On my first trip to Europe, I made a lot of mistakes as I was trying to see many capital cities as possible in the shortest possible time. Halfway through my Europe trip, I was exhausted and I felt like I had barely seen any nature or small cities. I’ve been very fortunate to have taken multiple European backpacking trips and I’ve been living in Europe for nearly three years now. I hope that I can help a bit with helping you create your perfect European itinerary that mixes capital cities with cultural centers and stunning nature to show you the best of Europe in two months! You’ll find a downloadable excel to help you plan your own European trip at the end!
What to know about this European itinerary
I’ve crafted this Europe itinerary to make the best use of a Eurail pass. I don’t work for Eurail, so I’ve crafted this itinerary to help you minimize costs on trains. The Eurail pass is not necessarily the best deal if you’re traveling for two months and spending more time within a country. It’s usually cheaper to buy tickets using from that country’s train system.
I crafted this itinerary to take advantage of the 10-15 days within two months Eurail pass. You’ll need to pay a bit out of pocket for some of the other train trips, but trust me on this, if you book the shorter trips yourself, you’ll end up saving a lot of money compared to the two month eurorail pass! I’ve noted where to utilize your Eurail pass for maximal cost benefit.
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Overview of this European itinerary
- Optional: Budapest
- Optional: Villach/Triglav
- Optional: Turin + Mountains
- Optional: Utrecht
- Rhine Valley
I’ve created a free downloadable European itinerary planning spreadsheet to help you plan your European itinerary, keep track of expenses, and see what you still need to book. You’ll find the link to this at the bottom!
Start your Europe trip with three days in Berlin
Why? Berlin is one of the cheapest cities to fly into in Europe. I ended up finding an amazing flight deal to Berlin multiple times! It’s cheaper to use Berlin as a base. AirBerlin is one of the cheapest airlines for flying from the United States to Europe.
I recommend three days in Berlin. Besides being Germany’s capital, Berlin is rich in culture and has fantastic museums.
Things to do in Berlin
Take a free tour of German Parliament (Reichstag).
Visit Museum Island to visit the Pergamon Museum and to see the Ishtar Gate, which was moved from Iraq.
Wander around the trendy Kreuzberg to admire its markets and street art.
Try your luck at Berlin’s infamous clubs (Berghain).
Admire the stunning Brandenburger Tor.
You’ll find a number of affordable hostels and hotels in Berlin. I stayed at Wombat’s City Hostel in Berlin, a modern hostel that feels more like a hotel with a rooftop bar. Perfect for breaking the ice on a nice summer’s night!
From Berlin, take the train to Prague. It’s worth using your Eurail pass for this journey. The journey will take about 4 and a half hours and you’ll find trains nearly every hour! This is a popular European train journey, so reserve ahead.
Three days in Prague
Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe without question. For those on a budget, Prague is one of the best destinations in Europe as beer is cheaper than water, the almost every street is out of a postcard, and it’s possible to stay at a nice hotel for a fraction of the cost elsewhere.
Things to do in Prague
Take a photo at the John Lennon wall.
Sip on beer with any of your meals. (It’s cheaper than water!)
Admire the Astrological clock.
Admire the Charles Bridge. (Best seen at sunrise without people!)
No matter the budget, you’ll find great hotel and hostel options in Prague. On my previous trip, I stayed at a chic design hotel for a fraction of the cost of a hotel elsewhere. If you book in advance, you can get five star hotels for less than 50 euros. A friend of mine stayed at Hostel One Miru and loved it!
The train journey from Prague to Vienna will take approximately four hours. I recommend using your Eurail pass for this trip and reserving your seat ahead.
Two days in Vienna
For culture and history, Vienna is the perfect stop on your European itinerary! You’ll find some of the most stunning museums in Europe, including the The Habsburg residence and the Belvedere Palace. Even walking around Vienna’s historic center, which is immaculate and as pretty as a picture, is one of the most relaxing things to do for free. As a bibliophile, I was immediately drawn to the Austrian National Library, which is the library that I always dreamed of having.
