Europe in Late September - Where to?
June 9, 2016 8:37 AM   Subscribe

I have the opportunity to spend a week on vacation in Europe in late September, and I'm paralyzed by all the possible choices of where to go. Help me decide!

I have a work trip to Amsterdam and would like to tack on a week somewhere else in Europe. But it doesn't need to be near Amsterdam - I'm happy to hop on a flight somewhere else.

Factors to consider:

- I've already been to London (and a bunch of other places in Southern England), Paris (and a little bit of the South of France), Oslo, and Rome/Umbria. Of those places, I loveloveloved Paris, and really enjoyed Rome. Oslo was fine, but it was the winter and I had the flu, and London was fun but also felt pretty similar to East Coast US cities, where I grew up.

- What I like most when I travel is wandering around interesting neighborhoods, checking things out as I go. For instance, I loved walking around central Rome because there is history and beautiful art/architecture everywhere. Same with Paris. I'm not too big on museums, but I love history and performing arts.

- It would be great if there were some sort of overnight trip I could do to the beach or the mountains.

- I'll be going alone, so it would be nice to go somewhere that won't impede my enjoyment. For instance, I'm interested in Berlin, but heard it's a lot more interesting if you're with a local (though I guess that's true anywhere).

- Weather: I'd rather not have it be rainy and cold, but I'd actually slightly prefer that to super-hot (ie, above 30 C).

- I love food! So places with good food are a big bonus.

- Budget is somewhat of a factor, but since my flight will be covered, it's less important than other things.

Right now I'm thinking about:

- Berlin, mostly for family-history reasons and also because it sounds really interesting.

- A couple of places in Italy I haven't seen yet - maybe Venice and Florence?

- Ljubljana and Lake Bled, mainly because they look gorgeous.

- Lisbon because people keep recommending it.

- Back to Paris because I love it!

Thoughts on these or other ideas?
posted by lunasol to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Amalfi coast and Serrento are wonderful.
posted by Freedomboy at 8:40 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Toulouse. Stupid amount of history, good walking, fantastic food.
posted by rtha at 8:43 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

barcelona? warm, wander-round-able, food, beach.
posted by andrewcooke at 8:48 AM on June 9, 2016 [8 favorites]

If you loved Paris, I think you'll love Lisbon. In many ways, it is close to an old Paris many people envision - rambling, paving-stone streets, cute old shops, an enormous cafe culture. And (as of this writing) still lots of communities of old-world Lisbon folk hanging their laundry out the window in the city center. It is not a city with big hits or must-see things. It is a city you wander in and find something unexpected.

While the whole week could be spent in Lisbon, it is worth it to go along the coast to Cascais and onto Sintra. Sintra always feels to me like you've sailed onto a magical island with fairy-tale castles and its own jungley micro-climate.
posted by vacapinta at 8:50 AM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Berlin is great for wandering solo. I personally didnt enjoy Lisbon (although I think that's a fairly unpopular opinion) and I don't think it compares very well to other European capitals -and it was boiling when we went. However you could combine that with going to the coast?

Not sure how feasible it would be by public transport (if that's a concern) but the Normandy coast is fantastic- wonderful coastline, loads of history, brilliant food etc.
posted by threetwentytwo at 8:53 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I really loved Berlin and the weather was great when I was there in September. I think you should go for it. I might feel a little weird about going to clubs or other super late night stuff alone, but otherwise it would be a great choice and I felt totally safe walking around/taking the bus/whatever at night. Plus, I really enjoyed the food there (I'm a vegan, not sure if the regular food scene is as exciting as the vegan food scene there).

You might also think about Copenhagen - I'm hoping to go there soon - it looks like a beautiful place to wander around and the weather is supposed to be nice and cool in September.
posted by snaw at 8:59 AM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Like you, I lovelovelove Paris. It is my favorite city in Europe and I always get at least a couple days there whenever I'm in Europe. It's hard to say go somewhere other than Paris...but I heartily recommend Krakow, my second favorite European city. It is full of medieval beauty, history, and fantastic, filling (re: perfect for Autumn) food. Not to mention some of the best ice cream ever...outside of Paris, at least. And where else can you hang out with a fire breathing dragon? The weather should still be good in late September, dry and warm during the day with the leaves just starting to change colors. The city is crazy cheap and the locals are incredibly friendly. In my experience the vast majority speak English well. I traveled there solo and made a number of friends at the hostel, and then ended up meeting locals while out and about and spent New Years' Day at one of their houses, where a traditional Polish celebration meal was made. Day trips can include the salt mines and Auschwitz-Birkenau which I know sounds heavy--and it is, I spent the entire time at the camp pretty well destroyed--but I also think it's an essential trip for anyone to take in order to better understand humanity. On a lighter note, you can also take day trips to the Tatras mountains. Also, the Krakow Jazz Festival should be going on. I'm not a fan of jazz myself, but major festivals always increase the general fun of any city, even for those who don't partake.

