Holiday in the city and the sun
May 24, 2014 6:08 PM   Subscribe

This year I'd like to travel to Europe or South America and have the best of both worlds: an urban, cultural experience and an outdoorsy, quiet experience. These could be within an hour train or plane ride of each other. Maybe split the trip in half. Where could I go?

The cultural portion should be a relatively big city with lots to explore.
The outdoorsy spot could be beaches or mountains or a vineyard. Something beautiful.
posted by Jason and Laszlo to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Barcelona is the standard answer to this question.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:52 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Buenos Aires.
posted by AwkwardPause at 7:13 PM on May 24, 2014

I'm going to guess that you can find an interesting outdoorsy spot outside almost any big city in Europe (I don't know S.A. as well). Any other criteria?
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:39 PM on May 24, 2014

Santiago, Chile
posted by monotreme at 8:34 PM on May 24, 2014

Seconding Buenos Aires. Lots of culture, friendly residents, nature within easy travel distance and drinkable tap water.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:34 PM on May 24, 2014

I'm going to guess that you can find an interesting outdoorsy spot outside almost any big city in Europe

The poster is probably looking for answers like "I personally went to X, and from neighborhood Y was able to walk to museums and then take 1-hour train rides / walk to foresty parks. And it was great.".

Try Annabel Simms' An Hour from Paris. Which I haven't read.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:35 PM on May 24, 2014

Adding another vote to Buenos Aires. You're a quick ferry ride to Montevideo (a much smaller city, and in my opinion, more awesome than Buenos Aires itself) and from there you end up quickly in the pampas or on he coast. If you prefer airplanes, you are about 90 minutes from Iguazú, the awesomest waterfalls ever in the history of the world. I've been there, never been to Niagara, and never will go to Niagara after having seen this.

Keep in mind that in most of South America the train network is minimal and the airplanes expensive; most travel is done by long-distance bus.

For Europe, Paris is a really good suggestion. There are a lot of quiet, country, outdoorsy places even in Ile-de-France (the region around Paris). You could be going in-and-out of the city center every day if you wanted, with no major $$ on train or airplane tickets. Of course, you could go further, and have most of the country within an hour or two of Paris.

Another place I'd suggest for Europe is Switzerland. Geneva and Zurich are both beautiful for visiting, and the countryside is nearby. My personal experience is mostly in the cantons of Glarus and Zug, near Zurich. They are in/near the mountains, with excellent hiking, ski lifts if you get lazy, and good bicycle programs for free from the city train stations or for rental if you want to do some of the longer paths down the mountains/hills and into the city.
posted by whatzit at 11:46 PM on May 24, 2014

Munich - nice city with lots of stuff to do in summer, surrounded by lakes and you can get to the Alps in an hr. All the benefits of the Swiss recommendations but cheaper.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:03 AM on May 25, 2014

Eastern Europe is chock full of these kinds of small amazing cities surrounded by mountains and forests and other outside stuff. Highly recommend Croatia as a cosmopolitan, friendly, beautiful county.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:25 AM on May 25, 2014

Lisbon! Lisbon is a really wonderful city, and lots of lovely countryside not too far away. You have your choice of Alentejo or Algarve or anything in between. Good food, good transit, and bonus of being not as breathtakingly expensive as some other parts of Europe.
posted by ambrosia at 8:18 AM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you will love Krakòw in Poland, it fits all of your criteria. There is a lot to see and do, especially if you are the least bit interested in history; the museums are great. The countryside is perfectly lovely and close by. Also nice: good food is cheap there!
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:36 AM on May 26, 2014

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