Where to go from Paris for 3-4 nights?
November 5, 2013 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Have miles, will travel. My brother and I need suggestions for out-of-this-world places accessible by a short to medium length plane ride (probably 4 hrs max but flexible) from Paris. What's your favorite place around those parts?

This location we are looking for would be for 3-4 nights in the summer. Our interests: stunning beauty, history, places like Rome, but also places that look like Iceland, and, as a bonus, being able to use Hyatt or Hilton points at a nice property. We probably have a slight preference for flying as opposed to driving because we probably would like to get out of France and we probably would like to avoid car rentals.

Specifically, right now, without the benefit of others' opinions, we are interested in possibly flying to somewhere in Norway, Sweden, or Finland on Finnair, or Madrid--or somewhere better in Spain (?)--on Iberian. Personally, I'm also interested in Portugal, and have a passing interest in Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna. And I'm quite intrigued by the idea of going to Chamonix on a 72-hour extended Geneva layover (by car, yes). Of all of the places listed above, we're probably most interested in going somewhere in Spain that can't be missed, and, probably more so, somewhere Finnair flies.

So as you can see, we're open to many different ideas. What's out: Amsterdam, Munich and probably all of Bavaria (unless you could convince us otherwise), Ireland, London, Monaco, Prague, Barcelona, the South of France, Tuscany, Rome or anywhere south of Rome in Italy. Also out: anywhere so far from the airport that it would take forever to get to by car or public transportation (because we only have 3-4 nights).

One final note: three nights is plenty for me and my brother to feel that we've experienced a place. I realize that's about 1/3 of what most people find to be enough time, but three is great for us and, from lots of experience and short attention spans, we can't really be convinced otherwise, I promise.

Tl;dr: Has any of you been to Norway, Sweden, Finland, etc. and, if so, can you recommend a good place for a 3-4 night stay? If not, where else fairly close to Paris is beautiful and can't be missed?
posted by trandolph to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My bias is always for Prague, but you should choose one of the places you mentioned, since they already strike your fancy.

So, how to choose? Well, when during the summer would you be going? Because Spain (and Italy, and Greece, etc) absolutely suck during August, with the heat and the humidity.

Have you been in Northern Europe during the summer? I didn't look at your profile, but let's assume as we usually do here on MF that you are from the US. I'm from California, and one of my most favorite things about being in northern(ish) Europe in the summer was the long long day. It can be magical if it's something you aren't used to. Plus, the people are so happy during that time, every day feels like a party.

Sorry that I don't have more specific recommendations.
posted by vignettist at 9:07 AM on November 5, 2013

Barcelona should be less than a four hour flight and I really can't recommend it enough.
posted by MidsizeBlowfish at 9:28 AM on November 5, 2013

You mentioned somewhere that looks like Iceland, but Iceland isn't on your list. So, why not Iceland? Its less than 4hrs flight I believe.

I visited Stockholm this summer, and had a fantastic time. No need to rent a car, and 3-4 nights is a decent amount of time. Take the airport express train from Arlanda - it drops you off right in the center of the city. The city is gorgeous, and we loved taking boats to various islands in the archipelago each day. There are so many destinations and tours, you can find something that suits your taste.

Something that's on my bucket list and might fit your criteria, is to go to Norway and take one of the spectacular train rides along the fjords. Random link describing it.
posted by Joh at 9:39 AM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sorry -- yes, Iceland definitely interests us and we'd love to hear if there is a great place there for a short visit. This would be for early summer.
posted by trandolph at 9:46 AM on November 5, 2013

Berlin is hugely underrated and a really fun city. Ignore any preconceptions you have about Germany. It is German like New York is American.

Seville is beautiful, and you could also do a day trip out into the countryside. But it will be boiling in summer.

Helsinki makes for a great summer trip because the weather might be good and the days will be long. It's also not horrifically busy. Everyone seems to recommend the Fabian Hotel. Out in the countryside the mosquitoes are something else though.

Iceland is great and you could mix up a day and a bit in Reykjavik with time seeing some of the countryside in the Golden Circle. It's stunning and lush in summer although equally lovely in the depths of winter. By the same token, the Scottish Highlands and Islands would also be lovely, but beware the midges. You can either stay all the time in Reykjavik and day trip, which lots of people do, or head out for a couple of nights somewhere down on the south coast road - Hella, Selfoss or similar.

Lisbon is a brilliant short holiday destination too.

