.
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Jun 13th, 2018, 09:44 AM
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Unfortunately the Swiss Alps at tourist meccas like Jungfrau Region are mobbed with tourists in August. But just about any place will be I guess.
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Jun 14th, 2018, 06:56 AM
  #12
twk
 
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I'm with the others--in August, I would skip Spain and Portugal. I'm going to Spain this October because this is the first chance I've had to travel other than in the summer time.

I did 2 weeks in Switzerland in June, 2016, and thoroughly enjoyed it. You can do the entire country by public transportation--in fact, the transportation system there is really a something to see in and of itself. Luzern is probably the best city to visit in Switzerland, but the real attraction in Switzerland is in the mountains. If spending time in nature doesn't appeal to you, you might want to rethink Switzerland--the cities are nice enough, but they are expensive, and not as good a value as several other European cities. So, if Switzerland is your second destination, I would spend some time In Luzern, but I would spend the bulk of my time in the mountains. Maybe spend a couple of days in Luzern, a few days in the Berner Oberland, and the balance of your time somewhere on the Eastern end of Lake Geneva (Montreux , Vevey, or similar), from where you can fly back out of Geneva (easy train trip on your departure day).
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Jun 14th, 2018, 07:06 AM
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super superb advice from twk above!
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Jun 21st, 2018, 12:21 PM
  #14
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Thank you all for the amazing advice! Sorry for not replying earlier, I got a bit busy.

Everyone gave amazing advice! As you all said, the temperature will be hot in the south so I've gone for northern countries.

I've decided on the following:
Paris - 5 nights
Lucerne - 5 nights
Salzburg - 5 nights (is this a lot of time here?)

I have 3 more nights for another destination (and flying out of Salzburg back home would be costly). Options are either Vienna or Hungary, any advice on which one? And should I reduce from the time in Salzburg?

Thanks!
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Jun 21st, 2018, 03:18 PM
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I would divide those 3 "extra" nights among the 3 places you already chose. For me 18 days and 4 different cities/countries would be too much. Especially since you don't seem to have anything specific in mind, I don't think you need to try to hunt up another destination.

I did a wonderful trip one summer that included Vevey/Montreux (outside Geneva on Lac Leman), then Venice, then Paris, but I had 3 full weeks.
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Jun 22nd, 2018, 06:33 AM
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I'd split Salzburg time with a few days there and three in the Lakes District (a k a Sound of Music Country) and Hallstatt - the only time you will see the awesome high Alps.

What are your plans for 5 days in Lucerne? Again I'd advise that a few days in Jungfrau Region like in Wengen would be a highlight of your trip - chalet-style family-run hotel with awesome view of glacier-girdled high Alps. I'd base there maybe 3 days; Lucerne 3 days; Salzburg 3 days; Vienna the rest of time.
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Jun 22nd, 2018, 08:34 AM
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I would agree that 5 nights in Salsburg could be cut to 3.. and give those nights to Paris( well give two nights to paris for total of 7 nights ( only 6 full days remember ) and maybe use that other night with a visit to Wengen.. .. two reasons.. first you have so much more to see in Paris.. I've been there for likely hundreds of days and have still missed seeing many smaller musuems etc .. secondly .. you will be jet lagged first day or two.. so only allowing yourself 4 full days in Paris.. one of which at least you'll be travel fatiqued.. I think you are short changing yourself on Paris.. Paris is not a great place to feel rushed in either.. it much better to enjoy wandering side streets.. stopping for a coffee .. visiting a musuem leisurely .. not a a death march..
Switzerland is more expensive.. so if budget is a consideration.. I would spend more time in France .. ( ps and yes.. Switzerland is gorgeous)
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Jun 22nd, 2018, 12:58 PM
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Paris is great in many regards but IMO it can also be a tiring city and one with lots of traffic and at times terrible pollution. I think 5 days for first timer is about right. Spread Salzburg days out to either Vienna or the Lakes District and or Hallstatt. No interest in Munich? Neat city just over hour from Salzburg by train -possible day trip at least or good place to end trip and fly home from.
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Jun 22nd, 2018, 03:03 PM
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Because of jet lag, I do like the idea of putting the "extra 3 days" in whatever your first city is. Since it's your first trip to Europe, you don't know how jet lag will (or won't) effect you. For me it's a *killer* so the first 2-3 days of any trip on the ground there is kind of a blur.
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Jul 5th, 2018, 11:57 AM
  #20
 
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Your age and interest are major factors to decide the trip plan
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