Things to do in Vienna
Climb the St. Stephen’s Cathedral views.
Tour the museums of the former Habsburg residence.
Visit the Belvedere Palace to view Klimt’s masterpiece The Kiss.
I was recently in Vienna and stayed at Wombat City Hostel. My room was clean, modern, and quiet. I also enjoyed the lively bar downstairs, which made it easy to meet fellow travelers while traveling solo. For those looking for a cozy boutique hotel, consider booking Hotel Altstadt Vienna for free cake and friendly owners in a unique luxurious environment.
It’s only one hour on the train or bus to Bratislava, so you can visit Bratislava on a day trip from Vienna or bring your bag in order to save a little money on your accommodation. Don’t use your Eurail pass here. It’s cheaper not to!
One day in Bratislava
If you’re looking for a taste of Eastern Europe and a way to get your budget ready for Paris, head to Bratislava! Bratislava is Slovakia’s capital. It’s picturesque, affordable, and full of charm. It’s only about an hour from Vienna to Bratislava (save your Eurail pass!), making it an easy trip although budget savvy travelers should take advantage of the affordable hostels in Bratislava that are half the price of hostels in Vienna.
The top things to do in Bratislava
Take in epic views from Bratislava Castle.
Admire the beautiful historic city center.
From Bratislava, it’s around 3 hours by bus (Flixbus) or train to Budapest. If you’re looking to cut costs, consider taking a Flixbus between Bratislava and Budapest, otherwise use your Eurail pass.
If you’re considering skipping ahead to leave Budapest and the Austrian Alps to give yourself five days elsewhere, you can take a long overnight train ride to Venice, Italy and/or take a budget flight from Vienna to Venice (if you prefer).
Optional: Three days in Budapest
Many European itineraries leave Budapest off because it’s a bit out of the way and I understand that if you end up editing this city stop out of your itinerary to head straight to Italy after Vienna, however I hope that I can inspire you to visit Hungary’s spectacular capital.
Why leave Budapest on your itinerary? Unlike other European capitals, Budapest feels laid-back and lacks the crazy crowds that you’ll find in Berlin, Paris, and Prague. This laid back feeling combined with Budapest’s electric atmosphere (with lots of innovation), affordable prices, and dazzling architecture make it easily a city that you’ll want to visit (and probably live in). I ended up coming here on my second European trip and I wish that I had included it in my original European itinerary!
Things to do in Budapest
Visit the Dohány Street Synagogue.
Walk around the stunning historic city center to admire the architecture, including the Parliament building and the Chain bridge.
You can find some beautiful accomodation in historic hotels around Budapest. My friends and I ended up splitting a cozy apartment in a beautiful historic building. Those looking for the ultimate luxury experience will blown away by views at the Aria Hotel.
You can take a night train or a Flixbus from Budapest to Villach, which will take about eight hours. Alternatively, if you want to skip ahead to Venice (the next stop on the itinerary!), you might be able to find a good budget flight to Venice from Budapest and/or take a night train towards Venice. Use your Eurail pass if you decide to take the train.
Optional stop: Two days in Villach, Austria to enjoy the Austrian Alps
You’re probably wondering where is Villach and why!? Bear with me, but I’ve tried to break up this itinerary to minimize your overnight train journeys and to show you some of the most beautiful places in Europe. After a week (ish) of partying in major cities, the mountain air will feel incredible.
Villach Austria is located right on the Austrian-Slovenian border and it’s only thirty minutes from Triglav National Park in Slovenia. This stunning national park has incredible hiking and beautiful views of the mountains. I’d recommend 1-2 days here in case the weather isn’t in your favor. If you’re not into hiking, pass go and skip ahead to use these two days elsewhere although you’ll end up spending more time on a train.
From Villach, it’s a four hour train right to Venice although it’s also possible to take a Flixbus if you’re looking to save your Eurail pass for later.
