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First time travelling to Europe, requesting suggestions

First time travelling to Europe, requesting suggestions

Old Sep 1st, 2023, 02:17 AM
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First time travelling to Europe, requesting suggestions

Hello Friends, I'm travelling to Europe for the first time and have 20 days to explore. I'm confused between which countries to visit so could you please help suggest the best? I'm more interested in architecture, landscape, culture and food. Here are a few I thought of but some routes are far and not sure if it makes sense to go with Eurail pass or just fly [Rome to Barcelone for example].

Paris -> Amsterdam -> Interlaken [Swiss] -> Rome -> Barcelona -> Paris

Paris -> Interlaken [Swiss] -> Germany -> Amsterdam -> Paris

Paris -> Amsterdam -> Germany -> Switzerland -> Paris

Paris -> Switzerland -> Rome -> Germany -> Paris

Or am I planning too much for the number of days?

Thanks in advance.
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 02:46 AM
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With 20 days (is that on the ground or including travelling?) you need to understand that Europe is a big continent. You wouldn't expect to see all the US in that time. For a first trip I'd select the big cities and spend 4 or 5 days in each. So maybe London, Paris, Barcelona, Rome and fly back from Rome . Bear in mind that you lose a day travelling between stops what with airports, hotels etc. so it makes sense to minimise the time spent between cities with shorter flights. London to Paris is a couple of hours, centre to centre using the Channel Tunnel and Paris-Barcelona is only about an hour in the air.

For a first visit, that's plenty to cram into the time available and maybe even cut that down to three places for a more leisurely pace.
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 03:56 AM
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You can have lots of different types of holiday but for my first time to Europe I'd hit a maximum of three cities over 20 days. I might also travel to local towns or sites outside the cities but three bases. The obvious and easy three are Paris, London and Amsterdam but you can perm in Brussels or Dublin as well if you have a special interest.

The food and architecture of the three main cities is wide ranging. The main business language of the last two is English while in Paris most tourists will find English speakers everywhere. Getting between the cities is easy by train. seat61.com explains, while the three also have the three biggest airports

For historical reasons the big three have lots to do for the average tourist plus great public transport to nearby sites.
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 03:59 AM
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Your itineraries don't make sense by returning to Paris at the end of each. Especially the first one.
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 05:44 AM
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Thanks everyone for your reply and suggestions. I appreciate the time you took for answering my queries.

@rubicund @bilboburglar 20 days all inclusive. My priorities are Paris & Swiss, and accommodating more cities that are possible with at least 3 days in each.

@Christina It's because I fly to-and-fro Paris. So I start my trip from Paris and conlude there.

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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 05:51 AM
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Welcome!

First make a basic plan. Do not do a round trip flight. Returning to your first point just wastes a day. Fly open jaw, landing and departing from different cities. Second, you can't just say one of four or five places will be a county ("Germany"). You need actual locations. Some of your choices will depend on your interests and language abilities, too.

Third, you will want to spend your time touring rather than travelling, with each change of location using up a day (check out, get to transport, travel, get to next lodging, re-orient, maybe even eat a meal or two). Arrival day and departure day are not for sightseeing, of course. So if your total time is 20 days, subtract 2 for arrival and departure, then subtract one day for each change of venue. For example, a three stop vacation will have 16 touring days, a four stop itinerary only 15. This skeleton does not include days of limited site availability (Sundays, often Mondays, and national holidays) which are semi-wasted unless they are travel days. All travel will take longer than just the point to point time.

From my experience, I would set London for your first stop. There will be no language barrier and there are a ton of things to do and see. Then go to Paris, an easy travel link and the iconic European destination. I would only add one more destination. Fifty-odd years ago, our honeymoon was London, Paris, Amsterdam, which worked very well. Invest in few guidebooks to get an idea of what you might want to do and where you might want to go. First-timers often are often well served by a Rick Steves guide.

One caution: The posters on this site will propose many variations and possibilities. These are for ideas, not to confuse you.

Getting there is not half the fun Planning is.

Good luck!

(EDIT: Your reply and my ideas crossed in the internet ether. Where are you flying in from?)
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 06:21 AM
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Thanks for the detailed response @AJPeabody

I fly from Sydney. And yeah, I'm still at the very initial phase of planning so once I gather input from this forum, I'll work out a feasible travel plan. I'm planning to visit London along with Scotland at a later time, so just planning for the other interesting places for now. Another possibility I could think of was Paris -> Interlaken -> Rome -> Munich -> Amsterdam and back to Paris.

I understand it is a waste of time going back to Paris but that's the best flight deal I could find, so chose that.

Thanks again.
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 06:30 AM
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I have family in Switzerland and friends but the best of your interests will be scenery. Food, culture, architecture mmmm, well it exists but in very special places so frankly not the best choice. But if you really interested in these subjects there are more interesting countries in Europe.

