My first big backpacking adventure in Europe was to the United Kingdom and Ireland. I would have never guessed that I would be travelling back a little over a year later, this time to continental Europe! In a span of two and a half months, I was able to travel to eleven new countries for work. I had the opportunity to travel to many new cities off the beaten tourist track and completely fall in love with the local culture and atmosphere of a few favorites. After visiting 14 different countries in Europe, I decided to share a list of must-visit cities for those looking for a more authentic experience.
Backpacking through Europe is on many people’s bucket list and for good reason. Europe is the perfect place for travellers looking for culture, art, and cuisine! It is fairly easy to travel through Europe and each country offers its own unique touch. Each city is flowing with history, old architecture, and ancient legends. Keep reading for some must-see cities below!
Bamberg is an adorable little town in the Bavaria region of Germany. I arrived knowing nothing about my new destination and fell in love within the first few moments! It is something straight out of a fairy-tale with colorful buildings, a fresh market in the city square, and amazing atmosphere.
Leiden is this hidden little town in southern Holland. It is basically Amsterdam, minus all the tourists. I didn’t want to leave this town – truly embracing the greenspace, canals, and laid back Dutch lifestyle! Grab a glass of wine and sit on one of the patios along the canal, taking in the summer sunshine with all the locals in town!
This lesser known town in the northern region of Croatia is perfect for those looking for a more quiet escape in Eastern Europe. Wander through the cobblestone streets, admiring the 18th century architecture of this little storybook town.
Warsaw is the capital of Poland, and although it is more known than others on the list, it is still a must-see! A lot of the city was restored after WWII but still offers a quaint, small-town charm in the Old Square.
Aachen is a town near the border to Belgium and is truly a hidden gem. This city has so much to offer for those looking for a relaxing, quiet escape. As well, there are plenty of countryside paths and forests around to experience rural German culture. Not to mention, you can do a small hike to stand in three countries at once: Germany, Belgium, and The Netherlands!
Novi Sad, Serbia
The Balkan region is not as popular with tourists in comparison to other areas of Europe – but an exception should be made for Novi Sad! This old town is filled with cute cafes and cobblestone streets. The entire core offers maximum walkability with pedestrian-only streets and an old town square! Along the riverside is the Petrovaradin Fortress which dates back to the 17th century and offers some beautiful old architectural scenery.
Separated by a river to one side is Buda and the other side is Pest, together making Budapest. There is an abundance of beauty in the city, which will draw you in from the moment you arrive! The city is very easy to get around with pedestrian-friendly road systems and great public transportation. One of my favorite activities in the city was literally to just walk around and take in the atmosphere. Definitely take in the city at night to see the Parliament building and bridges lit up!
This small city is found North of London. It is a medieval city with the ancient walls still standing. It is like stepping back in time when wandering through the cobblestone streets, looking up at the old cathedral and 13th-century architecture. This city sparks the imagination and has been an inspiration for Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. Not to mention, you can walk along the old city walls for an amazing sunset and view of the city.
Another medieval city in the United Kingdom – Edinburgh. The city is split by a river with the old town on one side and the new town on the other. The old town is where I decided to stay, as it is filled with ancient history and legends from Vikings, the plague, and the Georgian Era. Wander through the hilly own town, through the extremely narrow alleys, to see a city that has been built upwards during ancient times. Take a stroll through the streets and feel the same magical essence that J.K Rowling must have felt as she wrote the Harry Potter series in a local café and retrieved many character names from the town graveyard stones.
Of course Iceland needs to be on this list! Iceland is one of the most mesmerizing places I have ever visited and I will definitely be going back to explore the rest! There is a small town charm in the country’s capital, Reykjavik. With a population of under 200,000, the city offers a quiet atmosphere during low season. Although, this is one of the most popular stops for tourists in Iceland, there are plenty of spots to get a truly local experience!