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Grand Backpacking Tour of Europe

grand-tour-of-europe

This is the big one, the trip you have been dreaming about since the word “Europe” first fell into your brain. Experience England, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, Belgium and the Netherlands in this whirlwind trip that will leave you speechless whether you travel with a rail pass, hop-on/hop-off pass or experience it with a tour.

Note: this trip can be done in any direction, but arriving in London is a good way to ease into Europe with the English-speakers.

St. Christopher's Inns, with hostels and pubs in London, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Bruge, Prague and Amsterdam recommends this tour for the ultimate European adventure!

Ways to Experience this Trip

You can experience the Grand Backpacking Tour of Europe with a rail pass, a hop-on/hop-off coach pass, self-drive by campervan or take an exciting escorted tour. Each itinerary has been created specifically for the respective transport option.


Eurail Pass Itinerary

Starts: London
Ends: Paris (or Amsterdam)
Duration: Pacing it 8 weeks/60+ days; Racing it 4-6 weeks/30-45 days

The Grand Backpacking Tour of Europe can start almost anywhere along this route. We start it in London as airfares are often cheapest into Heathrow. Before leaving London, you can explore England, Scotland and/or Ireland by tour or rail (a separate Britrail Pass is required). To get to Paris from London, a rail ticket on Eurostar is required and is not included in the Eurail Global Pass.

Suggested Transport:
Eurail Global 30-day Consecutive Pass - 1st class costs $1210, Youth Pass $788)
Eurail Global 60-day Consecutive Pass - 1st class costs $1706, Youth Pass $1111)

Bakpak Dave gets you 5% off your hostel bookings during your trip when you purchase a Eurail Global Pass from Bakpak!

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DAY 1-4: LONDON
Go for a ride on a double-decker bus, grab a pint at an old ale house, get your ration of Shepard’s pie or beans and eggs. Also make sure you indulge in the numerous international delights and festivities in town. One of the more alluring, and often surprising, facets of London is its rich cultural diversity. England’s colonial legacy has today marked its capital as one of the most multicultural cities in Europe. There are tons of ethnic enclaves and neighborhoods brimming with little restaurants and shops serving up some of the most delicious meals and displaying interesting knickknacks from around the world. Indulge in its cosmopolitan flair and you’ll find London at once captivating and inviting, sophisticated and down to earth.

DAY 5-9: PARIS
London to Paris: 2.25-2.5hrs

Paris is stunning! Whether you indulge in its grand and monumental history or embrace its intimate romance, Parisian culture will leave its mark on you. Explore the cozy cafés, buy coveted delicacies from the many markets and take in the essential sights. Check out the Arc de Triomphe or the beautiful white domed Sacré-Coeur for one of the most breathtaking views of the city. Visit Musé Picasso, Musée du Louvre, Musée Rodin, Musée d’Orsay, and Centre Georges Pompidou.

DAY 10: TOURS
Paris to Tours: 1-2hrs

Located on the Loire River in the spectacular central valley region of France, Tours is beloved for its unique architecture, delicious wines and numerous beautiful gardens. Explore Tour’s amazing medieval old city, le Vieux Tours, which features half-timbered buildings and busy public square full of restaurants and bars. Home to a university, Tours has no shortage of young energy and this historic town hosts a number of festivals, fairs and celebrations throughout the year.

DAY 11-12: BORDEAUX
Tours to Bordeaux: 2.5-3hrs

More than a delicious red wine, Bordeaux is a proud and historic city located in the Aquitaine region in the southwest of France. Walk along Les Quais on the shores of the Garonne River, cross the bridges or hop on a ferry for a unique view of the city. Hit the pedestrian center for shopping, dining and cultural pursuits and explore Bordeaux’ many gardens, museums and cafes along with a bottle of – what else? Bordeaux.

DAY 13-14: SAN SEBASTIAN
Bordeaux to San Sebastian: 5hrs (layover in Irun, arrive at 10:30pm)

Watch your worries float away on the waves at San Sebastian, a vacation destination on the northeast coast of Spain that has long called travelers to its sandy shores. With two glorious beaches separated by an easily climbable mountain dotted with ruins, this cozy little city offers beach time as well as authentic Spanish culture, fresh seafood restaurants, pinchos bars and traditional buildings. Visit a historic church, stroll the narrow streets or head out to surf in this amazing coastal town.

