Europe trip-planning guide: Itineraries, transport, accommodation, city passes, and more
No one can deny that Europe contains most of the world’s best and most famous tourist cities. If you are from any other part of the world, this continent is probably the focus of many of your travel goals and dreams. With 50 countries to choose from, planning a trip is no easy task for most of us. As someone who has been traveling and researching this region for most of his life, I’ve had the privilege to see a lot of it and share my research and advice on this website.
Many visitors to Priceoftravel.com first end up here while searching for trip-planning information for an upcoming Europe trip. I get questions and comments every day on dozens of articles, and often the answers are already contained elsewhere on this site. Finally, I’ve gotten around to listing all of the most popular articles, many of which are frequently updated, in one place.
How to use this page for Europe trip planning
Like almost everything else on this site, this page is built to be scanned first rather than read. This is a long page with scores of (hopefully) useful links, but you should be able to scan it all in a minute or two.
So I invite you to scan all the way down and see which articles interest you or might help answer your current questions. If you don’t see an answer to your current question on this page, please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom and I will try to answer it, and perhaps create a new article for the site from it.
Choosing your primary destinations
Even with 50 countries in Europe, some are obviously far more popular than others. Below you’ll find links to two lists that rank the 56 most popular tourist cities from cheapest to most expensive.
Europe Backpacker Index: 56 cities from cheap to expensive
The list above ranks cities based on hostel prices and other budget-travel expenses. If you are trying to see the most of Europe on a modest budget, then this list will show you which cities will allow you to see a lot without spending a fortune.
Europe 3-Star Traveler Index: 56 cities from cheap to expensive
This list above ranks the same destinations for 3-Star or mid-range travelers based on sharing a hotel room and taking taxis rather than public transportation. The lists are similar in general, but it’s still better to use the one that suits your style best.
One of the things you’ll notice if you compare the two lists above is that the cheaper cities in Europe (including Krakow and Budapest) are only a bit more expensive to stay in 3-star hotels compared to hostel dorms.
Budget and weather information for Europe’s best cities
The foundation of this website are what we call “City pages” that list the current prices and ranges for hotels, hostels, food, drinks, transportation, attractions and tours for over 200 cities around the world. We have almost 70 of these City pages for Europe and you can find them from any page on the site by going through the main navigation menu at the top of the page under the word “Europe.”
The most popular of these pages are listed below, in several categories that you should find useful.
Europe’s 5 best amazing cities for first-time visitors
In the article below you can read exactly why we’ve chosen the above 5 cities as the ones to start with if you can.
First trip to Europe: Focus on these 5 cities
Europe’s 6 best cities for budget travelers
Not everyone can afford to go straight to Paris, London, and Rome on their first or second trip to Europe, so below you’ll find our recommendations for the cities that are great AND affordable. Just to be clear, there are cheaper cities in Europe than the ones below, but not great cities for first-time visitors.
And again, in the article below you can see more details on why we recommend these cheaper cities and several others.
Price of Travel’s 11 best-value cities in Europe
Europe itinerary advice for the most popular countries
Once you have an idea of at least a couple cities that you want to visit, it’s time to start figuring out your full itinerary. It’s wasteful and unwise to fly from one corner of the continent to another just to see a few cities, so you are going to want to choose groups of cities that are reasonably close together.
The articles below are the most popular ones that help you figure out exactly where you should consider going when you are visiting these countries and regions.
Best France and Italy itinerary for 2 to 3 weeks
Europe’s two most popular countries are often visited as a pair, and the article above lists the highlights in an order that can also work as an itinerary.
The most common way of doing this is to start in Paris and work your way to Rome, or the other way around. But this article will also help you plan an Italy trip on its own, with recommended nights in each main destination.
Where to go in Germany for 1 to 3 weeks
Everyone has heard of the excellent tourist cities of Munich and Berlin, but they’ve also heard of the boring and skippable city of Frankfurt. The article above gives you the best choices, including some lesser known destinations.
Whether you are going to spend your entire trip in Germany, or just pop in for a couple stops as part of a longer tour within Europe, this article will give you the best choices and how long to stay in each.
Best Europe itinerary for cheap and great cities
If you are starting with a low budget but you still want to hit many of Europe’s best highlights, the article above is a good place to start.
