Travel The Grand Solo Europe Trip - Recommendations Please!

EnviousLove

Member
Jun 25, 2009
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Hi Everyone,

I am currently planning a 3 month solo trip to Europe and was hoping for some advice

I'd love recommendations for what to do, and for shopping within Europe :smile: If there's any guidebooks that y'all have used, I'd appreciate that too!

Here's my itinerary so far:
MILAN (3)
->LUGANO (1)
->VENICE (2)

MUNICH (3)

VIENNA (4)
->SALZBURG(2)

BUDAPEST (3-4)

Prague (3)

Berlin (6)
->POTSDAM (1)

Copenhagen (4)
-> HELSIGNOR (1)
-> Roskilde (1)

AMSTERDAM (4)
-> HAARLEM (1)

BRUSSELS (4)
-> ANTWERP (2)
-> BRUGGES (2)
-> GHENT (2)

Paris (7)
-> LYON/SURROUNDING (7)
-> NICE/SURROUNDING (7)

ROME (7)
->FLORENCE (3)
->LUCCA(1)
->CINQUE TERRE(3)
 
Aug 29, 2008
4,639
3
What kind of traveler are you? How much or what parts of Europe do you want to see? Regardless, I would add Slovenia, which is often overlooked but gorgeous and very much Central European.

My suggestion to anyone wanting to see "Europe" is to pick at least one region that isn't same old same old so that you have a better idea of how much diversity that word covers.

Even if you are a comfort traveler sticking with wealthy countries, you could add Scandinavia for something beyond Western and Central.
 
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EnviousLove

Member
Jun 25, 2009
23
0
I'm wary about Slovenia since I am traveling solo. I wouldn't say I am necessarily a comfort traveler, but as a 23 year old solo female, I feel like I'm going to leave Eastern Europe for another trip...

After speaking to a few people, I chose Denmark over Sweden for this specific trip :smile: What other part of Scandinavia would you say is a must visit?
 
Dec 11, 2006
7,468
929
Sweden -


as far as Slovenia is concerned: it is bordering on Italy, so less Eastern Europe than Prague and Budapest, which are much further into the Eastern areas. I went through it several times and it is beautiful but you should be comfy about where you go.

I don't see Spain on your list - Barcelona is a must and Granada for Alhambra is also a great destination, perhaps Ibiza for some partying.

for something different consider Sylt - it is a German island in the North Sea, very fancy (expensive) but it is a 'different' kind of sea experience. not Mediterranean more like hiking in the Wattenmeer (when the water withdraws), hanging in a Strandkorb (those basket seats on a beach), just something different. Love the North Sea, and quite doable when travelling up from Holland, given that you have 3months. you can visit Hamburg and then go to Sylt.

great shopping: you like Designers or just regular shopping?

all big European cities have great shopping going on but if you are an outlet kind of gal, you can try a couple of outlets in Italy (will post details) one close to Florence, and you can to Metzingen, huge retail outlet in Southern Germany.

in Italy we usually go to Lago Maggiore (one of the big lakes up North at the Swiss border) for holidays, gorgeous for swimming in the summer and there is a small town called Luino which has amazing shops and the biggest leather market in Europe is held there every Wednesday. you can find great bargains. people get there by the busload from all over Europe.

consider Switzerland, given that you are going to Germany, Austria and Italy. The Alps are amazing, even travelling through twith the train is just breath-taking, city wise, I guess Geneva, Zurich, Lausanne are interesting.
 

EnviousLove

Member
Jun 25, 2009
23
0
Regarding Greece and Spain: I've gone on previous trips before :smile: I've spent a week in the Greek islands and two weeks in Spain, so I decided to focus on the rest of Europe for this trip!

I will put Slovenia on the list for if I have extra time when I arrive back through Milan (I gave myself 10~ish buffer days just in case).


Sylt sounds amazing, lara! I love recommendations that I can't find in guide books :smile: However, I will be in Germany in early April - will it be too cold for the island experience then?

