If you aren’t into the glitz and glam that many tourist destinations offer and wish to experience the heart and soul of a country, then backpacking is definitely the way to go.
And, one of the best places to go backpacking is in Europe! On this continent lies a vast wealth of culture, people, languages, and must-see sights that will help open up your eyes to a whole new way of life.
In this list of backpacking destinations in Europe, we’ll give you our top 20 destinations in terms of cost, ease of access, things to do, and natural beauty. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- 1. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- 2. Budapest, Hungary
- 3. Krakow, Poland
- 4. Bucharest, Romania
- 5. Bratislava, Slovakia
- 6. Sofia, Bulgaria
- 7. Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina
- 8. Valletta, Malta
- 9. Porto, Portugal
- 10. Rome, Italy
- 11. Prague, Czech Republic
- 12. Riga, Latvia
- 13. Barcelona, Spain
- 14. Split, Croatia
- 15. Brussels, Belgium
- 16. Berlin, Germany
- 17. Athens, Greece
- 18. Dublin, Ireland
- 19. Belgrade, Serbia
- 20. Bergen, Norway
- 21. Istanbul, Turkey
1. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
It is almost as if the Netherlands was specifically designed for backpackers since it is so budget-friendly and easy to get around.
Here, you will find coffee shops and cute pubs where you can interact with locals and smoke pot. You can also rent a bike at a reasonable price to explore the city, or go on a free walking tour for a more intimate experience.
2. Budapest, Hungary
One cannot claim to have backpacked through Europe unless they have visited Budapest, Hungary.
Here, you will find the friendliest locals, liveliest streets, and very unique cuisine. You may also lounge in one of the many thermal baths the city offers, take part in sip and paint activities, or bike around the city.
3. Krakow, Poland
Just to give you an idea of how popular Poland is for backpacking; you will be pleased to know that there are online backpacker groups specifically for Poland.
Krakow is considered to be one of the cheapest cities in Europe since persons from all over the world can come here to experience a mix of history, culture, and entertainment without breaking the bank.
And when you’re tired of cheap beer and year-round entertainment, you can visit some historical sites such as Auschwitz, the medieval castle of Wawel and the Salt Mines of Wieliczka.
4. Bucharest, Romania
Dracula is not the only thing Romania has to offer. The country is home to Roman ruins, monasteries, lakes, mountains, and natural parks.
In the city, you will find an impressive art collection, well-stocked libraries, and friendly locals eager to share even a tiny bit of their culture with visitors. It has also been named one of the safest cities for backpackers in Europe.
5. Bratislava, Slovakia
Though Slovakia did not officially become a country until 1993, it boasts a rich culture and history that lures tourists from all over the globe.
In Bratislava, you are free to roam the narrow streets to adore the hybrid Medieval-Baroque-Renaissance architecture or rest for a while at one of the many pubs/bars where beer is always cold and cheaper than taking the bus.
6. Sofia, Bulgaria
If you are looking for a fully immersive cultural experience, then Sofia, Bulgaria is your ideal spot.
Once a part of the mighty Ottoman Empire, the city still reflects its influence and in fact, many of the museums dedicated to this period have free entry!
While the city is rich in history, it is still vibrant and youthful with an active night scene, and daytime activities such as hiking, skiing, and picnicking on manicured lawns.
7. Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina
The war in Yugoslavia may have created scars on the landscape, history, and people of this country, but this city persevered and still holds a rich Islam, Christian, and Orthodox heritage like no other.
This heritage is not only reflected in architecture, but also art and cuisine.
When you want to take a break from the historical and cultural aspect of the city you can step back into the present at one of the many hookah lounges and bars or grab a bite to eat at roadside cafes and street vendors.
8. Valletta, Malta
Rich in history and culture, Valletta, Malta is an ideal destination for the backpacker who is interested in learning about the various aspects of a destination’s culture such as religion, beliefs, dialect, cuisine, literature, music, dress, etc.
Outside of the rich, diverse history, you can make your way to one of the many beaches bathed by the Mediterranean sea and sunshine.
9. Porto, Portugal
Traveling to Venice is not cheap and while that aqua-city might be attractive, it is not worth the hustle and bustle for someone seeking a quiet, peaceful vacation.
Porto, Portugal is a small, yet a charming city where visitors can take boats along its canals, much like Venice, and visit the many shops, restaurants, and cafes along with it.
10. Rome, Italy
While Rome is one of the most popular and most expensive tourist destinations in the world, there is still much to enjoy here for the humble backpacker. The key is to visit during an offseason where prices are reduced and visitation is low.
Here, strolling through its streets will take you back into history with sites to see such as the Colosseum, Pantheon, along with its many museums and chapels/churches/cathedrals. But that’s not all. Rome’s nightlife is pretty much active and after sightseeing all day, you can walk over to one of the many bars and clubs and dance the night away.