Like threetwentytwo, I was underwhelmed by Lisbon (though I did like Sintra), but I also love Barcelona a ton.
posted by weeyin at 9:06 AM on June 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

Florence? Krakow is lovely, but quite small IIRC.
posted by pharm at 9:38 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Istanbul is just about the best city I can think of for walking + eating.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:41 AM on June 9, 2016

Only you can judge your comfort with terrorism-risk, but also, I would go back to Turkey in a heartbeat just because everyone is SO FRIENDLY AND WONDERFUL.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:45 AM on June 9, 2016

I went to Berlin alone (and also with people) and I loved loved it. If you feel safe, I'd also consider Istanbul.
posted by jeather at 9:52 AM on June 9, 2016

Thanks so much for all the wonderful responses so far! I had never even heard of Sintra but it looks amazing.

Anyway, just to clarify: my concerns about solo travel are not really based on safety - I've traveled all over the world on my own. More that I've noticed some places are really fun alone, and some are more fun if you're with other people. Though it's hard to put my finger on what makes the difference.
posted by lunasol at 10:00 AM on June 9, 2016

was just in Italy and LOVED Naples. the city itself is awesome on many levels and the general area has much to offer for day trips, archaeology, FOOD!!!
posted by supermedusa at 10:13 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Barcelona = beaches, history and in late September, this awesome festival with outdoor concerts, movies, dancing and spectacular parades.
posted by Pearl928 at 10:14 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just adding another vote for Barcelona, and if you can, a short trip up the Costa Brava. We spent a few beautiful days in Tossa de Mar And I'd go back there in a heartbeat. One word about Barcelona though...thieves abound. It wasn't a problem for us because we were warned and acted accordingly.
posted by Gusaroo at 10:34 AM on June 9, 2016

Florence is lovely and well worth visiting, particularly if you enjoyed Rome, since I think Florence is a much more beautiful city for exploring. It's very easy to explore solo, and there's oodles to do (and eat!), but it is also rather packed with tourists through October, so factor that into expectations. If you come, I'd also recommend tacking on a few days in Siena; I went there for the first time last weekend, and it was really lovely. It's a relatively short bus ride away from Florence, but feels dramatically different and not quite as overrun with tourists, so it's a nice change of pace.
posted by Diagonalize at 10:40 AM on June 9, 2016

I answer this for every European travel question, but Switzerland! I can actually vouch for it in late September, as that's when I was there. The weather was beautiful: sunny, a little breezy. Wear a long-sleeved shirt or jacket in the morning and at night, short sleeves while the sun's out. Luzern and old town Bern are both very walkable with fun neighborhoods, and both have plenty of self-guided tourism stuff, so you'd be fine on your own. And you won't need to take an overnight trip to the mountains, because you'll be in the mountains. If you do want to go somewhere specifically outdoorsy, we stopped in Interlaken (Wilderswil) between the two, and your outdoor options are nearly limitless there. The only downside is the price (although if you're just walking around yourself, a lot of stuff is free, and you're really only paying for food and train tickets).
posted by kevinbelt at 10:52 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Check out Prague! Surprised it hasn't been recommended yet. Allow me to link you to a few photos in my instagram: 1 2 3 4 5 6
I went by myself for about four days and found it to be just enough time to really soak in the city; I wholly adored it. Look into it!

Ticks off a lot of your boxes for me, and is the one place I'm especially looking forward to going back and visiting. Super easy to get around via the tram system, and the Historic district is wonderfully easy to wander around and get lost in and find cool little shops and views and angles. Gosh, some of the views are incredibly scenic. My favorite part was the wandering! It's well-preserved as a capitol and I think you'll find its architecture and history to be one of the high points all across continental Europe. The language barrier wasn't too great; I found myself really appreciating the culture/general behavior of the people.

