Where to go in Europe?
November 21, 2013 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Going to Europe. We have 4.5 weeks. Help us narrow down our choices!

My partner and I are taking a trip to Europe from May 4 - June 5. We're super pumped but now I'm starting to think about the itinerary. We could use some advice from people that have travelled recently or live nearby!

- We fly into Copenhagen, and fly out of London.
- I am all right with going somewhere that we've been to previously, but I would also like to see new things. (Previous journeys have led one or both of us to: London, Paris, south of France, Barcelona, Rome, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Istanbul, Sofia, Black Sea coast, Amsterdam, Belgium, and Ireland.)
- I definitely want to go to Amsterdam, and somewhere in France.
- We'd prefer not rushing too much, but seeing a mixed bag of places.
- I am very familiar with budget airlines, train systems, hostels, cheap hotels, and public transportation. Cheaper is better, obviously, but we'll both be working throughout so money isn't a huge deal.
- Language barriers are not a big deal.
- I like museums, oddities, weird places, art, and great food. My partner likes beaches, biking, walking around, relaxing, and great food.

Smaller cities would be neat to see (like Eindhoven or Cambridge) but I'd want to be sure they were going to be fun places to visit.

Any tips or specific pieces of info are welcome! Thanks!
posted by amicamentis to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I am a big, big fan of Rotterdam--the Boymans Museum is among my favorite in the world, and the modern art at Witte de With was also great. Great to walk around. It's an easy day trip from Amsterdam, but it's probably nicer to stay overnight.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:02 AM on November 21, 2013

Looking at your last line and the places you've already visited, I can offer you Berlin and Madrid for museums, oddities, weird places, art and great food. I also hear Bilbao is great (if you're going to Spain anyway, after my Madrid recommendation :), but I've never been there.

Both are fairly cheap, wonderful cities with great public transport.
posted by Skyanth at 10:06 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Maybe an Aegean Island?
posted by reverend cuttle at 10:11 AM on November 21, 2013

Seconding Berlin. It looks like you haven't been to Germany much at all, which could easily fill a couple of weeks on its own (and the train system is fantastic). Copenhagen-Hamburg-Berlin-Salzburg-Munich-Frankfurt-Cologne would be a great itinerary (I know, Salzburg is Austria, but it's quite beautiful).
posted by Etrigan at 10:12 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I spent a few days in Dijon, France and I loved it. I stayed in a hostel outside of town, but on the bus route. I had a room to myself with my own sink and shower, but the toilets were down the hall (it's been 25 years, that may have changed.) Also, it's not all kids, IIRC, all ages were welcome. Rate included breakfast. YUM!

There's a museum at the Palace of the Dukes, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. It was FANTASTIC! Really accessible. I went with some folks I met in the foyer and we had a blast.

The food in Burgundy is outrageous. So delicious. So if I had all the time to explore, I'd for sure make a stop in Dijon. If for no other reason than you can see the original Grey Poupon store!

Dijon was not on my itinerary. I had a France Rail card and 10 days to explore. It looked cute, so I got off the train. WELL Worth it!

I'd go again in a heartbeat.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:19 AM on November 21, 2013

Spain - Madrid and San Sebastian.

Madrid is a wonderful city all around, and has great art museums.
San Sebastian's famous beach is a great first stop in Spain on the way to Madrid.
posted by Flood at 10:53 AM on November 21, 2013

Thinking strictly trains:

Copenhagen - (Hamburg) - Munich - Venice.
Venice - Milano - Basel - Strasbourg.
Then either via some French cities to Ghent, Antwerp, Amsterdam and over to England, or
Cologne - Amsterdam and then to Belgium and on via the Tunnel to London.
posted by Namlit at 10:59 AM on November 21, 2013

One of the stops on our trip to France next fall are the D-Day sites in Normandy. I'm not sure it qualifies as a "fun place to visit" but there are museums and beaches. For my part, I'm looking forward to learning about the war from a different perspective than my American public school history classes.

