Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Help me pick: London, Prague, Malta, or Italy?

Help me pick: London, Prague, Malta, or Italy?

Old Apr 7th, 2006, 06:16 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 13
Help me pick: London, Prague, Malta, or Italy?

My friend and I are grad students who have the opportunity to spend a month in Europe next April. We've narrowed down our city choices to London, Prague, Pieta (Malta), and a few in Italy - Bologna, Genoa (Genova), or Naples. (Thought about Barcelona too, but I've travelled extensively throughout Spain so we thought we'd do something new.)

I was just interested to see which city (out of those) people enjoyed the most. Which city would be the best to live in for a month? It doesn't necessarily have to be the one with the most to do, or see, but I want to know which city you think we should experience for its character.

Or, if you can't pick a favorite, which city would be the best for what we want?

1.) Being able to speak English: We're both native English speakers and would like to go somewhere where we can function speaking English (we're not as ignorant as that sounds...although we would enjoy learning a new language, certain factors just make it easier for us to be in a place where we can get by with English). But, as we've never been to these places, we don't really know how far English will get us (except in London, I think we'll be ok there).

2.) Eating: My friend is vegetarian, and is nervous about her food options.

3.) Weather: It's might not be as fun to be in a place where it's cold/rains/etc all the time and limits our activity.

4.) Expenses: Ideally, the less money we spend the better. I've heard London is the most expensive city in Europe; however, I've also been told that London is a fantastic city and I shouldn't pass up a chance to spend a month there because it can be worth the money.

Thank you for your thoughts!
Jade15 is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2006, 06:58 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,161
Well, for warmer weather, Italy. Otherwise, I'd say London, although in terms of weather, it's a crap shoot. While it might be expensive if you're staying in town (except some of the hostels are really good value), you might consider heading out a bit into the suburbs. Years ago, when I was doing the hostel thing, I stayed a month in West Hampstead, which had a unique atmosphere of its own and lots of local pubs. When I moved there, I lived at the end of the central line bordering on Essex, here there's a lot of great places to go (Epping Forest, country pubs, Saturday markets, etc.). On our last visit, we stayed part of the time in Stoke Newington, which is an interesting mixed neighborhood and becoming gentrified (easy to get to the center of town by bus or the underground); as well as staying with friends in Brentwood (taking the train to Liverpool Street) and staying in South Woodford, a place that I like very much. There's so much to do in and around London that you still won't have enough time to see and experience everything in a month, but you just might have the opportunity to meet people and make longlasting friendships.
Surfergirl is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2006, 07:19 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 3,801
London is a fantastic city, and since you listed speaking English as your top priority, go for it.

Have you checked to see if your travel dates coincide with the times that London School of Economics rents out their dorm rooms?

You should be able to get a rental for a month in London that will cut down on your expenses.

Vegetarian options in London are superior.

Weather? Well, as a friend of mine in London said to me last I visited: "Global warming won't be bad for everybody."

Anyway, you can't have everything, and London sounds like the ticket.
nessundorma is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2006, 02:34 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 9
Any of those locations are a crap shoot for weather in April. Prague was bearable last April for me, and Naples the year before, also in April. Prague may be hard for vegetarian--but you can get cheese pizza on every corner--much to my surprise and my 12 year old's delight. You will have no trouble with English in either place. They couldn't be more different, and both are great. London is definately the most expensive city in Europe--but maybe you could stay outside of London. If I were going for a month, I would choose England, just because I love it so much. But I wouldn't stay in London itself for more than a week.
hilaryus is offline  
Old Apr 8th, 2006, 08:02 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,525
Malta-they speak English; (way cheaper than England)have alot of historical things to see and do;beaches if warm enough;unusual restaurants in regards to pleasing many due to the various" conquering" through the ages,etc. I just don't know if you would want to spend the whole month there? If you went to Malta, you could always fly or take the ferry to Sicily for a few days which is easy and cheap so you could have a version(but way better) of Italy too?
dutyfree is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2006, 10:28 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 3,776
I took the train from Nice to Naples, and thought of staying a night in Genoa but as soon as the train came out of the tunnel and I got my first look at that huge city - I knew I was staying on the train...I'm sure there are lots of great things there, but it just struck me as too industrial and not really what I was looking for. You'll probably like Bologna better. I only stayed in Naples one night (same big city thing) and went on to Sorrento and Positano for a couple days.
sheri_lp is offline  
Old Apr 9th, 2006, 10:39 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 6,260
I think a whole month on Malta might be pushing it just a bit, English spoken or not.

