• experiences to have backpacking europe

Top 10 Backpacking Europe Experiences

Usually a month or two around Europe is people’s first big step into their gap year. You’ll want to see Big Ben in London, the Louvre in Paris, and visit Vatican city- and although all these places were amazing to look at, it seems the experiences I had in Europe are more vivid in my memory than the monuments I saw.

Make sure you aren’t just checking things off a list and going to bed early each night, just to wake up early and sight-see. Party your butt off! Go to festivals. Save a little extra money for adventures like skydiving. Do a little research so you don’t miss out of amazing opportunities.

Top 10 Backpacking Europe Experiences

1. Going to La Tomatina or San Fermin in Spain. Running with the bulls in Pamplona can be dangerous and I’ve met a couple of guys who did it and said “never again” but that doesn’t mean you can’t watch from a balcony above. La Tomatina is a giant tomato throwing food fight, and is a world-famous party. There are more famous ones like Zurichs summer parade, and of course Oktoberfest. Check out this article on Tomatina from Nomadic Matt’s site.

2. Adventure thrills in Interlaken. I wrote a piece on how Interlaken is a tourist hub, but that should divert you from going. Tourists go for a reason, whether it be canyoning, ice climbing, sky diving, or hang-gliding. Interlaken is a tiny town between two clean glacier lakes in Alps, and probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

backpacking europe experiences Canyoning and hang-gliding in Interlaken.. unforgettable. 

backpacking europe experiences 3. Party Hard in Barcelona. Sounds cheesy, but truly this city is a machine. Sight-see, have some sangria and tapas, then explore the nightlife. Don’t bother going to the clubs until after 1 AM and you’ll be out past sunrise. My favorite strip of clubs was at Port Olympic, easily accessible by local transportation. Here are more tips on Barcelona. And remember, it’s not bad to party while backpacking (as long as it’s not all you do); nightlife is part of a country’s culture.

backpacking europe experiences our couchsurfing host in Barcelona- perfect way to explore the local nightlife scene

backpacking europe experiences leaving Barcelona a happy chica!

4. Couchsurf. Even compared to the US, Europe is more “free” and open-minded. I loved learning from my couchsurfing hosts. You’ll make a new friend, have a tour guide, a free place to stay, and get a locals point of view. Do your research and find someone who meshes well with you. You might get lucky like I did staying with scuba instructors on the beautiful island Santorini. Here are 9 safety tips for couchsurfing. It’s a great option even if you are a solo traveler. Remember, that you need to give back by not only being a great guest, but by hosting people in your home as well!

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backpacking europe experiences

backpacking europe experiences 5. Go to a Huge Music Festival. I went to one in Serbia that was very unique and it made me want more. The queen of documenting music festivals might be Alex in Wanderland (read her tips on Tomorrowland in Belgium). The one I’d love to go to is Glastonbury in England, mainly because of the great acts and Kate Moss wellies ;) Other huge ones are Exit in Serbia, Calvi on the Rocks in Corsica, and Roskilde in Denmark. Check out this guide: 15 music festivals to go to in 2015.

6. Journeying by train. This may seem like a no-brainer, but for us Americans, we don’t use train travel and unless we grew up in a big city, might not have used public buses or even metros. Learning how to navigate a metro and running to catch a train last-minute are all part of the backpacking experience. You’re bound to make at least one mistake (FYI the trains sometimes split apart and go different ways mid-journey). Buying a Eurail pass makes it all a bit easier and more affordable but do know that you’ll have to pay reservation fees sometimes and still book your train ahead of time.

experiences backpacking europe7. Go Sailing (Party sailing!). I hadn’t heard of this when I went to Europe or I would have been ALL OVER IT. The first I saw about it was this article: Sailing Experience with the Yacht Week Croatia then I saw a negative light of it with this one: Review of Party Yachting with Sailing.hr So make sure you do your research and it seems like it’d be the best week of your life.

