A church bell at sunset in Ios Greece

11 Best Places to Backpack In Europe [2021]

There are just so many great places to backpack in Europe that it can be a challenge to narrow down your bucket list.

I’ve been to nearly every country in Europe, and I have a lot of opinions one where is and ISN’T a good backpacker destination. Which is why I’m SO excited to share with you my 11 favorite destinations for backpacking Europe!

But, first, a quick word on responsible travel during Covid-19: I’m writing this post in March on the admittedly optimistic assumption that these destinations will be open and safe for travel sometime this year. As of now, it does look like much of Europe will probably open for travel by vaccinated visitors sometime in summer 2021. But that’s still months away, so please wait until you have your jab, only travel once local public authorities say it is safe, and always strictly obey all local health restrictions.

Oh, and one more thing: if you’re planning to go backpacking Europe this summer, you can save money with our free guides to the best backpacks for Europe and how to get a hostel job.

Ok, ready to dive in?

1. Croatia

Coastal town of Rovinj, Istria, Croatia.
No wonder Rovinj won the Travel Lemming Emerging Destination Awards!

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:

2. Georgia

Drone over Kutaisi, Georgia
Isn’t Georgia gorgeous?

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. 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. Belgrade

Purple street art in Belgrade
The streets of Belgrade have such an energy to them!

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

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:

5. Budapest, Hungary

Budapest Hungary
Me trying to pose- or something – in Budapest

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.”

5. Spain

Temple of Debod Madrid
I always thought it odd that an Egyptian temple is the most photographed site in Madrid, but it is!

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. From the wandering the streets of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter to dancing the night away in Madrid, Spain has something to offer every type of backpacker.

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!

📚 Related Reads: Guide to Travel Insurance in Spain

6. Ireland

A man against the Guinness sign in Dublin
Ok, when do I get a beer? 🙂

Considering it is one of Europe’s most popular destinations, Ireland is a surprisingly affordable destination for backpackers. 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 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.

7. The Baltics

Tallinn Estonia in winter
Tallinn looks like a Disney movie right?

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?

8. Paris, France

Interior of Sainte-Chapelle Chapel in Paris
Sainte-Chapelle Chapel in Paris

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.

9. Portugal

Algarve, Portugal
Portugal is so pretty!

Portugal has been trendy for a few years now, and all it takes is one look at the many beautiful beaches along the Algarve to understand why so many backpackers love to explore Portugal’s coast.

The country 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.

10. Ios, Greece

A church bell at sunset in Ios Greece
One of my favorite photos from my trip to Greece

Ios is quite simply paradise for backpackers in Europe. This small island 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!

11. Amsterdam

Boats on a canal in Amsterdam
There’s no denying the charm of Amsterdam’s canals

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!

***

Ok, that’s it for this list of the best places to backpack in Europe! Get ready for your backpacking trip to Europe by bookmarking our Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Europe.

Oh, and of course, be sure to check out our epic post ranking the best backpacks for Europe. Spoiler alert: the Tortuga Setout is our current top pick!

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!

Enjoy your trip to Europe! And remember to follow all local health regulations, and be a responsible and respectful backpacker.

2 Comments

  1. Hello thr.
    Very helpful site. I need your expert advice for travelling to europe in December. I met this girl from Malaysia and she is a teacher. I really like her and she likes to backpack europe. To impress her I made her promise to backpacking italy to swiss in December. I have searched the net for available options and it seems i have put my self in trouble. Any suggestions or advice please or would you suggest some other places in December.
    Thanks
    Mannie

    1. Hi Mannie! Sounds like a real adventure. Unless you’re a real mountaineer, winter might not be the best time to go backpacking in the Alps. If you’re looking for some warmer options, consider Croatia, Portugal, Spain, or Greece. The water won’t be super swimmable, but the crowds will be less and you’ll have cheaper prices.

      Cheers!
      Nate

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