You can stay cheap in London if you know where to look (I tend to "look" in the opposite directions these days and sometimes wonder if I'm being stupid)

I honestly think you could do more than just "get by" in any of these places if you were determined, to include Prague but I alam also thinking about:

the lack of English-language media in some of these areas, which might end up being a deterrent...but the fact that you might have to dig some mentally could make a foreih=gn-langauge speaking city ultimately more memorable.

London has a LOT to offer and there are always the nearby places you could easily visit.

Hard decision...but a nice one to have to make, ultimately.
Intrepid1 is offline  
Old Apr 12th, 2006, 03:00 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 13
I'm doing an exchange program, so I have to be in one place for a month (although I am hoping to do some more traveling while I'm in Europe anyway). Housing should be taken care of through the exchange program, although you all have brought up great points and suggestions.

I really just wanted to see which city people really enjoyed being in, and which city people would want to spend an entire month in. The speaking English, eating, and weather are just sort of side issues for a pro-con list. I really just want to get opinions of gut reactions. If YOU had to pick one of those cities to spend a month in, which one would it be?
Jade15 is offline  
Old Apr 12th, 2006, 03:28 PM
Posts: n/a
While I liked Malta, it would be the first one I'd reject from this spending a month idea. Why? Because they DO speak English for one reason. You will be able to function in English in any of those other places -- but it would be nice to also immerse yourself in a foreign language at the same time -- and a month would be nice to really do that.

Otherwise I almost think you could throw the names in a hat and draw one. It's a no-lose situation whichever you draw.
Old Apr 12th, 2006, 03:42 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 3,801
For me it might be Genova, for the climate, the food, because it's on its way back up and because it is so easy to travel to other European countries from there. Napoli would be another choice for me, but not as young grad students. I also like Bologna.

But I would also go for London -- except I lived in London already! But it's a fantastic city and my last visit there made me want to spend as much time as possible there.
nessundorma is offline  
Old Apr 12th, 2006, 03:51 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,323
What would you like?

A pair of jeans, a suit, new socks, a shirt?

It's a ridiculous question that you've posed. You must put some more thought into it. You can't compare those places in the same sentence. At a pinch you could compare Italy to Prague in the sense that both have relatively similar architecture.

London is a big city break, plenty to keep you occupied 24 hours a day. Italy, more "pure culture" and arguably better budget food. Prague is even cheaper, but perhaps limited in what you can do over a month. Malta is far too small to spend a month in...it's fine if you have a place there and carry on as if it's a second home, but for a trip, it would be a waste.

I'd pick London and perhaps do a sidetrip to Paris as well as the rest of the UK. That said, the weather is nothing special.

How about touring Italy, namely the south? If weather is important to you?

It's a hard question to answer as it depends on what you want to get out of it. I'd say that Spain would've been a good choice, but obviously not, given your past experience.
m_kingdom2 is offline  
Old Apr 12th, 2006, 04:00 PM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 65
London, London, London, London! Can you tell I love London? It has everything - history, culture, theatre, food, shopping.
Liquidsunshine is offline  
Old Apr 12th, 2006, 08:57 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,525
I love London but EVERYTHING there is so high it takes the joy out of traveling around . Sorry but I think that when you spend almost $20-30 USD for "takeout" cheap stuff from Marks and Spencer to eat for dinner/ price of Crawley by Gatwick airport to London train ticket is 13 pounds(almost $26 USD) with underground usage for a day and a pot of tea costing $4 USD-sorry I would vote for Italy hands down!!!Just pick some different cities to hang out in
dutyfree is offline  
Old Apr 12th, 2006, 09:02 PM
Posts: n/a
While I agree that London would require more money than the other options, I think dutyfree is getting carried away. Anyone who goes to Marks and Spencer to buy their carryout should expect to spend a lot. Why would anyone worrying about budget do that?
Old Apr 13th, 2006, 03:50 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,642
Strong rec for Italy. April is a beautiful time to be there. And since your trip is a full year away, you have *more* than enough time to learn the basics of the language.
Why did you pick the cities on your list? Is there some kind of exchange program? I would suggest you add somewhere in the south of France to your list as well--Montpellier, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Pau...all places that would be delightful to spend a month in and have wonderful surrounding regions to explore.
BTilke is offline  
Old Apr 13th, 2006, 04:06 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 6,260
Well, re-rereading your first reply makes me wonder if that "want to do some traveling" indicates the need for an either centralized (rail) location or a hub city for budget airlines.

