Planes, trains, and schnitzels
January 4, 2011 12:26 AM   Subscribe

Travelfilter: How to see Europe without burning out? I'm planning a 2-month long trip that includes Italy, France, and ultimately Africa, and would like to spend 8 days traveling in Germany and Austria. Mefi - what's your recommmendation on how I should spend my time?

I'd really like to go to Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna, but not sure if I have enough time in my itinerary to make the most of each city. I've looked through a lot of askme questions on the region, and have the Rick Steves guides for these cities, but am torn about whether I should condense my trip. This is for early February. Here's my itinerary so far:

4 days in Paris
2 days in Amsterdam (2nd time for me, first for my travel companion)
2 days in Munich (via sleeper train from Amsterdam)
2 days in Salzburg
2 days in Vienna
Return to Munich to take the sleeper train to Paris
Flight from CDG in Paris in the afternoon to Africa via Dubai

Given that I've got a long flight to Africa, I don't know if I'll be tired of living out of my bag with the short stays in each city. In terms of my interests, I'd really like to go on the Sound of Music tour (not afraid to admit my love for that musical), Augustiner brewery, and Mozart's house in Salzburg. In Vienna, I would like to see the Spanish Riding School exercises, the Naschmarkt, and really just get a chance to stroll through the city and enjoy the cafes.

My questions:
Is it too much? Should I stick with Munich & Salzburg, or Salzburg and Vienna (using Munich as a trainhub)? While in Salzburg, would it be too much of a detour to spend a day at a spa, like this one? Any favorite recommendations on things to do/places to eat in any of these destinations would be appreciated! Finally, would love to meet up with any local mefis in these cities!
posted by hampanda to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
that's a LOT of traveling. You might want to reconsider because you can (well, I can) happily spend 2 weeks in Paris and have a fantastic time. It just looks to me like one of those "run, run, run and then we can get back and say we've seen ALL of Europe" when you've really seen practically nothing because you didn't give yourselves time to really explore. 2 months is a great amount of time, I would suggest using it to really get to know a few special places.
posted by alchemist at 12:53 AM on January 4, 2011

Best answer: I don't quite get where you expect to fit Italy into your travels, or how long you expect to spend in Africa (also, which part(s) of Africa, which will probably be a factor here as well). Without knowing the rest of your plans for the two months, it's hard to get an overall sense of the trip and what the pace will be like.

But based on the itinerary you've given, I think it sounds pretty OK. Not optimal, but certainly doable, and you'll probably have a great time. If anything, I would omit Amsterdam and Salzburg in order to give yourself an extra 4 days to spend across the other cities.

Re living out of a bag - the trip is two months. It sort of is what it is. Unless you plan to spend several weeks in one base city and make side trips to nearby places (which doesn't sound like your approach so far), you are not going to be able to avoid moving around a lot and dealing with the fallout from that.

I find, for myself, that I prefer to move on every 3 or 4 days (unless it's a seriously world class city overflowing with fascinating things to do). This feels just relaxed enough that I don't feel like I'm spending half my time on the road, but still seeing a lot of different stuff. Spending more time to "seriously get to know a place" is great, but budget your time wisely. You can run out of things to do in a smaller city.
posted by Sara C. at 1:14 AM on January 4, 2011

Completely agree with alchemist. I'd recommend cutting that itenery down and taking more time to appreciate the city you're in rather than clock watching for your next connection. also if you can, try not to get drawn into tick boxing the big sights. Make time to explore away from the crowds and enjoy a relaxing coffee/beer. You'll get so much more from your trip.

Anyway good luck! and hope you have a great holiday.
posted by Fezzer at 1:14 AM on January 4, 2011

Best answer: I just got back from about 11 days in Vienna. I was there with my boyfriend, and it's winter so we were happy to be home at four when the sun went down but still we didn't ever feel bored, there was something to do each and every day. That being said Spanish Riding School is something worth doing (their morning practices though are just that- practices, which was slightly disappointing. It might be worth spring for the cheap seats of the real show) and the Nashmarket was awesome and delicious, however there's so much more to see than that. It depends on whether or not you're a museum or history person, but there's SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO many museums there that I would definitely extend time there to at least include 3 days.

Best of luck on the trip and mefi mail me if you have an questions on Vienna!
posted by raccoon409 at 1:29 AM on January 4, 2011

Agree with all of the above. Do less, do it for longer and do it better. Also, it's worth remembering that one of the nicest things about any city (but European ones in particular) is just hanging out and wandering around rather than manically ticking off major tourist attractions (which will, of course, be entirely full of other tourists).
posted by rhymer at 1:45 AM on January 4, 2011

I think that it sounds fine, given your interests. Though I am also confused as to what happened to Italy.

Regarding Thermes, what are you looking for exactly? There are spas in Amsterdam and Munich and well, all over Austria and Germany, in the city, without having to trek anywhere. In Munich, for example, I loved the Volksbad. It is a small beautiful art nouveau place. And they dont speak any English. But thats part of the fun.
posted by vacapinta at 1:51 AM on January 4, 2011

I think your itinerary sounds great. I would do things a little differently, but perhaps that’s just me. (My European travel advice credentials: I’m British, but I’ve lived in Austria for over 10 years now and have travelled extensively through Europe).

I’d consider skipping Salzburg and instead of returning to Munich I would go on to Ljubljana in Slovenia from Vienna via Graz (a bit of a detour, but well worth it). Near Graz there are lots of thermal spas of world class quality but affordable prices. From Ljubljana you can get a cheap EasyJet flight direct to Paris CDG. This is obviously faster than the train and almost certainly a lot cheaper.

