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Here's How to Plan Your Very First Trip to Europe, According to a Professional Traveler

Heading to Europe for the very first time? We've got some advice for you.

first trip europe

Whether you study abroad , backpack solo, or go with a group for your first trip to Europe, it's an experience that will change your life — and alter your perspective in all the best ways — forever. Even if you visited the continent with your parents as a kid, your first "solo" adventure to Europe as a young adult promises to reward you with rich memories. From digging into freshly baked pizza in Italy to picnicking beneath the Eiffel Tower with a still-warm baguette, it's a trip filled with experiences you'll talk about for the rest of your life.

Though I had visited Italy with my parents as a kid, my own first adventure to Europe as a young adult was in 2015. I was 21, newly married, and heartbroken at the loss of my father four months earlier. I had been studying British literature and European history in my college classes and was eager to make real-world connections to my curriculum. In preparation, my husband and I watched every Rick Steves video on YouTube and movies like Under the Tuscan Sun , Midnight in Paris , Notting Hill , and Eat, Pray, Love . The spring semester of my junior year ended, and we set off with nothing but backpacks containing a few (and I do mean a few) sets of clothes, a budget of about $100 per day, and five short weeks to see it all.

Besides opening our eyes, pushing us to our limits, and expanding our perspectives in ways that nothing else could, that trip ignited in us a shared passion for travel — and for encouraging others to do the same. Read on for tips for planning your first trip to Europe like a pro.

Get Around With a Eurail Pass

Do you need a Eurail pass to get around Europe? Maybe not, but I devoted a large chunk of our shoestring budget to it on my first trip, and I've bought one for every extended trip I've taken to Europe since then — even now that I've hit the ancient age of 28 and no longer qualify forEurail's discounted youth pricing — so that should tell you something.

Most of Europe is well connected via a vast rail network spanning the continent. A Eurail pass — available exclusively to non-Europeans — makes it hassle-free to hop between countries and even navigate regional trains. Depending on your travel plans, you can purchase passes for specific countries or regions and choose whether you need unlimited use or a set number of travel days.

Remember that once you're in Europe, hops between major cities are often surprisingly low-price (I've seen flights for as little as $6), but often a train is the best choice when you factor in time, convenience, price, and the chance to watch the world go by from your window. Splurge on first-class passes , and you'll always have a comfortable seat.

Plan Your Trip Geographically

Make a list of all your must-hit places, then look at where they fall on a map — connect the dots, and you have your route. Maybe you start in Spain and work your way east, or fly into London, take the Chunnel to Paris , and work your way down to Italy. Whatever you choose, ensure that your route makes sense geographically so you don't waste time (or money) crisscrossing the continent.

Keep Seasons in Mind

Europe is a large continent covering a variety of climates. It may seem obvious, but if you're planning a summer trip, don't expect to frolic in fields of Dutch tulips (that happens in the spring) or ski the Austrian slopes (that would be a winter thing). And as enchanting as the European Christmas markets look on Instagram, don't be disappointed when you put two and two together and realize that they'll only make it to your feed if you're going to Europe in November or December.

An Italian summer is nothing short of sweltering and ice-cold AC isn't a given, so if you're planning to cover all of Rome on foot at high noon, you may want to rethink that. (I learned this the hard way and damn near had a heat stroke.) A midday siesta is common in countries like Spain and Italy for a reason, so do as the locals do and take the summer weather into account before you overexert yourself.

Book in Advance

A PSA for type-A travelers like me: You don't have to have your entire trip planned out before leaving home. (I had a down-to-the-minute itinerary mapped out for my type-B husband and me on our first venture to Europe, and he almost left me as I dragged him from museum to walking tour to restaurant reservation and back again.) Part of the fun — especially if you have a Eurail pass — is going where the wind blows you and deciding what appeals to you upon arrival.

Pro tip: Taking a bus tour on your first day in a destination is a great way to get the lay of the land and cover a lot of ground quickly (without exhausting yourself).

Make a general timeline and book your departure flight from the USA to Europe before you leave home, but perhaps wait until you've hopped the pond to book your flight back. You may decide to stay longer in a particular country or run out of time to make it all the way to Portugal, where you originally intended to fly out of. Create a general outline, but leave some of your trip open and stay flexible.

The one thing you may want to do in advance is reserve hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs because they can fill up during the popular summer months. That's why it's helpful to have a general idea of where you'll be and when — just don't cling to your plan at the expense of a spontaneous sidetrack or two.

What to Bring to Europe

Start working on your packing list a few months beforehand. What you bring will vary depending on destinations, length of trip, and your fussiness level, but there are a few non-negotiables.

Don't leave home without:

  • Your passport
  • Converters for European outlets (both UK and EU, as needed)
  • A credit card and/or a debit card for getting cash out of an ATM (you'll get a better rate this way than doing it through a currency-exchange counter)
  • COVID-era items such as your vaccine card, printed copies of your negative COVID test results (if required) , and a few self-test kits
  • A secure envelope to hold all of these important documents (including a few color copies of your passport) in one place
  • An international plan added to your phone (unless you're a T-Mobile customer)
  • Global Entry (not necessary, but a definite plus when you return to the USA)

You'll also find life a lot easier with the Google Translate app and the XE currency conversion app on your smartphone. Before you depart, download the countries you'll be visiting to ensure offline availability. The Been app , where you can track which countries you've visited and how much of the world you've seen, is another fun app for travelers, especially on a trip like this where you'll be checking off a lot of countries.

And a note on packing light : You'll need nothing more than a backpack and a carry-on, max. Trust me. (There are laundry rooms at every hostel and laundromats in every city.)

Where to Go on Your First Trip to Europe

If you only have time or the budget to see a few places, start with the basics . You've likely learned about major cities like London, Paris , and Rome since you can remember — now's the time to see them through your own eyes.

Once you have the must-hit places on your itinerary, plan some additional stops according to your interests. There's a lot to see in Italy outside of Rome — I'd include Venice, Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast, Florence, and the surrounding Tuscan wine country on any trip to Italy, especially for first-timers.

Maybe you've been digging into your ancestry and found that you have Hungarian heritage like I have — Budapest was a shoo-in for us this summer — or perhaps you've always dreamed of hiking the Swiss Alps, clinking glasses in a German beer hall, or soaking up the sun in the Greek Isles .

Maybe you want to visit Poland and pay your respects at Auschwitz — I consider this sobering, heart-wrenching experience a must — or try every waffle you come across in Belgium. You can do it all if you have enough time, but start by arranging a shortlist with your top priorities and then tack on additional destinations if you have space.

These are some of the best places to visit in Europe, but the best destinations for you will depend on your interests, priorities, and goals. If you're purely on "vacation" with no remote work or school obligations, two to three days in each place should suffice, but if you can't devote your full attention each day to exploring, then you'll want a little extra time in each city to do it justice.

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blue domes of oia santorini, one of the best places to visit when traveling to europe for the first time

Your 13-Step Guide to Traveling to Europe for the First Time

There is absolutely nothing like traveling to Europe for the first time–and we want to help make your experience as magical as possible!

It has been about a decade since our very first trip to Europe, and I still remember it like it was yesterday.

The thrill of the plane touching down in Paris , the confusion of taking the RER B train into the city, and the absolute electricity that shot through my veins as we exited the train stop and I marveled at the real-life version of Saint-Germain-des-Prés unfolding before my eyes (I swear, actual church bells were going off)–I remember it all.

I remember the next trip, too, where we upped the stakes: instead of a week in Paris, we spent 2.5 weeks exploring Krakow ,  Budapest ,  Plitvice Lakes National Park ,  Zadar ,  Dublin , and the  Cliffs of Moher .

… and then we quit our jobs to travel the world , and we’ve only gotten more obsessed with traveling Europe since.

kate storm in a black dress at the top of the bell tower, one of the top activities saint emilion france

Some links in this post may be affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please see our disclosure policy for more detail.

In the decade since that first trip to Paris, we’ve thrown ourselves into exploring the world, traveling full-time for 4+ years, visiting 50+ countries (including most countries in Europe), and even living in Portugal along the way.

One of my absolute favorite parts of my job, though, is to help people–primarily Americans like myself–plan their first trip to Europe.

Because here’s the thing: neither my husband Jeremy nor I ever had a passport or left the USA until we were adults.

We taught ourselves how to travel Europe and the world at large from scratch, and I remember the fear we felt and the mistakes we made along the way almost as well as I remember the beauty of that first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.

If you find yourself with a major case of European wanderlust and a dizzying array of questions about how to turn those travel dreams into your actual first trip to Europe, this checklist is for you.

Here’s your step-by-step guide to traveling to Europe for the first time!

Table of Contents

Ready to Plan Your First Europe Trip?

Our top 2 tips for visiting europe for the first time, planning your first trip to europe: your 13-step checklist, faq about traveling to europe for the first time.

kate storm jeremy storm and ranger storm in plaza de espana seville spain

Helping people plan trips is our passion and purpose here on Our Escape Clause.

Once you read this step-by-step checklist for planning your first trip to Europe, we’d love to help you continue to plan your travels in more detail!

We have around a dozen general Europe travel guides on our website, including everything from suggested Europe travel itineraries to where to find the most magical Christmas markets , plus literally hundreds of posts on specific European destinations!

We’ll link relevant blog posts throughout this Europe travel guide, but if you’re curious about our coverage of any particular place, you can use the search bar in the top right corner of the site (or on the pop-out menu if you’re reading on your phone) to see what we’ve written.

You can also check out our destinations page to browse by country!

Postcard view of Plitvice Lakes Croatia showing lake and waterfalls seen from above in a vertical image

We have a lot to say when it comes to Europe travel tips ( here are 75 of our best ones ), but specifically for travelers visiting Europe for the first time, there are 2 pieces of advice we’d give above all others.

First, resist the urge to overcrowd your itinerary.

I go into this more below, but believe us, we absolutely relate: I still have to fight this urge with every trip we take!

However, moving around constantly is a surefire way to end up overwhelmed, exhausted, and not getting to appreciate all of the magnificent places you’re seeing.

Best Views in Prague: View from Old Tower Bridge

Second, know that throwing down money and committing to finally taking the trip of your dreams is often the hardest part–once you board the plane, everything gets easier.

I vividly remember how nervous we were to book our first (and second, and third) trips abroad.

For 2 people who had never even had passports until they were adults, we had a lot to learn!

But at the same time–I’m so, so, so glad we took the plunge, and you will be too.

After all, millions of people travel to foreign countries each year, and there’s absolutely no reason that you can’t be among them.

You’ve got this!

Now onto the details…

kate storm standing on the edge of the island san giorgio maggiore

Step 1: Get inspired and brainstorm where you want to go.

Without a doubt, the first step to planning a trip to Europe is brainstorming all of the places you want to visit!

If you’re anything like us, odds are high that the list is longer than what you could rationally accomplish in a decade, let alone on a single vacation, but it never hurts to dream!

Whether you want to road trip Tuscany , wander the streets of Paris , marvel at the Alhambra in Spain, hike on a glacier in Iceland, stroll along the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland , or something radically different, pay attention to what calls to you the most.

There are no wrong answers when deciding which destinations are most interesting to you!

kate storm and jeremy storm on a glacier tour iceland

Step 2: Check visa requirements for Europe.

While most readers of this blog post, such as Americans like us and other people from non-European, strong-passport countries like Canada and Australia, will likely not need a visa to take their dream trip to Europe, it’s always best to triple-check!

(And, in a post-2020 world, we all know more than ever that expectations can change quickly.)

As you research what you need to travel to Europe, you’ll likely come across many references to the Schengen Area .

These are the 26 European countries that share open borders with each other.

kate storm standing in front of 3 blue domes on Santorini, Honeymoon in Santorini

Americans and many others can visit these countries for up to 90 days out of any 180 without a visa.

In the future, the ETIAS system –essentially an e-visa procured by filling out paperwork online before traveling, which will cost a nominal 7 Euro–will come into effect for the Schengen Area.

ETIAS is currently slated to begin operating sometime in 2024, though the starting date has been pushed back several times.

Other countries–like the UK, Montenegro, and Romania, for example–are not part of this system, but if you come from a country with a strong passport, you likely won’t need a visa there either.

A few nearby places that might be on your radar, like Turkey , require an e-visa for Americans to enter.

kate storm in cascais portugal on a day trip from lisbon

Step 3: Shop for flights (and be as flexible as possible).

Once you have a list of your most-wanted travel destinations and have confirmed you’re clear to travel, it’s time to shop for your flights to Europe!

We recommend being as flexible as possible during this process, either with your travel dates, your destinations, or ideally, both.

Flight prices and routes can vary dramatically depending on where you’re coming from and where you’re going, which is one reason why we don’t recommend finalizing your Europe itinerary until you have your flights purchased (more on that below).

Ideally, you’ll want to start and end your first Europe trip in a major airport hub.

This doesn’t necessarily need to be the same hub, though!

Ryanair plane parked on the tarmac with people boarding--you have to be extra careful to pack all your in flight essentials when taking a budget flight

While one-way tickets can be pricier than round-trip ones, if you’re flexible on your dates  and  destinations (so deciding which cities to start and end in partially based on price), you can usually find excellent deals.

This is exactly how we ended up flying into Krakow and out of Dublin during our first multi-country trip to Europe!

As far as airports go, for those of you coming from the USA (or anywhere in North America, really), you’ll want to potentially check ticket prices for London, Madrid , Dublin, Paris ,  Lisbon , Frankfurt,  Amsterdam , and  Milan .

That’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but there are often flight deals to and from these cities.

Kate Storm and Jeremy Storm in gardens of Madrid Royal Palace, an excellent stop on any 3 day Madrid itinerary

Step 4: Narrow down your itinerary for your first Europe trip.

Now that you’ve scored a great flight deal on the “bookends” of your trip, it’s time to fill in the rest of your itinerary for traveling Europe for the first time!

As we mentioned above, the biggest challenge here for most travelers is to not bite off more than they can chew and travel too fast.

Trust me, we understand the temptation–I still have to trim destinations from every. single. trip. that we plan, because my overwhelming desire to do it all fights with logic every step of the way.

I promise, though, you will have a much better trip if you slow it down.

Ideally, allow at least 2 full days (typically not including days you travel to or from the destination, though there are exceptions) to each “base” or city.

Staying in one place for 3 or 4 days is even better, and will give you time for a day trip or two.

kate storm and ranger storm in menerbes luberon valley france

We have several suggested Europe itineraries outlined here , and can highly recommend all of them!

However, there are truly infinite possibilities when it comes to structuring your first Europe trip.

When it comes to deciding exactly which of your dream destinations make the cut, we recommend letting geography be the tiebreaker.

For example, if you’re trying to decide whether to visit Amsterdam or Budapest on a trip where you fly into Paris, Amsterdam is the clear winner.

Kate Storm and Jeremy Storm wearing winter coats on the edge of a canal in Amsterdam in December, facing each other

If you fly into Vienna instead of Paris, though… Budapest it is!

Other factors to keep in mind when narrowing down your itinerary include seasonality/weather and your budget.

Using Google Flights and searching the general term “Europe” in the “Where To?” box can be a great way to find unexpected flight deals!

(Don’t forget to play around with the map, zooming in and out on different regions–you might be surprised at what deals you find).

Best Things to Do in Budapest: Imre Nagy Statue

Step 5: Finalize your budget for traveling to Europe for the first time.

Now that you know exactly when your trip to Europe is happening and where you are going, it’s time to finalize your travel budget!

We recommend taking the total amount you hope to spend in Europe, subtracting any splurges or major expenses you know are coming (a pricey tour, some clothes shopping, etc.), and then dividing the remaining amount by the number of days you’ll be traveling in Europe.

Voila–you have your daily Europe travel budget!

This is the number you should try to stay under each day when you add up the amount you spend on food, activities, lodging, and intra-city transportation.

We have used this simple strategy to budget our trips for years and detail it more thoroughly in our travel budgeting guide .

kate storm in front of igrejo do carmo azulejos, one of the best places to visit in porto in a day

Step 6: Book some of your accommodation.

Once you have your plane tickets, a plan for where you’re going, and a budget set, it’s time to decide where to sleep!

We offer specific hotel suggestions in the vast majority of our destination-specific travel guides, but generally speaking, you’ll want to look for something well-reviewed (we aim for an 8.0 rating or better on Booking.com ) in a central location.

Also, keep an eye out for air conditioning and/or heating as the weather demands–those things are not a guarantee in all areas!

A very general rule to keep in mind when booking hotels?

The smaller the destination, the earlier you will want to book.

Somewhere like Cinque Terre simply doesn’t have as much lodging available as it does people who want to visit, while places like Paris are big enough to absorb their travelers in spite of their popularity.

Photo of skyline of Vernazza when approaching from Corniglia: making sure to see this view is one of our Cinque Terre tips!

As a result, tiny, popular places are where we tend to book our accommodation the earliest.

Of course, if you’re headed somewhere for a big event or festival–say Oktoberfest in Munich or Christmas markets in Salzburg –you’ll want to book ASAP.

We find virtually all of our accommodation (short-term apartment rentals included) via Booking.com these days.

If we get stuck, we may occasionally check Airbnb too, but as the years have gone by, prices and guest expectations have both increased dramatically, so we find ourselves using it much less than we once did.

kate storm jeremy storm and ranger storm on a balcony overlooking matera on a southern italy itinerary

Step 7: Figure out your inter-city (or country) transportation.

When it comes to traveling between each of your destinations during your vacation in Europe, you might find that you come up with quite a mix of methods!

Trains are our favorite way to travel in Europe–they’re simple, comfortable, safe, and extremely convenient for visiting most major cities (there are caveats to this, in places like the Balkans).

We would only recommend renting a car if you’re visiting the countryside somewhere.

Bled Island in the center of Lake Bled in Slovenia, a must-see during a Slovenia road trip itinerary

If your itinerary is a more typical first-timer’s route and sticks to major cities–something like London-Paris-Amsterdam–then a car is absolutely unnecessary.

Buses are our least favorite method, as they tend to be slow and uncomfortable, but are undoubtedly the cheapest.

Flights are by far and away the best option for extreme distances, but are cumbersome and tend to eat up an entire day.

And, finally: if you’re visiting Europe in the summer , don’t forget about ferries!

jeremy storm and ranger storm standing in front of the sea in otranto italy, ranger in a backpack

Step 8: Book some of your bucket-list travel experiences in Europe.

While simply existing in a gorgeous new destination is a bucket-list travel experience in and of itself, booking some unique tours and attractions can help make your trip even more memorable!

From touring the Colosseum at night to eating our way through Athens on an incredible food tour to snorkeling between 2 tectonic plates in Iceland, we have never been sorry to splurge on a memorable experience abroad.

(And yes, we paid our way on each of those tours–we don’t accept sponsored trips or tell anyone that we’re bloggers while there.)

kate storm overlooking the colosseum after hours

Booking your experiences in advance goes beyond the small group tours, though: skip-the-line tickets for major attractions like the Arc de Triomphe , Vatican Museums , and Sagrada Familia are so beneficial that I cannot sing their praises enough.

We never show up to a major attraction without booking tickets in advance these days (and it’s even more important in a post-2020 world).

We book our skip-the-line tickets and many of our tours through Get Your Guide .

For bespoke, small-group tours that go above and beyond the “normal” experience, we love Take Walks .

interior of the sagrada familia in barcelona spain, an amazing destination when traveling to europe for the first time

Step 9: Learn a little bit of the local language(s).

If you’re staying firmly on the tourist trail on your trip to Europe, you won’t necessarily  need  to speak any of the local language(s) to travel there.

… But you will almost certainly encounter some monolingual Europeans, and either way, it will definitely enhance your experience in the country to know a tiny bit of their language.

Simple phrases like hello, goodbye, please, thank you, you’re welcome, do you speak English, and the numbers 1-10 can go a long way!

If you’d like to go a bit further, learning to order in restaurants and read menus is both helpful and efficient.

In addition to being fun and practical to learn, it’s one of the conversations that you’re likely to have repeatedly enough during your travels that the phrases will potentially stick with you until long after your trip is over.

jeremy storm and ranger storm eating breakfast in venice italy--it's fun to be able to order in italian during your first trip to europe

Step 10: Make a packing list (and shop!).

Packing can often be one of the most unexpectedly stressful parts of getting ready for a trip, and even more so for your very first European vacation!

We have full suggested packing lists for Europe in spring , summer , winter , and fall , which go into far more detail than I have room for here.

Our absolute biggest advice for packing for Europe, though, is not to stress too much about it: just about anything you could possibly forget will be available there too!

For now, here are a few essentials that we absolutely recommend adding to your list:

Fun Things to Do in Dubrovnik: Kate Storm and Jeremy Storm on Dubrovnik city walls

Travel Adaptors for Europe — If you’re coming from outside of Europe, you’ll definitely need adaptors for your electronics.

Be sure to check the requirements for any particular country that you visit–the United Kingdom, for example, is well-known for using different plugs than most of the continent.

Comfortable Day Bag  — We currently use  Pacsafe’s sleek anti-theft backpack  and love it, but if you don’t want to shell out the cash for this trip, that’s totally understandable.

Just aim for something comfortable to wear, not flashy, and medium-sized–we used a  Northface Jester backpack  for years and loved it as well.

Jeremy Storm carrying a pacsafe backpack and wearing a gray jacket, looking out over Conor Pass in Ireland

Portable USB Charger — Don’t stress about your phone dying while you’re sightseeing: add a portable charger to your packing list for Europe.

Basic Medication  — Some people prefer to buy medication for basic headaches, fevers, and stomach aches as needed, but who wants to deal with language barriers when they’re sick?

I personally learned this lesson the hard way on our very first trip to Europe, and have never hopped continents without my own supply since.

grote markt in bruges belgium, a fun stop for your first time traveling europe

Step 11: Purchase travel insurance.

Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before jetting off to Europe!

While Europe is generally a perfectly safe place to travel, the reality is that traveling in general opens you up to vulnerabilities that you simply don’t have at home.

If you miss a plane or train, have your luggage get lost, get pickpocketed, or worse, get injured, you’ll be glad that you have insurance.

Given how inexpensive travel insurance is when purchased in advance (especially as compared to the price of plane tickets!), it’s well worth the investment.

Consider checking inclusions and prices with  Safety Wing  for your first trip to Europe.

kate storm in a navy blue dress in front of the marsaxlokk harbor, one of the best places to visit in malta

Step 12: Plan for your arrival.

The penultimate step of planning a trip to Europe is as simple as it is important: make an arrival plan.

When you arrive, you’re undoubtedly going to be exhausted, overwhelmed, and probably a bit jetlagged, too!

No matter how many times we step foot in a new country, it never stops being a tiny bit stressful, simply because there are a lot of variables at play in the first few hours of arriving somewhere new.

ranger storm overlooking toledo spain on his first vacation in europe

Make life easier on yourself by thinking ahead!

When learning how to travel to Europe, set aside time to figure out your exact steps for what to do after the plane lands.

That means knowing exactly how far away your hotel is, how you’ll get there from the airport (train, bus, rental car, taxi?).

If you’ll be traveling by taxi, look up what a reasonable price is at your destination and/or if there’s a set fare from the airport to the city center (in major cities, there often is).

Though it’s not strictly necessary, if you’d like to make arriving in Europe for the first time extra easy on yourself, consider treating yourself to an airport transfer when you arrive (like tours, you can often book these on Get Your Guide ).

Options like this one in Rome and this one in Paris can be a great way to make sure your very first Europe trip starts off on the right foot.

Kate Storm wearing a brown coat and blue backpack, looking up at a departures board in an airport. Her purse holds some of her long haul flight essentials!

Step 13: Have an amazing first trip to Europe!

Once you’ve done the planning… then it’s time for the fun part!

Enjoy every step of your first trip to Europe, from the confusing parts to the magical ones–and yes, both will probably end up with a prominent place in your memories.

If you’re anything like us, the odds are high that your first experience of traveling in Europe won’t be your last.

Once you start… it’s hard to stop.

kate storm and jeremy storm overlooking a balcony in wengen switerland jungfrau region

Every day, I wake up to emails from readers planning a trip to Europe.

I love answering emails (and yes, I will probably answer yours!), but there are definitely some frequently asked questions that come up often enough that they deserve a blanket response here.

These are some of the most common FAQs we see about traveling in Europe!

kate storm and jeremy storm sitting on a ledge overlooking cesky krumlov in winter

What’s the easiest way to get Euros and other currency?

The answer to this question has a significant caveat: be sure to check foreign transaction fees and ATM fees with your bank before leaving and let your financial institutions know that you’ll be abroad.

However, generally speaking, by far the easiest way to acquire a new currency when traveling in Europe is to simply withdraw money from the ATM when you arrive.

It has been years since we’ve done anything else, anywhere in the world!

Pena Palace in Sintra, an excellent day trip from Lisbon Portugal

When you’re at the ATM, be sure to opt to have the transaction go through in the currency you’re receiving (ie, Euros), not your home currency (ie, USD).

Your bank’s conversion rate will undoubtedly be better than the ATM’s!

Also, avoid Euronet-branded ATMs like the plague: they’re infamous for their extremely high fees.

Instead, look for an ATM operated by a local bank.

Paris in winter: view from Notre Dame

How should I get from city to city in Europe?

This depends entirely on your itinerary, but here’s a very short, very general answer.

Trains are the most comfortable, and often the most expensive.

Buses are the least comfortable, frequently take the longest, and are generally the cheapest.

Rental cars have their place–there are some truly phenomenal road trips in Europe –but rarely make sense for first-time travelers, who tend to bounce between major cities that are well-connected by rail.

kate storm boarding a train to sintra from lisbon portugal

Flights are the most cumbersome, as they burn time dealing with things like security and getting to and from airports located outside of city centers, and simply aren’t comfortable.

However, flights can be surprisingly affordable compared to trains and are obviously the fastest option for covering very long distances.

When traveling Europe for the first time, we recommend traveling by train wherever it makes sense, and filling in the other options as necessary ( here’s our full guide to train travel in Europe ).

Our first multi-country trip to Europe included an overnight train, a daytime train, 2 rental cars, and a flight–in other words, you can definitely mix and match!

Kate Storm waiting for a train on a platform in Luxembourg, as part of a travel Europe by train adventure across Europe

How can I use my phone in Europe?

If your phone is unlocked, the cheapest and easiest way to use your phone in Europe is to buy a local SIM card.

You can either do that on the ground once you land (there’s almost always a selection of helpful kiosks near the airport exit) or if you’d prefer not to worry about it once you arrive, you can buy one online before you go or even try out an eSIM card.

If your phone is not unlocked, or you just hate the idea of changing your SIM card, check with your carrier and see what they offer as far as international plans go.

praia do camilo from above, one of the best things to do in lagos portugal

Will I need an adaptor for my electronics?

Most likely, yes!

Luckily, adaptors are cheap to buy and easy to carry–we recommend picking these up before you go.

Keep in mind that the UK and a few other countries ( Ireland ,  Malta ) use a separate plug from the bulk of the continent.

If you’re heading to a place that uses UK plugs, you’ll want these adaptors as well.

Cliffs of Moher in Ireland with O'Brien's Tower visible on the left and the Stack visible on the right

Do I need to be worried about pickpockets?

I wouldn’t go so far as the use the word “worried”, but aware, yes.

Pickpockets are a problem around the world in places where there are crowds, and that includes major European cities.

Barcelona, Rome, Paris, and Naples are examples of places that are particularly prone to pickpockets.

Watch your belongings carefully, especially near particularly crowded tourist attractions and in and around transportation hubs like train stations, and you will most likely be fine.

Kate Storm in a gray dress standing in Rue de l'Universite in Paris with the Eiffel Tower behind her

Very generally speaking, the closer to a world-famous landmark you are, the higher the risk of getting pickpocketed is in that place.

We have never been pickpocketed, but it does happen, even to experienced travelers.

We don’t choose to use a money belt anymore, and pickpockets certainly know about them, but if you would like another layer of protection, they’re an option (we used this one when we first started traveling).

An anti-theft day bag that can be locked and/or attached to a chair can help too, and we carry one everywhere ( we love this one ).

busy spanish steps with fountain in foreground as seen when traveling rome italy

How severe is the language barrier?

It varies significantly, of course, but generally, it’s not nearly as difficult as first-time visitors to Europe worry before they arrive (ourselves included).

We recommend learning basic phrases in the language of the countries that you are planning to visit during your first European vacation, but this is usually more for good manners than out of necessity.

While you can absolutely find monolingual Europeans in virtually any country, especially in smaller cities and towns, the people employed in customer service roles and in the tourism industry in major cities–in other words, where most or all of your trip will likely take place–generally speak some English.

kate storm standing in front of the blue mosque, one of the best things to do in istanbul turkey

Can I drink the tap water in Europe?

Usually, yes!

We drink out of the tap just about anywhere in Europe.

In rare cases where the water is not safe to drink (usually in remote areas of southern and eastern Europe, or in very old buildings with iffy pipes), there will generally be large and obvious signs stating so.

If you’re worried about it, though, you can always ask your hotel concierge or host about it!

kate storm and jeremy storm standing at an overlooking slovakia hiking high tatras

How far in advance should I book my trip?

For plane tickets, we recommend booking your trip as soon as you can commit to dates!

Not only will this allow you to have more time to plan and budget with a bit of structure, but it will also spread out your costs a bit more.

During peak seasons, like coastal locations in the summer or popular central European cities during the Christmas markets, you’ll want to book your hotels as far in advance as you can commit to them as well.

kate storm and jeremy storm holding mugs of gluhwein in one of the christmas markets in bavaria munich germany

What’s your favorite country in Europe?

We get asked this all the time, and the answer is: we couldn’t possibly choose!

We definitely have a very special love for Italy –we’ve spent more time there than any other country outside the USA, traveled the country from north to south, know the travel scene there very intimately, and will continue to visit extensively for the rest of our lives.

And no, we haven’t discounted the possibility of living there one day, either!

However, simply naming Italy as our favorite would discount so much.

Like, for example, how much we adore hiking amongst the Alps in Switzerland, or waking up in picturesque bed and breakfasts in Ireland .

cows in ireland at sunset in the summer, a great first timers destination when traveling to europe for the first time

It skips over the joy of wandering through the art museums of Paris , admiring the rocky coastline of the western Algarve in Portugal, and jumping into the Adriatic Sea in Croatia .

Simply naming one favorite doesn’t leave room for sharing just how incredible it is to marvel at Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, or devour Greek salads on Santorini … or so much more than I could include in this list.

And really, the answer to the question behind the question is this: as long as it’s somewhere that you’re desperate to visit, and you plan your trip well, it doesn’t really matter where you decide to go on your first trip to Europe.

Traveling to Europe for the first time is a magnificent and potentially (in our case, definitely) life-altering experience, and there are no wrong answers.

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4 photos of europe: french castle, cinque terre, greek beach, woman sightseeing. black and red text reads "how to plan your first europe trip"

About Kate Storm

Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

2 thoughts on “Your 13-Step Guide to Traveling to Europe for the First Time”

Your blog is SO informative! Planning my first ever trip to Europe (Scotland in particular) and all the info you have is super helpful! 🙂

So glad to help, and I hope you have a fantastic trip to Scotland!

Leave a Comment Cancel reply

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11 Best first-time Europe itineraries for 1, 2, or 3 weeks

Europe is going to be very busy in the summer of 2024 as the world is back to normal and travel demand is higher than ever. One other key factor is that most European currencies are still hovering at lower levels historically compared to the US dollar, which means that Europe will feel somewhat cheap again this year. In fact, according to our World Backpacker Index , European cities like Lisbon, Madrid, and Munich are about 30% cheaper to visit than Boston, Chicago, and New York City. In other words, flying to Europe might seem expensive, but most things will be cheaper once you get there compared to the costs of visiting a large US city.

Below you’ll find 11 of the most popular and best itineraries for a first visit to Europe. Your first visit is not really the time to be different or creative, and the famous destinations tend to be popular for a reason. In other words, it’s kind of silly to visit, say, Bulgaria, if you’ve not yet been to France or Italy. I lay out the best options along with how long to stay in each place as a general guide. I also discuss Mediterranean cruises, which can actually be an amazing way to see a lot of Europe on your first visit, especially if you don’t like going back and forth to train stations and airports every 2 or 3 days.

For a bit of fun you might be interested in the cheapest 5-star hotels in Europe , which start at US$80 per night for really nice hotels. It helps show that if you choose some of the cheaper cities, you can treat yourself to some luxury that you can’t afford in most other places.

This article was last updated in March, 2024.

There are 11 starter itineraries described in detail below

  • Classic London and Paris
  • England and Scotland
  • Paris and Italy
  • Mediterranean cruise
  • France, Belgium, and Netherlands
  • Paris and elsewhere in France
  • Switzerland
  • Best of cheap eastern Europe

For each itinerary there are suggestions of other destinations that are easy to add on to the main cities.

Note: This article was most recently updated in March, 2024

Building the best itinerary for your first trip to Europe

Below there are 11 popular itineraries for one week in Europe. If you’ve only got a week then choose one of them and assume you’ll return again to conquer more of this amazing part of the world. If you’ve got more time then you can choose from some of the top add-on suggestions for each one.

Start in the most famous cities

Your first visit to Europe is no time to try to be different or edgy. I recommend that you  focus on these 5 great cities  before you start branching out into cheaper or more obscure places.

Keep your travel days to a minimum

first trip europe

Spend 3 (or 4) nights in almost every major city

first trip europe

So many first-time visitors are initially planning on spending only 1 or 2 nights in major cities that I wrote a detailed explanation of why  3 nights is ideal for almost all European cities , even if you want to see as much as possible.

3 (or 4) nights will be enough for any city on your first trip

Most first-time visitors are tempted to move too quickly, but it can also be a mistake to move too slowly. It’s really amazing how much you can see in two full sightseeing days. If you spend too long in one city you’ll end up seeing things that are way down your list, while you could be in another city seeing things at the top of your list there.

Choose cities that are easy to reach from each other

first trip europe

For your first trip it’s best to visit cities that are no more than a 5-hour train ride apart.

Choose cities that are connected by reasonable train rides rather than flights

To build on the point above, finding cheap flights within Europe is easy, but train travel is about a million times more enjoyable and less stressful. You’ll enjoy the train rides almost as much as the cities, so focus on places that are within 5 hours of each other by train.

Start with one of the classic itineraries below, and then add to it if you have more time

If you only have 7 days then you’ll find a list below of classic itineraries that are well-suited to a first visit to Europe. Hopefully you have more than 7 days though, and if you do you can add in one or more of the suggested add-on cities to build an itinerary that appeals most to you.

Price of travel

Best 1-week itineraries for the first time in Europe

Itinerary 1: classic london and paris.

  • London  (3 or 4 nights)
  • Paris  (3 or 4 nights)

Fly into either city and take the 2-hour Eurostar train between them

first trip europe

London highlights

  • Big Ben and Parliament
  • Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • Tower of London and Tower Bridge
  • West End shows (Broadway equivalent) and classic pubs
  • Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle

Paris is actually far more beautiful than London and the food is famously much better as well. Since Paris gets so many tourists from non-French speaking countries, it’s easy to get by on just English, and the Metro system makes it fast and easy to get around. The architecture of both cities is amazing from the Tower of London, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. These cities each pack a huge punch and they are very different from each other as well. Actually, England is arguably the best choice for your first trip to Europe .

Paris highlights

  • Eiffel Tower
  • Louvre Museum and Museum de Orsay
  • Arc de Triomphe and other monuments
  • Montmartre neighborhood and Sacré Coeur Cathedral
  • Probably the world’s best affordable restaurants and wine

Best add-ons to London and Paris

  • Edinburgh  (2 or 3 nights, from London)
  • Amsterdam  (2 or 3 nights, from Paris)
  • Bruges  and  Brussels  (2 nights, from Paris)

first trip europe

>>> Best one-week London and Paris itinerary in detail >>> Check London hotel deals >>> Check Paris hotel deals

Itinerary 2: England and Scotland

  • York (1 night)
  • Edinburgh, Scotland  (2 or 3 nights)
  • Inverness, Scotland (2 or 3 nights)

first trip europe

York is a small Roman city with intact city walls and one of the most famous cathedrals in Europe. Edinburgh is not only the capital of Scotland, but it’s easily the second most interesting city in all of Britain. If your time is short, skip York and spend more time in Edinburgh.

If you prefer to focus on the south of England on your first trip then the best option is to go to Bath or nearby Bristol after London. Bath is another of England’s top destinations and it’s a gorgeous city that has been a spa resort for many centuries. It’s also reasonably close to Stonehenge. You can also easily get to Cornwall in England’s southwest corner from Bath, and that’s a whole different and fascinating experience (with nicer weather than up north).

If you’ve got more than a week and want to spend more time in Scotland, especially in the summer months, the place to head to is Inverness. It’s a small town that is considered the gateway to the Scottish Highlands, but it’s an interesting and charming place on its own. You can take day-trips by bus to the highlights of the Highlands including the Isle of Skye and Loch Ness. Between you and me, it’s better to minimize time in Loch Ness or skip it altogether because it’s not one of the more photogenic parts of Scotland and the monster has always been a hoax.

Travel times between the recommended places

  • London to York by train: 2 hours
  • York to Edinburgh by train: 2.5 hours
  • London to Edinburgh by train: 4 hours
  • Edinburgh to Inverness by train: 3.5 hours
  • London to Bath by train: 85 minutes

Best add-ons to England and Scotland

  • Paris  (3 or 4 nights from London)
  • Amsterdam  (3 nights from Paris)

If you think you want to spend your whole trip in Britain you should have a look at our article on the  best itineraries in England, Scotland, and Wales .

>>> Check London hotel deals >>> Check Edinburgh hotel deals

Itinerary 3: Paris and Italy

  • Paris (3 or 4 nights)
  • Venice (1 night)
  • Florence (2 or 3 nights)
  • Rome (3 nights)

first trip europe

From Paris you can easily fly to Venice (or nearby Treviso) where you should try to spend about 24 hours. Venice is small enough to see in a full day, and so crowded that most people are satisfied to leave after that day. The key is to stay in the main part of the main island so you can enjoy Venice before the cruise passengers and day-trippers arrive, and also after they leave for the day. Two nights in Venice would not be wasted time, and it’s possibly the most gorgeous city in the entire world, but you can see the best of it in a bit over 24 hours.

first trip europe

Rome also lives up to the hype and spending a day in the Vatican City will be a highlight even for non-Catholics, but it’s also a crowded and busy city so three days is usually enough for most people. Similar to Paris, Rome is an unusually beautiful city from almost any angle when you are in the historical center. You’ll walk through a stunning piazza (town square) and then turn a corner and you’ll see gorgeous buildings or public statues that are as nice as anything in the museums. Seriously, it’s worth a visit.

Paris to Venice flight: 1 hour 35 minutes Venice to Florence by train: 1 hour 53 minutes Florence to Rome by train: 1 hour 16 minutes

You can of course instead fly from Paris to Rome and then go north to Florence and then to Venice and fly home (or back to Paris) from there, and it would be just as enjoyable.

Best add-ons to Paris and Italy

  • Nice/Cannes/Monaco  (2 or 3 nights)
  • Avignon (2 nights)
  • Bourges (2 nights)
  • Bordeaux (2 nights)
  • Aix-en-Provence (2 nights)
  • Reims (2 nights)
  • Dijon/Burgundy (2 nights)
  • Milan  (1 or 2 nights)
  • Lake Como (2 nights)
  • Siena (2 nights)
  • Cinque Terre (1 night)
  • Naples / Sorrento /Amalfi Coast/Pompeii/Capri (3 to 5 nights)
  • Sicily (3 to 4 nights)

>>>Much more information in this article about the best France and Italy itineraries >>> Check Paris hotel deals >>> Check Venice hotel deals >>> Check Florence hotel deals >>> Check Rome hotel deals

Itinerary 4: Mediterranean cruise

first trip europe

In spite of the reputation of cruises to be floating buffets, they can actually be an excellent way to visit a great number of amazing European cities in a short time. The ship typically is in port from the early morning until mid evening, often giving you the opportunity to have dinner in the city (unlike Caribbean cruises). Better still, the cruise ports are often near the center of town, so you can just walk off the ship and do sightseeing on foot or by public transportation.

Mediterranean cruises usually start at 7 nights but can go up to 3 weeks, which can provide an amazing tour of the entire region without having to pack and repack your bags more than once. They also can provide excellent value, especially compared to the price of taking trains or flights and finding new hotels in every destination.

Most popular Mediterranean departure ports

Barcelona, Spain – It’s an easy port to reach. Ships generally go from Barcelona with stops in France and then Italy.

Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy – The port isn’t very close to Rome, but it’s easy to get back and forth. Ships go west to France and Spain as well as south around the tip of Italy and then on to Croatia, Venice, and to Greece.

Venice, Italy – The cruise ships no longer dock close to the best tourist areas, but it’s easy enough to visit Venice for a day or two before boarding a ship. Ships starting in Venice go south and then head west and to Rome and then to France, or they go south to Croatia and then head east to Greece.

Athens, Greece – The cruise port of Piraeus is just south of Athens and easy to reach. Ships from Athens usually head west towards Croatia, Italy, France, and Spain, but there are also ships that visit Greek islands and Turkey.

>>> Check for deals on Mediterranean cruises

Alternative to consider: a river cruise

first trip europe

Amsterdam ,  Budapest , and  Prague  are some of the most popular river cruise ports, but there are dozens of others including many smaller towns in France where few other tourists will be when you stroll off the ship. There is little or no entertainment on the river cruise ships, but passengers don’t miss it because the entire day and into the evening is spent just steps from local cultural offerings and restaurants.

>>> Check for Europe and river cruise deals

Itinerary 5: France, Belgium, and Netherlands

  • Paris  (3 nights)
  • Brussels  and  Bruges  (1 or 2 nights)
  • Amsterdam  (2 or 3 nights)

Paris to Brussels: 1 hour 22 minutes Brussels to Bruge: 58 minutes Bruges to Amsterdam: 2 hours 45 minutes Amsterdam to Paris: 3 hours 17 minutes

first trip europe

Spending 4 nights in Paris and 3 nights in Amsterdam would be a great trip, but if you want to see something else you’ve got a couple options in between. My advice is to spend an afternoon looking around the Grand Place (main square) in Brussels and then hop a 58-minute train ride to Bruges for a night or two. Brussels isn’t a great tourist city, but Bruges really is so it’s a better option for most people. Whatever you choose out of this group, you can be back in Paris on another high-speed train for your flight home.

Best add-ons to France, Belgium, and Netherlands

  • Luxembourg City  (1 or 2 nights)
  • Cologne, Germany (1 or 2 nights)
  • Interlaken, Switzerland  (2 or 3 nights)

>>> Check Paris hotel deals >>> Check Bruges hotel deals >>> Check Amsterdam hotel deals

Itinerary 6: Paris and elsewhere in France

And a choice of:

  • Normandy (2 nights)

first trip europe

While Nice is a wonderful tourist city for a look at the French Riviera, the other larger cities of Lyon and Marseilles are probably better saved for a future trip because they are light on key sights compared to many smaller towns. Wine lovers can rent a car or take trains into Bordeaux or Burgundy. Since you can get between most of these towns by train in 2 hours or less, spending only 2 nights in each one is a reasonable option if you want to see a lot in a short time.

Normandy is an interesting choice and easy to reach in only about two hours by train from Paris. Some visitors like to see the famous WWII beaches and memorials, while others (especially in summer) like to check out one or more of the beach-resort towns. Deauville is one of the more famous of those, and it’s also famous for its horse race track and as one of the epicenters of the industry in Europe.

Best add-ons to Paris and elsewhere

  • More France, of course

>>> Check Paris hotel deals >>> Check Nice hotel deals

Itinerary 7: Italy

  • Rome  (3 nights)
  • Florence  (2 or 3 nights)
  • Venice  (1 or 2 nights)

Rome to Florence: 1 hour 16 minutes Florence to Venice: 1 hour 53 minutes

first trip europe

Venice is small enough that you can see the main sights in about 24 hours, and it’s so insanely crowded that many people tire of it after about a day as well. It’s better to pay more for a hotel to be on the main island and visit quickly than to save money with a hotel on the mainland where you’ll be in crowds going back and forth as well. Florence is the most relaxing of the 3, and also a great base for side trips to Pisa, Siena, and Cinque Terre, just to name a few.

Going to Italy? Here are the  best first-time Italy itineraries for 3 days to 2 weeks  (in much greater detail)

Best add-ons to Italy

>>> Check Rome hotel deals >>> Check Florence hotel deals >>> Check Venice hotel deals

Itinerary 8: Spain

  • Madrid  (4 nights) (including day trip to Toledo)
  • Barcelona  (3 nights)

Madrid to Barcelona: 2 hours 30 minutes

first trip europe

A huge part of Spain’s tourism industry is built around its southern beaches and islands such as Ibiza, Mallorca, and Tenerife (in the Canary Islands). For most people it’s best to ignore those places on your first trip because none of the beaches are special enough to spend days on them compared to the culture of the cities.

Best add-ons to Spain

  • Valencia  (2 nights)
  • Seville  (2 or 3 nights)
  • Granada  (2 or 3 nights)
  • Lisbon  (3 nights)

By popular demand, I’ve added a full article on where to go in Spain with itineraries from 7 to 10 days up to two weeks .

>>> Check Madrid hotel deals >>> Check Barcelona hotel deals >>> Check Lisbon hotel deals

Itinerary 9: Germany

  • Berlin  (3 nights)
  • Munich  (2 or 3 nights)
  • Rothenburg ob der Tauber (1 night)
  • Füssen (1 night)

Berlin to Munich: 6 hours 2 minutes Munich to Rothenburg ob der Tauber: 2 hours 56 minutes Munich to Füssen: 2 hours 4 minutes

first trip europe

Those two cities are the keys to a Germany visit, and after that you’ve got a wide variety of choices. I cover most of the popular choices in my article on  where to go in Germany , which covers several smaller towns that are major highlights.

Best add-ons to Germany

  • Cologne (1 or 2 nights)
  • Hamburg  (2 or 3 nights)
  • Amsterdam  (3 nights)
  • Prague  (3 nights)
  • Salzburg  (2 or 3 nights)
  • Vienna  (3 nights)
  • Interlaken, Switzerland  (3 nights)
  • Lucerne, Switzerland  (2 or 3 nights)

>>> Check Berlin hotel deals >>> Check Munich hotel deals

Itinerary 10: Switzerland

  • Interlaken  (3 nights)
  • Bern (1 night)
  • Lucerne  (3 nights)

Zurich Airport to Interlaken: 2 hours 10 minutes Interlaken to Bern: 53 minutes Bern to Lucerne: 1 hour 50 minutes Lucerne to Zurich Airport: 1 hour 3 minutes

first trip europe

Interlaken is the best hub for the most dramatic Alps views and experiences. The one-hour cable car ride up to the Schilthorn observation deck is something you’ll never forget, and the only thing that might be more dramatic is the train ride up to the Jungfraujoch station, which is the highest in Europe. Lucerne is almost as beautiful with a scenic lake at its heart and also great mountaintop views nearby. If you do want to see a Swiss city then the capital of Bern is the most interesting and photogenic on a short visit. Read more about  where to go in Switzerland  for even more ideas.

Best add-ons to Switzerland

  • Munich  (3 nights)
  • Italy (as long as you’ve got)

>>> Check Interlaken hotel deals >>> Check Lucerne hotel deals

Itinerary 11: Eastern Europe’s best cheap cities

  • Budapest  (3 nights) and/or
  • Krakow  (3 nights)

first trip europe

Each of these cities is beautiful and historic, but English is less widely spoken so they can also be quite a bit more challenging for a first-time visitor. Another difficulty is that the trains between them are still quite slow compared to the high-speed rail in the West, so it takes most of a day from one to another, and a bus is often a better choice. I cover this best cheap Europe itinerary more fully in the linked article.