You’ll get the best combination of cheap cities that are also world-class destinations that you can string together for an unforgettable and affordable trip.
Where to go in Switzerland to see the Alps and best scenery
When first-time visitors are putting together an itinerary they often list Switzerland as a must-see destination. It’s a gorgeous country and this article will tell you exactly where you should go and where to avoid.
The key, as you’ll see in the article linked above, is to minimize your time in the large cities and focus as much time as possible in the areas around Interlaken and Lucerne. It’s all explained in detail.
Iceland prices and cheap travel advice
Iceland is a mysterious and amazing country that most people know is fairly expensive. The article above tells you how much things in Iceland cost, and how to visit on a surprisingly modest budget.
An ideal visit to Iceland will be at least a week and include a lap around the famous and stunning Ring Road. But even if you only have 2 or 3 days, this is a country worth a visit, and you’ll want to come back for a longer stay.
Norway prices and where to go
Norway is easily one of the most expensive countries in Europe, but also one of the most beautiful. Fortunately, not everything is overly expensive, and this article tells you where to go and how much money you’ll need.
The scenery is the main draw here, and a fjord cruise can be an excellent way to see a lot in a relatively short time. We cover the best options for all of it here.
Europe’s 14 cheapest beach destinations
If you are looking for wide, sandy beaches, then Europe isn’t a great place to find them. Still, the region does have quite a few good ones, including these that are in the budget price range.
Europe itinerary Q & A: Ask your questions and I’ll answer
Once you have a general itinerary idea, the article above should help you organize it and trim it down to something that is both enjoyable and efficient. If you still have questions, just ask in the comments in that article and I’ll answer them just as I have with hundreds already.
Europe transportation information and advice
After you’ve decided the main destinations you want to visit, you are going to want to know how to get there and how to get around. I’ve written many articles that should help you make these decisions with confidence.
Cheapest Europe airports to fly into from North America
Generally speaking it will be best and cheapest to fly in and out of one of the larger cities you want to visit, but you can see on this list that some are cheaper than others and you might save money by flying into another airport.
You might also discover another city that you can afford to visit because fares into some cities are surprisingly cheap.
How early should you buy flights for the cheapest fare?
When to buy your airline tickets is a complicated topic, and the article above is dedicated to answering it with all the most recent information available.
Should you buy a Eurail Pass?
Eurail Passes are an awesome tool for some kinds of Europe trips, but certainly not for all of them. The article above should help you decide your best strategy.
Should you buy Europe train tickets in advance?
Even if you don’t buy a Eurail Pass you are probably want to get around Europe by train. The article above gives you all the details for when to buy tickets and where to buy them at the lowest prices.
Which European trains require reservations: Here is the list
Eurail Pass holders actually do need to make seat reservations on many trains, and the list above gives you that list and the prices.
Night trains in Europe: Here’s what you should know
There is something exotic and romantic about taking a “night train” between European cities, waking up in a new city. But they aren’t as enjoyable as you might expect, and the article above explains it all.
Europe city attraction passes: Reviews and advice
Hopefully you have heard of “city passes” where you pay one price and get admission to most of a city’s top attractions and often public transportation. For some travelers they are an excellent tool to save money and fit more into your visit because they often allow you to skip the long ticket-buying queues. But for other travelers they are a waste of money or something to cause stress as they try to get their money’s worth from them.
The detailed reviews of the most popular city cards below should help you determine whether they are right for you or not, and with special discount codes in many cases.
Europe accommodation advice
Less than a decade ago, the only choice most travelers would make when planning a Europe trip would be whether they were going to stay in hostels or in hotels. Now, short-term apartment rentals are easy to find in every major city on the continent. Sometimes they are great value but not always. The articles below should help you figure out what might be best for you.
How to find cheap short-stay apartments in Europe
By now everyone has heard of Airbnb, but finding and booking those individual units can sometimes be a hassle. Fortunately, there are many other ways to find apartments in Europe, and many of them are cheaper than the airbnb listings in the same city. The article above explains it all.
Europe hostels: Don’t make these 7 mistakes when choosing
Europe’s largest cities have literally dozens of hostels to choose from, and the one you wind up in will have a huge impact on how enjoyable your visit is. The article above explains what to look for, and what to avoid.