Memail me if you want.
posted by MighstAllCruckingFighty at 2:25 AM on January 4, 2011

I'd probably drop Amsterdam as it's the most out of the way (and I am nota huge fan). There are some salt mines outside of Salzburg that we enjoyed, but only if you stay more than two days. Losing another city from your itinerary couldn't hurt, but I'm not sure which one.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:05 AM on January 4, 2011

I think your itinerary sounds just fine. I might take out a day from Salzburg and add it to Paris or Amsterdam, but I personally really like those cities.
posted by sid at 6:09 AM on January 4, 2011

My girlfriend and I did something like 15 nights in Vienna, Salzburg and Berlin (and thought about Munich, but realized we wanted more time in Berlin). Vienna was nice, tons of things to do. Salzburg not nearly as much so, but we were there for (a portion of) the Salzburg Music Festival and had concert tickets for three nights. I'd be OK spending two nights in Salzburg if I didn't have the concerts to go see, but not two nights in Vienna. There's just tons more to see in Vienna.

I'm not so sure I understand the duractions you have listed. When you say "2 days" somewhere do you mean literally "2 days" as in you arrive sometime on, say, Monday, see stuff, sleep, see some stuff Tuesday and then hop on another train? If that's the case, you really have less than 24 hours (of which you'll spend 4-8 hours sleeping) in each "2 day" city.

In Salzburg we had no interest in the sound of music tour and Mozart's house was something we didn't intend on seeing but wound up walking past it. (Large apartment building with a yellow facade that said in big letters, Mozarts Geburtshaus. Nothing really impressive there.) Like I said, we were there mainly for the music festival and had already purchased tickets for three nights. We spent the rest of the time walking around the old village on the river, which is mostly tourist trap nonsense.

My grandparents are from Germany and have been to Salzburg and Vienna several times, they reccomended the salt mines, but we didn't have time to get out to the salt mines and get back and get changed into nice clothes for the concerts, so we couldn't see them. They also said more time is needed for Vienna than Salzburg.

Berlin is just huge and we didn't even scratch the surface.
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:10 AM on January 4, 2011

Best answer: I've also found it works better to list a trip as nights rather than days. Because if you are taking a 2-3 hour train ride during a day, and checking out and checking in to a new place, that's not really a full day to explore.

Personally, I won't do a major city in less than three nights, especially in the winter with short days. That gives two full days plus the first night. Two nights only gives you a single full day. I just did a trip through Europe in December and the itinerary was:

3 nights Dublin
4 nights Munich (including one day to go to Neuschwanstein)
3 nights Vienna
3 nights Prague

That was sufficient except I could have used another day in Munich and Vienna to see more museums.

Should I stick with Munich & Salzburg, or Salzburg and Vienna (using Munich as a trainhub)?

Munich to Vienna goes through Salzburg. There is a high speed RailJet train.
posted by smackfu at 6:36 AM on January 4, 2011

I recently got back from a 97 day trip through Europe. I think that your itinerary seems very stressful. Please do not underestimate the time it will take to get settled in each city (figuring out public transportation, lodging, food, et cetera in another language and with luggage).

Your plans sound wonderful, but you would be spending every other day just in transit and not actually seeing the sights. Also remember that this is early February and Germany/Austria will be cold! Having a spa day would be a lovely indulgence.

I had the same problem of wanting to do EVERYTHING in Europe on one trip. I had to remind myself that it will always be there and it's nice to have something to look forward to seeing on my next trip.
posted by amicamentis at 6:59 AM on January 4, 2011

When you say "2 days" somewhere do you mean literally "2 days" as in you arrive sometime on, say, Monday, see stuff, sleep, see some stuff Tuesday and then hop on another train? If that's the case, you really have less than 24 hours (of which you'll spend 4-8 hours sleeping) in each "2 day" city.

Yeah, when I read your original post I was assuming "2 days in Vienna" meant, like, two sleeps in Vienna. If you mean to arrive off an overnight train, sight-see, sleep, sight-see more, and then in the evening get on another overnight train? No. In that case I would retract my previous semi-approval of your schedule and tell you NO WAY.
posted by Sara C. at 9:22 AM on January 4, 2011

Go to and their general travelforums and post your question. (You need to say how many European days you have before you leave for Africa.) They will likely point out what smackfu said--traveling days with check-ins, trains, packing, unpacking, are "lost" days. If it were me, I'd rent an apartment for a week or more in three places--Paris, Vienna, Munich--and go deep rather than wide. If you stay over a week in some of those cities, you could plan overnight trips out of each one since you'll be saving $$$ by renting an apartment and eating in.
posted by Elsie at 9:22 AM on January 4, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! Sorry for the confusion - you're right, Smackfu, Sara C and others - replace the days with nights in my itinerary. So 2 days in Vienna will actually be 2 nights. I will be spending 10 days in Italy, and then an extended duration in one country in Africa, so that part of my trip will be more reasonably paced. Thanks for the suggestions so far!
posted by hampanda at 11:13 AM on January 4, 2011

Best answer: I agree with Smackfu - three nights per major city is probably a good rule of thumb. Any less and you're just blasting through, either running from place to place so quickly you forget about everything, or lingering in places but not getting to see much of what the city has to offer. My recommendation would be to cut out one of the big 2-day cities (Amsterdam, Munich, or Vienna), and trim Salzburg down to one day. Or even just choose three cities to spend four days in each, recognizing that there are almost certainly great day trips out of all of those cities.

On cutting out a day in Salzburg: You can basically see everything worth seeing in Salzburg in one day. It's tiny. It is easy to do as a day trip out of Munich; it can also be a one-day stop between Munich and Vienna. You could just as easily go to a thermal baths place in another city and stay settled in one place for longer. (Munich-area recommendation: Therme Erding, reachable by public transit.)
posted by mandanza at 2:50 PM on January 4, 2011

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