How to Decide What Cities To Visit in Each Country in Europe

Bern Switzerland street view

If you are following my Europe Trip plan guide, then the next stop is to figure out what cities to visit in each country you are planning to visit.

  • Rookie Mistake: Expecting to visit all the major tourist cities and attractions in few days.

Madhu stayed in Aix-en-Provonce from August to December. She travelled with her friends almost every week. In spite of that, she couldn’t see the entire southern France. She was able to visit the following cities – Cassis, Antibes, Cannes, Nice, Monaco, Arles, Avignon, Marseille and Lyon. And there’s lot more to see in Southern France.

While you are going on a 14 days trip in Europe with plans to visit 2 to 3 countries. Plan to spend at least 2 nights in a city to have an ideal travel experience.  But, for major cities, you would need 3 nights or 4 nights.

We spent 4 days in Paris during our first visit. During this second trip, we arrived on Friday morning at 8 AM and departed to Geneva on Sunday at 4 PM train.

Here’s my rough guidelines based on cities we have visited:

  • Paris – 3 Full Days (add one more day for Versailles)
  • Barcelona – 2 Full Days
  • Munich – 3 Full Days
  • Milan – 2 Days
  • Florence – 2 Days
  • Rome – 3 to 4 Days
  • Brussels – 2 Days
  • Lucerne – 2 to 3 Days
  • Lauterbrunnen – 3 Days

Days vs Nights: Above estimates are based on spending entire day (Morning 9 AM till Dinner). You can either take a late night train to the next city or plan to take early morning train to next city.

  • Bottomline – Spend at least two nights in a city unless it’s for a stopover town (like Geneva or Frankfurt).

But, still for first time planners, you want to know what cities to visit, so you can plan your route.

How we decided on the Cities to Visit

Here’s our first itinerary from Paris to Germany via Heidelberg, Baden-Baden, Black Forest, Triberg and Freiburg to Fussen to visit Neuschwanstein castle.

paris to germany itinerary europe

 

I tried so hard to include Black Forest, since my aunt wanted to see how Cuckoo clocks were made and buy one. Almost for a month, all the itinerary included Freiburg.

When it came to booking the train, things got out of hands. Paris to Heidelberg or Baden Baden or Freiburg was really expensive and involved 2 to 3 train changes. I should have booked this route the day we decided to go on the trip. It was a mistake on my part. I did not expect tickets to be 120 Euro per person on a Monday morning. Ticks were sold out for Sunday and Monday mid-day.

So, we were forced to improvise the itinerary. After several iterations, we went from Paris to Geneva (70 Euro per person) and skipped the Black Forest altogether. I did not feel comfortable to spend additional 350 euro on train tickets to Black Forest. Especially, it’s not a top attraction to visit as per Rick Steves Germany Guide Book.

Here’s the process I used to finalize the list of cities:

  • Include all the Major Cities in each country
  • Do you have enough time to spend in each city (as per Rick Steves Guide book)?
  • If the book says 3 days and you just have 1, then I would skip that city.
  • Then find secondary cities that’son the way.
  • Create the list and create a map connecting them.
  • You will have a starting and ending city.
  • Check if transportation is easy and affordable and feasible
  • Look for open jaw tickets from both cities
  • Then look for travel options between cities

During this process, it’s better to use a spreadsheet. Try Airtable, more powerful than a spreadsheet. It helps to visually see all the places, dates, cost, etc. I created 10 different itineraries when I planned the 14 days trip before deciding the perfect plan for our trip.

By now you should get a hang of the process to plan the route, cities and countries.

Featured Image – Picture of the street in Bern, Switzerland. Einstein’s home is located few minutes walk down the same street.

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