Dreamt of going travelling this year but Covid-19 got in the way? Don't lose all hope, you may still have a chance to do some travelling this year, but as expected things will be a little different to normal. One of the biggest concerns for travellers is going to airports and getting on airplanes while the virus is still out there. But luckily, there are alternative ways that you can get around Europe once it's safe enough to start backpacking again.
We’ve devised the ultimate backpacking route through Europe which will take you through six countries in 26 days (just a little less than four weeks) using mainly trains. Before you go, make sure you get an Interrail pass for your travels; it will allow you to hop from city to city by train without having to buy tickets as you go. Stress-free and super easy! We recommend Interrail's 22 day Global Pass (€389 or £303 for a Youth pass, €518 or £395 for an Adult pass) which is perfect if you’re following this particular backpacker route.
Use our itinerary for local tips and off-the-beaten track recommendations so that you can explore each city in the most authentic way possible. We’ve included everything from how to get from city to city, where to eat, where to stay and the coolest sights and attractions. Interrailing is an amazing experience, whatever stage of your life you’re in. Whether you want to go it alone or travel with friends, here’s our Ultimate Backpacker Route for Western Europe 2020, staying in the amazing St Christopher’s Inns hostels…
So, what’s on the itinerary?
London: 5 days staying at
Paris: 4 days staying at
Bruges: 3 days staying at
Amsterdam: 4 days staying at
Berlin: 5 days staying at
Barcelona: 5 days staying at . The journey from Berlin to Barcelona is the only route that requires a plane, so if you don't feel comfortable travelling up in the air - or airlines still aren't flying due to Coronavirus - then remove Barcelona from the itinerary and postpone the Spanish city until next year.
What about the budget?
Average cost of total accommodation and travel: €1,150
Recommended budget for spending money: €1,200
TOTAL COST OF TRIP: €2,350
Before you jet off...
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First stop is London. If you haven’t visited the British capital, you’re in for a city break like no other. With a long Royal history, a bustling banking district, innovative concepts and some of the best restaurants and bars in the world, we recommend spending at least 5 days in the Big Smoke to get a real feel for the majestic city. On your first day, enjoy a free walking tour from the hostel, St Christopher’s at the Village in London Bridge, to get an idea of your whereabouts and to get used to the public transport system. The tubes and buses are pretty easy once you get the hang of them - watch our video for a quick tutorial.
On a backpacker budget, there are some fantastic in the city that won’t break the bank and so many (including some of ). Get a taste of like authentic fish and chips, , hot pie n’ mash and a glass of Pimm’s in the summer - and don’t forget you get 25% off food and drink in the hostel bar.
Cosy English pubs, street art, food markets and pretty tree-lined streets are set between skyscrapers, , , the theatre district (West End) and iconic landmarks. Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, the Big Ben just to name a few. Then there’s Hyde Park, The Natural History Museum, the British Museum and London Zoo. London is also full of , , and . And if you're a lover of the quintessentially British Harry Potter film series then make sure you factor in a visit to some of the from many of their most iconic scenes. In the evenings, the hostel puts a party on every night of the week with drinks deals, live music and DJ’s so you know where to let off some steam!
And once the major sites and attractions are out of the way, you have to get off-the-beaten track and get to know the real London. Make sure you explore more than just the city centre. Home to an international, diverse community, London is home to different Boroughs that all have something cool to offer. From the gritty , famous for Spitalfields Market, to the deer of Richmond Park and the curries of Brick Lane, to vintage/sustainable shopping in Camden, there’s something for everyone. You may even consider a to one of near the countryside such as Windsor or Oxford.
The hostel bar is the perfect place to meet other travellers visiting London; why not book yourself onto the hostel pub crawl and make some friends? Our top tip for London is to try and not cram loads into one day or you’ll tire yourself out.
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Getting to Paris
The Eurostar connection from London to Paris is super easy and fast. From the Eurostar terminal at Kings Cross St Pancras, your Interrail pass can get you to Paris Gare du Nord in 2 hours 16 minutes. Our hostel in Paris is just across the road from the Eurostar station.