Two days in Venice
Who can resist Venice? Venice is where I had my first date with my husband (really!) and it holds a special place in my heart. That said, it is very touristy and expensive. I recommend limiting your time in Venice to 1-2 days. It might surprise some of you, but I get agoraphobia (crowd phobia) and Venice was very hard on me as many of the locations were so crowded that I felt that I was a sardine in a can. Venice is still worth visiting, however too many tourists crowding this sinking city is an issue as it’s priced out many residents.
Venice is still a delight to walk around although it’s so easy to get lost in the main city. Those looking for the ultimate luxury experience can stay in former palaces to explore old world luxury. Alternatively, budget travelers will find hostels in the historic center and affordable hotels on the outskirts of Venice in Mestre (only a bus ride away!)
From Venice to Bologna, you can take the high-speed train, which takes 1.5-2 hours. (There’s also slower trains.) It’s your choice if you want to use your Eurail pass, however I found the Italian trains affordable to book in advance without my Eurail pass.
One day in Bologna
Bologna is the foodie capital of Italy. Although most travelers skip ahead to Rome or Florence, you’re missing out some amazing, well-priced eats in this central Italian city that even Italians rave about. Bologna has the oldest university in Italy and despite the significant history in Bologna, it’s a young city at its heart due to the many students. I loved climbing the medieval towers to take in the city, exploring the Roman ruins underneath the public library (I know!?), and eating the incredible food that Bologna has to offer.
You’ll find many well priced hotels within the historic center, including hotels in historic buildings. For those on a budget, you’ll find many hostels as well as cheap hotel rooms walking distance from the city.
The train journey from Bologna from Florence will take just thirty minutes, so save your Eurail pass for a longer train ride where it’s worth it.
Three days in Florence
Florence is truly one of Italy’s gems. As an art and history lover, I spent three idyllic days roaming the picturesque streets of Florence, admiring the Duomo every single time that I passed it, entering every church that I passed as many held museum-quality frescos, and wandering around Florence’s art museums. Most notably, I said hello to David at the Accademia Gallery, admired Italy’s most stunning frescos at the Uffizi (with getting up early), and ate all the gelato. It’s hard not to be charmed by Florence.
While visiting the many museums in Florence, you’ll want to budget accordingly. I was able to save money by staying at a cozy hostel near the city center and walking everywhere. Those seeking a bit more luxury, you’ll find former palazzos-turned-hotels that won’t break the bank.
Day trip from Florence: One day in Tuscany
The train from Florence to Rome takes about 1.5 hours although it’s also possible to take a cheaper bus, which will take about double the time (3 hours).
Four days in Rome
Rome is quite large, so I encourage you to pay attention to the location when booking your hotel in Rome. I stayed at Yellow Hostel after transferring from another one. That said, I’d recommend avoiding the Termini area if possible although most hostels are in this area. Instead, stay in Trastevere, one of Rome’s most charming neighborhoods instead.
The train from Rome to Torino (Turin) is a bit longer (4 hours) and I’d recommend using your Eurail pass if you end up taking the high-speed train. I ended up missing my train and ended up finding out how much it cost last minute without the Eurail pass….
Two days in Torino (Turin), including red wine tastings or hiking
After the crowds in Florence and Rome, I wanted you to experience a stunning Italian city before you left Italy–and a day of quiet in nature. Turin is the birthplace of Nutella and a beautiful city right on the way to France. I recommend stopping in Turin to taste some of the best chocolates in Italy and enjoy some wine from the world famous Piedmont wine region at its source before leaving Italy.
Turin is at the foothills of the Alps, so if you’re itching for some more hiking, I recommend taking a day to enjoy the mountains, which are visible in the distance from Turin. As Turin is lesser known, you’ll find affordable hotels in beautiful historic buildings as well as affordable hostels.
From Turin, take an overnight train or bus towards France! I personally struggled to sleep on the bunk that I reserved (for a bit extra) due to the train’s rocking motion, so I’m not sure it’s worth it to splurge on a bunk if you struggle to sleep on trains. I recommend taking a bus as it may be direct as the train may not be direct (with a transfer in Lyon) depending on your destination in France. The journey should between about four to six hours. (It will be less time if you choose to go to Nice, which has a direct train connection with Turin.)