DAY 15-16: MADRID
San Sebastian to Madrid: 5.5hrs (evening arrival)

Madrid is somewhat daunting and not so pretty at first, but after a couple of days in this bustling city, you will understand why it is the capital of Spain. Large and vibrant with an equally energetic population, Madrid’s cafés, bars and nightclubs are never ending… it’s almost exhausting. There are a number of parks, monuments and museums, including the must-see Prado, to occupy your days. Take your time and explore the cities restaurants, shops, markets and historic sites…including taking in a bullfight (Sundays and holidays).

Note: You can take a side trip to here. It’s a 9 hour overnight train and a day train on the return.

DAY 17-18: VALENCIA
Madrid to Valencia: 1.5-2hrs

Famous as the birthplace of Paella, Valencia is found on the sunny Mediterranean coast of Spain and is the third-largest city in the country. Originally founded by the Romans, Valencia has numerous ancient monuments, natural scenery and a warm climate that makes it a popular destination year-round. Visitors love the city’s amazing cathedral, seasonal festivals and the new entertainment complex known as the City of Arts and Sciences. With throbbing nightlife and a charming old town area, Valencia is well worth a stop.

DAY 19-22: BARCELONA
Valencia to Barcelona: 3-3.5hrs

Delightfully eccentric, enthusiastically modern and tirelessly festive, is an essential stop on any European tour. Reborn since the demise of Spanish dictator, Franco, Barcelona’s development was spurred when it hosted the 1992 Olympics. Since then, it has regained a spot as one of Europe’s most beautiful, interesting and cutting-edge cities. Montuïc overlooks the city, situated on the hill is beautiful castle, many museums, the “Olympic Ring” and various sports facilities that supported the events. Check out La Barceloneta, the waterfront at the bottom of Las Ramblas. With many nightclubs, restaurants and shops, this a great place to view modern public art as well.

DAY 23-25: PROVENCE REGION
Barcelona to Aix-en-Provence: 7hrs (arrives after midnight)

Comprised of picturesque towns such as Avignon, Arles, Marseille and Aix-en-Provence, this ancient region cultivated by the Romans is a world unto itself. Yes, it is often heavily touristed, but the juxtaposition of romance, country life, modern style and innovation has not detracted from Provence’s historic character and seductive charm.

Visit wineries and lounge in tiny bistros in Aix-en- Provence. Bike ride through wildflowers and visit ancient attractions in medieval Arles. And indulge in sophisticated cafés in burgeoning Marseilles. Provence has always delighted her visitors!

DAY 26-27: NICE
Aix-en-Provence to Nice: 3hrs

The more laid-back (relatively speaking) large town of Nice has lots of cafés, bars, markets and, of course, pebble beaches (take your flip-flops).Cannes and St. Tropez are better as day trips from Nice, as they are really over touristed millionaires’ playgrounds - still fun to check out though, especially if there’s a festival in town.

DAY 28-30: LA SPEZIA/CINQUE TERRA
Nice to La Spezia: 5hrs

La Spezia is a big, bustling Italian city located along the gorgeous coastline of the Gulf of La Spezia between Pisa and Genoa. Situated between the mountains and the sea, La Spezia is an important military center with stately buildings, easy-to-navigate streets and numerous museums. Ideal for launching trips into the Cinque Terre region, this large, modern city has a pleasant, mild climate and offers plenty of traveler conveniences and transportation connections.

DAY 31: PISA
La Spezia to Pisa: 1hr

Known around the world for it’s famous leaning tower, Pisa is an exciting Italian city that offers much more than one wonky building. A university town, Pisa offers a host of artistic and architectural treats as well as a thriving pedestrian culture and fabulous cuisine. With a small city center, Pisa is easy to explore on foot. Soak up the sights as you wander through charming streets from the train station Campo dei Miracoli, where you’ll find the legendary leaning tower and a whole collection of historic buildings.

Note: You can stay in Pisa overnight but it is not necessary as it is only 1 hour from La Spezia and 2.5 hours from Rome.

DAY 31-33: ROME
Pisa to Rome: 2.5hrs

Rome’s magic is indeed alluring and enduring. It is an authentically Italian city harboring not just some of the most famous and historical sites and monuments, but terrific cafés, beautiful piazzas, vibrant personalities, and of course, excellent shopping. When visiting Rome, take the time to indulge in these smaller treasures and you’ll understand why it is still one of the great capitals of Europe.