I suspect it would be wise to make the next stop on the itinerary something more light-hearted though. (Thanks for a great question, btw. I'm looking forward to all the answers to help plan our trip, too!)
posted by Beti at 11:40 AM on November 21, 2013

Hondarribia, Spain
posted by melissasaurus at 11:40 AM on November 21, 2013

These are wonderful answers so far! I'm happy to read as many suggestions / details as you have, as well as specific sites or guidebooks that cover the area.

Oh, and additionally: I am 27, my partner is 37, and we have no kids (so family-friendly lodging etc isn't necessary)
posted by amicamentis at 11:45 AM on November 21, 2013

I was about to suggest Dijon, where I spent 3 or 4 days a decade ago, and saw that Ruthless Bunny beat me to it. Not off the tourist map, but tourism doesn't dominate. Big enough so there's plenty to see and do, but small enough to be relaxing and less expensive than Paris and many other big cities. Easily accessible from many places in northern Europe. And a good base for wine tourism, such as a daytrip to Beaune.

The Croatian coast is also nice, though it might be getting crowded by the time you get there. Perhaps fly from northern Europe to Dubrovnik, then go north by land through Croatia and Slovenia, then either head east or west and then north to London.

You probably already have the Lonely Planet Europe guide, but if not, get it.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:50 AM on November 21, 2013

If you're going to Amsterdam anyhow and want to see some smaller cities, I can't recommend Utrecht highly enough. It is incredibly beautiful and is dripping with culture, both the museum kind and the contemporary artists' movement kind.
posted by 256 at 11:56 AM on November 21, 2013

Oh. Art. If you begin in Copenhagen, you must check out the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. It's a 35-minutes trip by train from Copenhagen. And if you're anyway going that way, make your way all the way to Helsingør and the Kronborg castle there.

(I mean, had you planned your trip for June, you would anyway have gone 1900 km north, overnight with the train and a whole day on top, and see the gnats dance in the midnight sun - until they've seen you, that is.)
posted by Namlit at 12:09 PM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, for around Amsterdam, Utrecht, Haarlem, Delft and Leiden are kind of off-the-beaten-path cute/pretty, I think. (I live in Amsterdam so I have a hard time judging these things). I'd pick one of them though, certainly not three or all of them.
posted by Skyanth at 12:10 PM on November 21, 2013

I was looking for "somewhere in France" for a trip this Spring, and stumbled on Lyon. I'm intrigued by it's historic and unique architecture, its rumored culinary genius, and the nearby wine regions of Beaujolais, North Côtes du Rhône and ... if I'm ambitious ... Jura (I want to bring home a bottle of the "legendary" vin jaune).

Even better, Lyon appears to be off the tourist track, and I don't know anyone who has been there.

It was never on my radar before; now I am excited to spend three or four days exploring it.
posted by kanewai at 12:39 PM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Slovenia is a little gem, fortunately placed. Beautiful, unique country with high English proficiency. Go to Ljubljana, then to the Soca River Valley, then make your way to Trieste and/or Venice and/or the Croatian coast.

I also highly recommend bumming around Lake Garda, esp. Malcesine.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:36 PM on November 21, 2013

I come from Scotland (Edinburgh) and am living in the Languedoc region of France (Montpellier) - would highly recommend both places. The links I have included above are to Tripadvisor for a search for top rated attractions for each place. This can be a good way of finding interesting things to do and places to stay or eat. These are often not the headline attractions or the most expensive places.

Unesco world heritage sites are also worth checking - there are probably certain categories which would particularly appeal to you.
posted by rongorongo at 2:13 PM on November 21, 2013

I was actually going to recommend Edinburgh as well; also this thread from a couple of days back - if you are flying back from London, you could plan a Scottish interlude. Edinburgh is gorgeous at that time of year.
posted by miorita at 2:17 PM on November 21, 2013

Antwerp is a delight. It has excellent connections to the rest of Europe. Relaxed atmosphere. Great Belgian food and beer. This is actually where you will find loads of Dutch people from across the border who come here for a more relaxed vibe.

And yes I second Ljubljana also - a real gem of a little city.
posted by jacobean at 11:48 AM on November 23, 2013

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