Two days in Provence (via Avignon)
Have you dreamed of fairytale hilltop villages and fields of lavender!? If you’ll be visiting Provence in spring and summer, you’re in luck. Even if you visit in winter, like my parents did, you’ll find stunning stone villages dating back to medieval times. Getting around Provence without a car is doable although I’d recommend staying in Avignon, a beautiful city with a rich history. Click for advice for more information on the best things to do in Provence.
Avignon was historically where the Roman Catholic Church had its base and you can view the incredibly massive Papal Palace during one of your days in Provence. As Avignon is not a big backpacking destination, I recommend booking your accommodation in Avignon as early as possible as it’s a popular summer destination.
Best things to do in Provence
Frolic in the lavender fields of Provence.
Learn about the history of the Roman Catholic Church.
From Provence (Avignon), you can catch the TGV high-speed train to Barcelona. The journey will take about five hours and I recommend reserving your seat ahead as this train is popular (and expensive). Your Eurail pass is worth using here.
Two days in Barcelona
Who can resist the interesting architecture, tapas, and fantastic nightlife of Barcelona? I ended up switching this European itinerary to give you two days in Barcelona and three days in Madrid as I was so exhausted by this point in my trip that I wasn’t in a mood to party. (I’ve tried to build in down-time into this itinerary for this exact reason!) However, people looking to experience the nightlife of Barcelona will want to switch the days to give themselves more time in Barcelona.
I ended up really loving Gaudi’s fascinating architecture, so much so that I headed up to Park Guell and visited Casa Milà. Of course, you must visit the Sagrada Familia although the line is so long that I recommend prebooking tickets in order to skip the line. Otherwise, I enjoyed walking around the charming Gothic quarter to take in the medieval part of Barcelona.
As someone with friends from Barcelona, I strongly encourage you to not use Airbnb in Barcelona. Its impact have been very tough on residents who have been priced out of their own city as landlords evict people in order to put up tourists. I stayed at Hostel One Ramblas, which I loved due to the fun atmosphere and friendly staff. You’ll find cozy boutique hotels on a budget as well as reasonable 4* hotels with some of the best views in Barcelona.
To get from Barcelona to Madrid, you can take the high-speed train, which only takes 2.5 hours! I ended up using my Eurail pass for this journey as it was pricey otherwise.
Three days in Madrid
Madrid is one of my favorite European capitals and I can’t believe that I had almost crossed it off my list as everyone told me that it was boring. Between lounging in the Parque del Buen Retiro, admiring Bosch’s masterpieces at El Prado, and eating tapas, you’ll find something for everyone. Although Barcelona often is praised for its nightlife, Madrid has their own nightlife within the rock and roll bars in Malasaña.
You’ll find a number of affordable accomodations in Madrid. The Hat is a great option for those on a budget. They also have one of the best views in Madrid. You’ll also find affordable rooms at a 4*-5* hotel if you book ahead.
To get from Madrid to Seville, you can take the high-speed train, which will take about 2.5 hours. Once again, I used my Eurail pass, but this is a choice.
Two days in Seville
Seville is so nice to visit AFTER Barcelona and Madrid. I finally felt like I could relax once I was in Seville. The slow pace and stunning architecture made it a nice place to decompress.
The Alcázar is a palace dating back to Moorish times that will transport you instantly to another world. Even if you’re entranced by the tessellations within the patterned tiles/wood, you can imagine yourself on the Game of Thrones set. Similarly, you can visit Plaza de España, one of the filming locations for Star Wars. Architecture lovers will love the modern Parasol while dance lovers will be fascinated by flamenco, which can still seen at a number of local bars.
For a fraction of the price elsewhere, you can stay in hostels with insane perks like free dinners (like at the hostel that I stayed at). Alternatively, you can stay in boutique hotels in beautiful historic buildings.
Take the bus to Lagos from Seville. This is easy to book once you’re in Seville. There’s no train connection between Lagos and Seville.