Be sure to visit The Pantheon, Colosseum, and Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps). The Roman Forum holds some of the most impressive remains that depict the complexities and grandeur of the Roman Empire. St Peter’s Basilica should not be missed either—as one of the largest churches in the world and one of Michelangelo’s best contributions. There is always the Vatican Museum as well as the Sistine Chapel to check out.

DAY 34: SIENNA
Rome to Siena: 3hrs

One of the largest towns in Tuscany, medieval Siena is an Italian favorite with a wealth of historical and artistic importance. Authentic buildings and lovely towers from the Middle Ages remain intact in Siena, whose center is accessible only by foot. Expect to walk quite a bit in this hilly city, which is centered on the shell-shaped square Piazza del Campo. Climb the tall bell tower for an exceptional view of Siena and the surrounding Tuscan countryside.

DAY 35-36: FLORENCE
Siena to Florence: 1.5hrs

Once the center of Renaissance art and culture, today Florence remains an intriguing and alluring city. Although inundated with tourists, you can still immerse yourself in its rich history and Italian culture. Don’t miss the surrounding golden countryside which tempts you with the promise of a true Tuscan experience.
The most famous building in Florence is probably II Duomo, or the cathedral. Ponte Vecchio, the pedestrian bridge across the Arno River might as well be the city’s emblem. The museums in Florence are exceptional and a must see. Florence was the center of the Renaissance, and accordingly, has the most famous works from this period displayed in various halls around the city.

DAY 37-38: VENICE
Florence to Venice: 2hrs

Regardless of the hordes of tourists and the higher than normal prices (relative to Italy) of this enchanting city, words or images cannot prepare you for the unique and unforgettable experience Venice offers. Whether you indulge in culture and art, history, romance and nightlife, it will be tainted with an intriguing, enduring and eexotic flavor that cannot properly be described. By foot and gondola you can explore glorious landmarks, romantic canals and exciting markets.

DAY 39: MILAN
Venice to Milan: 2.5hrs

Although a historic city with centuries of war and dynastic influence, is today mainly a modern commercial hub and is best suited as a quick stopover on the way to somewhere more inspiring and interesting. Fora day or so, though, it’s worth exploring the city’s ancient churches, monuments and museums as well as browsing through the countless shops and cafés. As the center of international fashion and style, Milan has a cutting edge cosmopolitan flair, attested to by its hip bars, nightclubs and cafés. At the tourist office, pick up a copy of the free city entertainment guide, Milano Mese, for the latest happenings.

DAY 40: LUCERNE
Milan to Lucerne: 3.5-4hrs

Swans like to call Lucerne home, and it’s easy to understand why. Set beside a gorgeous (and freezing cold) glacial lake, this Swiss village has mountain views, a restored medieval covered bridge and pretty flower-covered windowsills everywhere. Hike into the surrounding mountains, rent a paddleboat on the lake or wander the winding streets. Lucerne is a great place to try traditional Swiss cuisine like raclette or fondue – and save your extra breadcrumbs for the swans.

DAY 41-42: INTERLAKEN
Lucerne to Interlaken: 2hrs

The Swiss version of Austria’s Innsbruck, Interlaken is, in a word, idyllic. Set in the Bernese Oberland, it is surrounded by snow capped mountains, blue lakes, cow bells, swiss chalets and of course lots of tourists, which should by no means be a deterrent. Visitors can easily avoid each other in this vast spectacular landscape for the couple of days you may spend here. Interlaken is the largest and central town of the region.

DAY 43-44: ZURICH
Interlaken to Zurich: 2hrs

Known as a major financial center, Zurich has more to offer than just bank accounts, businessmen and a stock exchange. Sitting on the Limmat River with a backdrop of the magnificent Swiss Alps, it is a picturesque city that, thanks to its significant wealth and central geographical location, is alive with culture and lots to do. Enjoy a more traditional Swiss atmosphere in Neiderdorf, the ancient medieval section of the city, complete with narrow cobblestones streets and charming eateries. But also indulge in the very cosmopolitan vibe exhibited throughout the entire city from varied personalities, art exhibits, bars and a hyped club scene.