People often ask me for specific hotel and hostel recommendations in each city. It’s very hard to keep track of them because popular hotels usually end up raising their rates to the point that they aren’t obvious bargains anymore. Still, the articles below should be helpful because they recommend 6 to 8 hotels and hostels in each city, and tell you why certain neighborhoods are better than others.
- Recommended good-value London hostels and hotels
- Recommended good-value Paris hostels and hotels
- Recommended good-value Amsterdam hostels and hotels
- Recommended good-value Rome hostels and hotels
- Recommended good-value Berlin hotels
- Recommended good-value Prague hotels
- Recommended good-value Barcelona hotels
- Recommended good-value Madrid hotels
- Recommended good-value Venice hotels
- Recommended good-value Istanbul hotels
Thank you very much for suggestions.. Will go through those articles and will seek your help/guidance when and where required 🙂
Thank you once again
First I would like to Thank as well as Congratulate you for the fantastic information you have posted here.
Secondly we would need your advice on a trip we are planning in Late June/early July this year to Europe. We are 3 friends with families currently living in 3 different countries(India, US, and Australia) who are planning for a Europe trip together in Late June/Early July.
As this will be our first trip to Europe, we need your suggestion on places/itinerary and what could be the budget(accommodation and travel with in Europe – considering a 3 star hotel accommodation). The duration of the trip we are planning is for 2 weeks.
Your help and guidance would be highly appreciated…
I think most of my best advice, at least to start your planning, is found on this article about best Europe itineraries for first-time visitors. The article mentions different itineraries at different budget levels. If you want a wonderful Europe experience in some of the more affordable countries you can focus on Budapest, Prague, Berlin, and Krakow, for example. I highly recommend getting around by train, and train tickets can be quite affordable as long as you buy them at least a month or so in advance. For that reason, it’s best to choose groups of cities that are reasonable train rides from each other.
I also strongly recommend spending 3 nights in almost any European city you visit, so if you’ve got 14 days I’d plan for 4 or perhaps 5 total cities. If you try to see more places it means you end up spending too much of your trip on trains and checking in and out of hotels, and it costs more to move around more as well. Have a look at that article and I’ll be happy to help you plan more as you go. -Roger
Hi Roger, Thanks for your comments. The reason for the stopovers in Cologne and Mainz is that we want to take the train along side the Rhine River instead of taking a cruise for 7-8 days which would add to the total days.
Hi Roger, I was extremely interested to read your comments to others on here. We are 2 late 60 year old women from New Zealand travelling to Europe for approx 6 weeks. For me it will be the first time in Europe and probably only time.
we have been working on an itinerary but cannot decide the best way to go – whether to fly into Paris and start our trip there or into Rome or Barcelona. We are doing the trip by rail which includes the trip from Amsterdam to Cologne and Mainz along the Rhine River. The itinerary we have worked out so far is –
Auckland, New Zealand — 1 day Arrive Morning Depart Night
Paris, France — 4 nights
Brussels, Belgium — 2 nights
Amsterdam, Holland — 2 nights
Cologne, Germany — 1 night
Mainz, Germany — 1 night
Vienna, Austria — 3 nights
Venice, Italy — 1 night
Rome, Italy — 5 night day trips to Naples, Florence, Pisa
Milan, Italy — 2 nights
Nice, France — 2 nights
Lyon, France — 2 nights
Avignon, France — 2 nights
Toulouse, France — i night
Bordeaux, France — 1 night
San Sebastian – Donostia, Spain — 1 night
Porto, Portugal— 2 nights
Lisbon, Portugal — 3 nights
Faro, Portugal — 1 night
Seville, Spain — 2 nights
Madrid, Spain — 2 nights
Barcelona, Spain — 4 nights
We haven’t booked accommodation as yet or airfares. Our planned dates are 28th April 2020 to mid June.
Your comments on this would be appreciated and hopefully crystalize our thinking.
