A friend and I will be traveling for approximately three weeks before beginning our study abroad in Den Haag, Netherlands and we've identified these places as places we'd like to see before our studies begin.
Here's how our itinerary looks so far...
Aug 3rd - arrive in Amsterdam in the A.M. Train to Den Haag or Rotterdam to store the majority of our belongings
Aug 4th - recouperate and rest from flight
Aug 5th - Take a train to Brussels and fly to Madrid
From there, we're planning on winging it. We have to to be back at school by August 27th or 28th to get checked into our apartment and get ready for classes.
How many days should we plan on spending in these places and what should we see? Do you think we would have time to go somewhere else like Athens? We planned on flying from Venice back to Brussels and taking the train back into Den Haag. Maybe if we have extra time, we should just take the train the whole way and stop off in a few places along the way.
Thoughts? Many thanks!!
Getting from Madrid to Barcelona won't be a problem, and if you want to see the french riviera you've got flicghts with "clickair" between Barcelona and Marseille. I guess Marseille would be a good base for you to start exploring that region.
What type of things are you interested in seeing? If we don't count museums, I don't think you'd need more than 3 days to see Madrid and another 3 to see Barcelona. You could probably even make it with 2 days, but I think it would be a bit too tight perhaps.
I have no idea about the french riviera thing, but maybe 5 days or a week? I don't know.
I think you'd have the time to see Athens as well.
Anyway, once you're in Barcelona make sure you see some of the main touristy stuff, such as the gothic quarter, modernist houses in Passeig de Gràcia, Park Güell, decorated by Antoni Gaudí, Sagrada Família, Montjuïc castle and fountains, the old port, ... there's just much to see and do.
You've got a tourist information point right in the city centre, in Plaça Catalunya
Just to add some comments:
I think you would need some extra days if you would like to visit Toledo and/or Segovia from Madrid. (both are worth a visit, but Toledo is imo a must). Remember that in August it can be really hot in Madrid.
3 days in Athens would be good, if you find a couple more, then you might want to think about visiting one of the Isles.
As you are traveling in August it also means you are traveling in peak-season, so winging it, might give you some complications, as you will in some cases find that most hostels/hotels are taken.
I think if you are going to make it to Athens, you will want to leave yourself a bit of time to see at least one of the islands like Santorini which was just great.
If you are interested in history, architecture, photographic things etc, well I'd probably tend to see Brussels for a bit more than your itinerary has you doing and fit Bruges in as a day trip, then see Barcelona for 4 days and Madrid for 3-4 days. Whilst you are in that region you could also take a side trip to Portugal and visit Porto 2-3 days and Lisbon 2-3 days which were really nice places but then Instead of going to Greece I'd then go for Italy and at least see Rome for 5 days and then hopefully try and fit Florence for 3 days and Venice for 1-2 days.
It all depends greatly on your interests, because if partying is your thing then the places I mentioned are probably not the best places you could choose for that (not to say their aren't some places to party in those cities). If beaches are your thing then those places are definitely not the best places for what you are after although Barcelona has a beach which is almost a nudist beach it had that many women bathing topless when I was there last August. Unfortunately it was the fat, ugly looking ones that should cover up who were bathing topless not of the gorgeous women.
If you want more specifics of great places to visit you'll need to be specific as to your interests because what I thought was great for my interests, may not be what you find great for your interests.
Have a great trip.
Thanks for the replies. We're interested in seeing some museums but we're more about seeing the things that are interesting/unique to the city/region and are more "active travellers".
Herr Bert, thanks for the suggestion about the hostels - not something we would've considered. What are your options if you get into a city and are unable to find a hostel? Find the safest looking park bench?
How do you distinguish what trains you can take with the Eurail pass and which ones you can't? We're having some trouble trying to find this information to determine how we're going to get around in the various cities and countries we'll be seeing.
A park bench would not be my option. (If you know nothing about a city, it's pretty much a stupid thing to do)
As you are in high season, at least take a look at internet to book a bed in advance. You can do that now, if you know the dates you are going to be there, or you can do that, the day before you leave a place. (check an internetcafe in Brussels to make a reservation for Madrid ... and so forward, personaly I would make a initerary and plan the hostels now, as you will have more choice, and you don't loose time, you should spend discovering cities. At this moment you could plan your stays until Madrid. If you are on a short trip, than making the most of your time is key! (and that means planning, or use up about twice the time on the road).
I am not a big expert on traveling with a pass. But I believe all trains are (except the Eurostar, and a couple of privat railways), and providing you are in 2nd class. I know that there are some nighttrains are strictly 1st class.
If you want to get over to Italy I would suggest one of the budgetairlines (a flight from Madrid or Barcelona is cheap and easy), check www.flightassistent.com for the options (I think Vueling will have some good deals)
I would head south from Madrid to Sevilla, and Granada. The only drawback during August is the heat. Sevilla isn't called the "frying pan of Europe" for nothing. Bloody hot, became a big proponent of the afternoon siesta. The history in Sevilla and Granada, as with the rest of Spain is wonderful.