DAY 45-46: MUNICH
Zurich to Munich: 5hrs

Next to Berlin, this is the city to visit in Germany. It delightfully and authentically lives up to its status as the capital of Bavaria. This wealthy city is an emblem of German tradition and stereotype, however, Munich simultaneously embraces contemporary cutting edge culture. Their avant-garde youth scene means there’s much to check out in the way of cool nightclubs, bars and restaurants. But no doubt you will inevitably (and happily) indulge in the more customary tourist scene. After exploring the many neighborhoods, museums and historical attractions, eat your fill of sausage and mustard, then wash it down with two…or three…or even four steins of beer.

DAY 47-48: SALZBURG
Munich to Salzburg: 1.5-2hrs

The birthplace of Mozart and the site of Julie Andrews’ Sound of Music, Salzburg remains a city of music, culture and art. At every turn you can either tire of, or indulge in the genius of Mozart (tours, museums etc.) and play out the splendor of the Sound of Music (tours, memorabilia etc.) Aside from being inundated with these two Salzburg claims to fame, the city is truly beautiful and picturesque. Rimmed with views of the beautiful Alps, its Baroque character is perfectly preserved in its magnificent architecture, including beautiful palaces, abbeys and museums.

DAY 49-50: VIENNA
Salzburg to Vienna: 3hrs

Vienna surpasses her Austrian counterparts when it comes to culture, art and history. Once the mecca of European culture in the 18th and 19th centuries, hosting all the great musical geniuses from Beethoven to Mozart, you can’t help but still feel the richness and grandeur of a once glorious empire. Amidst beautiful historic Baroque architecture there also exists a modern-day culture that invites you to take part in a lively and thriving youth scene. Whether you spend an afternoon in a traditional kaffehaus or take part in the cool club and bar scene, you will have the best of both old and new. Be sure to see Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere (palace), Hundertwasserhaus, and the Museum of Fine Arts.

DAY 51-52: BUDAPEST
Vienna to Budapest: 2.5hrs

Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is an interesting, cosmopolitan city that should not be underestimated. Budapest’s beautiful historic section is Castle Hill on the Buda side of the Danube. Across the river is Pest, the sprawling and hectic center of the modern city that saw much of its development at the turn of century. Budapest is possibly more active, enticing, and bewildering than any other European city.

Here, business people from as far as Moscow and London brush shoulders on the subway while youth from all over the world enjoy the city’s many great cafés, bars and clubs. It’s a gritty city still left to its locals and savored for its pounding, pensive energy.

DAY 53-55: PRAGUE
Budapest to Prague: 7hrs (arrive after 8pm)

Don’t let the other tourists scare you away. Prague is still ridiculously cheap! If you step just a block or two away from the popular tourist spots, you will find that the old-world sparkle of Prague still shines brightly. The amazing buildings, squares, and streets alone are enough to alter one’s view of the world. Once you have seen Prague, your perception of beauty will be forever changed.

Note: You can break up this trip with a stop in Bratislava, Slovakia.

DAY 56-58: BERLIN
Prague to Berlin: 4.5hrs

With a cutting-edge arts scene, terrific cafés, imaginative modern architecture and distinct and vibrant neighborhoods, it is impossible not to leave Berlin impressed, if not awestruck. Berlin should be visited for its pulsating social and cultural scene that is original and inspiring.

Berlin offers excellent walking tours, which is an excellent way to get acquainted with Berlin—both its history and layout. Just past the Brandenburg Gate is the Reichstag, home to the German parliament. The dome on top offers excellent views of Berlin and is also an example of great modern architecture.

Note: You can stop in Dresden on the way to Berlin for a night.

DAY 59: COLOGNE
Berlin to Cologne: 4.5hrs

Köln, or Cologne, is the German capital for mass media, music (nightlife), gay and lesbian life, and for its art scene. Because of Köln’s central location within Europe, it is the biggest hub in Germany with direct trains to/from Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Zurich, Vienna, Prague and Berlin. It also serves as a new hub for the low-cost airlines with cheap fares from many cities.

DAY 60-62: AMSTERDAM
Cologne to Amsterdam: 2.75hrs (6.5hrs straight from Berlin)

Its splendid canals, bridges and architecture envelop the city with charm and lend to its rich artistic history and culture. Its bars, cafés, galleries and numerous forms of entertainment also make this one of the best party towns.
With a relatively small urban base it is easily discovered, especially if you rent a bike and take advantage of the well maintained bikepaths to the outskirts of the city. Most attractions, museums and hotspots are within walking distance of Centraal Station.