Prague to Budapest: 6 hours 41 minutes Budapest to Krakow: 9 hours 54 minutes (flying might be better)

Best add-ons to cheap Eastern Europe

  • Cesky Krumlov, Czechia  (2 nights)
  • Ljubljana, Slovenia  (2 or 3 nights)
  • Split, Croatia  (3 nights)
  • Belgrade, Serbia  (2 or 3 nights)
  • Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina  (2 or 3 nights)
  • Sofia, Bulgaria  (2 or 3 nights)

>>> Check Prague hotel deals >>> Check Budapest hotel deals >>> Check Krakow hotel deals

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11 Best first-time Europe itineraries for 1, 2, or 3 weeks " --> All Comments

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Hi Roger, was reading your article and reply to various questions and its actually too good and kind from you. if you pls,help me out a route plan for 15days. but my catch is, i have to start from Stockholm.i like to end in rome to head back home. in between what should be my plan?thanks

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I’m happy to help. Stockholm to Rome could be done in 15 days, but it would require skipping quite a few great places along the way. My recommendation would be to choose 5 or maybe 6 cities total and spend 3 days in each. If Stockholm is one of your cities you’d only have 12 days left but even if Stockholm didn’t count on the 15 days I think it’s probably best to fly from Stockholm to a city closer to Italy and then do the rest of it on shorter train rides. You could do Stockholm to Copenhagen by train, but those are pretty long train rides and honestly those two cities are pretty similar to each other.

So maybe Stockholm and then a flight to Paris and then trains to Venice, Florence and Rome? That sort of thing. Stockholm is just so remote that it would require at least 3 or 4 longer train journeys but if you flew from Stockholm to Paris (or Berlin or Prague or Budapest or wherever) the remaining train rides would be relatively short. I hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

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Firstly, I would like to thank you for the article and itineraries; they are very helpful.

My wife and I are planning a 3 to 4-month trip around the EU (Western Europe). Before I delve into the specifics of our itinerary, I am wondering if the same 3 to 5-day in each-city principle applies for cases where travellers will spend more time travelling around?

I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks Raf

Wow. That sounds amazing! Even when traveling for longer periods like that I’d recommend a minimum of 3 nights in almost any place you go. The main reason is your travel days tend to be kind of long when you factor in everything from checking out of one hotel to getting to the train station and waiting and then the journey time and then getting to your next hotel and getting situated. All of that usually takes 4 to 6 hours even when the train journey is only an hour or two, so you just don’t get much sightseeing done on those days. So if you only stay 2 nights in each city it means every other day is a travel day and that just takes up too much time.

That said, I think 3 or 4 days is enough time in most places as well. If you really want to get to know Paris, for example, you might stay a week there. But for most cities there are diminishing marginal returns starting on day 3 or 4. In other words, you’ll be able to see the 10 things that most interest you in 3 days or so, and at that point you might be ready to see the Top 10 things in the next city instead of the #11 through #20 things in the first city.

Another thing that is important with longer trips like that is to plan some down time at least every few weeks. If you try to do sightseeing 7 days per week for weeks at a time it starts to feel like a job. What I like to do is every two or three weeks find a smaller town or cheaper place where I can rent a little apartment or some place larger and more comfortable than a typical small European hotel room. And I like to stop in places without many sights otherwise it’s too tempting to keep sightseeing every day.

I’ve actually done quite a few long trips like this and I’m happy to help with any other advice if you like. -Roger

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Comment*We are planning on Athens to Amsterdam from June 4, 2024 to Amsterdam June 24th.

We are thinking trains to major cities inbetween Athens and Amsterdam. We are open to anything and everything.

Priorities: Parthenon in Athens, Art Museums in Amsterdam (3-5 days in Amsterdam) Can you help us?

That is a tricky one. Both Athens and Amsterdam are great and very worthwhile, but once you go north of Athens to Thessaloniki in northern Greece, the train service is spotty and very slow all the way until you reach Budapest. Strangely enough, buses tend to be faster and much more frequent in those “eastern” countries like Bulgaria and Romania. Also, being perfectly honest, most of those in-between cities such as Sofia and Belgrade are kind of dull by European standards, although they are quite cheap.

If you really want to visit Athens I’d definitely start there and then after a few days fly to Budapest or some other city in that area that interests you and then carry on from there by train. In fact, Athens to Budapest and then trains to Prague then Berlin and then Amsterdam could be perfect. You could even add in a couple of days in Cesky Krumlov near Prague if you want to include a gorgeous smaller town among the big cities.

Those are all first-class cities and several of them are quite affordable as well. I hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

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Hi, my wife and I would like to visit Rome, Florence, Italy, Venice, Prague, Berlin and maybe Switzerland. This will be the first time travelling to Europe and I would appreciate your help in planning where to start, where to stay, how to get there and where to go. We will be coming from Trinidad and Tobago for 2 weeks. If possible, i would like a day-to-day plan.

Unfortunately I don’t have time to do a day-by-day plan for you, but I can help get you started. If you’ve got 14 nights I would keep the list to 5 total cities. If you tried to include Switzerland on this trip it would mean spending only 1 or 2 days in some cities and that means spending every other day on trains.

I think the best thing to do would be to fly into Berlin or Prague and then spend 3 days there and then take a train to the other one and spend 3 days there and then fly to Venice. Spend 1 or 2 days in Venice and then take a short train ride to Florence for 2 days or so and then a train ride down to Rome for your final 3 days and then a flight home or back to your starting city if that is cheaper. I’m happy to help if you have any other questions. -Roger

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Hi, Roger. My wife and I (56 and 63) want to do our first trip to Europe from Canada and would like to start by visiting Portugal (Lisbon and Porto) and Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Granada y Sevilla with day trips to close small cities in between). What it would be your suggestion for: 1. Stay in each city for a 15/17 days trip? 2. any additions/modifications? 3. Train over flights internally? 4. If we travel with one suitcase of 50 Lbs would it work to take public transit when required? 5. Instead of this plan, would it be better to visit 1/2 famous city in different countries? Would appreciate your inputs. Than you Roger

If you’ve only got about 16 days I’d recommend choosing 5 or maybe 6 cities in total. I strongly believe that 3 nights is the best amount of time to stay in each city so you have two full sightseeing days in each one, although some smaller cities can be done a bit quicker. I go over the reasons in detail on this other article about how long to stay in each European city , but the main point is that if you stay only two nights it means literally spending every other day on trains or in airports and such and you just don’t get much sightseeing done on those travel days with all of the packing and unpacking and checking in and out of hotels.

I’d definitely include Lisbon, Madrid, and Barcelona. You could add a 2-day visit to Porto and 2 or 3 days each in Sevilla and Granada. I’d save Valencia for a future trip. It’s nice, but aside from the new buildings clustered in one area, it’s more generic than any of the others on your list.

The only train between Portugal and Madrid goes over night and I’m not a fan of those so I’d fly on that leg. But from there I’d definitely take the high-speed trains, which are fast and comfortable. Buy your tickets at least a couple months in advance for the best fares.

There will be room for a 50 lb suitcase on the flights (of course) and on the trains as well. On older trains they have you put them on racks above the seats, but on most of the more modern ones (like the high-speed trains) they also have room for larger bags at each end of the carriage. If you can lift them, there will definitely be room for them.

I think your plan sounds really good and those are all great cities. That said, for most first-time visitors to Europe I’d recommend Paris and Italy as those are really more dramatic and interesting, although also more crowded and somewhat more expensive as well. I think once you do the Iberia trip you’ll be hooked and you’ll start planning a trip to France and Italy for the coming years. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Hi, Roger. Thank you for your comments and recommendations and also for your prompt response. I have modified my plan as I have now 22 days. My Itinerary is Porto(3), Lisbon(3), Seville(2), Malaga(2), Madrid(3),Barcelona(3), Zaragoza(2) and Bilbao(3). What do you think? is this a good plan? Any suggestions? I am still debating between Malaga and Granada though. I included Bilbao to visit friends. The question on the luggage was more related to the comfort to pull a large back in public transit than the allowance in the planes or trains. I will appreciate your inputs. Thank you again, Roger

Those six more days will help a lot. I think your new plan looks really good. You can probably enjoy Porto in 2 days and add an extra day somewhere else, but you might also be dealing with jet-lag so 3 days might be better. Your itinerary looks efficient and logical.

I really like Granada and Malaga, but I think if I were to choose between the two I would go with Granada. Malaga is (in my opinion) an underrated city that is close to some extremely popular beach towns and it’s got a lot going for it, but if you aren’t also going to be staying by the beach I think I’d save it for another trip. Granada has got the Alhambra and Generalife Gardens and those are unlike anything else in Spain or the world for that matter. Granada is small enough to enjoy in two days and I think seeing the Alhambra will be more memorable than anything in Malaga.

Buy your train tickets as early as possible for the best times and fares, and the flight for Lisbon to Seville (or you could take a bus).

And again, your 50 lb suitcase will fit on city to city trains (although not as well on buses or trams within a city), but still (as the saying goes) no one ever went on a trip around Europe like this and swore they would pack more stuff the next time. In other words, 40 lbs is much easier than 50 lbs and getting laundry done cheaply in a country like Spain is quite easy. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

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Comment*Hi travelling first time to europe next year we are 55 years age group any suggestions for 10-12 days itenary with guided tour would be nice if any suggestion are there also april or may better time to visit there anil

Actually, all of my best suggestions for first-time visits to Europe are in the article above. If you specifically want a guided tour you’ll obviously just be choosing from the ones that are available from the companies you look it, although many of those should resemble the itineraries in my article. Planning your own trip to Europe is actually quite easy, and especially if you are going to the classic and most popular cities. I’ve got lots of articles that could help you.

I’m not sure how many guided tours you’ve done, but one thing to consider is that they always move at the speed of the slowest person in the group. If YOU are the slowest person in the group then it’s fine, but if you are 55 then you should be much faster than most other people on a guided tour. For example, if you have a coach/bus tour for a day with 5 or 6 stops, you always have to wait for the slowest people to get on an off the bus. I’ve done countless day tours this way and it can be frustrating waiting 10 extra minutes many times each day as slow people are trying their best.

I think my top two best suggestions are London and maybe another stop or two in England and then Paris and other stop or two in France, OR, Paris then another stop in France and then Venice, Florence, and Rome. It obviously depends whether England or Italy sounds more interesting. Let me know if I can be of any other help. -Roger

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Planning a family trip with a adult and nearly adult children. Hoping to be able to do 18 to 20 days. Must sees are Paris, Venice, England, and Prague but would adore seeing more! What route would you suggest and should we rent a car, fly, train, river cruise? There are so many options and I’m completely overwhelmed! A suggested itinerary would be amazing!! Thank you!

That sounds like a great start to a plan. As far as “England” is concerned it’s probably best to just think of it as 3 or probably 4 nights in London. With 4 nights you’d have enough time for a good day trip to Bath/Stonehenge and Windsor or to Oxford or even York, but London is big enough to keep you busy and it’s probably best to just stay there and then take the Eurostar train to Paris for 3 or 4 nights.

Prague is a bit out of the way, but you can fly there cheaply enough if you want and then after 3 nights fly to Venice. After 2 nights in Venice I’d take a train down to Florence for 2 nights and then another train to Rome for 3 nights. That would be just about a perfect 18 to 20 day trip including Prague. I definitely wouldn’t rent a car as they tend to be counter productive when visiting a string of large cities that have bad traffic and expensive parking. Your itinerary doesn’t really work with a river cruise at all, but hopefully you can plan one in the future.

It would probably be cheapest to fly from Rome back to London for your flight home (being careful of which of London’s 5 airports you fly into because your flight home will almost certainly go out of Heathrow), but if you can get a flight home straight from Rome for a good price, that would be even better. Getting around by train in Europe is by far the best way wherever it’s close and fast enough, so I’d focus on trains in the places I mentioned. I hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Yes, I meant London. Thank you for picking up on that. After reading though your site and many, many of these informative comments, I think I have figured out a basic itinerary and would love your feedback and suggestions!

-Fly into London London(3 days) -Eurostar Train to Paris Paris (3 days) -Train to Switzerland – unsure which train company Switzerland (3 days) -Train to Venice?? Venice (2 days) -Train to Florence – which train company? Is there a pass? Florence (2 days) -Train to Rome Rome (2 days) -Fly to Prague Prague (3 days) -Fly home out of Prague

Very interested to hear your feedback. I know you suggest 3 nights but I am ok with missing out on some things in Rome/Florence if needed. Would love train suggestions and if passes are best. NO idea on how the trains operate in Europe.

Thank you so much for your time!

This itinerary looks amazing. My only real suggestion would be to spend only one day in Venice and three days in Rome, or at least a day and a half in Venice rather than two, but you’ll enjoy it no matter what. The thing is that Venice is about the size of a theme park like Disneyland and from 9 AM until 5 PM it feels even more crowded than Disneyland. It’s absolutely amazing, but also easy to get tired of the crowds and you’ll do your best sightseeing in the mornings before the day-trippers come and in the evenings after they’ve left. And Rome is huge with a long list of really cool sights so with only one full sightseeing day you’ll miss quite a few of them. But again, you’ll enjoy it no matter how you divide your time.

In most of Europe including between France and Switzerland and Italy, there is just one rail company per country so just book whatever comes up. From Paris to Basel, Switzerland you’ll take the France national service and then change trains to a Swiss train for your ride to Interlaken or Lucern. Then from Switzerland you’ll take (probably) a Swiss train to Spiez or Brig and then change there for an Italian train to Venice. You’ll buy it just as one ticket and it’ll include all the legs required to get from one city to your final city, and usually come with seat reservations as well (except in Switzerland).

My favorite site for checking schedules all over Europe is the Trainline . But you can also check the official rail sites of each country involved and I’d definitely check those prices before booking anything. My article on buying European train tickets in advance is still pretty much up to date and it has links to the various national train companies.

It will be cheapest if you lock in your dates and buy all of your train tickets as early as possible, which will be around 3 months out in most cases. The tickets start off really cheap and go up in price as more seats are sold on each train, so earlier is always better. There are no rail passes that would be helpful on a trip like this, but that’s mostly because the tickets will be pretty cheap already, especially the ones within Italy.

Trains in Europe are really fun and shockingly easy once you get started. All the important signs will be in English as well as a local language. For most of them you can literally walk aboard just before it leaves and you are fine as long as you have a reserved seat, but the Eurostar works more like a flight with security and such so you have to be checked in at least 30 minutes in advance. Let me know if you have any other questions.

I won’t have time to update that other older article about trains vs planes vs buses, partly because these days there is a clear choice depending on which two cities you are going between. There are places in eastern Europe where there are advantages to each mode, but for the cities you’ll be doing the train is going to be the fastest, by far the most enjoyable, and probably the cheapest as well, at least once you factor in airport transportation costs. It’s going to be a great trip! -Roger

Thank you SO much for all of your help. Your in-depth website is an amazing resource! I get so lost in it and spend hours scouring your resources and links – it has everything anyone could need! And, the fact that you are also personally answering comments and offering personalized advice is mind blowing! Thank you for all that you do to inform us!

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If you could suggest on a 14-15 day iterinary covering Athens, rome Milan paris London and Finland from New Delhi / Mumbai.

If you have 14 to 15 days I’d suggest choosing about 5 cities in total to visit. So your list should work out fairly well, although it depends on how much of Finland you’d hope to see. I’m guessing you must have a specific reason for wanting to go there? Finland normally isn’t very popular and honestly there isn’t much to see. Helsinki is, in my opinion, the least interesting of the Nordic capitals, although it’s pleasant enough and the country has some nice forests. If you are visiting relatives or something, that requires different planning of course.

It might be easiest to fly from Mumbai to London and then use that as a base. You could spend a few nights there and then fly to Helsinki and back after that or Helsinki to Paris for a few days. After Paris you could fly to Milan or Rome and then take a train to the other and then fly to Athens to finish your trip.

Milan actually isn’t a popular tourist city. It’s the home of most of Italy’s big banks and fashion brands, but neither of those are accessible to most tourists. Italy has amazing fashion shopping in Rome as well as Florence. Venice is also more popular. I hope this helps and I’m happy to help more if you have questions. -Roger

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Comment* Planning first trip to Europe Want to do tour of England, Scotland, Wales and then to Paris for sites and Monet Gardens. Might take train to Brussels and Bruge. Then to Switzerland and home. Any suggestions what tour group to contact. Want slower pace trip…at least 3 weeks. Thank you.

I enjoy helping people plan independent trips, and I honestly don’t know much about booking all-inclusive tours like you are after. I’d imagine you’d have to do at least a few different tours to cover all the places you have in mind. The one outfit that I am familiar with is Rick Steves, who I am a huge fan of for his Europe travel guides and I know he has a big tour organization. I’d start with them and see if they have anything that fits what you are looking for. Best of luck. -Roger

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The Ultimate Guide to Traveling to Europe for the First Time in 2024

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Traveling to Europe for the first time was such an exciting experience for me. I couldn’t wait to try the incredible cuisine, see all of the wonderful attractions, and get lost in the cobblestoned streets I had heard and read so much about!

After visiting, I realized there were so many things I wished I had known before getting there. From planning my trip to the return journey, I learned so much along the way.

Now, I have finally written it all down to help my fellow travelers and any first-time visitors to Europe! From what you need to do to prepare for your trip to the best places to travel in Europe for the first time, I’ve covered it all.

My first trip to Europe truly changed my life and I’m so glad that you’re considering a visit to this endlessly surprising continent! If you want to know what my first trip was like, check out my short eBook Transformed by Travel: How My First Trip to Europe Changed My Life .

first trip europe

Things To Know When Traveling to Europe for the First Time

first trip europe

If you’re traveling to Europe for the first time, many things may come as a shock to you. Now, these won’t all be bad, in fact, most of them will be good!

But, it’s still good to have at least a small grasp on what to expect if you’re traveling to Europe for the first time.

Hotels, Hostels, and Airbnb’s

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✔️ I touched on this briefly below, but your hotel and hostel rooms are likely going to be very small. Much smaller than what is common in South America, North America, or even Asia, so don’t expect any closet space.

✔️ You’ll sometimes be given an actual old-time key, not a swipe card.

✔️ If you book a room with “one large bed”, it’s likely going to be two twin-sized beds pushed together.

✔️ Many times, common items like mini toiletries and wash cloths are not found in the hotel rooms.

✔️ Airbnb’s can be a great way to save some money and meet locals, but most of the time the Airbnb that you’re looking at is just a hotel room that someone from the hotel is booking out indivudally. If this is the case, book directly through the hotel instead.

✔️ The outlets in Europe operate on 220V whereas most North American outlets operate on 110V. If you’re appliances don’t use this voltage, you’ll need to purchase an outlet converter.

Restaurants and Dining

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✔️ If you order water in a restaurant, it’s common for them to arrive with a plastic bottle. The tap water is safe to drink, however, so if you prefer not to pay for the bottle, then specifically ask for tap.

✔️ In countries like Spain and France , it’s normal to eat dinner around 8-10:00PM. This threw us off when we started walking around looking for dinner menus at 6:00PM and found none available.

✔️ Similar to what I said about the olives, restaurants will often put out bread or a different starter to hold you over while you order your meal. But, it is NOT free.

If you don’t want to pay for whatever they bring to the table, then ask for it to be removed immediately (kindly of course).

Safety in Europe

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✔️ Unfortunately, pickpocketing is extremely common in most cities across Europe .

It’s important to be diligent about paying attention to your belongings and never allowing yourself to get distracted by street performers, locals asking for pictures, and so forth.

✔️ Each city you visit will have its own good and “not so good” streets and neighborhoods.

Do your research ahead of time to figure out the safest places to stay and where not to wander. It’s also a good idea to research if certain areas should be avoided at night.

📖 If you want a full breakdown on how to stay safe in Europe, check out my eBook : The Adventurer’s Guide to Navigating Europe Safely! It has over 150 pages and 25 chapters on how to stay safe while traveling the world’s most popular continent!

Tips for Traveling to Europe for the First Time

Think of this first part as your traveling to Europe checklist ! This travel guide will help you get an idea of how far in advance to plan a trip to Europe, the best way to visit Europe for the first time from the USA, and more!

1. Get Excited – the most important step in traveling to Europe for the first time!

traveling to Europe for the first time, it's important to plan an efficient route

Deciding to travel to Europe for the first time is a huge step. Seriously! The majority of people around the world will never get to experience the beauty of this diverse continent, and there’s really no need to be nervous about traveling to Europe.

The entire process of planning a trip, getting everything you need together, and going through the paperwork and nitty-gritty travel requirements takes a lot of time and effort which causes many people to avoid making the decision to go altogether.

So, by making the choice to start the planning process, you really should be excited. You are about to embark on a journey to a whole new world entirely different from your own! That takes a lot of courage… be proud of yourself because that decision is not easy.

Now, get ready for some very exciting moments as you start the planning process. You have your pick of travel methods, accommodations, sites and activities, and everything in between!

Now is the time to just soak it all in because half of the enjoyment of a trip comes from the anticipation of getting there… the journey!

2. Choose Solo Travel or Buddy Travel

When traveling to Europe for the first time, you'll have to decide whether to travel solo or with a buddy

This is going to be the first option you have to consider. Do you want to be entirely on your own schedule? Or, would you rather share the experience with your family, a significant other, or a friend?

Don’t take this one lightly as this is a big decision. If you are someone who enjoys being alone more often than not, then choosing to travel with your most talkative friend might be a poor choice.

You’ll want to make this decision on your own before you tell anyone that you are thinking of traveling to Europe for the first time. Why?

Otherwise, you are going to hear from everyone you know about where you should go, what you should do, and possibly even get asked if someone can tag along on your journey.

Unless you are a very social person who doesn’t mind the company and input of others on your personal vacations, then I suggest figuring out your first time Europe trip itinerary and personal travel style before telling people of your plans.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The input of people who have traveled to the places you are going can be extremely helpful.

They may know that you should arrive very early in the morning at the Eiffel Tower if you plan on going to the top or that you should plan to spend at least a week in the French Alps if you plan on doing any hiking due to the vast amount of trails.

This advice can be great, but I highly recommend getting an idea of what you are looking for out of your trip first, then asking for the advice of others when you are ready.

3. Consider Your Options

first trip europe

Europe may be one of the smallest continents, but that doesn’t make it a small place to visit. There are dozens of countries you can travel to over thousands of miles, and endless combinations of memorable itineraries you can make.

To create your ultimate vacation, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do I prefer warm weather or am I looking for snow?
  • What kinds of activities do I want to do the most? Beach days, skiing, museums, medieval castles, folk music?
  • What kind of authentic food do I want to try the most?
  • How much time do I have for travel?
  • Are language barriers going to be a problem for me?

Once you have your answers to these important questions, you’ll be able to better narrow down your list of possible countries.

Keep in mind, you don’t need to be fluent in several languages to visit Europe, especially if you plan on traveling to popular destinations like Paris , Barcelona , Rome, etc. Many locals will be able to speak at least some English.

4. Do Your Research – one of the most important steps when traveling to Europe for the first time

Before traveling to Europe for the first time, do your research on the best cities for your travel style

Once you have figured out what you are looking for in your vacation, you can begin researching possible destinations!

For example, if you are looking for a medieval town filled with narrow alleyways, cobblestoned streets, and meandering canals, then Bruges, Belgium would be a great destination for you.

If you want to spend your time sipping wine and sampling French cheese on a lakeside beach underneath the French Alps, then Lake Annecy, France is probably more your style.

There are countless options for your first trip to Europe, so be sure to do your research on which destinations have exactly what you are looking for.

5. Pick a Region

When traveling to Europe for the first time, it's impossible to visit every region in a quick visit

With so many different regions in Europe, it’s important to pick one and explore it to the fullest with your allotted time. Narrowing down to a specific country or a few countries within close proximity to one another will help you save time, money, and assist with your packing list.

Some of the most popular regions include Western Europe, the Balkans, Scandinavia, the British Isles, Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, Northern Europe, and Central Europe.

Each of these regions will have their own climates (for the most part), geographic layouts, cultural heritage, and cuisine. Of course, each country will vary vastly from one to the next, but you can expect similarities when traveling within the same region.

6. Consider Multi-City Flights – often overlooked by people traveling to Europe for the first time

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Multi-city flights are exactly what they sound like… flights that travel to multiple cities. Now, you can occasionally find great travel deals by doing this, and other times you’ll get a better deal by sticking to roundtrip flights.

For instance, if you are flying from the U.S. to Paris but also want to see Madrid, then you could book a multi-city flight from your nearest international airport in the U.S. to Paris, add a flight from Paris to Madrid, then fly back home to the U.S. from Madrid.

Now, this is a great way to get between destinations if you have the time to deal with busy airports, but if you are on a time crunch, I would recommend sticking with the local train system, also called the Eurail .

Multi-city flights can be booked through any airline or third-party booking website. There is usually an option next to the other options for “roundtrip” or “one way”.

If you are thinking of doing this, I highly recommend comparing prices and travel time for one-way flights and train tickets first.

7. Consider the Best Month to Visit Your Destination

Before traveling to Europe for the first time, consider which season is best for your destinations

Before choosing your destination, it’s a very good idea to check out a few things first. If you only have a specific week off of work to travel during a certain month, I highly recommend looking into the best destinations to visit during that month based on weather and tourist levels.

If you have the freedom to travel whenever you would like, then research your preferred destination and see what people are saying about the best time to visit.

A few questions to look into:

  • What is the weather like throughout the year?
  • How many tourists am I able to deal with?
  • Am I on a tight budget or do I have some leeway with prices?

Many popular destinations in Europe get an influx of tourists during the peak travel months between May and September for the nice weather and November and January for the holidays.

If you have any issues dealing with a lot of tourists and longer wait times for attractions, I suggest traveling to Europe for the first time outside of these months or in the shoulder season when they are just beginning or ending.

Along with the beautiful weather and tourists, prices tend to skyrocket. You can expect an increase in flight and train costs, accommodations, and food prices throughout much of the summer in Europe.

So, if you are traveling on a tight budget, I also suggest visiting during the other months of the year.

If you truly want to see the best a destination has to offer, then visit whenever you would like! Just do a little bit of research on what month has your preferred weather and available activities, and book your flight!

8. Research Holidays, Events, and Festivals

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If you are planning to visit Germany with your best bud to enjoy all the beer you can drink, then you should be planning your trip around the famous Oktoberfest festival in Munich!

Events and festivals can be a fantastic addition to any trip! You’ll get the opportunity to celebrate with locals and enjoy traditional experiences you won’t see during the rest of the year.

The holidays are also a great time to go on a trip. Europe is known for its festive Christmas markets and winter-long celebrations between October and January! Head there before the holiday to pick out some authentic gifts and handmade European crafts for your loved ones back home.

9. Plan for Rest Days – I forgot this when traveling to Europe for the first time by myself

When traveling to Europe for the first time, it's important to include rest days in your itinerary

What many people don’t realize is traveling takes a lot out of you. You are going to be tired, cranky, hungry, and frustrated at times. That’s a fact! Europe may be a magical destination filled with beautiful landscapes and breathtaking cities, but not everything goes to plan when you are traveling.

Many of us only get a couple of weeks of vacation per year, so don’t spend it running ramped through 8 cities in 10 days just so you can say you have been to 8 countries in Europe. Trust me, it’s not worth it.

Factor in at least one day just for relaxation and rejuvenation. You don’t have to book a spa treatment (though that is a great idea…), but plan for a day just to sit on the beach in Barcelona or have a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower. Your sore feet will thank you!

When you return from your trip, you don’t want to feel stressed and overtired from scrambling to fit too much into a short amount of time. Instead, you’re going to want to feel happy that you went and excited to tell people all about it. Therefore, plan for rest days!

10. Create Your European Itinerary

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Now that you have considered all of your options, chosen a region, picked your cities or towns, and know what activities you want to do, you can create your European itinerary!

This task becomes much easier once you have done all of those previous steps, so don’t skip out on them. Figure out the most efficient way to travel between cities and book your flights, trains, buses, or ferries.

Example of an inefficient trip: Paris –> Brussels –> Lisbon

Example of an efficient trip: Brussels –> Paris –> Lisbon

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✈️ Click this link for my complete step-by-step guide on how to plan a trip to Europe !

11. Check Your Passport – don’t forget this if it’s your first time traveling to Europe

You'll need to make sure your passport is valid before traveling to Europe for the first time

This is a quick step, but it’s very important.

If your passport expires within 6 months of your departure date, you may not be allowed to travel. Check that your passport has at least one year before expiration to ensure a successful departure.

If it doesn’t, you can go to your country’s government website to renew it. Keep in mind, you may need to pay extra to have your passport renewal expedited if you are departing within one month.

12. Research if You Need a Visa

Some countries require a temporary visa to enter if you plan on visiting for 90 days or more or plan to work. If you plan on just visiting as a tourist, you most likely will not need a visa.

13. Get a Good Suitcase or Backpack

A good suitcase or backpack is essential for traveling to Europe for the first time

This is important for any trip, but especially when you are traveling to Europe for the first time. Europe is filled with cobblestoned streets, big airports, train stations, and hilly landscapes.

You are going to need a suitcase that can withstand a lot. I prefer to backpack since it’s easier than having to lug around a suitcase, but suitcases can usually hold more items (unless you are carrying a very large travel backpack like my Osprey).

Soft suitcases are easier to store on planes, but hard ones usually hold up better. Depending on your destination, look into a good suitcase that will work for what you need it for.

I recommend the Away Carry-On (my favorite hard luggage) and the Osprey Fairview Women’s 40L Backpack (my favorite travel backpack).

14. Plan to Spend At Least 2-3 Nights in Each City

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One day simply isn’t enough time to see and do everything you want. You’ll feel rushed and will end up feeling disappointed when you don’t get the experience you hoped for.

Instead, spend 2-3 nights in each city, and plan a couple of activities for each day. This way, you’ll get to experience the city the way you want.

In fact, you should always plan to spend the first night of your trip in the city you fly into. It may not be the most fun night of your trip, but I recommend it for a couple of reasons.

First, if the airline loses your luggage you can pick it up easily when it arrives. Second, you aren’t going to want to continue traveling after you get off a long flight.

This will allow you to check into your accommodation, get some food, and relax for a little while before possibly starting your exploration around the city.

15. Account for Travel Time

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When choosing your itinerary, keep in mind how much time you’ll be spending traveling. If you book a multi-city flight plus several trains and buses between Portugal and Belarus, the majority of your trip is going to be spent en route.

When picking your destinations, account for how much time will be spent on travel, and possibly reconsider your itinerary at this point.

16. You CAN Go Back, so Slow Down!

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There is a common theme amongst new travelers that revolves around only visiting a place once in their lifetime, so they try to cram as many destinations, activities, and sites into each trip as possible.

But, that is simply not true. You CAN go back! Europe is not going anywhere (at least in our lifetime) so do yourself a favor, and slow down. Pick a few places and really explore them to the fullest.

On my first trip to Europe, I backpacked across 4 countries in 9 days because I was in college, didn’t have much money or time available to me, and thought it might be the only time in my life I’d ever get there. I have visited several times since then.

You can decide where you go during your lifetime, so just relax and enjoy this trip for what it is. When you get back, start planning your next trip!

Budgeting for Traveling to Europe for the First Time

17. purchase cheap flights to europe.

Hallstatt is a beautiful city to visit in Austria if you are traveling to Europe for the first time

So, I know what you are probably thinking. How am I supposed to find cheap flights to some of the most expensive countries in the world?

Well, believe it or not, they are out there. Here are some of my best travel tips for booking cheap flights to Europe:

  • Search for flights on Tuesday mornings (prices increase through the week and are at their highest on weekends and Mondays)
  • Book domestic flights between 4-6 weeks in advance
  • Book international flights as far in advance as possible
  • Midweek, late night, and early morning flights are the cheapest
  • Not all cheap flights have 2+ stops. Many nonstop or 1 stop flights are cheaper
  • Keep your dates flexible, if possible
  • Prices increase during peak season
  • Be willing to fly into nearby airports, if possible

18. Book Your Accommodations in Advance

Make all of your bookings well in advance when traveling to Europe for the first time

Unlike flight prices that drastically change over the course of several months, hotel prices tend to increase over time as your preferred dates get closer.

It is always best to book your accommodations in advance since you will save money and have better options to choose from. Once a hotel is fully booked, there is no standby available.

You will be stuck trying to find another hotel with your preferred amenities and location.

19. Check the Conversion Rate

first trip europe

When traveling to Europe for the first time, budget is usually a consideration for most people. To know if you will be getting a good deal on visiting a particular destination, it’s a good idea to check the conversion rate ahead of time.

For example, visitors coming from Canada to Europe have a rather poor conversion rate when using the Canadian Dollar. One Canadian Dollar is worth about €0.68 (varies). This means that when you go to buy currency, 100 Canadian Dollars are only going to buy you about €68 in Europe.

The worth of the Euro does fluctuate relatively often, but you usually won’t see any drastic changes. Depending on your home country’s currency, you may either gain or lose currency over the course of your trip.

20. Research the Cost of Living

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A good way to know how much money you should budget for your trip is to get an idea of how much the average meal, beer, bus ticket, and local activities cost.

If you know how much money you can plan to spend on food and sites during your trip, you’ll have a better idea of how much money you will need to have available. Countries like Portugal are rather cheap, but countries like Switzerland are among the most expensive countries in the world.

Researching the cost of living in your destination is a good way of knowing if you’ll be able to stick to your budget or not.

21. Choose Your Activities

first trip europe

If you plan on visiting Paris , there is a good chance you’ll want to see the Eiffel Tower and Le Louvre. If you want to go inside them, however, you are going to need to pay for that.

Research ahead of time what sites or attractions you may want to pay to get a closer look at, and include them in your budget.

22. Purchase a Rail Pass

If you are traveling to Europe for the first time, you should take advantage of the Eurail!

Eurail is Europe’s vast train system that can take you across over 40,000 destinations! This is by far the best way of traveling Europe for both money and efficiency depending on the proximity of your destinations.

Rail passes can be purchased for single countries, a number of rides over the course of 1-2 months, or you can buy a Global Pass that can take you through 33 different countries in Europe.

If you are traveling to Europe for the first time and are visiting a single country, I highly suggest their single country pass that starts at €51 for countless city itineraries throughout your preferred country.

23. Purchase Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is highly recommended if you're traveling to Europe for the first time

No matter where you’re going or how long you’ll be traveling for, travel insurance is essential. Especially if you or someone you are traveling with is at a higher risk for medical complications, then I highly suggest travel insurance.

Travel insurance covers almost everything that is out of your control… flight delays and cancelations, lost baggage, damage to your belongings, illness, injury, family emergencies, and even pandemics!

I personally always use SafetyWing because it’s extremely affordable, covers pretty much every activity you can think of, and covers everything I just listed.

Seriously, it’s extremely affordable. I recently returned from a 3-week trip with Sean to the Middle East and Central Asia and it only cost us a total of $82. We did everything from horseback riding to archery and we were 100% covered the entire time.

Book Your SafetyWing Travel Insurance Here!

24. Purchase a Converter – you’ll need to buy this if you’re traveling to Europe for the first time

first trip europe

European outlets are different from those found in other parts of the world. In the U.S., outlets carry 120 volts versus in Europe where they carry 220 volts.

If you are traveling to Europe with anything that needs to get charged (i.e. phone, laptop, tablet, hair dryer, etc.) then you’ll need a converter.

Converters can be found at your local electronics store or on Amazon .

25. Ensure Your Credit Card Has Sufficient Funds and Check its Foreign Transaction Fee Policy

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Before traveling to Europe for the first time, pay off your credit cards. In the unfortunate case that you need to leave the country abruptly, you’ll be happy to have enough funds to cover the change fees for a return flight home.

Another good idea before heading off on vacation is to check your bank’s foreign ATM fees. Some banks offer no fees on foreign transactions, whereas some banks charged upwards of $30 per transaction!

If that is the case, you’ll want to make sure you get currency prior to departing from your bank.

26. Plan for Unexpected Costs

Be prepared for unexpected costs when traveling to Europe for the first time

Unfortunately, not everything goes to plan while traveling to Europe for the first time.

If you rent a car, you may be forced to pay unexpected fines from tolls or damages. If you leave your iPod on the table of a café while you run to the bathroom, it might not be there when you get back. If you take a taxi, you may be subjected to increased milage rates and fraudulent fees.

People aren’t always honest, especially to foreigners, so keep your wits about you and plan to budget for at least an extra $200-300 in costs just in case something were to go wrong.

How to Prepare for Traveling to Europe for the First Time

27. learn to read a map – one of the most important things when traveling to europe for the first time.

If you are traveling to Europe for the first time, use these awesome tips to ensure you have a great trip!

After my first trip to Europe, I realized how important it was that I learned how to read a map. I was able to find the street names that surrounded me, but getting my bearings was all too difficult.

Once I learned how to get from point A to point B without having to ask the locals for directions, I started to save a significant amount of time (and money if I got on the wrong bus or train) getting to my next destination.

If you are unsure how to read a map, follow these simple steps:

  • Get a good quality map (don’t depend on Google Maps, you may lose service and it won’t update when you need it to)
  • Locate your accommodation (circle it!)
  • Find your destination on the map
  • Get your bearings (find 2 streets signs and figure out which direction you need to walk)
  • Follow the map until you reach your destination

28. Learn a Few Phrases in the Local Language

Become familiar with the local language before traveling to Europe for the first time

Learning a few phrases won’t only help you, but the locals as well if you need to ask for help. Simple communication is key to an enjoyable trip. Plus, learning new languages is fun!

A few good phrases you should know how to say before visiting a new country include:

  • I would like… (useful when ordering food)
  • Where is the bathroom?
  • How much is… (useful when buying something)
  • Numbers 1-10 (useful when ordering or purchasing multiple items)

29. Get Currency – important when traveling to Europe for the first time

first trip europe

The best way to ensure you will have some money in the local currency before arriving is to order it from your bank ahead of time. Many larger chain banks carry euros on hand, and other smaller banks often tend to have to order it for you.

If that is the case, be sure to order some currency at least two weeks prior to departing. This way, even if there is a delay in shipment, you still should get your currency on time.

If you don’t have an account with a local bank, you can buy currency at the airport.

Now, this usually is not recommended since kiosks tend to charge inflated rates and give you poor return values. You will likely not get the same value for your dollar as at a local bank, but this is an option if you don’t get any currency prior to departing.

30. Check the Local Weather

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Don’t assume that you have a good idea of what the weather will be like! The weather in Europe varies significantly between countries and regions, so be sure to research average weather trends before packing your suitcase.

For example, you might be heading to Chamonix in the southeast region of France in July, however, you will need a jacket due to the cooler air that floods the town from the surrounding snow-covered Mont Blanc Range the majority of the year.

If you are traveling to Europe for the first time in the middle of summer, be sure to pack a warm sweater or some extra layers. Temperatures drop a lot at night and you’ll be wishing you didn’t only pack shorts and tank tops.

31. Make Copies of Your Passport and Important Travel Documents

first trip europe

Make two sets of copies of your passport, any applicable travel visas, and your license or government-issued ID. Leave one set at home and bring the other set with you and store it in a safe place somewhere in your luggage.

If anything were to happen to your passport or other documents, you would still be able to prove your citizenship while abroad. Also, if anything were to happen to you while you were abroad, your family would have proof of your citizenship back home with them, as well.

Unfortunately, traveling doesn’t always go as planned. Having these extra precautions in place is a good way of ensuring your safety when abroad.

32. Sign Up for the STEP Program (if a U.S. Citizen)

Sign up for the S.T.E.P program before traveling to Europe for the first time if you're a U.S. citizen

If you are traveling to Europe for the first time from the USA, you are eligible to sign up for the free traveler’s program called S.T.E.P.

This program stands for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and allows U.S. citizens to declare where they are traveling, their dates, who they will be with, etc.

They will also alert you of travel precautions you should be taking, current travel restrictions, and any other travel-related news that might be beneficial to you.

S.T.E.P also allows the U.S. Embassy to contact you in the case of an emergency (civil unrest, natural disaster, or family emergency).

33. Call Your Bank – don’t forget this if you’re traveling to Europe for the first time

Call your bank and give them your destinations before traveling to Europe for the first time

Have you ever been abroad and had your debit card shut off for possible fraudulent charges? If the bank doesn’t know you are traveling and you make a purchase in another country, they may shut your card off which can really put a damper on your trip.

To prevent this from happening, be sure to give them a call at least 24 hours before departure or on the Friday before you leave if you depart on a weekend.

Let them know where you will be traveling to including any airports you’ll be stopping in, the dates of your trip, and that you plan on using your debit card while abroad.

This will go on your account so your card will not be shut off while you are abroad, but it will also let the bank know to keep an eye out for any seemingly fraudulent charges.

Even though you’ll be using your card, it’s unlikely you’ll be making very large purchases abroad, so they’ll be watching for any purchases that don’t seem to have come from you.

34. Call Your Phone Service Provider

Call your phone provider before traveling to Europe for the first time

To prevent severe data roaming charges and fees on your phone bill, you’ll either have to plan on keeping your phone in airplane mode the entire trip or adding a travel plan to your account.

The added travel plan typically lasts for 30 days and allows you to make calls and send unlimited texts while abroad. It usually costs around $30-45. If you know you’ll need to make calls, then this will save you money in the long run since individual calls and texts without the plan are very expensive.

If you don’t want to pay for an added phone plan and don’t think you’ll need to make any calls, you can choose to keep your phone in airplane mode and download an app called WhatsApp. The app is free and allows you to “text” anyone else who has the app for free.

35. Give a Close Friend or Family Member Your Itinerary

The Acropolis is a popular destination for visitors traveling to Europe for the first time

It’s always a good idea to tell people where you are going and for how long. For an extra safety measure, type out your itinerary with hotels included and email it to a friend or family member.

This way if something were to go wrong, they would know where you were every day that you were abroad.

36. Fill Any Medications or Prescriptions

Be sure to fill any necessary prescriptions before traveling to Europe for the first time

Any medications that you are going to need with you in Europe should be filled in the week before your trip.

This way you won’t need to worry about running out while abroad.

37. Find Your Glasses Case

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Pull out that dusty glasses case! When traveling to Europe for the first time, you’ll probably find that your glasses are going to be left on crooked café tables and rickety seatback airline trays. If they aren’t on your face, they should go in a case.

Glasses cases also make great wire holders while traveling! Neatly fold up your chargers and headphones and they’ll fit perfectly inside making for an efficient way of carrying all of those wires.

38. Pack Appropriately

Packing for inclement weather is important when traveling to Europe for the first time

Packing for the weather is a good start, but you’ll want to do a little research on how locals tend to dress, as well.

Now, I’m not saying you need to wear a lederhosen when you visit Germany, but fishnet leggings with heels in Ireland will definitely make you stand out… not in a good way.

Opt for nice clothes when traveling to Europe for the first time. Europeans tend to dress rather nicely every day of the week, plus you’ll feel more confident and won’t stand out as very underdressed or overdressed.

39. Sleep Well Before Departing

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Whether or not you are flying overnight or during the day, planes typically make people tired.

Getting a healthy amount of sleep in the nights before departing will significantly improve your flight experience. Unless you are keen on sleeping on planes, chances are you won’t get much rest during the flight.

40. Account for a Time Difference

Jet lag can set people back when traveling to Europe for the first time

If you are flying from the East Coast of the U.S., you will most likely experience +6-7 hours in time difference. From the West Coast of the U.S., +9-10 hours is likely if you are coming from California.

No matter where you are flying from, do a quick search to see what time it will be when you land. This will help you plan your eating and sleeping schedule immensely!

If you are taking an overnight flight and are landing around 8:00am in your destination, plan to eat dinner before boarding then brush your teeth and go to sleep after take off. This will greatly improve your sleep quality on the flight since you are maintaining your brain’s sleep schedule.

If you are departing at 6:00am and will arrive at your destination around 8:00pm, try to stay awake during the mid-day flight and eat lunch at a normal hour. This way you’ll be tired when you land, can go check into your accommodation, then go to sleep as normal without disrupting your sleep schedule.

41. Prepare for Jetlag

When traveling, you may find that the time difference makes you feel unwell

Unfortunately, if you land early in the morning after a long-haul flight, chances are you will suffer from some level of jetlag. This is perfectly normal and does go away after some time, but there are a few things you can do that will help.

First, drink plenty of water. One of the most common symptoms of jetlag is having a headache which can be significantly reduced by staying hydrated.

Second, rest up. Like I said before, the more sleep you get in the days leading up to your flight, the better you will feel when you land in your destination.

Lastly, stick with your normal schedule. Even if you are on a flight or in an airport, eat when you normally would, do activities when you normally would (i.e. read, draw, listen to music), then sleep when you normally would.

Staying on your normal schedule will reduce how severe your jetlag symptoms are and how long they last.

Getting to Europe

42. arrive early – please do this when traveling to europe for the first time.

first trip europe

For international flights, you should plan on arriving at the airport about 3 hours before your departure time. This will give you enough time to check in, check any bags, get through security, and find your gate.

The stress of missing a flight is not fun for anyone and sets the trip up for a bad start. Three hours may seem like a lot of time, but there are several variables that can cause you to still be late to your gate even if you are extra early.

I have stood in security lines that took two hours to get through, had random bag searches that took an extra 25 minutes and almost caused me to miss a flight, and realized I had to take several trains and shuttles to get to my gate.

You never know what may happen, so arrive early and bring something to do at the gate.

It may feel unnecessary to sit at the gate for an extra hour or two, but you won’t be stressed about missing any announcements or being late. Start your trip off right by being early to the airport!

43. Plan for the Airline to Lose Your Checked Bag

If you're traveling to Europe for the first time, be prepared for the airline to lose your checked bag

Especially if you are heading to Switzerland in the winter to go skiing, don’t pack your winter jacket in your checked luggage. Pack your carry-on bag with everything you would need to get you through 48 hours in your destination. Toiletries, an extra full outfit, and a jacket or sweatshirt should be included.

Unfortunately, airlines make mistakes. I don’t check bags anymore since I have had at least one of my bags get lost with half a dozen different airlines before. These were quality airlines too, not budget airlines.

So, do yourself a favor and plan ahead for them to lose your bag by packing a useful carry-on. This, of course, is not guaranteed to happen, but you’ll be grateful you were prepared if it does.

44. Avoid the Middle Seat (if possible)

first trip europe

Everyone has their own personal preference, but from personal experience, the middle seat is the worst. In my opinion, the aisle seat is the best! Yes, the window seat is fun and offers cool views, but nobody likes having to crawl over strangers to use the bathroom.

The aisle seat allows you plenty of opportunities to just get up and stretch your legs whenever you feel like you need to and to use the bathroom without disrupting other people.

The middle seat doesn’t allow you good views out the window without entering the personal space of someone else, and you have to make someone move every time you need to get up.

If you have the option, choose the aisle seat or the window seat with the understanding that you should use the bathroom before departing.

45. Pack All Your Liquids in One Clear, Ziptight Quart Bag

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TSA now requires travelers to fit all of their 3.4-ounce liquids into a single quart bag that can zip shut. If the bag can’t shut, they may have you discard some of the items. This makes it extra simple when they ask you to remove all of the liquids from your bags during the security check.

Keep in mind that this includes all liquids. Ladies, liquid concealer or other liquid makeup products also need to be included in your quart bag!

46. Pack an Empty Reusable Water Bottle

first trip europe

When traveling to Europe for the first time (and preferably every time after), you should be bringing a reusable water bottle with you. Many countries in Europe don’t have potable drinking water, so one with a filter is especially useful.

Be sure to fill the bottle after you get through security! If it’s full, they may have you discard the item entirely since it is over the 3.4 ounces limit.

47. Don’t Assume You’ll Get a Meal on the Flight

first trip europe

If you are like me and pretty much always feel hungry, then this one is for you. Don’t assume you are getting a meal on the flight! Especially during these times with the pandemic, meals are never a guarantee.

Pick up some food at the airport and bring it on board. You can ask one of the flight attendants if they will be serving a meal, and if not, you’ll be glad you have a backup meal ready.

If they are, it’s never a bad thing to have an extra sandwich with you in case you end up sitting on the runway for a couple of hours.