11. Prague, Czech Republic
A city built for a princess, Prague is home to several medieval castles and was fortified over the years which gives it the historic appeal many backpackers seek.
There are also many modern buildings around the city which help to breathe life into it and bring you back into the present.
12. Riga, Latvia
Unfortunately, Latvia isn’t the first, second, or even third country many people think about when they hear the name ‘Europe’ but such a place is worth mentioning on a top 20 list of backpacking destinations in Europe. As a former part of the Soviet Union, the country reflects much of this history, with Baltic and modern influences on architecture.
Riga, Latvia is a quiet town during the day but comes to life at night with hip bars and strip dancing clubs.
13. Barcelona, Spain
Sure, Spain is notorious for being a tourist spot where unsuspecting tourists are coaxed into spending more than they intended to, but if you are smart and stick to your budget, you will find that the country has much to offer. It is home to both ancient and modern architecture and art and is rich in culture from the heartlands to the coast. On your journey, you will come across the friendliest people who are willing to share a piece of their home with you.
In Spain, the party never ends, especially in Barcelona, the city of love. The only drawback is a language barrier but many Spaniards speak English so finding your way around is not as difficult as it sounds. Here, you will also find everything from fine-dining to street food and 5-start hotels to cheap hostels.
14. Split, Croatia
Split, Croatia is already popular for being a reasonably priced European vacation destination, but it is also home to music festivals, cathedrals, galleries, craft shops, cafes and even a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Diocletian’s Palace).
The scenery is nothing short of breathtaking with sheltering mountains, light blue waters and beautiful sandy beaches, perfect for tanning and relaxation.
15. Brussels, Belgium
In Brussels, Belgium, you can choose to go back in time by exploring its medieval buildings and architecture, or the many museums and art galleries. You can also swing by one of the many bars and pubs, or go see a concert. Afterward, you can head to a club to get a feel of the youthful of the city.
It is one of the cheapest cities to visit in Europe so you can enjoy yourself even on a limited budget.
16. Berlin, Germany
Waging war on the world aside, Germany has always been home to creative minds whose talents are displayed in its numerous galleries, museums, and murals. Germany also holds a rich history full of strife and tribulations, where the past is present wherever you go.
In Berlin, you can enjoy concerts or the opera, enjoy the plethora of restaurants specializing in local and international cuisine or sit on a park bench and enjoy street food. At night, the city truly awakens with bars and clubs at every corner which caters to every demographic.
17. Athens, Greece
Athens, Greece is one of the world’s top tourist destinations and offers several high-end package deals. However, it still caters to the backpacking tourist who simply wishes to explore its ancient cities and bathe in the same sunshine as the forefathers of Western civilization.
With rooftop balconies, you can look down to the Mediterranean Sea and enjoy the view, or make our way down to the beach to take a dip. Its young population means that the night scene is always buzzing and there is always something to do at night.
18. Dublin, Ireland
Ireland is great for the backpacker who is more interested in road trips along the countryside or coastline. The landscape and scenery are simply breathtaking.
In Dublin, the music and bar scene is pretty lively as well so the young and the young at heart will always have something to do. You can also go on a walking tour or visit a museum to learn more about the city’s history.
19. Belgrade, Serbia
Serbia is home to some of the oldest monasteries and cathedrals in Europe, and they are scattered all across the country’s lush landscape.
Outside of its natural beauty, Belgrade, Serbia offers art galleries and museums, theatres, and nightclubs. There are also many bars, restaurants, and cafes that will introduce you to local cuisine and culture.
20. Bergen, Norway
While Norway is known for being on the expensive side, you can make it work if you know how to budget properly. Norway offers some of the world’s most stunning and unspoiled landscapes, with majestic mountains, glistening glaciers, and jaw-dropping coastlines. When backpacking in Norway, you will need to be mindful of seasons as winters can be extremely harsh and uncomfortable, especially if you are used to the warmth.
Bergen, Norway is surrounded by 7 hills and 7 fjords. Its natural beauty is taken very seriously and much of it is preserved by law, but you can always go on a guided tour. There are also excellent art museums and with a youthful population, the night scene is always buzzing.
21. Istanbul, Turkey
Despite being the most expensive city in Turkey, backpacking here is not far-fetched and you can still have a memorable experience on a low budget.
Once considered the cultural capital of Europe, it’s Islamic architecture and museums will take you back in time and help you to appreciate the country’s rich history.
You can also explore its many mosques, the Byzantine palace, and cisterns which form miles of underground tunnels.
Say goodbye to high-travel costs, overpriced stays, and hauling around tons of luggage. With this top 20 list of backpacking destinations in Europe, you will be able to enjoy your adventure at a low cost.