Shopping wise I'd love smaller specialty designers or just regular shopping - things that would remind me of the region :smile: Outlets also sound great!

Would you recommend Maggiore over Lugano?

Thanks again for all of your great recommendations :smile:
 
Aug 29, 2008
4,639
3
I'm wary about Slovenia since I am traveling solo. I wouldn't say I am necessarily a comfort traveler, but as a 23 year old solo female, I feel like I'm going to leave Eastern Europe for another trip...

After speaking to a few people, I chose Denmark over Sweden for this specific trip :smile: What other part of Scandinavia would you say is a must visit?
I totally understand being hesitant as I always travel alone. Many places turn out to be quite safe but are still intimidating when you are not familiar with them. The reason I really suggest Slovenia, though, is because when you get there you can see immediately that it's not as out there as people think. The architecture in Ljubljana is like little Vienna, then the friendly people and amazing outdoors set it apart.

I have actually only dipped a toe into Scandinavia, in Denmark. I just meant that they would be interesting to visit as a group. Now I think I have a better idea of what type of trip you are planning, though.

Are you booking all your hotels and transportation in advance, or are you getting a rail pass and backpacking? At what time of year are you going? With three months, it could be good to leave your plans flexible as you figure out what you really like as you go along.
 

DrDior

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Jan 13, 2012
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This is going to be long:

Torino - One of the coolest places to go in Italy is Torino, which isn't on your list. If you go, there's a Best Western hotel across the street from the Torino train station. Here's a tip: BW in Italy is a STEAL. This one is in a converted building with beautiful period features, great continental breakfast, excellently priced and right downtown, walking distance to the shops, cafes, roman ruins and the Shroud.

Munich - 3 days is plenty. Everyone always wants to do the day tour to Neuschwanstein castle. I was never a disney fairy princess type, so I say go if you have time, but you don't really see much except line-ups. For a funky day trip, book an excursion to the medieval town of Rothenburg and visit the Rothenburg Kriminalmuseum.

Vienna - very chocolate-box pretty, but expensive.

Salzburg - also very pretty and totally walkable. There's a cool roman grave site you can visit and also take a tour through the old cemetary. Amazing. Also, you're in Salzburg, have ein apfelstrudel und un kafe. YUMMY!

Budapest - I stayed on the Pest side at a resort outside of the immediate city centre that had a fabulous spa. And when in Budapest you have to spa! There's nothing quite like being told to drop all your gear in front of a 60 year old Hungarian woman. Stroll the Danube and, if you're so inclined, check out an evening Danube cruise.

Prague - ugh. I may be biased because the bank accidentally cut off my debit card in Prague, but I couldn't stand the inability to move freely because of the gazillion tourists. They have an interesting style of begging there; don't be weirded out if you see some dude basically lying down with his hands out for money.

Berlin - love, love Berlin. Am going for visit #4 in September. We usually stay at the Grand Hotel on Friedrichstrasse because it's a historical site and it's on the street I love the best. Regardless of where you stay, you have to hit Friedrichstrasse. Aside from the historical value of visiting Checkpoint Charlie, you have a tonne of fabulous shopping there. There's a marvelous chocolate shop/cafe that serves schokolade (?), which is like yummy warm chocolate milkshake. Also visit some of the bon bons shops - the Germans love a good sweet. There's also an area in the northeastern part that has a tonne of vintage shops and an outdoor market, where you can buy yummy foods, like the best quiche ever! Most over-rated shopping area? Kurfurstendam on the west side.

Copenhagen - expensive! I went to Tivoli gardens ... by accident. I refused to pay the entrance fee, so we went to the shop next door and poked around. After scarfing some free samples they were giving out, I saw a sign marked "this is not the entrance to Tivoli Gardens." What's this? We went in and were walking around for a good 5-10 minutes before we realized we were IN Tivoli (the galleon ship was a tip-off).

You know what's more cool (to me) than Copenhagen? Taking the train for a day trip to Malmo, Sweden. Yup, Malmo is about 30 minutes or so away by train, and it's a relaxed, charming little town with quirky shops and great bakeries. If you want to hit Sweden, but don't want to full-on commit to going, this is a good option.

