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Backpacking Europe is like a rite of passage.
Most avid travelers will voyage to Europe at least once in their lives, and it’s for good reason. Backpacking Europe is incredible; you get beautiful beaches, amazing architecture, rich history, and lavish art galleries.
However, there’s a lot to see in Europe, and choosing where to go and what to do can be overwhelming. The first time I traveled to Europe, I had a pretty good idea of which countries I wanted to visit. But, as a first-time solo student traveler, choosing the specific cities and regions was stressful.
So, if you’re having a similar struggle, and are looking for inspiration for your own trip, this was my itinerary for 5 weeks of backpacking around Europe.
Note that the countries I visited were France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, and Switzerland. I specifically avoided Italy and Greece, as I wanted to save them for a trip of their own 😊
5 Days, 4 Nights
Paris. One of the most popular destinations in Europe, evoking images of quaint cafés and historic architecture.
I was inspired to visit Paris from the film “Midnight in Paris”. And, while I did not travel back in time, I loved exploring Paris. I spent most of my time aimlessly wandering around and savoring the sights.
However, on top of that, I also explored the Louvre and the Picasso art gallery, admired the Cathedral de Notre Dame (this was prior to the fire 😥), shopped for souvenirs around Sacré-Coeur, explored the Catacombs, and gazed up at the Eiffel Tower.
While some people claimed that I spent too much time in Paris, I wanted that extra time to recuperate from my jet lag without having to miss any of the sights.
Basque Country, Spain
6 Days, 5 Nights
Choosing to visit Northern Spain was the best decision I made on my trip.
I spent my time in the Basque Country walking a portion of the Camino de Santiago del Norte (i.e. the Northern Route). I can’t wait to go back and finish the Camino; it was, without question, the best part of my trip.
I chose to walk the Northern Route because I read that there’s less foot traffic, and some astounding scenery.
Walking around Northern Spain was an adventure; it included scaling up small mountains, walking along the highway, meandering through small woods, admiring the Bay of Biscay, and meeting some really cool people.
I would recommend this path to anyone who wants to explore the more remote areas of Spain, and has a passion for traveling by foot. If you’re interested in learning more about the Camino, I recommend checking out this website, or even reading some of the great Camino de Santiago books!
4 Days, 4 Nights
Next, I traveled to Segovia, a city most famously known for its Roman Aqueduct.
However, what I loved most about this city were the winding paths leading outside its walls. I accidentally stumbled across them while visiting the Alcázar of Segovia, and ended up spending the rest of my day wandering around its routes and admiring the various views of the city.
If you’re interested in visiting Segovia, click here to access my ultimate walking guide of Segovia.
3 Days, 3 Nights
Next, with a small stopover in Madrid, I headed to Seville.
These were a relaxing few days where I window-shopped, walked along the Guadalquivir river, and wandered around the Plaza de España (a filming location of Star Wars Episode II).
Other things you can do include visiting the Royal Alcázar of Seville, admiring the Catedral de Sevilla, walking around the Parque de María Luisa, and climbing the Torre del Oro.
If you’re planning a trip to Seville, check out my self-guided walking tour!
4 Days, 3 Nights
Next, I traveled to the Algarve region of Portugal. While most of the Portuguese people I’ve met view this region as a tourist hot-spot, and not the “real” Portugal, I maintain that there’s a good reason for the crowds.
Offering an incredible and unique landscape, and some beautiful beaches, visiting Lagos is not a decision you’d regret. It is a cute, small town, with many kayak and boat tours that will allow you to marvel at its landscape in full. There are additionally some great, free trails to walk around on.
If you want to learn more about the incredible things to do in Lagos, Algarve, read my article on the 10 most stunning Lagos beaches!
3 Days, 4 Nights
Barcelona: the city of funky architecture and Sangria.
Obvious stops include the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, Casa Batlló, the Gothic Quarter, and the Boqueria market.
However, there are so much more to do in Barcelona, and if you want to appreciate this vibrant city in its entirety, you’ll need more than my measly 3 days. It definitely won’t be the last time I visit.
3 Days, 2 Nights
From Barcelona, I proceeded to fly to Berlin.
Berlin is a large, captivating city with lots to do; you can tour the remains of the Berlin Wall, explore Museum Island, visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, marvel at the Berlin Cathedral, and more.
A big highlight for me was going to an Eddie Vedder concert. Not only because he has the voice of an angel, but also because the concert was held at the Zitadelle Spandau, a military fortress built in the 1500s. It was definitely a unique experience that I can’t get back home in Vancouver.
3 Days, 2 Nights
Next, I stopped in Munich: a relatively quiet city with some marvelous sights.
Unfortunately, due to poor planning on my part, I visited Munich on Whit Sunday and Whit Monday: holidays not celebrated in North America. It turned most of Munich into a ghost town.
Pro tip: When planning a trip, research the national holidays for the countries you’re visiting!
So, while my first day consisted of the lively, bustling Saturday market, making the Marienplatz a wonderland, the other 2 days were quiet, where I simply explored the English Gardens and got a little lost wandering about.
However, Munich is a beautiful city I definitely recommend visiting, especially if you’re a lover of beer!
2 Days, 1 Night
Then, on my way back to Paris, I spent one night in the quiet city of Zurich.
While my budget-traveling brain stressed constantly about Zurich’s crazy-high prices, it was still one of the highlights of my trip. I spent both days wandering around and admiring the subdued beauty of the city, listening to the street performers and hanging out with the birds.
1 Day, 1 Night
My final day in Paris consisted of walking around and getting last-minute souvenirs for friends and family.
Including travel days, my trip was 36 days in length (5 weeks and 1 day).
While I unfortunately didn’t keep good track of my expenses, I tried my best to travel on a budget. This included walking instead of using public transport (in the cities possible), staying in the cheapest hostels in their cheapest rooms, and sticking to mainly free activities.
The overall estimate of what I spent in Europe is $3,000-$3,500 CAD (around $2,276-$2,655 USD).
This includes flights to and from Vancouver, accommodations, food, travel insurance, transport within Europe, and souvenirs.
What I Would Have Done Differently
While, overall, I loved my trip around Europe, it wasn’t perfect.
There are a couple key things I wish I would have changed:
- I wish I could have explored more Bavarian towns. While I didn’t have that much time, I would probably choose to spend less time in Munich in favor of spending more time in the mountains of southern Germany.
- I absolutely loved visiting Lagos, and I wish I could have traveled more of Portugal. I would probably choose to spend less time in Seville, in favor of spending more time exploring Portugal.
However, I plan to make many more trips to Europe in the future, so I don’t think I will miss out on anything in the end!
Europe is an incredible continent to visit, jam-packed with culture, art, and breathtaking landscapes. With so many countries and so much diversity, it can be overwhelming to choose where to go. So, I hope this 5-week itinerary gave you some inspiration for your very own travels!
Thanks for reading the article! If you have any questions, feel free to comment down below, and if you want to see more travel and hike-related content, make sure to check out my other articles.
If you enjoyed this article on my 5-week Europe itinerary and want some additional inspiring travel content, check out my article on my 5-week Southeast Asia itinerary!
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