Travel Guide – Exploring Europe in 4 weeks

Europe travel guide

Travelling across Europe, especially in summer, can be an exciting adventure. This is a brief guide on how to do it based on our own real life experience. The guide is primarily geared toward residents from North America but applicable for most travelers flying into Europe. The travels in this guide took place between 2015 and 2019.

Planning

To prepare, you should start planning at least 6-7 months ahead. A helpful resource for planning is Rick Steves Europe Travel Guide and his audio guide and books.

We use hotels.com and AirBnB for accommodation, Kayak for airlines, Duolingo app for foreign language learning, Viator/TripAdvisor for guided tours, Man in seat61 for train connections and Google Search for train, maps and attractions. Make sure you have an international plan with your wireless carrier for your smartphone. Verizon and T-Mobile has the most Europe friendly plans in our experience. For best price and availability, book ahead by at least following timeline:

  • International flights: 3-5 months
  • Long distance Trains: 3 months
  • Flights within EU: 2-3 months
  • Car Rental: 6-8 weeks
  • Hotels/AirBnB: 4-6 weeks
  • Guided Tours: 4-6 weeks
  • Local Trains: 2 weeks

It is better to book the international flight first so you know where to fly in and then plan remaining itinerary.

Places to Visit

The sites visited and the accompanying video blog series are described in my blog Best Of Europe. When in a site, use your smartphone and Google map as much as needed to get the most out of your visit.

The roadmap

Visiting all these sites in a single trip is possible if you have 4-6 weeks in hand. However, you can split it in multiple trips to suit your budget and availability. Below is a suggested itinerary.

1. Fly into Europe via A) London, Then take a flight to Vienna, Austria. Or B) fly to Vienna directly.

2. Take a guided day trip from Vienna to Budapest, Hungary. Explore Vienna as well.

3. Take an OBB train from Vienna to Salzburg for a half day tour. Then a scenic train trip from Salzburg to Munich.

4. Take a day trip from Munich into Bavaria exploring Oberammergau, Linderhof and Newscheinstein. Then head to Zurich via train and enjoy the scenic Rhine river valley and nearby Basel and Rheinfelden.

5. Fly or take train from Zurich to Milan. Take a day tour to Lake Como. Then explore Milan before heading to Venice by train.

6. Explore Venice, then take the train to Florence. Explore Florence. Then take a day trip of Tuscany covering Siena, Pisa and San Giminano.

7a. Head to Genoa by train. Then take a Mediterranean cruise from Genoa or Savona exploring Marseilles, Nice, Monaco and Barcelona. Take day excursions from the cruise ports. Then fly to Marseilles. An alternative to cruise is available in next step.

7b. If skipping cruise then fly from Milan or Florence to Nice. Then explore the Riviera (Nice, Monaco, Ezze, Cannes) by car.

8. Rent the car (preferably automatic and German) from the airport. Then explore Provence by car including Avignon, Arles and Niemes.

9. Fly from Marseilles or Nice to Madrid. Explore Madrid. Then take the train to Seville. Explore Andalusian sites like Ronda, White Villages, Granada via guided day tours. Then head back to Madrid via Cordoba in Train. Spend half or a full day in Cordoba to explore. From Madrid take a flight to Paris.

10. In Paris explore the beautiful city as well as nearby Versailles. Take guided tour to nearby Champagne region or Normandy.

11. Then fly or take the train to London. Explore London. If your entry to Europe was in Vienna then fly back to Vienna. Finally, head back home!

Travel – Best of Europe

Travel 50+ sites in Europe in this playlist!

This video blog series is a trip across Europe compiled over a few years. It is also a roadmap for travelling all these sites in a single trip if you have 4-6 weeks available. For details on preparation and a suggested itinerary for such a trip check out this blog .

Places to visit

We start in Budapest, Hungary and head west across the Alps visiting Vienna and Salzburg in Austria. Then tour Munich, Linderhof and Newscheinstein in picturesque Bavaria, Germany and end up in Switzerland visiting Zurich, Basel and Rheinfelden.

We then head south to Northern Italy visiting lake Como and Milan before reaching historic Venice by the Adriatic sea. We then crisscross across Italy visiting Florence, Siena, San Giminano and Pisa in sunny Tuscany. Our Italian tour continues west through Genoa and Savona and into Ventigmilia of the Italian Riviera.

Moving onto the French Riviera we visit Nice, Eze, Villafranca and Monaco. Driving further west we explore beautiful French villages and towns of Lacoste, Cavallion, Arles and Avignon ending up in the port city of Marseilles.

Their we embark on a cruise exploring the Mesiterranen including Barcelona, Spain! Heading deeper into Spain we explore Madrid and the Andalusian cities and villages of Seville, Zahara, Grazalema and Ronda. We then fly north to romantic Paris and royal Versailles before ending our journey in London, England!