Amsterdam and Haarlem. Love both. Tonnes of shopping in Amsterdam and amazing food (if you know what you're doing). As with Germany, if you like fish, go for fish restaurants (in Germany, I like Nordsee). In Amsterdam, there's vendors that will sell kibbelung (battered white fish with tartar sauce. Yum). Be careful about pannekoek. The Dutch pancakes are not like north american pancakes. try instead the Belgian waffles (also not like ours, 1000% better). Avoid struppe (addictive little cookies made from syrup and a zillion calories a box). Try Puccini bonbons. Best bonbons you'll ever try. I know because I've eaten my weight in chocolate across Europe. Also, in Amsterdam, you have to check out the Indonesian food. Some of the best in the world.

Brussells/Antwerp - Antwerp wins for most over-rated tourist attraction of all-time: manequin pis (peeing statue). It's also the home of diamonds and the comic, Tin Tin. Great place to buy handcrafted linen for mementos for back-home. Brussells, grey. Very grey. And expensive.

Paris. Meh. I stayed in the 5th arondissement. The coolest part for me was walking by the Seine and talking to the booksellers. Also, you know the famous Marche aux puces open market? Don't go and, if you do, don't expect to score a Chanel jacket for 50 Euros. The only Chanels you're likely to see there are one of the many fakes that litter the place.

Nice. Over-rated and dirty (watch out for the dog poop!). What was great was the market. Salad nicoise and the best shortbread cookies you'll ever try (loved the lavender cookies. Mmmm.). Day trips from Nice I would highly recommend include a visit to Ventimiglia on the other side of the Italian border. It's Italian riviera and some fabu pasta can be eaten overlooking the azur water. I also did a trip to Aix-en-Provence, which was okay. They had a great open-air market, that's worth a visit. Monte Carlo is a quick train away and also worth a quick visit. Just don't plan on spending too much time there, though, unless you're made of money.

Not on your list, but also possibly worth a peek: Geneva. White swans floating in icy blue beautiful waters. Fabulous pasteries and just very, very pretty.

And, if you really want to knock your socks off: Croatia (with day trips to Montenegro (beautiful!) and Bosnia (just to say you've been).
 
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nycgirl79

NYC born and raised, addicted to traveling
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Jan 28, 2009
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I would absolutely add the Amalfi Coast to your list - it is hands down one of the most gorgeous places I've ever seen....Amalfi and Positano are stunning. The Cinque Terre is breathtaking, but it didn't hold a candle to the AC. If you don't want to actually stay there, I would highly recommend a day tour. My husband and I took one from Rome to Positano, Amalfi and Pompeii and it was incredible.

And I haven't been there yet, but the Lake Como area is supposed to be magnificent as well.

As far as guidebooks - I've found that the Rick Steve's books are pretty comprehensive.

I hope you have an amazing and safe trip!
 

EnviousLove

Member
Jun 25, 2009
23
0
Wow, I appreciate all of your responses! :smile:

Jane - I looked it up and the train from Milan - Slovenia doesn't seem bad :smile: How many days would you recommend staying?


DrDior -
Wow, thanks for all of your recommendations! I may skip Nice based on your recommendations and given that my friend has been trying to make me visit Sweden, I may just do that instead with the time I was going to spend in Nice!
I'm considering Geneva but I've heard it's very expensive and very similar to Austria... Thoughts?

nycgirl -
Thanks for the recommendations! If it can be done in a day, the Amafi coast sounds like an amazing daytrip
 

DrDior

Yes? May I help you?
Jan 13, 2012
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I'm considering Geneva but I've heard it's very expensive and very similar to Austria... Thoughts?
Geneva is very pretty and very pricey. But I have a trick:

I go for the "hub" and "spoke" approach to travel. I pick a hub - like Amdam - and then day trip out to other areas. The first time I went to Amsterdam, I day tripped there from Edinburgh!

