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Need Recommendations (Smaller Cities or Larger Ones?)

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Jul 23rd, 2015, 07:21 AM
  #1
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Join Date: Jul 2015
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Need Recommendations (Smaller Cities or Larger Ones?)

Hello,

I will be traveling to Europe from January to July this coming year, I'm hoping to travel to as many countries/ cities as I can. I'm looking for recommendations or advice on whether or not I should try to see the smaller lesser well known cities, or the larger ones? When I visit said country, I want the things I see and experience to give me a greater insight on that country's, culture, food, architecture, people, most interesting qualities.

Traveling money is not an issue, I will be based in London, so I can travel to most surrounding countries, I will most likely be traveling for weekends or 3 week trips here and there.

If you have any recommendations for cities, countries, food, travel routes, time of year to see, please comment whatever you can!!! Your help and recommendations are essential.

Thank you!!
rachelmm is offline  
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 07:38 AM
  #2
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
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If you visit Ireland remember there is Ireland and then there is Dublin a location all on its own contained within the bounds of the motorway loop and the sea. That is true of most of Europe England outside London and the major cities is a whole different world on a smaller difference scale than Ireland but still noticeable.

I will stick with Ireland which gets less assistance when asked in multi national questions. Best time to visit May and June. March gets the push for St Patrick's day but I would avoid 2016 as St P's, Easter and the 1916 uprising centenary all fall into the same time slot and you can bet Dublin will cash in hyking prices for limited accommodation.

Architecture is mainly UK style although there are historical castles and some amassing Cathedrals. Lots of festival/events for cultural and even food related things

From London you could hop over for weekends and my recommendation would be at least 2 weeks if visiting in one lump.

Possibly consider asking a bunch of separate questions rather than just one so that you get specific advice that doesn't get lost in amongst a host of replies.
Tony2phones is offline  
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 07:53 AM
  #3
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 156
I would first make a list of the countries you plan to visit, lay it out on a calendar and decide when you can or want to take those longer trips.

From London, you could easily do weekend trips to France - Paris, Bayeux, Deauville, Giverny, etc.

You don't mention the Netherlands or Belgium in your list but a weekend in Amsterdam would be a lot of fun; you could bike to the smaller villages as well.

I would definitely suggest a weekend in our around Brugges too. The town is lovely, you can take a tour of the Western Front or head to the Ardennes for a day.

Look at Prague, Karlovy Vary, Cesky Krumlov as good mix of a large city with smaller towns.

Combining a large(r) city with small(er) towns shouldn't be an issue at all. Our family does a combination on all trips - Florence combined with Montalcino, Venice with Cortina, Madrid with Seville, Paris with Bayeux, etc. Its not a question of what is best, its what you like and can arrange. With this much lead time and the length you'll be there, it will be a great adventure and you can do a lot of research and planning ahead of time. I would suggest that you see the 'big' cities as that is where many of the larger museums and landmarks will be then branch out to a smaller village or two nearby. I can just imagine you telling someone a year from now that you visited Italy and then explaining why you didn't see the Vatican, Accademia, Duomo(s), etc.
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 08:05 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2014
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You can get a lot of ideas for short-breaks that might be interesting to you by searching the Guardian website for "short-breaks" or other UK publications for features like "48 hours in....".

Something that might guide your decision is how easy it is to get a cheap flight from a convenient airport at departure times you like. For instance, you might find that (I'm just making this up) that a 4pm Friday departure from City airport to Torino, Italy works perfectly for you, and that Torino is just the kind of small Italian city with loads of interest and fun that you are looking for -- and best of all there is a return flight that works for your schedule as well.

So take a look at all the airports for London, and see what their short-flight destinations are, especially for cheap flights. Some small cities of fascination that are somewhat easy to "conquer" in a weekend might really jump out at you as interesting possibilities: Sevilla, Porto, Antwerp, Cologne, Torino, Strasbourg, Verona, Bologna, Nice, Palermo, Girona ... But I think if you take a "flyer" at small and less famous cities, you'll get a fascinating picture of Europe and you can go to mild weather destinations in winter and cooler ones as you head toward July.
sandralist is offline  
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 08:10 AM
  #6
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
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For what you want to do--absorb culture, food, etc.--, I'd vote to go to a smaller city in a interesting area and stay in that area. Nothing wrong with the big cities, as Iahawk says, but IMO the real culture of a country is not found in the biggest cities.

Some suggestions of smallish places we've enjoyed:

Amboise and Beaune, France

Chester and Malmesbury, England

Verona and Bologna, Italy

These are just for starters.
dwdvagamundo is offline  
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 12:03 PM
  #7
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
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I am not familiar with Italy or Portugal but I think my advice applies anywhere.
My opinion is that large or small city is fine, I will plan to mix a bit of everything... What does the trick is to take your time and explore around. If say you visit Dublin for a weekend and you rush from site to site, you will not have time to people watch, socialise with locals or walk aimlessly around till you discover a local pub with great food and interesting characters or sit on a park bench and get to chat to the people next to you, to meet people and let the ambiance soak in...On the other hand, depending on your interests, you would not want to skip so and so sight, site or museum or activity, tourists go to specific places or jopin specific activities for good reasons... A mix of sightseen and letting your hair down on my opinion is the best approach to experience a place...

I know many people are not so fond of cities like Dublin or Athens, but I never get bored of them. They seem down to earth and real to me with lots to see and do. Due to various reasons most of my trips take place on winter, on places that often winter is considered off season. People often call me crazy for this, but for example I have do many 3+ weeks' long trips to Ireland on Fenruary/early March and I always had a great time. Yes, weather is not the best, some sites might be closed or on limited timetable, public transport sometimes is limited too and tours might nor run, day light hours might be somehow restricted, but for me it is interesting to socialise with locals, get dressed properly and walk aimlessly armed with my rain proof jacket and my umbrella and enjoy the scenery withour hordes of visitors around and even get to see an aspect of places not many visitors get to see.

You have to do lots of research and of course set your expectations right, say you wouldn't go on a tiny Greek island expecting to sunbath or find summer ambiance on January, but customising a trip according to your needs and been flexible while there is the way to go!
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