Does backpacking seem like an exciting idea, the real adventure you have been dreaming of? What better place to do it than Europe? With so many old cities, culture, food, and nature all around, backpacking in Europe will leave you breathless and always wanting more. Come along with me as we explore beautiful places as well as very useful tips for backpacking in Europe.
Usually backpacking is associated with spending longer times in mountainous areas, away from civilization. However, when thinking about backpacking in Europe, I love mixing natural beauty and human civilization. We have always loved visiting mountain villages and interacting with local people as much as gazing at beautiful lakes and peaks. So, come along with me as I share some of my favorite places for backpacking in Europe.
1. England: From Bath to Stratford-upon-Avon through the Cotswolds
The Charming Village of Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds
See my photos from Northern Cotswolds
This trip is a true journey through history and charming rolling hills. Apart from the magnificent nearby Stonehenge, you also get to see the city that will take you straight back to the Georgian era. And then you are catapulted to Shakespearean time where you get to explore the birth city of one of the greatest writers in history – William Shakespeare.
Read more: 15 Best Places to See in the Cotswolds
2. England: Peak District & Monsal Trail
Narrow trail following River Wye near Monsal Trail
See my photos from Peak District
The Peak District is a beautiful place to explore while backpacking. You can weave your way around small towns like Matlock, Buxton and Tideswell while exploring the many trails in the area. In particular, the Monsal is especially great if you are into cycling and walking. It is an 8.5 km walking route through the former railway (it even includes tunnels).
You can pick up the Monsal Trail at Miller’s Dale Car Park and then walk along River Wye and explore numerous offshoots that go right by the river.
3. Scotland: From Edinburgh to St Andrews
St Monans in Fife is a beautiuful spot to explore while backpacking in Europe
See my photos from St Monans
Visiting Endinburg on its own is a beautiful experience. However, having the opportunity to backpack from Endinburgh to St Andrews following the coast of Fife provides a unique opportunity to visit a beautiful area of Scotland. We loved stopping in each of the five fishing villages of Fife as each provided unique and gorgeous views of the rugged coast of Fife.
Read more: 5 Beautiful Fishing Villages in Fife
4. Italy:Lake Garda
Old Castle at Sirmione on Lake Garda
See my photos from Sirmione Lake Garda
There is a reason why Lake Garda is a very popular vacation destination. Not only the beauty of the place itself but also the wind of inspiration it carries in its air. That is exactly why so many artists over history chose Lake Garda as their own little heaven.
When exploring Lake Garda, Sirmione is a great place to start. From here you can choose public transportation to go all the way around the lake. From the northern tip of the lake you can start exploring the beautiful Italian Dolomiti mountains as well.
Read more: Walking Tour of Sirmione Lake Garda
5. Switzerland: Lake Geneva
Geneva is a great spot for exploring Lake Geneva
See my photos from Geneva
Visiting Geneva itself is a beautiful experience. However if you have the time to backpack around lake Geneva and cross from Switzerland into France and back again, this will expose you to one of the most beautiful areas in Europe. Passing through Montreux and the Lavaux wine country all the way around to the medieval village of Yvoire you will be immersed in history and breathtaking views.
6. Romania: Piatra Craiului National Park
Hikers getting near the top in Piatra Craiului Romania
See my photos from Piatra Craiului
If you are into mountain views, this national park is the place for you. It is probably one of the most scenic view of the Carpathian montains. It is also true nature heaven with almost 2000 different species of fungi, plants, and animals living there. Read More: 12 Beautiful Romanian Castles
7. Germany: Romantic Road from Rothenburg to Fussen
The picturescue Alpsee lake seen fro the trail
See my photos from Hohenschwangau Area
Germany’s Romantic Road has my favorite mix of towns, villages and natural beauty. Even though we enjoyed driving it, I would love to have the opportunity to explore the are at a more leisurely pace.
Read More: 6 Stops on the Romantic Road
Pack Light but Bring Everything You Need
Although you won’t be able to bring everything that you want, if you pack smartly, you will be able to bring everything that you need.
The first and most important thing is your backpack. You should look for a backpack that is made for traveling. You can’t be a backpacker if you do not have a proper backpack!
Another useful thing that people often forget is a day pack that you will carry with you throughout the day while your big bag is at the motel. It would be useful if that bag is foldable and lightweight, so it does not waste your precious space.
A good day pack is essential for hikers in Piatra Craiului, Romania
See my photos from Piatra Craiului
Include a durable water bottle with you because you will use it a lot. One thing that backpackers often forget is to drink water, and a lot of people tend not to drink it because they want to save it for a more critical situation. Still, if you go smart about bringing a high-quality water bottle with you, like reusable and smart water bottle, which will tell you exactly when to drink and how much to drink, so you can remain optimally hydrated, water will not be something that you will have to worry about.
A good padlock is also essential for backpacking and staying in hostels. You can secure your backpack by locking together two zippers, but you can also secure the hostel locker (if they have one, which most hostels do). Sometimes a hostel locker will not have locks, or they will charge you for them, but if you have your own padlock, you have a problem solved. Bring at least two on your trip.
Also, bring a foldable laundry bag; it will be a lifesaver. And do not forget entertainment, like a kindle, a small, travel-friendly laptop, or a tablet.
Another essential thing (apart from all of your documents and money) is a first aid kit. It should be a small bag with all of your medical prescriptions (if you use any) and other medication that can help you one the road.
What about Clothes?
Clothes will take up most of your travel space. What you bring depends on the season you are traveling, as well as your own best judgment.
One tip is to pack light and don’t bring a lot of clothes. The truth is that clothing is cheap in most cities in Europe, especially if you are buying second hand, but it is advised to bring at least a week’s worth of clothing. Another useful tip is to wear a lot of black and dark colors because the stains will not be as visible, and you will be able to wear them more than once. The accessories you bring along also depend on the season, but bringing sunglasses with you will be very handy in any season.
Ways to Save Money
You do not need to spend a lot of money on your backpacking trip if you plan it well. And here are some tips that will help you have the time of your life, but still keep the expenses at a reasonable level.
- Visit some inexpensive countries. Yes, we would all love to see France, Spain, or Italy, but these countries tend to be really expensive. Instead, go to some inexpensive yet still beautiful ones, like Romania, Croatia, or the Czech Republic. They will give you an insight into cultures you are not very familiar with.
- Avoid visiting Europe during the prime tourist season (from May through August). Traveling off-season can be up to 50% cheaper as well as less crowded.
- If you are planning on visiting any museums, most museums have their free days, so check them out in advance and try to make your traveling plans around that time. You can save up to 100 euros just by using the free museum days.
- Say in hostels. They are much cheaper than private rooms or hotels. Especially if you find the one that offers free breakfast and that is not close to the center of the city. Generally, avoid the centers because it can get crowded. If you research public transportation for each country ahead of time, you will be able to get anywhere in no time.
Is it Worth Backpacking in Europe?
Do not expect to see everything on your first trip, because that is just impossible. You will definitely want to come back after the first trip, so plan what to visit wisely.