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!

The Fountains of Versailles

Exploring the fountains at the palace of Versailles

The Gardens of Versailles occupy the west part of the palace of Versailles. The gardens cover some 800 hectares of land, much of which is landscaped in classic French Garden style by André Le Nôtre. In addition to the meticulous manicured lawns, parterres of flowers, and sculptures are the fountains, which are located throughout the garden.

Dating from the time of Louis XIV and still using much of the same network of hydraulics, the fountains contribute to making the gardens of Versailles unique. On weekends in late spring to early autumn, the administration of the museum sponsors the Grandes Eaux spectacles during which all the fountains in the gardens are in full play.
The Versailles Orangery, which was designed by Louis Le Vau, is located south of the château, a situation that took advantage of the natural slope of the hill. It provided a protected area in which orange trees were kept during the winter months. I took the below picture of the Orangerie and South Parterre from the above Water Parterre.

The water Parterre adjacent to the palace is adorned with beautiful statues from Greek mythology. It also provides a magnificent view of the gardens and the grand canal.

The Night Fountain comes alive with sprinkling water at certain days of the week. It acts as a connector from to the Latona fountain from the right end of the Water Parterre.

One of the main attraction in the garden is the Latona fountain or Bassin de Latone . It depicts an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Latona and her children, Apollo and Diana, being tormented with mud slung by Lycian peasants, who refused to let her and her children drink from their pond, appealed to Jupiter who responded by turning the Lycians into frogs. This episode from mythology has been seen by historians in reference as an allegory to the revolts of the Fronde, which occurred during the minority of Louis XIV.

The Apollo Fountain, which was constructed between 1668 and 1671, depicts the sun god driving his chariot to light the sky. The fountain forms a focal point in the garden and serves as a transitional element between the gardens of the Petit Parc and the Grand Canal

Walking back from Apollo fountain through the picturesque King’s garden, we arrived at the mirror fountain. A 10-min water show takes place here on certain days of the week at the top of the hour.

The Saturn fountain connects the Kings garden to the main corridor that stretches from the palace to the grand canal.


The Grand Canal was built between 1668 and 1671. With a length of 1,500 metres and a width of 62 metres, it physically and visually prolongs the east-west axis to the walls of the Grand Parc. During the Ancien Régime, the Grand Canal served as a venue for boating parties. In 1674, as a result of a series of diplomatic arrangements that benefited Louis XIV, the king ordered the construction of Petite Venise – Little Venice. Located at the junction of the Grand Canal and the northern transversal branch, Little Venice housed the caravels and yachts that were received from The Netherlands and the gondolas and gondoliers received as gifts from the Doge of Venice.

Glenda and I took a boat ride through the canal to experience the serene beauty of Versailles gardens from the lake!

Get a full experience of the lake in the boat ride video below. Enjoy!