With dozens of countries to choose from, there’s nothing more diverse than a backpacking trip through Europe. There’s the Italian food, the Spanish art, the ancient architecture, the German clubs, the eastern European beer culture ... we could go on and on.
Because Europe is so connected, traveling between each land is fairly easy. But figuring out the top cities to hit? That takes some research. Here are Europe's best backpacking cities, places perfect for exploring on foot. Get ready for your next great adventure.
Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and pubs galore. Need we say more? The chic capital of England mixes its old-world architecture with modern-day amenities and a hip underground entertainment scene. Stroll the banks of the River Thames for excellent photos of all the city’s highlights—the Houses of Parliament, London Eye, Big Ben and the Westminster Bridge. For a lively night out without the steep London prices, head to Brixton and Soho neighborhoods. If drinking isn’t in the cards, check out the stylish cafes in Peckham.
Vying for the top spot on Europe’s Most Picturesque Cities list, Prague boasts another major perk for backpackers: affordability. It’s hard to believe such a diverse, quirky and laid-back city can simultaneously be so wallet-friendly. The top sights in Prague—Saint Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge and the historic Jewish Quarter—are all free to explore. The city’s biggest attraction, the Old Town Square, looks like it was taken straight out of a 10th century painting. A whole day can be spent hanging around the cafes in the square and watching the free street performers. Don’t forget to check out the 15th century Prague Astronomical Clock, also in the square.
Prague is famous for its beers—particularly Pilsner—and pubs and beer halls are aplenty. Lucky for you, a pint will run you under $2. Cheers!
The city where Europe and Asia collide, Istanbul spills over with culture, food, tradition and history. It’s amazing what you can do in Turkey’s biggest city in one day. Tour the epic Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque. Feast on doner kebab. Indulge in Turkish Delight. Smoke nargile in a shisha cafe on the Bosporus. Even post up at a bar and listen to live Turkish music.
The next day, unwind with a visit to a Turkish hammam, sip Turkish Coffee at an open-air cafe and feed the city’s thousands of street cats. The best part about Turkey? The price. It’s cheaper than any other city in Europe right now. You won’t believe how far your money can go here.
Food, wine and art. These are the three things that make Rome one of the most popular destinations in Europe. The rich pasta dishes, traditional pizza and creamy gelato do not disappoint. Go ahead and give yourself permission to gain a few pounds. Oh, and washing it all down with a glass of wine is always acceptable.
The whole city is like an open-air museum with works of art lurking around every turn. The Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and the Vatican are not to be missed.
End each day by cozying up at a local enoteca (local wine room), nibbling cheese, sipping wine and reminiscing on another glorious day in Rome.
It’s difficult to pry yourself away from this quirky city once you immerse yourself in its off-beat character, pulsing nightlife and tasty tapas. Antoni Gaudí also loved Barcelona and left his mark all over the city with plenty of inspirational architecture. Seeing La Sagrada Familia excites everyone, but don’t forget to check out his other masterpieces like Casa Batlló and the wacky but whimsical Guell Park.
After checking out all things Gaudí, stroll Las Ramblas, lounge on the city’s golden sand beach and explore the Gothic Quarter. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Boqueria Market and feast on Spanish specialties like jamón ibérico and manchego cheese.
We already noted the Italian capital, but it’s impossible not to mention Venice when talking about Europe. There is something so magical about this canal-crossed city, especially if you plan your trip around Carnival. The epic celebration runs for several weeks and includes a plethora of masks, parties and parades.
Outside of Venice’s biggest party, San Marco’s square and the basilica are to be admired. And of course, no visit to Venice would be complete with a gondola tour of the Grand Canal.
The land of Heineken, red lights and bikes. This city is an eclectic mix of charm and temptation—which only boosts its allure. How you spend your days in Amsterdam is completely up to you. Rent a bike and leisurely cycle the banks of the canals that have earned Amsterdam the nickname “Venice of the North.” Stop off in a smoky cafe, picnic in the beloved Vondelpark or kick back with a beer in a cushy pub while enjoying views over the canals. Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum also houses one of the most impressive art collections in the world—Van Gogh or Rembrandt anyone?
This German city is all about parties, beer gardens, history and architecture. In that order. Berlin boasts an unparalleled nightlife, offering party-people unforgettable nights in some of the planet’s coolest clubs. From the gritty to the posh to the open-air, and from the techno to the electro, you can find a venue as chill or as wild as you feel inside.
During the daylight hours, discover the remnants of the Berlin Wall before checking out the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. Cap your day by grabbing a beer in one of the city's dozens of outdoor beer gardens.