I suddenly found myself at a countryside Italian villa surrounded by new friends. People from entirely different countries, cultures, and opinions- yet we knew we were citizens of the world, and that was all that mattered.
Backpacking Europe alone has always been a dream of mine. After being fortunate enough to live in Paris one summer, I had a thirst to see more of the beautiful countries abroad. Having 10 weeks to do so this past summer was unreal. After getting so many questions from friends about how to do it, I thought I’d make a post with a bit of an overview. So here goes nothing…
Be warned- this post is not going to tell you exactly what to do in Europe. But that’s why I’m writing it – because Europe has so much to offer for every personality and interest, that giving you an outline of certain cities wouldn’t do it justice. Whether you like art and museums, night life and drinks, nature, or all of the above, you can find it just a train ride away. My biggest piece of advice would be to buy a Eurail pass and just go where your heart desires. You can use the GoEuro app on your phone to help figure out which mode of transport, planes, trains, or bus, that would be most convenient. I also would recommend to always use HostelWorld when searching for places to stay. You can find the cheapest, cleanest, and most social hostels here. I’ll list some of my favorites below, but this is a great starting point. End up at a hostel with people glued to their phones? (this happens far too often) Check out the CouchSurfing app where you can use the Hangouts feature to meet people for drinks or coffee nearby. I liken it to a platonic Tinder, and met a ton of lifelong friends on it.
A huge aspect of my trip that made it special was my flexibility and “yes” mentality. I channeled Jim Carrey in Yes Man and tried to take every opportunity presented. This led me to stay with a couple in Amsterdam that I had never met, to travel to countryside of Slovenia with a new local friend, and to stay in an AirBNB with some new friends from Maine. I tend to be a very planned person, but letting go and leaving things to chance was pretty freeing. I would typically end up in a city after hearing good things about it, spend a few nights there, and then figure out where I wanted to go next. This gave me the flexibility to travel with new friends and keep my options open.
I’ll do a deep dive of my favorite places that I went to, but here’s a list of my favorite cities and hostels around Europe.
- Krakow, Poland – incredibly cheap city with tons of WWII history, great food, and good vodka 🙂
- Ljubljana, Slovenia – Slovenia was one of my favorite countries I visited. The nature is breathtaking, the people nice, and the food delicious. Take a trip to Lake Bled for stunning views.
- Lisbon, Portugal – a beautiful city on a sweeping river with rolling hills, beaches, and great nightlife.
- Berlin, Germany – a surprisingly inexpensive city with tons of crazy culture, cool history, and great clubs. English is also widely spoken here which is nice.
- Budapest, Hungary – another cheap city with a beautiful river running through, spectacular historic buildings, and amazing nightlife.
- Prague, Czech Republic – another great city on a river (this is a common theme in Europe) with fun nightlife and beautiful buildings. Tons of great history as well.
- Stockholm, Sweden – a stunning city comprised of 5 islands. Not cheap, but it’s worth checking out. The beautiful Swedish people help, too.
- Paris, France – I may be partial to it after living there, but the city is downright beautiful. Spend a couple of days here, live like the locals in an AirBNB and feel like you’re in a dream.
- Oxford, England – If you’re a big Harry Potter fan, this is a must. Even if not, the beautiful historic colleges and churches make it worth a trip, just over an hour outside London.
- Nice, France– an escape from the city for many Europeans, go here during the off-season for small classic European streets, great ocean views, and beach towns nearby.
1. Goodmorning Hostel – Lisbon, Portugal. Amazing people, great nightly events, and unbelievable breakfast. It’s rated the second best hostel in the world for good reason.
2. Grampa’s Hostel – Wroclaw, Poland. Awesome staff, nice setting, and good vibes.
3. Cascina Respau – Como, Italy. An old villa nestled in the hills around Como. Owned by a chef with lunches and dinners that will knock your socks off and leave you wanting to stay forever. Also amazing people staying here.
4. Cracow Hostel – Krakow, Poland. Located right in the old town square, this place was great. Really nice staff and cool people staying here.
5. Mad4You Hostel – Madrid, Spain. Located in a hip neighborhood in Madrid with a good breakfast, nice staff, and good people staying there.