DAY 64-65: BRUGES
Amsterdam to Bruges: 3hrs

Its medieval architecture and character is perfectly preserved and invites many visitors. But don’t let that deter you from exploring its ancient streets, acclaimed museums and tons of fun pubs and cafés. Make sure to stop by the Groeninge Meseum, Markt and Burg squares, and perhaps take a bike tour to take in all the sights.

Note: You can visit Brussels next before heading to Paris for your trip’s glorious finish!

DAY 66: PARIS
Bruges to Paris: 2.5hrs

Spend one or two final days in Paris or return to London for your flight home.

Hop-On, Hop-Off Pass Itinerary

Starts & Ends: Paris (or you can start/end anywhere on the network)
Duration: Pacing it 8-10 weeks/60-75 days; Racing it 4-6 weeks/30-45 days

Suggested Transport:
All Loops Hop-on/Hop-off Pass (Adult $1499, Student $1445)

Buy the All Loops Pass from Bakpak and save $144-149 PLUS get 5% off hostel bookings during your trip.

This Trip Idea starts and ends in Paris but you can start/end at any route along the hop-on, hop-off network. Buses depart each city every second day. Certain stops are compulsory which means you must stop there overnight. Other stops are optional and you can stop there or just continue through to the next city. Nice and flexible!

Based on the every second day departures and compulsory stops, you can stay an odd number of nights in any city/stop that is compulsory and an even number of nights in the other stops. Sound confusing? No worries, the route below is designed to account for this departure schedule.

If you stop at nearly every destination on the network as we have detailed below, you’re looking at a 75 day incredible grand backpacking tour of Europe. Of course, if you skip some of the stops or stay a shorter time at each, we reckon you can complete the loop in about 40-45 days.

See our trip notes along the way and at the end of this itinerary.

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DAY 1-5: PARIS
Paris is stunning! Whether you indulge in its grand and monumental history or embrace its intimate romance, Parisian culture will leave its mark on you. Explore the cozy cafés, buy coveted delicacies from the many markets and take in the essential sights. Check out the Arc de Triomphe or the beautiful white domed Sacré-Coeur for one of the most breathtaking views of the city. Visit Musé Picasso, Musée du Louvre, Musée Rodin, Musée d’Orsay, and Centre Georges Pompidou.

DAY 6-7: BRUGES
(Paris to Bruges: Departs 8am, Arrives 1pm, Travel Time 5hrs)

Catch your first hop-on hop off coach and meet your new travel mates for your trip to Bruges. Its medieval architecture and character is perfectly preserved and invites many visitors. But don’t let that deter you from exploring its ancient streets, acclaimed museums and tons of fun pubs and cafés. Make sure to stop by the Groeninge Meseum, Markt and Burg squares, and perhaps take a bike tour to take in all the sights.

DAY 8-10: AMSTERDAM (compulsory stop)
Bruges to Amsterdam: Departs 1pm, Arrives 6pm, Travel Time 5hrs

Its splendid canals, bridges and architecture envelop the city with charm and lend to its rich artistic history and culture. Its bars, cafés, galleries and numerous forms of entertainment also make this one of the best party towns.
With a relatively small urban base it is easily discovered, especially if you rent a bike and take advantage of the well maintained bikepaths to the outskirts of the city. Most attractions, museums and hotspots are within walking distance of Centraal Station.

DAY 11-15: BERLIN (compulsory stop)
Amsterdam to Berlin: Departs 8am, Arrives 6pm, Travel Time 10hrs

With a cutting-edge arts scene, terrific cafés, imaginative modern architecture and distinct and vibrant neighborhoods, it is impossible not to leave Berlin impressed, if not awestruck. Berlin should be visited for its pulsating social and cultural scene that is original and inspiring.

Berlin offers excellent walking tours, which is an excellent way to get acquainted with Berlin—both its history and layout. Just past the Brandenburg Gate is the Reichstag, home to the German parliament. The dome on top offers excellent views of Berlin and is also an example of great modern architecture.

Note: five nights in Berlin is suggested here since you arrive in the evening. Otherwise you have only two full days to soak in this fantastic city.

DAY 16-18: PRAGUE (compulsory stop)
Berlin to Prague: Departs 8am, Arrives 3:30pm, Travel Time 7.5hrs

Don’t let the other tourists scare you away. Prague is still ridiculously cheap! If you step just a block or two away from the popular tourist spots, you will find that the old-world sparkle of Prague still shines brightly. The amazing buildings, squares, and streets alone are enough to alter one’s view of the world. Once you have seen Prague, your perception of beauty will be forever changed.

