European destination(s) for the thrifty & disorganized?
June 21, 2016 6:19 PM   Subscribe

I have about two weeks to spend in Europe next month and my original plans recently fell through. Where should I go, and how should I get there?

I am traveling alone from Canada, arriving in London and departing three weeks later from Barcelona. I will spend the first week-ish in London, and plan to leave the UK after that and be in Barcelona for the 3 nights before my flight home. But in between there are question marks. I would like to keep things both flexible and cheap, but I realize that this is high season and it’s not super realistic to achieve a trip that is both. That doesn’t mean I can’t try! So far I’m mainly considering Germany, France, and/or Spain, but also interested in other suggestions.

  • I don’t drive, and prefer not to hitchhike or rideshare.
  • I’ve been to Switzerland and would like to go somewhere I haven't been (i.e. anywhere else in Europe).
I'm interested in general tips for last-minute travel in this region, and specifically hoping for:

1. Destinations (maybe smaller cities?) where accommodation will be more affordable and still available, but where there are interesting sights to be seen and explored?
  • The kind of things I like: city wandering, good local food, public parks, local culture (festivals/events, minor historical sites, etc.), interesting architecture (particularly modern, but old is nice too), quirky attractions, lesbian bars, modern art, weird & wonderful things/places
  • Spending time in transit is part of the fun for me so I would like to visit a few different places.
2. Train or ferry travel options which are outstanding for their flexibility, price, or both? (Less comfortable options welcome!)
  • It seems like the single country 3-4 day rail pass may be most flexible in Germany; are the French and Spanish options as much hassle as they sound like? (Reservations, limited seats, etc.)
  • Which regional stop-in-every-town rail lines travel through interesting spots and have low fares?
  • I would go out of my way and/or spend a little extra for unique or interesting transit experiences—is there anything anywhere within affordable range of London and Barcelona that I shouldn’t miss?
posted by snorkmaiden to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
With something like 2 weeks and a tight budget, I'd stick to Spain or maybe the parts of France that are convenient to Barcelona.

My top choice would be San Sebastian and Basque Country. Maybe a segment of the Camino de Santiago and a few days each in San Sebastian and Bilbao before heading east to Barcelona? Grab any of the zillions of RyanAir and EasyJet flights from London to anywhere in northern Spain.
posted by Sara C. at 6:32 PM on June 21, 2016

everyone I know who has gone to the baltics has loved it, and its cheap
posted by PinkMoose at 8:27 PM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've yet to see it myself, but Tallin looks like a good bet.

If you want cheap, East is much cheaper than West, e.g.

Krakow to Prague by rail : < 25 Euros
Munich to Berlin by rail: > 100 Euros
posted by HiroProtagonist at 9:14 PM on June 21, 2016

Stay away from Krakow between July 25 - Aug 1. World Youth Day is happening then, which is a huge Catholic youth festival, and the U.S. Embassy sent me a message two months ago saying, basically: don't bother going to Krakow at that time because there are already no hotel rooms left.

Berlin is quite cheap for a European city once you get there. You can get a bed in a hostel for 10-15 euros a night, and eat dinner for 4-12 euros (the 4 euro dinner being falafel or döner kebab; 10-12 being a restaurant). And it's big enough that there are probably still hostel rooms available. At least half of Berliners' summer activities seem to involve drinking beer in parks or grilling in parks, so there are lots of opportunities for that. If you go, stay away from any restaurant on Hackescher Markt; they're all tourist traps and the food is over-priced and bad quality. And if you like weird and quirky, Berlin definitely has that in spades.
posted by colfax at 2:49 AM on June 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Maybe a segment of the Camino de Santiago

Warning: the Camino de Santiago is very scenic but it's in the mountainy countryside far from mass transportation.

I would look into Eurail -- you can get Germany, France and Spain in a three-country pass.
posted by sukeban at 6:01 AM on June 22, 2016

I spent a few weeks wandering around the south coast of France a few years ago, it was great. I'd definitely hit Marseilles, and try to see Toulon and Montpellier (Nice pissed me off, but the cote d'azure is lovely). If you haven't been to Berlin, make that a stop on the way down. In Spain, I'd try to get to Valencia if there's time. Bilbao and the Pyrenees are also nice.

Also, do you know about interrail passes? They're probably the best way to do this sort of travelling in Western Europe (probably not such good value further East)
posted by Ned G at 3:40 PM on June 22, 2016

(Interrail is for citizens of the EU. OP seems to be Canadian, so he has to use Eurail)
posted by sukeban at 11:10 PM on June 22, 2016

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