The video blog

Michelangelo’s David

We saw David during our visit to Galleria dell’Academia in Florence during Fall 2017.. The line to see World’s most famous sculpture went around the block. We were thankful to have made online reservations in advance. The clip below shows David up close.

David is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture. Michelangelo created the statue in marble between 1501 and 1504. David is a 5.17-metre (17.0 ft) marble statue of a standing male nude. The statue represents the Biblical hero David, a favoured subject in the art of Florence.

Taste of Italy

Italian cuisine in pictures

Here is a collection of pics of the delicious cuisine we experienced on our trip to Italy in Fall of 2017.

Breakfast in Como

Dessert after lunch on a ferry trip

Seafood appetizer at Plaza San Vidal

Dinner in Venice: Pasta in Cuttlefish ink

Brunch by Plaza San Marco, Venice

Tuscan Appetizers at a farm near Siena

Lunch in Milan by the Duomo

Breakfast in Florence by Academia Gallery

Dessert with Coffee by Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

Florence in pictures

We spent a few days in Florence during our 2017 Italy trip. Below are some pictures we took that highlights this beautiful city. Check out my other blogs about Tuscany for details on some of these sights.

Florence historic city center at night

Hall of the Five Hundred (Palazzo Vecchio)

Italian breakfast at a Florentine cafe

Palazzo Vecchio

Statues at Plaza del Signoria

A fresco inside the Medici residence

Florence viewed from the Duomo

The Florence Duomo

“Sabine Woman” (Academia Gallery)

Michelangelo’s “David” (Academia Gallery)

Vassari’s painting of Dante’s inferno

Medici Palace – Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence and former residence of the famous Medici family. The Medici were defacto ruler of Florence and Tuscany from 14th to 17th century. Their patronage of arts and sciences led to the Renessaince. Consider the following facts to get a better grip of the Medici and Florentine influence in modern civilization.

  • Modern Italian language is adopted from Florence
  • The greatest Renessaince masters from Donatello to Leonardo, Michelangelo and later Vasari were all financially supported by the Medici.
  • International banking and financing practices has it’s roots in Medici bank
  • Christopher Columbus expedition to the new world was funded by Seville branch of Medici bank
  • Ameriggo Vespucci was a Florentine navigator who first mapped modern North America, the continent named after him
  • Gallelio tutored 4 of the Medici kids and initially named Jupiter’s moons after them.
  • Machiavelli, the diplomat famous for art of shrewd negotiation, was also from Florence during the Renessaince.
  • The poet Dante, whose Inferno shaped the vision of hell, is from Florence. His poem was visualized by Vasari in the roof of Florence Duomo financed by the Medici
  • The Medici family produced 4 Pope!

Getting There

Getting to Palazzo Vecchio is a few minutes walk from Florence city center, the historical district . It’s located by the Plaza del Signoria, the historic plaza adorned with sculptures, nice restaurants and shops buzzing with tourists. Cars are not allowed in the city center but it’s very walkable and served by bus and taxi from all over Florence.

Nearby Attractions

Before heading into Palazzo Vecchio, visitors can marvel at the collection of statues at Loggia dei Lanzi. The statues are mostly copies of great masterpieces but the craftsmanship is amazing. Also next to Palazzo Vecchio is the world famous Uffizi Gallery which can take up a few hours to tour. We had dinner at one of the restaurants in Plaza Signoria. Here is a video clip of us exploring Plaza del Signoria.

Exploring Palazzo Vecchio

The entrance to Palazzo Vecchio has 2 imposing statutes including a copy of Michelangelo’s David. Inside the Palazzo, a beautiful courtyard leads to the museums. The first museum is the former residence of the mother of Cozimo de Medici. This connects through a great hall to the main palace rooms and eventually to the grand hall called Salone dei Cinqueciento. Here, magnificent paintings adorn the roof and the walls with work by Vasari and earlier work by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci (now lost). This connects to the private rooms of the Medici family decorated with grand paintings mostly by Vasari and Boticelli.

Click this Video Tour of Palazzo Vecchio to explore more.

Florence Duomo

Exploring the Florence Duomo

One of the key attractions in Florence is it’s historic Cathedral and the surrounding museums. The Dome (or “Duomo” in Italian) of the cathedral was the largest in the world until modern era. The cathedral itself is 3rd largest and 3rd tallest, and climbing it all the way to the top is an amazing experience.

In this video link I captured our

Climbing the Duomo in Florence .

Halfway to the top of the Dome is a section where visitors are able to walk around a semi circle. Here we can marvel at the roof painting by Vasari in mid-1600s depicting a vision of hell from Dante’s Inferno.

An evening stroll through the historic district is another great way to appreciate the grand and magnificent features of the Duomo, maybe after a dinner and dessert by the Plaza del Signoria nearby!