My first trip to Europe was backpacking with two friends after college. We planned a lot of our journey and left room for spontaneity. There were accommodations to figure out, maps to read, sights to consider, and endless cuisine to experience.
Planning that European adventure taught us more than how to search for travel recommendations (before the internet) and how to get from a train station to the city center; it taught us to believe in ourselves, trust our instincts, listen to each other, and to plan for some but leave room for endless possibilities.
Whether you’re backpacking after university, seeking a digital nomad lifestyle, traveling with friends or heading off to your first international city – Europe beckons. Hopping across the pond is exciting, exhilarating, and opens a world of diverse culture that is different to your everyday. Where would you visit, what place would you stay – how would you get there? The world is wide – just go!
Hotels $100+ a Night
Choosing where to lay your head at night is no easy task. These upscale spots will fill your longing for luxury, comfort and ease.
- Four Seasons: One of the world’s most highly rated hotel chains
- Ritz Carlton: Luxury in the heart of Europe
- 25 Hours Hotel Berlin: Beautiful hotel in Berlin, overlooking the zoo and the city
- Fairmont: Luxury hotels, less pricey others
- Park Hyatt: Classic luxury
- Room Mate: Known for futuristic design/unique rooms – primarily in Spain
- Radisson Blu: Modern vibe, moderately priced
- Novotel: A comfortable stay in convenient European locations
- JW Marriott Luxury Hotels: A luxuriously, comfortable stay
- Small Luxury Hotels: Private luxury
- Four Seasons: Locations in Hampshire, London at Park Lane, and London at Ten Trinity Square
- Pride of Britain Hotels: Independent hotels
- Conde Naste Johansens: 5 star hotels/boutique hotels
- Britain’s Finest: 4 and 5 star hotels
- Small Luxury Hotels of the World
Hotels Under $100 a Night
When traveling, how to get there and where to stay are the two main questions all travelers have to answer. Whether you’re searching for a budget-friendly spot or one that’s closest to your favorite market, these sites have heaps of options.
- iescape: Lists boutique hotels and the average hotel room
- Sherman’s Travel: Book flights, car rentals, and accommodation
- Hotels Combined: One of the most popular booking sites for European hotels
- Ibis: Convey the feeling of luxury while not breaking the bank
- EuroCheapo: Specifically designed to help find budget European hotels
- EuroBookings: Over 160,000 hotels catering to all price ranges
- Venere: Book hotels, apartments, and B&Bs across Europe
- Agoda: A tried and true travel booking website
Looking for that cool place with a that little something extra? Boutique hotels fold into the culture of their country of residence. Fill your stay with comfort and local flair at boutique hotels that provide the extra something that the big chains can’t.
- iescape: Lists few boutique hotels in each European country
- Mr & Mrs Smith: Catering to honeymooners in particular – locates the best boutique and luxury hotels
- Small Luxury Hotels: Small boutique hotel the world over
- Great Small Hotels: Over 2150 European boutique hotels listed
- Secretplaces: A collection of the best ‘hole-in-the-wall’ hotels around Europe
- Slow-Chic: Collection of hidden gems in unexpected places
- Chic Retreats: Delightful spots from Paris to Provence
- Design Hotels: A range of charming to chic hotels across France
- Chic Retreats
- Design Hotels
- Splendia: Luxury and boutique listings – 53 in Germany, including castles and a wellness retreat
- My Boutique Hotels: Many great places listed
- Epoque Hotels: Innovative and classic – modern hotels with a twist
- Chic Retreats
- Boutique Spain: From Spanish palaces to stone wine caves and cottages
- Boutique Hotels Spain: Truly unique and boutique options
Traveling with a big group, have specific dietary needs, or want to bring your pet? These are only a few of the many reasons travelers look to vacation rentals. Most European vacation rentals average from $50-150 a night, come fully furnished and include all the travel essentials. Guests save on food while cooking from the comfort of your own home-away-from-home. *If you need speedy wifi access, be sure to ask before you book*
- VRBO: Find vacation rentals around Europe, get connected, and stay
- HomeAway: Search according to price range, & stay in your dream home
- AirBNB: Rent a house, or a room in your host’s home
- 9flats: Thousands of apartment rentals available in Rome alone
- OwnerDirect: Apartments on the beaches of Greece or at the foot of Swiss ski slopes
- Wimdu: European based rental website, with a local expertise
- At Home in France: Specializes in short term vacation rentals
- NY Habitat: Range of vacation home rentals in the south of France
- Just France: Hone in on the best rentals that are just in France
- Vacation France: Find the perfect place, in Paris, Marseille, or elsewhere
- Vacation Rentals France: Paris specific
- Perfect Places: Heaps of options in Germany
- Green Pearls: Lists green and eco-friendly vacation rentals
- Home from Home: London specific, short term home/apartment rentals also offering personal driver service from the airport and housekeeping option
- London Perfect: Hand-on service and attention to detail
- FlipKey: Range of flats/houses across the UK
Want to travel the world while spending little money on accommodation? Feel the need to look after some chickens, take care of a farm or snuggle with a four legged furry friend? House sitting might be the thing for you.
