Our Best European Bucket List Destinations will take us from San Francisco to Amsterdam, then by car down through Germany across through France and down through Italy all the way to Sorrento, then back up through the heart of Europe as we Return to Amsterdam.
we will visit the best and most amazing European destinations, stay in romantic castles, discover five star hotels, bucket list destinations and visit the best European beaches and charming cliffside ocean front villages.
Bucket List Alert - This next destination is listed on our best European bucket list destinations and best destination cities list.
When arriving in Amsterdam on a long international flight we recommend staying the first night at the Airport Hilton.
This hotel is connected to the airport and a short walk will get you to your room.
When you are well rested, you can venture back down the ramp to the airport and jump onto the train into Amsterdam proper.
Park Plaza Victoria
As you get off the train in Amsterdam simply head over to the Park Plaza Victoria.
This historic hotel is conveniently located just across from the train station and canal boat cruising is right outside your door.
Be sure to explore the nearby districts by foot and enjoy all they have to offer.
Bucket List Alert - This next destination is listed as one of our top bucket list destinations.
For a bucket list walk among world renowned tulips go during the blooming season and spend an entire day in the gardens.
Of course no trip to Europe for Jim must include a visit to Stenum Hospital, and that means spending some time in Bremen.
My favorite lodging in Bremen is The Park Hotel. This palace is five star at a reasonable price.
During your stay at The Park Hotel you can take a walk in the adjacent park and grab a curry worst and a beer at Burgerpark for lunch.
For dinner head into town to Ratskeller. A wonderful restaurant located in the cellar of the city hall building. Be sure to make a reservation.
Bremen Town Square
A truly unique destination, The Bremen Town Square is a wonderful place to grab a coffee or a beer in an outdoor setting with classic views
Also, while in Bremen, spend some time exploring The Schnoor. This preserved medieval district is one of my favorite places. Small shops with one of a kind character, there is even a shop that will build you a custom teddy bear! This is no build a bear, very exclusive.
The Three Musician’s of Bremen
As the story goes…
Burgdorf's Hotel & Restaurant and Abby Ruins
Burgdorf's Hotel & Restaurant is located in the countryside near Bremen in the small town of Hude. Wonderful local cuisine is served in the new conservatory restaurant or on the beautiful terrace under the shade of the trees.
Burgdorf's Hotel & Restaurant is a short walk from the train station, has an indoor swimming pool and take a stroll through the historic abbey ruins.
If you have a car, just an hour and a half south of Bremen is Marienburg Castle.
A fun stop on your way to Trendelburg or other destinations.
Another hour and a half and you are at Burg Trendelburg.
This is truly one of the most romantic and unique castle hotels in Europe.
Book early and reserve the rapunzel tower room!
Bucket List Alert - This next destination is listed in our best European bucket list destinations and a top bucket list destination.
Rothenberg on der Tauber, Germany
One of the most visited storybook castle villages in the world is Rothenberg on the Tauber River. Explore the castle walls and visit the spectacular Kings Garden. Shop in many
Hotel across the street is Burg Gartenpalais
Kings Garden walk
Teddy Bear Store
Clock Tower Square
On your way south make a stop at Stettenfels Castle for lunch.
Fussen is your base for visits to the amazing castles of King Ludwig.
First on the list is Neuschwanstein Castle, said to be the inspiration for the Disney Castle.
Hotel Hirsch, in Fussen is a wonderful little hotel located just steps from several great restaurants, not the least of which is located in the hotel
Bucket List Alert - This next destination is listed as one of our top bucket list and best European bucket list destinations.
Best Castle Tour
Located near Fussen are the famous Neuschwanstein Castle and the … Castle.
I highly recommend the Neuschwanstein tour.
Bucket List Alert - This next destination is listed on our best destination cities list.
From Germany you can traverse across to France. There are several options if you are driving or using other options.
Hotel Le Walt
We stayed at the Hotel Le Walt in Paris. This hotel is wonderful and is located near The Ieffel Tower, the beginning point for your walking tour of Paris.
Walking tour of Paris
Your walking tour of Paris begins at The Eiffel Tower, enjoy a trip up the tower, then proceed across the River Seine and head up to the Arch de Triomphe, from there a stroll down the Champs de Elysee to the Place de La Concorde. From there head back up the Champs de Elysee to the Pont Alexande bridge and across to Les Invalides historic landmark building. From there it’s just a short hike back to Hotel Le Walt.
Taking an evening boat tour of Paris can go down as on of our favorite experiences of all time.
Chateau de Varennes les Macon
This little castle hotel in France is one of the most authentic castle experiences you will ever have.
Breakfast on the patio with the resident pooch, dinner in the elegant dining room and very charming rooms will truly take you back to midevil times.
Pont du Gard
On your way south be sure to stop and take a stroll down to the epic Roman aqua duct at Pont du Gard. This historic site spans a picturesque river and swimming or kayaking is also available.
Hotel Le Negresco
For our pick of the most decadent five star hotel there is nothing that tops Hotel Le Negresco. This place is literally a museum and a piece of history.
Located across the street from the boardwalk and beaches of Nice the views from our room were to die for.
Don’t miss having a drink and a snack in the downstairs bar, amazing atmosphere and quiet possibly live music.
Know one visiting the south of France should miss a visit to Monaco. Maybe head into the casino and test your luck at the tables, or just have a cappuccino in the outdoor cafe and people watch as The Who’s who of Europe drive up to the casino in their amazing cars and limos
La Chinqua Terra - La Spezia, Italy
Any trip to Italy should include a visit to La Chinqua Terra. This string of cliff side villages are the jewels of Italy. Of course there is the famous Amalfi Coast, but these are just as spectacular if not more picturesque.