Once you’ve arrived in Paris, head to the hostel to check-in and enjoy a few drinks at the hostel bar where you can start planning your four days in the City of Light. Located just across the road from Gare du Nord station, the hostel couldn’t be better placed for backpackers. Known for its world famous French cuisine, incredible art, buzzing nightlife, stunning views and iconic landmarks, Paris is a must for every travel lover.
Just like London, Paris is known for being on the more expensive side but there are so many and ways to enjoy the city on a budget. Check out our video on for some inspiration. Or . From the city’s to the , Paris is the kind of city you’ll enjoy simply just wandering around and soaking up the quaint Parisian charm.
Climb to the top of the Sacre Coeur in , taste in a local bistro, discover the in the city, go underground to the (buy skip-the-line tickets ) and take a tour of some of Paris’ most . The pretty Parisian streets and parks are most beautiful in the spring and , when blossom and flora are in full bloom and photo opportunities are endless. in Paris is another beautiful time to visit where you can sip on the city’s best hot chocolate and take crisp, autumn walks around the Tuileries Gardens. The Paris Metro will help get you around from place to place; since the city is quite spread out you definitely need to use public transport.
For affordable lunch ideas, we recommend heading to a or cafe for a French baguette or savoury pastry, and then spend a bit more for dinner - try out our . You have to try steak frites, tarte tatin, beef bourguignon and escargot! And if you’re vegan, you’ll have no trouble finding some .
We highly recommend enjoying Paris as the locals would (that is, once you’ve had a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower and checked out the Mona Lisa at the Louvre). Find out the 10 such as checking out the city’s Jewish quarter (Marais) or trying a doner kebab from one of the Turkish late-night shops. Our hostel in Paris offers free walking tours for guests, daily pub crawls, cheese and wine events and plenty of party nights at the hostel bar.
A day trip to is also so worth it if you’re a Disney fan and have some extra space in your budget. There are also some really in the summer if you fancy a party in the sun.
Want to know what events are taking place in Paris the month you visit? Check out our updated
Getting to Bruges
Once you’re filled up on French cheese and wine, it’s time to head to medieval Bruges! Just take a train via Brussels (where you’ll need to change train) and your total journey time will be around 2 hours 36 minutes. From the station, it’s an 11 minute taxi or 21 minute train to the hostel - or a 30 minute walk if you feel up to it.
Bruges is the fairytale city of Europe with quaint, cobbled streets, medieval buildings and horse-drawn carriages. Being a small Belgian town, you only need a couple of days here to get a real feel for the relaxing landscape - but we’ve given you three days since we love it so much and there are Walk around Markt Square, try Belgian frites (fries were actually invented in Belgium), explore the and drink the . Bruges is the kind of place every backpacker loves because of how charming it is. Our hostel, St Christophers at the Bauhaus is a brilliant place to stay as there’s an authentic Belgian pub downstairs where you can sample local beers, enjoy €5 pizzas and other food and drinks deals. You’ll find meeting locals and tourists alike at our bar super easy.
While you can walk pretty much everywhere in Bruges, we recommend renting a green bike from the hostel for €10 and cycling past the windmills, through Minnewater park and around the different beer gardens. We recommend going on the free walking tour from the hostel on your first morning after filling yourself up with the free breakfast to tick off the main sights. For the best view of the city, climb up to the Belfry Tower and for the most Instagrammable spots in the city, be sure to
In terms of eating out, Bruges can get quite expensive but we’ve rounded up how to eat in the city on a budget with some great Here, you can try some local Flemish dishes such as beef stew or potato-based dishes.
And it wouldn’t be a trip to Bruges without some indulgence. You can try the best Belgian waffles at Chez Albert and the Be sure to also make some time for a canal boat tour; Bruges’ canals are stunning and it’s lovely to get a perspective on the city from the water.
Make sure to visit the Basilica of Holy Blood, a medieval Roman Catholic church with beautiful stained glass windows. The church is located near the Belfry, just a 2 minute walk away. And if you’re a fan of ghost stories, learn more about the medieval city’s haunted past on an evening Ghost Tour.
