We are making our first big trip to Europe. I have been a number of times related to work, but never as a fully available tourist. We are planning our travel for July of this year and already have tickets for arrival in Barcelona and departure from Prague. Currently, we are looking at this schedule: Barcelona (06-09JUL), Paris (10-13JUL), and Prague (18-22JUL). We are currently debating trying to travel to another city (Vienna or Amsterdam) in the gap or extending our stay amongst the current destinations. We are a group in our late 20's (my wife and I, plus 2 others) who are looking to site-see, shop, and party.
I am completely open to any suggestions in modifying our plans to get the most out of our trip. Having read a number of these posts, it looks like you guys have a wealth of information to share.
Paris definitely needs more than 3 days.
Many first time tourists to Europe make the mistake of spending 3 days per city. What they get in reality is 1 full day in the city and 2 days of arrival and departure. So best extend all your stays unless you are sure 1 day is enough.
You should also try to visit at least 2 places in a country. Paris is not France and Barcelona is not Spain. You get a better feel for the country if you have been to more than one big city.
I also suggest you catch the night train from Barc'a to Paris - city to city transport, no need to go to the airport and you arrive early in the morning. Why waste precious daytime travelling when you can be sightseeing?
If you are planning to party as well you might want to take an extra day for the cities you are visiting. I am currently living in Barcelona and can tell you that there is enough parties going on but they start late, really late. Regular bars open around ten and close around 3 but if you want to go to a club it will not open before 12 and not get busy before 2, they close at six. So you will probably spend at least half a day in bed the next day, unless you are the type of people that can do without sleep.
If you want to extend your trip Vienna is probably more logic if you continue to Prague later but I would personally recommend Amsterdam (can´t do otherwise since I´m Dutch). There are not a lot of particular sights that you really have to see but it is a perfect city for just walking around the small streets and canals, do some shopping on the Waterlooplein market and ´negen straatjes´ with a lot of botiques and second hand clothing, and of course for parties! Around Leidseplein you will find plenty of bars and clubs.
I do agree that Paris deserves more then 3 days (incl travel) so why don´t you extend the first two cities with one day and spend 2 days in Amsterdam (as long as you don´t spend all your time in a coffeshop 2 days should be enough to get the feel of this city)? so Barcelona 06-10 Paris 11-15 Amsterdam 16-17 Prague 18-22. It gives you some more time to just sit down and enjoy what is going on around you as well.
If you have specific questions about Paris, Barcelona or Amsterdam let me know (don´t know much about Prague).
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You're going to get a bucket full of info here from people that have been along your trail.
I'll just put in my few pennies worth about two cities you mention, that I've been to many times.... Amsterdam and Vienna.
Depending on your likes and dislikes - they are two very different cities. Vienna is about twice the size of Amsterdam, not that you'd notice - as both have excellent public transport systems to get you about, that put London's to shame in some ways (much cheaper and far more reliable).
So give me some insight into what a few of your likes and dislikes are - then I'll give you a quick mini-guide of the two venues, where to stay cheap and the do's and don't do's.
Wow, you guys are great.
I've been to Europe a number of times, but never on vacation. Only a day here, a day there. I'm updating my travel map now. My wife is a Polish citizen, but she never traveled beyond her country. The rest have never been to Europe. We are all professionals and have a medium sized budget, but would rather spend the majority of it outside our hotel rooms. We already have a hotel in BCN, but recommendations for the other cities, and preferably, neighborhoods to stay in would be appreciated.
We definitely plan to check out some museums, catch the major tourist attractions, shop, eat great food, drink, and enjoy as much as possible. I would like to see the flamenco in BCN, the Lourve in Paris, and go to a great club at least once. I guess we won't have time for side trips this vacation (except Versailles), though I appreciate the suggestion.
I wanted to clear up a little about my travel plans and my group. We will be arriving in BCN Monday morning. Currently, we want to fly to Paris in the AM Fri 10th. We would leave Paris in the AM Tues 14th, but it seems the recommendation to stay an extra day, at the least. If we went to Amsterdam or Vienna Wed 15th and left for Prague AM Sat 18th, would that be decent? We will leave out of PRG Wednesday the 22nd.
It looks like flight from BCN to Paris are cheap and quick. Considering Amsterdam vs. Vienna, my concern is getting to Prague from AMS. I've heard bad things online about Sky Europe. Any comments? I spent a day in Amsterdam in FEB06, but that was a whirlwind. My brother would like to see Vienna, but I'm not familiar with it at all. And, does it differentiate much from the other places we will be seeing?