DAY 19-20: CESKY KRUMLOV
Prague to Cesky Krumlov: Departs 8am, Arrives 11:45am, Travel Time 3.75hrs

Indulge your Bohemian fantasies in Cesky Krumlov, a charming 18th-century town located on the Vltava River in the southern part of the Czech Republic. Known for an incredible castle complex and picturesque old-town square, Cesky Krumlov is a popular tourist destination. With well-maintained Baroque architecture throughout the town, Cesky Krumlov is perfect for wandering, and this Bohemian gem also boasts a thriving café culture, plenty of pubs and exciting nightlife as well.

DAY 21-23: VIENNA (compulsory stop)
Cesky Krumlov to Vienna: Departs 11:45am, Arrives 4:30pm, Travel Time 4.75hrs

Vienna surpasses her Austrian counterparts when it comes to culture, art and history. Once the mecca of European culture in the 18th and 19th centuries, hosting all the great musical geniuses from Beethoven to Mozart, you can’t help but still feel the richness and grandeur of a once glorious empire. Amidst beautiful historic Baroque architecture there also exists a modern-day culture that invites you to take part in a lively and thriving youth scene. Whether you spend an afternoon in a traditional kaffehaus or take part in the cool club and bar scene, you will have the best of both old and new. Be sure to see Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere (palace), Hundertwasserhaus, and the Museum of Fine Arts.

DAY 24-25: GRUENAU
Vienna to Gruenau: Departs 8am, Arrives 12pm, Travel Time 4hrs

DAY 26-27: SALZBURG
Gruenau to Salzburg: Departs 12pm, Arrives 2pm, Travel Time 2hrs

The birthplace of Mozart and the site of Julie Andrews’ Sound of Music, Salzburg remains a city of music, culture and art. At every turn you can either tire of, or indulge in the genius of Mozart (tours, museums etc.) and play out the splendor of the Sound of Music (tours, memorabilia etc.) Aside from being inundated with these two Salzburg claims to fame, the city is truly beautiful and picturesque. Rimmed with views of the beautiful Alps, its Baroque character is perfectly preserved in its magnificent architecture, including beautiful palaces, abbeys and museums.

DAY 28-30: MUNICH (compulsory stop)
Salzburg to Munich: Departs 2pm, Arrives 5pm, Travel Time 3hrs

Next to Berlin, this is the city to visit in Germany. It delightfully and authentically lives up to its status as the capital of Bavaria. This wealthy city is an emblem of German tradition and stereotype, however, Munich simultaneously embraces contemporary cutting edge culture. Their avant-garde youth scene means there’s much to check out in the way of cool nightclubs, bars and restaurants. But no doubt you will inevitably (and happily) indulge in the more customary tourist scene. After exploring the many neighborhoods, museums and historical attractions, eat your fill of sausage and mustard, then wash it down with two…or three…or even four steins of beer.

DAY 31-32: INNSBRUCK
Munich to Innsbruck: Departs 8am, Arrives 11am, Travel Time 3hrs

With images of lederhosen, yodelers, endless snowcapped mountains and pretty little villages, the Tirol region is post-card-perfect. In the winter it is the premier destination for avid skiers, particularly Innsbruck, which has many excellent resorts. In the summer, feast on glorious greenery, mountain lakes and superb hiking trails. The main central town of Innsbruck is filled with much history, culture, folklore and natural beauty, making it an excellent base to explore the entire region.

DAY 33-35: VENICE (compulsory stop)
Innsbruck to Venice: Departs 11am, Arrives 6pm, Travel Time 7hrs

Regardless of the hordes of tourists and the higher than normal prices (relative to Italy) of this enchanting city, words or images cannot prepare you for the unique and unforgettable experience Venice offers. Whether you indulge in culture and art, history, romance and nightlife, it will be tainted with an intriguing, enduring and eexotic flavor that cannot properly be described. By foot and gondola you can explore glorious landmarks, romantic canals and exciting markets.