One day in Lagos
Although Lagos was a bit too much of a party destination for me, most people that I know loved Lagos. The main thing to do in Lagos is to lay out on the beaches, which you’ll find hidden among the rugged rock formations. At night, everyone goes out to dance the whole night away at cool outdoor clubs. One day and one crazy night in Lagos was enough for me.
In summer, Lagos’ accommodation fills up, so be sure to book your accommodation early. Check the reputation of your hostel beforehand as I ended up staying at a party hostel by mistake, which was something that I didn’t enjoy.
To get from Lagos to Lisbon, I took the bus as the train ride was actually longer and more expensive than the train. The journey will take about 3-4 hours.
Three days in Lisbon
For years, people have been saying that Lisbon is a hidden gem of Europe and I have to agree. People are increasingly discovering Portugal’s capital, which is full of charm. Beyond getting lost in Lisbon’s beautiful streets, lined in colorful tiles, you’ll find castles dating back to Moorish times, lively nightlife, and fantastic museums telling the history of Portugal.
Lisbon is notably affordable though tourism is starting to drive prices up. On my recent stopover with TAP Portugal, I ended up staying at Nest House, a boutique hostel located in the cozy Alameda neighborhood, which is a bit far away from the loudness of Barrio Alto. As with Barcelona, I recommend staying at hotel rather than an Airbnb as Airbnb is starting to cause housing prices to skyrocket. You’ll find some beautiful boutique hotels in Lisbon!
It couldn’t be easier to get from Lisbon to Porto. The train takes only 2.5 hours although you can also take the bus if you choose to save money on this journey.
Two days in Porto
Lisbon’s big sister has all the charm and half the crowds. Porto is full of historic buildings, some dating back to medieval times, beautiful bookstores, and fantastic wine. Most people don’t realize that J.K. Rowling lived in Porto and it’s said that the Livraria Lello bookstore inspired her vision of Hogwarts. Lovers of food and alcohol will enjoy tasting port wine in the cellars along the river. Of course, a trip to Portugal is not complete with pastries although you’re sure to burn them off on the steep hills.
While in Porto, I stayed at Yes! Porto Hostel, a boutique hostel with amazingly friendly staff and a lovely rooftop overlooking the city. You’ll find numerous boutique hotels with innovative features. I recommend looking into Torel Avantgarde, a stunning design hotel with edge.
Porto has one of the best budget airports in Europe. Although you could in theory take a train from Porto to Paris, it will probably be cheaper to fly with one of the budget airlines from Porto to Paris. I paid about twenty euros for my budget flight. (I see a flight for 23 euros for this week with Transavia!) I recommend flying into Orly rather than Charles de Gaulle as CDG is quite far away from Paris and Orly is far closer. The flight will take two hours and it’s quite easy to take the train to the Porto airport from the city.
Four days in Paris
Hotels in Paris can get quite expensive, even for a basic room. I recommend booking in advance as possible, especially if traveling during spring or summer. Check hotels and hostels in Paris now!
Day trip from Paris to Versailles
Versailles requires a whole day to itself. The former royal palace is over 721,182 square feet and you truly will understand why generations of tourists and French citizens alike say that you must visit Versailles. I have to agree and I wish that I had included it in my first European trip. (I skipped it as I thought it was overrated.) After exploring its gardens and Marie Antoinette’s estate, I think that Versailles must be included on your European itinerary.
To get from Paris to Brussels, you’ll have a couple of options. I’ve taken the Thalys, which only takes 1.5 hours although you can also take a slower and cheaper train that will take three hours. I recommend using your Eurail pass if you take the Thalys. Similarly, you can also take one of the budget bus journeys for as little as ten euros!
Two days in Brussels
Belgium’s capital is great for a taste of Belgium’s blend of cultures. People in Brussels tend to speak both French and Flemish, so you’ll see a mix of both styles of architecture in Brussels. Beyond architecture, Brussels is one of the best destinations to visit in Europe as the Belgians have truly perfected the art of chocolate making. I went on a chocolate tour in Brussels and it was truly an elevating experience. The beer (the next day) is great.
