travel advice
November 22, 2006 3:53 AM   Subscribe

Where should I travel in Europe?

I am just finishing up a study abroad program in Rome. My last final is scheduled for a week before my flight back to the States. I would like to spend this week doing some low-budget travel, but I am having some difficulty deciding where to go. I have been in Italy for the last four months and have explored a lot of it (major and historic cities throughout central and southern Italy). I have also travelled to Dublin, Brussels, and Amsterdam this semester. (Dublin is probably my favorite place ever!). I will be going to Prague next week. The final week I will be travelling with some friends most likely, but they are as equaly open to suggestion for destination as I am. I can speak (English) Italian and some Russian, but no Spanish, French, German, etc. So, where would you go with this amount of time, excluding the places I have recently visited, with a limited budget? Thanks in advance for the help.
posted by honeyx to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The newer EU countries (and the candidates for membership) are often cheaper - Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria...
posted by handee at 3:59 AM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If I were you there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that I would visit Croatia. (I've also been to Slovenia, which is a little easier to reach, but I think the trip to Croatia would be worth your while.) You can grab a ferry across the Adriatic Sea from Ancona (in Italy), arriving in the beautiful town of Split, and then it's an easy bus trip to Dubrovnik - one of the most amazing places I've ever been to. Gorgeous old stone walls, beautiful sea views, balmy even at this time of year... great food (especially the gelato-like ice-cream) and easygoing atmosphere. Also: way cheaper than western Europe!

I've heard very good things about Hvar and other Croatian islands there on the west coast, but haven't been. But Zagreb, the Croatian capital, is worth visiting for something closer to the Florence/Prague kind of things.

And absolutely fascinating is Sarajevo, which lies in Bosnia (and kinda sits in the middle of Croatia, between Zagreb and Dubrovnik). It was really very hurt in the war in the 90s, and hasn't fully recovered, but if you can find a place to stay it's a startling and evocative change of pace: Muslim, old, misty, with a remarkable winding Turkish quarter and rad old sights. The bus-ride from Dubrovnik to Sarajevo (or vice-versa) is probably the most incredible I've ever been on. In just a few hours, flat mist-and-frost turns into orange trees, sun, and tufted, leaning mountains.

Language can be a barrier, but everyone at hostels etc speaks english, and it's pretty easy to make yourself understood by just learning a few simple phrases like hello/please/thank-you/one/two, etc. The point-and-smile technique worked very well when I travelled through Eastern Europe two years ago.
posted by Marquis at 4:07 AM on November 22, 2006 [3 favorites]

Center, south and no north? Go check out Venice, or come see Milan -- there's some badass art, and La Scala. And I'll buy you a cappuccino.
posted by matteo at 4:10 AM on November 22, 2006

Croatia is wonderful, but I would just be cautious about travelling there - particularly the islands - in such low season. I went to Hvar and Vis in May of this year, and Hvar was fine, but Vis was still shut down and there was hardly anything to do, anywhere to eat, etc. If you DO go to Vis, for some reason, absolutely check out Konoba Kantun and Ivan the proprietor - dinner at his restaraunt/wine bar was one of the highlights of our trip.

On the other hand, Dubrovnik I would imagine would be wonderful, particularly since the crazy tourist scene would be calmed down. And Zagreb would probably be quite nice. Check out tripadvisor's Croatia forum - I'm sure there would be lots of good advice, and you could ask there whether the islands are open for tourists in the winter.

If you do go to Dubrovnik, you can go to Montenegro in as little as a day trip.

You could go to Hungary - Budapest is a lovely city. I'm just wondering about how cold it'll be. Is a trip to Greece or Turkey in your budget? Not so far from Rome, as these things go.

Portugal and Spain are fantastic too. You could do Andalucia, which wouldn't be too cold - Sevilla, Cordoba, Malaga -, or the Algarve Coast in Portugal. If you don't mind the cold, Barcelona (and Madrid and Lisbon, but especially Barcelona) are not to be missed.
posted by Amizu at 6:40 AM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Matteo's absolutely right. If you haven't been to the north of Italy yet, now's the time to do it. Venice, Milan, Turin, cheese, wine, the best (in my humble opinion) food in the world, spectacular scenery . . . a rather pleasant way to spend a week.
posted by Neiltupper at 7:06 AM on November 22, 2006

And if you're in Northern Italy, don't forget Ticino, the Italian speaking part of Switzerland.
posted by jontyjago at 7:08 AM on November 22, 2006

What about Budapest? It's a short train ride to Prague and much less touristy. I lived in Prague for 6 months and Budapest was by far my favorite city. It's gorgeous, cheap, with great food (you'll be hurting for good food once you've been to the Czech Republic, and I don't know how Croatia will hold up), and extremely nice people. I didn't speak a word of Hungarian, but the locals are used to that and can usually understand what you're saying.

I also second Croatia, though I've never been. Honestly, central and eastern Europe are so different from what you've experienced in Italy that it's really a shame if you miss it to traipse around Venice and Milan.
posted by zoomorphic at 7:24 AM on November 22, 2006

I should add to my comments above that the only time I've spent in Croatia was in December. (Things in Dubrovnik were quiet, some things shut down, but there was still more than enough to see, and so many places to eat - and while lively, no crowds to manage!)

