A Europe trip 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.
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!
Over the last eight years, we’ve visited many of Europe’s top cities, so it’s no surprise that when it comes to the ultimate Europe 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 trip to Western Europe.
The Ultimate Europe Itinerary for First-Time Visitors
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 you’re traveling to Europe for the first time, take advantage of these great deals and put London top of your Europe itinerary. London offers a plethora of activities to satisfy even the pickiest traveler.
Don’t miss the big attractions, like Buckingham Palace, London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and St Paul’s Cathedral. London is also filled with tons of great little pockets of culture, which you’ll find in areas like Nottingham, Camden Town, and Brick Lane.
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.
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 unique bird’s eye view of the city with a climbing tour of the O2 Arena.
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.
Eco-Friendly Hotels in London
We tried to stay in eco-friendly accommodation as much as possible during our Europe trip. We recommend:
- Wesley Hotel for its sustainable practices, they are located 15 minutes from King’s Cross Station and other famous attractions.
- The Cavendish is an award-winning eco-hotel, located a mere 10 minutes walk from Trafalgar Square.
- For a slightly cheaper option choose Qbic Hotel. This spotless hotel practices sustainability and offers complimentary organic toiletries.
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.
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.
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’s 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.
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 under $45 USD, take a 2.5-hour train for $60 USD, or take an overnight bus for $22 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 for its sustainable practices and central location just a short walk from the Eiffel Tower.
- Hôtel Kleber Champs-Élysées Tour-Eiffel Paris is a beautifully decorated, luxury eco-hotel located close to the ‘golden triangle’ of the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysees, and Arc de Trimphone.
- Hidden Hotel is a contemporary hotel near the Champs Elysees. The hotel’s furniture is made largely from organic farming materials.
- For a slightly cheaper option the Solar Hotel is a good choice for its eco-friendly nature, clean rooms and value for money.
While many travelers associate Amsterdam with a great party 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 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.
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 a 2 week Europe itinerary, you can afford to spend a little more time in Amsterdam and see the windmills!
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 $40 USD, a 3-hour train from Paris for $42 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.
- 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. 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.
Best known for its historical associations, lively nightlife, street art, and an abundance of museums, Berlin is a fascinating city to visit when traveling to Europe for the first time.
This historical hotspot is famous for the Berlin Wall, offers great nightlife, and is one of the most eco-conscious cities in Europe.
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!
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 $20 USD, a 6.5-hour train for $50, or a two-hour flight for around $55 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
- The Almodovar Biohotel is one of the greenest options in Berlin. They are located in central Fruedrichshain, and have based their hotel practices on ethics meeting aesthetics.
- 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!
- Scandic Berlin Kurfuerstendamm Hotel is located in the main shopping district of Berlin, and Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz Hotel in the trendy Kreuzburg district. They have both won a number of awards for their sustainability efforts, including the prestigious Green Globe award.
- For a slightly cheaper option the 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.
Germany’s diversity grants it two spots on your Europe itinerary. For a taste of true Bavarian culture, check out 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, well this tour will make your dreams come true. It’s just 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.
- 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 it’s most interesting sights.
Planning The Munich Portion of Your Europe Itinerary
Time needed: Two to four days
Get there: From Berlin, take an overnight bus for under $25 USD, a 6-hour train for under $25 USD, or a one-hour flight for $50 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 touristic neighborhoods to stay in Munich.
Eco-Friendly Hotels in Munich
- The gorgeous Excelsior Hotel for its sustainable practices and proximity to the historic old centre of town.
- The Derag Livinghotel is next to the Viktualienmarkt food market. They have are very environmentally conscious, and offer well-appointed, clean rooms.
- A slightly cheaper option is the Novotel München City. They have a long list of green credentials and offers soundproof rooms at a central location.
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!
Famous for its unique medieval architecture, the historic city center is home to famous attractions like Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, the Old Town Hall, and the famed Astronomical Clock.
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 into 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.
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 4.5 hour bus for $25 USD For just over $50 USD a 1.5 hour flight 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.
- InterContinental Hotel has modern well-appointed rooms. They also have a long list of green credentials and are located in Old Town.
- For a slightly cheaper option, the Mosaic House is a nice choice. This eco-hotel is part hostel as well.
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.
If you are looking to get the most 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.
Planning The Rome Portion of Your Europe Itinerary
Time needed: Two to four days
Get there: From Prague, take a 1.5 hour flight for $55 USD.
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.
- President Hotel for its sustainable practices, central location and amazing breakfast which features Italian classic cuisine.
- Eco Hotel Roma is nestled in the Valle Dei Casali Nature Reserve and was one of the first eco hotels on the scene in Rome. They have a free shuttle to the downtown core.
- DVE Suite Rome is located close to Termini train station, and the Coliseum. They honour a series of policies to operate their business sustainably.
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 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.
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 incredible sustainable practices.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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% eco-friendly.
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.
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.
BEFORE YOU GO: DON’T FORGET TRAVEL INSURANCE
We can’t stress enough the importance of travel insurance! Whether you just plan to explore the cities, do a little bit of hiking, or something more extreme, being protected on your travels is an irreplaceable peace of mind. We learned about the importance of travel insurance the hard way and now we never travel without coverage.