Backpacking in Europe

Countries  »  Europe

Why go?

Discover Europe

Europe can be anything you want it to be. If you're into fine art, fine dining, and mighty fine culture, you can peruse Paris, France, live it up in London, UK, or idle around Italy. If it's a party you're after there's Amsterdam, the Netherlands or the untamed nightlife of Serbia. For scenery lovers there's the green and pleasant lands of Germany, the mountains of Austria, the stark and snowy Sweden and Slovenia. Beach bums flock to Spain and Greece...

You get the idea. Europe has an embarrassment of riches. And we're here to help you make the most of it.

There are so many things to do in Europe that it can be difficult to know where to start when planning a gap year. But its popularity means established trails and reliable travel infrastructure are deeply embedded, so backpacking across the continent never feels too daunting. We've broken it up into distinct regions to make Europe feel a little more digestible. See what takes your fancy.

Disclaimer: These are OUR definitions of the European regions, split in such a way as to seem accessible to travellers...


Western Europe

Why Visit Western Europe?

For many this will be the main event of the continent. It's home to some of the finest cities in the world, the most famous landmarks, rolling countryside, rollicking nightlife, sophisticated dining, *deep breath* diverse and friendly people, and thousands of years of history. Needless to say there's a lot to see, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming. Everything is linked by excellent transport, be it land or air or sea, so the best approach is to relax and make the most of it. Just make sure you arrive with a decent budget - Western Europe can be on the expensive side.

Depending where you're coming from, the United Kingdom is a great starting point for a trip around Western Europe. You can see the landmarks of London, catch a show in the West End, and make the most of the nightlife before heading out to see the countryside, visit the idyllic Georgian cities of Bath and York, quaint Cornwall, or even go further afield to Scotland or Ireland.

From there you might take a plane or ferry to Spain, to lounge on the beach or see Madrid and Barcelona, or over to France to fall in love with Paris, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. How you proceed from there is really up to you. There's the excitement of Amsterdam in The Netherlands, the culture and castles of Germany, or the sun-baked streets of Italy. You might choose to try something a little different and tour Andorra, San Marino, or Luxembourg

A popular way to see as much of Europe as possible is Interrailing. This allows you to buy one ticket that gives you free reign on the trains of mainland Europe for a whole month. This gives you the freedom to go where you want, when you want, as it covers a huge range of countries, from Western Europe and beyond.

Top Countries

France

France

United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Germany

Germany

The Netherlands

The Netherlands

 

There's so much to see in Western Europe that your bucket list can get lengthy. Why not check out Portugal and Belgium too?


Eastern Europe

Why Visit Eastern Europe?

An Interrail pass might well take you into Eastern Europe, which is definitely a good move if your budget is starting to dwindle. Although it's not as cheap as some parts of the world, travelling in Eastern Europe is certainly cheaply than it's western neighbour.

The countries here may not have the same name recognition, and in some places tourist infrastructure isn't quite as robust, but there's still a huge amount to see. Serbia has fast become known for its wild nightlife, and neighbouring countries like Slovenia boast swathes of untouched, fairytale-like countryside, including the stunning Lake Bled. Russia is a popular destination for the amazing architecture and other attractions in Moscow and St Petersburg, as well as acting as a gateway to Asia.

Croatia has beautiful beaches and seaside towns, Poland is a hotbed of European history, and Romania is home to some truly unique landscapes and traditions. Again, what you do while backpacking in Eastern Europe will entirely depend on whatever mood takes you. 

Top Countries

 

Russia

Russia

Serbia

Serbia

Poland

Poland

Croatia

Croatia

 

There are a whole bunch of lesser known destinations in Eastern Europe. We recommend looking into Albania and Montenegro, too.


Northern Europe

Why Visit Northern Europe?

Arguably the most unique region of Europe, consisting largely of Scandinavia, as well as countries like Iceland and Lithuania, here is where you will find some of the most idiosyncratic, breathtaking scenery in the world. 

Iceland is definitely worth your time, almost feeling like another planet with its waterfalls, lava fields, hot springs, and the aurora borealis rippling overhead during winter nights. Reykjavik is a small but perfectly formed capital. However it's difficult to work Iceland into a longer backpacking trip, so countries like Sweden, Finland, and Norway can offer similar chilly pleasures, as well as great cities like Stockholm and Copenhagen, and is quite a bit more accessible. Just beware that these countries are expensive to travel through.

Heading further east, Lithuania is coloured by a long, largely unknown Medieval history, as well as dramatic Baltic coastline, and Estonia is far more modern than you might realise, with an emerging restaurant and nightlife scene. If you're after something a little different, Northern Europe might be right up your street.

Top Countries

 

Iceland

Iceland

Sweden

Sweden

Denmark

Denmark

Finland

Finland

 

If you can't get enough of the frozen north (disclaimer: not always frozen), you could do worse than to check out Norway and the Faroe Islands.


Southern Europe

Why Visit Southern Europe?

