With so much going on in the world, it can be hard to choose the best places to backpack in Europe in 2023, but I’m here to help.
I’ve been to nearly every country in Europe, and I have a lot of opinions on where to backpack in Europe (and where not to go). In this post, I’ll split the beans on my 11 favorite cities, countries, and hidden destinations for backpacking Europe!
Oh, and before you visit Europe, you’re of course going to need a trusty backpack. I’ve tested all the popular bags, and I ranked them all in my guide to best backpacks for Europe. Check it out!
Table of Contents
11 Best Places to Backpack in Europe
History, nightlife, and gorgeous clear water, Croatia is an incredible and affordable alternative to Italy and Greece.
With 3,600 miles of coastline, crystal clear Mediterranean waters, and ancient cities that quite literally served as film sets for Game of Thrones, Croatia is one of the most remarkable travel destinations on the planet. That’s why we wrote up a list of all the fun things you must do in Croatia.
And while Croatia was once a hidden gem, the secret is officially out. For the last few years, Croatia has been THE hot destination in Europe – not just for backpackers, but for every kind of traveler. And with popularity comes high prices.
Which brings me to why Croatia is at the top of this list. Even if things go perfectly, the reality is that 2021 will be a slow tourist season. That also means it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for backpackers to Europe to experience Croatia on a reasonable budget.
Plan your Croatia backpacking route:
My favorite country on the planet, and one of the best countries to backpack in Europe if you love to go off the beaten path.
For years, I’ve been preaching about the off-the-beaten path country of Georgia. Located on the far side of the Black Sea, this Caucasian nation has been at the crossroads of cultures for millennia, and its eclectic personality definitely shows it. Each region of Georgia has its own unique culture, food, and feel.
There are many beautiful places to visit in Georgia, but most backpackers will start their journey in Tbilisi. This underrated capital reminds me a lot of what Prague was probably like before that part of the Czech Republic became over-touristed.
In Tbilis, you’ll find a charming bohemian Old City on a hillside overlooking the city, lots of Oh, and there are tons of affordable hostels and other accommodation in Tbilisi.
After Tbilisi, you’ll be spoiled for choices on your Georgia itinerary, but my top suggestion is to head north to the mountainous region of Svaneti. There you’ll find Ushguli, the highest continuously occupied settlement in Europe, and well as some of the cheapest ski resorts in all of Europe.
Plan your Georgia backpacking trip:
3. Budapest, Hungary
Possibly my favorite city in Europe, Budapest mixes the best of the continent’s east and west at an affordable price point.
Of all the major cities in Europe, I submit that Budapest is the undeniable best European capital city for backpackers. The city is split down the middle by the Danube River, and on the Pest side you’ll find TON of hostels, free walking tours, and pub crawls downing 1 euro beers at the city’s famous ruin bars (pro tip: don’t miss Szimpla Kert).
There are so many UNESCO World Heritage sites and incredible things to do in Budapest that I usually recommend backpackers to plan to spend the better part of a week in the city. Check out the famous Hungarian thermal baths (though not as famous, my personal favorite are the Rudas Bath because there is a hot tub on the roof!
Oh, and be sure to try some Langosh in Budapest! I always describe this local delicious food as kind of like “donut pizza.”
👉 Read Next: How to Get a Hostel Job
From cities to coastlines to countryside, Spain as it all. You could spend your entire summer backpacking Europe and never leave this amazing country.
Ok, finally we’ve arrived at a Western Europe entry on this list of backpacker destinations. Though its not exactly undiscovered, there’s no denying the appeal of Spain as one of the best countries to backpack in Europe.
Popular though it may be, the Spanish coast is still littered with lots of hidden gems for backpackers willing to look beyond the main cities. Check out our guide to Mojacar for some inspiration!
Enjoy the craic in one of the best places to party in Europe. Or just explore lush greenery dotted with majestic castles.
Considering it is one of Europe’s most popular destinations, Ireland is a surprisingly affordable choice for where to backpack in Europe. That’s especially true once you get outside Dublin which, for all its charm, costs double what you’ll pay for a hostel bed in cheaper backpacker destinations like Killarney, Cork, or Galway.
Ireland is filled with nature, history, and culture. Oh, and beer – lots of beer.
But don’t spend all your time in the pubs! Be sure to also get outside and enjoy the incredible greenery on your Ireland itinerary. Be sure to check out the Wild Atlantic Way, a rugged strip of coastline filled with walking trails connecting picturesque villages.
Helpful Guides to Ireland:
6. The Baltics
The three Baltic countries (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) are incredibly underrated backpacker destinations perfect if you love hidden gems.
Ok, I’m kinda cheating here by combining three countries in Eastern Europe – Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia – into one place to backpack in Europe.
But the truth is that the Baltics really ARE best backpacked together, with most backpackers taking a route from Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius, or the reverse.
The budget friendly Baltic capital cities each have their own distinct flavor, so I suggest spending a few days in each to see which you like. Personally, I’m a big fan of the cafe culture in Vilnius!
