Europe is often the first region travelers think about when they want to "go abroad," particularly for Americans. It's a great introduction to international travel as it gives you a dose of different cultures while not completely overwhelming you. While Europe is a great place for first-time backpackers, it's also a great place for a seasoned travel veteran, with culture and history galore.
11 European pillars to plan your trip around
Visiting Europe wouldn’t be complete without seeing some of the sights and doing some of the things the continent is famous for. Here are some ideas on what to do if you’ve never been there or plan on staying for a while.
- Paris - A visit to Europe wouldn't be complete without visiting the world's most popular travel destination. Read more about Indie Travel in Paris.
- Learn Roman history in Rome. Check out the sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum, near Naples. Don’t forget to taste the famous pizza and other culinary delights that Italy has to offer.
- Learn Greek history in Athens, Greece. Catch a ferry to a near-by island, such as Hydra and ride a donkey. Gyros is your go-to food and mezes are shared with friends. If you want to avoid the crowds, check out these nine suggestions to get off the beaten path in Greece.
- See the Old Town of Prague with its castle and bridge. Visit the city in December and check out the Christmas Market. While Prague is amazing, it's very touristy, so check out these travel alternatives in the Czech Republic.
- Soak up the sun on the popular beaches, whether you head to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, or Croatia. Read about these 10 European Beaches You've Probably Never Heard Of.
- See the medieval castles all over the continent or attend a medieval festival. Read Plan a Trip Around Medieval Castles.
- Visit the museums in London and see the history in this world class city. Though the food isn't renowned worldwide, you may want to learn more about it.
- See the northern lights and the midnight sun in Scandinavia or Iceland.
- Drink your weight in beer at Oktoberfest in Munich. Oktoberfest can even be done on a budget. If beer is not your thing, then try the wines, as each region has something special.
- Head to Amsterdam for a wide range of activities, from visiting the famed coffee shops to the Red Light District to the many museums in this beautiful city. There is tons to do in Amsterdam.
- Visit Hagia Sofia in Istanbul , Turkey and relax at a hammam. Go crazy for lokum (Turkish delight) and coffee.
Off the beaten path opportunities
Getting off the beaten path on an entire continent is much easier than you’d think. Even if you plan to visit the most popular countries, there are still quite a lot of things to do and activities to try which will keep you off the well-traveled road.
- Eastern and Central Europe, while home to some western-like cities, is also less crowded, cheaper, and has that feeling of being “off the beaten path”. Fly into Budapest and travel towards the East by train. Explore sleepy villages, trek in wild landscapes with the largest population of brown bears in the entire world, and try the local cuisine. Use the Trains to Get Around Central Europe.
- Any major city has some parks which offer a relief from the hustle and bustle of the usual day. Take some time off and just do some people watching, or stop for a picnic.
- In many cities you can rent a bike and explore the sights at your own pace, from a different perspective than a bus would give you. Better yet, plan to cycle the entire continent .
- Look up the most popular cities in some countries , than check out places 20-30 km around them. You’ll have a hub to travel to and a lot of opportunities to venture off the beaten path.
- Walk the entire length of small countries, such as Monaco or Luxemburg.
- Ski , snowboard and ice-skate . Choose the luxury resorts or choose the cheaper alternatives.
- Take a scenic drive, whether you prefer to cross mountains or drive along the costs.
Need some Europe itinerary ideas? Check out these 5 European itineraries.
If you're heading to Europe as part of a longer, RTW trip, sign up for our free round the world planning class - Plan Your RTW Trip in 30 Days - it's free, and if you sign up now, you'll receive your first email within the hour!
Once you are in Europe you'll need to get around. The most popular way to get from city to city and country to country is with a Eurail Pass. These come in all shapes and sizes so make sure to search for the one that best suits your travel plans.
Keep in mind that there is also a vast bus network in Europe, so check it out for alternatives to trains. Not to mention all the low-cost, budget airlines that service the region. All are great options for those exploring the continent.
Read the First Timer's Guide to Train Travel in Europe
Where to stay
Unless you want to sleep in a park, you'll need a place to stay. There are plenty of hostels in Europe to choose from, as well as hotels, campgrounds, and rentals.
Here are some of our most popular articles and resources for traveling around Europe:
- 8 Places in Europe That Still Feel ‘Untouched’
- 7 Simple Steps for Making the Most of Europe’s Low Cost Airlines
- Off the Beaten Rail Path – Six Alternative Destinations in Central Europe
- Best Festivals and Events in Europe
- 12 of the Best Free European Attractions