If you manage to do most of these things, you can make a day trip to Ghent (another charming medieval town), which is around a 40 minute drive away from Bruges. Ghent is simply beautiful and it’s en route to Brussels (where you have to stop over on your way to Amsterdam). So you can always pass by on your way. In Ghent, you can spend a few hours exploring, taking photos, stopping by at a Belgian pub and be on your way to the next destination!
Travelling with a partner?
Getting to Amsterdam
It couldn’t be easier getting from Bruges to Amsterdam. Connected via Brussels, you will need to change trains there. Total journey time to Amsterdam Centraal station from Bruges is 3 hours 13 minutes. You can walk to our hostel in Amsterdam from the train station in just 10 minutes.
If you don’t want to change at Brussels again (since you already did that to get from Paris to Bruges), there is another route you can take which involves two changes via Gent-Sint-Pieters and Antwerpen-Centraal. Journey time is also 3 hours 13 minutes or sometimes up to 4 hours so it’s up to you which route to take. Feel free to add Antwerp into your itinerary!
It wouldn’t be the ultimate European route without a stop in Amsterdam. The Dutch capital is the backpacker dream. Packed with museums, galleries, street food, street art, bars, clubs and, of course, coffeeshops, we recommend you hop on a bike and spend 4 days exploring everything the city has to offer. Check out our guide on
Amsterdam is home to some of the in Europe, including the Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, right in the heart of the city. While you will have to pay an entry fee to these iconic attractions, there are also plenty of . Whether it’s a free walking tour, a trip across the River IJ to see the street art at NDSM Wharf or a visit to the world famous Red Light District, there’s more than enough to fill your days while only spending money on food, drink and bike hire.
See the city in true Dutch style and hire a bike to navigate your way around the sights or simply explore the . Take your bike to the Jordaan district for a coffee and some window shopping, check out Amsterdam’s awesome vintage markets and to try a Dutch smoke. If you're also lucky enough to be in the city during the height of summer, check out some of the awesome such as chill out at one of their thriving city beach clubs, jump off the docks at Java Eiland and barbecue in a select few of their public parks.
Around 178 different nationalities live in Amsterdam, meaning English is widely spoken and the city’s cuisine is incredibly diverse. While you can get everything from Korean to Mexican, you must also sample some proper Dutch delicacies - there are at least you need to try!
While Amsterdam may seem like a traditional European city at first glance - with the charming canals, cobbled streets and quaint local houses - there’s far more to it than meets the eye. The city is filled with quirky things to see and do. From the world’s only floating cat sanctuary and the narrowest house in the world, to the first ever condomerie and a tour of the Red Light District with retired sex workers. There’s a lot that you .
Then there are the parties. There are some great for a classy drink with a view and the are some of the best, however the annual street parties are unrivalled! is the ultimate Dutch experience. The entire city shuts down to celebrate the King’s birthday at the end of April, dressed in orange with live music, street food and drinks all up and down the canals. The party is even on the canal if you have a boat!
Just want to stay for 48 hours?
Getting to Berlin
Use your Interrail pass to catch a direct train from Amsterdam Centraal Station to take you straight into Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Berlin Central Station). The journey takes around 6 hours 20 minutes, but it’s the perfect excuse to fuel up on snacks and get some shut eye before a big 5 days in the German capital! From the Berlin station it’s just a 20 minute walk to St Christopher’s Berlin Mitte hostel.
Whether culture, history, food or partying is your reason to travel, Berlin has something for everyone. The city is packed with some bucket list sights and , from Brandenburg Gate and the to karaoke in Mauer Park and drinking a German stein. With all this and way more, spending 5 days in Berlin is a great amount of time to really get to know the city.
The German capital is one of the most diverse cities in Europe and definitely a . You could spend your morning delving into Berlin’s wartime history at the Holocaust Memorial and the Topography of Terror Museum, the afternoon cycling through Tiergarden park and your evenings in a German beer bar dancing to live music and indulging in the local cuisine.
Berlin is steeped in a rich and fascinating history that you simply can’t miss when you’re there. In fact, there are enough museums in Berlin to entertain every rainy day the city sees. During your first trip to Berlin, ticking off the main sights is essential, however don’t bypass the opportunity to check out the more and see the city through local eyes. Sundays in Mauerpark are a big favourite amongst hundreds of people - mainly locals who are in-the-know - as the amphitheatre fills to cheer on and sing along with the brave who take centre stage and belt their heart out to a karaoke song.