That causes me to continue to reject the Malta idea and possibly Prague. London is a great budget airline hub city but remember my earlier advice about your possibly coming away more satisfied if you DO go to a city where English is not spoken (thank you, Patrick, for agreeing with me on this).

Then there is Italy where the "ruins [of Greece] are still standing"....and now BTilke has added the South of France...you cannot go wrong but as much as I love London I would bag that for something more "foreign."

Save London for when you get old like me!!!
Intrepid1 is offline  
Old Apr 13th, 2006, 05:37 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 5,938
For me , it would be Naples although I have not found English to be as widely spoken there as in other more tourist orientated areas of Italy. The major pros would be the relative inexpensiveness, the food, weather, the sheer vibrancy of the city, the ability to tour the South of Italy, the major historical sights Pompeii, Herculaneum, Paestum etc.

I am biased against London, as I am British, so I never really visit as a tourist. I do find it horribly expensive .

Malta is one of, if not THE, most disappointing place I have ever visited. The best thing about Malta was the ferry to Sicily.
willit is offline  
Old Apr 13th, 2006, 09:05 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,525
Neopolitan-just to advise you that I go to London quite often as I work for the airlines and am definitely "on a budget". Marks and Spencer as well as Sainsbury is where most of the airline crews buy their "takeout/deli" meals as everything is so expensive this is whether you are staying in Crawley or going through Victoria Station(where there is another takeout spot).To Jade15-if given a choice and I have been everywhere but Malta on your list,I would spend the month in Sicily and enjoy the great scenery,food and people. My daughter is currently studying there in Siracusa(Ortigia) and it is heaven on earth. There are so many wonderful places to visit and the people are terrific! You could take side trips to Malta,Tunisia and even up to Rome,Naples,etc.Prices are reasonable,weather is alot better than London and there are quite a large number of historic places to visit along with being right on the sea in many places.You have the opportunity of being in small villages to larger cities(Palermo and Catania) which really make it appeal to many.The only problem is the language but we have found that if you know basic phrases in Italian the Sicilians meet you more than halfway in trying to help you and get around.Go to Sicily before its ruined by the tourists like Tuscany!
dutyfree is offline  
Old Apr 13th, 2006, 10:24 AM
Posts: n/a
dutyfree, I'm not suggesting that lots of people don't go to Marks and Spencer. My suggestion would be if you don't want to spend 30 pounds for take out you go to a million other places -- like Pret and Manger where you can get a nice takeway meal for well under 10 pounds (or even 5 if you aren't a big eater). You got stuck buying something for convenience I guess, so yes you had to pay a premium for it.
Old Apr 13th, 2006, 10:30 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,323
You have no soul if you describe Malta as disappointing.

If you expect world class culture, world class shopping, and world class (whatever that is) dining then of course you're going to be disappointed. One must have reasonable expectations about places that they will visit. It oozes faded, washed-out, "lived in" charm. The people are warm, the sea is azure, the food is basic, but timeless. No fads, and no fashion dictates the life, and pace of this island. I have just returned from a brief escape there, and am considering buying a little holiday place in Portomaso.

It's slow, very, very, very slowly up-and-coming, but best of all, they drive on the correct side (as far as I'm concerned!)!
m_kingdom2 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Do Not Sell My Personal Information