No matter which backpacking route you end up taking through Europe, you are sure to find some hidden gems and undiscovered beauties. I have never met a single person who has come back disappointed from a European backpacking trip! That being said, it can be a little overwhelming deciding where and how you will travel through this vast scene.
Europe has long been a hotspot for backpackers, wanderlusters and lovers of the great outdoors – and for good reason! Not only does Europe offer some of the most spectacular natural paradises with islands, old forests and terrific mountain landscapes; the whole continent is rich is history, culture and art, and there really is something for every type of person.
In this guide, I’ll create a four week itinerary which can be tailored to your specific needs. I’ll also include some useful information for traveling safely around: visas, budget and modes of transportation.
A Budget Friendly European Backpacking Itinerary (4 weeks)
I’ve created a sample itinerary for four weeks of backpacking around eastern and south Europe. Naturally, this can be chopped and changed as you see fit – there are so many options!
In each destination there are plenty of accommodation options, from budget hostels to nice hotels and Airbnbs.
Days 1-2: Berlin, Germany
With historic cities such as Berlin and Frankfurt, Germany has a huge load to offer. It is also a great starting point for those flying in to the country, as flights to Germany can be found at pretty reasonable prices year-round.
Things to do in Berlin:
- Visit the Reichstag. Take a tour around this iconic, historic feat of architecture.
- Tour the city by boat. Berlin has an impressive number of waterways, and you can cruise in and out of its bustling streets or even book a sunset dinner cruise.
- Stroll through the Tiergarten. The city’s most famous park offers an impressive three-mile circuit, laden with beautiful trees, lawns and sculptures. Beer and sausages are also sold a-plenty!
- Take a free walking tour or hop on a city sightseeing bus.
The whole of Germany is serviced with an impeccably on-time rail network, making it easy for you to hop between cities as you please.
Days 3-5: Krakow, Poland
Poland is a must on any Europe itinerary. While Warsaw is perhaps its most famous cities, Krakow has become a hugely popular backpacking destination.
Beautiful architecture lines the streets, and many a hidden gem is tucked away in almost every corner. This is an excellent place for history buffs, and those wanting to pay their respects to those who suffered during WWII.
Things to do in Krakow:
- Day trip to Auschwitz Concentration Camp
- Explore the Main Square and neighboring streets
- Visit the impressive Wawel Royal Castle
- Taste some excellent Polish food (Krakow has an incredible vegan scene too!)
- Tour the ancient Wieliczka salt mines
Days 6-9: Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is often likened to Paris: dazzling architecture, incredible history and vibrant culture. It sits much more affordable than Paris and attracts millions of visitors a year. Not to mention, the beer is reportedly the best in Europe…
Things to do in Prague:
- Stroll across the city’s many beautiful bridges across the Vltava River.
- Visit Prague Castle.
- Check out the Lennon Wall.
- Party in one of its many exceptional nightclubs!
- Take a river cruise.
- Stand in awe of the marvelous St. Vitus Cathedral.
Days 9-11: Bratislava, Slovakia
Bratislava is Slovakia’s capital but actually has more of a “small town” feel. It is often underrated next to the grandeur of Prague and Vienna – but it has so much to offer!
Things to do in Bratislava:
- Slow down your travel pace and wander the colored streets, admiring the architecture and statues.
- Visit the historic Bratislava Castle and its beautiful gardens.
- Sample some surprisingly good vegan and vegetarian food!
- If you travel in winter, don’t miss the Winter Markets in the main square all lit-up at night.
Days 12-13: Budapest, Hungary
Another phenomenal city is Budapest. It is often top of traveler’s favorite city lists, and for great reason. The city is surrounded by a river, with several impressive bridges and incredible lookouts.
Things to do in Budapest:
- Stroll along the Danube Promenade
- Visit St. Stephen’s Basilica – making sure to climb to the top for an exceptional view.
- Marvel at the Fisherman’s Bastion with its beautiful white turrets and panoramic scenes.
- Take a relaxing dip in one of the fabled Budapest Baths
- Check out the amazing selection of pubs.
- SCUBA dive under the city among some ruins.
Days 14-16: Lake Bled, Slovenia
It’s time for a break from city-hopping. Lake Bled is one of Europe’s true gems and will give you some much needed outdoor time. Only a short ride from Slovenia’s capital – Llublijana – Lake Bled is a beautiful little down with a breathtaking mountain backdrop. The bluey green waters are the perfect place for a dip, and there is even a small island in the center of the lake where you can explore an historic church.
Things to do in Lake Bled:
- Swim in the crystal waters and visit the quaint church on the islet.
- Visit the impressive Vintgar Gorge.
- Ride on the Bohinj Railway through some stunning scenes of the Alps.
- Hike in Triglav National Park.
- Go canoeing, mountain biking or trekking through the regions many wild spaces.
Days 17-21: Croatia
There are endless things to do in Croatia! There are more historic cities such as Dubrovnik, Zagreb and Split, while the countries coastline offers beautiful blue waters and a myriad of islands to hop between. Take some extended time in this beautiful country to experience it all.
Things to do in Croatia:
- Explore the historical port town of Split: gateway to the Adriatic Sea and its islands. Check out the cathedral of St. Dominus, built a whopping 1700 years ago!
- Book an island-hopping tour from almost anywhere along the coast. Hvar with its Old Town is definitely an island worth checking out.
- Marvel at the impressive architecture of Dubrovnik, built up on sheer cliffs and encircled by an impressive stone wall. The city sweeps down to the ocean, where gorgeous white sand beaches await.