48. Pack Snacks

If you're traveling to Europe for the first time, pack some snacks in case you don't like the food

Individually wrapped snack bars are a great way to keep yourself from getting hangry (hungry and angry) on a long haul flight, train, bus, or ferry rides, or even just while you are out exploring.

They also keep well and you don’t have to worry about the meat and cheese in a sandwich going bad.

49. Pack Hand Sanitizer – a must when traveling to Europe for the first time

first trip europe

Whether you are traveling to Europe for the first time or not, you should always pack hand sanitizer.

You will be touching airline tray tables, public door handles and railings, and everything in between.

When you don’t have a way of washing your hands before you eat, hand sanitizer is a great substitute when traveling.

50. Don’t Assume the Airline Will Have Seatback TVs

first trip europe

Always pack a book, some headphones, a puzzle of some kind, anything!

If your flight gets switched at the last minute due to complications, you’ll be glad you have something to entertain you.

51. Bring a Battery Pack

first trip europe

Those headphones aren’t going to be very useful if your phone or iPod dies.

So, bring along a fully charged battery pack so you can recharge your phone before getting off the plane in your destination. This might be a lifesaver if you don’t have a map with you!

52. Limit Your Alcohol Consumption

first trip europe

Alcohol will not only make you tired and groggy, but it’ll also make you have to use the bathroom a lot more often.

Avoid alcohol if possible, or at least limit your intake to only one drink, then stick to water for the rest of the flight.

53. Go Over Your Travel Guide

If you're traveling to Europe for the first time, it's a good idea to look over your travel guide on the plane ride over

Travel guides are a great way to get an in-depth look at your destination before getting there. You can practice the local language, look at the map and get a feel for how big the city is, and even plan out the attractions and activities you want to see and do each day.

Travel guides are a must if you are traveling to Europe for the first time!

54. Drink Plenty of Water

first trip europe

Planes are especially dry and cause you to become dehydrated much faster than normal. It’s important to drink water throughout your flight and to avoid soda and alcohol as best you can.

55. Stretch Your Legs

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You might become a nuisance to the other people in your row if you do this too often, but get up at least a couple of times over the course of the flight to stretch your legs.

If you don’t, your legs will probably end up feeling very tight and sore when it comes time to get off the plane.

56. Hit the Bathroom

first trip europe

If you are staying hydrated, you’re going to need to go to the bathroom at least once during the flight.

It’s a good idea to go even if you don’t think you need to because it will give you another opportunity to stretch your legs and will prevent you from getting that “oh no” feeling when you land!

57. Brush Your Teeth

first trip europe

I’m not sure about you, but I always feel significantly better after brushing my teeth on a flight.

It wakes you up, removes that bland taste from your mouth, and helps you feel cleaner even after sitting on an airplane for a while.

58. Get Some Sleep

first trip europe

If you can sleep well on planes, lucky you! Getting some good quality sleep can improve your overall travel experience and can leave you feeling livelier than ever even after a long-haul journey.

Exploring Europe

59. avoid renting a car when traveling to europe for the first time.

Avoid renting a car if you're traveling to Europe for the first time

Renting cars in Europe is a nightmare… it’s as simple as that. Even for the seasoned traveler, this process and experience can be overwhelming and frustrating.

If you are from the U.S. (like me) and are not prepared for driving on the opposite side of the road and on the opposite side of the car while driving manually, I warn you not to rent one.

Almost every city in Europe is extremely walkable and has a great metro or bus system making it easy to get around for people traveling to Europe for the first time.

60. Avoid Cabs and Taxis Altogether

Especially if you're traveling to Europe for the first time, avoid taking cabs and taxis

Taking taxis or cabs is one of the most common ways to get scammed in Europe. Even for a short ride, you can end up being told you have to pay up to €100. Cabbies are also known for claiming that you didn’t pay them enough money after they have already put the money in their pocket.

If you must hail a cab, be sure to find one with a real company logo and telephone number. You can also ask any hotel concierge to call you a taxi since they will likely be using reputable services for their guests.

61. Avoid Street Scams – the most important thing to remember when traveling to Europe for the first time

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Street games are one of the most common ways tourists get scammed in Europe. Figuring out which cube the dice is under, card games, etc., should all be avoided.

Additionally, you should never exchange your money for local currency with someone on the street! The money is almost always fake and locals will be able to tell the difference and won’t accept it.

62. Keep Your Personal Items Close

If you're traveling to Europe for the first time, be sure to keep your valuables close to you

Pickpocketing is a real problem in Europe. In fact, many people make a living off of it! Keep all of your important items in a zipped bag on the front of your person at all times.

If you are at a restaurant and need to run to the bathroom, bring your items with you. Never leave your important items unattended or you could become a victim of the common petty theft problem in Europe.

63. Research Transportation Strikes

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Transportation strikes can undoubtedly cause issues on your trip, but the good news is you’ll know when they are going to happen!

Simply research your destination and if they have any scheduled strikes. I recommend doing this before you book your trip just in case, but it is avoidable if you end up traveling to Europe for the first during a strike.

This would give you a great opportunity to rent bicycles and explore the city on two wheels (my favorite way of exploring Europe!)

64. Expect Heavy Security

first trip europe

In airports, train stations, bus stations, and government buildings, expect to see armed guards around every corner. This does not mean anything has happened recently, but since Europe is a common victim of attacks and political violence, they are there in the event of an emergency.

Don’t let this frighten you away from Europe! Every country in the world has its own levels of violence and crime, and the only thing you will most likely have to look out for is petty theft.

65. Your Hotel Room May Be Very Small

You may find that some hotel rooms are very small when traveling to Europe for the first time

Pay no attention to what the photos look like online when you booked your room… they are probably showing a much larger version than what you are getting! Most European hostels, inns, and hotels can only offer tiny rooms.

If the room you are looking at offers a “shared bathroom”, you can almost guarantee you’ll have a small square with a single bed and a single bathroom per floor of people.

This is all part of the fun of Europe, however. We have gotten lucky before with beautiful, massive rooms overlooking the city of Bruges in Belgium, and have gotten stuck in a step above a broom closet in Amsterdam. You never know what you are going to get, so don’t stress over it!

66. Be Prepared to Walk… A Lot

If you're traveling to Europe for the first time, be prepared to walk a long distance each day

Good walking shoes are one of my number one tips for traveling to Europe for the first time!

And even if you do pack good shoes, be sure to pack some bandaids, as well. Blisters are nearly unpreventable if you are planning on taking to the entire city on foot!

To reduce the amount of walking you do, you can do two things:

  • Rent Bicycles – the best in any European city!
  • Take advantage of the local bus or metro system

67. Expect a Language Barrier

first trip europe

Especially if you are traveling to Europe for the first time, you can expect to get hit with at least a small language barrier in restaurants, stores, etc. This will become more apparent as you leave the major cities, as well.

✔️ Pro Tip : Carry a travel guide on your destination with you! It should have great travel tips for getting through the city as well as common phrases with pronunciations to help you communicate. Rick Steves has a great one on The Best of Europe Travel Guide!

68. Carry Cash With You

It's important to have currency on you when traveling to Europe for the first time

By cash, I mean euros. Don’t carry a lot of your home country’s currency with you since you will most likely receive a very poor exchange rate from the locals.

I would carry around €60-70 on me at any given time but never above €100. This gave me enough to buy food and maybe purchase an impromptu attraction ticket if I find something I decide I want to do in the moment.

But, pickpockets are still very real in Europe, so if this does happen to you, you don’t want to lose all of your money at once!

69. Smoking is Allowed Almost Everywhere

first trip europe

If you are like me and are really put off by the smell of cigarettes, you might have some trouble adjusting to life in Europe.

Many restaurants and hotels still allow smoking indoors, so be sure to ask for a non-smoking section or room ahead of time if you aren’t comfortable with it.

70. Pick Up a Metro or Bus Schedule

first trip europe

Even if you plan on walking most of the time, having the local bus or metro schedule with you is a good idea.

This way, if you end up covered in blisters and simply need a ride, you’ll know where all of the stops are and what time the pickups are.

71. Try to Fit In With the Locals

Do your best to not look like a tourist when traveling to Europe for the first time

But, be yourself! You don’t need to walk, talk, and dress as they do, but standing out like a tourist will draw some unwanted attention (especially from pickpocketers).

Put your massive city map and travel guide away until you are indoors and don’t stop to take pictures of the sidewalk and random objects all around town.

By fitting in, you are less likely to become a victim of petty theft and will be treated better than your fellow tourists.

72. There is a Fee to Pee

When traveling to Europe for the first time, don't be surprised if you have to pay to use the bathroom

If you are traveling to Europe for the first time, you may be surprised to hear that there is usually a fee to use the bathroom. This includes many chain restaurant bathrooms, as well (i.e. McDonald’s, Starbucks, etc.)

The fee ranges from place to place, but about €0.50 is typical.

If there is no attendant outside of the bathroom collecting money, don’t be surprised if you have to pay for toilet paper when you get inside. Don’t be fooled by the large bills in the coin jar though, €0.50 is plenty!

73. You May Be Asked To Leave Your Room Key With the Receptionist

first trip europe

If when you are checking into your hotel they ask you to leave your room key with them when you go out, don’t be surprised. This is typical of many European hotels, especially ones offering unique door keys that they don’t want to get lost.

I have never had a problem with anything getting stolen, but for extra safety, I would always carry your passport and money on your person if they do take your room key.

Unfortunately, if something gets lost or stolen while you are out, by signing the contract and agreeing to their terms and conditions the hotel can’t be held liable.

74. Everyone Can Understand You and Your Conversation

first trip europe

Many people in Europe, and around the world, can speak multiple languages. Keep this in mind when you are walking down the street having a conversation.

Be mindful of your words and the language you use while in Europe, the majority of people around you can understand everything you’re saying!

75. Avoid Kissing Cheeks

first trip europe

Kissing cheeks is a cultural tradition in mainly French culture, but in other European countries, as well. Kisses are exchanged between two people who know each other very well such as family members or close friends, but never when meeting someone for the first time.

If you do this, you are likely to get yelled at and most likely physically removed from the person you are attempting to kiss!

76. Avoid Sidewalk ATMs

Remember to avoid using street ATMs when traveling to Europe for the first time

Sidewalk ATMs are another common way locals scam tourists. They have special readers that fit perfectly over the ATM that steal your card information which is then removed at the end of the day, night, or week.

Once they have your card information, there is no saying what they will do, but you may end up with some fraudulent charges that will take you a long time to sort out with your bank.

Instead, only use ATMs inside of a local bank or behind a locked door. These rooms have cameras, so your information is less likely to be stolen here.

77. Plan to Eat At Different Times of the Day

When traveling to Europe for the first time, you'll notice that many cultures eat at different times of the day

When I was traveling to Europe for the first time, I had no idea that it was customary to eat dinner around 10:00pm in several popular countries. In Spain, they typically don’t even bring out the dinner menu until after 7:30pm.

This was a shock to us since we were so used to eating dinner around 6:00pm, so the first couple of nights we ended up snacking on whatever we could find until dinner time.

If you also eat an early dinner, plan to eat a late lunch in Europe so you don’t find yourself extremely hungry by the time dinner rolls around!

78. Burnout is Real

first trip europe

If on your first trip to Europe you start to feel tired, overwhelmed, easily irritated, or even exhausted… that’s okay!

Burnout happens to almost everyone at some point in their journey. The best way to fix it is to shift your plans for the day and just spend a day relaxing.

Head to the beach, get a massage, sit at a café and people watch, or anything that will make you take a step back and rest for a little while.

79. Pick Out a Souvenir

When traveling to Europe for the first time, be sure to pick out a souvenir for yourself

If you are traveling to Europe for the first time, be sure to pick out a souvenir!

We collect shot glasses from everywhere we visit since they are easily packable and are unique to each place we go. Whether it’s a t-shirt or a cool mug, be sure to bring something home for yourself.

80. Enjoy Yourself

first trip europe

Even if you are traveling to Europe on a budget, you should enjoy yourself. Be sure to step back from all the things you were told you had to do when visiting Europe and ensure you do what makes you happy.

If you would rather read a book on a park bench than see the Eiffel Tower when visiting Paris , do it! This is your trip too, no matter who you may be traveling with, so be sure to fit in at least a couple of things that you want to do too.

Experience the Cuisine

81. avoid the tourist hot spots – very important when traveling to europe for the first time.

When traveling to Europe for the first time, be sure to eat outside of the touristy spots

Every city in Europe has its heavy tourist areas, but they are easy to seek out. If all you see are tourists, restaurants, and long lines, leave! The best food of any city is almost always outside of these tourist zones.

For high-quality food at reasonable prices and local bars serving up pints for less than €7, hit the smaller neighborhoods outside the city center.

Of course, there will be some attractions and activities you may want to do if you’re traveling to Europe for the first time, but don’t spend your entire vacation in the most touristy spots of the city. You’ll miss out on unique experiences and hidden gems only known to locals!

82. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

When traveling to Europe for the first time, be sure to try new foods

Don’t be afraid to try new things! Europe is known for its sensational cuisine of all different varieties and styles and should be explored to the fullest.

Try squid ink pasta in Portugal (my favorite!), pan-seared octopus in Barcelona , or extra smelly cheese in France . Food has a way of making a trip special, so enjoy it while you are traveling to Europe for the first time.

Remember, you can always go back, but that’s no reason not to indulge in all of the Belgian chocolate you can!

83. Expect to See Teenagers at the Bar

Don't be surprised if you see teenagers at the bar when traveling to Europe for the first time

You may be surprised to be drinking next to an 18-year-old (or even 16 years old in Germany and Austria) at the local pub, but it is legal. Unlike the U.S., Europe has a rather young drinking age.

84. Seat Yourself

Don't wait for a host to seat you when traveling to Europe for the first time

Rarely will you find a restaurant in Europe with a dedicated host or hostess. Normally, you’ll go in and seat yourself and one of the few waiters or waitresses will bring over a menu.

It’s typical to walk in, give a wave to one of the employees so they see that you’re there, then sit where you would like. If there is a host or hostess, they will be standing right at the front door similar to the U.S.

85. Eat Out At Least Once – a must when traveling to Europe for the first time

Treat yourself to a nice restaurant at least once when traveling to Europe for the first time

Unless you are renting an apartment with a full kitchen, you most likely will be buying your food out pretty often. But, if your budget allows, you should try to enjoy at least one meal at a nice sit-down restaurant in each country you visit.

You can find fantastic food on the streets of Europe, but sometimes the best local and authentic cuisine is waiting indoors. Even if it’s just a small shop with a few tables, try it out!

✔️ Pro Tip : Try the Doner Kebab! This is one of my all-time favorite meals to get in Europe! They are very affordable and customizable to your liking. Think warm pita bread stuffed with flavorful meat, vegetables, and sauces.

86. Expect Slow Service

first trip europe

Waiters and waitresses don’t truly wait on you hand and foot like they do in the U.S. It could be a long time before your food comes out and you should not expect an apology from the waitstaff.

87. Be Prepared to Initiate Communication With Your Server

Don't be surprised if you need to get your waiter's attention when you travel to Europe for the first time

If you need something, you are most likely going to have to get your waiter or waitress’ attention.

Don’t be disrespectful by waving them down, but a simple head nod or some eye contact usually does the trick.

88. You’ll Have to Ask for the Check

first trip europe

Waiters and waitresses won’t ever bring you the bill.

In Europe, dinners can last up to 4 hours! If you aren’t looking to be at a restaurant past closing time, then you’ll need to wave down your server and ask for the bill.

89. Tipping Is Not Always Customary

If you're traveling to Europe for the first time, remember that tipping isn't always customary

Tipping is not expected in many countries in Europe. It’s customary to round the bill up to full dollars, but the typical U.S. amount of 20% is far above what you need to tip your waiter or waitress.

The staff makes good wages, so they do not rely on tips for the majority of their income.

When I was in Ireland, I left a few euros for the bartender as a tip and left. He then proceeded to run out of the pub to give me the money he thought I had forgotten on the bar. Like I said, tipping is not always customary!

90. If You Don’t Want the Bread and Olives on the Table, Have the Waiter Remove Them

first trip europe

If you are traveling to Europe for the first time, don’t be surprised if there is already food on your table when you sit down in a restaurant or you have food brought to you the moment you sit down.

In several European countries, especially Portugal, it’s customary for bread and olives to be brought as the first part of your meal. However, if you don’t plan on eating them, have the waiter or waitress remove them.

Otherwise, you will be charged! It’s not a free appetizer, you will be charged between €2-5 for the extra food.

91. If Your Order a Coffee, You Might Get an Espresso

People traveling to Europe for the first time are often confused when they get an espresso instead of a cup of coffee

If you are a strong coffee lover and are traveling to Europe for the first time, you may or not be happily surprised. In Europe, the locals tend to drink more espresso than coffee flavored with milk and sugar.

If you want to get your usual coffee, be sure to read the menu and take a look at their cup sizes. If you only see 4oz mini cups, they may only serve espresso.

If that is the case, you can usually ask for an Americano which is watered-down espresso. It tastes very similar to coffee in the U.S. and can have cream and sugar added as normal.

92. Hit the Local Supermarket – try this if you’re traveling to Europe for the first time

first trip europe

You can find great food options in the local supermarkets for very cheap.

They are a great place to grab a baguette, some meat, and cheese for a picnic in the park in France, or some snacks to have in your room if you are on a tight budget.

93. Try the Local Beer, Wine, or Spirits

Beer is a must-try when traveling to Europe for the first time

Unless you are sober, no trip to Europe is complete without trying the local beverages.

In France, wine is the most popular beverage of choice. If you order beer, be ready for a hefty tab. Expect the opposite in Germany or other countries with a large beer menu.

94. Alcohol May Be Cheaper Than Water

If you're traveling to Europe for the first time, you may be surprised to see that alcohol is often cheaper than water

Many countries in Europe charge a significant amount more for bottled water than they do for alcohol.

Now, this does depend on the country you are in, but if you don’t drink alcohol, then that reusable water bottle with a filter will come in extra handy for your budget.

95. Splurge and Eat Decadently – treat yourself when traveling to Europe for the first time

Enjoy all of the amazing food if you're traveling to Europe for the first time

You are traveling to Europe for the first time ! Be sure to budget for some Belgian chocolate and waffles, some melty French Raclette, or some Portuguese custard tarts!

96. Buy an Airport-Approved Treat

Bring home a TSA-approved treat if you traveled to Europe for the first time

One of the best ways to remember a trip is by bringing home a decadent treat for yourself (if you are able to avoid eating it on the return flight home).

Many chocolate and cheese shops sell TSA-approved goods for travelers. Take advantage of this option and return home with some goodies for yourself or your loved ones!

Returning Home from Traveling to Europe for the First Time

97. plan your route to the airport ahead of time.

Traveling to Europe for the first time is both exciting and stressful, but  with my simple tips, you'll be off in no time!

Traveling to Europe for the first time can definitely bring on some challenges. Finding the best route to the airport can certainly be one of them!

At some point during your trip, be sure to figure out the best way of getting yourself to the airport on time.

Many major cities have direct metro lines and bus routes to the international airports but find which one is the closest to your accommodation and book tickets in advance, if necessary.

98. Purchase Any Bus or Train Tickets in Advance

Save yourself stress by purchasing all of your transportation in advance when traveling to Europe for the first time

It is very possible to go on a 2 week Europe itinerary by train as long as you are aware of when train tickets are going on sale for your routes.

If you are going to need any form of transportation to get yourself from your accommodation to the airport on the day of your return flight, be sure to check the schedules and buy any tickets you can in advance.

Train travel is usually very reliable, so you won’t have any leeway at the station to grab tickets last minute if you’re running late. This will save you time and stress on the day of your flight.

99. Organize Your Suitcase

first trip europe

Separate your dirty laundry from your clean clothes, ensure all of your liquids are back in that clear, quart-sized ziplock bag, and fold everything up neatly before closing up your bag.

This will save you a lot of time when you get home, and in the event that you need something, you’ll be able to find it easily!

100. Cushion Your Souvenirs

first trip europe

There is nothing worse than arriving home from your wonderful vacation with a suitcase full of broken glass! Be sure to wrap up any souvenirs, especially anything fragile, with bubble wrap or clothes.

Anything will work as long as there is enough of it to keep the items from moving around too much.

101. Be Prepared to Declare Any Perishable Items

first trip europe

On your way back from Europe, you will be given some documents to fill out on the plane regarding the amount of money you are traveling with (including the value of your items) and if you have anything to declare.

While you most likely won’t have anything of dangerous value, you may have some other items that TSA will need to know about.

Anything perishable, like produce, plant life, or living organisms of any kind will need to be declared during TSA and included on the form.

They won’t necessarily take everything away from you as long as it is cleared, but if you don’t declare something and they find it, they will definitely take it away and possibly fine you.

102. Reflect on Your Experience

first trip europe

Once you return from traveling to Europe for the first time, you are going to be elated! At least, you should be. Visiting Europe, for many people, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Reflect on how it went, what you enjoyed and didn’t enjoy, what you would do again, and what you would do differently the next time you go to Europe.

Hopefully, you have some wonderful memories and phenomenal pictures to bring home with you!

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Anonymous

103. Plan Your Next Trip – one of the most important things to remember when traveling to Europe for the first time

first trip europe

Now that you have visited Europe, start planning your next trip right away!

Where do you want to go next? Do you want a more adventurous or a more relaxing vacation next time you visit?

Don’t fall into the mindset that you’ll probably never return or that you can’t afford another vacation for a long time. Traveling can be done in all forms for all different lengths of time. Do what is right for you and what makes you happy!

↪️ Need some help deciding on an itinerary? Here are 11 of My Most EPIC European Itineraries !

FAQ: Traveling to Europe for the First Time

To answer this question most effectively, we’ve broken down the answers into a few different specific questions that will better help you to understand what you need to know before you get to Europe.

Where Should I Go for my First Time in Europe?

first trip europe

For first-time travelers to Europe, I usually suggest starting with classic European destinations such as Paris, Rome, or London. Each of these cities offers a diverse range of historical sites, famed landmarks, cultural experiences, and delectable cuisines.

Paris, known as ‘The City of Lights’, is famous for its iconic Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, and its charming café culture. Rome, the ‘Eternal City’, is a treasure trove of ancient history, from the awe-inspiring Colosseum to the stunning Sistine Chapel.

London, a vibrant cosmopolitan city, boasts sites like the British Museum, the Tower of London, and the bustling Oxford Street for shopping enthusiasts.

Remember, there’s no definitive ‘best’ destination – the best choice will depend on your personal interests. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, a lover of art, or an outdoor enthusiast, Europe has something to offer for every traveler.

It will always be in your best interest to think about your personal interests, then research destinations that have what you’re looking for!

What Do I Need to Buy Before Going to Europe?

There are some items you should buy before traveling to Europe for the first time

The biggest question I get asked from newbie travelers is “ is there anything I need to do before traveling to Europe? ” and every time I respond with an answer along the lines of not stressing over what you pack.

On every trip I take, I always bring along my packing cubes since they are great for organizing my clothes and toiletries and separating my dirty and clean laundry.

I also suggest purchasing a good suitcase , a travel wallet that can hold your passport and necessary items, a day backpack , and good walking shoes .

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to go out and buy a bunch of stuff for your trip to Europe.

Depending on the season and your destinations, there’s a good chance you already have plenty of appropriate clothing, a decent suitcase, and all of the hygiene stuff you’ll need.

I do recommend picking up some reusable travel bottles so you don’t have to spend a ton of money on disposable shampoos, conditioners, and so on.

This makes it easy to pack all of your daily lotions, creams, sprays, and such without worrying about being over the 3.4-ounce TSA carry-on limit. Otherwise, as long as your house, pets, and anything else you’re leaving behind is well looked after, then you don’t have to worry.

Which Country in Europe Should I Visit First?

If you're traveling to Europe for the first time, be sure to research all of the possible destinations

Some of the best places to visit in Europe for first timers include London , Paris , and Brussels . These are some of the must see cities for first time visitors in Europe since they are easy to navigate, have lots of fun attractions, and don’t require too much planning.

Personally, I would suggest visiting London and Paris if you are trying to create a traveling to Europe for the first time itinerary since you will experience similar time differences, climates, and food.

If you are really looking to explore some of the more off-the-beaten-path areas of Europe, I highly recommend visiting the French Alps town of Chamonix or the smaller towns of Belgium including Bruges and Ghent .

Of course, you can branch out like we did and visit other popular cities such as Budapest , Prague , and Berlin . These are all must-see cities in Europe, but don’t try to squeeze them all in on your first trip to the continent.

Instead, space them out among your other future trips so you have enough time to enjoy each city and everything it has to offer!

How Do I Start Planning a Trip to Europe?

first trip europe

Deciding where you want to travel in Europe is the first step of planning your trip, which makes it all the more daunting.

With so many amazing countries to visit in Europe, it can be hard to narrow it down to just a destination or two. But there are some key things you should consider when making your decision: budget, climate, attractions, food, and culture.

Get a pen and paper (I’m old-school, I know…) and write down your priorities for each of these topics. What is your absolute maximum budget? What kind of weather are you hoping for? Do you prefer museums and art galleries over shopping?

Ask yourself about everything you would consider doing on your trip, and that will help you narrow down which destinations may be the best fit for you!

How Many Countries Should I Visit in Europe in 2 Weeks?

first trip europe

If you’re planning a trip to Europe for 2 weeks, take my advice… from personal experience, I wouldn’t suggest trying to visit more than 4 or 5 countries in 2 weeks. I backpacked across 4 countries in 9 days, and boy was it a lot!

It was the experience of a lifetime and I’ll cherish those memories forever, but holy blisters and sore backs.

To get the best experience from each country you visit, opt to instead think about how much time you want to spend in each country versus how many countries you can fit into 2 weeks.

For example, if you know you want to go to France and plan on visiting Paris , Normandy , Chamonix , Bordeaux , and Lyon, then you probably have a week minimum set aside for France already. So, if you’re planning a trip to Europe for 1 week, then you may want to consider visiting 1-2 countries at most .

Don’t cut back on the things you want to do in a particular country just so you can say you went to more countries… it’s all about the experiences and memories you make while you’re there!

What Should You NOT Do When Traveling to Europe?

first trip europe

As in many countries, there are certain things you should not do when traveling to Europe.

✔️ First, avoid drinking in public.

There are still laws about this and you will get fined by the local police. You might be extra excited to be traveling to Europe for the first time, but not every city is like Amsterdam.

In fact, even Amsterdam doesn’t allow public drinking. The city’s current fine for public consumption of alcohol or any open containers is €90!

✔️ Second, don’t litter.

You may see trash on the streets, but don’t become part of the problem. Hold onto your trash and recycling until you find the proper bins.

✔️ Third, don’t assume that since you are in a popular tourist city everyone knows English.

Always start a conversation by asking if they know any English, and if not, hopefully you learned a few useful phrases in the local language!

What Month is Best to See Europe?

If you're traveling to Europe for the first time, consider visiting in the off-season

This completely depends on your tolerance of weather and tourists.

If you want the nicest weather, longest daylight hours, and longest opening hours at all of the attractions, then the best months to visit Europe are between June and August .

If you have a low tolerance for tens of thousands of other tourists, then you should avoid the summer months and visit in the shoulder months of May and September.

The winter months can be especially enjoyable if you enjoy winter sports and holiday markets, but tourist levels will be high during this time, as well.

How Do I Not Look Like a Tourist in Europe?

Try not to look like a tourist when traveling to Europe for the first time

To avoid looking like a tourist, wear semi-nice clothing and avoid pulling out your map or travel guide at every turn in the road.

Tourists are easily spotted by their bulky backpacks and large cameras, so try to limit what you walk around with and fit in with the locals as best you can.

What Should You Not Wear in Europe?

Avoid packing heels if you're traveling to Europe for the first time

✔️ Try not to dress too sloppy or too nice.

Europeans dress casually, but still well, every day of the week. Avoid wearing baggy sweatpants or ball gowns down the street as you may attract some unwanted attention.

✔️ Avoid wearing heels since cobblestoned streets are typically everywhere throughout Europe along with rolling hills and uneven sidewalks.

Good walking shoes are a must!

✔️ Also, avoid political, racial, or inappropriate clothing.

It’s okay to be you and stand out with your own style, but wearing offensive or inappropriate clothing is going to attract the wrong attention that you likely don’t want.

How Much Money do you Need Per Day to Travel in Europe?

first trip europe

The amount of money you need per day to travel in Europe depends on your spending habits and the type of trip you are planning. For a budget backpacker, it is possible to get by on as little as $25-35 USD per day.

However, if you want more comfort and luxury, then you should plan to spend closer to $100 USD per day or more. The cost will also increase significantly if you are hoping for an accommodation with breakfast included, a pool, or multiple beds and a view.

The amount of money per day you’ll need to budget will also vary greatly depending on the countries you choose to visit ( I can’t stress this one enough! )

You’ll find Portugal to be far more affordable than Switzerland or Ireland , and will need to ensure you take into account which countries you plan on visiting before and after setting your budget.

Is $5000 Enough to Travel Europe?

first trip europe

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to say whether or not $5,000 is enough money for your trip to Europe. We would need to consider your length of trip, your destinations, your accommodation choices, food preferences, and so forth.

Now, can you visit Europe with $5,000? Absolutely! I’ve done it with less than $1,000 coming from New England and had money to spare on my return home. However, I was staying in hostels, backpacking, sitting in luggage carts on trains, and so forth. Don’t worry… I’ve upgraded my budget since college.

You can certainly plan an incredible European vacation with $5,000, but how far it gets you will be entirely up to you. You could make $5k last 2 months or 2 days depending on how you want to enjoy your trip and the accommodations and activities you choose.

How Much Money Should I Save for a 3 Week Trip to Europe?

first trip europe

The amount of money you should save for a 3-week trip to Europe can vary widely based on various factors such as your travel style, the countries you plan to visit, and the time of year. If you prefer budget traveling, staying in hostels, eating at cheap places, and minimizing your activities, you might get by on an estimate of $75-$100 USD per day.

For a more comfortable but still budget-conscious trip, a daily budget of around $150-$200 USD would be more suitable, covering a decent hotel, restaurant meals, and admission fees for attractions.

For a luxury experience, you might need more than $300 USD per day. Therefore, for a 3-week trip, your savings should range between $1,575 – $6,300 USD.

Always remember to add a little extra for emergencies or unexpected expenses. However, these are rough estimates, and the actual amounts may vary. Be sure to do your research on the specific costs related to your chosen destinations and planned activities.

How Much Does a 1 Week Trip in Europe Cost?

first trip europe

If you’re planning a trip to Europe for 1 week, you’ll need to create a budget based on your destinations, the time of the year, where you’ll be staying, restaurants and food, attractions, and so forth.

Add up the cost of every place you want to stay (before booking) in addition to everything you want to do while you’re there.

This will give you a good idea of how much money you need for the trip. Generally, for a budget-friendly 1 week trip, you should plan to spend around $500 – $950 USD. If you want more comfort and luxury, expect to allocate at least $1,400 USD or more.

Also remember to factor in additional costs such as airfare and transportation expenses. With careful budgeting and research, you can plan a great European vacation with almost any amount of money.

Other Helpful Resources for Europe

The Ultimate Europe Bucket List: 101 Experiences to Have in Europe The Top 40 Hidden Gems in Europe To Visit in 2021 Packing List for Europe in Winter: A Full Country by Country Guide Minimalist Packing List for Females Traveling to Europe 5 Things You Must Include on Your Travel Essentials List Backpacking Europe Routes for 2 Weeks: Routes & Tips European Honeymoon Itinerary: 9 Incredible Options for 1 Week, 2 Weeks, + 1 Month 143 Once in a Lifetime Experiences for Your Europe Bucket List 30+ Best Places to Visit in Europe in December 73 Best Places to Visit in Europe in January 2024 30+ BEST Places to Visit in Europe in March 2024 30+ BEST Places to Visit in Europe in April 2024 20 Best Places to Visit in Europe in May 2024 (Weather & Tips!) 28 Best Places to Visit in Europe in July (from a Backpacker!) 25 Best Places in Europe for New Years Celebrations Is Azerbaijan in Europe? The Facts for 2024 Is Norway in Europe? Norway & the EEA EFTA States Is Denmark in Europe? The EU, the Danish Krone, & Its Territories Explained

Traveling to Europe for the first time is a truly wonderful experience! Now that you know what to do and what to avoid, you are bound to have a wonderful first trip to Europe.

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Hey there! I'm Emily Concannon, a seasoned globetrotter who has backpacked her way across over a dozen European countries, immersing myself in the diverse cultures, languages, and cuisines of the region.

My passion for travel transcends personal experiences; I've spent years learning how to transform my globetrotting knowledge into personalized itineraries for fellow travelers worldwide.

With a tally of 26 countries (and counting!) under my belt, my day job involves extensive research on different countries which often leads me to booking a new adventure every chance I get!

10 things you need to know before your first trip to Europe

Devorah Lev-Tov

Update : Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here .

Update: The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card is no longer open to new applications. View the current offers here.

Some of us first go to Europe as study-abroad students, but many of us never make it across the Atlantic until later in life. I was one of those latecomers, arriving in Europe for the first time in my late 20s.

I've been dozens of times since then, but no matter how often you explore Europe, or whether you do it alone, as a couple, with friends or with your family , the first time is always the most exciting and memorable. Europe can be overwhelming, but figuring out how to make the most of your trip is not impossible. These tips will help ensure your first trip to Europe goes smoothly — and that you'll go back again.

Related: The best ways to get to Europe using points and miles

London's Big Ben and Westminster Bridge. (Photo by sborisov/Getty Images)

Pick which city to fly into by comparing costs

Europe is small compared to the U.S. and it's easy to land in one country and go visit others by train or cheap, short flights. Pick a region of continental Europe -- western, central, eastern -- or the U.K., and then choose your destination city because flights there are the cheapest. Be careful, however, of low-cost carriers which charge for extras like bags, seat choice and water.

Airlines flying to certain cities like Dublin or Kraków, which is one of TPG's 20 hottest travel destinations of 2020 ), are known for having low fares, or offering tickets for very few miles or points. But be careful -- some airlines, like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, may not charge a lot of miles to get to London but often charge astronomical taxes and fuel surcharges, so be sure to check all airlines for the best deal. And watch for award-redemption deals. Business-class flights on American Airlines to Europe were pricing out at 84,000 AAdvantage miles round-trip just this week. Tips and tricks abound for how to take advantage of these deals.

Related: How vacationing too long in Greece almost got me banned from Europe

Krakow. (Photo by Maria Sward/Getty Images)

You can't do everything

One of the most common mistakes that first-time visitors to Europe make is trying to cram in too much. Unless you've got several months (or years), you won't be able to see every recommended museum, historic building, neighborhood, city or country. Instead of trying to check off multiple places in one week, focus on one or two cities that you can experience more thoroughly and allow time to get off the beaten tourist track occasionally.

In some of the larger cities, you won't even be able to see all the museums and attractions in one go. After all, a thorough visit to the Louvre in Paris can take a half-day or longer. Better to fully enjoy it than try to hit everything else there is to see in the City of Light in one trip. In Europe, there are just too many "must-sees." I recommend at least three nights in larger cities and one to two in smaller cities and towns. Also, building in one day of relaxation per week will make your trip more enjoyable.

If you don't have time to go inside the Louvre, at least walk by and take in the gorgeous views. (Photo by Roman Slavik/Getty Images)

Take the train

Although some of the low-cost carriers like Ryanair and EasyJet offer tempting ultra-cheap airfares within Europe, taking the train is often the better option. No need to deal with extra security time, zero legroom or tons of hidden fees that add up fast. Plus, it's hard to deny the romance and epic scenery of train travel in Europe.

If you're staying within one country, take the local trains for high-quality service and some of the best trains in the world. If you're visiting multiple countries, the Eurail Pass has you covered. The Eurail Pass provides access to 31 countries and roughly 40,000 destinations. Use its recently launched Rail Planner mobile app (which also works offline) to check train schedules, book reservations and plan trips on the fly or in advance. Travelers can see their whole route as a day-by-day itinerary and routes can also be tracked on the map.

An added bonus is that Eurail passholders get dozens of additional discounts and benefits in each country at places like hotels, restaurants, attractions and museums, and for local transportation.

first trip europe

Related: How to plan a train trip around Europe

Don't forget to build in travel time

Although Europe is small and many cities are surprisingly close to each other (London to Paris is 2.5 hours by train; Rome to Florence and Brussels to Amsterdam are each about three hours), many people forget to build in this travel time into their packed itineraries. Even on short flights (less than an hour), you need time for security and dealing with baggage.

Amsterdam. (Photo by Ansgar Scheffold)

Walk and use public transit

Most European cities are extremely pedestrian-friendly and walking is often the best way to experience them. You can meander down alleys and narrow cobblestone streets, stopping at charming cafes and small ateliers you might never have discovered otherwise. Although it may seem easy to take a taxi, sometimes it can be hard to decipher local taxi laws and tourists can be targeted by illegal cab drivers. If it's too far to walk, look into local public transit like subways, trains and buses which are often easier to figure out than you may think — and super cheap. Plus, there's no better way to feel like a local.

Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees

Make sure you have a credit card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees. If vendors ask whether to charge you in the local currency or U.S. dollars, always choose local currency and let your bank do the conversion to dollars. Most vendors in major cities accept credit cards but it's always a good idea to carry some local currency.

Here's a quick list of some of TPG's favorite cards without foreign transaction fees:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express (see rates & fees)
  • Capital One Savor Rewards Credit Card
  • Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
  • American Express® Green Card (see rates & fees)
  • United Explorer Card
  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (see rates & fees)
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

The information for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card, Amex Green Card, and Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Check museum hours and buy tickets in advance

Some of Europe's most popular attractions are closed on certain days of the week — and not the days you assume (like Mondays). Check museum hours carefully and plan accordingly. It's a good idea to buy tickets for popular museums and attractions online in advance, especially in cities like Paris, because times may be sold out or there may be long lines to get in without an advance ticket. City Passes may be worth it if you've got several pricey attractions on your list.

Costco sells discounted passes for many city attractions. For example, a four-day London Pass with hop-on, hop-off bus access costs $125.99 per adult. The official London Pass website doesn't sell a four-day ticket but a three-day pass costs $142.99 per adult, so Costco's offering is definitely a deal.

Related: Does the Costco Anywhere Visa deserve a spot in your wallet?

Don't eat the bread — Unless you want to pay for it

It's common in many cities for waiters to set down a bread basket at the start of a meal but you may be charged if you eat it. The same is true for water — bottled water, which does cost money, is typical at most restaurants and you may get a strange look if you ask for tap water.

Claim your VAT refund

An easy way to save money if you do any shopping is to claim your Value Added Tax (VAT) refund at the airport before you leave. Ask cashiers for the forms when you make a large purchase and follow the signs for VAT refund at the airport.

Even with big signs, VAT Refund offices can be hard to find at some airports. - Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Be open-minded

Be open to experiencing local foods, customs and language. Europe can sometimes feel like the United States, but it's not. Things are different there, which is part of its charm.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here. For rates and fees of the Amex Green card, click here. For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire card, click here.

Full Suitcase Travel Blog

Traveling to Europe: How to Plan Your First Trip (+21 Tips & Tricks)

By Author Jurga

Posted on Last updated: June 3, 2024

Traveling to Europe: How to Plan Your First Trip (+21 Tips & Tricks)

Thinking of traveling to Europe for the first time, but not sure where to start with the preparations for your dream vacation? Where and when to go, how much time you need, and how to make a European trip itinerary without getting overwhelmed… In this guide, you’ll find our top tips for planning your first trip to Europe.

Dreaming of seeing the Colosseum, standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower, hiking in the Alps, or exploring the cobblestone streets of charming European towns? Indeed, a trip to Europe is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in centuries-old history, discover different cultures, marvel at some of the most beautiful landscapes, and enjoy culinary delights.

However, Europe is big and extremely diverse. With dozens of countries, each with different languages and traditions, and innumerable places of interest, planning a European vacation might seem absolutely overwhelming.

How do you even start planning a trip to Europe?

Let’s be honest – there is not one simple answer and no two trips to Europe will ever be the same. But there are some things and simple tips that can help you get the most out of your trip and make it truly enjoyable instead of overwhelming.

Good to know: We live in Europe, have traveled across the continent for decades, and have planned countless trips and itineraries for different regions and in all seasons. In this article, we’ll walk you through some essential steps to help you plan your own unforgettable journey across the Old Continent. Find out!

How to plan a trip to Europe - first timers guide to visiting Europe

Here are some essential steps and tips for planning a trip to Europe:

1. Decide When You’ll Travel

Before starting to plan a trip to Europe, decide WHEN you will travel. The season might influence where to travel in Europe and what to do there.

While for certain destinations the season doesn’t matter that much, there are many others where summer travel will give you a totally different experience than visiting in winter.

For example, if you are visiting Europe in the summer and want to do lots of sightseeing, you may prefer to avoid the biggest cities in the south where the temperatures often are way too hot for exploring. Whereas if you are interested in beaches or hiking in the Alps, summer is the perfect time to travel.

Also when planning a trip to the mountains or other nature destinations, the season is really important. Some places can only be visited in the summer months, and some experiences can only be had in the winter… But there are also many iconic mountain destinations like e.g. Mt Titlis or Zermatt in Switzerland that can be visited the whole year round.

It all seems pretty logical, but you’d be surprised at how often we get questions from readers about seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland in the summer, or hiking in the Italian Dolomites and visiting the Dutch tulip fields in the fall or even winter…

TIP: If you can, avoid traveling to the most popular places in Europe in the peak summer season (July – August) and major school holidays (Easter and Christmas-New Year). Not only it will be less busy everywhere, but you’ll also save money on flights and accommodations.

However, keep in mind that some destinations are always popular and some places also have their own peak seasons (e.g. Venice during the Carnival, German cities during the Christmas Market season, or popular Swiss ski resorts in February-March, etc.).

READ ALSO: Best Time to Visit Europe (+ Where to Go in Which Season)

Tulip fields in the Netherlands - how to plan a trip to Europe

2. Determine the Duration of Your Trip

Deciding HOW LONG you’ll spend in Europe is crucial. You cannot start planning a trip without having a very good idea of how much time you’ll have for it.

If you are traveling to Europe for the first time, a two-week trip is often a good starting point. It allows you to explore multiple European cities without feeling rushed.

Of course, three or four weeks will be better as you will be able to cover more of Europe. But if you wait until you have that much vacation time, you may never travel at all… So see what works for you and make the most of it!

Remember that no matter how much time you have, you’ll never be able to see all of Europe anyway. You can spend 2-3 weeks in any country alone and still just scratch the surface. Or you can have a nice European trip in just 10-14 days, see several major cities, and go home feeling perfectly happy that you ticked off some of those iconic bucket list destinations…

It’s not the duration of your trip that will determine how enjoyable it is, but how you plan your time. See below for some tips!

Trevi Fountain in Rome Italy - Europe Travel Tips

3. Choose Your Destinations Wisely

Now it’s time to decide WHERE to go.

As already mentioned, “Europe” is not one destination. There are 27 countries in the European Union and 44 countries in the continent of Europe (and even more depending on how you count, but let’s not get into politics).

There is simply no way to see “everything” in Europe in one, two, or even a dozen trips. So you have to choose your destination/s wisely.

Start by making a list of your dream places that you’ve always wanted to visit . Consider their location and the season, as already mentioned above. Remember that you are traveling for yourself and you don’t absolutely have to see all of the most beautiful churches in Italy or the best museums in Amsterdam if they don’t interest you. Well, you may want to see one or two, but only if that’s what you want…

In the end, it’s your personal wishlist that should determine where to travel in Europe and not someone else’s ‘must-sees’.

Decide whether you’ll just concentrate on the main cities or will also spend a bit more time traveling around in each country. Do you prefer to explore just one or two countries deeper or do you absolutely want to cover as much ground as feasible? There are so many ways to plan a trip to Europe…

TIP: No matter which destinations you decide to visit, we highly recommend choosing a mix of cities, smaller towns, and also some nature destinations if possible. This will not only make your trip more relaxing and enjoyable, but you will also get a much better idea of how diverse and beautiful Europe really is.

SOME TRAVEL INSPIRATION: Europe’s Fairytale Destinations

Swiss Alps - tips for traveling to Europe

4. Don’t Overdo It

Many first-time visitors to Europe focus on the major (capital) cities and travel to a new country every few days. Just do yourself a favor and don’t overdo it !

While it might be tempting to pack in as much as you possibly can, visiting a different country every day will leave you overwhelmed and exhausted.

Yes, you can see some of the main landmarks of London in a day, take a train to Amsterdam and Paris, and fly over to Rome, Barcelona, or Athens in the same week, but you’ll spend more time at the airports and railway stations than sightseeing…

TIP: Don’t try to cover too many countries and different regions in too little time, especially if you only have 1-2 weeks in Europe. Instead, focus on your bucket list and make sure that you make the best use of your time.

Also, take into account travel times between different places. While you only need 2-3 hours to travel between the center of London and Paris or Brussels by train, you’ll spend more than half a day flying from London or Paris to Athens or Barcelona (don’t forget the time you need to get to the airport, etc.), and you’ll need at least a few days for just one destination if you decide to visit places like Iceland, Faroe Islands, Sicily, or Madeira.

Luckily, with some good planning, you can see a lot of Europe while still keeping it enjoyable. For that, it’s very important to prepare a good itinerary. See below for some tips.

Madeira island - Europe travel tips

5. Prepare a Rough Itinerary

Once you have figured out the season, the duration of your trip, and some of the must-sees, it’s time to make an itinerary.

This is probably the most important step in the entire process of planning a trip to Europe! If you do it right, you’ll have a fun and fulfilling trip. Pack in too much or not think things through, and your vacation might get ruined… So take your time and be sure that all the puzzle pieces fit together.

Here are some tips:

  • Decide on the airports you will fly in and out of.
  • Don’t forget to account for travel days and time differences when planning your trip! If you are traveling from the US to Europe, you’ll likely arrive here a day later, plus, you have to account for the jet lag. See this guide for our experience-based tips for dealing with jet lag .
  • Keep in mind that travel time can add up due to unforeseen circumstances, so factor in some extra time for transportation. Flights get delayed, trains don’t always run as planned, traffic can be a mess, and you really don’t want to miss something important because your itinerary is too tight.
  • Create a rough itinerary outlining the main cities, the number of days you’ll spend in each area, and key attractions you don’t want to miss.
  • Opt for a mix of iconic destinations and hidden gems to create a well-rounded experience. Also, balance your schedule between sightseeing and some relaxation, and make sure to always leave at least some time for some unexpected discoveries and spontaneous exploration.

Planning an itinerary for any trip is easier said than done, and I realize that. After all, you can see some of the main landmarks of any place in a day or two, but you can also spend a week and still leave with a feeling that you could have stayed longer…

As long as you don’t try to squeeze in four days worth of sightseeing in one or two days, you’ll be fine. For that, focus on what’s important to you , plan well, and let go of the rest. Remember, you can’t see “everything” anyway, so don’t let the fear of missing out ruin your experience.

TIP: It’s better to see fewer attractions and truly enjoy them than run around like a headless chicken and constantly stress about the next item on your itinerary rather than enjoy the moment.

Eiffel Tower in Paris - tips for traveling to Europe

Sample European itineraries for 2-3 weeks

Since the majority of people planning their first trip to Europe are mostly interested in the most iconic landmarks in the main cities, we created a few very rough and rather packed itineraries to show you what’s possible.

Please remember that these are just meant to give you an idea of how you could plan a trip to Europe focusing mostly on the most popular destinations.

There are thousands of ways to plan a European trip (and also much more to see beyond London, Paris, or Rome), so you can ignore these altogether and prepare your own perfect itinerary visiting the places that appeal to you the most.