This looks like an epic trip. My first bit of advice would be to at least skim this article about why staying 3 nights in almost any European city is ideal. The short version is that it’s hard to do much or any sightseeing on a travel day, so if you travel every other day or every day you won’t actually get to see many of the things you’ve flown all that way to see. Venice is a rare example of a city that is compact enough (and so crowded that) staying about 24 hours is worthwhile. You’ve got a few other smaller cities on your list that could be enjoyed in two days if you were in a hurry, but generally I’d limit the number of cities you visit and try to stay 3 nights in each. That gives you two full sightseeing days between those transit days.
Some of the places on your list that you might just skip are Cologne (although you can see the cathedral and historic town center in a few hours because they are literally right next to the train station), Mainz, Milan (it’s actually not much of a tourist city), Lyon, and Faro (although the whole area is nice).
I’ll be happy to help you figure out the specifics of this trip as it’s coming together, but I really would recommend against all of those 1-night stays (except Venice) and even most of those 2-night stays. I hope this helps. -Roger
After reading your posts I was very impressed with your responses, so here I am Looking for help! It’s our 1st time to Europe this August. We are 4 adults with 4 teens ( 19, 18, 16, 14) . We have never been to this part of the world as we are coming from the Caribbean . We are super excited . We haven’t book anything apart from flying into London on August 2nd and out on August 16th . We were hoping to use the Eurorail to do all or most of the travels.Everyone is ready to be on the go go go for those 14 days . so Was wondering if you had any advice for us . We were hoping to see may be London, Paris, Barcelona, Venice and Amsterdam. We looking to capture just highlights of each country. Please let me know what countries you would recommend instead. What kind of itinerary would you recommend? Are there places you would also recommend to stay as hotels for 8 can be quite pricey? Your assistance is greatly appreciated. Much thanks .
This sounds like an amazing trip and I’m sure you’ll have a great time. There are many links I hope you’ve looked at from the article above. Specifically I’ll recommend best Europe destinations in August, as well as first-time Europe itinerary ideas. Between those two articles you’ll get most of my thoughts on your specific trip.
As for the folks who want to “go, go, go” you might have a scan of this article on why 3 nights in each city is usually ideal.
All of that said, your plan for 5 cities could work pretty well. London, Paris, and Amsterdam are all amazing and easy to get between in a few hours each. And those 3 along with Venice all make my Top 5 European cities for first-time visitors. If you substitute Rome for Barcelona you’d be covering all 5 of them and that would make a fantastic trip. All of those cities are going to be pretty crowded in August (although Paris is actually nearly empty in mid August), and Barcelona has become so crowded in summer that locals are trying to control tourism. I’d probably save Barcelona for a future trip because you can easily combine it with other cities in Spain and Portugal, but on this trip it’s quite out of the way.
It’s good that you are considering hotel alternatives because nearly all hotel rooms in those cities (and all over Europe) are much smaller than hotels in the Caribbean or the US. Some European hotels offer rooms that can fit 3 or 4 guests, but those typically are one queensize bed and 1 or 2 small beds, with barely enough room to walk around them much less put your bags. Fortunately, Airbnbs and other short term apartment rentals are now easy to find in all of those cities. Those apartments tend to be located a bit out of the best tourist districts, but you might be able to find places with room for all 8 of you and it would be quite a bit cheaper than 4 small double hotel rooms.
Another option that would be even cheaper would be to book dorm rooms in hostels. It would be easy to find dorm rooms with exactly 8 beds and if you book all 8 of them they’d be private, usually with a large private bathroom. Some hostels are more comfortable than others, of course, but most of them have really convenient locations as well as helpful services including a self-catering kitchen where you can save more money by making some of your own meals. I’d start with Airbnb.com and homeaway.com and if you don’t find an apartment for 8 you can check hostelworld.com for possible dorm options. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger
We are attending our son’s wedding in May of 2019. The wedding is in Tenerife, Canary Islands. This is our first trip to Europe and we are totally overwhelmed in planning. We are planning 2-3 weeks for the trip. We are looking at flying out of NY. That’s as far as we get. We don’t have a clue where to fly in to or where to go. We would like to visit France, and any other place we can get to reasonably (cost and time wise) by plane, train or automobile. Can you get us rolling down the right road?
I’ll be happy to help you get started. First off, if you haven’t seen it yet you might want to at least scan my article on my best first-time Europe itinerary suggestions. Those ideas are meant to at least help people choose logical groups of popular destinations, and then customize things from there.
