3 Weeks in Europe, East and West | Backpacking Itinerary

3 weeks in Europe Itinerary

Europe, although (arguably) smaller in land mass compared to Australia, consists of so many different countries, cities and cultures that it would take years if you wanted to experience it all properly. As a result, planning a three week trip and trying to get the perfect itinerary can be very daunting. Three weeks isn't a particularly long time but you'd be surprised at how much you can see in just a few short weeks.

Back when I travelled around Europe for three weeks, this was my exact itinerary. I feel like it is a good three week backpacking route for those who want an itinerary which will allow them to get a good taste of what Europe is like and doesn't just consist of the typical cliche European cities.

There are definitely things that I would change about this itinerary. I have written all of my suggestions in the post below but this itinerary did end up working well for me so if you're planning a trip, it's worth having a look at!


The birthplace of Harry Potter was the first place on our itinerary. Edinburgh is a city that offers something for everyone to enjoy, whether that be breathtaking nature, endless shopping, lively pubs or historic architecture. The city is a perfect mix between modern and historic, boasting a calendar full of events and festivals all year round while still possessing the many vaults and wynds which make the Old Town a wanderer's dream. It is one of my favourite cities and one that is definitely underrated.

The free walking tour run by the city is amazing and takes you to all of the main sights that the city has to offer, along with providing an abundance of Edinburgh facts. The tour also visits many important Harry Potter sights, including the cafe that J.K. Rowling sat in when she penned down the first words to what is now one of the world's most famous stories.

Must-see: Arthur's Seat

Edinburgh Princes' Street
Prince's Street
Edinburgh Arthur's Seat
The view from Arthur's Seat
How long to stay: The city's prodigious reputation is definitely not a let down and spending only one day in Edinburgh would not do it justice. If your trip is more flexible, I would recommend spending at least two to three days there. If I could change things, I would have opted to stay in Edinburgh for an extra day instead of rushing off to Glasgow.

Getting to Edinburgh: Edinburgh can be easily reached by either bus or a flight from London. We opted for an eight hour overnight bus, something that I will never do again. Although the bus only cost us £12 from Birmingham, I would definitely encourage you to splurge a little bit of extra money so you can travel in (relative) comfort.


From Edinburgh, our next stop was Scotland's largest city, Glasgow. Although both cities are in the same country, they are both remarkably different and there exists a huge rivalry between the two (think of a Melbourne vs. Sydney style rivalry). Edinburgh holds the reputation of being a Scotland theme park, appealing to the masses of tourists (look, I was definitely appealed).

Unfortunately for Glasgow, it holds the reputation of being, well, boring. What was even more unfortunate was that it didn't break this reputation for me and proved to truly be boring... I usually take stereotypes of cities with a grain of salt and find that many stereotypes prove to be extremely wrong. Glasgow, instead, proved to be very very right... The fact that I only spent 6 hours there greatly reduces the credibility of my opinion though and I didn't get the chance to experience many of Glasgow's hits such as it's apparently extraordinary night life.

Must see: Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral
Glasgow Cathedral
Glasgow George Square
George Square
How long to stay: We spent 6 hours in in Glasgow but I didn't think that Glasgow had much to offer. I honestly wish that we had stayed in Edinburgh for the extra day instead. I wouldn't recommend visiting Glasgow if you are on a tight schedule. I think that there are many other places that would be more worthwhile visiting.

Getting to Glasgow: Glasgow is only a 2 hour, £4 bus ride away from Edinburgh.


Although remaining in the UK, we next jetted off to Northern Ireland to visit it's capital city. Belfast has a long history of civil unrest, one that I only learnt about during my time there. I'll spare you the history lesson because I'm definitely not the most qualified person when it comes to the subject but in summary, the "The Troubles" in Belfast resulted in numerous Peace Walls being built which divide the city, separating the Irish nationalist and unionist neighbourhoods.

Belfast is a city that is often viewed as unsafe and many people avoid it due to the volatility that still remains. Especially in the past, Belfast was not such a popular city for tourists. We visited Belfast for St Patrick's Day after deciding that Dublin would be both way to expensive and way too crowded. It was great fun being in (Northern) Ireland for St Patty's Day but I don't think Belfast has too much to offer outside of that holiday.

Must see: Belfast Peace Wall Murals

Belfast City Hall
Belfast City Hall
Belfast Peace Wall Murals
Peace Wall Murals
How long to stay: One day in Belfast is more than enough. If it wasn't St Patrick's Day, I'm not sure how interesting Belfast as a city would have been. If on a tight schedule, I would recommend skipping Belfast completely and either spending more time in another city or opting to visit somewhere else, such as Dublin.

Getting to Belfast: Belfast is only a 45 minute flight from Glasgow


For our next location, we're finally leaving the UK and hitting continental Europe! Berlin is a city that is just begging to be explored. Along with being the home to currywurst, my favourite thing ever, Berlin is a smorgasbord of culture, food, history and we can't forget the partying. Berlin is full of iconic sights but also boasts an infinite number of places just waiting to be discovered.