Brussels can get quite expensive during peak summer. While doing my visa for France, my husband and I ended up visiting Brussels several times. We especially enjoyed Van Gogh Hostel for its atmosphere and central location. The previous time, we stayed in the charming Ixelles neighborhood in a charming boutique hotel.
To get from Brussels to Bruges, you just need to take the train. which costs less than fifteen euros! The journey is only one hour, so it’s quite easy to visit Bruges on your own.
One day in Bruges
Bruges (Brugge in Flemish) is straight out of a postcard. This charming Belgian city is perfect for a day trip from Brussels although I’d recommend staying the night to be able to stroll along the romantic canals of Bruges. Beyond charming architecture, Bruges is home to De Halve Maan brewery, which is a great stop for learning about Belgian beer.
To get from Bruges to Antwerp, you can take a bus or train, which will take about 1.5 hours. Save your Eurail pass as the Belgian trains are quite cheap.
Two days in Antwerp
I fell in love with Antwerpen (Antwerp) from my first trip to this charming Belgian city. Although many people skip Antwerp, its charm is fully there and you won’t find the insane crowds as you see within Bruges. The Grote Markt cannot be missed although visiting the Plantin-Moretus Museum is a must for literature lovers. On my last trip, I enjoyed Antwerp’s cozy and quirky beer cafes.
To get from Antwerp to Amsterdam, you can take the train, which will take about an hour with the Thalys. It’s also possible to take the bus (Flixbus), which I’ve taken several times. The bus is cheaper, but takes three hours.
Three days in Amsterdam
I’ve lived in Amsterdam over two years and I can’t recommend less than three days in Amsterdam during your Europe trip. Amsterdam is a beautiful city, however it takes some time to enjoy its charms. Beyond taking a canal cruise and exploring Amsterdam on bike (if you dare!), take some time to discover Amsterdam’s secret spots, including historic courtyards. Skip the tourist trap museums and spend your time outside of the Center to experience Amsterdam at its best (and cutest). (You can read an instagram guide to Amsterdam here.)
In spring and summer, Amsterdam accommodation becomes expensive, so be sure to book your Amsterdam accommodation ASAP. If you’re trying to figure out where to stay in Amsterdam, click for my neighborhood guide to where to stay in Amsterdam to help you decide where is best for you!
From Amsterdam to Utrecht, it will only take you forty minutes on the Dutch trains. I recommend saving your Eurail pass if you’re unsure whether to use it.
One day in Utrecht
Utrecht is one of my favorite cities in the Netherlands. It’s also on the way down to Germany, so consider spending a day and a night in Utrecht to see what the Netherlands outside of Amsterdam. Utrecht is a stunning cities with lower prices, two story canals, and an inner city dating back to medieval times. You’ll fall in love with Utrecht instantly, I promise.
Utrecht is considerably cheaper than Amsterdam, so use this as your chance to save money on your accommodation. Utrecht has a number of stylish hostels although I absolutely loved staying at Hotel Dom, a boutique hotel with incredible views.
To get from Utrecht to Cologne, you can take the train or the bus. The journey should take about three hours with lots of picturesque Dutch countryside views.
One day in Cologne
Two days in Rhine Valley
One last hurrah before you leave Europe! Head to Rhine Valley for some of the most beautiful castles in Germany and wine. Although you might associate Rhine Valley with river cruisers, you’ll find hostels within castles in Rhine Valley. Take this last chance to enjoy European culture, architecture, wine as its best. For those interested in sports, Rhine Valley has some fantastic hiking and biking.
End of your Europe Trip: One day in Berlin
Didn’t get into Berghain? You got one last night in Europe to live it up. 😉
I’ve created a free downloadable European itinerary planning spreadsheet to help you plan your European itinerary, keep track of expenses, and see what you still need to book. I found the hardest part about planning my first European trip was figuring out what I had already booked–and what I hadn’t beyond the flight. I hope this excel helps you.