Western europe was the first trip I took abroad. I was so new to travel I didn’t think of it as Western Europe because I was completely unfamiliar with the East. It was just Europe! I’ve put together a sample Western Europe Itinerary that could be done over the course of 1-2 months, or of course longer if you want to travel slower.
This is the route I took my first time abroad. It’s not perfect; I missed some cool places but I did hit the popular “highlights”. I’ve written about each place already but thought it would be helpful to see it all in one post.
In order to travel this route, it was all by train, metro, and local bus once. I actually never had to take a cab. Okay, there was also some hitchhiking. I bought a Eurail pass & did have to make reservations in the popular cities. I visited during summer. Each city has a link to a blog post written about it with tips.
Before you start planning your Western Europe itinerary, make sure you…
- Find a cheap flight on using my tips.
- Get travel insurance with World Nomads. Here’s a comparison of plans and price calculator.
- You can usually stay just 90 days as a tourist.
Backpacking Western Europe Sample Itinerary
Sample Western Europe Itinerary
1. London, UK. A staple in any itinerary to Europe, London has so much to see that you’ll NEED at least 3 days but could of course spend more time here. Your feet will hurt after all the sightseeing but from Big Ben to the London Eye and Westminster Abbey, it’s pretty dreamy. I see people walking to and from work past such amazing architecture and think maybe I could do a 9-5 if it was in London. Here are some Luxury tips for London and here’s a guide for a revisit to London.
2. Paris, France. Of course you should spend a couple of days in Paris. Beware it’s a little hard on the budget. Before the movie “Taken” came out, we were in a train station in Paris trying to think of where to spend the night when a cute young Parisian guy noticed we were lost and offered us his home. It was awesome and we saw Paris with him over the next few days. Sometimes travel is about taking risks, and this one paid off!
3. Zurich, Switzerland. Certainly not my favorite place on this list, but a hub nonetheless. We were forced to go here when trying to leave Paris for Rome and realizing the train was full for two days. This is a problem sometimes in the popular summer months. We showed up the day of the Summer Parade and it was WILD! Again, we couchsurfed but stayed only 1 night because it wasn’t part of our itinerary.
4. Finale Ligure, Italy. We wanted to go somewhere that was on the coast, but not as expensive. I saw online this castle you can stay in Italy for 20 bucks so I emailed them right away to make a booking. It was a cute town and a great introduction to Italy. We stayed 3 days.
5. Rome, Italy. WOW! This is a city that takes some time to see (Colosseum, Vatican city) . We made a mistake of not staying long enough. It is a bit overwhelming so I suggest taking a free walking tour through your hostel. Another suggestion is stay somewhere a bit pricier if it means you’re closer to the center of town. You’ll save on transport- not only money but more importantly TIME.
6. Florence, Italy. Florence was just stunning. I’ve never forget walking the market with gelato and watching the sunsets. You’ll need to save extra with the intention of buying leather in Florence and other goodies like pashmina scarves (which are clearly fake since they are 5 usd). I stayed 3 days here.
7. Venice, Italy. I know I should go back to Venice because I was a little worn out and didn’t really enjoy my time there. I feel like all I saw were tourists and it was packed to the brim. People go for a reason tough: the little lanes of water and boats instead of cars. Expect high tourist priced food here that won’t be as good as other places. Stay 1 or 2 days. Here are some Venice travel tips.
8. Vienna, Austria. This was also during my “burnt out” phase and also we showed up on a Saturday night, Sunday everything was closed, and Monday we left. I’ve been back since, actually this month, and got to see a lot more. A post on that is coming soon!
9. Salzburg, Austria. The COOLEST place in Europe, maybe!? I loved Salzburg. Talk about a fairytale land. It’s incredible. We went to a beer garden first, got drunk, realized we had nowhere to stay, and crashed with new friends we made at the cutest little Austrian farm-house. Unreal little town! Stay a couple of days at least. The museums and fortress are really cool. A little peak into the magic of Salzburg’s fortress.
10. Interlaken, Switzerland. If you’re traveling solo, this is a town you’re sure to meet some people. There are two popular hostels and lots of youngsters hanging out for extended amounts of time. Hang-glide, paraglide, sky dive, ice climb, rock climb, kayak, or canyon; this is the epitome of adventure in Europe. Situated between two glacier lakes, with the Swiss Alps in the background, it’s the most beautiful place I’ve seen. Stay 4 days or more so you can do more activities and budget for them. Read more; Guide to Interlaken and Canyoning Interlaken.
11. Berlin, Germany. Berlin is the “cool” city of Europe. It’s trendy, fashionable, has great clubs and bars, and has some very open-minded people. Overall, I never hear travelers say a bad thing about Berlin. I think it was a bit cliquey and many cool places are hush-hush, so Couchsurfing and meeting locals is imperative here. I also LOVED the free walking tour of Berlin and learned a lot.
12. Amsterdam, Netherlands. Amsterdam is full of history, but it’s also full of “coffee shops” and you’ll need to make a bit of an itinerary so that you can be sure to see what’s there. I was 19 and did not see all that I should have. Walking the streets and seeing the lifestyle and everyone riding around on bicycles is adorable so even if you did nothing, you’d see a cool scene.
13. Delft, Den Haag, Maastricht. I’m putting all this together because they’re all very small towns in Holland. I changed my flight and stayed solo when my travel buddy went home and Couchsurfed to these towns. They were very cute and fun. I recommend seeing one country a little more in-depth and I chose Holland (because it seemed safe). Couchsurfing Holland was ideal because I had a host and I really got to see the towns the way locals do. Delft was my favorite.
A few extras…
You’ll have noticed I missed biggies like Ireland and Spain. They usually require flights which I couldn’t afford, so I waited and hit these up on my next trip to Europe, before I traveled onward to Eastern Europe. I don’t want to write about Ireland and Spain in my “Eastern Europe” post as it’ll confuse people, so will mention them here, now.
- If you have the budget, add Dublin to the top of this list, and head to Spain after France, before Italy.
Dublin, Ireland. One of the many places that I wish I’d had more time in- but not in Dublin. Two days were enough in Dublin, but I wanted a week to see the countryside (a week which I didn’t have). I did take a train out and see a bit, but it’s truly gorgeous so don’t spend too much time in Dublin downing Guinness. 7 Journey Tips for Dublin.
Madrid, Spain. Madrid was culturally impressive but for me, a little boring. Many people argue about which is better: Madrid or Barcelona? But I think they are so different you can’t really compare. Madrid seemed more old-fashioned to me. Tips on backpacking Madrid.
my couchsurfing hosts in Madrid who showed us everything!
Barcelona, Spain. The party place! I had a BLAST in Barcelona, even though I got pickpocketed and had to call my couchsurfing host from jail. Eating delicious food, downing sangria, checking out amazing art like Park Guell, and enjoying the incredible nightlife. Nowhere has such life in it like Barcelona.
Valencia, Spain. Valencia was much more chilled out, kind of like a typical beach town- but old school. I really enjoyed my time here although didn’t stay in “Old Town” as we should have. The beach was stunning and we had a blast at the bars. I did find the buses hard to navigate mainly because of language barriers. Tips for Visiting Valencia.
Read next | sample itinerary for Eastern Europe
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