8. Play tourist. I feel it’s necessary to say it because it’s not all party, not learning while in Europe. There’s so much to learn and it’s easy to do so cheaply with the help of FREE walking tours (tips only and will help you to see all the most famous monuments), city passes, passes for kids under 26, checking out signs up in your hostel, and checking out museums.

experiences backpacking europe

experiences backpacking europe

9. Eating out even if your budget is small. Lots of backpacking cook in their hostel, even I did sometimes. It saves loads of money. If you’re that tight on your budget, it’s best to couchsurf and ask your host to teach you to cook something local (you should pay for the groceries), but better yet save a little more and go out to eat! You don’t have to go to a fine dining establishment (which are usually more intercontinental anyways) but instead have street food! There’s no better way to experience a country than through its food.

cevapilocal cevapi in Bosnia, affordable and delicious!

10. Try to go East, but don’t kick yourself if you can’t. Seeing Eastern Europe is so exciting and different from Western Europe, but it’s also a big step to try to “see it all” and can sometimes be better to save it for another trip. Don’t let people tell you going to London, Paris, Berlin, and Rome is too touristy of an option. There is a snobbery around traveling, that you are better than! Only see what you have time for and travel slow.


Now, a little inspiration so you can book that flight!

backpacking europe experiences

backpacking europe experiences

experiences backpacking europe




About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Werkenntwen, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. The Common Wanderer August 3, 2015 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Great post! Ah, Europe. The excitement of strapping on that backpack and exploring this part of the world is something i”ll never forget. It sounds silly, but travelling through Europe via train was as good as seeing all those amazing sites!

  2. Kate August 3, 2015 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    Great post – thanks for sharing such great and unique tips for travellers.

  3. K August 3, 2015 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    Ahhh… It ALL looks so amazing! :)

  4. Luka August 4, 2015 at 3:00 am - Reply

    As a european myself – i haven’t done half of those things :D but definitely some nice ideas. Very true with the trains; i also agree completely on travelling slow to get to FEEL the city/country more than only checking off lists. I also don’t like the travel-snobbery either, what’s wrong with having a look at popular cities or main attractions when you have never been there before? :)

  5. Marissa August 4, 2015 at 9:06 am - Reply

    I absolutely love your blog! I was just wondering if you dapple in any languages and if not how you end up getting around, and if so, how you can pick up on them easily and learn the most important things.

    • Rachel Jones August 4, 2015 at 9:43 am - Reply

      I did take hindi classes for a little bit here, but found them hard to stick with. You can DL duolingo app and learn a little of a variety of languages – it’s great!

  6. venus john August 4, 2015 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    very useful..i travelled to Europe alone from Dubai in 1998 .I was there only for a week.i stayed with some relatives in Geneva.,sued the eurorail and swiss pass.
    visited paris ,rome,vatican,liechtenstein, took city tours,cam back home the same day or at least started back to Geneva by train on the same day,and sometimes reached the next day.sleeping in the eurorail trains was very comfortable.
    I packed ham sandwiches from home in Geneva before setting out early in the morning.. so the whole trip was very affordable..my thoughts at the time were..but Europe is so overrated,we have all this and more in india..but its not so famous…I was probably expecting another world after reading so much about Europe in school textbooks and hearing so much about it..at the time,i guess I felt like an explorer from india in Europe,a bit like marco polo in china..i liked france ,the Italian part of Switzerland, people were very friendly there..i was surprised that I wasn’t allowed to eat chocolate in the city tour bus in paris,probably because it had a carpet,and they didn’t want food crumbs and ants on it..

  7. Sarah Lynn August 5, 2015 at 12:04 am - Reply

    Great list Rachel!
    I would have to add Oktoberfest in Germany, by far one of my favourite European backpacking experiences!
    Sarah Lynn

  8. Hannah @ Journeying Banana August 6, 2015 at 9:36 pm - Reply

    I’ve traveled in Europe but never done a real backpacking trip. I’d love to do a few months like this, what a cool way to travel :)

  9. LeAnna August 26, 2015 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    Great Post! I think traveling to Europe in general is just a great way to start backpacking and traveling in general. While it is still “different” from home, there are still many cultural similarities that help make it not so crazy. We backpacked for a month in Europe, fell in love and now live in Germany! This was the perfect gateway for travel to other parts of the world including Asia and Africa!
    (PS~ Glad you included Interlacken, this is one of my favorite places!!!)

  10. Sara February 18, 2016 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    This is an awesome list!!
    I look forward to reading more of your blog!

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