2 weeks in Europe:

  • Day 1: Flight to Amsterdam. Days 2-3: Amsterdam. Day 4: Train to Brussels or Antwerp. Day 5: Day trip to Bruges. Day 6: Train to Paris. Days 7-8-9: Paris. Day 10: Train to London. Days 11-12-13-14: London.
  • Day 1: Flight to Rome. Days 2-3: Rome. Day 4: Train to Florence. Day 5: Florence or a day trip to Cinque Terre. Day 6: Train to Venice. Day 7: Venice and flight to Paris. Days 8-9-10: Paris. Day 11: Train to London. Days 12-13-14: London.
  • Day 1: Flight to London. Days 2-3 London. Day 4: Train to Brussels. Day 5: Day trip to Bruges or Antwerp. Day 6: Train to Paris. Days 7-8-9: Paris. Day 10: Flight to Venice or Florence. Day 11: Venice or Florence. Day 12: Train to Rome. Days 13-14: Rome.
  • Day 1: Flight to Barcelona or Lisbon. Days 2-3: Barcelona or Lisbon. Day 4: Flight to Rome. Days 5-6: Rome. Day 7: Flight to Paris. Days 8-9-10: Paris. Day 11: Train to London. Days 12-13-14: London.

Park Guell in Barcelona Spain - how to plan a trip to Europe

3 weeks in Europe:

  • Day 1: Flight to Rome. Days 2-3: Rome. Day 4: Train to Florence. Day 5: Florence or a day trip nearby. Day 6: Train to Verona. Day 7: Day trip to Venice. Day 8: Train to Milan. Day 9: Day trip to Lake Como. Day 10: Flight to Amsterdam. Day 11-12: Amsterdam. Day 13: Train to Brussels or Antwerp. Day 14: Day trip to Bruges. Day 15: Train to Paris. Days 16-17-18: Paris. Day 19: Train to London. Days 20-21: London.
  • Day 1: Flight to Lisbon. Days 2-3: Lisbon. Day 4: Flight to Barcelona. Days 5-6: Barcelona. Day 7: Flight to Naples. Days 8-9: Capri and Amalfi Coast. Day 10: Train to Rome. Days 11-12-13: Rome. Day 14: Train to Florence. Day 15: Florence or a day trip nearby. Day 16: Train to Venice. Day 17: Venice. Day 18: Flight to Paris or London. Days 19-20-21: Pari or London (or even both by train).
  • Day 1: Flight to London. Days 2-3-4 London. Day 5: Train to Amsterdam. Days 6-7: Amsterdam. Day 8: Train to Bruges. Day 9: Train to Paris. Days 10-11-12: Paris. Day 13: Train to Strasbourg. Day 14: Day trip to the Alsace region. Day 15: Train to Lucerne. Days 16-17-18: Swiss Mountains. Day 19: Train to Milan (via Bernina Express). Days 20-21: Milan & Lake Como.
  • Day 1: Flight to Paris, Barcelona, Lisbon, London, or Amsterdam. Days 2-4: In the city of your choice. Day 5: Flight to Rome. Days 6-7: Rome. Day 8: Train to Florence. Day 9: Florence or a day trip nearby. Day 10: Train to Venice. Day 11: Venice. Days 12-13-14: Italian Dolomites & Lake Garda (rent a car). Day 15: Milan (return a car). Day 16: Lake Como day trip from Milan. Day 17: Train to Lugano. Day 18: Train to Lucerne (via Bernina Express). Days 19-20-21: Swiss Mountains.

Further below, you’ll find very detailed itineraries for some of the most popular destinations in Europe. But first, documents, transportation, and money matters – see below.

Eguisheim village in France - Europe trip planning

6. Check What Kind of Travel Documents You Need

Depending on where you live, which nationality you have, and which European countries you are planning to visit, you may need different travel documents. It’s very important that you do your own research for that!

As a minimum, if traveling from abroad (like the USA), you will need an international travel passport (make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond your planned return date!). In some cases, you may need a visa or an electronic travel authorization.

It’s also important to understand that many European countries are in the Schengen Zone which means that once you arrive in one country, you can freely travel around to other places without any additional documents. However, not all of Europe falls under this agreement.

For example, most EU countries are in the Schengen Area but not Ireland, Cyprus, Romania, or Bulgaria. Whereas Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, and Lichtenstein are not in the EU, but are part of the Schengen Zone. The UK is not part of the Schengen Zone.

Good to know: Starting from 2025, travelers from visa-exempt countries (also from the USA) will be required to have travel authorization to enter most European countries. It’s called ETIAS and you can find all the information about it on the official website . It is very similar to the ESTA system that Europeans have to use when visiting the USA. Basically, you have to fill in an online form and provide some travel information before your trip.

However, the ETIAS project has been postponed time and again, so it’s not clear when this travel authorization will finally be introduced. At the moment of the last update to this article, they have pushed the dates once again.

TIP: Use official sources such as government websites when researching which travel documents you need. Also, remember, that it’s often very simple (and cheap) to apply for any documents online by yourself, so don’t get tricked by all kinds of online visa services.

London, United Kingdom - Europe travel tips

7. Research Long-Haul Flights

Once you have a rough itinerary, it’s time to research the best flight options to Europe and back.

  • Search for flight deals well in advance to secure affordable fares.
  • Consider open-jaw flights (flying into one city and departing from another) to optimize your sightseeing time.
  • Research flight options to/from alternative airports. It might be cheaper to start or end at another airport than the one you originally planned. Sometimes, a few simple changes like that can save you a lot of money.
  • There are many websites that you can use to research the best flight options. We use Skyscanner, Momondo, Google Flights, and often also directly with our favorite airlines.

TIP: Some airlines offer free stopovers at their hub destination, which might enable you to visit an additional country/city at no extra cost. For example, Icelandair often has good deals that give you some time to explore Iceland on the way to continental Europe. Also, TAP Portugal sometimes has a good deal for a stopover in Lisbon . These are just a few examples, just to show you that there are more options than you may think of.

Waterfall in Iceland - Europe travel tips

8. Make a Realistic Budget

Traveling to Europe from overseas might be very pricey, so be sure to make a realistic budget for your trip. Keep in mind that the biggest cost of your trip to Europe will likely not be the transatlantic flight, but accommodations and meals. We’re always surprised how quickly the costs of dining out can add up on a longer trip.

Also, don’t let the prices scare you off. With some careful planning and research, you may be able to do that dream trip for much less than you think.

You might simply have to make some adjustments to your itinerary or choose an alternative mode of transportation or accommodation to make it work. You can also save a lot of money by opting for a picnic or a simple local snack for lunch rather than dining at a restaurant twice a day.

Good to know: Please don’t ask me how much your trip to Europe will cost. I get this question for so many destinations time and again, and my answer is always the same. It depends on so many factors, such as when you travel, how long in advance you book, if you can get any special deals for the flights, which hotels you choose (and how many people share the room), which attractions you visit, where you dine, etc.

You can make any trip as expensive or as cheap as you like, so it all depends on your choices.

Luxury hotel in Lake Como, Italy - budgeting for a trip to Europe

Here are some tips to make your European trip more affordable:

  • Start planning (and book!) well ahead, ideally at least 6 months before your trip, for some destinations/seasons even earlier. The earlier you book, the more choice you have in all budgets.
  • Limit the number of destinations you visit. Staying in one place longer is usually much more affordable than traveling to a different place every couple of days. Not only will you save on transportation, but many cities/regions in Europe also have multi-day cards which can save you a lot of money on sightseeing. Most of these cards are only really worth it if you stay in the same place for at least 2-3 days and offer the best value on longer stays like 4-7 days.
  • For longer travel distances within Europe, check if there are budget airlines operating the route that you need. Some of the most popular budget airlines in Europe include Ryanair, EasyJet, Wizzair, Vueling, Transavia, Norwegian, and several others. If your budget is tighter, you may also want to consider intercity buses, also for international routes.
  • Opt for lesser-known places or cheaper countries in Europe. For example, your money will stretch much further in Krakow , Seville , or Lisbon than in London , Amsterdam , or Brussels .
  • Choose your restaurants wisely. You can have a perfectly good meal in many places in Europe for 10-15 euros, but it’s not abnormal to pay 30-50 euros for the main dish either. And while you can have a 5-10 euro cocktail in most places, prepare to pay 25-30 euros at the best rooftop bars in Florence …
  • Get a good travel credit card before your trip. Some cards allow you to collect points/miles, some others give cashback, etc. You’ll be spending lots of money on your trip anyway, so try to make the most out of it.

Pizza Margherita in Naples Italy - Europe tips

9. Research Transportation in Europe

Next, it’s time to research the transportation options within Europe.

There are countless ways to travel around Europe. Depending on your budget, time, and overall itinerary, you may want to fly, take (international) trains, or buses, rent a car, or even opt for some form of overwater transportation or even book a (river) cruise for a few days…

Covering transportation options within Europe would require quite a few extra articles, so here are just a few general tips:

  • Don’t fly short distances in Europe (e.g. London to Paris). Often, it’s much more efficient to take a train, even for longer distances, especially if there are high-speed trains available. The train stations are usually located in the city center and you don’t have to arrive hours in advance, which saves a lot of time. Plus, there are fewer baggage restrictions, and the trains are usually cheaper. TIP: You can use websites like Omio to compare all the best transportation options for any route. Or use the official sites of the national railway companies for every country that you plan to visit.
  • Don’t rent a car if you don’t absolutely need it (that is if you are mainly visiting cities and big towns). Traffic can be really busy and driving is often stressful and takes more time than public transport. Plus, parking can be expensive and hard to find. And you don’t want to get me started on different toll systems, green zones, and limited traffic zones which are all different in each country and sometimes even in each city… That said, renting a car is often the best way to explore the countryside and see more places a bit off the beaten path, but this is something that most first-time visitors to Europe don’t even consider.
  • If you decide to rent a car, only rent it for the days when you need it (so not when you are in major cities). Also, do extensive research if planning to drive through several countries. A lot is possible, of course, but each situation is different. TIP: We always use this website to compare prices and find the best deals for car hire.
  • Consider guided day tours for some destinations (e.g. Lake Como from Milan or the Dutch Countryside from Amsterdam). It will save you a hotel change, transportation costs, and lots of stress and hassle while allowing you to maximize the time that you have. We mainly use GetYourGuide to research the best excursion options. Viator is also good for some destinations.
  • Most European cities are very walkable and public transport is excellent too. Taxis are available and in many places, you can also use Uber or Bolt. Bike tours are also great if you want to see a lot in a short time.

Boat in Interlaken Switzerland - Europe trip

10. Book Your Accommodations

Once you have a rough itinerary and an idea of how you’ll travel around, it’s time to book your accommodations.

Unless you are traveling to Europe for several months with lots of flexibility and without a set itinerary, be sure to book your accommodation as soon as you know your travel dates. The availability at some places is really limited and the prices often skyrocket the closer it gets to the travel date.

Just one example. If you are looking for a hotel in Venice a month before your summer trip, you’ll often find that the cheapest rooms in the city cost $500-700 per night. Whereas if you book ahead, you should find plenty of nice choices at about half that price. Some of our friends recently traveled to Venice and decided to stay outside the city and then take a train because hotels in Venice were simply unaffordable.

When looking for a place to stay, consider the transportation that you’ll use. Often, staying close to the railway station is the best choice, especially if you are only in the city for a day or two. It can save you a lot of time!

TIP: Check Booking.com for your travel dates to get a better idea of availability and prices, and to book your stay. This is by far the most popular accommodation booking website in Europe and you’ll find all types of lodging here: from luxury hotels to hostels, private apartments, villas, etc.

If you are not familiar with it, Booking.com is Europe’s answer to Expedia, Airbnb, Vrbo, and many others all in one place (but often with much better booking conditions and customer service). We use it for all our lodging bookings worldwide, but it’s an absolute #1 in Europe.

Here are some articles that you may find useful:

  • Where to stay in London .
  • Where to stay in Amsterdam .
  • Where to stay in Rome .
  • Where to stay in Brussels .
  • Where to stay in Antwerp.
  • Where to stay in Reykjavik .
  • Where to stay in Cinque Terre .
  • Where to stay in Lake Como .
  • Where to stay in Amalfi Coast .
  • Where to stay in Naples.
  • Where to stay in Algarve, Portugal .

Skyline of Florence Italy

Good to know: Many popular European destinations were forced to introduce all kinds of laws to limit private rentals for short stays because websites like Airbnb have made housing completely unaffordable for locals. Countless articles and books have been written about the devastating impact private rentals had on Europe, especially in major cities like Amsterdam, Barcelona, or Lisbon…

So in order to keep European cities liveable and authentic, please consider resisting the urge to ‘live like a local for a few days’ and simply book a hotel or a hostel. There are also ‘aparthotels’ (apartments with hotel service) if you are traveling with a family and need more space.

That way, you’ll actually contribute to the local economy rather than make the problem worse. Renting a tiny apartment in Paris or Rome will really not make you ‘a traveler and not a tourist’ (no idea who even came up with this absolutely ridiculous distinction). Better be a responsible tourist than an ignorant ‘traveler’.

Of course, you can choose to do whatever feels right for you. And if you are traveling with a big family like we do, sometimes apartments might be the best or even the only option. I just want you to be aware of the problem that led to so many cities and popular areas losing their authentic charm which made those places attractive to tourists to start with (oh, the irony)…

Ok, rant over. 😉

Rooftop terrace of Hotel in Rome

11. Fine-tune Your Itinerary & Book Tickets!

When planning any trip, I always start with flights, accommodations, and transportation, as that makes it easier to plan the rest. Once you know where you’ll be staying and at what time your flights/trains are, you can start looking into sightseeing, booking attraction tickets, and researching day trips, excursions, etc.

Now it’s time to fine-tune your itinerary. This means researching which places you want to visit and making sure that you can do everything in the most efficient way.

TIP: For some places, you may also want to research if city passes or (regional) travel cards make sense and book them in advance. For example, in Switzerland, you may consider the Swiss Travel Pass (an all-in ticket that includes all the public transport and many museums across the country). In Rome, you may want to get the popular Omnia Card , and in Paris – the Paris Museum Pass , etc.

Important! Pretty much any popular tourist attraction in Europe requires advance booking nowadays (even if it’s included with one or the other city pass). If you didn’t think of booking tickets for the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam , the Louvre in Paris , or the Colosseum in Rome weeks in advance, it’s very likely that won’t be able to visit at all.

Also, remember that even the most popular attractions often close at least one day of the week, so you may have to move things around to be able to visit a place you really want to see.

For some places, tickets sell out months in advance and for some others, you cannot book more than a few weeks upfront (but have to be quick when the tickets are released). So doing your research in advance is essential!

TIP: Booking as much as possible in advance is the best way to be sure that you will be able to visit all those places from your European bucket list! It will also save you so much stress and make your trip more relaxing.

Below, we have a few examples of how to fine-tune your itinerary. Read on!

London Eye United Kingdom - traveling to Europe

Detailed itineraries for popular destinations in Europe

TIP: We have quite a few very detailed itineraries for several major cities that will help you plan your European trip.

These itineraries focus on ‘the musts’ taking into account the time that you have in each place. You will also find all the information about which tickets you have to prebook and how, etc. Check them out via the links below:

  • 1 Day in London
  • 2 Days in London
  • + Best Day Trips from London
  • 1 Day in Amsterdam
  • 2 Days in Amsterdam
  • 3 Days in Amsterdam
  • 4 Days in Amsterdam
  • + Best Day Trips from Amsterdam
  • 1 Day in Paris
  • 4 Days in Paris
  • 1 Day in Barcelona
  • 2 Days in Barcelona
  • + Montserrat Day Trip from Barcelona
  • 1 Day in Seville
  • 2 Days in Seville
  • 1 Day in Madrid
  • + Toledo Day Trip from Madrid
  • 1 Day in Lisbon
  • + Best Day Trips from Lisbon
  • 1 Day in Rome
  • 2 Days in Rome
  • 4 Days in Rome
  • 1 Day in Florence
  • 1 Day in Venice
  • 3 Days in Venice
  • 1 Day in Milan
  • 1 Day in Naples
  • 1 Day in Cinque Terre
  • Dolomites Itinerary
  • Amalfi Coast Itinerary
  • Naples + Amalfi Coast + Capri Itinerary
  • Lake Garda Itinerary
  • 1 Day in Salzburg
  • 2 Days in Salzburg
  • … For many more cities, smaller towns, and other popular destinations all over Europe, please see our destinations page .

Biking on the Appian Way in Rome Italy - Europe trip

12. Research Airport Transfers

No matter where you arrive in Europe, the very first thing you’ll need to do is find your way from the airport to your accommodation. Figuring this out on the spot can be very stressful even for seasoned travelers. Plus, you’ll be tired and jet-lagged, and you may have difficulty with the local language too…

So save yourself the stress and do some research before your trip! That way, you know exactly what to expect and what to do after you step out of the plane. Also, remember to do this for every place where you’ll need any kind of transportation/ transfer.

Don’t forget that you’ll have luggage as well. In many major cities, there is luggage storage at the station. But most hotels will keep your bags for free before you can check in or after you check out.

Good to know: In most places in Europe, the train is the best option to get to the city from the airport, but this may not always be the case. Sometimes, you are better off using a shuttle bus or private transfer.

Taxi is usually the most expensive (and often the slowest) option, so we usually tend to use taxis/Uber/Bolt for short distances in the city or when we travel during the quiet times of the day. But this varies a lot depending on the destination. See below for some examples.

Lisbon, Portugal - info for first timers traveling to Europe

Here is some info for the airport transfers in several popular destinations in Europe:

  • Flying to Rome ? There are quite a few options to get to the city. Check out our guide on how to get to the city from Rome airports for more information.
  • Arriving in Paris by train? The easiest way to get to your hotel is usually by metro (unless your hotel is within walking distance from Paris Nord Station). Uber/taxi is also an option, but you can get stuck in traffic forever.
  • Flying to London and need to get to the city center? Depending on where exactly you arrive, see the airport transfers here . If you are coming by train, use the metro to get to your hotel (or book a hotel near St. Pancras International Station).
  • In Amsterdam , book a train from the airport to the central station. If you stay near the station, you can easily walk to your hotel.
  • In Barcelona , Aerobus is the best way to get from the airport to the city center, or the metro but it can take much longer.
  • In Lisbon , a private transfer is by far the best option to reach the city from the airport.
  • In Reykjavik , the airport is so far away and the taxis are so expensive that you’re better off using a shuttle. See our guide to Reykjavik airport transfers for all the best options.
  • In Brussels , the train is the best way to reach the city from the airport or any other major city nearby. Book a hotel in the center and you can simply walk from the station.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands - info for visiting Europe

13. Get Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is essential for any trip, so also when traveling to Europe.

There are so many companies and so many different policies that it would be really hard to recommend something specific. Check if your credit card includes any kind of trip insurance and look online for the best options in your area.

Also, be sure to read the small letters so that you know what exactly is covered. Some insurance policies might include trip cancellation insurance, coverage for stolen or lost belongings, etc.

But the most important is getting coverage for all medical emergencies and repatriation (bringing you home due to serious illness or injury, etc.). Money is the last thing you want to be thinking about if you end up in a hospital in a foreign country.

TIP: If you are taking any prescription medicine at home, be sure to pack it with you!

PRO TIP: Make copies of all the important documents and store them in a safe place that you can access from anywhere in the world (Google Drive or email, for example). We always have a copy of our passports, driver’s licenses, insurance and flight info, etc.

Northern Lights in Norway - tips for visiting Europe

14. Share Your Travel Plans

No matter if you are traveling alone or with friends, it’s always a good idea to share your travel plans and detailed itinerary with someone who stays at home. You never know what might happen.

This will also give your family peace of mind since they will know exactly where to find you if need be.

At the same time, don’t share your plans too widely. There is no need to tell the whole world that your house will be empty for a month or to share your exact location on social media channels.

We usually only post on social media after we leave the place and there is a good reason for that. I have heard it on quite a few occasions that people who live in the area show up at someone’s hotel after seeing their posts on Instagram… And this doesn’t only happen to ‘famous’ people or ‘influencers’.

TIP: If traveling solo, be sure that your hotel or accommodation host is aware of your whereabouts, especially if you are exploring outdoors on your own or going out late at night.

Valluga Mountain in Austria - Europe trip

Once you have everything planned and settled, it’s time to prepare for your actual trip to Europe. There are quite a few things to think about – here are some of the most important ones:

15. Familiarize Yourself with Money Matters

Decide if you’ll be taking cash with you, how much, and in which currency. Remember that you cannot pay in USD in Europe. And while most EU countries use Euros, it’s not the case everywhere, not even to mention the non-EU countries like Switzerland or the UK.

TIP: If you use an ATM abroad, try to avoid the ones with the Euronet sign on them because the fees and exchange rates are outrageous. Instead, look for ATMs at the local banks. When withdrawing money or using your card to pay, always choose local currency. You’ll usually see two options – local currency and USD amounts. If you choose to pay in USD, you’ll get a much worse exchange rate. So when in doubt, remember LOCAL currency is always the way to go.

While some southern European countries still prefer cash, you can usually pay with your debit – or credit card (or your phone, watch, etc.) pretty much everywhere in Europe. In fact, in many countries (especially in the Nordics), hardly anyone uses cash at all.

TIP: Get a good travel credit card (with no foreign fees) and notify your bank about your travel dates and destinations to be sure that your cards will work abroad.

Dubrovnik, Croatia - how to plan a trip to Europe

16. Figure Out How to Stay Connected

Most hotels (and many other places) in Europe offer free WiFi these days. So if you don’t absolutely have to stay online the whole day, you can usually do just fine without the internet (it can be very nice to disconnect during your vacation too!).

However, if you want to use data on your phone, keep in mind that using your provider’s data plan might be very expensive. Usually, it’s much cheaper to buy a local SIM card (just make sure that your phone is unlocked), or – easier – you can also buy an eSIM in advance . With an eSim you can simply use your phone without having to worry about changing physical SIM cards.

A pocket WiFi is yet another good option, allowing you to connect several devices to it at the same time. If you are traveling to Europe with a family, it might be a much cheaper solution than getting individual eSIM cards for everyone.

Good to know: The majority of European countries do not have roaming fees between them, so if you buy an eSIM in one country, you’ll be able to use it in other places too. This applies to all the EU countries, but also Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. Some operators also don’t charge extra for roaming in the UK, but you’d have to double-check this depending on which card you buy.

Capri, Italy - traveling around Europe

17. Get a Travel Adaptor & Portable Charger

Don’t forget that you will need to charge all your devices when traveling through Europe. Also here, most countries use the same plugs, but there are also exceptions.

Depending on where you’ll be traveling, you will need either a Type C Travel Adapter (most of Europe) and/or a Type G Plug (The United Kingdom).

We recommend travel adapters that have a combination of several outlets including USB or USB-C plugs (like this for example). These adapters often have multiple outlets, allowing you to charge several devices at the same time. This can be very handy because some hotel rooms have a very limited number of sockets.

TIP: We usually pack an adapter like this . The long cable makes it simpler to connect multiple devices without having to worry about the location of the socket (which can sometimes be in the strangest and most difficult-to-reach places).

PRO TIP: Get a small portable charger that you can use to recharge your phones when on the go. If you are planning on using your smartphone for photos, maps, tickets, and similar, the battery will likely be low in a few hours. So make sure that you can always charge your phone when needed.

Of course, an adapter or a power bank alone is not enough. Be sure to pack your charging cables as well!

Sorapis Lake in the Italian Dolomites - Tips for Visiting Europe

18. Pack Smartly

When traveling to Europe for the first time, you may be tempted to overpack. Indeed, it may not always look simple especially if you are visiting a mix of colder and warmer destinations, and nature as well as cities.

But remember that you’ll need to carry around whatever you pack. Every time I take a train or visit a bigger city in Europe, I see so many international travelers struggling with their luggage. There are stairs and cobblestones everywhere, and limited baggage spaces on the trains, etc.

Also if you are flying within Europe, you’ll see that many airlines have very strict hand luggage rules and every extra bag will cost you a small fortune.

So try to pack smartly and remember that you’ll likely not use half of what you want to take. Here are some tips on what to pack so that you can travel lightly:

  • Pack versatile clothing suitable for different weather conditions and activities. Be sure that you can mix and match all your clothes.
  • Pack one jacket (light rain jacket in the summer and warmer insulated jacket in the winter), one or two sweaters, two pairs of pants/shorts/skirts, T-shirts/shirts/blouses, underwear, and socks for a week (you can easily wash and dry some small items in your hotel).
  • Be sure that you can layer your clothing if necessary (so that the jacket is big enough to wear a sweater or even two underneath).
  • Comfortable walking shoes are a must, as you’ll be exploring on foot a lot. While in the past, Europeans only wore sneakers for sports, nowadays everyone walks around in (fancier) sneakers in the cities too. That said, a lot depends on your specific itinerary. If you are going to the mountains, you may need hiking shoes, and if you are visiting theaters and fancy restaurants, you may want to pack a pair of nicer shoes.
  • Pack only essential toiletries ; you can always buy extra if you run out or forget something.

Lofoten Islands in Norway - European vacation

Here are a few extra items that we recommend packing:

  • If visiting Europe in summer, remember that many churches require modest clothing. It’s always good to pack a light summer scarf – you can use it to cover your shoulders or wear it when it gets colder.
  • Pack a small crossbody bag rather than a backpack for exploring the cities. Many attractions don’t allow backpacks inside, no matter how small (you’ll be asked to use the lockers), whereas crossbody bags are usually just fine.
  • Pack a small reusable water bottle to reduce plastic waste. Tap water is safe to drink (and delicious) in most places in Europe, plus, many cities have free water fountains where you can refill your bottle.

Don’t worry about ‘looking like a tourist’ when traveling around Europe. You are a tourist after all and a red beret hat in Paris will definitely betray you (but if it makes your trip more fun, who cares). Remember that comfort is more important than trying to blend in. You won’t last long in high heels on cobbled streets…

TIP: Always keep the important documents, electronic devices, or medications in your hand luggage. It can be useful to take a photocopy of your documents and place it in a different bag than the originals (in addition to digital copies as mentioned before).

Algarve Portugal - Europe trip

19. Don’t Stress About the Language Barrier

With so many countries and different languages spoken all over Europe, there is not one European that speaks them all. So if we can travel around Europe and get by just perfectly, so can you.

To give you an idea, in our family, we speak 5 European languages fluently and understand another 3-4 quite well, but we still use English a lot when traveling around Europe.

This is because if people in Europe learn a second language, they usually opt for English. Especially younger generations. While in the past it wasn’t easy to communicate in English in many countries, nowadays, it’s hardly even an issue anymore, definitely in the more touristy areas and bigger cities.

And if you run into a situation where you really don’t find anyone who speaks English, remember that a smile goes a long way. Plus, you can always use Google Translate if need be (even offline if you download certain languages in advance).

TIP: Learn a few basic local phrases for each country that you will be visiting. People always appreciate the effort, even if all you can say is ‘bonjour’ or ‘merci’ (‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in French).

Bruges Belgium - Europe trip

20. Try Local Food!

There is probably no better way to experience a new culture than through its food and dining experiences. So forget about all the food that you are used to at home and embrace European cuisine!

Food is such an essential part of traveling in Europe and your trip will be so much more special if you make the effort to try some local dishes everywhere you visit.

Try galettes (pancakes) or escargots (snails) in France, suppli (a deep-fried rice ball) in Rome, taste a cheese fondue or a raclette in Switzerland and discover countless different types of real Belgian waffles or moules-frites (mussels and French fries) in Brussels…

Every country, every region, and even every city has its own specialties. It’s worth traveling all the way to Europe just for its food!

TIP: One of the best ways to familiarize yourself with local dishes in a new place is by joining a food tour with a local guide. In just a few hours, you’ll get to taste all kinds of traditional specialties of that region coupled with local stories and tips about the place you are visiting. We are fans of food tours and try to do them wherever we can. It’s always so much fun (and the kids love it too!).

We always book food tours via GetYourGuide . Just type in the name of the city + food tour, and you’ll find plenty of choices.

You may also want to read some of our food guides, with tips on where to try these local dishes:

  • British Food
  • French Food
  • Italian Food by Region
  • Lithuanian Food
  • Best Street Food Tour in Rome

Italian gnocchi in Florence - Europe travel tips

21. Leave Some Room for Spontaneity and Enjoy the Moment!

While planning is extremely important, be sure to leave room for spontaneity as well.

Take some time to sit down for a cup of coffee and do some people-watching, get a gelato, or splurge on a cocktail on a rooftop terrace, and simply enjoy the moment. Take a detour via a nice little street along the way and look for some hidden gems beyond the main attractions.

Remember that some of the best experiences in Europe come from wandering aimlessly, stumbling upon charming neighborhoods, local cafes, markets, or talking to locals.

Often, it’s the little things and unexpected discoveries that make for some of the most memorable travel experiences!

TIP: Talking about getting a bit off the beaten path, here are some of our favorites: hidden gems in London and hidden gems in Rome .

Salzburg Austria - visiting Europe

So, these are some of the main steps for planning your first trip to Europe. I hope that our tips and advice will help you plan a truly memorable vacation.

Traveling to Europe for the first time will open up a whole new world for you, with rich history, diverse cultures, and breathtaking landscapes. You are sure to come back home with some incredible experiences and unforgettable memories.

Have a great trip!

TIP: As already mentioned, we live in Europe and have traveled around extensively. On our blog, you can find lots of guides to some of the destinations we visited most recently. Below, we highlighted some articles that you may find useful.

Useful tips for visiting some of the most popular cities in Europe:

  • Amsterdam Travel Tips
  • Barcelona Travel Tips
  • Krakow Travel Tips
  • London Travel Tips
  • Paris Travel Tips
  • Rome Travel Tips

Be sure to also take a look at our travel destinations page for more information and inspiration for a wide variety of destinations that we have written about.

If you found this post helpful, don’t forget to bookmark it and share it with your friends. Are you on Pinterest? Pin this image!

Everything you should know before traveling to Europe for the first time

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Wednesday 1st of May 2024

We are thinking of travelling in Hungary, Budapest and Austria. Do you have any travel tips for those destinations?

Thanks, Pam

Friday 3rd of May 2024

Hi Pam, while we have been to Budapest, Vienna, and quite a few other places in those countries, most of those trips were way before I had this blog. That said, we have quite a few recent articles about a variety of mountain destinations in Austria, as well as Salzburg. Please see here.

Thursday 7th of September 2023

I haven't been into Europe, but this will really help me and other people who will travel for the first time in Europe. I will surely keep this in mind. Thank you for the information!

Monday 11th of September 2023

Thanks for reading and hope you get to visit Europe very soon!

Wednesday 6th of September 2023

Thank you for this write up. Me and my partner are making our second European trip and we cant wait to spend time. Any tips is especially welcome and this article has been so informative and fun. I've bookmarked this for further reading.

Glad to hear this, Neil. If you have any specific questions for destinations that we feature on our blog, feel free to leave a comment under a related article and we'll try to help. Enjoy Europe!

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The Ultimate Western Europe Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

A trip to Europe is a great idea for first-time travelers.  This part of the world has a well-developed tourist trail with reliable transportation links, plenty of accommodation choices, and numerous activities and entertainment options to suit a variety of travelers.

*This post may contain affiliate links, as a result, we may receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) on any bookings/purchases you make through the links in this post. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Read our full disclosure

Western Europe offers just enough challenges to keep the trip fun and adventurous without being overwhelming for those traveling for the first time. All it takes is a little bit of research, some planning, and a big sense of adventure to make the most of your first trip to Europe!

Over the last eight years, we’ve visited many of Europe’s major cities, so it’s no surprise that when it comes to the ultimate itinerary for first-time visitors, we have a few recommendations.  Here’s a roundup of our favourite cities that we think are worth putting on your Europe itinerary for your first-time visit .

Europe Itinerary: Sprawling Parisian streets. Paris. France. Europe

Traveling Soon?  Here is a list of our favourite travel providers and accessories to help get you ready for your upcoming trip! Book Your Accommodation HERE Search for Great Tours HERE Get a Car Rental HERE Buy Travel Insurance HERE See our Favourite Camera Bag HERE Grab a Reusable Water Bottle HERE or a Filtration Straw HERE Order an eSim HERE

Whether you’re flying to Europe from North America or Oceania, London will most likely offer the   cheapest flights  in and out of the region. If this is your first trip to Europe, take advantage of these great deals and  put London top of your itinerary .   London  offers a plethora of activities to satisfy even the pickiest traveler.

the ultimate europe itinerary

Take in the Major Sights

Don’t miss the big attractions, like  Buckingham Palace ,  London Eye,   Piccadilly Circus ,  Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and St Paul’s Cathedral.  The best way to see the sights that interest you is to download a self-guided London walking tour map. This way you can go at your own pace and take as many photos as you like, without feeling pressured to match the pace of a guided tour.

To see as many of these popular attractions as possible, you might want to split your tour into two parts. Buckingham Palace can easily take half a day, especially if you decide to check out the stunning architecture of Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, which are within short walking distance of the palace. The  Tower of London , the  London Eye , and the iconic  Tower Bridge are about an hour’s walk from Buckingham Palace, so it’s worth either catching a ride to a starting point or just saving those sights for another day instead of rushing to visit all the destinations in one day.

Europe Itinerary: London, England

Experience London Culture

Culture vultures will love London’s selection of  world-class museums and art galleries,  shopaholics will enjoy checking out  London’s amazing markets , and foodies will go crazy for the  city’s multicultural restaurants and street food finds .

Visit London Museums

The famous  Madame Tussauds  wax museum is a fun spot to visit, and history buffs or maritime aficionados will enjoy  Cutty Sark , a historic sailing ship that has been preserved and converted into an interactive museum.

If art museums are more to your liking, the  National Gallery  has over 2,600 amazing works from the 13th century to present day. You’ll see artworks by Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt, and admission is free! While you’re in the city center, you can walk to  Trafalgar Square  and watch the street performers in  Covent Garden ’s cobblestone plaza.

The National Gallery London

Go on a Literature and Theatre Tour

For fans of classic literature, the  Charles Dickens Museum  is a fantastic hidden gem. Located in Charles Dickens’ former home on Doughty Street, this museum has over 100,000 items related to the author, including manuscripts and personal items. The home is laid out as it would have looked while the author lived there, like a time capsule!

There is no shortage of theaters in London, but Shakespeare fans should definitely visit  The Globe Theatre . A reconstruction of the original theatre that burned down in 1613, this venue offers tours and has regular showings of Shakespeare’s plays. A trip to The Globe is as close as you’re ever going to get to seeing The Bard, so don’t miss it when you visit Europe.

If you are looking to take a couple of tours around London, these are the ones we recommend:

  • Classic London 3.5-Hour Bike Tour : Take a morning bike ride through central London and visit some of the city’s iconic sights in an eco-friendly way.
  • State Rooms at Buckingham Palace : A trip to London would be incomplete without taking in the wonders of Buckingham Palace. This tour gives you a closer look at life as a Royal, and the chance to marvel at some of the amazing treasures.
  • Jack the Ripper Walking Tour : Journey back in time for a spine-chilling (and fun!) evening to discover the dark side of Jack the Ripper’s London.
  • Climb The Roof of The O2 Arena : Become an urban mountaineer and get a uniquebird’s eye view of the city with a climbing tour of the O2 Arena.

Europe itinerary: Tower Bridge, London

Planning the London Portion of Your Europe Itinerary

Time Needed : Three to five days, although you can easily spend an entire week in London and feel like you didn’t get a chance to see everything.

Where to Stay in London

West End or Bloomsbury if you want to be  near attractions  and  entertainment options . Kings Cross, Euston, and Camden are  more popular with backpackers exploring the alternative side of London. We try to stay in eco-friendly accommodation as much as possible during our Europe trip. 

Eco-Friendly Hotels in London: 

  • Wesley Hotel  is the first hotel in the UK to receive the Social Enterprise Mark for its sustainable practices. They are  located 15 minutes from King’s Cross Station, Camden Market,  and other famous attractions. The onsite restaurant relies on locally sourced ingredients and offers a variety of vegan options 
  • The Cavendish  is an award-winning eco-hotel, located a mere  10 minutes walk  from Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace. Conveniently located just a few minutes from the Piccadilly Tube Station, The Cavendish is the perfect home base for your visit to London. 
  • citizenM is situated in the heart of London and offers spectacular views of the river Thames, The Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London. The Tower Hill tube station is about a minute away, so you can easily get around London.

No Europe trip itinerary would be complete without Paris. Located  a quick 2.5-hour train ride from London ,   Paris  offers visitors some of the most iconic sights in the world, like the  Eiffel Tower,  the  Champs Élysées , the  Louvre , and the  Arc de Triomphe.

This city of high fashion, glamour, and arts is also known for amazing food, wine, shopping, and entertainment options. Of all the major cities on the continent, Paris is among the most walkable, making it a perfect destination for those who visit Europe. 

We recommend exploring Paris on foot, getting lost on its streets, and losing track of time while people watching in cafés along the way. Don’t miss the Sacré-Coeur  and a chance to check out the  Montmartre District , home of the  Moulin Rouge , street artists and performers, bohemian apartments, and tiny cobblestone streets.

the ultimate europe itinerary

Have a Garden Picnic

Paris is home to some of the most beautiful public gardens in the world, and a must-see for any trip to Europe. Located in the heart of Paris, the famous  Luxembourg Gardens  is the perfect place for a stroll and a picnic. If you plan on visiting the Louvre, the Jardin des Tuileries is just down the street from the museum. While not as popular as the Luxembourg Gardens, the lovely Jardin des Tuileries will be a welcome refreshment after the Louvre.

Luxembourg Gardens Paris

Take a Day Trip to the Loire Valley or Champagne Region

A visit to France wouldn’t be complete without a day in the country’s gorgeous countryside. To get to the Loire Valley, it’s about a 3-hour train ride from Paris, but it’s much easier to join a guided tour. This guided tour  provides transportation, a guided tour of three UNESCO-listed castles in the Loire Valley, and a wine tasting in Amboise.

With this   guided tour ,  Champagne lovers take a day trip to learn about bubbly at the source, sample several vintages, and tour historic sites in the region. You’ll take a guided walk through a vineyard, where you’ll learn about the specific grapes suitable for Champagne, tour the abbey where Dom Perignon lived in the 17th century, and visit with vintners for a demonstration of the production process. 

If you are looking to take a couple of tours around Paris, these are the ones we recommend:

  • Evening at the Moulin Rouge : Feel the bohemian spirit with a show and glass of champagne at the Moulin Rouge.
  • Secret Paris 3-Hour Bike Tour: Get off the beaten track and ride away from the usual tourist spots on this 3-hour bike tour. Your tour guide will take you to the  hidden gems of Paris to see street art, markets, and more.
  • Dinner in 58 Tour Eiffel : Make a trip to the Eiffel Tower even more special by  having dinner  in ‘58 Tour Eiffel’ before taking the lift to the top to look out over the city that never sleeps.

The Louvre. Paris. France. Europe

Planning the Paris Portion of Your Europe Itinerary

Time needed:  two to four days, or longer if you love art, high fashion, and glamour Getting here:  Fly for $45 USD, take a 2.5-hour train for $60 USD, or take an overnight bus for $30 USD.

Where to Stay In Paris

Stay in the Montmartre District, if you want to be in  close proximity to entertainment options . The 19th and 13th arrondissements offer lots of great options, too.

Eco-Friendly Hotels in Paris: 

  • Hotel Gavarni  is the first independent hotel in Paris to receive the European ecolabel for its sustainable practices. This boutique hotel is conveniently located just a short walk from the Eiffel Tower and a quick bus ride from the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre.
  • Hidden Hotel  is a contemporary hotel near the Champs Elysees. The hotel’s furniture is made largely from  organic farming materials  like stone, wood, linen, and leather. Hidden Hotel is part of Green Globe, the first global environmental certification program designed specifically for the travel and tourism industry. The hotel is within walking distance to a few places away from the tourist crowds, including the elegant  Parc Monceau , and the  Paris Fashion Museum .
  • For a  slightly cheaper option,  the   Solar Hotel is a good choice for its eco-friendly nature, clean rooms, and value for money. Perks include free bicycle rentals and organic breakfast, plus a garden onsite that is open to hotel guests. Luxembourg Gardens, The Louvre, and Eiffel Tower are all a short walk or bike ride away, making Solar Hotel a great starting point for your adventures in the capital city.

While many travelers associate   Amsterdam with great parties and smoky coffee shops, there’s a lot more to the Netherlands’ capital than that. The city is full of museums, architecture, and art.

It’s also one of the most  eco-friendly stops on your Europe trip itinerary.  It’s extremely easy to explore on foot or to enjoy on two wheels. 

In our opinion, the  Van Gogh Museum  and the  Anne Frank House  are a must, as is the Leidseplein, which is the center of Amsterdam’s entertainment scene and home to nightclubs, movie theatres, concert venues, casinos, and the ubiquitous coffee shops.

Amsterdam: the ultimate europe itinerary

Enjoy the Free Sights

If Amsterdam makes it onto your Europe trip itinerary, don’t skip the city’s amazing outdoor spaces. Located southwest of the city center and just west of Museum Quarter,  Vondelpark  is the largest urban park in Amsterdam. The park is full of paths, sculptures, and greenspaces, making it the perfect spot for a morning coffee or lunch picnic. 

Architecture buffs will enjoy Amsterdam’s  Canal Ring  area. Dating back to the 17th century, this half-moon of canals is a UNESCO World Heritage Site lined with historic buildings, restaurants, shops, and bars.

If you are looking to take a couple of tours around Amsterdam, these are the ones we recommend:

  • Amsterdam Walking Tour: The Fascinating Story of Anne Frank : This guided walking tour is a must for anyone with an interest in history. Learn about the city during WWII and see it through the eyes of Anne Frank.
  • Henri Willig Cheese Tasting Tour with Wine : Enjoy a  45-minute cheese tasting  sampling 5 different kinds of cheese while sipping on delicious red wine or specialty beer.
  • Tour of the Dutch countryside : If you are planning to spend at least 10 days in Europe, you can afford to spend a little more time in Amsterdam and  take a road trip to the windmills ! A guided day trip to the water lands is a great way to get a break from the crowded streets of the city. 

Europe itinerary: Amsterdam

Planning the Amsterdam Portion of Your Europe Itinerary

Time needed:  Two to four days Get there:  Take a  1.5-hour flight from Paris  for under $55 USD, a  3-hour train ride from Paris  for $57 USD or take an even cheaper overnight bus.

Where to Stay in Amsterdam

Stay in The Old Centre and the surrounding areas , so you can be  a short walk away  from the  main sights  and  shopping  and  entertainment  areas.

Eco-Friendly Hotels in Amsterdam:

  • WestCord City Hotel  for its central location and its impressive sustainable practices. Conveniently located within five minutes of Dam Square and Kalverstraat, this hotel is at the heart of Amsterdam. 
  • For a  slightly cheaper option  choose the   Conscious Hotel Vondelpark . This uber eco-conscious option is perhaps  among the greenest group  of hotels in Amsterdam. Guests are offered rental bikes and a daily vegetarian breakfast buffet prepared with organic produce. They have a few locations around the city including the   Conscious Hotel The Tire Station ,  and   Conscious Hotel The Westerpark .
  • Qbic Hotel WTC Amsterdam  is an  affordable quirky eco-hotel in the downtown core. This hotel is a 15-minute bus ride to Museum Quarter, where you can easily spend a day wandering around the  Van Gogh Museum , the outstanding  Rijksmuseum , and the  Vondelpark .

Europe Itinerary: Double room at Qbic Hotel in Amsterdam. Photo by Qbic Hotels.

Best known for its  historical associations, lively nightlife, street art,  and an  abundance of museums ,   Berlin is a fascinating city to visit on your first trip to Europe. This historical hotspot is famous for the   Berlin Wall , offers great nightlife,  and is one of the most eco-conscious cities in Europe.

the ultimate europe itinerary

Don’t Miss the Main Sights in Mitte

The city centre and historic district of Mitte are home to several of the most famous attractions in Berlin. You can easily spend half a day walking through the historic district, visiting the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Holocaust Memorial, the Berlin Wall Memorial, and more sights significant to the city’s history.

where to stay in berlin

See the Famous Street Art of Berlin

To explore the alternative side of the capital city, head to the Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain districts. Here, you’ll see the East Side Gallery and Museum, a kilometre-long stretch of the former Berlin Wall that is now covered in murals, including the famous piece of Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker kissing. For a more in-depth experience and a chance to see some hidden gems, consider a guided walking tour  of Berlin’s street art.

If you are looking to take a couple of tours around Berlin, these are the ones we recommend:

  • Tempelhof Airport: Hidden Places – Guided Tour : This 2-hour walking tour will take you down into the underground bunkers and tunnels beneath the city exploring the secret and off-the-beaten-path gems.
  • Berlin: 3-Hour Segway Tour : Ditch the bus tours for a more sustainable 2-wheel tour of the city! You’ll glide past  Berlin’s most famous monuments , learning and having fun as you go.
  • Mitte Culinary Food Tour : This 3-hour tour will prove to you that Berlin is more than just German sausage! 

Neue Kirche, Berlin. Germany

Planning the Berlin Portion of Your Europe Itinerary

Time needed:  Two to four days. Check out our 3-day Berlin itinerary here .   Get there:  From Amsterdam,  take an overnight bus  for about $28 USD, a 6.5-hour train for $45, or a two-hour flight for around $65 USD.

Where to Stay in Berlin

Stay in Mitte to be close to  major sights  and  attractions  or the  artsy areas  of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg if you want to experience the best of Berlin’s nightlife.

Eco-Friendly Hotels in Berlin: 

  • Hotel Bleibtreu Hotels  eco-focus is on using sustainable products – so all of their cleaning products are chemical free and their restaurant uses  locally sourced healthy ingredients ! The hotel is a short walk away from public transportation hubs, making this a convenient home base for your visit to Berlin.
  • Scandic Berlin Kurfuerstendamm Hotel  is located in the  main shopping district  of Berlin, and   Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz Hotel is in the trendy Kreuzberg district. They have both won a number of awards for their sustainability efforts, including the prestigious Green Globe award .
  • For a slightly cheaper option check out the   Circus Hostel . This unique hotel is loved for its sustainable practices, and location close to Mitte. Dorm beds or private rooms are available. The hotel offers rental bikes, and it’s just a short walk from the Rosenthalerplatz U-Bahn Station. For a night in, Circus Hostel has an onsite microbrewery and a quirky museum dedicated to David Hasselhoff. 

Europe Itinerary: Reception at Circus Hostel. Photo by Circus Hostel.

Germany’s diversity grants it two spots on your Europe itinerary.  For a taste of true Bavarian culture , check out the picturesque town of   Munich . Visit the  English Garden,  hang out in the  Marienplatz , and see the  Old Town Square alive with street performers. You can also check out  München’s Viktualienmarkt , climb to the top of  St. Peter’s Church  for amazing views of Munich, and take part in the world-famous  Oktoberfest  in September.

If you are looking to take a couple of tours around Munich, these are the ones we recommend:

  • Day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle : If you’re traveling to Europe for the first time you may have dreams of Disney-type castles surrounded by enchanted forests, and day trips like this one are a must for your itinerary. It’s just a 2 hours train or coach ride from Munich and the journey itself will make this the ultimate Europe trip.
  • Munich Segway Tour : For a fun way to explore the city take a 2.5-hour guided Segway tour. An experienced guide will take you to visit Konigsplatz, the historic town hall square, the English Garden, Museums, and the State Chancellery.
  • Scavenger Hunt through the Old Town : A great activity for those on a Europe trip with the family and is another fun and novel way to discover the city and see its most interesting sights.

Europe itinerary: Munich, Germany

Planning The Munich Portion of Your Europe Itinerary

Time needed : Two to four days Get there:  From Berlin, take an  overnight bus  for around $30 USD, a  6-hour train for under $25 USD, or a one-hour flight for $165 USD. 

Where to Stay in Munich

Stay in the city centre to be within walking distance from  Marienplatz  and the  Viktualienmarkt food market . Or choose one of the less touristy   neighborhoods to stay in Munich . 