You haven't said when in the year you are traveling as that can have an influence on choices
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 07:08 AM
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Coming from Australia means a significant jet lag adjustment allowance at your first location. Consider at least one half wasted day. Half wasted refers to you, not the day!.
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 07:55 AM
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Originally Posted by sudhaeci
Hello Friends, I'm travelling to Europe for the first time and have 20 days to explore. I'm confused between which countries to visit so could you please help suggest the best? I'm more interested in architecture, landscape, culture and food. Here are a few I thought of but some routes are far and not sure if it makes sense to go with Eurail pass or just fly [Rome to Barcelone for example].
Paris -> Amsterdam -> Interlaken [Swiss] -> Rome -> Barcelona -> Paris
Paris -> Interlaken [Swiss] -> Germany -> Amsterdam -> Paris
Paris -> Amsterdam -> Germany -> Switzerland -> Paris
Paris -> Switzerland -> Rome -> Germany -> Paris
Or am I planning too much for the number of days?
Thanks in advance.
Personally, I always think Italy deserves its own trip, so I'd pick #2 or 3.
If you can book open-jaw flights, into Paris and out of Zurich or AMS would be my choice.
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 09:53 AM
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Each arrow represents a lost day. You are projecting one third of your trip in transit. You will then have about 3 days per place. Germany and Switzerland are entire countries that will be hard to see in 3 days. Although you have said that you think open jaw is unaffordable for you with a Sydney embarkation point, I think a little searching may change your mind. That last hop back to Paris wastes a day and a hotel night expense and will cost in transport for no goal except to save on airfare. A travel agent may be able to solve your problem.
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by AJPeabody
Each arrow represents a lost day. You are projecting one third of your trip in transit. You will then have about 3 days per place. Germany and Switzerland are entire countries that will be hard to see in 3 days. Although you have said that you think open jaw is unaffordable for you with a Sydney embarkation point, I think a little searching may change your mind. That last hop back to Paris wastes a day and a hotel night expense and will cost in transport for no goal except to save on airfare. A travel agent may be able to solve your problem.
To piggyback a bit on what AJ is saying, price out what an itinerary may be by flying multi-city/ open jaw. Then using your RT, price out how much it would be to travel BACK to Paris from your last destination AND that last night of hotel stay into your final price. You may find that round-trip "savings" is no longer a significant savings in the end. With this, you also lose a full day sightseeing in your plan, necessitating back to Paris.

if you absolutely insist on this round-trip plan, consider putting ALL of your time at Paris at the end of your trip. Once you land at Paris in the beginning, travel to your farthest point and then work your way back to Paris for your final days. This unfortunately will likely ultimately be no different in costs because of your flight preferences

But imho, for your three weeks, you have far too much going on. I don't mean to pile on. Spend time perusing exactly what you want to see in EACH destination. Plot out times on a calendar including closed days of landmarks (such as Louvre and d'Orsay in Paris). Remember that big landmarks take a long time to tour such as Veraailles, Louvre, etc. and plan accordingly. Those few days you have alloted for sightseeing in each city get gobbled up REAL quick. Also, plot how long it takes to get to each destination. If you fly, remember that you have to be at airports 2-3 hours before departure along with transport into the respective city, thus making it longer often than the train in the end.

Suggestion: since Paris and Switzerland are your focus, plan first to travel to Switzerland. From there, IF train schedules work out (I have NOT looked, btw) consider touring Western Germany/Eastern France and the Alscace area before ending your final time in Paris. I'd give Paris at least 5 -6 nights, but that does depend on what you want to see there. This is only a suggestion...

Last edited by Travel_Nerd; Sep 1st, 2023 at 01:38 PM.
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 02:01 PM
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When are you planning on travelling?
I don't think a Eurail pass makes sense with so much travel in France, but check what Man in Seat 61 says about these things and try doing a test itinerary on the Eurail website. You will still need to book seats on many trains and may be charged for those for instance. If you can book direct early enough it is often (though not always) cheaper to book separate tickets. Train travel is popular and some trains, even international ones, fill up. You do not want to be standing for hours on a train.
With your time limits I would say Switzerland (not Swiss!) and France are probably enough, though it does depend on when you are travelling somewhat.
Jetlag will be a major problem for you, do not underestimate it. 20 Days including two long flights is not a lot of time on the ground. Honestly you could spend that time just visiting Paris and another city in France and still not scratch the surface.
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 02:29 PM
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The month(s) you will be traveling will be helpful to us to help you plan.

Switzerland is one of those places that I love summer or winter . . . summer to go to music festivals and take boat trips on the lakes; winter to go skiing.