The best way to experience La Chinqua Terra is by train stay in La Spezia near the train station at Hotel Firenze e Continental
You can jump on the train and visit our favorite Vernazza. Lunch in the piazza with a view of the little fishing harbor, a walk out onto the breakwater, then a hike up a maze of stairways to the top of the castle will make this visit a memorable one.
Heading south once again we take a bit of a side trip to visit Lucca. Once a medieval walled city Lucca is a wonderful and unique shopping and people watching experience. We always find ourselves a nice cafe with outdoor seating on a sunny piazza, order a cappuccino and just take in the scene for a while before strolling through the streets lined with elegant shops. Be sure to pick up some of their famous lemoncello at one of many shops that specialize in local spirits and delicacies.
In the heart of Italy just north of Rome is the most wonderful land of Tuscany. This area, known for its wine regions is a tourist playground of stunning vistas, hilltop cities and of course wineries.
We have discovered that the best way to enjoy Tuscany is to stay in one of the many Agriturismo lodgings.
Other Tuscany options, Badia, Agriturismo Castello Banfi
On this trip we do skip Rome, but having been there before we have published a guide to Rome here.
An Agriturismo is Tuscany’s version of a dude ranch, some provide horse rides, atv rentals, bicycles, pools and other outdoor activities. They must be an operating farm or ranch and provide a wide range of lodging options.
Agriturismo Podere Diacceroni Peccioli is an expansive property with all the aforementioned amenities, several lodging options including fully furnished apartments and an amazing restaurant with views to die for.
Hilltop Cities of Italy
Volterra is one of the most amazing hilltop cities of Italy, make sure to make a stop there and have some spaghetti bolognese in the piazza.
The list of hilltop cities is long and you can wander about the countryside of Tuscany and visit one after another. Just explore or have a plan, you will have an epic day.
Bucket List Alert- This next destination is listed as one of our top bucket list destinations.
Of course no visit to Italy is complete without a visit to Florence to see Michelangelo’s David at The Galleria dell'Accademia di Firenze, or "Gallery of the Academy of Florence, and a stroll across the Ponte Vecchio, a picturesque medieval arched bridge lined with jewelry stores.
If you are driving south from Tuscany you may want to stop in Rome, or skip Rome and head down the coast like we did.
We had a wonderful stay at a small B&B overlooking the sea, The La Casa sul Mare B&B is just the spot for a relaxing break and of course the seafood in the restaurants downstairs is super fresh.
Very high on our list of best travel destinations in Europe is the city of Sorrento.
Sorrento makes the perfect base camp for day trips down the Amalfi coast, over to the island of Capri or over to the ruins of Pompeii.
Our pick for best destination hotel in Sorrento is the Hilton Sorrento. Up above the city, with amazing views, a rooftop pool to die for, and a great breakfast spread, it’s just a short walk down to town, the harbor or the train station. Although we do recommend a taxi ride to get back up the hill!
From your base in Sorrento you are ready to catch the ferry boats to Capri, The Amalfi Coast towns of Positiano and Amalfi.
Then jump on the train for your day at Pompeii.
After a few days in Sorrento we are ready to head back up to Amsterdam.
A night in Civitevecia.
Then back to Tuscany.
This time we have booked an amazing castle top room at B&B Torre di Badia,
Via Passignano, Tuscany, Italy.
We also booked a cellar tour and wine pairing at Osteria di Passignano, a Michelin star restaurant.
On another evening we enjoyed dinner with amazing views of the Tuscan hills at Barberino Tavarnelle, just a few steps from our castle.
Continuing to the north we make a stop in the wonderful seaside town of Savona.
The Mare Hotel is beach side, has great rooms, a pool and a wonderful restaurant, where apparently dogs are quite welcome and expected.
Moving north we drive under the Italian Alps using the Fréjus Road Tunnel which connects Italy and France.
Out next stop is the cutest little chateaus in France, the B&B Le Clos Des Pervenches.
From there we head up to The Champagne region and the spectacular city of Reims.
While in Reims we decided to take a tour of the Taittinger Champagne cellars. A great tour that ends with, of course, a champagne tasting you will not soon forget.
Our hotel in Reims, the Continental Hotel, is the perfect location to have a nice walk to several outdoor seating restaurants, the cathedral, and a little farther, Tattinger, or just have a cocktail in the bar and people watch.
After our stay in Reims, and all the champagne tasting, we felt the need to go explore the vineyards of this amazing region. Wandering towards Paris, avoiding the autobahn intentionally, we enter Hautvillers, and suddenly on out left is the cathedral housing the resting place of Dom Perignon! What a wonderful discovery.
Bucket List Alert
This next destination is listed as one of our top bucket list and best European bucket list destinations.
Paris - Versailles
Of course we already were in Paris and did our walking tour and evening boat tour, but now comes one of the top bucket list destinations of all time!
The Palace at Versailles is a palace and a property like no other. Plan on spending most of a day there. Tour the palace, wander aimlessly through the grounds and maybe even have an elegant lunch at Brasserie De
La Girandole, be sure to make a reservation.
Hotel Le Chateau Fort - Sedan, France
On our way back to Amsterdam we decided we needed one more castle!
So the largest castle in Europe is right on our way north.
Hotel Le Chateau Fort is literally in the Sedan Castle.
This huge complex has the hotel, a small snack bar, and castle tours are available.
We also ventured into Sedan for some shopping and dinner at Le Medieval. This little restaurant has outdoor seating and a very authentic fresh menu.
Now our journey is reaching the end.
Six weeks over 5000 miles of driving, and 129 miles of walking. We are ready to go home!