Eco-Friendly Hotels in Munich: 

  • Hotel Metropol  is conveniently located within a short walking distance of Old Town and Munich Central Station. Focused on sustainability, Hotel Metropol offers guests a breakfast buffet full of delicious food prepared with ingredients from Upper Bavaria and nearby organic farms.
  • The Derag Livinghotel  is  next to the Viktualienmarkt food market . They are very environmentally conscious and offer well-appointed, clean rooms that use renewable energy sources. The Reichenbachplatz Tram Stop is a 2-minute walk away, linking you to popular sights. 
  • A slightly cheaper option is the   Novotel München City . They have a long list of green credentials and offer soundproof rooms at a central location. The hotel is a 20-minute walk from the heart of Munich or a 5-minute ride by subway.

Prague  is considered to be  one of the most unique, romantic, and beautiful cities in all of Europe . Make sure you leave enough time on a Europe trip itinerary for this Bohemian gem! 

Visit Staromestske Namesti

Famous for its unique medieval architecture, the historic city center is home to famous attractions like  Prague Castle,   Charles Bridge , the  Old City Hall , and the famed  Astronomical Clock.  Founded during the 12th century, this square in historical Prague is lined with stunning baroque architecture, restaurants, and galleries. 

If you visit the city during the holiday season, be sure to check out the famous  Christmas Markets  held here every year. This is the largest of Prague’s Christmas markets, and it’s just beautiful to see at night.

If you are looking to take a couple of tours around Prague, these are the ones we recommend:

  • Communism and Nuclear Bunker Tour:   Excellent choice for  history buffs . Enjoy a tour of Prague’s communist past.
  • Prague Ghost Tour: Dark Shadows of the Old Town:   If you like stories of ghosts and ghouls, give yourself a fright with this 2-hour walking tour.
  • Half-day trip to Kutná Hora and Ossuary from Prague:  See the weird and wonderful Church of All Saints, decorated with more than 40,000 human bones.

the ultimate europe itinerary: Prague

Planning The Prague Portion of Your Europe Itinerary

Time needed:  Two to four days Get there:  From Munich, take a  five-hour train for just $25 USD or a 4.5-hour  bus for $25 USD. Depending on the time of year, you’ll pay around $120 USD for a 1.5-hour flight that will take you from Munich to Prague.

Where to Stay in Prague

Stay in the city centre or in the Lesser Town (Mala Strana), the historical centre of the city.

Eco-Friendly Hotels in Prague: 

  • Adria Hotel  for its sustainable practices and location right in Wenceslas Square. Here historic  charm meets modern amenities . The hotel is less than 1 km away from Old Town Square, so you can easily reach the Astronomical Clock and other sights on foot.
  • For a slightly cheaper option, the   Mosaic House is a nice choice. This carbon-neutral hotel is a part hostel as well.  The hotel is a 15-minute walk from the Old Town Square, and close to attractions in the modern city like the Prague Botanical Garden.
  • Aurea Legends  is a sustainable boutique hotel housed in one of Prague’s many historic buildings. The hotel is just a short walk from the most popular sights in Prague and steps away from restaurants and cafes.

Europe Itinerary: Common area at Moasic House in Prague. Photo by Mosaic House

Rome  is one of the most important  centers for art and history in the world, and it’s chock-full of bucket-list sights and attractions. Its  historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site , and the city is famous for its millennia-old churches, grand ruins, lavish monuments, elaborate statues, and graceful fountains. 

Lovers of food, art and history, beauty and love itself should put Rome on their Europe itinerary. Of all the European countries, there is no comparison to the romance of this beautiful city. If you have to be selective with your itinerary, make sure to visit Italy.

If you are looking to get the most out of Roma in your short time in the city, consider taking a couple of tours. These are the ones we recommend:

  • Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and Saint Peter’s : We’re not necessarily fans of museums but there are some that are the exception and this is certainly one of them!
  • Colosseum and Ancient Rome Walking Tour : Discover the  ancient past of this great city on a 3.5-hour walking tour and skip the queues at the most popular sites.
  • 4-Hour Food Tour by Night : You’ll sample some of the best food on your Europe trip to Rome, so it’s worth dedicating a whole evening to this great culinary experience
  • 1-Day Rome Tour : Perfect for those on a tight timeframe. This 1-day walking tour will take you straight to all the best sights and allow you to skip the queues.

Europe Itinerary: Rome, Italy

Planning The Rome Portion of Your Europe Itinerary

Time needed:  Two to four days Get there:  From Prague, take an overnight train to Rome for about $50 USD. At 15 hours, it’s a pretty long train ride so if you’d rather save time, consider a  1.5-hour flight for $55 USD or less. 

Where to Stay in Rome

Staying near the Termini train station  is one of the most popular neighborhoods to stay in while visiting Rome since it makes it easy to get in and around Rome during your time there. However, there are a couple of other   neighborhoods in Rome  to consider.

Eco-Friendly Hotels: 

  • President Hotel for its sustainable practices, central location, and amazing breakfast which features Italian classic cuisine. The hotel is a little over a kilometre away from the  Coliseum , Palatine Hill, and the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum .
  • DVE Suite Rome  is located  close to Termini train station, and the Coliseum . The hotel is steps away from the Monti district, a historic section full of medieval alleys full of boutiques and trattorias away from the crowded tourist spots. They honour a series of policies to operate their business sustainably.
  • Foro Romano is a sustainable boutique hotel just a few metres from the Roman Forum and Circus Maximus. Other sights, like the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, and the Palazzo Venezia are about a 15-minute walk from the hotel. If location is your top priority, you really can’t go wrong with Foro Romano

Europe Itinerary: Double room at DVE Suites. Photo by DVE Suite Rome.

Barcelona  is full of culture, incredible food, markets, museums, rich history, and great nightlife. It makes for a great last stop on your whirlwind Europe itinerary. 

Soak up the sun on  Barcelona’s gorgeous beaches , enjoy street performers and cafés on La Rambla, shop at the markets,  admire  Gaudí’s modernist architecture,  and spend the nights enjoying  Barcelona’s lively nightlife .

If you are looking to take a couple of tours around   Barcelona , these are the ones we recommend:

  • The Ice Bar Experience : If the heat of the city is getting too much, then cool down with a trip to the Ice Bar.
  • Barcelona Main Sights by E-Bike : Explore Barcelona’s sights with a local guide during a 2.5-hour electric bike tour. You’ll discover the  history of the Gothic Quarter  and visit some of the most iconic landmarks.
  • Montserrat Monastery & Natural Park Hike : If you still have some energy left at the end of your ultimate Europe trip, then we recommend a  half-day hike to   Montserrat  to visit the Abbey . If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to hear the famous boys’ choir.

Europe Itinerary: Barcelona

Planning The Barcelona Portion of Your Europe Itinerary

Time needed:  Two to four days Get there:  From Rome, take an hour and a half flight for $30 USD.

Where to Stay in Barcelona

Stay in the  old city  to be in close proximity to sights and attractions or  along La Rambla .

  • Arts Hotel  for its incredible views of Barceloneta Beach, and its sustainable practices. The hotel houses a contemporary art collection and a two Michelin-starred restaurant. 
  • The Eco Boutique   Hostal Grau  is a wonderful choice for its beautiful rooms. This modern, family-run hotel is steps from the Modern Art Museum and Placa Catalunya.
  • If you are willing to share a room,   Twentytu Hostel  is an  affordable green option . In fact, they have one of the greenest properties in Barcelona and were one of the  first hotel properties  in Barcelona to apply green technology. The hostel also offers rental bikes, and guided tours for groups.
  • Mas Salagros Eco-Resort  is technically just outside the city limit, but definitely worth a mention. This  luxurious resort  has earned the label of 100% sustainable. The resort offers cooking classes and fragrance workshops, both using organic produce and aromatics grown onsite. 

Mas Salagros EcoResort

Give Yourself Time to be Flexible

Follow our recommendations above  for a three to five-week Europe itinerary . Plan your route ahead of time, but give yourself a little bit of flexibility when it comes to the number of days in each city. You never know which one of these amazing European cities will  steal your heart , making you linger for a few extra days.

Krakow, Poland

Get Off the Beaten Path

If time permits and you’re looking to extend your stay in Europe, consider going  off the beaten path  and paying a visit to non-capital cities in Europe. We have a whole host of ideas on our   Europe destination page .

While they might not get as much attention from travelers as the capital cities do,  they pack a punch  and offer some  unique experiences  that will make your Europe trip that much more exciting.

Brighton Beach on a cloudy day. England

About The Author

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Oksana & Max St John

2 thoughts on “the ultimate western europe itinerary for first-time visitors”.

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European countries are amazing to visit. One needs to be careful as its not same as other countries.

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My wife and I are excited for the vacation we’ve booked in Europe to Spain and definitely we will go to the Canary. Gran Canaria is one of our eyeing place for our 1st stop 🙂 There so many thing we want to do from a page we’ve read https://www.canaryislandsinfo.co.uk/gran-canaria/places/

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Vacation Timeline for Planning Your First Trip to Europe

Start Planning Six Months in Advance if You Can

first trip europe

If you're thinking about taking a first-time or independent trip to Europe, it can be fun just planning, researching, and finding the best spots to check out like hidden gems or "must-sees."

Independent travel is usually cheaper and more rewarding than signing up for a coach tour of Europe. Yes, you have to do some digging, but in the end, you end up planning the things you want to do, not the things someone else wants you to do.

A timeline, divided into time segments with deadlines, ensure that you handle all the basic tasks required and helps keep your costs in check.

Six Months in Advance

The time is nigh. The idea has been in your head for months, maybe even years. You want to go to Europe. You have some extra time, you have some extra money. Start planning for your trip in six months—right now.

  • Choose a destination : This is obviously your biggest task. Once you pick a place, then you can start setting a budget. You can start determining how long you can spend there, what you want to see, and how you plan to travel. Set the date, the rest flows from that.
  • European guidebooks: Once the location is selected, then get your guides, read online about  Europe's top cities  and compare costs between places. If this is your summer after high school graduation, check out some of the best European destinations for the younger scene .
  • Rent a vacation house: If you plan to stay for a week or more, look at weekly rentals or (if staying longer) a monthly rental at a vacation house. A vacation house rental can be a big money saver for traveling families.
  • Learn some of the languages: It is courteous in all countries to learn the basics like polite greetings or general statements like, "Do you speak in English" in another language.

Three Months in Advance

Three months have gone by since you decided you were going away. If you haven 't already, now it is the time to get flights booked. 

  • Find the best airfare: Booking flights between three and four months before you leave is typically the best bet for the best fares. The sooner, the better.
  • Apply for a passport : If you do not already have a passport, then now is the time to put in that application and get it going. The passport office says to allow six to eight weeks for processing time, but add a few weeks in case it gets lost in the mail or an error hangs you up.
  • Jot down an itinerary: Plot out some highlights you want to see while at the destination. Mapping this out now will help you figure out if you will need to get a car rental, learn public transportation, or if you can walk it.
  • Make sure you have good walking shoes: You'll be walking a lot in Europe, so it's time to think about good, solid walking shoes that you can wear in several situations like day and evening.

Two Months in Advance

Two months before you go, you will need to figure out where you will stay and how you will get around.

  • Hotel reservations: If you did not book a vacation house several months beforehand, then now is the time to make sure you have accommodations. Since you've been planning which sights to visit, look at getting a hotel near your list of must-sees.
  • Transportation: You need to determine what will be your main mode of transportation while at the destination. Will you take public transportation? Will you rent or lease a car? Will you visit several countries and need to travel the rails ? Book it.

One Month in Advance

Time is ticking down. You should already have your airfare booked, your accommodations should be reserved, and your transportation plan is locked down. These are still many small, but important details that require attention.

  • Luggage: You need to determine how much luggage you will need, how much you will bring, and how you will lug it around.
  • Money and budget: This is a good time to check your bank balance and make sure that you will have the money you estimate you will need per day once you develop your spending budget.
  • Travel Insurance: If you're going to Europe, then chances are high that you spent a lot of money on this trip. Protect your investment. If anything goes wrong on your trip or before you leave, it's a good idea to spend a little to potentially save yourself hundreds of dollars if something should go wrong. Check with your credit card company to confirm what is covered by default.

Final Checklist

All your planning has paid off. You are just about ready to go. Look over a final checklist to make sure that you do not miss anything important. 

  • Call your credit card companies: Credit card companies need an alert that you are planning to leave the country. It can be so embarrassing if your card gets frozen when you go to use it and you really need to. In an effort to protect your account against fraudulent use, foreign country usage is a red flag for credit card companies.
  • Take Medications? Write down the details of your medications, brand name, generic name, dosage, and usage instructions. If you should need a refill abroad, this is important for foreign pharmacies.
  • What to bring: Pack light, pack right. Use a  packing list  and stick to it. If you have a tendency to overpack, then tell yourself that. Go back to your bag, remove items.
  • Take a look at the Department of State travel warnings  (if any) for your chosen destination.
  • Have a wonderful trip!

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The World Was Here First

The Complete 2-Week Europe Packing List

Last Updated on November 15, 2023

by Maggie Turansky

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. That means if you click a link and make a purchase, we may make a small commission. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see our privacy policy.

first trip europe

Putting together a 2-week Europe packing list can prove incredibly difficult regardless if it’s your first trip to the continent or if you are a seasoned traveller.

Especially if you’re trying to travel light and minimalistically, prioritising things for your trip to Europe can be a bit tricky. We have travelled extensively all over Europe and have refined this ultimate packing list in order to ensure that you have everything you need, but also not too much!

So if you’re after the perfect packing list for Europe, then look no further. We’re here to make sure that you’re perfectly well-equipped for your trip without bringing one item too many in your limited space!

Table of Contents

Europe Packing Tips

Before I jump right into what you actually need to pack for Europe, we do need to discuss a few things in order to ensure that you are completely prepared to leave on your trip to Europe.

One of the most important things to be aware of is the season where you’re travelling, along with the region. Europe is vast with an array of varied climates and what you need to bring to be prepared largely depends on where and when you are visiting.

What you eventually end up taking with you really inevitably comes down to if you’re visiting Europe in winter or summer, northern or southern Europe.

Another thing to keep in mind when you’re planning out a packing list for visiting Europe is just how much you plan to bring with you.

It can be really hard to know what you’ll need or use on your trip, especially if you haven’t travelled much in Europe before. However, it is always a great idea to try to limit the amount of stuff you cart around with you.

Packing light can be a lot more pleasant in almost every aspect of travelling, from not having to worry about the weight limits on airlines or hauling your bags up stairs, through train stations and luggage racks.

Packing light also has the added benefit of making your things a lot easier to pack up and move when you move destination. It is unlikely that you will plan to stay in just one location on your trip and you don’t want to have to unpack and repack a bunch of different things every few days – not only is this simply a pain, it can also be very stressful.

The packing list below is quite minimalist, however, in times of travelling for similar-length trips to Europe, I’ve found that it is beyond sufficient.

When it comes to selecting items of clothing, especially, try to stray away from anything that you cannot mix and match and, often, opting for darker colours can be a great option.

Thinking more in the mindset of bringing a small capsule wardrobe rather than individual outfits to wear will help you be able to pack light while also mixing and matching to create a new look every day.

The other tip when it comes to packing light is to find accommodation that offers laundry facilities. Planning to do a wash while on the road will allow you not to have to bring so many things considering the fact that you can do a load of laundry mid-way through your trip.

Many hotels and hostels offer laundry services or, alternatively, you could find an Airbnb that has a washing machine you could use yourself. Laundromats are also always an option, though I can’t imagine it’s the preferable option considering the limited amount of time you have when it comes to exploring Europe.

Finally, when it comes to bringing items such as a hairdryer, curling iron or straightener, I would recommend refraining from this.

The vast majority of accommodations will have at least a hairdryer on-site and, especially if you’re travelling to Europe from North America, the voltage in the plugs is completely different and you risk completely ruining your devices should you use them, even if you are using an adaptor.

All in all, there are a number of things that one needs to take into consideration when figuring out what to pack for Europe. Follow the guidelines below and you should be perfectly well-equipped for your trip!

Packing our Level8 Luggage

Ultimate Packing List for Europe

This ultimate Europe packing list is perfect for those looking to pack light and be a bit more minimalist in their adventure. While this certainly isn’t a complete bare-bones packing list for those who want to, say, travel carry-on only, it is good for those looking to not bring everything but the kitchen sink.

This is intended that you pack in a larger main piece of luggage (whether that be a travel backpack , wheeled backpack or traditional suitcase) along with a smaller piece of carry-on luggage such one from Level8 .

If you want to keep your items all organised then we also suggest using some packing cubes like the Eagle Creek Pack-It Compression Cubes

This checklist is also appropriate for all sexes and genders, just pick and choose some things as they don’t apply to you.

Our Eagle Creek Compression Packing Cubes!

Figuring out what kind of clothing to bring is arguably the most important and most difficult thing about packing for Europe.

As mentioned earlier, it’s always a great idea to opt for neutral colours and items that you can mix and match to ensure that you can have some variety in your outfits without having to bring too many things and take up necessary valuable space in your luggage.

  • Depending on the season or region of Europe you’re visiting, either bring a mixture of long-sleeve and short-sleeve tops, just long-sleeve or just short-sleeve tops to wear in Europe.
  • I always recommend bringing one or two nicer tops or button-down shirts along with more casual t-shirts or tops. We like Bluffworks t-shirts as they’re both practical and also look good!
  • Bringing one pair of jeans and one pair of another type of trouser is a great idea or one pair of lighter jeans and one pair of darker jeans. Having at least one pair of pants that can be dressed up is always a good idea
  • You can browse some of our the best options in our best pants for travel in Europe guide.
  • I, personally, love Bluffworks’ dresses , which have concealed pockets, a classic and flattering cut and can be dressed up or dressed down depending on the situation. Oh, it also is wrinkle-resistant and fully machine washable.
  • If you’re visiting Southern Europe or simply travelling in the summer months, then having one or two pairs of shorts can be a great idea, especially when you need to keep cool or are heading to the beach.
  • If your trip is during winter, having a tank top or light base layer will keep you warm without having to result in a bulky coat or jacket.
  • Depending on the season or region, a cosy wool sweater or a light cardigan is a great idea when packing for 2 weeks in Europe. It can also be a good idea if you bring one that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion (are you seeing a trend here?).
  • Of course, you likely don’t need to include a jacket at all if you’re travelling to, say southern Spain or Malta in July, however, depending on the season, a warm, lightweight jacket is always a good idea for your trip.
  • We recommend a packable down jacket ( click here for men’s version ), however, we have written a detailed guide for the best jacket for Europe depending on your needs.
  • No matter the region or season, a rain jacket is always a good idea, as you can get caught out in a storm regardless of where and when you are travelling.
  • We love the North Face Resolve ( click here for men’s version) as it has consistently kept us warm and dry in the rainiest of conditions.
  • How much underwear you bring really depends on at what point in your trip you want to do laundry. If you want to avoid washing at all, then go ahead and bring 14 or 15 pairs of underwear. They do take up valuable space, however.
  • Like underwear, how many socks (and the kinds of socks) you bring really depends on your shoe preference and just how often you want to do laundry.
  • Bringing a swimming suit is a great idea even if you’re not going to a seaside destination. You never know when you may go to a bathhouse, sauna or pool on your Europe trip no matter the season.
  • If you happen to be travelling to a beachy destination like Italy or Spain , consider bringing 2 pairs so you have time to dry each suit between wearings.
  • I, personally, like to bring one regular bra and one sports bra, but this really depends on your needs and preferences.
  • If you’re not a pajamas person, then don’t bother. I am, so I bring them. One pair for 2 weeks is sufficient.

Maggie's Bluffworks Dress

Shoes take up A LOT of space in your luggage so limiting the footwear you bring on your Europe trip can be the ticket for maximising the space in your bags.

We have a complete guide on the best shoes for Europe to help you pick the right footwear for you. This is just what we recommend bringing when you’re compiling a packing list for 2 weeks.

  • A good pair of sturdy, stylish walking sneakers is essential. Pick comfortable walking shoes that you can walk in for hours and kilometres and not have sore feet.
  • I, personally, love the Ecco Soft 7 trainers and wear them all the time. For a men’s version consider the Ecco Soft 7 Runner.
  • Choose your second pair of shoes depending on your style and the season you’re travelling in.
  • If you’re an active traveller, are visiting a largely outdoor destination, or simply plan to do a bit of walking and hiking, then a good pair of hiking boots such as the Merrell Siren Edge for women ( available on REI here ) or Merrell Moab 2 for men ( available on REI here ) is essential.
  • Small, compact, and helpful for everywhere from the beach to a hostel shower to a public pool, a pair of flip flops should always make it into your luggage!

Accessories

Whether fashion accessories or handy electronic gadgets, some of these are absolutely essential items to bring with you on your trip to Europe!

  • The most important accessory of them all!
  • Perfect for add a splash of style to any outfit, sipping over your head or shoulders if you’re visiting a church, using as a makeshift blanket, and also for its traditional use, a scarf is absolutely necessary to bring with you no matter the season.
  • A warm hat to keep you toasty in the winter in Europe is always welcome, as is a sun hat to protect you from the harsh rays during summer in Europe.
  • An essential item on any winter packing list!
  • A solid anti-theft handbag like the PacSafe Cityscape or day pack is perfect for keeping your valuables safe and secure while you’re out and about sightseeing and exploring.
  • Buying water and using plastic water bottles is a thing of the past. There are an infinite number of great water bottles for travelling to choose from like a Hydro Flask and you’ll never need to buy a single-use plastic bottle again.
  • If you’re more serious about your photography than simply relying on your phone, then bringing a good camera is a great idea.
  • We love the Sony A6400 for its high-quality images at a decent starting budget and there being several great travel lenses to use with it. Make sure to bring extra memory cards!
  • You always need to have something good to read, but don’t want to pack a bunch of heavy books to bring with you – a Paperwhite Kindle solves all of these problems and it is an absolutely essential item if you love to read.
  • Buy a prepaid SIM card like the Orange 20GB SIM either as physical SIM or eSIM to ensure you can stay connected in Europe.
  • Finding a universal plug adaptor with a number of different USB drives is a fantastic option and is an absolutely essential item when travelling to Europe from elsewhere in the world!
  • Finally, a power bank will give you peace of mind should your phone die while you are out and about or if you forget to give something a much-needed charge when you need to use it.
  • Making sure you have an adequate number of charging cords for all of your devices will ensure that you can make sure everything can get the best battery life possible.
  • A travel pillow is nice to have if you have a long flight or are taking overnight trains or buses.
  • World Nomads   offers flexible and simple travel insurance policies with coverage for more than 150 activities that you can buy or extend while on the road.
  • SafetyWing offers travel medical insurance policies that can are an option for long term budget travellers.
  • Save your money and landfill space and forgo the travel-sized toiletries for refillable bottles of your shampoo and conditioner. We love GoToobs .
  • You might want to bring earplugs if you’re staying at a hostel or budget accommodation where street noise can be an issue or for your flight.
  • To avoid unnecessary spills in your toiletry bag, we recommend using a bar soap rather than a shower gel, but this is really up to you
  • Keep your dry skin nice and hydrated!
  • Bring as little makeup as you need. Personally, I limit myself to one lipstick, one eyeliner, mascara, a small eye shadow palette, foundation and a few brushes. I also make sure I have facial cleansing wipes for makeup removal and just to wash my face at the end of the day.
  • If you’re a lens wearer, you need to pack this!
  • Blisters and cuts happen, best to be prepared rather than have to hunt for a pharmacy to find these things while travelling.
  • While you can get ibuprofen and the other over-the-counter pretty much everywhere, it’s always nice to have it on hand should a headache threaten to put a damper in your Europe trip. Ditto with other OTC medications you take regularly.

Piecing together the Europe packing list for 2 weeks doesn’t have to be all that difficult if you take into consideration all of the things outlined above. Think minimally and pack light and you’re sure to have a fantastic time on your adventure — wherever it may be that you’re going!

Are you trying to figure out what to pack for two weeks in Europe? Was this packing list helpful for your trip? Let us know in the comments!

first trip europe

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About Maggie Turansky

Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from the US, she has lived in five different countries and has travelled to dozens more, both solo and with her partner, Michael. She particularly loves exploring Spain and spending time in the Caucasus and the Baltics. Read more about Maggie

This is a great comprehensive list. It helps to prioritize what is really essential and can serve as a thorough starting point even if you want to tweak it some to meet your needs. I would add socks, belt and 1 or two costume jewelry pieces to the list.

Great list. I reviewed it against my list and they were pretty close. I have been reading your other articles and they have been most helpful. Many thanks!

This is very helpful. Thanks. I always seems to pack too much. Helen

Can most of this fit in a carry on and a personal bag?

This can be really dependent on the kind of bag, how you pack and the airline’s requirements! Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful 🙂

Thanks this was very helpful for a first time traveler 😉

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World of Wanderlust

Where to Go for your First Time in Europe

Europe is a great destination for first time travellers. Especially if you are travelling solo for the first time , Europe is the perfect place to start. This part of the world offers new cultures, languages and cuisine at every border crossing. So, are you wondering where to go for your first time in Europe? We’ve got you covered!

Some of these destinations you would have heard of before and some might be new to you. All of the cities listed are bucket list destinations for their own reason. Some offer more of a challenge, others are extremely comfortable to travel solo, even if this is your first trip alone.

Over the last eight years travelling I have discovered more of Europe than any other continent. From as far West as Lisbon to as far East as Moscow, there are many more destinations in Europe beyond this list for first timers. Check out my guides for Northern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Europe if you are looking for more off the beaten path destinations.

London Bucket List | WORLD OF WANDERLUST

Where to go for your First Time in Europe

If you are flying to Europe from Australia or the United States, chances are you will find London to be your cheapest option to fly into (or one of them). Although Brexit happened and the UK is no longer part of the EU, London is still a great city to start your explorations in Europe and as one of the most exciting cultural hubs in the world, cannot be missed.

If this is your first visit to London I would recommend staying at least three nights to see all the city has to offer. Be sure not to miss iconic sites and attractions like Tower Bridge , Westminster and the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben , Buckingham Palace and the liveliness of Piccadilly Circus .

Winter in London can be a little dreary in the weather department, though if you love cozy interiors there are some great bars and cafes to hide away from the rain.

Some of my favourite bakeries are in London and if you have time to visit, I’m sure they will become yours too. Peggy Porschen in Belgravia is a sweet display of pink and more flowers than you’ve probably got in your garden at home!

Paris_France

I’ve been to Paris more times than I can count but I will never forget my first time. Visiting Paris is every girl’s dream and it doesn’t disappoint. There are endless arrondissements to explore on foot, but my favourites by far are Montmartre , Le Marais and Saint Germain .

I have visited Paris solo year after year and despite it being the city of love, it is a great city to enjoy on your own. If you are interested in Parisian culture, I cannot recommend highly enough taking part in a pastry class in Paris . This is a great way to learn how to make French desserts at home and take a new skill with you when you leave.

Paris is just a 2.5 hour train ride from Paris or a short flight. When you factor in the time to get to the airport, check in, fly, disembark, collect bags and arrive in the city, it is a much better option to train between London and Paris. Despite the ease of travel, train travel is often more expensive than catching a quick flight to Paris. Airlines like Easy Jet and RyanAir travel between London airports and Paris airports many times a day so if you’re booking at least two months in advance, you will be able to score a really good deal. Just be sure to allow plenty of time to travel from the city to the airport as some of these budget airline airports are completely out of the city and can take up to two hours to transfer.

Amsterdam World of Wanderlust

There is a fast train between Paris and Amsterdam that will get you between the cities in under 3.5 hours. On an average week there are 31 trains travelling between the two cities, though if you would prefer to travel at a slower pace you can stop in Brussels to break up the journey. If time is on your side, you might even consider taking a few days to explore Belgium. My favourite cities are Bruges , Ghent and Antwerp .

Now, more on Amsterdam! The capital of the Netherland’s is renowned for being a cultural hub – full of fun, fancy facades and 17th century architecture. At the outset Amsterdam is renowned for its canals, red light district and bicycle culture. But there is much more to the city the more you begin to explore the neighbourhoods outside of the cities canal belt.

Amsterdam is also a great destination if you are travelling solo . There are oodles of AirBnB’s to choose from if you are looking for something more local or if you are on a budget this is a city that is almost made for backpackers. On the other end of the spectrum is one of my favourite design hotels in the world: The Pulitzer Amsterdam .

Budget travellers might be instantly put off by the price of accommodation in Amsterdam however there is an oversupply of bars leading to cheap happy hours and a great range of cheap eats in Amsterdam if you know where to go. Some of my favourite vegan restaurants are also in Amsterdam… especially Vegan Junk Food!

Guide to Berlin Germany | WORLD OF WANDERLUST

Berlin is an edgy city that never sits still. A popular choice for expats, If you take the direct Intercity link train between Amsterdam and Berlin, you can reach the German capital in just under 6.5 hours.

Berlin is budget-friendly and there are many great free things to do in the city. Prenzlauerberg is one of my favourite cities to explore on foot and is also home to many of the best coffee shops in Berlin .

first trip europe

Although in the same country, Munich is a fairly decent train journey from Berlin. The average train journey will take 7 hours and 15 minutes and the fastest is 6 hours and 15 minutes. You might choose to skip Munich and travel onwards to Prague or visit Prague first and Munich afterwards. Or, you might choose to explore the German countryside and stop at small towns along the way.

Many travellers make Munich a stop on their journey for the famous yearly Oktoberfest (which actually takes place in September). Regardless of whether you make it to the festival or not, Munich has a huge beer hall year round that has a similar vibe, just with less costumes!

Prague at Christmas | WORLD OF WANDERLUST

So you’re wondering where to go for your first time in Europe? Prague is a favourite for many first time travellers to Europe thanks to its unique blend of architecture, vibrant night life and relative affordability. Over the past 5-10 years Prague has skyrocketed in popularity, so be sure to expect crowds and plenty of them.

Prague is best enjoyed on foot , especially if this is your first time visiting the city. The Old Town is full of secret alleyways and nooks to explore, so be sure to ditch the map and stumble upon hidden treasures. The Jewish Quarter is a great area to begin exploring, with its endless supply of antique stores offering a peek into the past.

Christmas in Vienna Things to Do | WORLD OF WANDERLUST

The fastest and most comfortable way to travel between Prague and Vienna is by train. The Eurocity is the most efficient with a journey time of 4 hours and 25 minutes. This departs eight times a day and travels in both directions.

Vienna is a beautiful city offering a history lesson in Imperialism. Be sure to take time out of each day to explore Vienna’s best coffee houses and experience life through the lens of time. These famous coffee houses have a rich history and were once the centre of academic thought in the age of enlightenment.

Another must do in Vienna is to attend the Vienna State Opera House for an evening of entertainment. If you can’t manage to get seats, you can opt for cheap standing seats at the side door on the night. The opera house is also open during the day for day tours that last around 40 minutes in length and provide a decent history of the opera house as well as its many rooms.

Budapest_Solo_Travel

Budapest has long been considered Europe’s most underrated capital city but nowadays it is a must visit on European itineraries and as such, is incredibly popular. In around two hours you can reach Budapest by train from Vienna.

Budapest is full of great experiences you will find nowhere else in Europe. Be sure to stop by the Szechenyi thermal baths for an insight into spa culture and public thermal bathing. From there, make your way to the top of Castle Hill for a view over the city and insight into its regal history. Fisherman’s Bastion is my favourite place to watch the sun set over the city.

Read more: Budapest for first timers

first trip europe

Krakow is one of the most beautiful cities in Poland. Despite its beauty, Krakow is also the point of entry to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps which provide an horrific but realistic insight into Europe’s dark history during Nazi Germany reign.

The journey from Budapest to Krakow is a reasonably long one, so you may choose to break up the train journey (8-10 hours) in Slovakia.

The best secret spots in Rome | WORLD OF WANDERLUST

Make your way by plane to Rome, Italy’s capital and the world’s eternal city. There is no place as mesmerising and completely surreal to visit as Rome. The Italian capital is full of hidden secrets , so be sure to allow at least a few days to explore the city on foot.

There are some great rooftop terraces and bars to discover in Rome . The locals like to keep these places a secret so be sure to do your research in advance.

If Italian pasta, pizza and la dolce vita sound like your kind of holiday, then you may wish to spend two weeks in Italy while you are here. If you are spending more time in Italy, be sure to discover Florence, Pisa , Venice and the Amalfi Coast.

Some more countryside locations that are worthy of praise include San Gimignano in Tuscany, Lake Como in the Lakes District, Cinque Terre and my favourite Italian destination of all: Positano on the Amalfi Coast .

Read more: The most instagrammable spots in Rome

How to Spend Four Days in Barcelona | WORLD OF WANDERLUST

There are few cities as fun, vibrant and easy going as Barcelona . The capital of Catalonia, Barcelona has a reputation for being one of the prettiest cities and has a personality to match.

If you’re a fan of architecture, be sure to take yourself on a self-guided tour of Gaudi architecture in Barcelona. From there, make your way to the cities’ vibrant neighbourhood El Born where you can mingle with the locals and practice bar hopping from one place to the next!

The best way to arrive in Barcelona is by flight, with Ryan Air and Easy Jet offering cheap flights from various destinations in Europe.

first trip europe

Last but not least… one of my favourite capital cities and still one of the most underrated: Lisbon ! The capital city of Portugal has such a vibrant way of life, the food is exceptional and the seaside location isn’t too bad either! The summer (June, July, August) is the best time of year to explore and enjoy Lisbon. My favourite neighbourhood to stay in and explore the city is Alfama (check out AirBnB for some fun spots to stay if you want to experience the city like a local).

Be sure to take a day trip to Sintra and Cascais , two beautiful small towns near to Lisbon that can be reached in a day. On your way make sure you stop by Belem for the world renowned Pastel de Nata (Portuguese egg custard tart).

Brooke Saward

Brooke Saward founded World of Wanderlust as a place to share inspiration from her travels and to inspire others to see our world. She now divides her time between adventures abroad and adventures in the kitchen, with a particular weakness for French pastries.

Find me on: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

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First Trip to Europe: 4 Week Itinerary

Planning your first trip to Europe? You’re in the right place. Woven with a world of clashing culture, cuisine and colourful history, Europe is coined as one of the globe’s most coveted travel destinations. First-timers, let’s get ready to rumble!

visit venice on your first trip to europe

Melded with magical monuments, modern-meets-medieval cities and misty mountains that plunge into paradisal water, Europe is etched with enthralling enclaves. From the orange-scented streets of Seville to the lemon-fringed coast of Amalfi, there’s a slew of fantastic forays to be had.  

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll get a glimpse at the ultimate Europe itinerary for first-time visitors. On top of the ultimate 4-week Europe itinerary, this guide hones in on everything you need to know. You’ll find out when’s the best time to visit, how to get around and insider travel tips. Get prepped like a pro!

4 Weeks in Europe: The First Timers’ Route: Italy, France, Spain & Portugal

There’s nothing like travelling to Europe for the first time. Locking eyes with the lyrical landscapes, relishing in the drool-worthy gastronomy and getting fully immersed in the intertwined old-meets-new ambience. If it's your first time visiting Europe, you’re probably wondering where to go and what to do.

For more first-timers itineraries with 7, 14 and 21-day options, scroll down below to see the details.

florence is a must-see on your first trip to europe

This perfect Europe itinerary for first-time travellers winds through the continent’s most captivating finds. Kicking off in the beating heart of Rome , you’ll make your way around Italy’s top sites.

Then, you’ll travel to the iconic hot spots in Paris , before dabbling in the delights of Southern France . In your third week, you’ll pop over to northeastern-nestled Barcelona , where you’ll embark on enthralling endeavours.

Next up, you’ll head to Southern Spain , before making your way over to Lisbon and finalising your trip in Porto .

Day 1-4: Rome, Italy Day 5-6: Amalfi Coast, Italy Day 7-8: Pisa & Florence, Italy Day 9: Milan, Italy Day 10: Venice, Italy Day 11: Cinque Terre, Italy Day 12-15: Paris, France Day 16-17: Nice, France Day 18-19: Monaco & Menton, France Day 20-23: Barcelona, Spain Day 24-26: Seville, Spain Day 27-29: Lisbon, Portugal Day 30-31: Porto, Portugal

Day 1-4: Rome, Italy 

Viva Italia! Kick off your first trip to Europe on a high note – in Italy’s capital city, Rome .

Lapped with lively plazas, time-worn monuments and mouth-watering cuisine, Rome is an absolute feast for the senses. Spend your first four days frolicking around the character-filled, alley-woven streets. Discover the daunting-yet-dazzling fusion of time-old ruins and the hefty history that’s ingrained deep within.

If you’re wondering where to go on your first trip to Europe, Italy’s capital is a serious show-stopper. From the fascinating Colosseum and grandiose Pantheon to the wish-filled Trevi Fountain and the opulent St Peter’s Basilica , you could spend weeks, months or years exploring this gem.

Wander astray in the ancient Roman Forum, hit the heights of the Spanish Steps, cross over to the Castel Sant-Angelo and admire the fine art in the Sistine Chapel. Stroll through the splendid Borghese Gallery and Museum, gallop through the Piazza del Popolo and check out the world-class Vatican Museums.

walk the streets of rome first trip to europe

Lock lips with some of the country’s most raved-about cuisine and finish off the evening with some of the globe’s most gourmet gelato.

Things to do in Rome: Get around like a local on a Vespa   Eat yourself into a food coma on a street food tour Uncover the timeless magic in the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel   See all the highlights aboard a hop-on hop-off bus Treat yourself to the best gelato in Rome Where to Stay in Rome: €: Dolce Veneto Rooms €€: Hotel Relais Dei Papi €€€: Bio Hotel Raphael

Day 5-6: Amalfi Coast, Italy 

After relishing in the rapture of Rome, hop on a high-speed train to Salerno or Vietri sul Mare, and from there, get a bus down to the Amalfi Coast .

Any Europe itinerary for first-time visitors should include a day or two in this sun-soaked oasis. Sheltered with pebbled beaches, soaring clifftops and lemon-scented villages, the Amalfi Coast is one of the world’s most stellar sojourns. And for good reason!

Adorned with astounding scenery, colourful towns and crystal-clear waters, there is even a multitude of mountain hideaways and bucolic villages to discover. Whether you want to get in among all the action or venture off the beaten track, this postcard-worthy coast has something in store for you.

Get whisked away in the fragrant Villa Cimbrone Gardens, stroll through the Duomo di Amalfi and hit the heights of Villa Rufolo. Head into the eerie Museo della Carta, see the colours in Ravello and bask in the early morning sun from the iconic Fiordo di Furore. Pop a bottle at the beach clubs in Positano, keep it a little more low-key in Atrani and get your heart rate up hiking the Path of the Gods .

amalfi coast is a must-visit on your first trip to europe

Soak up the sights, sounds and serenity with these Best Things to do in Amalfi Coast . Relish in ‘ la dolce vita ’ with this 5-Day Amalfi Coast Itinerary.

Things to do on Amalfi Coast: Master the art of Italian gastronomy in a traditional cooking class Take the plunge into Capri Sunbake on a snorkelling boat trip Cruise through the Amalfi Coast on an authentic Vespa Visit the ancient remains of Pompeii   Where to Stay in Amalfi Coast: €: Hotel7Bello €€: Hotel Z’Intonio €€€: Villa Treville

Day 7-8: Pisa & Florence, Italy 

Following a fruitful few days on the idyllic Amalfi Coast, now's the time to venture back inland. Catch a high-speed train or flight into picturesque Pisa and Florence .

Your first trip to Europe showcases a series of Italy’s most indispensable sites, and these two are certainly no exception to that rule. Peruse the perplexing Leaning Tower of Pisa , wander around the opulent Piazza del Duomo and cross the rolling Arno River. Stare up at the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina, visit the eerie Camposanto and admire the architecture in the Battistero di San Giovanni.

Get a dose of greenery in Giardino Scotto and the Botanical Garden and Museum, before making your way over to Florence. Appreciate the artistry in the Uffizi Gallery , see the boutique shops hanging on the Ponte Vecchio and swing past the emblematic Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Treat yourself to gelato in the Piazzale Michelangelo, squint at David's dangly bits in the Accademia Gallery and see the terracotta-tiled city from Giotto's Bell Tower. Stand in awe at the Piazza del Duomo, pop into the Abbazia di San Miniato and don't leave without tasting a traditional Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine Beefsteak).

Things to do in Florence: Get active in Florence on a bike tour Get in touch with your inner chef with a cooking experience Channel your inner sommelier in the Chianti Wineries Where to Stay in Florence: €: Hostel Archi Rossi €€: Hotel Machiavelli Palace €€€: The Place Firenze

Day 9: Milan, Italy

After fumbling through the dazzling diversity in Pisa and Florence, jump aboard a high-speed train to Milan .  

Nestled in the northern stretch of Italy, this fashion-focused destination is a serious highlight. This Europe itinerary for first-time visitors invites you into the illustriously impeccable side of the country.

Replete with a rich tapestry of boutique shops, big-name brands and an all-round lavish lifestyle, Milan offers a unique glimpse compared to the south. See the technicolour stained-glass windows inside the Duomo di Milano, frolic around the Sforzesco Castle and watch a performance in the Teatro all Scala.

visit milan on your first trip to europe

Bask in a picnic from Sempione Park, admire the art in the Pinacoteca di Breca and visit the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio.

Things to do in Milan: Master the art of making pizza & gelato   Visit the vibrant Navigli District on a canal boat tour Gawk at the glorious Da Vinci’s Last Supper Go food crazy on a street food walking tour Keep your budget intact with the Milan Pass   Hit the heights of the Milan Cathedral Cruise around the stunning Lake Como Hop aboard St. Moritz & Bernina Express See everything in one day on a hop-on hop-off bus Where to Stay in Milan: €: MEININGER Milano Lambrate €€: Hotel Regina €€€: Palazzo Parigi Hotel & Grand Spa

Day 10: Venice, Italy 

In the wake of your next day, hop on a high-speed train to canal-woven Venice .

Your first trip to Europe wouldn’t be complete without a day the dabbling in the dazzling depths of Venice. Hemmed in by a huge haul of show-stoppers, this stunning sojourn is steeped deep in history and culture.

Cross over the incredible Rialto Bridge and feel the buzz in Doge’s Palace & St. Mark’s Basilica . See the scenes from the Bridge of Sighs, visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and swing by soaring Saint Mark's Basilica.

Lose yourself in the art of the Gallerie dell-Accademia, feel the luxury in the Teatro La Fenice and stop by the Grand Canal at sunset. Pop into Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, visit a Venetian glass workshop and taste a traditional risotto al nero di seppia .

Things to do in Venice: Visit the vibrant towns of Burano & Murano Lose yourself in the symphonies of a Four Seasons Concert at Vivaldi Church Feel the breeze on a traditional gondola ride See everything in one shot on a Venice highlights tour   Where to Stay in Venice: €: Discovery Venice €€: Ca’ Vendramin Zago €€€: Baglioni Hotel Luna

Day 11: Cinque Terre, Italy 

Succeeding a stellar stay in Venice, hop on a high-speed train to the colourful Cinque Terre .

This next part of the Europe itinerary ensures that all first-time travellers really get the full experience. You’ve roamed through Rome, basked in the Amalfi Coast, pranced around Pisa and Florence and explored Milan and Venice. Keep the hype high in the vibrant, cliff-hanging villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.

Oozing with their own unique flair, these character-packed former-fishing villages are sure to leave you in awe. Discover the Ruins of Doria Tower, pop into the Chiesa Di San Pietro and sunbake at the rich tapestry of turquoise-coloured beaches. Quench your appetite with palatable plates, sip authentic Cinque Terre wine and hike along the famous Blue Trail.

visit cinque terre on your first trip to europe

Watch the sun go down from the Rocks of Riomaggiore, swims around in Manarola and head up to the Vernazza viewpoint.

Things to do in Cinque Terre: Get your heart pumping on a kayak tour from Monterosso Feel the sea breeze on a cruise around Riomaggiore, Monterosso & Vernazza Learn how to cook authentic pesto in Manarola Sample traditional local wines on a vineyard tour   Where to Stay in Cinque Terre: €: Hotel Mirador €€: Hotel Le Grazie €€€: Grand Hotel Portovenere

Day 12-15: Paris, France 

After spending your first two weeks in Italy, it's time to move on to France. Catch a flight or hop on an overnight bus or train to the capital city, Paris .

As one of the best countries to visit in Europe, France is woven with a wealth of whimsical pursuits. Paris is home to pristine architecture, world-class museums, grandiose palaces and sublime scenery all around.

On your first trip to Europe, Paris will ultimately be a highlight. This city harbours an enchanting ambience, and it’s easy to get swept away in this fairytale-like foray. Gawk at the glorious gastronomy scene (and try snails if you dare!) and gather up classic ingredients from a local market and head to the Eiffel Tower for a picnic.

Soak up the buzz from the Red Light District, see the magic of the Louvre Museum and swing past Palais Garnier. If it’s your first time visiting, don’t miss the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, the Arc de Triomphe and the Luxembourg Gardens. Ignite the travel bug within at the Musée d’Orsay, smell the fragrances in the manicured Tuileries Garden and get gobsmacked by the rich splendour in Versailles Palace .

Things to do in Paris: Get entertained by the Moulin Rouge cabaret show See it all on the Paris night bus Go wild at Disneyland Paris Watch the sun go down on a Seine River Cruise Indulge in the flavours of a Montemarte cheese, wine & pastry tour   Where to Stay in Paris: €: JO&JOE Paris Gentilly €€: Hôtel Rosalie €€€: Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris

Day 16-17: Nice, France 

After spending four days in France’s capital city, it’s time to head down to the coast. In the wake of your next day, catch a flight or an overnight train and set your sights south on Nice .

This chunk of the Europe itinerary for first-time travellers takes you away from the hustle and bustle and into a seaside haven. Step out of Paris’ perplexing buzz and branch out into the classy cultural experiences in Nice. As the French Riviera’s capital, there’s no shortage of things to do.

Wander astray in the eye-catching Castle Hill Park and Garden, strut your stuff along the Promenade des Anglais and swing past the colourful Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas de Nice.

visit nice on your first trip to europe

Smell the fragrant Marché Aux Fleurs Cours Saleya Flower Market, visit the Villa Masséna Musée Art Museum and peer up at the Parc du Mont Boron. Whatever your pick, you’ll be spoiled for choice!

Things to do in Nice: Visit all the highlights of the hop-on hop-off bus Whiff the fragrances in a perfume-making workshop Get your adrenaline pumping on an electric bike tour to Villefranche Let loose on a Riviera bar crawl Bask in the beauty of an Old Town and Castle Hill tour   Where to Stay in Nice: €: Hôtel Nice Azur Riviera €€: Esatitude Hotel €€€: Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat

Day 18-19: Monaco & Menton, France 

After spending two days sprucing around Nice, hop on a train to Monaco and Menton.

Your first trip to Europe should be filled with a fusion of famous attractions and top cities, but it should also be balanced out with some slow-paced stays. Mosey your way through Monaco and Menton and soak up as much sunshine as you can handle. Try your luck in the Casino de Monte-Carlo, get enticed in the Musée Océanographique de Monaco and get some greenery in the Exotic Garden of Monaco. See the grandiose Prince's Palace of Monaco, bathe in the beauty of Larvotto Beach and swing past the Monte Carlo Harbour.

From Monaco, jump on a quick train ride to nearby Menton. Relish in the flavour-packed Mediterranean cuisine, stroll along the orange-tree-lined streets and bury your feet in the sand at the beach. Navigate the alley-woven Old Town, soak up the scenes from the Jardins Biovès and step inside the Basilica of Saint Michael Archangel.

Alternatively, in this French chunk of the itinerary, you could mix things around. You could catch a train directly from Italy’s Cinque Terre to Monaco. From there, you could move on to Nice, and then head up to Paris. It’s really up to you!

