My husband and I recently traveled to Western Europe for our honeymoon. Neither of us had ever been to Europe. We questioned whether or not to plan the trip by ourselves or to hire a travel agent. Because we wanted to immerse ourselves, as much as possible, in the new cultures we were to experience, we decided to hire an expert. For $100, our travel agent planned the perfect two-week trip around all the things we wanted to see and do. Here’s what we experienced.
Two Weeks in Western Europe
Eager to explore as much of the region as possible, we decided to visit Paris, Amsterdam, and Munich with a day trip to Salzburg, Austria. I purchased Steve Rick’s Best of Europe to help create our itinerary. This book has everything you need to know, from public transportation options and popular tourist spots to off-the-beaten path activities. We chose to go at the end of summer, right after labor day and it was perfect! With our travel agent’s help, we created an itinerary that gave us the flexibility to do things on our own, go on group tours, and take day trips.
4 Days in Paris, France
We spent the first leg of our honeymoon in the city of love and lights. And yes, it lived up to the hype! While 4-days and 5-nights are not enough time to see and do it all, we were able to hit all of the highlights, go on a river cruise, and take a half-day trip to the Palace of Versailles.
The city is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in the world, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, Sacré Coeur, and the Louvre Museum. When traveling to any new place, I always make a point to take a tour guided by a local. We took a group tour to and up the Eiffel Tower and learned so much about the Iron Lady and her city.
We had crepes and croquettes at charming cafes, saw beautiful architecture, visited the inside of beautiful churches, explored museums, parks, and gardens, and took a Seine River sunset cruise with views of the Iron Lady lit up and sparkling.
Many of the people spoke English in the areas we visited, and most restaurants had an English version of their menu. You will do a lot of walking, as many of the landmarks are grouped together. However, depending on which arrondissement (district) you are staying in, you may need an Uber, Taxi, or public transportation every once in a while to save time.
If you’re interested in our adventures, check out our Paris itinerary.
3 Days in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Next, we took the high-speed Thalys train to Amsterdam. It was a comfortable 3-hour ride through the countryside. Yes, we could have saved time by flying, but this was our first time in Europe, and we wanted to experience the rail system. When we arrived at our hotel, we were greeted by friendly faces, upgraded to a canal view room for free, and given warm cookies. Needless to say, the hospitality and the people in the Netherlands are unmatched.
While Amsterdam is a much smaller city than Paris, there were plenty of new experiences to keep you entertained. We marveled at the beautiful leaning canal houses, visited markets and parks, explored the Rijksmuseum, took a guided canal cruise, walked the Red-Light district, peeked in a coffeeshop, and took a day trip to South Holland. It was a nice change of pace from Paris and the most relaxing part of our trip.
On our second day, we took a small group tour to Rotterdam, Delft, and the Hauge as we wanted to experience more of the Netherlands while visiting. Rotterdam was heavily hit in WWII and had to rebuild. Today, this busy port city is filled with modern architecture and art. We also took a river cruise and learned a lot about the Port of Rotterdam and its importance. We tried bitterbal in Delft and met the owner of one of the last shops to handmake the famous blue and white Delft pottery. And when we arrived at the Hauge, we saw the Peace Palace and embassies and learned a bit about their politics.
Interesting Fact: Did you know that there are twice as many bicycles in Amsterdam than there are people? Most residents have two bicycles, and there is a “graveyard” for unclaimed bikes that are recycled. And each year, Amsterdam fishes out close to 15,000 bicycles that end up in the canals!
For more information, check out our Amsterdam itinerary.
4 Days in Munich, Germany
Getting to Munich was quite an experience. We booked a flight to save a little time, but it ended up taking us just as much time as a train ride! Amsterdam’s airport is the third largest in Europe, making it a busy place. And unfortunately, this past tourist season was a little rough because of a security officer shortage. Because of this, we were advised to arrive 3-4 hours early for our one-hour flight. While we didn’t have a terrible experience, it was a longer-than-usual airport experience.
Although it wasn’t planned, we arrived in Munich several days after Oktoberfest had begun. It was the first festival in three years due to COVID-19, and boy was it a celebration! We met wonderful people dressed up in traditional Bavarian outfits, my husband enjoyed a few steins of German beer, we ate pretzels and sausages, and experienced amazing views of Munich while taking a ride on the Ferris wheel. There was a ton of singing and dancing, and a few people took to the benches for a little nap. We attended Zinninati Fest in Ohio a few years ago, but the two celebrations just can’t be compared.
We visited beer houses and gardens and filled up on traditional Bavarian cuisine. Saw landmarks such as Marienplatz, climbed the stairs of St. Peter’s church for gorgeous city views and visited the Nymphenburg Palace and Gardens. On our second to last day, we took a day trip to the countryside, explored the Harburg Fortress, and then visited a perfectly preserved German village called Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Day Trip to Salzburg, Austria
There aren’t many other significant cities surrounding Munich as it is primarily countryside. However, you can take an easy hour-and-a-half train ride to Salzburg, Austria if your feet are itching to visit another country. We did just that on a small group guided tour! We visited Mirabell Palace where parts of the Sound of Music were filmed. We took a lift up the side of a mountain and explored the Hohensalzburg Fortress. We learned all about the famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and visited his birthplace. Salzburg was gorgeous, and I highly recommend a day trip there if you are nearby!
If you’re interested, check out our Munich itinerary!
Travel Tips We Can Offer
- If you’re traveling to a new country where you’re unfamiliar with the culture, and there may be a significant language barrier, don’t be afraid to use a travel agent! A good travel agent will help you plan your dream trip from start to finish and make sure you are prepared for your trip!
- A long-haul flight is just that, LONG! Be sure to bring something to read or download offline apps to keep you entertained. In-flight movies are helpful, but you’ll be looking for something else to do after the first two. Avoid caffeine and alcohol and try to get some sleep! If you have flight anxiety, be sure to talk about it with your doctor before your trip.
- Jet lag is going to be something you just can’t avoid. Try to sync up with the local time as soon as possible. When you first arrive in Europe, if you must nap, only give yourself 1-2 hours. The sooner you are on local time, the sooner you can fully enjoy your trip without being tired!
- Try to use public transportation as much as you can without inconveniencing yourself. Ubers and Taxis are expensive and will eat up a large part of your vacation budget if you’re not careful!
- All of the places on our itinerary accepted Euros. Before you leave for your trip, go ahead and knock out the currency exchange. Many places accepted credit cards, but there are some places that only took cash. If you need more money later, make sure to use a bank rather than an ATM or mom-and-pop shop.
- Take some time each morning to map out your activities. Find out how long it will take you to walk to places and try to group the activities that are in the same area. This will save you a lot of time and keep you on schedule so you don’t miss anything!
- If you are taking day trips, be sure to arrive at your meet-up destination at least 20 minutes early. And, don’t be late for departure because they WILL leave you behind!
- Keep your valuables on you and near your person at all times. Pick pocketers and scammers are everywhere. Use a money belt or a cut-away proof cross-body bag.
If traveling to Europe has always been a dream of yours, make that dream happen! You will have the time of your life, learn a lot, and take home essential life lessons and skills. It will be an experience like no other and a great experience to share with your loved ones. My advice to you– stop dreaming and start living!
Alexandrea Sumuel is a travel writer and the founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog, where she provides vacationers with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, explore, and escape! Alex’s mission is to help peopl find the perfect vacation destination.