Backpacking across Europe has been a veritable rite of passage for many years now, and it’s no wonder why this continent is an obvious favorite among the backpacking crowd. With so many options, it can be overwhelming trying to find the best destinations that also have affordable options for housing, food and entertainment. Before planning your European expedition, check out this list of the top 10 backpacking destinations in Europe.
10. Valleta, Malta
Malta is often overlooked as a backpacker destination. As a small group of islands picturesquely situated in the Mediterranean, many people assume it will be expensive and hard to get to. Malta is actually fairly close to Italy and you can easily hop aboard a ferry to the Port of Valleta or any number of affordable flights to the main island. Valleta, the capital city, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of numerous historical sites on the islands. Most of the residents speak English and a reputable hostel is less than $17 per night.
9. Madrid, Spain
Madrid is a popular tourist destination, but what makes it so perfect for backpackers is the competition between hostel and hotel owners to have the lowest rates and a tapas culture that ensures cheap food and alcohol are plentiful. You can even visit some of Madrid’s famous sights, such as the Museo del Prado, Reina Sofia Museum and Plaza Mayor for free. Similar in cost to Valleta, a good hostel here can be found for $16 per night.
8. Santorini, Greece
Santorini has many attractions such as vineyards, museums, theaters and archaeological sites, but the beaches are by far the most popular tourist attraction. Volcanic eruptions have formed some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Visitors can chose from bustling beaches with many amenities like Kamari Beach, or relaxing beaches like the Red Beach, where the only amenities are peace and quiet. Santorini has hostels starting at nine dollars per night and food is quite affordable when eaten in restaurants without ocean views.
7. Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
Český Krumlov is the second most popular tourist town in the Czech Republic and lacks the crowds of the country’s most popular destination, Prague. This historic town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can pack a lunch and venture out into the beautiful countryside, visit Český Krumlov Castle and peruse the galleries and museums. Of course, Prague is a must-see when in the Czech Republic and can be reached by bus. This is an affordable option for backpackers wanting to visit Prague, with hostels starting at $10 per night.
6. Riga, Latvia
Typical tourists may consider Riga out of the way, but that is exactly what makes it a perfect backpacking destination, since backpackers are usually on extended trips and smaller crowds keep the prices low. This UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts architectural gems, museums, luxurious spas, nearby beaches and is quickly building its reputation as a party destination. Don’t leave without trying Riga Black Balsam, a local herbal tonic made from vodka. With hostels as low as six dollars per night, you’ll have some extra cash on hand to indulge.
5. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Sarajevo is struggling to attract tourists because of its troubled past. However, it’s a great stop on your trip and especially good for backpackers, since the lack of tourists keeps the prices low. It’s located in Dinaric Alps and offers some breathtaking views. This is the perfect destination for history enthusiasts. Here you can visit the Latin Bridge where Gavrilo Princip fired the shot that ultimately started WWI, see remnants of the 1984 Olympics and feel bullet holes made during the war in the 1990’s. Hostel prices start at around seven dollars per night.
4. Istanbul, Turkey
The cost of visiting Istanbul has fallen recently, thanks to the decline of the Turkish Lira. Turkey’s party capital is also the perfect destination for foodies as it is home to the Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s best food bazaars, along with many top-rated restaurants. Since it’s covered in historical sites and museums, it’s also attracts history and culture buffs. Anyone will enjoy a trip to Süleymaniye Hamam, a historic Turkish bath, for a nice soak and massage. Backpackers can stay at hostels here for around seven dollars per night.
3. Krakow, Poland
Krakow is often recognized as the best travel bargain in Europe and attracts more tourists every year. For this reason, it’s best to visit before the increasing demand raises the prices. Krakow has many impressive sites, such as a medieval castle and one of the largest town squares in the world. It’s been said that Krakow has the most pubs per square mile in the world and, while that may not be exactly true, it’s definitely a place worth visiting for the nightlife. You can sleep off that hangover in a hostel for about nine dollars per night.
2. Berlin, Germany
Berlin is all the rage right now, and is another city you’ll want to visit before prices rise. It’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has something for everyone. The many local attractions have reasonable prices for the time being and can be made even more affordable by using a Berlin Welcome Card or Berlin Pass, if you plan on staying a while and visiting several of them. Thirteen dollars will get you a place to stay for the night.
1. Budapest, Hungary
Budapest ranks as the top backpacking destination because not only is it one of the least expensive destinations, it’s also brimming with amazing things to do. The local castles and cathedrals are awe-inspiring and it contains several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s also home to the famed Széchenyi Medicinal Baths, the largest spa bath in Europe, which offers many services in a glorious setting. Prices range from $14.51 to $72.54 for the most expensive treatment. With hostels starting at just over nine dollars per night, this is a bargain that can’t be beat!
This post was written by Andrew Larson, a semi-retired software engineer turned globetrotter and full-time travel enthusiast which now runs Wanderlust 15. For more information, visit Wanderlust 15