Things to do in Monaco & Menton: See the highlights on the Monte Carlo hop-on hop-off bus Stroll around the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco Discover the highlights on this Italian Market, Menton & La Turbie tour   Where to Stay in Monaco: €€: Novotel Monte-Carlo €€: Le Méridien Beach Plaza €€€: Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo

Day 20-23: Barcelona, Spain 

As you segue into your third week, now’s the time to spice things up in Spain. From France, book a flight or catch a high-speed train over to bustling Barcelona .

Coined as one of the best countries to visit in Europe, Spain is scattered with passion-fuelled pursuits, delectable dining and admirable architecture. This Europe itinerary for first-time visitors brings you into the northeastern stretch of the country, where you’ll encounter no shortage of enthralling endeavours.

Spend the following four days frolicking around Barcelona’s most beautiful sights. From the beach to the mountains, you’re sure to find something suitable for you. Hear the roar of a soccer match in Camp Nou Stadium, stroll through the Sagrada Familia and get swept up in the scents of the Mercado de la Boqueria Market.

Watch the sunset from Park Güell, feel the opulence in the Palau de la Música Catalana and see the dragon-esque rooftop of colourful Casa Battló. Visit nearby La Pedrera, see the orange trees inside the Cathedral of Barcelona and get inspired by the Picasso Museum. Get lost in the alleyways of the Gothic Quarter and bring this part of the itinerary to a close at the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc.

barcelona is a must-see on your first trip to europe

Alternatively, you could see the best of Catalonia's capital with this 3-Day Barcelona Itinerary . Then, you could set aside the fourth day for a Day Trip from Barcelona .

Things to do in Barcelona: Visit all of Gaudi’s top attractions Put together the perfect outfit in the best vintage stores Get recharged with the city’s best speciality coffee Lock lips with local flavours in the wineries in Montserrat Eat yourself into a food coma at the best restaurants and bars See everything for a cheaper price with a sightseeing pass Put less of a dent in your wallet with these free things to do Don’t miss anything on a hop-on hop-off bus Get entertained by an Andalusian-inspired flamenco show   Where to Stay in Barcelona: €: Unite Hostel Barcelona €€: Hotel Lleó €€€: W Barcelona

Day 24-26: Seville, Spain 

Succeeding a successful slew of days in Barcelona, get a flight or a high-speed train down to the heart of Andalusia. Spend the next three days in the charismatic streets of Seville , Spain.

Your first trip to Europe is about to get a whole lot more memorable. And just when you think the landscape couldn’t get any better, you’re about to be proved wrong. Framed by flourishing natural splendour, flirtatious flamenco culture and fairytale-like architecture, Seville is a traveller’s utopia. Fused with a mix of cultural influences, the attractions and activities are as dynamic as they come.

Get swept away in the Royal Alcazar , row a boat around the Plaza de España and visit the ancient Torre de Oro. Swing by the Seville Cathedral and La Giralda read a book in the Parque de María Luisa and appreciate the artwork in the Seville Museum of Fine Arts.

Catch a glimpse of contemporary-meets-old at the Setas de Sevilla , learn about the history in the Flamenco Dance Museum and scream like a child in the Isa Mágica theme park.

visit seville on your first trip to europe

See all the Best Things to do in Seville , or head out on one of the Top Day Trips from Seville .

Things to do in Seville: Be astounded by an authentic Andalusian flamenco show Keep it low-key in the AIRE Ancient Baths Get gobsmacked on a day trip to Granada Appreciate the art in the Seville Museum of Fine Arts Where to Stay in Seville: €: The Nomad Hostel & Pension €€: Itaca Boutique Seville by Soho €€€: Radisson Collection Hotel, Magdalena Plaza Sevilla

Day 27-29: Lisbon, Portugal 

In this last leg of the trip, take the plunge into picture-perfect Portugal. Catch a flight or hop on a high-speed train to the country’s capital city, Lisbon .  

As you bring your first trip to Europe to a close, you'll be glad to be ending it in the Western end. Arrayed with azure-blue azulejo tiles, bright yellow trams and labyrinth-like alleyways, Lisbon is easy on the eyes. Teeming with time-worn ruins and wind-sculpted monuments, it’s easy to see why the capital is touted as a traveller’s haven.

Step out onto the water-perched Belém Tower in the morning, spend the afternoon indulging in a pastel de nata in the Praça do Comércio and visit the Castel de S. Jorge. Swing by the opulent Jerónmios Monastery, feel the lively buzz of the Mercado da Ribeira and visit the perplexing Padráõ dos Descobrimentos monument.

Wind your way through the open-air Carmo Convent, pop into the National Tile Museum and watch the sunset paint the city from the Miradouro de Santa Luzia. Head up the Santa Justa Lift, discover the age-old Lisbon Cathedral and get greened out in the forest-fringed Monsanto Park. Whether you’re on the hunt for a rowdy hostel or a boutique Airbnb, find out all the hot spots in this guide on Where to Stay in Lisbon, Portugal .

Additionally, you could see all the capital’s attractions in 72 hours with this detailed 3 Days in Lisbon Itinerary . Then, you’d have an extra two days to explore the surrounding regions. With seaside havens like Cascais or palace-perched UNESCO sites like Sintra sitting right around the corner, it’d be a shame to miss out! Get the full scoop with this guide on the Top Day Trips from Lisbon .

Things to do in Lisbon: Get cooking as you learn to bake authentic pastel de nata   Stick to your budget with the Lisbon Card Venture beyond Lisbon on a day trip to Pena Palace & Cabo da Roca Catch a fresh perspective of the city on a sunset cruise   Lock lips with traditional Portuguese delicacies on a food tour See everything in one hit with the hop-on hop-off bus Dive deep into the legend-filled stories on a walking tour See it all on a speedy segway Where to Stay in Lisbon: €: Independente Príncipe Real €€: WC by The Beautique Hotels €€€: The Lumiares Hotel & Spa

Day 30-31: Porto, Portugal 

Before calling it a trip, head up to the nuanced northern stretch of Portugal. Catch a high-speed train or board a flight to the coast-hugging hot spot, Porto .

Portugal is easily one of the best countries to visit in Europe, and this city seamlessly combines authentic elements with more modern experiences. Sheltered along the trickling River Douro, Porto is the perfect place to finish up your first trip to Europe. Crowned with contemporary-meets-ancient architecture, you can spend your final two days frolicking about.

Sample an emblematic bottle of Port wine and savour the flavours of the seafood-rich cuisine. Dowsed with dazzling museums, lush gardens and colourful streets, there is a range of UNESCO World Heritage Sites to discover. Buy a book from the stately Livraris Lello bookstore, prance around the Porto Cathedral and stroll across the Luís I Bridge.

Climb up the 225 steps to the top of Clérigos Tower, and enjoy a romantic date along the Douro Ribeira and mosey through the labyrinth-like Jardins do Palácio de Cristal.

visit porto in your first trip to europe

See the centuries-old paintings in the Soares dos Reis National Museum, lose yourself in the melodies of a concert in the Casa da Música and watch the sun down in the Morro Garden.

Things to do in Porto: Escape the city buzz on a wine, lunch and boat tour through the Douro Valley Channel your inner sommelier on a walking & wine tasting tour Learn about the city on a historic city centre walking tour   Get the full scoop on the Palacio da Bolsa on a guided tour Keep your wallet in check with the Porto Card Master the art of cooking pastel de nata See everything in two days on the hop-on hop-off bus Discover the divine Douro Valley on a traditional wine tour Feel the breeze aboard a 6 Bridges Douro River cruise Where to Stay in Porto: €: Urban Garden Porto Central Hostel €€: Porto A.S. 1829 Hotel €€€: Porto Palácio Hotel by The Editory

First-timer Europe Itineraries for 7, 14 & 21 days

visit florence in your first trip to europe

7-day Itinerary

Day 1-2: Rome, Italy

Day 3: Amalfi Coast, Italy

Day 4-5: Paris, France

Day 6-7: Barcelona, Spain

14-day Itinerary

Day 4-5: Venice & Cinque Terre, Italy

Day 6-8: Paris, France

Day 9-11: Barcelona, Spain

Day 12-14: Lisbon, Portugal

21-day Itinerary

Day 4: Pisa & Florence, Italy

Day 5-6: Milan & Venice, Italy

Day 7: Cinque Terre, Italy

Day 8-10: Paris, France

Day 11-13: Barcelona, Spain

Day 15-17: Seville, Spain

Day 18-21: Lisbon, Portugal

Best Time to Visit Europe for the First Time

Although Europe is considered a year-round destination, timing is key. Especially when planning your first trip to Europe!   The best time to visit Italy, France, Spain and Portugal is in the shoulder seasons of April and May, or September and October.

Considering that these are four of the most popular countries in Europe, you can avoid the hordes of tourists by visiting during the off-peak periods. Plus, you'll score more pocket prices on accommodation, flights, activities and transport. Yeehaw!

While the summertime, June, July and August, boasts the best beach weather, the wintertime, December, January and February are ideal for skiing and snow sports activities.

How to Get Around Europe

Wondering how to prepare for your first trip to Europe? When planning all the nitty gritty details, transportation shouldn’t be overlooked. Italy, Spain, France and Portugal are home to an endless network of buses, trains, flights and tours. So, before you go, it's best to get sorted.

Taking the bus is the best way to get around Europe on a budget. You’ll be able to explore busy cities and their outskirts, and if you’re looking for reliable options, check out Flixbus .

Before you jet-set off on the trip of a lifetime, compare times, prices and options using Busbud .

When planning your first trip to Europe, the train can seem like one of the best options. And it is! If you’re going to catch a high-speed train from between big cities like Paris, Barcelona, Lisbon and Rome, you’re bound to save plenty of time. There are plenty of options on offer, but it’s not always the most economical option.

As a general rule of thumb, always use either Omio or Trainline to compare times and prices before booking. To help save on expenditure, European residents can opt for an Interrail pass , and non-European residents can buy a Eurail pass .

To ensure that you have the best first trip to Europe, I’d recommend catching a flight when possible. Not only is it one of the fastest modes of transport, but it can also be one of the most affordable.

If you book with Skyscanner at least 3 to 4 months in advance, you can score some serious bargains. I'm talking €10 flights, people! Flights delays in Europe are somewhat inevitable, so be sure to take a look at Compensair to see if you can get some money back.

Hiring a car in Europe allows you to see the sights at a slower pace. You’ll enjoy the freedom of your own timetable, as well as the ability to go off the beaten track when you please. Driving around can take up a lot more time than other transport options, so make sure you factor this into your itinerary. Embrace the scenic route!

Top Travel Tips for Your First Trip to Europe

Europe is the land of plenty, from the panoply of palaces and stately museums to the age-old castles and the crashing coastline. There is a lot on offer and many ways to see it all. If you’re visiting Europe for the first time, take a look at these travel tips:

burano and murano are a must-see in your first trip to europe

Learn how to pack light so you can ditch the extra baggage fees

Brush up on the local lingo– locals really appreciate the effort

If you’re a non-EU resident, get an International Drivers License

Keep costs low with the Milan Pass,   Barcelona Card , Porto Card and Lisbon Card

Ditch peak season and opt for the shoulder seasons

Book flights and accommodation in advance (at least 3-4 months)

If you’re running short on time, catch a high-speed train or a flight 

Don’t overpack your itinerary and allow some spontaneity

Italy, France, Spain and Portugal all use the euro currency

When travelling in Spain, rely on the fastest long-distance train, the AVE

Buy local goods from the markets, not from chain stores or supermarkets

Ditch the tourist traps with this guide on things to know before visiting Barcelona

Set a travel budget and have a savings plan for your first trip to Europe 

Purchase a local SIM card in Europe. See this full guide on the Best eSIMs for Europe .

Stuff some layers in your suitcase! Spots like Sintra in Portugal can get very windy, even in July and August  

Keep in mind that many stores, museums and attractions are closed on Sundays

Learn how to score cheap flights

Save money in the big cities with free walking tours

Get your European visa ahead of time

Leave most of your cash in your accommodation and only carry a small amount on you

Organise travel insurance before you go

Planning The Trip of a Lifetime?

Etched with eclectic attractions and enthralling landscapes, this continent is on practically everybody's bucket list. Whether you want to swim in the Greek Islands, meander around the Mediterranean or head into the heart of Central Europe, there is a lot on offer.

If you’re planning your first trip to Europe, take a look at the following itineraries:

Europe Itineraries (17 Different Routes)  

Greek Islands Itinerary: 10 Days

Mediterranean Itinerary: 3 Weeks

Spain and Portugal Itinerary: 14 Days

Southern Spain Itinerary: 7 Days  

Portugal Itinerary: 7 Days

Algarve Itinerary: 7 Days

Central Europe Itinerary: 3 Weeks

Northern Europe Itinerary: 3 Weeks

Europe Itinerary: 21 Days

Europe Itinerary: 1 Month  

Is 4 weeks enough time in Europe?

1 month in Europe is enough to visit at least 3 to 4 different countries. You’ll be able to taste the cuisines, experience the cultures and tick off all the bucket list attractions.

How much money do I need for a 4 week Europe trip?

The total cost depends on your travel destinations, budget, preferences and the number of travel companions. Generally, the cost of a 4 week Europe trip is between €2600-€3000 per person.

Where is the best place to go for the first time in Europe?

If it’s your first time visiting Europe, there are a handful of bucket list destinations to consider. Don’t forget to add Paris, Barcelona, Rome, London, Venice and Amsterdam to your 4 week Europe itinerary.

Which European country should I visit first?

Europe is full of fascinating destinations, from France and Ireland to Croatia and Portugal. If you’re planning a trip to Europe, it would be best to begin your itinerary in either Spain or Italy.

Why Should You Plan a Trip to Europe?

Straddling sublime sights, cliff-hugging towns, forest-fringed monuments and bucolic villages, Europe really does have it all.

Whether you want to mosey through the Alhambra in Spain, get a glance of former-gladiator-filled Rome or sip wine in the vineyard-woven South of France, there is seriously something here for everyone.

If you’re planning your first trip to Europe, be sure to save this in-depth guide for later!

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Travel? Yes Please!

What to Expect on Your First Trip to Europe- A First Time Visitor’s Guide

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Ever since my first trip to Europe as a teenager in 1998, it’s been one of my favourite places to travel to. There are a lot of reasons why I love Europe- the history, the architecture, the way of life- but mostly, I love it because I find travelling there quite easy.

travelyesplease.com | What to Expect on Your First Trip to Europe: A First Time Visitor's Guide

Europe is a place that I didn’t experience a lot of culture shock. Of course, many things are different than in Canada, but nothing too extreme that I felt uncomfortable. Still, I remember being nervous to visit Europe for the first time. I was especially anxious on my second visit, since I was travelling there solo.

travelyesplease.com | Travelling to Europe for the First Time- What to Expect

It is absolutely normal to feel apprehensive when travelling somewhere for the first time. A lot of that nervous energy comes from simply not knowing what to expect.

travelyesplease.com | What to Expect on Your First Trip to Europe: A First Time Visitor's Guide

What to Expect on Your First Trip to Europe

We put together this first time visitor’s guide to help ease the minds of travellers planning their first trip to Europe. Some of the points are small, specific things you may be wondering about, others are more general, helpful tips.

If you’ve visited Europe before, this list will sound obvious. For those of you who are planning your first trip to Europe, I hope you find this helpful. (This is general and based on our personal experiences, so keep in mind that things may vary between regions in Europe).

travelyesplease.com | What to Expect on Your First Trip to Europe: A First Time Visitor's Guide

Electricity in Europe

  • The electricity supply in Europe is 220v, which means that appliances using North American voltage (110v) will need a transformer. Many devices like cell phones, laptops, tablets and camera chargers have built in converters and will automatically accommodate the change in voltage (110-240V). Read the label to be sure. I travel with dual voltage hair appliances (blow dryer, hair straightener) so I don’t need to bring a converter.
  • You will need an adaptor to plug in your electronics. Most of the sockets in Europe take two round pins ( Switzerland also has three pins). Great Britain and Ireland take three rectangular pins.

travelyesplease.com | What to Expect on Your First Trip to Europe: A First Time Visitor's Guide

  • Hotel rooms in Europe can sometimes be smaller than those in North America. This was definitely the case in Paris , and our hotel in Wurzburg, but we didn’t encounter really small hotel rooms anywhere else in Europe.
  • When booking rooms, we found the bed descriptions to be quite confusing. It still confuses me! Basically, what you can expect is two twin beds pushed together or two single mattresses (with separate duvets/comforters) on one double bed frame.
  • Bring your own washcloth. For some reason, the hotels in Europe don’t provide small cloths for washing your face.

travelyesplease.com | What to Expect on Your First Trip to Europe: A First Time Visitor's Guide

Restaurants

  • Bottled water will be given to you in restaurants. It is not the norm in most places to be served tap water. Most of the time, when we asked for tap water we were given a funny look and told “no.” Also, if you don’t like carbonated water, make sure you order your water with “no gas”.
  • People in Europe seem to eat dinner later than in North America, or at least a lot later than I like to eat. Also, expect to linger longer in restaurants. In general, staff are not in a hurry to bring the bill unless you ask for it.
  • In general, tipping in Europe is appreciated, but it’s not expected like in North America. Tips also tend to be more modest, such as rounding the bill up to a convenient number. Usually the menu will say if service is included. If it’s not, tipping 5% is normal and 10% is considered a big tip.
  • Restaurants in popular tourist destinations/large cities have their menu in multiple languages.
  • At some places, bread will be put on your table whether you ask for it or not. If you don’t want to pay for it, don’t eat it.
  • A typical breakfast in some countries is a pastry and cup of coffee. In other places you’ll see a lot of cold cuts and cheese for breakfast. While in France, only three days into our trip to Europe, Mike was really craving a breakfast of bacon and eggs! Ireland was different though, and I was regularly served hot, hearty breakfasts more similar to what we eat in Canada.

travelyesplease.com | What to Expect on Your First Trip to Europe: A First Time Visitor's Guide

Transportation in Europe

  • If you plan on visiting numerous countries or making a lot of train trips in Europe, consider purchasing a Eurail Pass . It may work out to be cheaper than purchasing individual tickets, plus eliminates the time and hassle of buying tickets at the station.
  • The public transportation networks in the big cities are quite good as well. The metros are easy to use and will save you both money and time getting place to place in large cities.
  • If you need to take a taxi, make sure it is from a reputable company. Do some research before hand to find out what the “official” taxi company is called and what the identifying features of their cabs are. When in doubt, ask your hotel for recommendations.
  • Bike share programs are becoming more and more popular around Europe. In many cities you’ll find stands where you can rent a bike for a short period of time and return it to any rental point in the city. We used bikes to get from place to place in Paris all the time.
  • European cities are very walkable. Many of the main attractions are in close proximity to each other, so bring a comfortable pair of shoes.

travelyesplease.com | What to Expect on Your First Trip to Europe: A First Time Visitor's Guide

Public Washrooms

  • Public washrooms are available, but be prepared to pay to use them. We paid anywhere between €0.50 to €1.00 to use the washroom. Sometimes there was a turnstile you had to put coins in, other times there was a dish of coins on the counter. While I hated having to pay, I liked that these washrooms were kept clean more often than not.
  • Some large cities, such as Paris and London, have with coin-operated WCs on street corners. After you insert the money, the door opens, and you have 15 minutes of toilet use. After you leave, the chamber disinfects itself.
  • We came across a few coffee shops and fast food places that had the code to their washroom printed on the receipt, so the only way you could use their WC was to make a purchase.
  • If you walk confidently into a cafe, especially one that’s busy or has outdoor seating, you’ll be able to get away with using the washroom without making a purchase. Hotels are good for this too- just walk in like you belong there!

travelyesplease.com | What to Expect on Your First Trip to Europe: A First Time Visitor's Guide

Safety in Europe

  • I’ve found Europe to be quite safe, but just like anywhere else you need to be alert and use your common sense.
  • Pick pocketing is a problem in big cities and around popular tourist attractions. Keep your valuables close and always be aware of your surroundings, especially on the subways. Watch for people holding a jacket or newspaper over their arm, as they use this to hide their hands while they pick someone (we saw this a lot during our four days in Paris ). Pick pockets like to set up distractions such as asking for directions or inviting you to sign a “petition” (also common in Paris).
  • Do your research so you know which parts of town should be avoided, especially at night.

travelyesplease.com | What to Expect on Your First Trip to Europe: A First Time Visitor's Guide

Wheelchair Accessibility

  • Wheelchair access to public buildings are far from common in many European countries. We noticed curb cuts are present in some cities but not others. The cobblestone sidewalks and streets in many cities pose a bit of a challenge for wheelchair users.
  • It can be useful to contact tourism offices and local transit providers regarding accessibility before you travel. Sage Travelling is an excellent website that provides comprehensive accessibility reviews of many European cities.

travelyesplease.com | What to Expect on Your First Trip to Europe: A First Time Visitor's Guide

What to See on Your First Trip to Europe

It can be hard to decide where to go and what to see on your first trip to Europe because there are so many fantastic options. For some suggestions and a sample itinerary, read our post 5 weeks in Europe- Our Itinerary’s Hits and Misses.  Our Europe Travel Guide  is also a great source of inspiration, as is our list of the best cities to visit in Europe .

travelyesplease.com | What to Expect on Your First Trip to Europe: A First Time Visitor's Guide

More Tips For Visiting Europe For The First Time

Now that you know what to expect in Europe, here are a few more tips for travelling to Europe for the first time.

  • Try and master a few phrases in the local language. We found that English was widely spoken in the major cities, but people still appreciated us making an effort to communicate with them in their own language.
  • Learn about and respect the local customs. Many churches require that your shoulders and knees be covered to enter.
  • Sign up for a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.
  • Notify your bank that you will be away and make sure that your debit cards can be used in Europe. Our bank assured us that our debit cards would work at machines with the Visa/Plus logo, but we had more than a few instances where we couldn’t withdraw money (especially in Budapest !)
  • Note that many cities in Europe have different names in different languages. For example, Munich is München, Vienna is Wien, Florence is Firenze , and Prague is Praha. This is especially important to be aware of when taking the train.
  • Be open minded and welcoming of new experiences. Don’t expect things to be the same as home.
  • To minimize time spent in transport (and the fatigue that can come from it), plan your itinerary so that you can spend at least 3 days in major cities. Choose destinations that are close to other places of interest so that you can either have a base to day trip from, or will need less travel time from point to point. For your first trip to Europe, it can be less overwhelming to focus on a region and spend more time in fewer places, than having little time in many places.
  • Europe has so much to see and it’s tempting to rush around, trying to see as much as possible. Remember to slow down, take your time and savor the experience of your first trip to Europe!

travelyesplease.com | Europe Travel Tips for First Time Visitors

Resources to Help Plan Your First Trip to Europe

Here are some guidebooks to help you plan your first trip to Europe.

Click here if shopping from Canada .

first trip europe

European Rail Passes

Non-European citizens or residents can purchase a Eurail Pass for train travel in Europe. You can choose between a Global Pass (unlimited travel in 33 countries) or a One Country Pass. When purchasing your rail pass, you will also have to select between a continuous pass (allows you to travel by train every day during the period your pass is valid) or a flexi pass (allows a specific number of travel days which can be used any time during a fixed period).

If you’ve decided that a rail pass is right for your trip to Europe, here is an official vendor where you can purchase your rail pass online and have it shipped to you.

Tours in Europe

Here is a trusted site that has a large inventory of tours and tickets for attractions and activities across Europe .

Accommodations in Europe

Our trusted accommodation site is Booking.com , as we have been using it for years to arrange hotels for all our trips. Please consider booking your European accommodations through the included link. It costs you nothing extra and helps support this website. Thank you!

More Europe Travel Guides

  • 2 Weeks in Switzerland- Itinerary for Active Travellers
  • Swiss Travel Pass Guide- How to Buy and Use the Swiss Travel Pass
  • 2 Weeks in Ireland- Road Trip Itinerary
  • Solo Travel in Ireland- 7 Reasons Ireland is a Great Place to Travel Alone
  • Exploring Bavaria- The Best Places to Visit on a Trip to Bavaria, Germany

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Home » Travel Tips » 12 Must-Knows When Travelling to Europe For The First Time

12 Must-Knows When Travelling to Europe For The First Time

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Travelling to Europe for the First Time? We Live Here – We Can Help!

Ah, Europe. A continent full of awesome things to see and do. It’s big, diverse, fascinating, and scary – if you’ve never been before!

From planning your first trip to Europe to crossing items off your “traveling to Europe” checklist, it’s very normal to be nervous about your trip to Europe!

We were all there – well, at least Eric was. Lisa was born here so she’s always felt pretty comfortable!

These days, our resume for Europe is pretty extensive. Lisa is German so that’s pretty important. Eric has been to over 30 countries in Europe – and we’ve both lived, studied, and travelled in countries around Europe. Let’s be serious – we currently live in Europe!

We’ve planned and done multiple Europe trip itineraries. Whether together the two of us, with friends, or even solo – we’ve visited a few must-see cities in Europe ( Prague ) as well as lesser-known countries ( Albania ) along the way.

So, whether you are travelling to Europe for the first time by yourself, backpacking Europe with friends, or are on a family trip, this post is for you!

If you are travelling to Europe for the first time and/or are planning an awesome Europe trip itinerary, we have other posts that you might be interested in!

  • Your Europe Travel Checklist: Our Europe Packing List
  • A Classic “First Europe Trip” Itinerary  – Eric’s first ever route!
  • Our Guide on the Best Europe Backpack and Day Pack For Travels
  • Explore 27 Hostels All Across Europe We Loved Staying At

Table of Contents

General Information About Europe

It’s kind of hard to give general information about a continent but we thought it would be helpful.

Europe is a continent made up of (approximately) 50 countries with a population of over 700 million people total.

Europe is located in the Northern Hemisphere – meaning that, generally, summer is from May to August while winter is from November to February.

There are regional differences in temperature which we will get into in the next sections.

There are a bunch of regions within Europe like Western Europe, Central, Eastern Europe – and sub-categories of countries/regions like the Baltics, the Balkans, Scandinavia, etc. 

There’s a ton of history to the continent, a ton of different cultures, traditions, and languages, too. 

Europe has dozens of languages spoken with German, Russian, Spanish, French, Italian, English, and a few others being the most common.

In short, Europe is a large, diverse continent where every country is different. That’s what makes it so exciting to explore for the first time!

The Best Time to Travel To Europe

The best time to travel to Europe is very dependent on the season, your budget, and what you want to do when you are there.

The summer season (June-August) is generally when most countries are the warmest BUT the crowds can be quite large in the popular cities and capitals.

Winter can be cheaper but colder – unless you are planning to ski in which case winter is the season for you!

We suggest the shoulder seasons of April to mid-June and then September to the end of October for good prices, smaller crowds, and still nice weather.

Obviously, that might not work if you only have summers off from work but it’s still something to consider!

Weather and Climate in Europe

old church with town and sky behind travelling to europe for the first time

If you are travelling to Europe for the first time, climate and weather is something that will definitely dictate your travel plans.

It’s good to know that there are lots of different climate zones in Europe. Even within these zones, you can get varying weather conditions.

Generally speaking, the Nordic countries are the coldest but they can become warm and quite enjoyable in the summer months.

We actually named our favourite Europe cities to visit in winter . The farther you go south towards the Mediterranean Sea, the warmer the weather gets.

If you want popular places to check out that are good for the summer season, then countries like Croatia, Spain, Portugal, and Italy are good bets.

That said, summer is popular so these places can get busy! If you’d like to visit some popular places in the winter, we really love Denmark, Norway, and Iceland.

Of course, you can visit these countries in the warmer seasons as well – this is just a guide to when we really liked visiting these countries.

Visa Information to Visit Europe

When you are travelling to Europe, it’s important to keep in mind which passport you hold and which countries you are travelling to.

Europe has a few different areas which require different visas to enter (or not). Most of continental Europe (but not all of the countries) are part of Schengen Zone.

This zone is not the same as the European Union.

The Schengen Zone is an area in Europe comprised of 26 countries that allow free movement between them once you have “entered the zone”.

Some non-European passports (Canadian, America, Australian, etc.) can stay in the Schengen Zone without a visa for up to 90 days within a span of 180 total days. So you’ll be fine if you only visit that part of Europe for a few weeks.

However, countries in the Balkans, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, for example, all have a separate border to cross since they are not in the Schengen Zone.

Also, always check the visa restrictions for your passport with your country’s government/embassy before leaving!

If you need a visa for the Schengen Zone, you will have to apply beforehand for a “Schengen Visa”.

Popular Destinations in Europe

first trip europe

If you are planning your first Europe trip route, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. There are just so many places to check out!

The capital cities are always a popular place to start because they often times have the best sights and a big airport to fly into.

They are also generally well connected to the rest of the country you want to explore. The capitals just make sense as a starting point for any new country.

From there, you can always day trip to other places in the countryside or continue on your journey.

Classic stops for the first trip to Europe are Paris (France), Berlin (Germany), Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Brussels (Belgium), Prague (Czech Republic), Budapest (Hungary), Rome (Italy), Vienna (Austria), London (United Kingdom), Barcelona (Spain), etc, etc, etc.

As for itineraries around Europe, we’ve written a few down which you can check out. Eric travelled his classic Europe trip which might be a good place for you to start.

We’ve also got an Eastern Europe itinerary for ideas of places to stop that are cheap and beautiful! If you want country-specific guides, check out our  Spain itineraries ,  Croatia Itineraries , or Malta itineraries to get some ideas!

Currencies, Paying and Tipping In Europe

old town with snowy mountain behind travelling to europe for the first time

Okay – talking about currencies used in Europe is  complicated.   Because for the 50 countries recognized as European countries, there are 28 currencies .

The most commonly used currency is the Euro – used in many of the major countries in continental Europe (Germany, France, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, etc).

That’s where the simplicity ends. There are a few outliers for places you might visit on a first time trip that we will cover:

  • Czech Republic – Czech Crowns
  • Hungary – Hungarian Forint
  • Poland – Polish Złoty
  • Iceland – Icelandic Krona (for that matter each Scandinavian country – Norway, Sweden, Denmark – has their own currency called a “ Krone/Krona “… Finland uses the Euro)
  • Switzerland – Swiss Francs
  • Croatia – Croatian Kuna
  • The United Kingdom – British Pound

There are more but we could go on forever naming currencies of the continent. We’ve used almost all the currencies at one point or another.

It’s always fun to get a new one at the ATM in the country. Speaking of which, you can choose to take money out beforehand OR take it out from a local ATM once you are there – assuming your debit cards allows for international transactions.

If you aren’t sure if you need cash, maybe wait a few hours and see how expensive things are and what form of payment is most accepted.

As for using cash versus debit card versus credit card, every country is different. Some are advanced and use basically NO physical money (Sweden) while others still love their cash (Germany).

Coming from North America (where we rely more and more on cards), it’s a safe bet to have cards with you but also keep some cash on you. 

Bigger shops, tourist places, and restaurants will usually accept credit card but supermarkets don’t always (Netherlands).

Tipping in Europe is not mandatory like in North America BUT you can definitely tip for good/great service if the occasion calls for it. Common places to tip are in bars/cafes, restaurants, hotels staff, and taxis.

How much you tip depends on the total price and how great the service was. Usually, you can expect to tip around 5 – 10% of the total price – which is quite a bit lower if you are used to North American standards.

And once again, there are differences depending on the country you are visiting!

Plugs/Electronics Used in Europe

If you’re travelling to Europe for the first time, you will definitely need to bring a travel adapter for your electronics.

There’s a good chance you will have a phone and a camera – and maybe a tablet, e-reader, or computer with you.

These will all need a charge sooner or later – and there are a few different plug shapes and voltages around Europe.

Most modern electronics can handle the voltage change (North America wall plugs have 110V whereas Europe uses 220-240V) so that’s not really an issue anymore.

Read the label of your charger cord for the electronics to see what it says.

You WILL need a travel adapter to change the plug shape though. Most of continental Europe uses a two-prong plug classified as type C or E/F plug – that is the same in many European countries such as Germany, France, and Denmark.

first trip europe

The UK, Malta, Ireland and Cyprus use Type G which is different from continental Europe. Most modern adapters will have both of these styles on them.

We like the travel adapter above since it has the prongs you need AND since it comes with USB ports.

Extra USB ports are great for charging phones, GoPros, and external batteries while you can still charge your big items all at the same time.

Getting To/Around Europe

ground from below on airplane window travelling to europe for the first time

There are loads of ways to get around Europe once you are there. How you travel really depends on the places you are visiting, the length you are staying, your budget, and your personal preference!

If you are coming to Europe from North America, consider a Europe stopover flight to see more places before you even get here!

If you need to cover great distances, there are cheap flights available once you get to Europe.

Flying everywhere is easy but not always the best call for the environment if you could also just take a train – but that’s for you to determine. We like to use Skyscanner to see which flight options are available.

Budget airlines like WizzAir , Easy Jet, Ryanair, Eurowings, and many more do “cheap hoppers”.

However, you have to factor in the bus or train to get to the airport – usually, cheap airlines fly into airports that are farther from the centre of the city you are trying to check out.

Flying adds another element to your trip: what you pack and HOW you pack it.

If you are always flying and flying with carry-on luggage only, it means you cannot have large toiletries over 100ml in your carry-on luggage with you.

If you check a bag each time then this is not an issue but with some airlines you have to pay extra for checked bags.

Whereas if you had travelled “on the ground” the whole time, you could buy one bottle of body wash (for example) and use it the entire trip as you travelled around on buses or trains! Just something to think about.

Europe is different from North America in the sense that you can take the trains basically everywhere. We love this about the continent.

Canada is too reliant on cars since the distances between towns are just so great. It means you can check out a “hidden gem” in Germany like Aschaffenburg and still get back to your base/apparent in, say, Frankfurt without hassle or the need for a car.

You can use something like Rome2rio to help you plan ground transportation. It’s not perfect – but it gives you an idea of the possible connection and you can click through to websites to book.

Another one is Omio (formerly GoEuro) – it’s a big search engine for booking transportation tickets. Being close to Germany, we use DB Bahn (the German train company) quite often. Their site even provides the schedules for trains in Romania (fun fact).

The bus is another great option for getting around/between countries quickly and safely. We have taken buses through more countries than we can count at this point and generally had positive experiences.

A great company to check out is Flixbus – it’s a brand you can trust for cheap fares and good service. We also have used  MegaBus , but just in the United Kingdom.

Driving and Renting a Car in Europe

Getting around Europe by car is also a great idea. Having a car allows you to explore places/areas that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get to using only public transport.

Generally, the highway infrastructure is good in countries but it does vary. One thing you might need to consider is if YOU feel comfortable with driving in a  foreign country.

The lights and signs will be in different places – some might even be in a different language. These are things that can throw off your comfort zone compared to driving at home.

Another thing to consider is the driving mentality of the people in the country. Of course, there are always good and bad drivers in all countries – but the further south you go (Italy, Spain, Malta) the drivers get a little “crazier”. Some drivers are very impatient (sorry, Malta – but it’s true).

Another thing to consider is the driving side. Most of Europe drives on the right like in North America but the United Kingdom and Malta drive on the left so that can take some getting used to if you are coming from North America.

As for renting a car, be sure to check if you can rent a vehicle with your licence from back home or if you also need an “international” driver’s licence attached to it.

Eric has something that he got from CAA which verifies his licence for use in other countries.

If you need a rental car, you can check here for rental prices from different companies . Always look into insurance before you rent, and always check the car before signing anything.

Where to Stay in Europe

boy with backpack walking into old castle travelling to europe for the first time

If you’re travelling to Europe, you are going to need a place to sleep! Luckily for you, there are loads of different options – from hotels and apartments to guesthouses, hostels , and Airbnbs.

We have stayed in a variety of different places over the years – and sometimes the destinations dictate the style of accommodation.

For example, there are lots of “apartmani” in Dubrovnik, Croatia and Kotor, Montenegro whereas Budapest has loads of hotels and hostels. Just different places with different set-ups.

Apartments/Airbnbs in Europe

We tend to stay in apartments since we typically stay in a place longer and we like to prepare our own food to eat healthy and to keep costs down.

We usually book apartments on Booking.com . We did stay in Airbnbs but we are increasingly aware of the pushback in many cities (Venice, Barcelona, etc) that tourists and things like Airbnb are having on the lives of locals so it’s definitely a touchy subject these days.

Hotels in Europe

If you are planning to stay in hotels, you will find budget hotels and luxury hotels in most cities and towns.

You’ll find brand names you know from home but you will also find local places that you should try and stay in for a bit of local flair! If you want to get started looking,  check here for hotels in Europe .

Hostels in Europe

Hostels are another great option to meet people and keep costs down. Contrary to popular belief, hostels are NOT just massive dorm rooms that are unsafe, dirty, and full of sketchy people.

These days, hostels are a great way to meet other travellers in great, modern – sometimes even boutique – facilities.

Private rooms in hostels allow you to get a room to yourself (if you choose) while still allowing you to meet people and get local knowledge from staff members.

In fact, sometimes the private rooms and facilities in some hostels are better than the cheap hotels in the same city.. but people think “hotel” and think it’s obviously better quality. That’s just not a fair assumption!

We’ve stayed in over 27 hostels across over 20 countries in Europe and literally only had positive experiences.

So, if you’re a first time Europe tripper, look to hostels to make friends, gain confidence, and get out there to explore!

To get started planning, you check now for hostels in Europe . Our advice is to always book in advance if you know your trip dates because the best places in popular cities DO book up.

Communicating With Locals in Europe

It’s no secret that there are dozens of languages spoken across Europe. Each country usually has an official language that is different from the one beside it.

While English is spoken in most countries – and used in the service/tourism industry – you may not always be able to use English outside some big city centres.

It’s always respectably (and useful) to learn a few words in the language of the country you are travelling to.

Things like “hello”, “please”, “thank you” and asking for things are practical – and locals almost always appreciate the effort to speak their language.

We’ve had to learn words in many countries from Romanian to Spanish, French, Dutch, and Danish. If you want to learn words, check out apps like Duolingo .

Others like  Google Translate can help you “on the fly” if you need help with a menu, a map, street signs, or otherwise. We wrote a whole guide on some great travel apps that we love if you want to know more!

Health and Safety in Europe

couple in front of waterfall krka national park travelling to europe for the first time

Generally, Europe is a safe and stable continent. While there are exceptions, these are places you likely won’t be heading to on a first trip.

As with most larger city centres that are common stops for tourists, pick-pocketing does occur. It’s important to watch your belongings at train/bus stations, on walking tours, etc.

If you can, consider leaving valuables at the hotel or locked away in the hostel safe when you explore the city and especially when you go out at night.

Only take the minimum (like ID, cash, and key) if you are unfamiliar with a city.

As for staying healthy, have travel medical insurance for your trip that coves you in the countries you are going to.

European countries have good or excellent healthcare facilities so you should be in good hands if anything goes wrong while you are travelling.

There are loads of things you can do to stay safe and healthy though. In the summer, it can get super hot in the south (Croatia, Italy, etc) so, make sure to wear sunscreen, drink enough water and even wear a hat.

Buy one if you don’t have one. We always have  our water bottles  topped up and fill them whenever we can. Usually, tap water is safe to drink but if you are unsure, ask your host or hotel!

In the winter, make sure you have a good, warm jacket, warm boots with a good tread if you are hiking/on snow, and accessories like a hat, gloves, and a scarf is never a bad idea. Better to have it than not!

And there you have it – 12 must-knows before you travel to Europe for the first time! These are the things that we think are important to know.

Obviously, we didn’t cover anything – but we hope this is helpful to get you started with planning your first Europe trip.

In the end, you can only prepare so much. You have to live it to know how you travel, what you like/dislike on the road, etc. I

t’s a learning process for everyone – but WOW is it worth it! So, stay safe, have fun, and let us know how your Europe trip goes – we’d love to share tips/advice!

As always, Happy Europe Waddling!

  • Compare flights on Skyscanner
  • Check for Hotel Deals or Book A Hostel
  • Get A Rental Car (depending on the destination)
  • Research plug types and possibly get a travel adapter
  • Go over our packing list

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Teaspoon of Adventure

Where to Go on Your First Trip to Europe

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My first trip to Europe was in 2012. It also happened to be my first solo trip and the inspiration for one of my first blog posts . I found an amazing flight deal from Toronto to London and back from Portugal. And so I headed off to spend a few weeks visiting London, Paris, Nice, Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon – all for the very first time.

I had an amazing first trip to Europe. It was the trip where I fell in love with London , where I realized the kindness of strangers, and where I learned that an overnight train ride doesn’t actually save you paying for a night of accommodation if you get no sleep on said train ride and check into the nearest hotel the moment you arrive in Madrid at 8:00 AM with bloodshot eyes…

Even though I got lost, sad and sunburnt, I had an amazing time and wouldn’t change a thing about my first trip to Europe. But if I was going on my first trip to Europe today? I might make a few tweaks.

Here are my suggestions for perfect itineraries for your first trip to Europe. I’ve catered my suggestions based on whether you’re looking for beautiful scenery, love learning about history, travel for delicious food, are on a tight budget, or only have a short time to fit everything in.

Let’s plan your first trip to Europe!

FIRST TRIP TO EUROPE: Where should you go on your first trip to Europe? When should you go, for how long and where should you stay? Check out 7 first timer itineraries for Europe perfect for any mood and interests! #europe #travel #itinerary #eurotrip #summertravel #backpacking #london #paris #rome #prague #france #italy #germany #budapest

Table of Contents

When should you visit Europe?

Shoulder season is always the best time to visit. Europe gets very crowded with tourists over the summer when North American tourists find out the hard way that a lot of Europe is not air-conditioned. Winter can also be crowded with many people travelling to Europe for the famous Christmas markets, and obviously, winter can be very cold.

Shoulder season – spring and fall – are the best times to visit Europe in nice weather with less crowds . However, a lot of people know about the pros of shoulder season travel, shrinking shoulder season more and more each year. Busy summer months are not just June and July, it’s now May through to October.

So if you really want to avoid crowds, I’d go for the sweet spot just before and after the winter holidays . We travelled to Italy in November and it was perfect. We did get a few rainy days in Naples but it was t-shirt weather in Rome and we didn’t have to fight with anyone to see Pompeii or line up to get into the Vatican. We also visited Spain in early February and enjoyed the same vibe: very small tourist crowds and pretty decent weather.

Colosseum in Rome

Where should you stay on your first trip to Europe?

Of course, this will depend on where you go in Europe and what your budget is. Generally speaking, the more touristed cities in Europe will have something to suite every budget and style – you can camp, sleep in a three-bed bunk in a hostel, splurge on a luxury hotel, stay at an adorable bed and breakfast, or rent an apartment.

My advice is always to stay as close to the centre as you can afford in a place that is comfortable and clean . European cities are meant to be explored on foot, so it’s best if you’re just a short walk or transit ride away from all of the sights, shops and restaurants. Exactly what kind of accommodation you choose will depend on the type of stay you want to have. If you’re looking to save money and meet other people, try a hostel. If you want space to spread out and a kitchen to cook your own meals, check out Airbnb. And if you prefer the convenience of a hotel, you’ll find options wherever you are in Europe.

Burano

How long do you need for a first trip to Europe?

You could easily spend months and months exploring all corners of Europe but most people don’t have that much vacation time. For your first trip, I think 10-14 days would be perfect . That gives you enough time to explore a few different areas and get a taste for Europe. Of course, if you can swing more time, that’s awesome. And if 10-14 days isn’t doable for you, I’d say the trip may still be worth it (depending on where in the world you’re coming from) if you can get at least five days on the ground .

In terms of pacing, every travel blogger has an opinion on whether you should travel fast or slow, and what exactly constitutes “fast” or “slow” travel. I definitely see the value in slow travel but know it’s not realistic for most people with fixed vacation days. I also don’t think slow travel should be your priority on your first trip to Europe. I’d suggest spending no less than 2-3 nights in each stop , and keeping your travel time between stops as short as possible. You don’t want to spend all of your trip running from the airport to the bus to the train, totally exhausted and too tired to explore. Give yourself time to actually enjoy each place, and remember you can see more on your next trip to Europe!

Plaza de Espana, Seville

How do you travel through Europe?

My favourite way to travel through Europe is by train. The train system in Europe is quite comprehensive, fast, affordable and scenic . Often, train stations are located in the city centre, meaning you don’t have to worry about getting to/from an airport in the suburbs. You also don’t have to show up early and go through security when you take the train. Check out The Man in Seat 61 for all of your European train needs!

Of course, the train isn’t always the best option. If you need to travel farther distances, Europe has a number of budget airlines and you can usually hop on a flight for less than $50. There are long distance buses that, while slow, are quite affordable. You may also want to rent a car and road trip, or look into fun boat options to your destinations.

7 first trip to Europe itineraries 

If you’re looking to hit the highlights: london, paris & amsterdam.

Eiffel Tower - 2 Days in Paris itinerary

A lot of people’s first trip to Europe is focused on the highlights – the cities everyone knows. While these cities are generally more expensive and crowded with tourists, they are popular for a reason and have a lot to offer. Three of the biggest cities in Europe, and three that are generally easy to travel between, would have to be London, Paris and Amsterdam.

The itinerary: 

Start your trip with a few days in London: admire Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace, grab lunch at Borough Market, stroll through Kensington Gardens, see the crown jewels and take in a West End show. Check out my three day London itinerary for your full schedule!

From London, take the Eurostar train to Paris in just two and a half hours. In Paris you can walk along the Seine, eat the best croissants in front of the Eiffel Tower, admire art at the Louvre and pop into all of the museums while feeling very chic. If you have more time, take a day trip out to Versailles.

Next, take a three hour train from Paris to one of my favourite cities, Amsterdam . I studied abroad in Amsterdam and think it’s such a charming city. Shop the outdoor markets, admire the skinny homes, eat Dutch pancakes, tour the Anne Frank House, see some original Van Gogh paintings and take in the tulips or boat down the canals.

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Have more time?

If you have more time and want to see more highlights, I’d suggest adding Berlin and Prague onto your itinerary. In Berlin you can check out the Berlin Wall (now a cool outdoor art gallery) and sit back in a beer garden. From there, it’s just a four hour train ride to Prague , where you can visit the castles, admire the architecture and, of course, drink some very affordable and delicious beer.

If you have even more time, you can visit the iconic cities of Rome and Barcelona . In Rome , you’ll stay busy touring the Colosseum and Vatican, taking photos in front of the Trevi Fountain and Spanish steps, and eating all the gelato you can find. In Barcelona , admire Gaudi’s best architecture, wander through the Old Town and eat incredible Spanish food.

If you’re looking to visit hidden gems: Slovenia

One week in Slovenia cover

Some people prefer to wander on the road less travelled, passing up iconic highlights for hidden gems. And while I do think that London, Paris and Amsterdam are worth visiting, I understand wanting to have a quieter and more unique first trip to Europe.

The itinerary

I think Slovenia is one of the most incredible and underrated countries in Europe . I don’t know anyone who has visited Slovenia who hasn’t completely fallen in love with it. And I don’t know anyone who goes to Europe for the first time and only visits Slovenia, so your trip would certainly be unique!

While Slovenia is underrated, it’s not completely unknown. You may have seen the iconic photos of Lake Bled and you should know that this lake is busy, especially in the summer. But it will be nothing compared to the tourist crowds you’d see in Venice or Paris.

For nature, check out Lake Bohinj and Triglav National Park. Just 30 minutes away from more popular Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj is just as beautiful and offers lots of gorgeous hikes, waterfalls and views. There is also the Soca Valley where you can go zip-lining and white water rafting!

For charming cities, you’ll definitely want to visit Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana. I loved this city so much when we visited and wished we had spent more time walking along the water, shopping in the markets and admiring the buildings.

Slovenia also has a beautiful and delicious wine country to discover, and a cool coastal city, Piran, known for its old city charm and yummy seafood.

