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Small-Scale Question Sunday for January 8, 2023

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

This is your opportunity to ask questions. No question too simple or too silly.

Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.

Jump in the discussion.

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If you had to craft a European Grand Tour, what would the itinerary look like? Similar to the historical ones?

This question has become pressing as I feel much of western cultural heritage is at risk, both the artifacts and places themselves and the ability to travel to see them - either through vandals or politically (climate lockdowns in particular). Might be inaccessible by 2030.

My Euro grand tour a few years back was 9 months, with the following itinerary (many stops to see friends or travel along with others for a small stretch):

1. Paris, 2. Versailles, 3. Amsterdam, 4. Haarlem, 5. Berlin, 6. Prague, 7. Budapest, 8. Vienna, 9. Florence, 10. Venice, 11. Rome, 12. Split, 13. Hvar, 14. Ljubljana, 15. Bled, 16. Munich, 17. Antwerp, 18. Brussels, 19. London, 20. York, 21. Edinburgh, 22. Copenhagen, 23. Hamburg, 24. Basel, 25. Dijon, 26. Lyon, 27. Marseille, 28. Nice, 29. Monaco, 30. Eze, 31. Zurich, 32. Jerusalem, 33. Tel Aviv, 34. Barcelona, 35. Lisbon, 36. Bordeaux, 37. Paris

Stops 1 through 11 were done over a couple of months in a group of five, who were on that tighter timeline. I think it works pretty well, and we did exclusively trains for that section.

I think the original Grand Tour route (London-Naples overland via Paris, Switzerland, and a slow trip through northern Italy including extended stops in Florence and Rome) still works as well as it always did - in many ways better because of the improved tourist infrastructure in the Swiss Alps.

I used to hang out on travel forums providing advice to inbound tourists to the UK, and the most common requested itinerary was London/Paris/Rome, and the most common question was "Can I do it in two weeks?" The answer was no - an experienced traveller could do it, but if you are doing a once-in-a-lifetime Europe trip you are not an experienced traveller. The second most common questions was "Is it a good itinerary?" to which the answer has to be yes, with the proviso that Paris-Rome overland is tedious if you are not stopping off in northern Italy.

I will try to effortpost on this tonight. [Postponed due to child sickness bug keeping me busy]

Thanks for the tips here, appreciate it and look forward to your effortpost!

Now up as a separate thread.

I mostly agree, but if they have six weeks, as they say below, then it's do-able. Oft forgotten is the fact that on the return journey Grand Tourists often went via Germany and Austria instead of France and Western Switzerland, and so one might stop in Vienna (perhaps with a two/three day detour to Budapest), and then either Munich and Nuremberg (the latter for the German culture museum) then perhaps Berlin which despite being mostly destroyed still has great museums, then maybe Hamburg and then Amsterdam. For Americans rather than the original Englishmen, stopping in the UK and visiting London for a few days is also a good idea, and then maybe York and Edinburgh if time permits too.

So IMHO the route looks something like

  • Fly into London

  • London (4 days)

  • Optional York and Edinburgh excursion (3 days total)

  • Paris (5 days)

  • Lyon (1 day)

  • Annecy and Geneva (2 days)

  • Lausanne (1 day for the cathedral)

  • Zermatt [Take a train or drive through the Rhone valleys to Zermatt, which is more interesting than crossing the Great Bernard Pass, then spend three days hiking]

  • Milan (2 days)

  • Florence (3 days)

  • Rome (5 days)

  • Naples (4 days, do Vesuvius, Pompeii, Herculaneum)

  • Optional Sorrento/Amalfi scenery break (3 days)

  • Venice (3-4 days)

  • Vienna by OBB sleeper train (actually very comfortable) (3 days)

  • Optional Budapest excursion (2 days)

  • Munich (1-2 days)

  • Nuremberg (1 day)

  • Berlin (2 days)

  • Hamburg (1 day)

  • Amsterdam (3-4 days)

  • Optional Bruges (1 day)

  • Fly back to US (presumably) via Brussels

That comes to 6-7 weeks.

While I disagree that these are going to disappear by that time, I think a sense of urgency to see the world while you can is a good thing to have.

I'll speak to first and second-hand experience: Italy has been fantastic for me. You have a huge range of geographic and cultural terrain available in the same language. You could spend a month there and be happy (abiet pretty tired of Italian food).

I personally liked going further east and the folks who have universally enjoyed it. Croatia etc. aren't purely "Western" but that's also part of the draw.

Switzerland is awesome but universally regarded as too expensive. I loved visiting France/Paris and heard a lot of good things about Spain, but I think they'd come under Italy.

I love Switzerland but culturally there isn’t that much left of the time it was the center of Central European art/culture/intellectualism. Bern is cool if you like architecture, the national museum is very interesting but I struggle to say it’s worth a trip to Zurich unless you’re passing through, the Beyeler is cool but unless you’re a huge fan of one of the artists they collected heavily the same is true about visiting Basel, and Geneva doesn’t have much culturally relative to most medium/large sized old French or German cities, other than Chillon castle, which did admittedly feature on (some) Grand Tours. I’d recommend Switzerland to anyone, but more for the incredible beauty of the scenery than the culture, which is worth a stop if you’re passing through but nothing special unless you have an extreme interest in Swiss history, in which case you can stop at thousands of little village and town museums about clockmaking and carpentry and agriculture and mountain culture that are fascinating but which aren’t really the kind of “greats” you’d imagine on a real Grand Tour.

How much time do you have?

Let’s say a max of 6 weeks to make it easy?

Otherwise I might want to keep it under a month. Or I could split it up into two visits.