Help us figure out the best route!
June 11, 2012 6:38 PM   Subscribe

Help us plan the best month-long route through Western Europe!

We're planning to travel from Canada to Italy, France, UK and to the Czech Republic in May 2013 for the month.

We're hoping to get a Eurail pass and the specific cities we'd like to see most of all (surprise, surprise) are Venice, Rome, Paris, London and Prague.

I'm wondering where the best point to jump off from would be. Would it make the most sense to start in Rome, and then work our way up through to Paris, and from there to London and then through Germany to Prague? Or maybe start in London, then to Czech Republic, then to France and Italy last? Or is there an even better way that I haven't thought of yet?

Also, what would you consider a good amount of time to see each city?

Any other Euro-specific travel tips would be greatly appreciated!
posted by addelburgh to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd do something like Rome -> Venice -> Vienna -> (via Bratislava) Prague -> Berlin -> Amsterdam -> Paris -> London. I wouldn't book much of anything in advance, figure you can move on to the next city if you don't love the one you are in and you can always push off your travel day if you're having a great time where you are.
posted by foodgeek at 7:19 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

A Eurail pass might not be cost effective for that itinerary. The Rick Steves guide is very useful overall, but specifically the linked page is a guide to when you should get a pass and when you should just buy tickets. And you should consider flights as well, you can fly quite cheaply within Europe - perhaps it'd be easiest to go London-Paris-Venice-Rome, fly to Prague, then fly to London. Flights you'd definitely want to book at least a couple weeks in advance though. I have used SkyScanner for cheap European flights, I think there's a few others as well.
posted by jacalata at 7:31 PM on June 11, 2012

Having been to several of those cities, and considered similar routes, my recommendation is London ->Paris ->Rome -> Venice -> Prague, roughly. There are lots of beautiful cities along the way. I'd caution you against falling into a 'if it's Tuesday, this must be Milan' mindset, though.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:46 PM on June 11, 2012

The best jumping off point may depend on your criteria. I suspect that London might be the best bet for finding cheap transatlantic flights, and therefore make the best start/finish from a cost point of view. As jacalata mentions, there are plenty of cheap flights within Europe, so get the cheapest transatlantic option and in the event that your train itinerary leaves a large gap at one end, you can tie it off with a short flight.
I would check the official tourist pages for each of the cities you mentioned, to see if there are any festivals or events listed that might make you want to be there on a particular day or week. (Conversely, a busy festival on a topic that you don't care for may be worth avoiding due to cost/availability of hotels).
There are some pretty big gaps between the cities you mention that may lead to long train journeys, so you may want to consider some more manageable chunks, as in foodgeek's suggestion. e.g. Paris-Rome is pretty long, so you might consider Lyon or Milan along the way. However, there is a balance to be struck - you don't want to feel like you've spent a month on the train and never had time to see anywhere you stopped. This is where the flexibility of the rail pass is an advantage. If you have a rough itinerary with the definite stops that you listed, you can keep the remaining suggestions as "possibles" to be visited or skipped as time allows.
For each of the main cities, I would personally budget a minimum of 2 full days in addition to your arrival day even if you just want to quickly skim the sights. If you want to see more than the bare minimum, Rome, Paris and London would be at least 3-4 days. Check previous questions for specific sights to see, and also check Atlas Obscura if you are interested in some of the less well-known attractions.
posted by Jakey at 2:44 AM on June 12, 2012

The Eurail pass isn't valid in the UK, though it entitles you to some discount on the Eurostar train that goes through the Channel Tunnel. Even with a discount on the Eurostar fare, you may find it's cheaper to take a budget airline form London to Prague or Rome than it is to take the train from Paris to London. If you're taking the Eurostar, it would make more sense in terms of travel time to either start or finish in London. If you're flying within Europe, you can fit London in anywhere you like. (Beware of very strict baggage limits on budget airlines.)

Also, if you use the train just to go to Paris, Rome, Venice, Prague and points in between, you should be able to manage that with a five-country pass rather than the more expensive global pass. If you want the freedom to change your mind and go to Madrid or Copenhagen as well, then stick with the global pass.
posted by Azara at 6:37 AM on June 12, 2012

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