Slavica Waterfall, Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

More European hidden gems to visit 

Of course, Slovenia isn’t the only hidden gem in Europe. Typically speaking, smaller towns and countries further east will have more undiscovered places. I’ve heard amazing things about the country of Georgia , but haven’t been myself. The Balkans are a great option. My mom and I visited Montenegro in 2014 and felt like we had the entire place to ourselves. I’ve also heard Albania is a hidden gem and a great country for beach lovers. And finally, if you are sticking to Western Europe, add Dresden, Germany to your list. Just a few hours from Berlin, this underrated city is worth the visit!

If you’re looking for art and history: Paris, Rome & Florence

Pont Alexandre III in Paris - 2 days in Paris itinerary

I’ll be honest, this category is not my area of expertise. I have about a one hour limit for how long I can spend in museums before I become painfully bored. I can only appreciate art and history in small quantities and interesting formats.

Start off in Paris and cross the big one off of your bucket list: Seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. As every travel blogger will tell you, prepare to be disappointed. Mona Lisa is a small painting, hidden behind plexiglass and a barrier. It’s much more interesting to take photos of the crowd taking photos of Mona Lisa, than to actual take her photo.

But do let the rest of the Louvre, and the rest of the art scene in Paris, sweep you off your feet. I’ve been to the Louvre a few times now and each time discover new wings that impress me, despite me knowing nothing about art. And you’ll even find wings that are completely empty, as most people only make it to the Mona Lisa and surrounding galleries. There’s also the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, which I haven’t been to but would love to, and countless other big and small art galleries. Once you cross the big ones off your list, I think it’d be most fun to discover the small, private galleries all around Paris.

In Florence, you’ll of course need to visit the famous Uffizi Gallery and see the David statue at the Accademia Gallery. I’ve only spent a few hours in Florence and, sadly, didn’t get to see either of these art galleries. We had planned to stop in and see David but discovered the Accademia is closed on Mondays. Like Paris, Florence is also home to many more art galleries and beautiful buildings you can admire in between cones of gelato.

Last stop: Rome . In Rome you’ll walk in the steps of history as you discover where gladiators fought at the Colosseum and the roads Cesar rode down at the Roman Forum. What really brought history to life for me in Rome was that outside of these huge attractions, you’ll find Ancient Roman artifacts all over the city. I was constantly surprised when we’d be taking a bus to get somewhere and outside the window would be a local city park that just happened to have some ancient pillars in it.

For an even better chance to walk through history, take a day trip to nearby Pompeii or Herculaneum . And for art, you’ll have to check out the impressive galleries of the Vatican, as well as many other Roman art galleries like Galleria Borghese.

Shakespeare & Company, Paris

Have more time? 

Belgium is a great country to explore if you love art, history, architecture and yummy food. I spent a long weekend exploring a few different cities in Belgium in 2014 , and went back to Antwerp in 2018. While I’m not a huge art or history buff myself, I did appreciate the beauty of Belgium and noted a lot of museums. Plus, there’s chocolate and fries to enjoy!

I think it’s also worth noting that while places like Paris and Florence are known for their art culture, there is art all over Europe. It just might not be by artists you recognize. And, because European culture and buildings are so old compared to what you find in North America, there is history throughout Europe too. So don’t feel like you have to go to the Louvre to see art or walk the Colosseum to experience history. That stuff is all over Europe!

If you’re looking for nature and views: Iceland and Ireland

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I’m not a big hiker or outdoorsy person, but even I can’t pass up a great view. And Europe is lousy with gorgeous places you can drive, walk, bike or hike through. I haven’t seen them all, but two of my favourites that I think would be amazing for a first trip to Europe are Iceland and Ireland.

The itinerary:

Iceland is an absolutely magical place no matter what time of year you visit. While it has been over-touristed, I hope the pandemic has taught us all to be a little bit more careful with natural resources. I have visited Iceland twice, in January 2014 and October 2018, and both visits were amazing.

With just a few days in Iceland, base yourself in Reykjavik, the capital. Spend a day exploring this funky little town, eating the delicious cafe food and admiring the large church. From Reykjavik you can rent a car, or head out on day tours if you don’t want to drive, to explore sights along the Golden Circle .

If you have a third or fourth day, head for a drive along Iceland’s southern coast (bus tours will go out on this route as well) to see waterfalls, glaciers and black sand beaches. And with even more time, you can rent a car and drive the entire Ring Road around Iceland (budget 7-10 days for this drive).

In Ireland, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful views. When I visited in April 2018, we spent a few days each in Dublin, Belfast (Northern Ireland), Galway and Cork, visiting natural wonders from these main cities.

If you only have a few days in Ireland , I’d prioritize the Cliffs of Moher by Galway and the Ring of Kerry by Cork. The Cliffs of Moher are not to be missed! Hopefully you get nice weather and can see the cliffs shining in the sunlight. The Ring of Kerry is full of lots of beautiful waterfalls and viewpoints.

Up north, you can check out Giants Causeway from Belfast, as well as some famous Game of Thrones film locations. And in between all of those natural stops, you can rest in cities, enjoying famous Irish hospitality at pubs and restaurants.

golden circle cover

Want more views?

Like I said, Europe is lousy with views. Check out the beautiful snow-covered Alps in Switzerland , go on a picturesque road trip through Austria , chase waterfalls and island hop in Croatia , or see the fjords in Norway !

If you’re a foodie: Copenhagen, San Sebastian & Naples

Where to eat in Naples cover

Do you travel for food? Same! A great first trip through Europe would be to follow your stomach to some of the continent’s greatest foodie stops.

I will confess, this itinerary does involve a few plane rides but I think it’s worth it to hit each of these foodie hot spots. However, if one in particular catches your eye, you could always spend more time there and find lots of great local food in the surrounding area.

Copenhagen is known as the foodie capital of Europe with tons of award-winning restaurants, like Noma. Sadly, on our short visit to Copenhagen we did not enjoy our meals, but I think we just picked poorly. I’d love to go back with some more guidance and try out the really excellent places to eat. Copenhagen is also a really beautiful city, and a short drive from Sweden, so would make for a cool base on your first trip to Europe.

San Sebastian, Spain is another well-known foodie haven in Europe. Sadly, I haven’t been myself but it’s my partner’s favourite city in the world. Pintxos, northern Spain’s version of tapas, are famous here and I could see myself happily going from one pintxo bar to the next.

And we can’t forget Naples , Italy – the birthplace of pizza! I’ve been to Naples twice and both times ate some of the best food of my life. It’s not just pizza (though the pizza is incredible) but also amazing pasta, gelato, pastries and more. Naples itself is a bit gritty, but it’s worth spending a few nights there to eat as much as you can. Plus, it’s just a short train ride from the archeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum , and close to Rome .

pasta in Naples

Still hungry? 

You’ll have a hard time finding bad food in Italy but for the best of the best, head to Bologna , where a lot of the regions food is produced. I can’t wait to visit Bologna and eat the best cheese, meat and balsamic vinegar!

Wine lovers should plan a trip through the Bordeaux region of France, also known for its amazing food. And don’t count out London ! While British food isn’t widely admired, the international city of London is home to some of the most diverse and delicious restaurants.

If you have limited time in Europe: Germany, Austria & the Czech Republic

Old Town Square in Prague

If you only have a short amount of time for your first trip to Europe, the key is to pick interesting stops that are close together. You don’t want to waste all of your time on flights or in transit.

Our Christmas Market road trip would be the perfect itinerary for someone short on time who wants to see as much as they can. We started off in Prague , where we were living at the time. Here you can enjoy cheap beer, beautiful buildings and epic views.

From Prague, train or drive down to Vienna, Austria (3.5 hr drive from Prague). Visit palaces, check out beautiful art, take in a show and enjoy the famous Viennese coffee scene. From there it’s a three hour drive over to Salzburg , my favourite Austrian city. Wander through the Old Town and don’t miss out on exploring the fortress, complete with beautiful views!

Next, you’re driving just an hour and a half to Munich . Take a tour through the historic part of town, sit down in a beer garden and make a visit to Dachau Concentration Camp, less than an hour from the city. You can wrap up your trip here or head on to Nuremberg (2 hour drive from Munich), an amazing little fairytale town with lots of history. And since this itinerary was a circle, you can head back to Prague (3.5 hr drive) and catch your roundtrip flight home from there.

Munich cover

Other short itineraries

If Czech Republic/Austria/Germany doesn’t strike your fancy, there are so many multi-country itineraries you can put together for your first trip to Europe to maximize your time on the ground.

  • My highlights itinerary above: London/Paris/Amsterdam
  • Spain & Portugal
  • Italy/Switzerland/Croatia
  • The Netherlands/Belgium/France/Germany
  • Czech Republic/Austria/Hungary

If you’re on a budget: Budapest, Bratislava & Prague

Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest

Last but not least, what’s the best first trip to Europe itinerary if you’re on a budget? Unfortunately, a lot of the major cities in Europe (London, Paris, etc.) are also the most expensive. But it is possible to have an amazing first trip to Europe without spending a ton of money. Of course, the way you travel can help with that (e.g. hostel vs 5-star hotel) but so can where you travel.

You’ll find that Central/Eastern Europe is often much cheaper than Western Europe, so that’s where this trip will take place. Start your budget trip off in Budapest , one of my favourite cities in Europe. Budapest has so much to do and is a truly unique city. Take a cruise down the Danube, tour the largest parliament building I’ve ever seen, explore Buda Castle, party at the ruin bars and soak in one of the traditional bath houses. And do it all on a budget!

From Budapest, you’ll take a short train ride over to Bratislava , Slovakia. I’ll be honest: Bratislava is not a place you’re going to need to spend a lot of time. But it is worth a day or two and is definitely a cheaper place to travel. Explore the Old Town, admire the street art and check out the cool castles.

Lastly, you’ll take another train to Prague. One of the reasons we decided to move to Prague was because cost of living was so cheap – beer is literally cheaper than water! It’s super affordable to travel through Prague and the Czech Republic and there are a ton of amazing things to see and do.

Ellie at St Stephen's Basilica

Where else you can travel cheap

Other budget-friendly countries you might want to check out include  Romania , Poland , Portugal , Croatia (outside of the touristy hubs, like Dubrovnik), Slovenia , Greece , and lots of places in the Balkans and Baltics .

My #1 tip for your first trip to Europe

This is your first trip, not your only trip . You do not have to see and do absolutely everything. It can be tempting to cram in as much as possible but I promise you will enjoy your trip more if you slow down and appreciate where you are.

There is no prize for seeing the most or moving countries every single day. Take your time! I know it’s hard to pass up all of the cheap flights or to say no to bucket list items that are just a few hours away but trust me, you’ll want to slow down and actually enjoy your trip.

I’m not saying you have to slow travel and spend a week or two in each city. I am saying you don’t want to be on a flight every other day, running from icon to icon, never coming out from behind your camera lens.

So, go for a walk on cobblestone lanes, try the local food, marvel at the history, soak up the culture, and enjoy your very first trip to Europe!

For more, check out my travel tips for beginners and packing tips ! 

Where do you most want to go on your first trip to Europe? Which one of my itineraries above sounds most appealing? Or, if you’re a seasoned traveller, where do you suggest people go on their first trip?

Share my first time to Europe itineraries – Pin it! 

FIRST TRIP TO EUROPE: Where should you go on your first trip to Europe? When should you go, for how long and where should you stay? Check out 7 first timer itineraries for Europe perfect for any mood and interests! #europe #travel #itinerary #eurotrip #summertravel #backpacking #london #paris #rome #prague #france #italy #germany #budapest

Riana Ang-Canning is a travel writer who has been sharing her global adventures as the founder of Teaspoon of Adventure since 2012. In that time, Riana has travelled to almost 50 countries on 6 continents, including interning in Eswatini, working in Tokyo, road tripping New Zealand and living abroad in Prague. Riana helps everyday travellers discover the world on a mid-budget, proving that you don't have to be athletic, wealthy or nomadic to have an adventure!

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26 comments.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to several countries and Europe and I definitely want to go back once it’s safe enough for us to travel (hubby is high risk ). You’ve really provided great information and have provided me with some new ideas on what to see next. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks, Jodie! I can’t wait to get back to Europe too!

Loving this detailed and fleshed-out list of internaries for every traveler! I am currently reading a travel memoir (very nearly my favorite genre of book!), and love that I am able to travel to places like Rome, visit the Vatican and Pompeii, experience the pizza of Naples, and have a lark over the wine and people without actually having to go anywhere.

In all honesty, I would love to travel but authentic writing from people who are more able to travel than I suits me just fine. Thanks for sharing your travels in words and photos!

Thanks! And that book you’re reading sounds right up my alley 🙂

I would love to travel to Europe. I personally have never been. I love getting to read about people’s experiences before traveling places. I would love to go to Ireland it’s looks so beautiful.

Hope you get to experience Ireland one day!

You’ve certainly seen a lot in Europe and your guide is great. Lots os useful info as to where to pick for which kind of stay you want. Glad you mentioned San Sebastian (Donostia in Basque) in Spain as this is a wonderful place for foodies and also its archutecture and bay. It gets missed off so many people’s routes as they travel. Also glad you mentioned trains, as they are now becoming superfast, cheap and comfortable, even replacing flight schedules between nearby cities. I will read up on some of the cities in Europe you visited that I ahven’t as I need some good tips for them. Great post.

Thanks, Barry! Yes, I can’t wait to visit San Sebastian myself. Spanish food is so delicious! And yes, trains do seem to be the way to go!

This was so helpful Boo. Every type of trip someone would be interested in. I love it! I am so with you on the 1 hour tops for art galleries and museums…must be my child, lol. I haven’t done the scenic trip so that’s a must do, and of course I am a sucker for the foodie trip, and am actually interested in every one of them except the highlights because I have done it several times but agree it’s a must do for those who haven’t, the art & history, again, been there, and no patience to repeat but a must do for first timers, and the short on time, also because I have been, but loved those countries too. Great read and can’t wait to visit Europe again!

Aw thanks for reading Moo! Definitely your child 🙂 And can’t wait to travel through Europe with you again!

Great way to organize the trips, by objective! I am tempted to go back for scenery or food next time. Thanks so much.

Thanks, Sue! Hope you enjoy your next trip to Europe!

Awesome post. There are some great ideas here for people who are short on time. You right though, you don’t have to see everything all in one trip. I’d take many trips to Europe over your lifetime and see somewhere new each time 🙂

Absolutely! The trips are much more enjoyable when you’re not rushing to fit everything in.

Budget or no budget I really want to visit Budapest and Bratislava. Prague I’d love to visit again too. I’ve been to a few of the other places on here but Iceland and Ireland are two of my top bucket list places so that sounds like a good pairing too

Ah so many wonderful places to still explore!

Lots of great suggestions here, although I can’t believe you missed out Scotland! That’s usually always one of the places I recommend (and not just because I’m biased XD)

This reminds me that I still need to visit Iceland, might have to move it to the top of my list for once travel opens up again! Georgia is also really high on my list too, I’ve heard great things about it!

Aw we were supposed to go to Scotland last May! I’m sure as soon as I visit for myself it will move to the top of my recommendations.

Riana, you’ve completely nailed tips for Europe itineraries, wow! This post makes me want to travel SOO bad. I’d definitely like to visit The Balkans and love your foodie itinerary!! P.s. your first trip to Europe sounds dreamy.

Thanks so much, Shireen! Hope you enjoy your next Europe trip!

Those are some great tips Riana- great advice and itineraries. I too travel in the shoulder season, which is now pushed even further to avoid the crowds. Also, my motto is, we will always return too. Which means I like to really explore the country I’m visiting. I’m a traveller that would rather like to see a lot of one country than to see as many countries as I can.

Thanks so much, Renee! Love that motto – it’s so true!

This was such a great post! Europe is amazing and has a lot to offer for a traveler! I personally like a blend between touristy places and hidden gems, I feel like that way you get the best of both worlds and truly see what a location has to offer!

Thanks so much, JoJo! Yes, that would be my choice too – perfect blend of the iconic sights and the less touristed places.

Wish I had this during our first trip to Europe! But hopefully I can sneak a solo trip in the next few months as borders start to open up again!

Thanks, Gus!

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Home » Travel » Destinations » 17 Must See Cities For Your First Time in Europe

17 Must See Cities For Your First Time in Europe

Front of tall cathedral, with text overlay - "23 must see destinations in Europe".

Narrowing down the must see cities for your first time in Europe is a daunting task. In a sprawling continent full of grand cathedrals, romantic cityscapes, and decadent dishes, how do you choose where to go?

London skyline with river in foreground, one of the must see cities for first time in Europe.

Planning your first European trip is equal parts exciting and intimidating. The possibilities are endless, but your time probably isn’t.

Unless you’re embarking on a Grand Tour à la 18th century upper-class gentlemen, you’ll need to make some hard choices about what to see and skip.

To make things easier, I’ve hand-picked my 17 best cities in Europe for first time travelers. Each of these destinations encompasses the “European experience”–stunning architecture, iconic sights, historical significance, and of course, mouth-watering food.

I’ve also organized the list by geography. If you make smart use of the continent’s trains and low-cost airlines, it’s possible to squeeze every location on this list into a six week trip (though I wouldn’t recommend it).

Whether you have a week or an entire summer for your first time trip to Europe, you can’t go wrong with these cities.

RELATED: How to Create a Travel Vision Board That Inspires Adventure

View of St. Pauls' Cathedral from alley with glass reflections.

I may be a little biased seeing as I live in London , but The Big Smoke is undeniably a must see city for your first time in Europe. With 2,000 years of history, 60+ Michelin-starred restaurants, and countless cultural attractions, there’s something for every type of traveler in this metropolis.

Here are some unmissable London sightseeing experiences:

  • Get a unique history lesson and gawk at the Crown Jewels at The Tower of London
  • Enjoy afternoon tea with a magnificent view over London at The Aqua Shard
  • Marvel at the beautiful architecture of St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • Visit the tombs of English monarchs and important figures at Westminster Abbey
  • Explore the city’s incredible free museums, from the National Gallery to the Natural History Museum

Use my 4 day London itinerary to explore the city’s highlights and hidden gems.

Sunset view over Edinburgh city, with hills in the distance.

Like many travelers who came before me, I fell in love with Edinburgh instantly. There’s something magical about the city–and it’s not just because of all the Harry Potter locations! The combination of grand Gothic buildings, cozy cafes and pubs, and hilly landscapes is unlike any other place in Europe, especially during October .

These are some of my favorite things to do in Edinburgh:

  • Soak up the views and Scottish history at Edinburgh Castle
  • Pick up some shortbread and tartan accessories along The Royal Mile and Candlemaker Row (a.k.a. Diagon Alley)
  • Take a royal tour of Holyroodhouse Palace (a must at Christmas time)
  • Pop into a live music pub for an evening of entertainment with a side of fish and chips
  • Warm your belly with a Scotch tasting at The Scotch Whiskey Experience

Check out my 2 day Edinburgh itinerary to plan your perfect trip.

Sunset view of Amsterdam facades along canal.

Amsterdam has a serious reputation for partying (you can probably figure out why). But even quiet introverts like me will find plenty to love about The Netherlands’ capital city. The whimsical facades, canal bridges, and trendy cafes are an Instagrammer’s dream, and culture buffs can spend their days in the iconic art galleries and museums.

Put these activities on your bucket list:

  • Take a leisurely stroll around the 9 Streets area for amazing canal views
  • Experience the city’s architecture by boat in a small group or private tour
  • Enjoy a stroopwafel over coffee in the cozy Jordaan neighborhood
  • Explore the trendy cafes, shops, and thrift markets of the De Pijp district
  • Set aside a day to properly explore the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and Anne Frank House

Use my 2 day Amsterdam itinerary to navigate the best of the city.

View of Brussels city from Mont Des Arts with garden and statue in foreground.

Brussels doesn’t end up on most lists of must see cities for your first time in Europe. And I think that’s a mistake! With three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, famous street foods, and picture-perfect cobblestone alleys, Brussels is far more than the stuffy capital of the EU.

Here are some quintessential experiences:

  • Have your mind blown at the aptly named Grand Place
  • Giggle at the peeing ( pis ) statues scattered around the old town
  • Stuff your face with Belgian waffles, frites, and the finest chocolate in Europe
  • Marvel at the impressive architecture, from the Palais de Bruxelles to the Palais de Justice (yes, that Insta-famous one with the big staircase)
  • Choose from over 2,000 types of beer at the sprawling Delirium Café.

In case you need more justification, Brussels is located on the Eurostar line that connects London, Paris, and Amsterdam, making it an easy stopover during your first time trip to Europe. And thanks to its status as an international business hub, you can rely on English rather than French to get around the city.

Read my one day Brussels itinerary to plan your whirlwind visit!

View of Paris from top of Notre Dame, with gargoyle in foreground.

Paris is always a good idea. It’s one of the first places I visited in Europe, and its uniquely Parisian charms keep me coming back again and again. You’ll never forget the feeling of seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time, or tasting your first French croissant.

Include these activities for an unforgettable trip:

  • Catch an Eiffel Tower sunrise at the Trocadero
  • Go up Sacre Coeur, Montparnasse, and/or the Arc de Triomphe for stunning panoramic views
  • Wander the photogenic alleys of Montmartre and Le Marais with a fresh crepe in hand
  • Explore the gorgeous architecture of Sainte Chapelle, Musee D’Orsay, Palais Garnier, and the Louvre
  • Take time to explore Paris off the beaten path

Check out my 4 day Paris itinerary for more inspiration.

Sunrise view over Barcelona's Parc Guell.

Tens of millions of tourists visit Spain’s second largest city every year. And it’s easy to see why. Who could resist the mix of historic buildings, foodie havens, vibrant nightlife, and pleasant oceanfront weather?

Here are some popular things to do in Barcelona:

  • Visit the iconic Gaudi landmarks: La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, and Casa Milà
  • Ramble around La Rambla, the city’s shopping and restaurant hub
  • Be dazzled by the 13th century Cathderal of Barcelona
  • Relax next to the ocean with a drink from the famous beach-side bars
  • Snack the afternoon away in the diverse tapas bars

With so many tourists visiting Barcelona each year, the city is suffering from overtourism . If you plan to visit this city during your first trip to Europe, try to avoid the summer months and only stay in registered accommodation.

View of Porto skyline from across river.

Porto is hands down one of my favorite cities in the world, let alone Europe. Known for its stunning coastline, UNESCO World Heritage sites, delicious food, and azulejo tile buildings, I have no doubt you’ll fall in love with this Portuguese gem. Just be sure to pack good walking shoes, because you’ll be hiking up and down many hills as you explore everything the city has to offer!

Put these activities on your Porto bucket list:

  • Get your fill of the iconic blue and white azulejo tiles at the Church of Saint Ildefonso, Igreja do Carmo, and São Bento Station
  • Stuff your face with Pastel de Natas, Francesinhas, and Sande de Pernils
  • Take a scenic walk or bike ride along the river up to the rocky ocean beaches
  • Meander through the twisting alleys of the Ribeira, a colorful UNESCO World Heritage neighborhood
  • Watch the sun set behind the city skyline with a bottle of port wine at the Jardim do Morro

Read my 2 day Porto itinerary to help plan your visit.

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I’ll be honest–there’s really only one reason I had to put Cologne on this list of must see cities in Europe for your first time. And that reason is the Cologne Cathedral. Words cannot describe how impressive this 13th century masterpiece is, especially the way it towers over the landscape below.

That being said, there are plenty of other amazing things to love about Cologne:

  • Watch the sunset from the famous Hohenzollern Bridge
  • Wander the beautiful streets and pastel-painted buildings of the Old Town
  • Sample the city’s iconic Kölsch beer and German dishes in one of the many brauhauses
  • Live out your Willy Wonka fantasies at the Chocolate Museum
  • Unwind with the locals in the Rheingarten

Cologne is also home to some of the best German Christmas markets , including a jaw-dropping spread in front of the Cathedral.

Use my two day Cologne itinerary to navigate the city’s best bits.

Sunrise over Berlin Christmas market and skyline.

Bustling Berlin is a great city for your first time in Europe. Thanks to its multicultural population, you can fully enjoy the city’s vibrant nightlife, renowned beer and food scene, and important cultural and historical heritage without speaking fluent German.

Here are some can’t-miss experiences:

  • Be amazed by impressive architecture, from the Brandenburg Gate to Berlin Cathedral
  • Spend an unforgettable evening hopping nightclubs–famous ones include Berghain and YAAM
  • Check out some quirky Berlin museums like the Currywurst Museum and Magic Museum
  • Take a street art tour of the city’s many murals
  • Make a sobering trip to the Holocaust Memorial and Berlin Wall
  • Take advantage of the amazing free things to do in Berlin

Check out this local’s guide to Berlin for more tips!

Sunrise over Prague Old Town square.

If fairytale cityscapes are your thing, you’ll be pleased with Prague. Nicknamed “The City of a Hundred Spires“, Prague is packed with Medieval, Gothic, and Baroque architecture. Anyone who loves the romantic feel of Paris should put Prague on their list of must see cities in Europe for their first time.

Here are some highlights:

  • Bask in the charming European atmosphere of the Malá Strana neighborhood
  • Marvel at the Astronomical Clock and stunning architecture surrounding the Old Town Square
  • Get picture-perfect views of Prague at Letna Park, Old Town Hall Tower, and the Charles Bridge
  • Live out your storybook dreams inside Prague Castle
  • Soothe your soul at a classical music concert inside the city’s grand venues, from the Estates Theater to St. Nicholas’s Church

Vienna city center with tall buildings and gold statue in center.

Few cities in Europe possess as much old world charm as Vienna. It’s a place of opulence, elegance, and culture, with an overwhelming amount of gorgeous sites to explore. After you’ve walked the streets at night surrounded by twinkling lights and live opera music, Vienna will earn a place in your heart forever.

These are some of my favorite things to do:

  • Walk in the royals’ footsteps at Vienna’s numerous palaces (Belvedere, Schonbrunn, and Hofburg are most famous)
  • Indulge in fancy coffee culture at the gilded Cafe Central
  • Climb the south tower of St. Stephen’s Cathedral for unparalleled views over Vienna
  • Dress up for an elegant evening at the renowned Vienna State Opera or Musikverein
  • Get your ‘Gram on while exploring the cobblestoned Spittelberggasse and MuseumsQuartier areas

Plan your visit with my 2 day Vienna itinerary !

Grand Canal and colorful buildings of Venice, among the must see cities in Europe for first timers.

Venice has topped the bucket list of first time Europe travelers for centuries–it was a key location of the Grand Tour, after all. And it’s no surprise, given the former merchant Republic’s unique cultural history, sumptuous architecture, maze-like alleys, and awe-inspiring canals.

Here’s how to make your visit unforgettable:

  • Get lost (yes, that’s right!) in the narrow alleys of Cannareggio, Venice’s historic Jewish quarter
  • Relax with a cappuccino and a gelato in a campo (town square)
  • Watch the sunset over the Grand Canal from atop the Ponte dell’Accademia
  • Experience some of Italy’s best architecture at St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, and the Basilica dei Frari
  • Take a private gondola ride–or an affordable vaporetto–to see the city from water level

People may call Venice a tourist trap, but that doesn’t need to be your experience. Use my 2 day Venice itinerary to navigate the highlights and hidden gems of the canal city.

Sunrise view over Bologna rooftops and skyline.

Were you expecting to find Rome on this list? Italy’s capital city is wonderful, but you can get all the charm (and better food) without the hordes of tourists in Bologna. Lavish cathedrals, colorful facades, mouth-watering dishes, and a relaxed vibe combine to make Bologna a favorite among travelers in the know.

These are my favorite experiences:

  • Eat your way through Italy’s culinary specialties at the medieval Quadrilatero market
  • Indulge in a daily (or twice daily) gelato from Cremeria la Vecchia Stalla and Cremeria Santo Stefano
  • Visit the Santuario Madonna di San Luca–and do some Bologna sightseeing along the way–via a charming mini-train
  • Stare in amazement at the grand interiors of Bologna Cathedral, Santa Maria Della Vita, and Basilica di San Petronio
  • Get your culture fix at the many museums, from the Archeology Civic Museum to the National Art Gallery

Read my 3 day Bologna itinerary for more inspiration!

Sunset view of Dubrovnik city center with ocean in background.

Thanks to the uber popular Game of Thrones series, Dubrovnik was thrust into the spotlight. However, there’s more to this stony city than iconic filming locations. The gem of the Adriatic sea has all the trappings of a picturesque European destination, from flower-laden cobblestone alleys to 700-year-old monasteries.

Add these items to your Dubrovnik bucket list:

  • Walk along the UNESCO World Heritage Walls of Dubrovnik that surround the city
  • Take a tour of the Game of Thrones filming spots
  • Get a birds-eye view of Dubrovnik from the Mount Srđ cable car
  • Grab a drink in front of crashing ocean waves at Buža II
  • Explore the city’s many grand religious sites, from The Cathedral of the Assumption to the The Church of St. Blaise

Sunset over Athens city with Acropolis in distance.

Greece’s idyllic islands draw millions of tourists a year. But it would be a mistake to blow past Athens on your way to the ferry docks. The cultural significance of the Acropolis alone is enough to put Athens on your must-see list, though there’s plenty more to enjoy in this ancient capital.

Here are some must-have experiences:

  • Step back in time at the Acropolis
  • Pick up some unique souvenirs and delicious street food in Monastiraki, one of the city’s oldest districts
  • Stroll alongside wild goats and peacocks in the once-royal National Gardens
  • Wander the crumbling alleys and miniature squares of the Plaka, one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited neighbourhoods
  • Take a hike (or cable car) up Lycabettus Hill for impressive views over Athens

Colorful buildings behind wharf in Nyhavn district.

Rainbow-colored facades, innovative restaurants, an outdoor amusement park… What’s not to love about Copenhagen? Whether you’re a photographer, a foodie, or just after some Scandinavian vibes, Copenhagen deserves a stop on your first time in Europe trip.

Check out these quintessential activities:

  • Take a zillion photos of the colorful Nyhavn harbor district
  • Enjoy a whimsical afternoon at Tivoli Gardens
  • Pull back the curtain on royal life at Amalienborg Palace and Rosenborg Castle
  • Go for a boat ride along the canal and coast
  • Nab a coveted seat at Noma, one of the world’s top restaurants

Stockholm pink and red buildings with domed church entrance in background.

Stockholm was one of the very first cities we visited in Europe after moving to London. We based the trip on its reputation as a cool city break . But we quickly learned there’s more to Stockholm than minimalist furniture and Fika breaks.

Here are some of my favorite things to do:

  • Stroll along the Strömma for beautiful waterfront views of the city
  • Explore the curving alleys and whimsical buildings of Gamla Stan and Katarina Sofia
  • Go for a relaxing walk through the peaceful Djurgården
  • Check out the unique museum exhibits, from art to ABBA to warships
  • Watch the sun set behind the city at the Skinnarviksberget

Read my one day Stockholm itinerary for more ideas.

I hope you found some inspiration in this list of must see cities in Europe for first timers.

Follow me on Instagram for more Europe travel inspo!

6 thoughts on “17 Must See Cities For Your First Time in Europe”

I agree with all of your choices. Such incredible European cities.

Thanks, Nicola! It was hard to narrow down the list with so many great cities in Europe to choose from.

Pass on Barcelona and go for vibrant Valencia instead or perhaps gorgeous Sevilla!

Those are excellent swaps to make!

Why not Rome, Madrid, Budapest or Oslo?

Those are all wonderful cities! I specifically swapped Bologna for Rome because I feel Bologna offers Europe first timers a better “Italy experience”.

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8 Things I Learned Preparing For My First Trip To Europe

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While I love exploring new hiking trails across the U.S., experiencing culinary treasures in every state, and visiting historic American sites, I have always wanted to travel overseas, but either the timing wasn’t right or I didn’t know where to begin. The latter was the big stickler.

My wife and I have finally decided to carve out the time to make it happen. We thought we would start with an easy trip across the sea — either a trip to Ireland where my wife’s ancestors are from or the Czech Republic where my grandparents hail from. What we have learned is that there is a lot to know and things to do before boarding that plane.

For those of you who face the same dilemma — wanting to head overseas for a vacation but not knowing where to start — here are eight tips I learned in my journey that I hope will help you.

1. Get That Passport Early

No matter where you will be traveling to, you will need a passport, and the worst feeling is to have booked your dream vacation and then realize that your passport won’t arrive in time. Before you pay for your tickets, make sure you have obtained a passport or renewed your old one.

As of this writing, it takes approximately 6 to 9 weeks to obtain a standard U.S. passport, but remember, that does not include mailing time.

As of 2022, the standard price for a passport book is $130. The price varies slightly depending on if you are renewing your passport, getting a new one, if you are securing one for minor children, etc. And while it could take up to 9 weeks to receive your passport in the mail, you can expedite the process by paying an additional $60 fee.

You can apply for a passport online or at a local Passport Acceptance Facility (i.e. a post office).

The U.S. State Department website is a valuable and easy-to-use resource that can answer all of your questions about obtaining a passport.

2. Choose Your Destination By Asking These Simple Questions

Seems simple enough, right? Where do you want your first overseas adventure to be? For my wife and I, it was a no-brainer. We want to experience the homeland of our grandparents. For others, it’s not as easy.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is your comfort level with interacting with new lifestyles and cultures? 

While I relish the idea of immersing myself in a new culture, my wife, on the other hand, is more the “dip your toe in the water first” type.

  • Do you speak a foreign language?

You could feel overwhelmed and frustrated visiting a far-off land where you have a difficult time communicating.

  • What interests you most about traveling abroad? 

Determine what you are looking forward to on an overseas vacation: visiting historical sites? Culinary adventure? Sunning on an exotic beach?

3. Find Out If A Visa Is Required

Now that you have determined where you will be going, find out if you need a visa to enter that country.

A visa grants entry into a country by a traveler for a certain period of time. For most countries in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, a passport is all that is needed, but some countries require an additional visa.

Learn more and find out if the country you are planning to travel to requires a visa on the U.S. State Department Americans Traveling Abroad webpage.

4. Shop And Compare Travel Options

Getting to a country is easy. Once on the ground, that is a different story. How you will move about the country and where you will stay are important considerations when booking your trip.

For the first-time traveler, many travel agencies and national tourist councils offer special packages that make your first overseas adventure much easier and enjoyable. For example, when looking into spending 2 weeks in Ireland, my wife and I found three possible options: guided tour, coach tour, or self-drive. The same options are available for many other travel destinations around the world as well.

A guided tour pairs you up with an experienced local driver who will personally take you to all of the sites you want to see. Generally, your schedule is less stringent when doing a guided tour.

A bus tour allows you to see the sights while traveling with a group of like-minded individuals. The schedule is very regimented on one of these tours.

The self-drive tour is the most leisurely, where you can pick and choose your destination and how long you will visit each one. Just be ready to adapt to completely different driving rules and regulations than you are used to.

What makes any of these tours nice is that they normally include dining packages and accommodations ranging from 5-star hotels in castles to quaint country inns and bed and breakfasts. The hard work of setting up these accommodations is handled for you — one less thing for the first-time traveler to worry about.

5. Give Your Bank A Heads Up

Before stepping on that plane, let your bank know about your travel plans and have them set up a travel alert so that they know when and where you are traveling. That way you won’t be surprised when you try to use that debit card in another country and find out there has been a block put on it for suspicious activity.

While you are talking with your banker, find out about what additional access fees may be charged when you use your debit or credit card in another country. They may be able to direct you to affiliate banks in your country of travel that charges reduced fees for accessing your money.

6. Bring Cash And Two Cards

Your debit card will “probably” work no matter where you travel, but it is still a good idea to carry at least $100 in cash and a credit card just in case.

Many travel professionals suggest that you take a debit and a credit card with you. When you are out exploring, take your debit card with you and leave the credit card in your hotel room. That way you will have a backup in case one is lost or if your wallet is stolen.

7. Prepare For The Dreaded Jet Lag

Even the most experienced traveler will experience jet lag, that feeling of exhaustion one gets after traveling through multiple time zone changes and extended duration flights. Jet lag may lead to extreme daytime sleepiness, fatigue, headaches, and a general feeling of not feeling well.

There is no way to avoid jet lag, but you can reduce its effects. First, get plenty of rest before you leave on your trip. The Mayo Clinic recommends that you start changing your schedule to match that of your destination before you leave. For example, if you’re heading east into an earlier time zone, go to bed one hour earlier each night a few days before you leave.

Also, stay hydrated on your flight by drinking plenty of water. And be sure to plan for a day or two of recuperation when you return home from your trip to relax before getting back to your normal routine.

A great source for tips on beating the dreaded jet lag is the British Airways Jet Lag Advisor . Simply answer a few questions about your upcoming trip and up pops some helpful tips.

8. Keep Yourself Safe While Traveling The World

Pickpockets and petty thefts are common no matter where in the world you travel. Keep these tips in mind for keeping you and your belongings safe:

  • Never carry a backpack on one shoulder or hang it on a chair.
  • Avoid putting your wallet and cell phone in your back pocket.
  • The best deterrent is to use a crossbody bag or fanny pack to carry belongings and valuables.
  • When making your travel plans, obtain travel insurance to protect your property and in case of illness.

Register with the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program . This program lets the State Department where you will be in the world and notify you of natural disasters, political unrest, and other emergencies in the area you will be traveling.

Entering The Unknown

You booked your flights, your hotel rooms, and your transportation. You have a whirlwind itinerary of sites to see all lined up. Now you’re standing in the terminal and getting the boarding call. Suddenly you feel apprehension. Nervousness and a bit of anxiety set in.

For the first-time overseas traveler, the feeling is perfectly normal. You are jumping out of your comfort zone and into something completely new and different. By carefully planning your trip, you will alleviate some of the anxiety but still, there will always be a bit of nervousness.

Try doing some mindfulness meditation to relax and think about the joys that the trip you have planned will bring you. It is an exciting moment in your life. As Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Embrace that step and enjoy the world.

For ideas on where to go in Europe , explore these articles:

  • 7 Lessons I Learned Traveling By Bus, Boat, And Train Through Europe
  • 10 Unforgettable Experiences To Add To Your Europe Bucket List
  • 7 Amazing Wildlife Experiences In Europe

Image of Joe Cuhaj

  • Space Oddities: Forgotten Stories from Mankind's Exploration of Space
  • Everyone's Gone to the Moon: Life on Earth and the Epic Voyage of Apollo 11
  • A Travel Lover's Guide to Mobile and the Alabama Gulf Coast
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Recently retired, Joe plans to continue his love of traveling while sharing his adventures and exploration of the U.S. and the world with TravelAwaits readers.

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How to Plan Your First Trip to Europe

Planning your first trip to Europe with kids? Or maybe you’re traveling the world with just you and a partner. Either way, learn how to plan your international vacation so everything goes smoothly.

Passports sit on a paper map with pushpins.

My first European trip was my 2-week high school foreign language trip to Spain when I was a sophomore. Everything about that international trip was organized for me by the school’s travel team.

The next three times I set foot in Europe was a family trip to London, England , accompanying my dad on a work trip to Milan, Italy , and a 4-week backpacking adventure with my sister through most of Western Europe including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and parts of France .

Those trips were organized mostly by my parents and I had little to do with any of the planning until the last-minute changes we made while backpacking.

When it came time to plan the first international trip I took with my husband , I suddenly realized just how much effort gets put into planning an European vacation!

We spent two weeks driving through Germany, Switzerland, and Northern Italy together and had the time of our lives.

Whether you’ve already experienced an international trip that was planned for you or you’ve never left the US, don’t be overwhelmed. Planning a memorable vacation in Europe just needs to be broken down into easy bite sized steps .

1. Pick Your Destination

2. choose your arrival city, 3. make an itinerary wish list, 4. map your itinerary, 5. consider transportation needs, 6. consider time frame, 7. set your travel budget, 8. get an estimate for travel insurance, 9. book your accommodations, 10. book local transportation, 11. book your flight, get a travel book.

This is the most fun part of your whole adventure. The world is your oyster, where do you want to go?

Most families start with a specific location in mind before starting to plan a trip. I like to keep a running idea list of places I want to go with just my husband or as a whole family.

My favorite European destinations include:

  • Italy: Milan / Lake Como, Florence, and Rome
  • France: French Riviera, Paris
  • Germany: Heidelburg, Munich
  • Austria: Vienna
  • Spain: Seville, Barcelona
  • England: London
  • Switzerland: Zurich
  • Ireland: We’re heading to Dublin on this 7-day Ireland Itinerary next year

Side Note: If Europe ends up not working out, you can still get a taste of Europe by spending a weekend in Montreal . Canada has been on my bucket list for a while and you still need a US Passport to visit.

Depending on the size of the European country you plan to visit, you may have more than one option. Which airport is closest to the things you imagine experiencing? Is there an airport in a neighboring country that might actually be closer?

Make a list of the arrival options . You may find that it is more affordable to fly into one airport vs. another when it comes time to actually book your trip.

Our travel enthusiasm and excitement often means we make unachievable itineraries. Even a one week trip in Europe will go faster than you’d like and you may not be able to see everything you wish to see the first time around.

For now, make a list of everything your heart desires. Do all the browsing you want about your location and go ahead and make an epic master list.

Better that your list is too long than not long enough. It would be a shame to miss something special about your destination because you didn’t explore the options enough while you were still at home.

Now that your list is a mile long, go back through and rearrange your wish list by order of importance.

Put the Must-Do’s at the top with the Could-Wait Till Next Time’s at the bottom.

Use Google Maps to save your wishlist items in a customized List or Map. You can learn how to set up a custom vacation map in Google maps here .

Once you’ve added your itinerary list to a map, you can get a better understanding of how far apart each activity is and how long it might take you to enjoy each experience.

Add a guesstimate of how much time you want to devote to each item to your master itinerary list.

Are all your wish list sites in or near your destination city? Or will you require transportation to get between points?

Are public transportation, taxi cabs, or trains a viable option? Or will you need to rent a car?

Weigh these factors and your comfort level with driving in a foreign country, they may determine changes to your itinerary and timeframe for travel.

This is the first point where harder decisions need to be made .

There are several factors that will determine how long you travel and what time of year you plan to go:

  • How Many Days Are Needed for Your Essential Itinerary Items?: Looking back at your wish list, add the guesstimate of time for each activity. How long is a reasonable stay for your trip? Don’t forget to factor in at least a day for overcoming jet lag if it is your first trip across time zones.
  • What Is the Peak Travel Season? : Every country has a few peak time periods for travel based on local events, weather, and school breaks. Prices for transportation and lodging tend to go up during these seasons. Are you willing to pay a premium or do you prefer to look for a more budget-friendly time of year to go?
  • What Will the Weather Be Like?: Looking at the activities you plan to do, is weather an important factor to consider? Or will the cherry blossoms in Europe be blooming? Be sure to check the average temps and rainfall for your destination during the season you plan to go.
  • Availability of Essential Activities: Is there a major renovation or construction happening on a cathedral or museum you want to see? Is your landmark closed to the public for cleaning? Do the open hours fit when you’d be available to travel? If there is an absolute must-do on your list, be sure to check that it will be available for viewing when you want to travel. It would be such a disappointment to go all that way only to discover a “Closed” sign on the front door.

Setting your travel budget is a give and take experience:

Would you rather stay longer in more affordable hotels? Or do you prefer to go for a shorter trip and stay in luxury accommodations?

Would you rather see absolutely everything about your destination or can you only plan a “sampler trip” of the major highlights for now?

The final itinerary decisions will likely be made based on your final total budget.

As you explore the related costs for your trip, be sure to consider these important details:

  • Hotel or Alternate Lodging: Whether you plan to stay in a 4-star hotel or rent an AirBnB, you’ll find an overwhelming list of options for your stay. Price out a few based on the distance from your itinerary. If your travel time frame is flexible, be sure to compare different seasons as well.
  • Flights: Some travelers prefer convenience, some are willing to have adventure-filled budget travel that requires layovers, transfers, and flexible timing. Know what kind of traveler you are and compare your prices accordingly.
  • Destination Transportation: Check car rental availability and pricing as needed for your plan. Consider the costs of subways, taxis, or busing.
  • Admission Tickets: Research the entry fees for any major landmarks or museums you wish to see.
  • Food & Beverage: There is so much wiggle room with this travel essential. Do you plan to dine out 3-times a day? Or could you stop by a local market or grocery to pick up some staples for your hotel?

After investing so much time and energy into planning your international trip and then the deposits you’ll pay for airfare and lodging, you absolutely want to protect yourself with travel insurance in case of the unforeseen.

You can purchase a simple travel insurance policy through an independent company .

The peace of mind you’ll have knowing you are protected from future disaster is priceless as you wait for your trip to arrive.

With your travel plan now in place, make your final selection for hotels or lodging and book your stay.

Be sure to check the cancelation policy before paying your deposit.

You can learn about amazing vacation rentals in Europe here.

If you plan to rent a car or need other transportation like inter-city trains, make your reservations in advance.

Since flights are the most difficult to rearrange of all the travel reservations, I prefer to book them last. I want to know that once my flight is booked, I already have a place to stay and a plan for while I am there.

If flight availability requires a change in your plans, you may need to adjust the lodging by another night or so. It is usually much easier to adjust your hotel reservation as needed.

If you’re traveling at a peak time for your destination, you’ll want to book your flight out much farther in advance than you would need to during a less popular time frame.

Once your trip is booked, I think it is so fun to grab a travel book or two to get excited about the vacation. Here are a few of the travel books I’ve loved:

A photo collage shows several non-fiction travel books about Italy for adults.

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Traveling to Europe using points and miles in 2024

Ariana Arghandewal

May 23, 2024 • 17 min read

first trip europe

Read on for the best miles and points conversion to stay at the iconic Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam © Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam

This series of articles about credit cards, points and miles, and budgeting for travel is brought to you in partnership with  The Points Guy .

Advertiser Disclosure:  This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. This relationship may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. 

All information about the American Express® Green Card*, the Citi Premier® Card, the Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful™ credit card, the Hilton Honors Aspire Card,  the World of Hyatt Credit Card, the World of Hyatt Business Credit Card, and the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card   has been collected independently by Lonely Planet. These cards are not available through Lonely Planet.

Since pandemic-era travel restrictions have lifted, tourists have been flocking to Europe all summer. While summer has always been a popular time to visit cities like London, Rome and Paris, this resurgence in travel demand has been unprecedented. If you’re looking to travel to Europe at any time this year or next, you’ll see a marked increase in airfare and hotel prices. An excellent workaround for dealing with steep prices is by collecting points and miles . 

Not only can you save money by using points for your next trip to Europe, you can fly in premium cabins and stay at some of the best hotels in the world. All at a fraction of the cost of a budget vacation. Here’s everything you need to know about traveling to Europe using points and miles.

How to make a travel budget using points and miles

shutterstock_644797780.jpg

The cheapest award flights to Europe

Flying to Europe can be expensive, but points and miles can save you a substantial sum – especially if you’re flexible with your travel dates. The cheapest award flights to Europe are typically found during off-peak travel season (typically winter and early spring). Airlines like American, British Airways and Air France offer discounted award tickets during these times, saving you money and points.

But even if you hope to travel in the summer, you can find decent award space by booking far in advance. Meanwhile, Lufthansa has been known to release award space within 1-2 weeks of travel for business and first-class travel. Knowing these things can make booking flights to Europe with miles a less stressful experience. 

Here’s a look at the cheapest award flights to Europe and how to earn enough miles for a redemption:

  • Cheapest economy class ticket to Europe: From 20,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles round-trip to the UK.
  • Cheapest business class ticket to Europe: From 68,000 Iberia Avios round-trip to Spain.
  • Cheapest first-class ticket to Europe: 165,000 ANA Mileage Club miles round-trip.

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Downtown London

Award space to London is usually plentiful due to a slightly annoying reason: fuel surcharges. Airlines like Virgin Atlantic and British Airways add these pesky fees to flights passing through UK airports like London Heathrow (LHR). Fuel surcharges are egregiously high on business and first-class tickets (which can go well over $1,500 round-trip). However, they’re not too bad on economy flights or flights originating in cities outside of the UK.