Because of the relative ease and low cost of getting from one place to another in Europe - Easyjet, Ryanair, etc. - I will hop a flight, or a train or a bus, spend a day in another country and then head back. This gives me two distinct benefits:

1. if I hate something I'm not stuck there (yes, Marbella, Spain and Belfast, Northern Ireland, I'm talking about you both), and;

2. I get to see a place for a day without paying through the nose

I flew Easyjet to Geneva in the morning and came back in the early evening. There's a bus from the airport to downtown Geneva and back,so you'd have no problem getting out of the airport. And, as Geneva's pretty walkable, you can get lots done in a day without breaking the bank.

As Geneva is on the french side, it's more french than German. I will agree that the beauty of it is more Austrian, though. It's a little bit of both!

To be honest: a chunk of Belgium is probably not worth more than a day trip. You can day trip out of Amdam to both Brussells and Antwerp for about 60 Euros (it may be more now). I hear Bruggees is spectacular; you can day trip it from Amdam or, of course, train up/down and stay.
 

EnviousLove

Member
Jun 25, 2009
23
0
Oh and Jane - it's going to be 3 months, March - June. I'm getting a rail pass :smile:

Thanks for the hub and spoke advice DrDior! I'm doing most of my travel by rail but I'm sure I can apply the same strategy :smile:
 

antwerp

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Nov 25, 2008
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Belgium is Great, especially antwerp. Manneken pis is in Brussels. Antwerp is great: fashion, culture and great food. 4 days in Brussels is too long.
 

maryg1

K in a circle
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Aug 29, 2006
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You only have 3 days for Florence: if you can stay in that area a bit more, make sure to visit Siena, (2 days Florence + 1 day Siena??) and while in Rome you can make a day trip to Orvieto.
Salzburg is a gem, loved it.
I preferred Cannes to Nice, you can skip Montecarlo.
I heard great things about Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Have fun! Yours looks like a great travel
 
Aug 29, 2008
4,639
3
Jane - I looked it up and the train from Milan - Slovenia doesn't seem bad :smile: How many days would you recommend staying?
You can see Ljubljana in a day, and Lake Bled or another scenic town in a day. If you are into any kind of outdoor activities like rafting, hiking, paragliding, you could be there from May on ;) It's also a relaxed and relatively cheaper stop if you need a few slow days.

Oh and Jane - it's going to be 3 months, March - June. I'm getting a rail pass :smile:
I think this is a good time to go. You'll have plenty of warm weather but miss the real high season.

So I've mentioned hostels before on this board and learned that the very idea is disgusting to a lot of women. However, if you can get past a shared space I really recommend at least trying it out. Three months is a long time to be alone, no matter how independent you are, and unless you have lots of European connections or a very outgoing person that allows you to make friends in cafes and bars, you may find you need some help. Hostels around Western and Central Europe are full of young people right around your age and travelling on rail passes. Popular hostels have dozens and sometimes hundreds of reviews that will help you get a feel for cleanliness, safety, and whether it attracts partiers, museumgoers, hipster kids, etc. (If you are familiar with hostels already sorry for the lengthy explanation.)

Geneva is pretty but VERY boring. I have a few friends living there, and the joke is that the conversation can only go one of three ways:
1. "How do you like Geneva?" - "The lake is nice... (+crickets)"
2. "What is Geneva like?" - "It has good schools for kids."
3. "Where do you live?" - "Geneva" - "I'm sorry."
The city is full of NGO workers who expense everything, which explains both the exorbitant prices and the vibe of an administrative but not a cultural center. If you do go, imo a day is enough, and eat at Buvette des Bains, a little one-special cafe on the water which is among the few reasonably priced and pleasantly local experiences. Boreal Cafe for coffee, wifi, and muffins has a good atmosphere as well.
Another thing is you get neighborhoods where one street is swank and pricey and the next has mad hooker cleavage in the middle of the day. Now that I think about it, Geneva should be seen once just for the wackiness.

Lonely Planet guides are especially good for twentysomethings and a limited budget if you have one.