Berlin still remains one of my favourite cities, holding a certain charm to it. The laid-back atmosphere and creativity which floods the city makes me love it more and more with each extra day I spend there and Berlin really does remind me of my home in Melbourne. If you do visit Berlin, make sure you don't leave without trying a kebab. They're supposed to have the best kebabs in the world!

Must see: Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Berlin Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburg Gate
Berlin East Side Gallery
East Side Gallery
How long to stay: I loved Berlin so much that I could imagine myself staying there for months, so stay as long as you can! Ideally, five days to a week would be great but if you're short on time, I would recommend spending at least two to three days there.

Getting to Berlin: Berlin can only be reached from Belfast with a stopover. We stopped over in London for a couple of hours and the trip took us around 4 hours overall.


Next up, we took our first inter-country train to the gem of Eastern Europe, Prague. You only ever hear good things about Prague, and with good reason. It's reputation of being stupendously cheap holds true and it's beauty is truly breathtaking. Prague also boasts what is apparently the best beer in the world!

Prague definitely sits in my top five favourite cities in Europe. We were lucky enough to visit just as the Easter market in the Old Town Square opened up and we were treated to a plethora of delicious Czech street food. One thing you must try in Prague are their street sausages. I promise you, they will be one of the most glorious things you've ever tasted.

Must see: Strahov Monastery Brewery (they serve delicious goulash!)

Prague View Astronomical Clock Tower
The view from the Astronomical Clock Tower
Prague Charles Bridge
The view from Charles Bridge
How long to stay: I would live in Prague if I could! I would recommend spending at least two days in this city but if you're flexible, giving it at least five days will allow you time to explore everything and absorb the city's vibrant culture.

Getting to Prague: From Berlin Hauptbahnhof, there is a train to Prague which takes around 8 hours.


Our next stop was what is arguably one of Eastern Europe's most beautiful cities. The city of Budapest straddles the Danube river and actually splices two formally separate cities; Buda and Pest. Buda resides on the Western bank of the Danube river while Pest occupies the opposite side. Pest is the urban centre of the city and where you will spend the majority of your time if you visit Budapest.

Although Budapest has rightfully gained some popularity over the past few years (having a song written about you will do that), I still believe that it is a city that is extremely underrated. Budapest is a one-of-a-kind metropolis which blends old world charm with a lively culinary and party scene. The city also boasts a range of historical must-visit locations that are uniquely 'Budapest' such as their thermal baths, ruin bars and markets.

Must see: Climb to the top of Gellert Hill (spectacular views)

Budapest St Stephens Basilica
St Stephen's Basilica
Budapest Danube River
The view of Buda across the Danube River
How long to stay: Budapest deserves way more than a day. The first mistake that I made was only spending a day there during my first visit. Luckily, I did go again and ended up staying for three days. My second mistake was eating a stick of salami I bought at the market but that's another story... I would recommend that you spend at least two days in Budapest but give yourself four or five if possible. The longer the stay, the better!

Getting to Budapest: Budapest is a 7.5 hour train ride away from Prague.


From Budapest, we travelled across to the East-meets-West city of Istanbul. Straddling the Bosphorus River, Istanbul bridges Asia and Europe both geographically and culturally. There is no lack of minarets in Istanbul and the city is filled with century old mosques, churches and bazaars which coexist harmoniously with modern night clubs, restaurants and shops.

Istanbul is a city that still frequents my dreams and is definitely one of my favourite cities. The little things are what gives Istanbul it's charm; the abundance of Turkish lamps lining the streets, the smell of fresh spices, the endless supply of evil eye trinkets on sale, the Turkish pretzel vendors at every corner... I could go on forever. Make sure you don't leave without getting your hands on some delicious Turkish delight!

Must see: The inside of the Blue Mosque (make sure you dress conservatively)

Istanbul Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Istanbul Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque
How long to stay: I honestly felt like three days was not enough and wish that we had stayed longer. I would suggest allowing yourself at least five days to explore Istanbul and absorb all of the culture.

Getting to Istanbul: Istanbul can be reached from Budapest on a 2 hour flight.


Next up, we flew to Greece's most famous island, Santorini. Known for it's iconic blue domed buildings, Santorini is the gem of the Aegean Sea. Unbeknown to many, the small islands making up what is known as Santorini are what remain after a long period of intense volcanic activity. Twelve eruptions later and the Santorini caldera was formed. It is still an active volcano today! Another fun fact: the sunset over Oia is the most photographed sunset in the world!

I decided that Santorini would be my future honeymoon destination within half an hour of being there (pray that I eventually meet my Prince Charming...) Being in Santorini feels like you're living in a fairytale and it is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The island provides breathtaking views, gorgeous scenery and beautiful fresh seafood.

Must see: Oia's iconic blue domes during sunset

Santorini Oia Sunrise
Sunset over Santorini
Sunset over Santorini
How long to stay: You could see most of Santorini in two days but to enjoy it at a relaxed pace, I would recommend staying longer than we did. I suggest four days as a good equilibrium point. You should also aim to visit Santorini during low season like we did because I hear it is a crowded touristy mess during high season and it might not be the serene and tranquil island that I experienced when I was there.