Do also consider that the exchange rate is amazing, and you essentially can get a liter of beer for a dollar-fifty, and a meal at an upscale restaurant will run you fifteen, twenty, tops. You can eat, and eat well, very inexpensively. Lots of nourishing stews, very tender meat-and-potatoes-with-seasoning type things. They have very inexpensive classical concerts, too - The Four Seasons were being performed for the equivalent of $10 while I was there. Plenty of great museums: some awesome central-European modernist ones, a brilliant and immersive Kafka museum, a lovely Gustav Klimt one. A beautiful park, too. Had the best time.

The only one it doesn't suffice for is the day-trip to mountains or the beach - I think Lake Bled with Ljubljana would probably take care of that for you. Slovenia was a place I was really interested in going to but didn't have time to make it on my trip. (Although there is a spa town nearby by the name of Karlovy Vary, and from what I've seen and heard it comes amazingly highly recommended. Bet the exchange rate would offer a really bountiful stay. Same with Slovenia - I'd honestly recommend either.)
posted by a good beginning at 10:57 AM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ah! Allow me to correct myself, my apologies. There's an Alphonse Mucha museum there. Not the same thing, but similar!
posted by a good beginning at 1:05 PM on June 9, 2016

My vote is Venice, Florence and the Cinque Terre. The weather should be decent, and though you're not getting sandy beaches in the Cinque Terre, you are right up next to the water. You can wander through all five little towns and eat as much as you like, wherever you are!
posted by cnc at 1:29 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing Lisbon - or Prague.
posted by progosk at 1:33 PM on June 9, 2016

All the suggestions so far are great. My personal favourite is also Barcelona. Fabulous food. Gaudi's brilliant architecture. The beach is right there. Great city for walking and exploring. Loads of history and culture.
posted by praiseb at 3:39 PM on June 9, 2016

I don't think you can go wrong with any of the suggestions here! Another possibility for Italy would be Venice, Verona (can be done as a day trip from Venice), and Bologna. Verona and Bologna are less touristy, but I absolutely loved both. Beautiful places to wander solo and, obviously, eat amazing food!

I would recommend these places over Florence since you're not a museum enthusiast. That being said, I'm not huge on museums either, and I enjoyed Florence more than Rome! IMO, it was a nicer place to just walk around.

Austria is another possibility: you could visit Vienna and Salzburg! I loved both.

I also adore Lisbon (absolutely spend a night or two in Sintra) and Prague.

In short, you can't go wrong!
posted by tango! at 5:02 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

You have a lot of good options, I'm just going to add: Sarajevo and Mostar (or Split, or Dubrovnik for the day trip). Really interesting and beautiful city with lots of fascinating history. Cheap for Europe when I was there a couple years ago. I'm not sure if I'd spend an entire week there though.
posted by btkuhn at 5:29 PM on June 9, 2016

We went to Venice and Ljubljana in the same trip (which include several other locations too), and I can recommend chaining them together! Venice is only 3 hours away from Ljubljana by car. The only train arrives in town at 3am, but there are twice daily vans from the Venice train station.

You could spend a few days in Venice, then head to Ljubljana and Lake Bled, which I didn't visit.

I recommend B&B Petra Varl in Ljubljana, just off the main market square and at the foot of hill with the big castle/fortress overlooking the city. The B&B is actually several apartments in an apartment building, each with a charming tiny kitchenette in the closet and fresh fruit and pastries when you arrive. Several of the rooms overlook the sweet little building courtyard; ours had a balcony. Ljubljana is small and very walkable, and the boundary between old world European beauty and ugly Soviet-style block buildings is stark and fascinating. If you're a fan of graffiti artists, loud wandering gypsy brass bands on foot, eating outside by the river flowing through the main part of the old city, then this is a good city for you.

In Venice I recommend Pensione Guerrato, which we chose on Rick Steves' recommendation. Close to so much, including Rialto Bridge and the central market, where I ate the most delicious cherries ever. Eat freshly caught fish or pizza at Trattoria Nono Risorto.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 5:50 PM on June 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

I just did essentially the same trip as ImproviseOrDie above and also heartily recommend it. I loved Lake Bled and Ljubljana but found a couple of days in each was plenty, I think tacking Venice on would make for a great week.
posted by EmilyFlew at 1:01 AM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by A189Nut at 1:47 AM on June 10, 2016

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