Help us plan our Great European Adventure!
April 5, 2014 8:26 AM   Subscribe

Mr. just_ducky and I want to go away to Europe this summer, but are having trouble narrowing down our list of cities into a workable itinerary. Can you help us, wise travelers of MeFi?

Mr. just_ducky and I are planning a European getaway for the end of July to mid August (3 weeks or a little less), and are looking for some route-planning help. We have a list of cities we're interested in going to but can't quite settle on an itinerary. Ideally, we'd like to go to five or six cities for a few days each, traveling by train between them. Can you help us figure this out? Here is our list:

Cesky Krumlov

I've been to Berlin, Prague and Vienna before (on a Contiki tour years ago) and would love to go back to those cities. Mr. just-ducky and I both were in Brussels for a day on our honeymoon last year, but I got served a sandwich with broken glass in it (!), and spent most of the day dealing with that, so we didn't get much out of the visit.

We like to explore cities, climb to the top of church/clock-towers, eat good food and drink tasty beer. We also like visiting some slightly smaller cities (e.g. we loved Ghent and Utrecht).

Any suggestions for other places to check out instead, or particularly interesting things to do are most welcome. Thanks MeFi!
posted by just_ducky to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Vienna and Bratislava but not Budapest? - its only a couple of hours on the train from both of those cities and is right up there with Paris as one of the most beautiful, exciting, romantic cities in Europe!
posted by Middlemarch at 8:31 AM on April 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

I would forget about Brussels, especially after your experience, and go to Bruges instead and if you've never been Venice then you need to make that a priority - it's as amazing as people say it is.
posted by oh pollo! at 8:50 AM on April 5, 2014

The downside of Venice in summer is the canal smell and the tourists, though. August is when half of Europe takes their holidays, and depending on the country things are a bit sluggish.

Haarlem is very pretty, too. Nuremberg is best in December so you can see the Christkindlmarkt, but you've got to see the castle and the old town.

In Northern Italy, consider stopping a few hours in Siena and visiting Florence. The Palio is run on August 16, but the city will be full of visitors.
posted by sukeban at 9:04 AM on April 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd forget about Paris/Brussels/Liège. That still leaves the question of how you'd fit the "Danube cities" in with the Bavarian ones.

So, narrowing down to six: Hamburg-Berlin-Prague-Bratislava/Vienna-Munich-Venice? That covers a lot of ground and gives you north-south and east/west transitions without the inter-city travel being completely arduous. You don't get small cities in that kind of itinerary, though, because for that you really need to narrow down your overall scope.

Hungary's a bit of a political mess right now, so I'm okay with avoiding Budapest.
posted by holgate at 9:09 AM on April 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Budapest over Bratislava. Bratislava is a day trip at best. Dresden is also worth a visit and is sort-of between Munich and Prague.
posted by jedrek at 9:20 AM on April 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd fly to Munich and travel by train to Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and then Venice. Hop on a short flight to Paris and then fly home. Traveling by train will keep your itinerary flexible so you'll have the option of staying in each city until you are served a broken glass sandwich.
posted by foodgeek at 10:24 AM on April 5, 2014

Response by poster: Info I probably should have added into my question: In addition to Berlin, Prague, and Vienna, I've also been to Dresden, Budapest, a bit of Slovakia, and Poland. Mr. just_ducky and I went to London, Ghent, Antwerp, Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Cologne for our honeymoon.

Thanks for the answers so far!
posted by just_ducky at 10:41 AM on April 5, 2014

When I backpacked around Europe, we traveled by interrail pass, started in Amsterdam and pretty much went clockwise - so Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary Slovenia, Croatia, Italy.. That worked pretty well for us ..

I would really, really recommend Budapest (probably at the expense of Bratislava, which I didn't really enjoy but might have changed a lot in 11 years..) I would also recommend Florence over Venice any time. It is the most beautiful city I've ever been to (with Vienna a close second).

Have you been to Heidelberg? Has castle, beer, lovely winding streets too!

Have an amazing time!
posted by Dorothea_in_Rome at 11:54 AM on April 5, 2014

Florence isn't going anywhere. There is a non-null chance Venice will sink in your lifetime. Therefore, if forced to choose I would choose Venice. I would skip Brussels entirely. I don't get the attraction of Munich but I'm sure there are people who love it.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:39 PM on April 5, 2014

just chiming in to commend you for the inclusion of cesky krumlov - it's breathtakingly beautiful. easy to do in a day or 2 at most.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 1:07 PM on April 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Having spent a 3 day weekend seeing the sights of Bratislava, I feel confident in saying it's a day-trip town.

The train from Munich going south to Italy is spectacularly beautiful, and I imagine any alpine train trip is worth doing. And thinking about transport, at least on sleeper train might make your logistics easier, if you are up for a little adventure.
posted by plonkee at 3:55 PM on April 5, 2014

The train from Munich going south to Italy is spectacularly beautiful, and I imagine any alpine train trip is worth doing.

I once did the Vienna to Ljubljana train trip in early November just after the first snows in Austria. Very beautiful, but a bit long, and Ljubljana is also a day trip, frankly.

Salzburg, OTOH, is very close to Munich and another comfortable day trip by train. I'd recommend to splurge and eat Salzburger Nockerl for dessert (for 2, it's big. And you have to tell the waiter when you order at the beginning because it takes time to make it) at this restaurant because you don't always get to eat at a 1200 year old establishment :D
posted by sukeban at 4:48 PM on April 5, 2014

I'm also going to vote for Cesky krumlov it's only ~2 hours from Prague and is an awesome place to walk around for a couple of days.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 9:14 PM on April 7, 2014

Liège really isn't in the same league as the other cities in your list. A friend and I went there a few years ago. Locals we spoke to seemed surprised that foreigners would be visiting for tourism; and indeed, we struggled to find ways to occupy ourselves for more than a day, and ended up cutting our stay a little short. There are some impressive war memorials, some nice views, a spectacular modern railway station, and an art museum (closed for renovation when we were there), plus it's in Belgium so you can get good food and beer, and I don't regret having gone - but I was already living in that neck of the woods. You'd be going quite a long way out of your way, given the rest of your list, and unless there's been a dramatic turnaround since 2009, I don't think you'd find it worth the detour.

If you're pining for the Low Countries, I'd suggest Maastricht (architecturally unlike other Dutch cities and towns) or Luxembourg (built around, in and over a fantastic ravine!) instead. You could combine Luxembourg with Trier (spectacular Roman ruins) and Maastricht with Aachen (plenty of history, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the form of its cathedral) or Düsseldorf (parks, art museums, a church with a twisted spire, and a very tall tower).
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:04 PM on April 8, 2014

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