- Luxury Housesitting: Total luxury – membership for homeowners is free
- Housesit Match: Easy way to housesit in Europe
- Sabbatical Homes: Homes for rental, exchange, or sit – listing fee
- HouseCarers : A wide range of listings – nominal fee for house sitters
- Trusted Housesitters: Extensive profiles of both homeowners and sitters to help ensure a good match – caters specifically to pet owners and lovers (pet sitting is often part of the equation)
- HouseM8: House sitters/pet care takers solicited through this site
- The Good Life France: A sub-site of Trusted Housesitters
- Nomador: House sitting site
- Housesitters UK: House sitting service and membership site
- Mind My House: Free for home owners and a $20 fee for sitter registration
- Mind a Home UK: UK specific listings
Camping & RV
Do you enjoy sleeping under the stars, or find yourself wanting to take your own belongings on the road with you? Camping or RVing Europe might be right up your alley.
Campgrounds in Europe are often located within walking distance of towns, or public transportation routes in major cities. Many will offer cabin accommodations, complete with bedsheets – so tents are not required. A downside to camping is that you’re at the mercy of the seasons and could wind up traveling during the more crowded travel months. Give it a try – it’s the only way possible to get a 1,000 star review.
- Camping Europe: Official European camping guide
- EuroCampings: Europe’s largest campsite search engine
- RV Camping Europe: Amateur’s guide to RVing Europe
- Cool Camping: The coolest camping guide out there for both the UK and Europe
- Camping Info: Aggregate of camping options in France and beyond
- Les Campings: Speak french? Great resource of local camping information Camping en France: Site is in French, and a bit dated, but helpful information listed here
- Campings.Luxury: Luxury campsites located across France
- Retro Airstream Trailer Park: Retro Airstreams parked near the Pyrénées in France
- Treehouse Stay: Treehouses in France
- Sleep in a Star Box: Boxes come with a transparent roof, a telescope, stellar chart, and astronomy-themed games
- Camping Info
- Glamping Hub: Listing of upscale “camping” experiences, from yurts to tree houses, and sometimes a villa with a pool
- LeadingCampings: Nice options available
- UK Campsite: An online directory for caravanners or campers
- UK Parks: Official UK camping guide
- Pitch Up: Campsite listings in the UK, and Europe
- Love Camping: Tons of listings across the UK
- Wigwam Village: Sleep in a wigwam (or maybe a yurt)
Want to sleep in a raft, a tree or who knows what else imaginable – unusual camping spots are available all over the world. Try out a retrofitted camper, make yourself at home in a traditional yurt or dangle from the branches of the highest tree.
The weird, the fantastic, and the unbelievable. Castles, cranes, and cliffside stays add to the adventure of your wild and wonderful holiday.
- Castle and Palace Hotels: Sleep like royalty in an actual castle
- Harlingen Crane Hotel: Stay the night in a crane, suspended above the docks
- Les Hautes Roches: Hotel carved into the wall of a cliff – unique European cave hotel
- Art Hotels: Staying in an art hotel is your own personalized museum
- Quirky Accom: Possibly the largest directory of unusual places to stay on the planet
- Responsible Travel: Numerous listings of interesting things to do and places to stay in France
- Quirky Accom: Listings of quirky accommodations – like lighthouses, tree houses, artist’s retreats, a circus hotel and more; these are fun
- Germany’s Coolest Hotels: Article listing ten of the craziest places to stay
- Young Germany: Listing of unusual accommodations including an igloo village and a corn field hotel
- Top 12 Cool & Unusual Hotels in Berlin: Breakdown of 12 different hotels
- 10 Unique Hotels in Spain: Accommodations like a wooden caravan home, a bull ring, transparent bubble rooms for star gazing, and a place with lava floors and glass walls
- Paradores of Spain: Hotels in historic buildings, from castles and monasteries to mill buildings
- Canopy & Stars: Glamping finds
- Hunger Hill Yurts: Luxury yurts
- Forest Holiday: Unique lodging with all the comforts of home
- Skye Cottages: Not your average cottage rentals
- 16 Strange Places to Stay in the UK and Channel Islands: Article in The Telegraph listing accommodations including a fort, a pineapple mansion, a windmill
- Distinctly Different: Accommodations like a wagon, a cow shed, or a milking parlour and heaps of castles cottages listed
Hostels are a very popular way to stay in Europe (especially among young people). Guests might sacrifice a bit of comfort to embrace a sense of adventure. Many of these are backpacker’s go-to booking sites yet, it’s worth noting that some of the listed hostels have age caps, on the upper and lower ends. Be sure to ask before you book.