Mitte is Berlin’s most central district, making it a great place to base yourself during your stay - plus there are so many ! Berlin Cathedral, Museum Island, Alexanderplatz, Hackescher Markt and just to name a few. Our new hostel in Berlin Mitte is within walking distance to many of these attractions, so take a free walking tour from the hostel on your first morning with a knowledgeable tour guide.
To see more sights like the East Side Gallery and Oberbaum Bridge, you’ll need to use . The U-Bahns and S-Bahns will quickly get you from one side of the city to the other, although a lot of tourist sights are within walking distance from each other. After walking off your free breakfast at the hostel, make the most of some of . You’ve got to try the chicken kebab at Mustafa’s Gemuese Kebab and the fried chicken from Henne, but a plate of is an absolute must!
Berlin’s beer scene is huge. The city is home to the longest beer garden in the world as well as famous beer halls and some incredible brews. There are some great to check out that make for a great pitstop before a big night experiencing some of the best clubs in Europe. Then of course, there’s the hostel bar where you can put your feet up after a long day of sightseeing and have a few drinks. The Happy Hour runs every Sunday - Friday from 5pm - 9pm where you can get 2 for 1 drinks!
Check out our article for some local and read up on .
Getting to Barcelona
A flight from Berlin to Barcelona is just 2 hour 30 mins, however your Interrail pass won’t be valid for this journey. If you book far enough in advance, you can get a flight for as little as €17.50, but if you leave it a little later flights can cost from around €63. Just be sure to keep an eye on Skyscanner and book your flight as soon as prices look good.
Getting from Barcelona airport to the hostel is easy. Simply catch the Aerobus from just outside the airport (you won’t be able to miss the huge sign written across the side of the vehicle), paying for your ticket before you board. The hostel is just a 5 minute walk from where the bus terminates in Plaça de Catalunya.
Last but by no means least, our ultimate European route ends with a dose of Catalan sunshine. Barcelona is Europe’s land of sun, sea and city with the perfect mix of culture and relaxation. With such a huge amount to see and do (and eat and drink), we recommend sticking around for 5 days to really feel like you’ve ticked the boxes and got a feel for the city as a local.
Some of the most renowned sights in Europe are located in Barcelona, such as the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, with Antoni Gaudi to thank for gracing them with such incredible architecture and the unique style that you’ll notice runs throughout the city. On a tour around Barcelona’s most famous attractions, it would be impossible not to come across at least a few of the Catalan architect’s awe-inspiring designs. However one of the best parts of visiting a new city are seeing its hidden gems, and Barcelona isn’t short of them. Visit the Cactus Garden for insane photo opportunities, the Antic Theatre for an al fresco drink, or Parc de Laberint d’Horta for an out of town adventure.
Barcelona is a real gem for backpackers on a budget as so many of the best attractions are . The , Casa Mila, Placa Reial, Arc de Triomf, Barceloneta beach, the labyrinth-like … You could easily spend nothing on seeing some of the best sights in Europe and save your euros for a delicious, authentic Catalan meal instead.
Barcelona is one of the best places in Europe for foodies. Mercado de la Boqueria is a feast for the senses, and you have to visit Barcelona’s where you can pull up a chair (or stand up and enjoy) some fresh seafood and a glass or two of local cava.
With a good few days to fill, this gives you time to take a day off for some real rest and relaxation. Barceloneta beach is the nearest and most buzzing beach of them all, so if you like a pumping atmosphere as you bask in the sun and swim in the Mediterranean Sea, this is the beach for you. However, our top bit of advice amongst our many is to go a little off-the-beaten-track for some real tranquility. There are some amazing that many sun-seekers miss out on, but now you’re in the know, make the most of the more peaceful parts of the city’s coastline. After some chill time you’ll be ready to spend the night partying at beach bars (chiringuitos) and nightclubs - partygoers won’t be let down by Barcelona’s nightlife.
Looking for more advice on backpacking across Europe? Check out the