From Tenerife it will be cheap and easy to fly to Barcelona, which is one of the most impressive cities for first-time visitors. I’d also highly recommend including Paris in your trip because it really DOES live up to the hype. You can reach Paris by train from Barcelona in about 6 hours, which is about the same time it takes to fly when you add in the airport transportation.
Aside from those you might want to include London and/or Italy, where the Big 3 tourist cities are Rome, Florence, and Venice. Think about those options and I’ll be happy to help you build your trip from there. -Roger
Thanks a lot for the great information about traveling in Europe.
I am planning a trip to Europe with my husband and kids (9yo, 7yo and 4yo) in end of Mar 2019 (Arrive at Zurich Airport on 20 Mar 2018 at 12.30pm and depart from LHR Airport (London) on 30 Mar 2019 (11.55pm).
We chose Swiss because our kids love snow and my husband and I would like to experience a stay in small village with Swiss Alps view. We plan to spend 2-3 nights in Swiss and our places to visit would be Lucerne (1 night), Gimmelwald/Murren/Wengen (1-2 nights). We also plan to experience Bern for a couple of hours before we head to Amsterdam.
We are thinking of stopping by at any cities in Germany on our way to Amsterdam. Is this advisable and if yes, what would be the cities that worth to visit in Germany for a short period of time.
If we want to go to Designer Outlet Roermond, where should we stop on our way to Amsterdam?
In Amsterdam, we plan to spend 2 nights there and our places of interest is tulips at Keukenhof Garden,
From Amsterdam to London, it is advisable for us to stop by in any cities in Belgium? If yes, can you recommend us those places?
We are thinking of staying in London for 2 days for last minutes shopping before we depart to Malaysia at 11pm on 30 April 2019
What would you think about the itinerary? Does this doable or too ambitious?
Can you suggest us the appropriate transport for this trip (inter cities and countries) that is cost saving and less hassle as we bring small kids along. My husband recommends us to travel by car from Swiss to Amsterdam. What is your say about this?
Arrival: Thurs, 21 Mar 12.30pm (Zurich)
Departure: 30 Mar 2019 21.55 pm (Heathrow)
21/3 : Lucerne
22/3 : Lucerne – Gimmelwald or Murren or Wengen
23/3 : Gimmelwald or Murren or Wengen – Bern
25/3 : Cologne
26/3 : Amsterdam
27/3 : Amsterdam or other cities?
29/3 : London
30/3 : London
Really appreciate your advice. Have no idea on how to work on this itinerary, transportation etc.
Thanks a lot!
I’m happy to try to help. I actually DO think your plan is a bit too ambitious and it would be much more enjoyable if you spent a bit more time in a couple fewer stops. As you might have seen, I strongly recommend spending 3 nights in almost any city you visit because going from a hotel in one city to a hotel in another city always takes 4 to 8 hours, depending on the train distance, and it’s hard to do much sightseeing on those days. London and Amsterdam are both packed with sights and if you only have one full day in each one you’ll only be able to see a few things before you are ready to move on again.
Cologne is actually a city that is small enough to enjoy in a day or so because the historic city center and the cathedral are both right next to the train station and you can see them in 6 hours or so total. Venice is another small city that you can enjoy in a day.
So really my recommendation to consider would be to spend 4 nights in Switzerland, probably two in Lucerne and two in the Interlaken area. Then it’s probably most efficient to take a train to Zurich and then fly to Amsterdam for 3 nights, and then take the Eurostar train to London for 3 nights. The trains on those routes are very nice and good for children because there is enough room to move around. The Zurich Airport is right on the main train line so it’s a pretty easy one, and Amsterdam Airport is only 20 minutes from the city center by a direct train, so that flight would be less of a hassle than the long train trip (10+ hours). If you want to keep Switzerland to 3 nights and still do a bit of Germany by train I think Cologne for 1 night is your best option, although I’d still recommend the flight because it saves so much time.
I’m happy to help more as you are figuring your plans out and I can even give you recommendations if you are sure you want to go as quickly as on this first itinerary. And I’m a big fan of Malaysia as well. -Roger