Getting to Santorini: All flights to Santorini depart from Athens and mainly run through Aegean Airlines. You can easily get to Athens from Istanbul. Overall transit time from Istanbul should take around 4 hours.


Our next stop was the most expensive city in the world, Zürich. With endless shops running down the sides of Bahnhofstrasse and Niederdorf, Zürich is a (wealthy) shopper's dream. If shopping is not your cup of tea, Zürich has so much more to offer. As one of the world's most liveable cities, Zürich is culturally vibrant. The best part of Zürich is it's old town, which is a maze of cobblestoned streets and laneways that would excite any wanderer.

However, the stereotype of being the world's most expensive city is no stereotype at all, it's a cold hard fact. A Big Mac on it's own will set you back AUD $9... Yes that's double the price of a Big Mac in Australia.

Must see: Lindenhof

Zurich Lindenhof View
View from Lindenhof
Zurich Munzplatz
How long to stay: We opted to visit Zürich only for a day due to the notoriously expensive reputation of the city. I honestly reckon that one day was more than enough to see the city's main attractions and most of what it has to offer. If you're interested in seeing things at a slower pace, consider staying for two or three days but keep in mind the expensive costs of food and accommodation you'll spend by staying for longer.

Getting to Zürich: Zürich can be reached from Santorini by flight with a stopover in Athens which takes around 4 hours including stopover time.


The perfect location to finish the trip was Nice in Southern France. is the perfect place to relax and unwind after three weeks of continuous backpacking. Situated along the French Riviera, Nice attracts visitors with it's breathtaking views, relaxing beach, endless shopping, award-winning restaurants and year round good weather.

One thing that draws people to Nice more than anything would be it's crystal clear beach. The beach is truly stunning but is quite different to a typical beach. Don't arrive expecting fine, soft sand. Instead, Nice's beach is lined with pebbles which is either a hit or miss for most people (I personally hate that it's a pebble beach).

Must see: Castle Hill

Nice Bay of Angels Castle Hill
The view of the Bay of Angels from Castle Hill
Nice Place Massena
Place Massena
How long to stay: With such a relaxing atmosphere and an endless number of quality restaurants and a beach at it's doorstep, you could easily spend a week in Nice. I, however, would recommend limiting your stay to two days if you're short on time on keen on fitting other destinations into your itinerary. Two days will be more than enough to appreciate the beachside cosmopolitan's vibe while making sure you don't get sick of it by staying too long.

Getting to Nice: Nice is only a short one hour flight away from Zurich.


From Nice, we did a half-day trip to the smallest country in the world, Monaco. Although this country is the world's smallest, taking up only 2.8 square kilometres, it is also the world's richest. Monaco is known for it's yacht-lined harbours, glitzy casinos, expensive cars and luxury apartments. The country also hosts the prestigious Grand Prix motor race which takes place on the streets of Monaco once a year.

As the country itself is so small, you can easily walk through the whole country in a day. The small size does mean that there is a limited amount of attractions but the infamous Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco's biggest drawcard, doesn't fail to impress.

Must see: Changing of the guards at Prince's Palace of Monaco

Port Hercules Monaco
Port Hercules
Monaco Prince's Palace of Monaco
Changing of the guards at Prince's Palace of Monaco
How long to stay: I honestly wouldn't recommend staying more than a day as Monaco is a notoriously expensive country and you want to save yourself the accommodation costs. Some people recommend a full day trip for Monaco but I found that even half a day was enough! Allocate a day for it and if you feel like you've seen enough, you can always head back to Nice early.

Getting to Monaco: There are 45 trains a day leaving from 'Nice Ville' station and arriving at 'Monaco Monte Carlo' that can take as fast as 22 minutes! The tickets are cheap, costing a measly 4€.


March14: Birmingham to Edinburgh
15: Edinburgh
16: Edinburgh to Glasgow to Belfast
17: Belfast (St. Patricks Day)
18: Belfast to Berlin
19: Berlin
20: Berlin
             21: Berlin to Prague
22: Prague
23: Prague
24: Prague to Budapest
25: Budapest
26: Budapest to Istanbul
27: Istanbul
28: Istanbul
29: Istanbul to Santorini
30: Santorini
31: Santorini
April 1: Santorini to Zurich to Nice
2: Nice
3: Nice
4: Nice to London to Coventry

I loved this itinerary because it avoided all of the typical European tourist cities and allowed us to explore many different countries in such a short amount of time. From luxuriously expensive Zurich to dirt-cheap Budapest, populous Istanbul to serene Santorini, mountainous Edinburgh to beachside Nice, this itinerary takes you to vastly different destinations culturally, historically and architecturally and ensures that you're always kept on your feet.

P.S. For more information about each city in this itinerary, check out the individual posts that I did on each one for ideas on worthwhile places to visit.


Post a Comment