Okay, so here our definitions are getting blurred, but it's worthwhile making a distinction here. Southern Europe is where you want to go if you prefer warmer weather, be it Spain and Portugal or further east to the likes of Italy, Greece, and Cyprus.

Greece is as diverse as you might expect, to the contemporary pleasures of Athens, the ancient history spread all over the country, and the paradisical Greek Islands. Not to mention the food. No wonder it's such a popular holiday destination. Malta might not sit high on your bucket list, but despite its tiny size it has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including seven Megalithic Temples, the oldest free-standing structures in the world, and Albania is a relatively untapped source of pristine beaches.

If you want to see Europe but don't fancy the unpredictable weather often associated with it, the south might just be for you.

Top Countries

Greece

Greece

Spain

Spain

Italy

Italy

Cyprus

Cyprus

There's sunshine and beaches galore in Southern Europe, and if you can't get enough why not swing by Croatia and Macedonia as well.

Best Experiences

Top Experiences in Europe

A complete Europe bucket list would be longer than your large intestine. It's pretty much impossible to cram everything into your gap year, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Here's a list of some of the very best experiences in Europe - scroll, feel inspired, and start writing that list!

Climb the Eiffel Tower

An obvious one, perhaps, but there are few better views over Paris, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world.


Visit Bruges at Christmas

Bruges, Belgium is a medieval town straight out of a fairytale, and never more so than when it's lit up by Christmas lights.


Stroll through Amsterdam's Red Light District

Even if you think it's not your cup of tea, the strange, bawdy sights of the Red Light District make even a brief visit worthwhile.


See a play in London's West End

There's a play to suit pretty much any taste in the West End, with the best plays and musicals from all over the world being well-represented.


Go underground to Moscow's Bunker 42 Cold War Museum

This former Cold War bunker 60 metres below the streets of Moscow offers visceral, unparallelled insight into the Soviet history of Russia.


Go Greek Island Hopping

If you want a ludicrous selection of beaches to lounge upon, take your pick from Corfu, Crete, Mykonos, Hydra, Santorini, and many more.


Get creeped out in Transylvania, Romania

Tucked away in the Carpathian mountains, you can go in search of Dracula amongst the truly stunning rural landscapes and castles of Transylvania. 


See the Aurora Borealis in Iceland

Although there are no guarantees it'll appear, there are few finer experiences in life than standing in a lava field while the Northern Lights snake and shimmer overhead.


Take a Segway tour of Barcelona

Barcelona is a beautiful city, and one of the best ways to see it is gliding along in the sunshine on your very own segway. 


Marvel at Lake Bled, Slovenia

Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful spots in Europe, Lake Bled was made to be gawped at in disbelief for hours on end.


Eat currywurst in Germany

Take a mighty fine sausage, chop it up and smother it in curry-ketchup and voila! Currywurst! Best served with thick-cut chips.


Take a boat around the Stockholm Archipelago

Many visitors to Sweden's capital miss out on this amazing landscape of over 30,000 islands, islets, and skerries - make sure you're not one of them.


Go back in time at the ruins of Pompeii

There is nowhere else in the world like Pompeii, Italy, a city from AD 79 largely frozen in time by the eruption of nearby volcano Vesuvius.


Stay on a luxury island in Montenegro

Sveti Stefan is a tiny islet jutting into the Adriatic sea and home to a luxurious 5-star hotel. Go on, spoil yourself for one night.


Climb Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is the most beautiful Scottish city, and if you can manage a fairly tough climb, the top of Arthur's Seat offers an amazing view over the streets and the Firth of Forth. 

Itineraries

Let Us Do the Work

We've put together some choice itineraries to help you explore Europe without having to worry too much about planning. Remember, we're experts in creating tailor made gap year experiences, so if you have a particular route in mind we want to help you make it happen. Just call the number on the big blue button below.

Wild Western Europe

Grand European

Grand European

European Rail

European Rail Experience

European Whirl

European Whirl

Best of Balkans

Best of Balkans

Gap Year Festival Goer

Gap Year Festival Goer

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Advice

Our Best Articles on Europe

Need advice on backpacking in Europe? Well, you've come to the right place! We have articles covering all the major destinations, from France to Hungary to Norway and beyond. Read on and get inspired.

Guide to Interrailing

A Beginner's Guide to InterRailing

Teach English in France

Teach English in France

5 Things To Do London

5 Things To Do in London

A Road Trip in Spain and Portugal

A Road Trip in Spain and Portugal

Complete Guide to Germany

A Complete Guide to Germany

Photos of Iceand

Photos of Mystical Iceland

Exploring Pompeii

Phenomenal Photos of Pompeii

How to Backpack in Russia

How To Backpack in Russia

Spooky Spots Europe

13 Spooky Spots in Europe

A Year of Adventure in Norway

A Year of Adventure in Norway

A Guide to Budapest

A Guide to Budapest

Weird Things Amsterdam

Weird Things To See in Amsterdam