- HostelWorld: Largest hostel site with thousands of recorded and rated hostels
- Hostels: Basic hostel booking site
- Savvy Backpacker: One of the best guides to hosteling Europe
- EuropeanHostels: Europe specific
- HostelBookers: finding and booking hostels anywhere in Europe
- Jungendherberg: Listing of youth hostels specific to Germany
Flights & Airports
Somehow, we all have to get to our destination. For many of us, that involves airports and airlines. There are always those big international carriers, but remember to give those local, budget-friendly and uber cheap options a shot. Especially in Europe, where budget flight deals abound.
Budget airlines in Europe are notoriously cheap, and will find ways to charge for everything imaginable. Keep in mind they don’t often fly to major airports. If this is your first experience with them – pack light
- RyanAir Alternatives: Good alternatives that service including EastJet and AirLingus
- FlyCheapo: Searches budget airlines to go from one destination to another
- SleepingInAirports: Tips on where and how to sleep in the airport if you get stuck
- Edreams: A European version of Kayak that includes most budget airlines
Flying into France, whether from mainland Europe or North America, will take you to a major city. If traveling from North America’s east coast, check out Nice, or Marseille as alternatives to flying into Paris. If time is limited, there are inexpensive flights between the major cities in France and the rest of Europe. Budget airlines do not provide any amenities and often find ways to charge for everything. Traveling with only a carry on backpack will save you heaps of cash.
Flying into Germany, whether from mainland Europe or North America, will land you in a major city. If flying from North America’s east coast, check out Frankfurt, or Munich as alternatives to Berlin. If time is limited, there are inexpensive flights between the major cities in Germany and the rest of Europe.
- Eurowings: Formerly Germany wings is a low cost German airline
- Air Berlin: Domestic and international carrier
- TUI Fly: Local German airline with good deals within Europe
- Iberia: Biggest Spanish airline with affordable domestic and international flights
- Airports Spain: Information about all of the 37 airports in Spain
Flying into the UK, whether from mainland Europe or North America, will put you in a major city. If traveling coming from North America’s east coast, check out Dublin and Glasgow as alternatives to flying into London.
- The Airport Guides: Provides a guide to all airports in the UK
Taking the bus between cities and towns is a picturesque and economical way to get around Europe. There are several options for bus lines and many offer passes to further reduce the cost and increase flexibility of travel. Even if you don’t have a pass, don’t hesitate to book (even at the very last minute)!
- EuroLines: Website for booking buses throughout the continent – includes a pass similar to Eurorail
- Oui Bus: Site in French with range of great deals on bus trips around France (worth translating)
- Isilines: French site with cheap bus fare between select destinations
- Euro Bus Pass: Site lists many bus routes and maps
- Dein Bus: Company with routes to cities throughout Germany
- BerlinInBus: As the name suggests, goes to and from Berlin
- Public Transport in Germany: The German Way and More provides breakdown and guide to public transport in Germany
- Busbud: Post listing five things to know about bus travel in Spain – also includes list of bus companies, types of tickets and buses & availability of wifi
- Movelia: Site helps to find routes, prices, and book tickets
- Alsa: Major bus lines with routes throughout Spain
- MegaBus: Ultra-budget bus service with plenty of options in the UK
- National Express: Available in the UK – often offers 2 for 1 deals and super low rates
Train travel is common in Europe. Get onboard!
- RailEurope: Train tickets throughout Europe
- Seat61: Find discounts on train and ferry rides across Europe and advice on how to affordably traverse the rail system
- Lastminute: Last minute prices and tickets for train and air travel
- SNCF: Official website of the national train service of France
- Paris Metro: Official site for purchasing Paris Metro and museum passes
- Paris by Train: Guide to using the metro in Paris
- Deutsche Bahn: Official website for the national rail service of Germany
- Renfe: Official website of the Spanish rail system
- Compartemesa – Discounts for booking a whole block of four seats, but, if you’re not traveling with that many people, this site helps to find other solo, duo, or trio groups going in your same direction so you can team up and get the discount
- BritRail: Site for booking rail passes and individual tickets in advance on most train routes
- London’s metro is the most economical and efficient way to get around the city.
- Get an Oyster card never a paper ticket
- Travel everywhere with the bus to hit a low daily maximum
- Get a week pass, equal to the same prices as bus daily max but with both unlimited tube and bus
Car Shares & Hitchhiking
Have you considered ride sharing while in Europe? Particularly within urban areas, and sometimes between towns, a ride share can be a great way to meet interesting people and save money, too. If you aren’t ready for standing alongside the road and hitchhiking old school, these sites will help you find a reputable ride.