Amsterdam, I much prefer in Spring and Summer.

Paris - any time, really, even when it's cold and dreary.
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 03:21 PM
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Probably not what you want to hear, and it's not my trip, but if it was I would spend all 20 days in France. There is enough variety in "architecture, landscape, culture and food" in different parts of the country to easily fill your itinerary. (BTW, does an interest in architecture and culture include history, and an interest in food include wine?) I'm allergic to airports, so other than arriving and departing I wouldn't add any flights in the middle of this trip. Depending on the final itinerary, a car rental for a week or so would be a nice break from big, crowded cities.

For a first visit to Paris, I'd stay a minimum of 5 full days.
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 03:35 PM
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Coming from Australia means a significant jet lag adjustment allowance at your first location. Consider at least one half wasted day. Half wasted refers to you, not the day!.

As someone who has traveled from Australia to Europe a number of times, 1/2 day wasted is being very optimistic. Be prepared to want to crawl into bed around 6 pm and wake up ready for breakfast around 2 am. Fighting jetlag when flying from Australia is much easier said than done
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 06:20 PM
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The original poster is an Aussie.
He wants to see England......yet it's culture is much like Australia, but greener. Does he really want travel to be not much different than home?
He wants to see Switzerland....no tall mountains in Oz? He'll find they don't look much different in real life than in photos; I once drove down the mountain from St Moritz, thinking it was much like a gravel pit back home, only bigger, and more of a slope. Also MUCH more costly
He wants to see big citiesl......yet I find one big European city to be much like a big American city
The differences in culture are more to be found in the hinterlands.
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 06:37 PM
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Originally Posted by tomboy
The original poster is an Aussie.
He wants to see England......yet it's culture is much like Australia, but greener. Does he really want travel to be not much different than home?
He wants to see Switzerland....no tall mountains in Oz? He'll find they don't look much different in real life than in photos; I once drove down the mountain from St Moritz, thinking it was much like a gravel pit back home, only bigger, and more of a slope. Also MUCH more costly
He wants to see big citiesl......yet I find one big European city to be much like a big American city
The differences in culture are more to be found in the hinterlands.
Actually, the OP stated they are plannning London and Scotland for another trip...

And, I'm sorry, I have to disagree that European cities are "like" American cities. Regardless, the OP is an Aussie wanting to travel to Europe...to experience and see sites he or she cannot find in Australia.
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Old Sep 1st, 2023, 07:02 PM
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Originally Posted by sudhaeci
. . . I understand it is a waste of time going back to Paris but that's the best flight deal I could find, so chose that.

Thanks again.
I may have missed it but don't think you've mentioned when the trip is and IF you have purchased your flights yet.

As others have mentioned - returning to Paris to fly home, even IF it is cheaper, will cost you extra €€/AUS$$ and wasted travel days. If you haven't booked the flights yet - look for Open Jaw (often called multi-city) flying in to one city and home from another. Usually they cost about the same as a round trip in/out of the same city, or only a little more. Saving a few $$ on a R-T ticket could be an expensive false economy.

For a first trip (whether R-T or Open Jaw) its best to KISS - Keep it Simple Stupid (I amd NOT calling you stupid ) You only have 20 days - if that included travel days you will have about 17 days free for seeing / doing. Then every time you move eats up more time. Long moves pretty much take a full day and shorter moves -- maybe half a day or a bit more.. (But maybe you've already accounted for travel from/to Oz and the trip is 22 or 23 days -- but that still isn't long enough to traipse all over Europe)

In your options you've listed some single cities but lumped them in with entire countries - 'Germany' or 'Swizerland' is not equivalent to Paris or Amsterdam or Rome. I'd consider maybe consider just one country, or one country plus a couple cities conveniently nearby.

Last edited by janisj; Sep 1st, 2023 at 07:06 PM. Reason: typos
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Old Sep 2nd, 2023, 03:27 AM
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Yes, you are planning too much for the time you have. Most people, travelling from Australia to Europe, will take a couple of days to fully recover from jetlag. Your body clock is out of whack and it takes time to adjust to a new time zone. If you are flying in to Paris and back out of Paris, and that is set in stone, then a suggestion is to visit a few places in France, train to Switzerland, stay in a few places in Switzerland and train back to Paris, to fly home. Make sure your last night is IN Paris, don't leave travelling back to the last minute.

Have a look at Google Images and guidebooks and Trip Advisor, to see what places are like and what there is of interest for you. Before you book anything else, lay it out on a spreadsheet, or piece of paper, day by day, to see what works. Two nights gives you one full day, 3 nights gives you two full days, etc. As has already been said, you lose almost a whole day when you move on from one place to the next. Once you have settled on your countries, next step is which cities/towns to stay in.
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