If your 3-4 days could stretch to 5 then I'd also suggest Slovenia - a couple of days in Ljubljana and then up to Bled, which is stunning. If you've got the cash Vila Bled, Tito's old summer home, is great to stay in.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:52 AM on November 5, 2013

Seconding joh's suggestion of Norway in a Nutshell - I am dying to do that and 3-4 nights would be perfect.

Unless you don't mind being hot, I would not go to Spain in the summertime.
posted by something something at 10:49 AM on November 5, 2013

Iceland? Norway? Slovenia? Who wants to fly from Charles DeGaulle more than they have to? A three hour flight is more than six hours in transit (transfer, security, waiting for luggage, more transfer to and from the airport.) You waste a whole day traveling.

Don't waste your time in transit my friend. From Paris (Gare de Nord) London is 2 hours away on the Eurostar, Brussels about 90 minutes, and you can make it to Amsterdam on the Thalys in about 2 1/2 hours or Köln in about the same time. City centre to city centre.

If you don't like Amsterdam (???) Brugge is not far from Brussels. Aachen in Germany is also an easy connection from Brussels.

In France and the Low Countries you have a tremendous, fast, efficient train system. Take the train. Avoid the plane.
posted by three blind mice at 11:21 AM on November 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

In Norway I'd specifically recommend Lofoten, a series of remote islands in the northern half of the country, west of Bodø. I can specifically recommend the Reine Rorbuer as a hotel and home base. It looks like a warmer Iceland; dramatic mountains, less snow and more grass. Really great. Another remote part of Norway that's interesting and beautiful is Senja, called "Norway in miniature" because it's a big island with a lot of varied geography. Both Lofoten and Senja are great rural getaways with nice hotels and restaurants for tourists. If you'd rather have a more urban experience, going to Bergen and doing the Norway in a Nutshell round trip from there is also terrific. Be aware that Norway is quite expensive both intrinsically and because the currency is expensive.

If you want really remote and stunning, the Faroe Islands are a beautiful place for a short visit. Also similar geography to Iceland but even more remote and tiny (and warmer). There's not a lot to do there exactly, but if you stay in Torshavn and rent a car to get around you can see a lot in a few days.

Iceland is a great place to visit! Three days feels like an awkward amount of time though; a bit too long to just hang around Reykjavik, but not long enough to get out and see the rest of the island. I have friends who've spent 1-2 weeks driving around the ring road who thought that was great.
posted by Nelson at 9:53 AM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Hm...you mentioned Finnair and Iberia so I'm guessing your miles are on a OneWorld partner.

Direct flights on OneWorld airlines from Paris CDG and/or Orly are (according to the Orly/CDG Wikipedia pages):

- Madrid, Barcelona, and Tenerife on Iberia
- Berlin on Air Berlin (and Vienna on Niki, an Air Berlin subsidiary)
- Amman on Royal Jordanian (probably juuuust outside your four-hour limit?)
- Helsinki on Finnair
- London on British Airways

The questions to answer, then, are:

1) Are you willing to connect, or do you want a direct flight from Paris?

2) Are you able to book flights on other OneWorld partners with your miles?

If connecting isn't beyond the pale, the tickets are free/free-ish because you're cashing in some miles, and the connections are good so you don't spend days in airports, consider these options...

• Moscow or St. Petersburg - Finnair via Helsinki, British Airways via London, or Air Berlin via Berlin

You'd need tourist visas but they are simple enough to arrange if a bit expensive, depending on your passport, and the flight's a bit longer than you'd want - but you'd have a pretty packed few days!

Moscow and St. Petersburg might be the places best connected to OneWorld airlines within a five-hour range you haven't been yet/don't want to go to, and if you're looking for availability for a miles-redemption ticket you want more airlines on the route!

Istanbul will not be unbearably hot at least early in the summer (and is Rome #2, and is stunningly beautiful and historic.) Weirdly, the only OneWorld way there from Paris is British Airways via London.

Budapest is gorgeous and still relatively inexpensive. British Airways via London or Air Berlin via Berlin. Also: Kraków is doable on Air Berlin via Berlin.

Probably longer/worse connections:

• The Åland Islands: Finnair to Helsinki, then Finnair subsidiary FlyBe Nordic to Mariehamn - not sure if this is doable with OneWorld miles as only some FlyBe Nordic flights are operated on behalf of Finnair.

Bergen: British Airways via London or Finnair via Helsinki (though this is really indirect!). The fjords might be better-accessible from Stavanger - and British Airways via London is the only OneWorld way to get there.
posted by mdonley at 12:50 AM on November 12, 2013

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