I am definitely taking these recommendations to heart.
Quoting: And, does it differentiate much from the other places we will be seeing?
All the cities you have in mind are going to be very different from each other, as I said I don´t know much about Prague (and vienna for that matter) but I can say; Barcelona is a city full of apartment buildings, I still have to discover the first ´normal´ house here. All the wonderful architecture is hidden in between this. It is a mixture of broad open streets (raster, like new york) and small streets (avoid them at late night, especially those around the ramblas). most buildings are quite abundantly decorated, thanks to the modernists that put this city on the map, look up every once in a while when walking the streets to appreciate these decorations on the buildings. You can find Flamenco in this city but not that much because it does not originate from this region of Spain.
Paris is much more open and romantic, a lot of big buildings and parks. You can easily spend a day in the louvre and if you have time go up to Pere-Lachaise, the biggest graveyard of the city. Many famous people burried there and all the graves are impressive, definitely not your ordinary graveyard. Go up to Sacre Coeur around sunset to enjoy the view over the city. Marais is a popular district to stay in but quite expensive. I have been staying in Les Halles, not the best/beautiful neighbourhood but fairly cheap and close to most sights. Latin Quarter is a nice neighbourhood but might be a bit noisy because it is the hangout for many students. Keep in mind that the standard for hotels is quite low in Paris (at least, what I have experienced) don´t expect big and beautiful rooms when you don´t pay that much, it has always been very clean though.
Amsterdam is a small city and not so much a city to see but more to do. A lot of younger (20-40) tourists come there. Walk around the traditional neighbourhoods like ´de pijp´ and ´de jordaan´ and don´t forget the ´singels´and markets (waterlooplein, albert cuyp) if you want to see the Amsterdam you see in movies and clips. The Anne Frank museum is very nice.. it is in the original house where she and her family used to hide for the Germans. You don´t need a lot of time for this museum. Also just sit down on the terraces around Leidseplein and enjoy looking at the very multicultural crowd passing by. Of course, don´t miss the red light district. Rent a bike for a day if you really want to feel like a Dutch person in the city (be carefull though, bikers and pederstrians usually ignore stoplights) Because of the many young tourists you might want to consider taking a hotel a bit outside of the centre if you don´t want to be kept awake till 3. It does not matter for travel because the public transport is really good.
what I know from Prague is that it is more historic then the cities above and of Vienna I know that is a very romantic city but very different then Paris, with it´s canals and small streets.
Wow, you are so awesome OHannemari. I can't believe how thoughtful your posts are. Thanks a lot.
So, taking all this advice into consideration, we will only be going to Barcelona, Paris, and Prague. Travel 05JUL, BCN 06-10JUL, PAR 11-16JUL, PRG 17-21JUL, and Return 22JUL. We will try to make it to some of the other places in the future. This plan looks far more realistic than our original plan.
Staying near Placa Catalunya in BCN. It seems like a very central location. Any recommendations for a day trip? My brother mentioned Girona. Any better suggestions? We've seen a few Paris hotels that look OK in Montparnasse and Montmartre. How are those neighborhoods for activity after the siteseeing? The rest, closer in to the center, are very expensive for the dates we want.
Does anyone have any recommendations for Prague?
About hotel quality, I find it funny that my wife, who grew up near Warsaw, cares so much less about hotel quality than myself, an American from New Jersey. I guess I'm just a wimp, but I'll survive
I have a recommendation for Praha. Don't book a room in advance. It'll cost you so much less if you just get to the airport, railway station etc. and just ask a taxi driver to take you to a 1* hotel.
Praha is wonderful - if you do your own thing and don't rely on a travel agent.
When taking the train from Vienna to Prague note that Czech tracks are old and rickety. Trains travelling in the Czech Republic are almost never on time. The Eurocity trains from Vienna to Prague are nice and fast, but the Austrians cannot do anything about the state of the tracks. Expect delays of up to 2 hours.
Accomodation in Prague: http://www.ritchieshostel.cz/ - stayed there a few years ago, a bit run down but really central. Prague at night can be rough (everything you can get in Tijuana, Mexico you can also get in Prague), but the area this hostel and hotel is in is relatively safe. During July there are so many tourists around Old Town Square and the nearby streets that the only thing you have to worry about is theft and pick-pockets, not armed robbery.