Budapest was less nice - pretty darn frosty. And I didn't like it nearly as much as I expected to. Also, given downtown Prague's inflated prices Budapest may seem cheap (and I guess compared to Italy), but Hungary was one of the more expensive places I went to in the former eastern bloc. (I would guess the prices are similar to American ones.)
posted by Marquis at 7:30 AM on November 22, 2006

I've heard nothing but really excellent things about Prague. I have heard that the winter is cold, but beautiful, and quite uncrowded.
posted by jeff_w_welch at 8:38 AM on November 22, 2006

Let me break the trend. As honeyx may discover, I found Prague (at the end of November 2004) to be the most touristy city I have ever been to in the entire world - moreso than New York, Venice, Paris or London. Awash with overpriced chintzy crap, lousy events, mediocre food, hawkers, and stag party after stag party. I am absolutely certain that there is more to Prague than this - venturing out of the city centre for a small music festival was very worthwhile. But the picturesque tourist's Prague (which is the whole reason to go: the amazing architecture!) is so utterly undermined by the tourist-trap it's become. The idea of spending more than a few nights there is truly unappealing. I can only imagine what it must be like in medium and high season!
posted by Marquis at 9:36 AM on November 22, 2006

Take Tren Italia or rent a car and drive north on the autostrada up to Siena, Chiusi, Montepulciano, then Florence, Bologna, Parma, Milan over to Venice. Take a plane to London and then the train through the Chunnel and go to Paris and go to Versailles.
posted by wfc123 at 9:42 AM on November 22, 2006

There are cheap flights at or try the STA travel for your university.
posted by k8t at 9:55 AM on November 22, 2006

I found Prague (at the end of November 2004) to be the most touristy city I have ever been to in the entire world
posted by Marquis at 12:36 PM EST on November 22

(I've never been to Prague), but Dubrovnik is possibly the most touristy place I've been - we nicknamed it "Epcot Dubrovnik" - but I don't think it would be like that in late November. And it's gorgeous, fascinating and manageable. The reason it is so touristy in May-Sept is that old Dubrovnik gets most of the tourists, and it's a tiny area, and it's a beach locale. But Marquis says it's not touristy in winter, and I'm sure that's true.

you'll be hurting for good food once you've been to the Czech Republic, and I don't know how Croatia will hold up

posted by zoomorphic at 10:24 AM EST on November 22

Croatian food is delicious, but there isn't a ton of variety, at least along the coast. Mostly grilled seafood with a Venetian influence. Inner Croatia has different food. Oh, and Croatia is much cheaper than some parts of Europe, and home-stays are a great option there, but I wouldn't call it cheap. We found it to be "exceedingly affordable." I haven't been to Budapest since 1998 - when I was there, I thought it was cheap as can be. But at the time Spain and Portugal were cheap too, so that may well have changed.

Don't go to Vienna. It'll be cold and touristy and it's not all that. It has its charms, but I don't think you need to do it this trip. Switzerland is unbelievably gorgeous, and is quite good in snow. But so expensive.

Anyway, I stick with the suggestion to go someplace as warm as possible. You can always come back to Europe later in life and see the cold places. It's 55F in Dubrovnik, Athens and Istanbul right now. You could see Greece or Croatia without the insane crowds of summertime.
posted by Amizu at 10:09 AM on November 22, 2006

What about Edinburgh? Skyscanner comes up with some cheap flights - if you were so taken by Dublin then I would guess that you'll really like Edinburgh. It will be cold, but it's quite good at that (lots of practice).

If you want good weather then I'd second Andalucia (easily the warmest and sunniest in Winter). Cordoba is amazing, you could explore cheaply by train and drop down to Tangier for the day. Don't worry about language, the Spanish are wonderfully accepting and Spain is easy to tour in.

I love Budapest but it has a dark side. It can be icy cold and gloomy and wierdly empty of people. Of course, that might appeal to you.
posted by grahamwell at 10:56 AM on November 22, 2006

Vienna! A cheap flight, and about 1.5 hours in an airplane from Rome. Tons of museums, music, beautiful parks, cinema, and architecture.

If you do nothing else than go to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the trip will already be worth the visit.

And this year is the perfect year to visit, as it is the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth, so the city is really alive (I went a few months ago).

Clean air, gorgeous light, amazing architecture. And you can eat cheap, delicious food. And although German is spoken/written, EVERYONE speaks fluent english.
posted by naxosaxur at 11:18 AM on November 22, 2006

Three gems in europe you can't miss...

Romania, Sighisoara, a citadel town, living breathing castle community. (birthplace of vlad the impaler) Or find one of the roaming festivals, they're a 3-day hoot.

Kutna Hora - Checz, an hour train from Prague, you find the Ossuary, containing the artfully arranged bones of 50,000 plague victims.

Storlien - Sweden, Ended up here after losing wallet in Denmark, it was during the summer, but it kept me alive with cheap living and beautiful hikes until my replacement money card made it to Finland.

I third Budapest, Prague, and Venice. Estonia is nice eastern europe too. I don't know about winter though, you probably want to stay warm. Stay away from northern-most italy.
posted by emptyinside at 12:05 PM on November 22, 2006

Central Italy? Does that mean you've been to Florence? If not, that was a huge part of why I enjoyed going to Italy. The art and architecture there alone make it worthwhile.
Aside from that, the place I most enjoyed on my trip through Europe (though I think I mostly hit big places you've already been to and small places that might not be worth hitting without more time to enjoy 'em) was Barcelona. Great food, great art, great people. And if you know enough Italian to get by, you'll know enough Spanish to muddle. Learn a couple Catalan phrases and people'll take to you and show you around. When you're there, check out Gaudi park and the modern art museum.
posted by klangklangston at 12:27 PM on November 22, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the advice everyone, it gave me a lot to think about. I figured out that I would be travelling alone, and as this is the first time I will have travelled alone and I am a young woman, I was a little hesitant to start with Eastern Europe. I will be going to Prague this week with some friends, but for my long trip, I chose Stockholm. I know it will be cold, but I am a Minnesota girl, so I think I will still love it. Plus, I am totally going to go skating! Thanks again for everyones help!
posted by honeyx at 7:47 AM on November 27, 2006

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