- HitchWiki: Database of tips for hitchhikers
- Bla Bla Car: Popular site for ride sharing in Europe
- GumTree: Similar to Craigslist – will set traveler up with car shares around Europe
- Carshare with Lifshare: Carsharing service
- Carpool World: Register, contact, and carpool; it’s as easy as that, & free to register
- Lift Share: The UK’s largest ride share network
Most of the bigger car rental agencies operate in the Europe. Kayak, Priceline, or whatever you generally use to book car rentals will work. If you’re renting a car for more than 21 days, you may want to consider a “buy back car lease.” Although they’re not always a cheap way to travel, the two resources below will help you start your search to find out if this is the best way to travel for you:
- Are buy back car leases better than car rentals? – An About.com article to help you understand the ‘buy back’ concept
- Renault – One of the agencies who will rent cars via the ‘buy back’ car lease to Americans traveling in Europe
For North Americans, it may also be required, by some car agencies, to have an International Driver’s Permit. This is easily procured through AAA and is valid for one year. Be sure to double check this with your rental agency when you book your rental.
Consider contacting your car rental company or the travel insurance portion of your credit card or travel insurance company to find out if you’re covered for overseas rentals or if it might be beneficial to take the coverage onsite.
Cars in the UK reminders:
Vehicles and roads are LEFT hand drive.
The easiest “hack” for making sure you don’t turn into oncoming traffic or the wrong way down a one way street, is to remember this simple rule, regardless of which country you are in: Keep your body in the middle of the road. Whether it’s right or left hand drive, as long as you are in a car that matches (a local vehicle, not an import that is opposite) keeping the driver’s body in the middle of the road will result in correct lane placement.
Are you a fan of water travel? If your heart is happy when floating along the waves or sitting amidst the center of of nature – boat travel is for you. Give those ferries, cruises or riverboats a try and let your spirit soar.
- Direct Ferries: Largest selection of ferry routes
- PO Ferries: Largest fleet in Europe – runs between Britain, Ireland and mainland Europe
- Ferry Saver: Discounted rates on ferries around the UK or to/from continental Europe
- Ferries UK: Largest independent ferry booking service
- Brittany Ferries: Ferries from the UK to Spain/France
- Le Boat: Canal boat travel in France
- Barging in France: Hire a barge
- France Cruises: Tips and discounts available
The rivers of Germany are an awesome way to travel. There are tours readily available across a range of budgets. If tours aren’t your thing, travelers can arrive by ferry at a variety of ports. The most common routes are between the Scandanavian countries and Germany. There are no direct ferries from the UK.
- Ferry To: Lists ferry routes into Germany and ticketing options
- Germany River Cruises: Full list of river cruising deals (budget-friendly options)
- Shearings: Cruises available on five different waterways
- Mac’s Adventure: Bike & boat combo tour allowing guests to get off the boat and cycle along the river during the day and jump back on to sleep on the boat at night; if cycling is too much, feel free to relax and remain on the boat
You can arrive by ferry to Spain at several ports. Common routes are between the Spanish islands, to the UK and back, as well as across the narrow strait to Morocco. The rivers of Spain are an often overlooked way to travel. Check out travel options that fit your budget.
The UK is a grouping of islands and ferries are an obvious way to travel between them all. In addition to ferries, rivers and canals of the country can be explored by flat bottomed river barges ranging from budget-friendly to downright luxurious.
- Ferries UK
- Irish Ferries: Specializing in ferries directly between Ireland and Britain (also available are routes between Ireland and France)
- Brittany Ferries: Ferries from the UK to Spain and France
- European Waterways: River cruises on flat bottom barges in the canals and rivers of the UK
- English Holiday Cruises: River cruises in Cotswolds Severn Vale
Do you fancy two wheeling it around Europe? Whether you grab a tour, have someone help you out or take to the roads on your own – wheeling your way through urban and rural settings with the wind at your back is right for you.
- EuroVelo: Traveling with your bike around Europe? EuroVelo provides suggested routes for long distance cycling
- Discover France: Independent or guided cycle tours of the French countryside
- French Cycling Holidays: Luxury cycling tours
- Experience France by Bike: An insider’s guide to cycling France (incorporating planning and route information)
- Experience Plus: List of tours to join with own (or a rented) bicycle
- Cycling in Germany: Bike Map: Collection of maps and routes for the entire country
- ADFC: German Cyclist Association with country specific details (‘About’ page is available in English/otherwise)
- Bicycle Touring Spain: List of tours to join with own (or a rented) bicycle
- Cycling in Spain- 10 Best Routes: List by ‘I love bicycling’ with attached route maps
- Cycling the Camino de Santiago: Rent bikes, or bring your own
- We Are Cycling UK: Information including maps and details for touring the entire UK by bike