Days 22-25: Montenegro
This is a country for all trail lovers, mountain admirers and off-the-track explorers. Often overlooked, Montenegro is a beautiful little country populated with medieval villages, welcoming people and set against breathtaking mountains.
Things to do in Montenegro:
- Hike the mountain trails in Durmitor National Park.
- Explore the dazzling Mrtvica Canyon.
- Climb the old, fortress walls of Kotor and watch the boats come in and out.
- Enjoy incredibly tasty (and cheap!) wine & seafood.
- Relax on the quiet Montenegrin beaches for sunset.
Days 26-28 (or longer!): Greece
Greece has it all: ancient history, delicious food and gorgeous landscapes. Whether you want to end your trip immersed in some more rich culture, or chilling out on a beach – you can do both in Greece.
Things to do in Greece:
- Take a day cruise to the Saronic Islands. Beautiful beaches, colorful houses and an ancient Byzantine village await. All can be done in a day trip directly from Athens.
- Visit the impressive Corinth canal – only 24m wide with 80m high cliffs on either side. The large ships that pass through barely squeeze down this narrow 6km canal, and it is quite the sight!
- Visit the seaside city of Nafplio and enjoy its quiet beaches, as well as three impressive historic castles.
- Finish your trip in Athens as this city is very well-serviced for flights back to the US, Australia or other European places. Visit the Parthenon, Acropolis Museum, Temple of Zeus and ancient Plaka district.
Traveling around Europe as a Backpacker – FAQs
Do I need a visa to enter European countries?
One of the best things about travel around Europe is the fact that EU or US citizens do not need a visa for most countries! That’s right. Herein lies the world’s largest visa-free zone, and you can hop very easily from country to country.
26 European countries lie within this “Schengen Zone” permitting easy travel across borders. Even countries that are not part of this zone, such as Belarus and Ukraine, allow visitors for up to a certain number of days completely visa-free. For more information on this, read up on it here.
What is the best way to travel between European countries?
Another European gem is the network of interconnected railways between countries. Interrail offers an incredibly easy, flexible and often pretty cheap way of getting around the entire continent by train. You can purchase a flexible hop-on-hop-off style ticket for up to three months of unlimited travel, which makes it an extremely popular choice for budget backpackers.
Indeed, it is more common for backpackers to choose train travel through Europe that hiring a car or minivan, as it often works out much cheaper.
At the time of writing, a 2 month unlimited Interrail pass costs just over $500… what are you waiting for?!
Visit the Interrail website for more information about their different tickets and train journeys.
That being said, rail travel isn’t for everyone and the incredible network of roads through Europe do make van life a very appealing option. If you are heading to the continent for an extended period of time – one month or more – then this may be the option for you. Check out this honest article from Hip Hikers for their cost of van-living for 6 months in Europe.
What is the best time of year to backpack Europe?
Travel planning is always a balancing act. Summer is often the best season to visit Europe for sunshine, long days and vibrant city life, however things are generally more expensive, crowded and booked up faster. Similarly, winter is a gorgeous season if you love the snow, skiing and picturesque cobbled streets lined with lights and warm drinks.
This, too, attracts large crowds. If you do plan to visit Europe during the busy seasons, be sure to book things well in advance so that you don’t get stuck or landed with only expensive options.
As with most destinations, the shoulder seasons of early spring and late fall can be the best option for those who are less picky about the weather, and more interested in saving money and staying away from the crowds. This is always my favorite time to travel as it is a little easier to go with the flow and have to plan less.
How much money do I need to backpack Europe?
Budgeting is always tricky as it totally depends on your preferred style of travel, length of stay and what you want to do with your days. As a good rule, a budget-conscious backpacker who likes to hostel-top, see some sights and experience local cuisine can expect to spend: $70-110 per day in Western Europe, or $50-80 per day in Eastern Europe.
This is not including flights or transport between countries, which also needs to be factored in. Of course, costs estimate wildly per traveller, but generally speaking Eastern Europe is cheaper for the average backpacker.
I love to stretch my budget by going on loads of multi-day hikes: wild camping, cheap food and no money spent on excursions!
Is it safe to backpack Europe alone?
Backpacking through Europe is fairly common and is generally pretty safe, as long as you stay aware and make smart decisions. If you are staying in hostels, it is always wise to keep your valuables in a locker, and let hostel staff know if you are leaving all day and when you should be back.
Buddying up with other travelers for a day or so is a great way to keep safe – although always have your wits about you, not everyone is trustworthy!
In the major cities and popular locations, there is a very good framework for backpackers and travelers, and you shouldn’t get hassled for being a tourist. If you venture out into the smaller towns and more remote places, be aware that language may become more of a barrier and it may be difficult to communicate to get around
As with almost anywhere in the world: don’t walk alone at night, don’t flash your cash and don’t drink too much!
I hope you’ve enjoyed your whistle-stop tour of Europe. Naturally, there are so many places to see that even a three month trip wouldn’t cover it all. Remember not to get overwhelmed when trip planning. Create a loose outline and see where it takes you. After all, some of the best experiences come completely unplanned!
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Suzie Hall has a passion for all things wild and is a scuba diver and Orcalab researcher based in Hanson Island off the north coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. She spends most of her time exploring this great wide earth and her travels have taken her to some remarkable locations including Patagonia, Kyrgyzstan and the wild British Columbia coast. Fueled by a drive to protect our wild spaces and their inhabitants, Suzie works in conservation projects around the globe and lives to write about the amazing people, places and wildlife she encounters.