👉 Read Next: How Much Does Backpacking Europe Cost?
7. Paris, France
Undeniably one of the best cities to backpack in Europe. Not necessarily as expensive as you think, and filled with UNESCO World Heritage Sites at every turn.
Paris would probably clock it at the top of most lists of the best cities in Europe for backpackers, but I tend to prefer lesser traveled destinations in Europe. But there’s no denying the charm to Paris.
Beautiful architecture, delicious food, fascinating history … Paris has it all. And, of course, you’ll find many quintessential European must see tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum.
And while Paris isn’t as budget friendly as some of the Eastern European destinations on this list, if you’re willing to stay outside the tourist center, you’ll find surprisingly affordable hostel prices.
One of the most backpacker friendly places to go in Western Europe, Portugal amazes with its miles of coastline, many historic sites, and incredible gastronomy.
Portugal has been trendy for a few years now. The Algarve region is home to some of the best beaches in Europe. Lisbon is a fun and vibrant capital city. In the north, Porto offers a more relaxed pace, vineyards, and history. Or consider exploring Portugal’s Azores islands (see our guide to what to do in Sao Miguel Island).
Portugal is also one of the most affordable places to backpack in Western Europe. Portugal is home to some of the cheapest places to stay in Western Europe.
Plus food and drinks are pretty cheap, so shoestring backpackers can expect to get by for less than 50 euros a day (at least outside high season). See Sky’s Portugal packing checklist to get started planning now.
9. Ios, Greece
Greece’s backpacker island is a cheaper alternative to Santorini, and perhaps the best island for backpacks in all of Europe.
Ios is quite simply paradise for backpackers in Europe. This small island in Greece is almost as beautiful as its more famous neighbors Mykonos and Santorini (which I hated, by the way). But prices are a fraction of what you’ll find in the more Insta-famous Greek islands.
Spend your days riding a moped around the island and swimming in azure waters. After enjoying a picture-perfect sunset, get dressed up for a night out on the town. Just try to make it home before sunrise (or, you know, don’t!). And, of course, be sure to travel safe and consider getting travel insurance for your Greek trip.
👉 Pro tip: my favorite budget place to stay is the amazing Francesco’s hostel, who stunning vistas and friendly vibe make it one of my favorite hostels on the planet. It has pretty affordable prices considering its incredible vistas of the water!
Not one of the cheapest places to backpack in Europe, but Amsterdam is an stop nonetheless if you can swing a few nights in a hostel.
Amsterdam is definitely one of the European cities that has struggled with over-tourism. It has recently responded with a series of measures aimed at cracking down on vice tourism to its famous cannabis cafes and red light district.
Nevertheless, Amsterdam is such an incredible travel destination for backpackers that it is still worth a visit. There’s hostels galore, lots of art and rich history (the Van Gogh museum is worth it), and plenty of fun still to be had for backpackers who want to responsibly enjoy the city.
👉 Pro tip: skip the high-priced group canal tours and catch a ride on the small boats sailed by the sassy and sarcastic team behind Those Dam Boat Guys. It’s a wild ride, and my favorite thing to do in Amsterdam!
A vibrant and underrated backpacker city with some of the best nightlife in Europe. Oh, and it’s an incredibly affordable place to go too.
One of my favorite Eastern European capital cities, I think Belgrade will soon become one of the most popular places to backpack in Europe. If you’re the type of backpacker who enjoys a night out on the town, you’ll love Serbia.
Belgrade isn’t all about the party though! There’s lots of vibrant city life here, much of it centered around the Old Kalemegdan Fortress. Hipsters will love the bohemian quarter in Belgrade, Skadarlija. And history buffs and Instagram wannabes alike will love a day trip exploring the picture-perfect streets of Zemun.
Ok, sold on your trip to Serbia? Check out this awesome list of 23 things to do in Belgrade, written by our Serbian local writer Bojana. My personal favorite activity was checking out the incredible street art scene!
Check out our other local’s guides to Serbia:
- Best Places to Visit in Serbia
- Best Things to do in Novi Sad
- Do You Need Travel Insurance for Serbia?
FAQs on Backpacking Europe
Is it expensive to backpack in Europe?
Backpacking Europe can be done inexpensively, especially if you focus on traveling to more affordable backpacker destinations like Eastern Europe, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland. See our full list of places to backpack to learn how to backpack Europe on a budget.
Where should I stay when backpacking in Europe?
Most backpackers in Europe choose to stay in hostels because they are generally the most affordable option. Other possible places to stay for even less include homestays and work exchanges, which you can find on sites like Worldpackers.
Ok, that’s it for this list of where to go backpacking in Europe! Get ready for your backpacking trip to Europe by bookmarking our Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Europe.
Interested in working in a hostel to help save money during your trip around Europe? Check out our complete guide to How to Land a Job in a Hostel!
I hope I’ve helped you find some of the best places to backpack in Europe. Enjoy your trip to visit Europe!
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