A popular way to avoid fuel surcharges is by flying into London and then returning from Paris, which has much more reasonable taxes. Virgin Atlantic offers the cheapest economy flights to London, at just 20,000 miles roundtrip. 

If you want to upgrade to business class, All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club offers a bargain of just 88,000 miles round-trip. A first-class ticket will set you back 165,000 ANA miles. At this rate, you’re better off sticking to business class for a flatbed seat that offers plenty of comfort on the transatlantic flight. Here are the best rates by class for travel to London: 

  • Economy class: From 20,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles round-trip
  • Business class: 88,000 ANA Mileage Club miles round-trip
  • First class: 165,000 ANA miles round-trip

A British Airways flight takes off from LAX

How to earn miles for a flight to London

Virgin Atlantic miles are easy to earn, thanks to transfer partnerships with American Express Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards and the Citi ThankYou rewards.

If you’re not a Bilt cardholder, you can transfer points to Flying Club at a 1:1 ratio with the following credit cards:

  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express *:  Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $20,000 in eligible purchases on the Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Platinum Card® from American Express *: Earn 80,000 points after spending $8,000 in the first six months of card membership.
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
  • American Express® Business Gold Card *: Earn 70,000 points after spending $10,000 within the first three months of card membership.
  • American Express® Gold Card *: Earn 60,000 points after spending $6,000 within the first six months of card membership.
  • American Express® Green Card: Earn 40,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first six months of card membership.
  • Citi Premier® Card: Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® : Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card : Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Meanwhile, ANA Mileage Club only partners with Amex Membership Rewards. You can transfer points earned from the Amex Platinum, Gold and Green cards.

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A street scene of cafes and bars in Madrid, Spain

Between the art scene of Barcelona and the sandy beaches of Majorca, Spain has much to offer travelers. Iberia Airways offers one of the best ways to fly to Spain on points and miles, with direct flights to Madrid and Barcelona. 

Iberia Airways offers especially great deals on air to Spain in the off-season. Even award tickets are incredibly affordable, with round-trip business class costing the same as most airlines charge for one-way business class awards. 

  • Economy class: From 34,000 Avios round-trip on Iberia Airways
  • Business class: From 68,000 Avios round-trip on Iberia Airways

How to travel to Spain using points and miles

How to earn miles for a flight to Madrid

The Iberia Plus program earns Avios, which you can transfer from your British Airways or Aer Lingus account. This also means you get access to a vast network of transferable currencies you can tap into to earn those miles. Iberia Plus is a 1:1 transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, so you can earn points from cards like the Amex Gold or Chase Sapphire Preferred. 

Iberia also has its own Iberia Visa Signature® Card, which has a $95 annual fee and features a time offer to earn 85,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn an additional 25,000 Avios after you spend $20,000 within the first 12 months of account opening.

How to use points and miles to save money on travel

The bustling Piazza del Popolo in Rome, Italy

If you have dreams of visiting a fashion-forward city , exploring the picturesque countryside and refilling your water bottle in a historical fountain (just kidding, don’t do that!), then Rome is a great place to start your European adventure . Thanks to ANA Mileage Club, you can fly to Rome on a Star Alliance carrier like United or Lufthansa from just 55,000 miles round-trip. Business class is your best bet at 88,000 miles. It’s worth noting that ANA doesn’t allow one-way award redemptions, so you need the total miles for a round-trip to be able to book these flights.

  • Economy class: 55,000 ANA miles round-trip
  • Business class: 88,000 ANA miles round-trip

How to travel to Italy with points and miles

The scene outside the Colosseum

How to earn miles for a flight to Rome

You can earn enough miles for a round-trip flight to Rome by transferring Amex Membership Rewards points to ANA MileageClub at a 1:1 ratio. With the welcome bonus from The Business Platinum Card® from American Express , you can cover up to two round-trip economy class tickets or one business class. 

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An afternoon stroll through the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, France

Amsterdam or Paris

Thanks to Air France and KLM’s joint Flying Blue loyalty program, using points for flights to Amsterdam and Paris is fairly easy. The program prices out award flights differently based on distance, but there isn’t a massive difference in price for West Coast vs. East Coast flights. Flying Blue’s rates are already affordable, but you can save even more with Promo Rewards . These discounted fares are updated monthly and offer savings as high as 50%.

  • Economy class: From 30,000 miles round-trip
  • Business class: From 113,000 miles round-trip 

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How to earn miles for a flight to Amsterdam or Paris

Transfer partnerships allow you to stock up on Flying Blue miles for award tickets to Amsterdam or Paris. Flying Blue is a 1:1 transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou rewards. With the right credit card, you can easily cover at least one round-trip flight with points – maybe even two. 

  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express : Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $20,000 in eligible purchases on the Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express : Earn 80,000 points after spending $8,000 in the first six months of card membership.
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card : Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card : Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
  • American Express Business Gold Card : Earn 70,000 points after spending $10,000 within the first three months of card membership.
  • American Express® Gold Card : Earn 60,000 points after spending $6,000 within the first six months of card membership.

Should you book travel with cash or points?

The facade of The St. Regis Rome

Iconic hotels you can book with points 

Now that airfare is covered, it’s time to focus on hotels. No matter where you travel to in Europe, the continent has a massive hotel market, so you’re bound to find something for your budget and travel needs. When using points, you can’t go wrong with IHG, Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott – these chains have thousands of properties worldwide, including some of the most iconic hotels in Europe. These hotels are especially attainable if you sign up for a new hotel credit card .

If you’re looking for an upscale experience and don’t want to pay the high price tag, there are lots of exceptional hotels to choose from. Here’s a look at some of the most upscale European hotels you can book with points and miles :

10 amazing hotels around the world you can book with points

St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London

The St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London

The St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London is a landmark property that opened in 1873 and combines grandeur with convenient access to everything the city offers. The hotel shares a building with St. Pancras station, from which you can hop a train to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and more. It’s an ideal base to explore Europe without stepping foot in an airport.

Guests can enjoy resort-like amenities, including the on-site gym, spa, pool, sauna and steam room. For 44,000 Marriott points per night, you can book a Deluxe room in the Barlow House wing with soundproof windows and beds fitted with down mattress toppers and Egyptian cotton sheets.

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How to earn points

You can earn Marriott points by transferring them from Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards. Marriott also has six different credit cards offering welcome bonuses as high as 150,000 bonus points:

  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card : Earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card : Earn 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful™ credit card: Earn 85,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card :  Limited Time Offer: Earn 5 Free Night Awards, valued at up to 50K points each for eligible stays. Offer ends 7/10. Resort fees & terms apply.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card : Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold® credit card : Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases within the first six months from account opening. Plus, earn up to 14X total points for every $1 spent at thousands of hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy.

The lobby of the St. Regis Rome

St. Regis Rome

When in Rome, you might want a hotel that provides the opulence of a 19th-century palazzo. The award-winning St Regis Rome delivers just that. Built in 1894, the hotel offers lavishly appointed rooms with marble bathrooms, nightly turndown and butler service. Rates start at 80,000 points per night. While steep, you can save 20% by taking advantage of Marriott’s fifth-night free benefit on award stays.

The hotel is within walking distance of the National Gallery of Ancient Art and close to tourist attractions like the Trevi Fountain and Colosseum.

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The Principal Madrid

The Principal Madrid

Hyatt has some great hotel options in Madrid at very reasonable rates. The Principal Madrid Hotel hotel is a great choice, with rooms starting at just 21,000 Hyatt points per night. Standard rooms are relatively small at just over 200 sqft but boast plenty of natural light. The Principal has the distinction of being the first five-star hotel in Madrid’s famed Gran Via, close to shopping and tourist attractions.

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How to earn Hyatt points

Earning Hyatt points for a stay at The Principal Madrid is as easy as transferring Bilt or Chase Ultimate Rewards points. You can also top up your account with one of Hyatt’s co-branded credit cards, which can cover up to three nights at this hotel.

  • World of Hyatt Credit Card:  Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent.
  • World of Hyatt Business Credit Card: 60,000 Bonus Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

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Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam

Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam

The Waldorf Amsterdam strikes a perfect balance between embodying the city’s renowned charm in a luxury setting. The hotel is located inside six 17th and 18th-century palaces on the UNESCO heritage site of Herengracht Canal. The hotel boasts two Michelin-starred restaurants and provides easy access to the city’s main tourist attractions, like the Hermitage Museum. Guests are also just a 12-minute tram ride from the city’s Centraal Station, making getting around the city and to the airport easy. 

Award rates start at 110,000 Hilton points per night for a Superior Room, which is spacious by European standards at 301-355 sqft. Superior rooms are outfitted with Egyptian cotton sheets, a marble bathroom and large windows to let in lots of natural light.

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How to earn Hilton points

The Hilton Honors program is a 1:2 transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, though this isn’t the best use of points. A better way to boost your Hilton points balance is by acquiring one of the Hilton credit cards. You can piece together multiple nights with the welcome bonus, annual spending bonus and generous earn rates on everyday spending. You’ll even get valuable elite status perks that can translate to room upgrades, complimentary breakfast and other enhancements to your travel experience.

  • Hilton Honors Aspire Card: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $6,000 in purchases in the first six months of card membership.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card :  Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points plus a Free Night Reward after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 7/31/2024.
  • The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Earn 175,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $8,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors Business Card within the first six months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 6/5/24.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Card : Earn 70,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points plus a Free Night Reward after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 7/31/2024.

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Intercontinental Paris Le Grand

Intercontinental Paris Le Grand

Paris has no shortage of exceptional hotels that provide grandeur and comfort. If you’re looking for old-world luxury with a historical background, you can’t go wrong with the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand. This hotel opened in 1862 (sans the Intercontinental brand) and hosts the famed Café de la Paix, the preferred hangout spot for renowned writers like Ernest Hemingway and Victor Hugo.

Award rates at this iconic property start at 66,000 IHG One points per night for a 215 sqft. “Cozy room” with a courtyard view. The hotel boasts an excellent location across the street from Palais Garnier and a short walk to tourist hot spots like the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre. Whether it’s your first time visiting The City of Lights or your tenth, the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand is an excellent choice for a point stay.

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How to earn IHG points

If you want to earn enough IHG points for a stay at the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards or Bilt points to IHG at a 1:1 ratio. Alternatively, you can pick up an IHG credit card to earn 140,000 points and elite status perks. Cardholders also get the fourth night free on award stays, along with other valuable perks.

  • IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card : Earn 140,000 Bonus Points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • IHG One Rewards Premier Business Credit Card : Earn 140,000 Bonus Points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Night city view of Amsterdam

Bottom line

Travel to Europe is more expensive than ever, but you can reduce the cost with points and miles. A European vacation can fit anyone's budget with flights starting at just 20,000 miles round-trip and luxury hotel options like the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand.

How to get major perks at global events and concerts with your credit card

* Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit  americanexpress.com/benefitsguide  for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit  americanexpress.com  to learn more.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

This article was first published Sep 8, 2023 and updated May 23, 2024.

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Europe road trip: A journey through history, culture & adventure!

first trip europe

Embark on an unforgettable journey through Europe as we explore breathtaking landscapes, iconic landmarks, and hidden gems on the ultimate European road trip.

Come with us and explore the beauty and diversity of Germany, Austria, and Italy! From the breathtaking Alps to the historic European cities, this unforgettable road trip in Europe promises stunning landscapes, rich history, delicious cuisine, and exciting adventures at every turn!

In this post

Best time to take a road trip in Europe

Suitable cars for your road trip in europe, estimate your road trip budget, how to get to europe from the u.s., european road trip: the ultimate 2 weeks itinerary.

A car driving through a single-arch bridge across the picturesque Furore Fjord.

Europe is a diverse continent with every type of climate imaginable! The weather can vary from scorching hot in the southern countries, to year-round snow in the north - parts of Europe even venture into the Arctic Circle!

Our European road trips take place in the temperate countries of Western Europe, which experience distinct seasons including warm summers and cool winters, and moderate rainfall throughout the year.

During the summer months, temperatures are warm but not excessively hot, often ranging from around 68 °F to 86 °F (source: weatherbase.com . Winters are much cooler, but rarely extremely cold, with temperatures usually staying above freezing.

We’ve been road-tripping in Europe for many years and think May to June as well as September and October are the best times to travel in Europe by car because the climate is perfect at this time of year, attractions won’t be too busy and you’ll be able to get better deals on travel.

Try to avoid July and August if at all possible as this is the month when much of Europe breaks for the summer. The roads become congested, businesses shut down and all the top spots and attractions are overwhelmed.

The rocky mountain road is seen from inside the car.

Choose a reliable and comfortable rental car for the best Europe road trip experience, one with good gas efficiency. If you are planning to drive long stretches make sure you have enough space for all passengers and luggage - nobody likes to sit cramped for ours. That said, don’t go overboard as some of the prettiest towns charm with narrow streets and offer few oversized parking spots.

If you are planning a summer road trip, get a car rental type with air conditioning. A GPS is also always a good idea, though sometimes getting lost can be the best part of any journey.

Make sure to familiarize yourself with the different laws and traffic regulations in the countries you are driving through. This also applies when it comes to your rental car features like childrens’ car seats and winter tyres. Depending on the seaon and the country you are in, those might not only be recommended but required.

And obviously, having good insurance for your rental car is a must!

Two friends arrive at a luxury hotel where they are unloading their suitcases from their car trunk.

Before finalizing your plans, it’s helpful to know how much road-tripping in Europe will cost. Here are some costs, based on comparisons from hundreds of travel providers to help you work out your budget:

  • Average price for one night in a mid-range double hotel room in Germany: €171 ($185)
  • Average price for one night in a hostel in Germany: €94 ($102)
  • Average daily rate for a rental car in Germany: €70 ($75)
  • Cost of 1 gallon of gas in Munich: €6.90 ($7.50) in June 2024, according to numbeo.com (you’ll need approx. 4 gallons to cover 100 miles)

*Estimate based on numbeo.com in May 2024

Based on this 672 miles road trip in Europe (see below), we would expect the costs to range from around €1200 to €1750 (approx. $1300 to $1900) per person based on two people sharing , depending on your hotel.

On top of this you will need to calculate for your flights from the U.S. as well as meals, sightseeing, and the odd souvenir.

Our Europe road trip starts in Munich, a cosmopolitan city offering plenty of connections from the U.S. Depending on your departure airport you can get a direct flight or may have to fly into Frankfurt. Roundtrip from NYC to Frankfurt cost on average $871 and $1066 from LAX to Frankfurt.

From Frankfurt you can either take a domestic flight to Munich or, even easier, take the train.

Once you have finished your road trip you can depart directly from Milan.

Day 1: Munich (one night)

A row of buildings, one of which has

Munich is the capital of Bavaria and Germany’s third-largest city. Located on the Isar River north of the Bavarian Alps, the city is known for its centuries-old buildings, world-class museums, and beautiful schloss like the splendid 17th-century neo-classical Nymphenburg Palace.

Marienplatz is the city’s main square and is home to the iconic Glockenspiel, a clock tower that features a mechanical performance of jousting knights and dancing peasants. Many historic buildings, including the New Town Hall and the Old Town Hall, also surround the square.

If you can’t be in Munich for the most famous festival in Germany, you can find the Oktoberfest vibe and traditional Bavarian beer at the 400-year-old Hofbräuhaus, the most famous beer hall in the world.

Where to stay in Munich: The Nyx Hotel Munich by Leonardo Hotels is an hour's drive from Munich International Airport and well-placed for your onward journey. You can also hop on the nearby U-Bahn and be in the city center in 20 minutes.

Days 2 & 3: Füssen (two nights)

The Romanesque Revival palace of the famous Neuschwanstein Castle is surrounded by lush forest seen from the bridge.

Distance from Munich: 76 miles - 1.5 hours

Füssen is a charmingly traditional Bavarian town right on the border with Austria and makes a great base for exploring the castles of the region.

But before we get to that, your drive there from Munich will take you along the famous Romantic Road, possibly the world’s best-known touring route. Head to Landsberg am Lech and then Schongau, Peiting, and the villages of Rottenbuch, Wildsteig and Steingaden.

This area of Bavaria is known as the Pfaffenwinkel and is famous for its picturesque pilgrimage churches and monasteries. The name itself refers to the local dialect for priests or Pfaffen and means ‘priest’s corner’.

Spend day three of your trip exploring the nearby castles the area is famous for. They should be part of any Germany road trip and are well worth a visit. We recommend the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle with its fairytale turrets and towers and dramatic mountain backdrop, and Linderhof Palace, the smallest and simplest of King Ludwig II's castles located close to Oberammergau, a gorgeous Bavarian village famous for the once-in-a-decade Passion Play.

Where to stay in Füssen: Hotel Sonne is centrally located and has its own parking.

Day 4 & 5: Grainau (two nights)

A white church with onion-shaped roof rises above a town as seen from a green lawn.

Distance from Füssen: 35 miles - a good hour

Grainau is a pretty little German town, unremarkable but for its dramatic mountain backdrop and position at the foot of the German Alps.

Known as ‘the top of Germany’, at 9,718 feet Zugspitze is the tallest peak in Germany, and getting to the summit is an unmissable adventure!

There are two different ways to the top: you can either jump on the ultra-modern world record-breaking Zugspitze cable car or take the slow route on the century-old cogwheel train from Grainau to the Zugspitze Glacier and then the Gletscherbahn cable car to the top. Or why not go up one way and come back down the other?

Once you reach the summit you will experience panoramic views of over 400 mountain peaks in Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland.

As you descend you’ll have the incredible sight of the deep turquoise Eibsee lake below. The best views of the summit are from the opposite side of the lake and you can hire a bike to cycle the path, walk the 4.5 mile circuit around the lake, or rent a paddle board or canoe to take those memorable photos.

Where to stay in Grainau: Hotel am Badersee enjoys a lakeside location and fantastic facilities.

Days 6: Innsbruck (one night)

Austria Innsbruck Golden Roof

Distance from Grainau: 41 miles - a good hour

Day six sees you heading deep into the Austrian Alps and the beautiful city of Innsbruck , the capital of the western Tyrol.

The city center is a feast for the eyes, with its Baroque churches and the Imperial Palace sharing the city's historic past. Don’t miss the Golden Roof, a balcony with a roof covered in over 2,500 gilded copper tiles, and Hofburg, a historic palace complex once home to the Habsburgs.

For a real adventure, take the Muttereralmbahn cable car up to 5,250 feet and ride one of the downhill mountain go-karts down a dedicated track all the way back to the cable car. Not for the faint-hearted, but a whole lot of fun!

Keep in mind that the Muttereralmbahn is not open all year long but only from late May to late October.

Where to stay in Innsbruck: Hotel Maximilian - Stadthaus Penz is a family-run hotel in the heart of Innsbruck.

Day 7 & 8: Canazei (two nights)

A picturesque lake with crystal-clear water mirrors the surrounding trees and the mountain range in the background under a blue sky.

Distance from Innsbruck: 87 miles - 2.5 hours

Another day, another country! Today you’re heading into Italy and the dramatic Dolomites mountains - be prepared for a spectacular drive!

From Bolzano, pick up the Great Dolomites Road, or SS 24. After a series of balconies and tunnels, you’ll get your first jaw-dropping sight of these very special mountains that, unbelievably, were once a sea!

The first of the Dolomites to come into sight is the Latemar massif and the distinctive Torre di Pisa before the mighty Catinaccio rises to take your breath away. Also known as the Rosengarten group in German, this massif is a distinctive shade of pink because of the mineral dolomite, which absorbs the sunset and glows pink in the evening light.

After a series of tight turns along the road, you’ll pass Lago di Carezza, a small and beautiful lake of deep emerald color. The crystal clear waters reflect the sunlight and give rise to the name ‘Lake of the Rainbow’, but the pool also has legends of magicians, wizards, and mermaids.

Soon after, you’ll pass through Vigo di Fassa, to be surrounded by dramatic sheer peaks topped by sharp and craggy rock formations amongst lush green meadows.

Look around to see Marmolada, the Dolomites highest peak at 10,965 feet above sea level, unsurprisingly known as the ‘Queen of the Dolomites’; the huge Sella massif, topped by Piz Boè at 10,338 feet; and Sassalungo, or ‘long rock’ the highest peak of the Langkofel group.

If you make an early start, you’ll be in Canazei by lunchtime, leaving you with the difficult task of deciding what to do for the next 36 hours. I say difficult because there’s so much to do it’s almost impossible to choose!

This is a list of our favorite activities in Canazei:

Take a cable car: There is a huge network of cable cars, gondolas, and lifts in the Dolomites. You can take one from Canazei, hop on another across the valley, and be high in the mountains in just a few minutes.

Go for a hike: Whatever your level of fitness, there’s a hike here for you. Use the cable cars to gain elevation if you don’t enjoy hills and tackle one of the epic hikes of the area.

Take a bike ride: There are lots of places in town to hire electric bikes and there is a great cycle route along the River Avisio which visits pretty villages along the way. If you’re a bit more adventurous you could hire a downhill mountain bike and use the cable cars to get up to one of the many trails in the area.

Visit Piz Boè: If you only do one thing, do this! Drive the Pordoi Pass from Canazei and take the Pordoi cableway to the Terrace of the Dolomites on Sass Pordoi at 9,642 feet. The cable car is a masterpiece of engineering and the five-minute ride is breathtaking.

The summit of Sass Pordoi is well above the treeline creating a lunar-like landscape that stretches for miles. From the cable car station, it’s a fairly challenging hike to Piz Boè with some via Ferrata elements such as steps and rungs to assist you. If you don’t have the four hours or so you’ll need, it’s interesting to wander around Sass Pordoi and enjoy the glorious views.

Where to stay in Canazei: Locanda degli Artisti Art Hotel has a great location in the town and is known for its well-reviewed restaurant.

Day 9: Bardolino (one night)

People walk on a harbour lined with anchored boats.

Distance from Canezei: 111 miles - 2.5 hours

On this leg of your road trip through Italy, you’ll be leaving the mountains behind and heading for Lake Garda, the most famous of the Italian Lakes.

On the eastern shore is Bardolino, a pretty lakeside town with a charming historic center that is a delight to explore. With narrow cobblestone streets and colorful buildings, you can easily spend an afternoon strolling the lakeside promenade, relaxing on the sandy beaches, or taking a boat tour to explore the crystal-clear waters of Lake Garda.

Bardolino is also known for its superb light and fruity Bardolino red wine. Taking a local winery, sampling the wines, and learning about the winemaking process is an experience not to be missed.

Where to stay in Bardolino: Palace Hotel San Pietro is right on the shore and has a pool to cool off in after your drive.

Day 10 & 11: Venice (two nights)

Boats gracefully glide along a serene canal, embraced by buildings on either side.

Distance from Bardolino: 95 miles - 1.5 hours

The unique city of Venice has prospered over centuries in the face of adversity. Built in the tidal waters of the Adriatic Sea on a series of mud banks, Venice regularly floods, but its beauty and charm more than compensate for that!

The ‘City of Canals’ is one of the most iconic and romantic cities in the world, made up of a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges.

The city is famous for its stunning architecture, including beautiful palaces, historic churches, and elegant piazzas. Do not miss St. Mark's Basilica, with its intricate Byzantine mosaics, the Doge's Palace, a masterpiece of Venetian Gothic architecture, and the Rialto Bridge.

For us, one of the highlights of Venice is simply wandering through its narrow streets and getting lost as you cross picturesque bridges, soaking up the unique atmosphere of this enchanting city.

Other attractions include taking a gondola ride along the Grand Canal and visiting the famous glass island of Murano, the lace-making island of Burano, and the haunting Torcello.

Where to stay in Venice: Hotel Moresco is well-placed for parking and gets truly excellent reviews.

Day 12 & 13: Bologna (two nights)

Aerial cityscape view of an old town with old buildings and a Gothic basilica in the centre of a plaza square.

Distance from Venice: 96 miles - a good 2 hours

Known as 'la Rossa, la Grassa e la Dotta', meaning the red, the fat, and the learned, Bologna has a wealth of cultural history and is the culinary powerhouse of Europe.

In the saying, red is for the terracotta rooftops of the historic center, fat refers to Bologna’s delicious food and produce, and learned refers to the ancient Bologna University, founded in 1088.

One of the best things to do in Bologna is eat! To sample, smell, and experience the cuisine of the wider Emilia-Romagna region surrounding Bologna is truly a feast for the senses.

Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena are all produced locally, and there is no shortage of opportunities to see where this delicious food comes from.

Don’t forget to admire the beautiful architecture too, which includes the UNESCO listed porticoes of Bologna, and the two towers, a famous symbol of Bologna.

Where to stay in Bologna: Hotel Brun is in the heart of the old town and is known for its delicious breakfast.

Day 14: Milan (one night)

A historic mall in Milan boasts a stunning skylight that illuminates the elegant shops and busy crowds of people walking through this architectural masterpiece.

Distance from Bologna: 136 miles - 2.5 hours

The last stop on your Europe road trip is the fashion capital of Italy, Milan . An incredible blend of historic and modern, the most iconic site in Milan is its Il Duomo di Milan, a fantastic example of Gothic architecture.

Other must-sees in Milan are the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Santa Maria delle Grazie, where you can see The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci’s unrivaled masterpiece painted between 1495 and 1497, and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world's oldest shopping malls, which is perfect for those interested in luxury brands.

Where to stay in Milan: The Radisson Blu Hotel Milan is well-positioned for Milan’s airports and has a pool and sauna to help you unwind from your trip.

By the time you complete your Europe road trip, you’ll have visited some of the most beautiful places in Europe. From the spectacle of the Dolomites to the history of Germany and the culture of Italy, this unforgettable journey will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.

Start planning your adventure today and discover the beauty and diversity that await you in the heart of Europe.

Disclaimer: The hotel recommendations included in this article are based on customer ratings and the author's personal choices, so please feel free to use our hotel search tool to find the accommodation best suited to your needs.

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What you need to know about European travel this summer

With headlines warning of everything from flight delays to wildfires, summer travel is changing. Here’s how to make sure your trip this summer goes smoothly.

Record numbers of tourists are expected to visit Europe this summer. In the first three months of 2024, the number of international arrivals has already risen by 7.2% compared to 2019’s pre-pandemic figures, according to the European Travel Commission , with 120 million international tourists visiting the region in that time. Yet while this is welcome news for the tourism industry, some challenges remain for visitors, especially during the summer’s busy peak season, when potential flight delays, high temperatures, new laws and major events could all impact travel. Here’s what you need to know to make sure your European trip this summer goes smoothly.

1. What you need to know about flight disruptions

Increased passenger numbers, staff shortages and strikes meant there were 106.7 million delayed air passengers in Europe during peak summer months last year. More than 700,000 passengers were affected over the August bank holiday in the UK alone following a technical meltdown at air traffic control. This year, EasyJet has had to cancel over 100 flights from Paris due to a no-fly zone during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Ryanair has also cut flights from its summer schedule after the delivery of several of its new Boeing aircraft was delayed. If you’re due to fly, visit the airport’s website for the latest information, and check social media for real-time updates from other travellers. Remember that you may be owed compensation if you face disruption, but rules vary, so take out a travel insurance policy as soon as you book flights.

( What should you do if your flight is delayed or cancelled? )

2. Why you should consider travelling by train

Keep your carbon footprint low, avoid airport hassle and see even more of Europe this summer by taking advantage of a whole host of new and expanded routes across the continent. New services include a high-speed route connecting Barcelona to Madrid and Seville , a sleeper train from Brussels to Prague , a daily train between Vilnius and Riga , a relaunched night train between Paris and Nice and a sleeper train from Rome to the Dolomites . Following the success of Germany’s €49 unlimited monthly travel pass last year, France has also introduced its own nationwide rail pass for the same price. However, this is only valid for those under 27 and excludes high-speed TGV trains and travel in the greater Paris region of Ile-de-France.

( 6 of the world’s best coastal rail journeys .)

first trip europe

3. What to do you if you’re affected by wildfires

Following unprecedented high temperatures, wildfires swept through some of Europe’s most popular tourist spots last summer, scorching parts of Tenerife, mainland Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy. This year, protective measures have already been put in place that aim to prevent a repeat of the disaster, with Greece banning all outdoor fires from April and increasing investment in fire detection and water tankers. To ensure you’re protected if the worst happens, arrange travel insurance at the time of booking, then keep an eye on official travel advisories for up-to-date information. If you’re affected by wildfires or any other natural disasters when you’re away, follow the advice of the emergency services and evacuate when instructed, then contact your tour operator or airline for help getting home.

( What to do if you’re caught in a disaster while travelling. )

4. How big events could disrupt your travel  

From Taylor Swift’s tour across Europe to the UEFA European Championship in Germany, Europe is limbering up for a summer of major cultural and sporting events. The Olympic Games in Paris are expected to attract three million more visitors than usual . This is likely to mean a greater demand for accommodation, higher prices, crowded public transport, unexpected road closures and even increased security checks in response to the heightened risk of terrorist attacks. If your holiday does coincide with an event, try to explore beyond the city itself, visit nearby tourist attractions that could be quieter than normal, or just enjoy the inevitable citywide buzz surrounding the main event.

( How to explore Paris this summer beyond the Olympics. )

5. Why you should think about overcrowding

While many destinations welcome a return to pre-pandemic levels of tourism, others are actively trying to deter visitors. In Barcelona , tour groups have been capped at 20 people, while entrance to Athens’ Acropolis is now limited to 20,000 tourists each day. Dubrovnik has already cut the number of souvenir stands by 80%, while thousands attended an anti-tourism protest in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in April. All are concerned that overcrowding leads to skyrocketing prices for locals and causes environmental damage, with increased plastic pollution, erosion of heritage sites and traffic congestion. Consider less-visited destinations instead, swapping Santorini for Folegandros an hour’s ferry ride away, Dubrovnik for Šibenik with its medieval centre and fortress, or Barcelona for the Spanish seaside city of Valencia.

( What’s the problem with overtourism? )

first trip europe

6. How to deal with heatwaves

2023 was the hottest year on record globally, with temperatures in Europe above average for 11 months of the year. The Mediterranean was the worst area affected, with temperatures soaring above 40°C across Italy, Spain, Turkey, Cyprus and Greece. Consider travelling outside the hottest months, between July and September, or visiting destinations further north such as Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Lithuania or Ireland which should escape the most intense heat. If temperatures do climb, wear high-factor SPF, avoid being outside in the middle of the day and wear light-coloured clothes made from breathable materials. Avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water, and keep a close eye on vulnerable people, including young children and the elderly.

7. How to avoid being caught out by local laws and taxes

Do your research before travelling to make sure you don’t fall foul of new laws. A €5 tax for day-trippers was introduced in Venice in April, for example, and will be enforced on selected dates until July. It can be paid online in advance, and those staying overnight are exempt but do still need to register. A second tourist tax of €1 to €5 per night is already applicable to overnight stays and should be paid at your hotel. Be aware that some Airbnbs ask that this is paid in cash. Other new rules in parts of Mallorca and Ibiza ban drinking on the street and prevent shops selling alcohol at night, though you will still be able to buy drinks in bars and restaurants.

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WATCH: Biden and French President Macron affirm close alliance during state visit in Paris

PARIS (AP) — President Joe Biden said France was America’s “first friend” at its founding and is one of its closest allies more than two centuries later as he was honored with a state visit Saturday by French President Emmanuel Macron aimed at showing off their partnership on global security issues and easing past trade tensions.

“United we stand, divided we fall,” Macron said in toasting Biden at a state dinner. “Allied we are and allied we will stay.”

Biden and Macron attended ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day on Thursday and met separately the following day with  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Paris . The leaders both used those engagements used to underscore the urgent need to support Kyiv’s fight against Russia’s invasion.

WATCH: Veterans, world leaders gather in Normandy to mark 80th anniversary of D-Day invasion

The state visit began Saturday with a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, including a wreath-laying at France’s tomb of the unknown soldier, and a military parade along the Champs-Élysées leading to the Élysée Palace, where the two held official meetings and delivered public statements. Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, hosted a state dinner at the palace for Biden and his wife, Jill.

The American president followed Macron’s toast by saying the U.S. and France have been “unyielding as well as unwavering in our partnership,” adding, “That’s what democracies do.”

Biden and Macron put the war in Ukraine at the top of Saturday’s agenda, but it was the strength of the countries’ long alliance, fortified at Normandy 80 years ago but with roots far deeper, that was the centerpiece of the weekend.

Calling himself a student of French history, Biden said the visit was a “great honor” and he noted that America’s ties to France date to the Revolutionary War.

“France was our first friend,” Biden said. “It remains one of our best friends.”

Macron praised Biden as not just the leader of a world power but also for bringing the “clarity and loyalty of a partner that loves and respects the Europeans.”

It appeared to be a subtle criticism of former President Donald Trump, whose “America First” foreign policy has shaken European leaders. They are now contending, gingerly, with the possibility of his return to power next year should the presumptive Republican nominee defeat the Democratic incumbent in November’s election.

Later, in a statement of principles that the presidents called a road map, they cited the legacy of the U.S.-French relationship and “the price for peace and freedom” paid by past generations in reaffirming their commitment to “a Europe, whole, free and at peace.”

Macron hosted Trump for Bastille Day in 2017, and the French president came to Washington for a state visit in 2018 before their relationship soured.

Despite disagreements over whether to send allies trainers onto Ukrainian soil to support the country’s defense against Russia’s invasion, Macron insisted that, “I think we see eye to eye on this war raging in Ukraine. He tempered his previous concerns about U.S. commitment to Europe — which he has used to argue that the continent must do more to provide for its own defense — to praise Biden’s leadership: “Thank you for being at Europe’s side.”

WATCH: Biden apologizes to Zelenskyy for delay in Ukraine aid, hampering fight against Russia

Macron expressed hope that when the Group of Seven leaders meet this coming week in Italy they will agree to a $50 billion “solidarity fund” for Ukraine that will be backed by sanctioned Russian assets.

The two leaders also celebrated the rescue Saturday by Israeli forces of four hostages taken by Hamas. “We won’t stop working until all the hostages come home and a cease-fire is reached,” Biden said as Macron called out the Israeli government for not doing more to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza.

Macron said he supported a Biden-promoted cease-fire proposal that would allow a surge of humanitarian assistance into the territory and allow for the release of more hostages. The U.S. has said it is awaiting Hamas’ formal response to the potential deal.

The French leader raised the issue of U.S. trade practices that he has often criticized, including the Inflation Reduction Act, which favors American-made climate technology such as electric vehicles. Macron said the U.S., like China, has “decided not to respect the rules of global trade” by shoring up protections and subsidies while Europe’s industry remains open and is stuck in overregulation.

As the pair met outside the palace, Biden appeared to suggest to his host that that the U.S. and Europe could “coordinate together,” and he was heard telling Macron about his most recent conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was objecting to steep U.S. tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles.

Biden hosted Macron in December 2022 at the White House for the first state visit of his presidency as the COVID-19 pandemic receded.

Among the attendees at Saturday’s dinner was World War II veteran Harold Terens and his sweetheart Jeanne Swerlin, who were married Saturday inland of the D-Day beaches in Normandy, France.

“Congrats to newlyweds,” Macron said, leading the crowd in cheers and applause.

As the president’s trip draws to a close, the far right is likely to emerge as one of the biggest winners in Sunday’s European Parliament election while Macron’s pro-European Union movement is flagging.

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Biden calls France "our first friend" and enduring ally during state visit in Paris

Updated on: June 8, 2024 / 8:09 PM EDT / AP

President Biden said France was America's "first friend" at its founding and is one of its closest allies more than two centuries later as he was honored with a state visit Saturday by French President Emmanuel Macron aimed at showing off their partnership on global security issues and easing past trade tensions.

Mr. Biden and Macron attended ceremonies marking the  80th anniversary of D-Day  on Thursday and met separately the following day with  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Paris . The leaders both used those engagements used to underscore the urgent need to support Kyiv's fight against Russia's invasion.

But Macron and Mr. Biden have often chafed at the pace of support for Ukraine, especially as the United States, by far the largest contributor to Kyiv's defense, was forced to pause aid shipments for months while congressional Republicans held up an assistance package.

The state visit began with a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, including a wreath-laying at France's tomb of the unknown soldier, and a military parade along the Champs-Élysées leading to the Élysée Palace, where the two held official meetings and delivered public statements. Later, there was a state dinner held at the palace for Mr. Biden and his wife, first lady Jill Biden.

"United we stand, divided we fall," Macron said in toasting Mr. Biden at the state dinner. "Allied we are and allied we will stay."  

The American president followed Macron's toast by saying the U.S. and France have been "unyielding as well as unwavering in our partnership," adding, "That's what democracies do."  

Biden France

Mr. Biden and Macron put the war in Ukraine at the top of Saturday's agenda, but it was the strength of the countries' long alliance, fortified at Normandy 80 years ago but with roots far deeper, that was the centerpiece of the weekend.

Calling himself a student of French history, Biden said the visit was a "great honor" and he noted that America's ties to France date to the Revolutionary War.

"France was our first friend," Mr. Biden said. "It remains one of our best friends."

Macron praised Mr. Biden as not just the leader of a world power but also for bringing the "clarity and loyalty of a partner that loves and respects the Europeans."

Biden France

It appeared to be a subtle criticism of former President Donald Trump, whose "America First" foreign policy has shaken European leaders. They are now contending, gingerly, with the possibility of his return to power next year should the presumptive Republican nominee defeat the Democratic incumbent in November's election.

Macron hosted Trump for Bastille Day in 2017, and the French president came to Washington for a state visit in 2018 before their relationship soured.

Despite disagreements over whether to send allies trainers onto Ukrainian soil to support the country's defense against Russia's invasion, Macron insisted that, "I think we see eye to eye on this war raging in Ukraine. He tempered his previous concerns about U.S. commitment to Europe — which he has used to argue that the continent must do more to provide for its own defense — to praise Biden's leadership: "Thank you for being at Europe's side."

Macron expressed hope that when the Group of Seven leaders meet this coming week in Italy they will agree to a $50 billion "solidarity fund" for Ukraine that will be backed by sanctioned Russian assets.

The two leaders also celebrated the rescue Saturday by Israeli forces of four hostages taken by Hamas. "We won't stop working until all the hostages come home and a cease-fire is reached," Biden said as Macron called out the Israeli government for not doing more to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza.

Macron said he supported a Biden-promoted cease-fire proposal that would allow a surge of humanitarian assistance into the territory and allow for the release of more hostages. The U.S. has said it is awaiting Hamas' formal response to the potential deal.

Biden France

The French leader raised the issue of U.S. trade practices that he has often criticized, including the Inflation Reduction Act, which favors American-made climate technology such as electric vehicles. Macron said the U.S., like China, has "decided not to respect the rules of global trade" by shoring up protections and subsidies while Europe's industry remains open and is stuck in overregulation.

As the pair met outside the palace, Biden appeared to suggest to his host that that the U.S. and Europe could "coordinate together," and he was heard telling Macron about his most recent conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was objecting to steep U.S. tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles.

Biden hosted Macron in December 2022 at the White House for  the first state visit of his presidency  as the COVID-19 pandemic receded.

As the president's trip draws to a close, the far right is likely to emerge as one of the biggest winners in Sunday's European Parliament election while Macron's pro-European Union movement is flagging.

  • Biden Administration
  • Emmanuel Macron
  • European Union

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Blinken Hints U.S. May Accept Ukrainian Strikes in Russia With American Arms

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken made his remarks after some European leaders called on President Biden to lift the restrictions he has imposed on Ukraine’s use of U.S. weapons.

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A man and woman, both in suits, entering a formal room.

By Edward Wong

Reporting from Chisinau, Moldova, while traveling with the U.S. secretary of state

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken suggested on Wednesday that the Biden administration could be open to tolerating strikes by the Ukrainian military inside Russia using American-made weapons, saying that the United States would “adapt and adjust” its stance based on changing conditions on the battlefield.

Mr. Blinken said that the United States had neither encouraged nor enabled such attacks. But he said that the Ukrainians needed to make their own decisions on how to best defend themselves — a position he has stated before — and that the U.S. government had “adapted and adjusted as necessary” as the war evolves.

When asked by a reporter whether his words “adapt and adjust” meant the United States could support attacks by Ukraine with American-made weapons inside Russia, he said, “Adapt and adjust means exactly that” — meaning those words, signaling flexibility from Washington.

Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Washington has sent the Ukrainians military aid but has repeatedly asked that they not fire U.S.-made weapons into Russian territory for fear of escalating the war.

Several European leaders have called on President Biden to stop imposing those limits , among them Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and Emmanuel Macron, the president of France.

Mr. Blinken made his remarks in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, while standing beside Maia Sandu, the nation’s president, who is expected to face a pro-Russian candidate when she runs for re-election in October. The two spoke to journalists after an afternoon meeting in the presidential offices.

“Our neighbors, our friends in Ukraine, they pay an outrageous price on a daily basis,” Ms. Sandu said.

Mr. Blinken announced new aid to Moldova to address a range of issues arising from Russian aggression, including its invasion of Ukraine.

The first of two packages mentioned was $50 million in broad support for Moldova’s industry and government, as well as for democratic processes. Mr. Blinken mentioned the energy and agriculture sectors, and the need to combat disinformation.

“What’s so powerful here is the deep and deep-rooted commitment to democracy,” Mr. Blinken said, “in the face of bullying from Russia.”

Ms. Sandu thanked Mr. Blinken for American help in fighting corruption, building renewable-energy infrastructure and addressing the “adversities of democracy,” a nod to Russian election interference.

The second aid package mentioned was $85 million to help Moldova increase its energy resiliency and reduce its dependence on electricity generated in a Russian-backed separatist region in the east, Transnistria. These funds, part of a $300 million commitment previously announced by the United States Agency for International Development, would help Moldova strengthen its battery storage capabilities and high-voltage transmission lines, among other energy needs, Mr. Blinken said.

Moldova recently ended its reliance on natural gas imports from Russia and now buys gas from a number of countries, including the United States.

Mr. Blinken’s visit to Chisinau was the first stop in a trip aimed at showing U.S. support for nations facing a hostile Russia. Mr. Blinken is going next to the Czech Republic, where he is scheduled to attend a meeting of foreign ministers and top officials of NATO on Thursday and Friday. They plan to discuss how to best support Ukraine.

This trip follows Mr. Blinken’s overnight visit to Kyiv more than two weeks ago.

Ms. Sandu has advocated Moldova’s entry into the European Union, and has scheduled a referendum on the question for the same day as the presidential election in October.

U.S. and European analysts say Moscow is likely to try to interfere in the election, as it has done elsewhere in Europe. The Biden administration has spoken publicly of Russian agents carrying out such interference using different means, from hacking to orchestrating campaigns over social networks to doling out money to favored politicians.

About 1,500 Russian troops are in Transnistria, which borders Ukraine. U.S. officials are watching for any signs that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia might try to annex the territory.

The NATO session in the Czech Republic is officially aimed at firming up the agenda for a meeting of alliance leaders in Washington in July. The group is not expected to declare that Ukraine will now join NATO, an aspiration that Mr. Zelensky has reiterated following the Russian invasion. They are, however, expected to work out details for moving Ukraine along the process of joining.

As Russian troops press an offensive in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, the Ukrainian war effort has been flagging, in large part because of a shortage of weapons and munitions. There are also fewer citizens able to join the fight.

Mr. Biden recently signed a bill passed by Congress, despite some Republican opposition, that grants new military aid to Ukraine.

Russia is producing munitions at a rapid rate, and U.S.-led sanctions have failed to cripple its military industrial capabilities. Mr. Biden and his aides say China has played a decisive role in bolstering Russia through exports of dual-use equipment and other goods that have allowed it to strengthen weapons production. Mr. Blinken is expected to highlight China’s support for Russia in his discussions at the NATO meeting in Prague.

Edward Wong is a diplomatic correspondent who has reported for The Times for more than 24 years from New York, Baghdad, Beijing and Washington. He was on a team of Pulitzer Prize finalists for Iraq War coverage. More about Edward Wong

EU AI Act: first regulation on artificial intelligence

The use of artificial intelligence in the EU will be regulated by the AI Act, the world’s first comprehensive AI law. Find out how it will protect you.

A man faces a computer generated figure with programming language in the background

As part of its digital strategy , the EU wants to regulate artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure better conditions for the development and use of this innovative technology. AI can create many benefits , such as better healthcare; safer and cleaner transport; more efficient manufacturing; and cheaper and more sustainable energy.

In April 2021, the European Commission proposed the first EU regulatory framework for AI. It says that AI systems that can be used in different applications are analysed and classified according to the risk they pose to users. The different risk levels will mean more or less regulation.

Learn more about what artificial intelligence is and how it is used

What Parliament wants in AI legislation

Parliament's priority is to make sure that AI systems used in the EU are safe, transparent, traceable, non-discriminatory and environmentally friendly. AI systems should be overseen by people, rather than by automation, to prevent harmful outcomes.

Parliament also wants to establish a technology-neutral, uniform definition for AI that could be applied to future AI systems.

Learn more about Parliament’s work on AI and its vision for AI’s future

AI Act: different rules for different risk levels

The new rules establish obligations for providers and users depending on the level of risk from artificial intelligence. While many AI systems pose minimal risk, they need to be assessed.

Unacceptable risk

Unacceptable risk AI systems are systems considered a threat to people and will be banned. They include:

  • Cognitive behavioural manipulation of people or specific vulnerable groups: for example voice-activated toys that encourage dangerous behaviour in children
  • Social scoring: classifying people based on behaviour, socio-economic status or personal characteristics
  • Biometric identification and categorisation of people
  • Real-time and remote biometric identification systems, such as facial recognition

Some exceptions may be allowed for law enforcement purposes. “Real-time” remote biometric identification systems will be allowed in a limited number of serious cases, while “post” remote biometric identification systems, where identification occurs after a significant delay, will be allowed to prosecute serious crimes and only after court approval.

AI systems that negatively affect safety or fundamental rights will be considered high risk and will be divided into two categories:

1) AI systems that are used in products falling under the EU’s product safety legislation . This includes toys, aviation, cars, medical devices and lifts.

2) AI systems falling into specific areas that will have to be registered in an EU database:

  • Management and operation of critical infrastructure
  • Education and vocational training
  • Employment, worker management and access to self-employment
  • Access to and enjoyment of essential private services and public services and benefits
  • Law enforcement
  • Migration, asylum and border control management
  • Assistance in legal interpretation and application of the law.

All high-risk AI systems will be assessed before being put on the market and also throughout their lifecycle. People will have the right to file complaints about AI systems to designated national authorities.

Transparency requirements

Generative AI, like ChatGPT, will not be classified as high-risk, but will have to comply with transparency requirements and EU copyright law:

  • Disclosing that the content was generated by AI
  • Designing the model to prevent it from generating illegal content
  • Publishing summaries of copyrighted data used for training

High-impact general-purpose AI models that might pose systemic risk, such as the more advanced AI model GPT-4, would have to undergo thorough evaluations and any serious incidents would have to be reported to the European Commission.

Content that is either generated or modified with the help of AI - images, audio or video files (for example deepfakes) - need to be clearly labelled as AI generated so that users are aware when they come across such content.

Supporting innovation

The law aims to offer start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises opportunities to develop and train AI models before their release to the general public.

That is why it requires that national authorities provide companies with a testing environment that simulates conditions close to the real world.

The Parliament adopted the Artificial Intelligence Act in March 2024 . It will be fully applicable 24 months after entry into force, but some parts will be applicable sooner:

  • The ban of AI systems posing unacceptable risks will apply six months after the entry into force
  • Codes of practice will apply nine months after entry into force
  • Rules on general-purpose AI systems that need to comply with transparency requirements will apply 12 months after the entry into force

High-risk systems will have more time to comply with the requirements as the obligations concerning them will become applicable 36 months after the entry into force.

More on the EU’s digital measures

  • Cryptocurrency dangers and the benefits of EU legislation
  • Fighting cybercrime: new EU cybersecurity laws explained
  • Boosting data sharing in the EU: what are the benefits?
  • EU Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act
  • Five ways the European Parliament wants to protect online gamers
  • Artificial Intelligence Act

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