DAY 36-38: ROME (compulsory stop)
Venice to Rome: Departs 8am, Arrives 6:30pm, Travel Time 10.5hrs

Rome’s magic is indeed alluring and enduring. It is an authentically Italian city harboring not just some of the most famous and historical sites and monuments, but terrific cafés, beautiful piazzas, vibrant personalities, and of course, excellent shopping. When visiting Rome, take the time to indulge in these smaller treasures and you’ll understand why it is still one of the great capitals of Europe.

Be sure to visit The Pantheon, Colosseum, and Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps). The Roman Forum holds some of the most impressive remains that depict the complexities and grandeur of the Roman Empire. St Peter’s Basilica should not be missed either—as one of the largest churches in the world and one of Michelangelo’s best contributions. There is always the Vatican Museum as well as the Sistine Chapel to check out.

Rome to Siena: Departs 8am, Arrives 1:30pm, Travel Time 5.5hrs

DAY 39-40: SIENA
One of the largest towns in Tuscany, medieval Siena is an Italian favorite with a wealth of historical and artistic importance. Authentic buildings and lovely towers from the Middle Ages remain intact in Siena, whose center is accessible only by foot. Expect to walk quite a bit in this hilly city, which is centered on the shell-shaped square Piazza del Campo. Climb the tall bell tower for an exceptional view of Siena and the surrounding Tuscan countryside.

DAY 41-43: FLORENCE (compulsory stop)
Siena to Florence: Departs 1:30pm, Arrives 3pm, Travel Time 1.5hrs

Once the center of Renaissance art and culture, today Florence remains an intriguing and alluring city. Although inundated with tourists, you can still immerse yourself in its rich history and Italian culture. Don’t miss the surrounding golden countryside which tempts you with the promise of a true Tuscan experience.
The most famous building in Florence is probably II Duomo, or the cathedral. Ponte Vecchio, the pedestrian bridge across the Arno River might as well be the city’s emblem. The museums in Florence are exceptional and a must see. Florence was the center of the Renaissance, and accordingly, has the most famous works from this period displayed in various halls around the city.

DAY 44-45: LA SPEZIA/CINQUE TERRA
Florence to La Spezia: Departs 8am, Arrives 12:15pm, Travel Time 4.25hrs

La Spezia is a big, bustling Italian city located along the gorgeous coastline of the Gulf of La Spezia between Pisa and Genoa. Situated between the mountains and the sea, La Spezia is an important military center with stately buildings, easy-to-navigate streets and numerous museums. Ideal for launching trips into the Cinque Terre region, this large, modern city has a pleasant, mild climate and offers plenty of traveler conveniences and transportation connections.

DAY 46: NICE (compulsory stop)
La Spezia to Nice: Departs 12:15pm, Arrives 5:45pm, Travel Time 5.5hrs

The more laid-back (relatively speaking) large town of Nice has lots of cafés, bars, markets and, of course, pebble beaches (take your flip-flops).Cannes and St. Tropez are better as day trips from Nice, as they are really over touristed millionaires’ playgrounds - still fun to check out though, especially if there’s a festival in town.

Notes: You can spend one night in Nice now before heading to Milan, Lauterbrunnen and Lake Como and then spend 1 or 3 days in Nice on the way back. Alternatively, you can spend 1 or 3 days in Nice now and move on straight to Avignon next and skip Milan, Lauterbrunnen and Lake Como.

DAY 47-48: MILAN
Nice to Milan: Departs 8am, Arrives 1:30pm, Travel Time 5.5hrs

Although a historic city with centuries of war and dynastic influence, is today mainly a modern commercial hub and is best suited as a quick stopover on the way to somewhere more inspiring and interesting. Fora day or so, though, it’s worth exploring the city’s ancient churches, monuments and museums as well as browsing through the countless shops and cafés. As the center of international fashion and style, Milan has a cutting edge cosmopolitan flair, attested to by its hip bars, nightclubs and cafés. At the tourist office, pick up a copy of the free city entertainment guide, Milano Mese, for the latest happenings.

DAY 49-51: LAUTERBRUNNEN (compulsory stop)
Milan to Lauterbrunnen: Departs 1:30pm, Arrives 6:30pm, Travel Time 5hrs

Fields of wildflowers, snow-capped mountains and fresh mountain air await you in Lauterbrunnen, a picturesque Swiss village with awe-inspiring scenery and a friendly populace. Waterfalls abound in this region, and you can wander amongst the sheer mountain slopes to hunt them down for a morning excursion or afternoon picnic. Set in one of the Alps’ deepest valleys, Lauterbrunnen offers spectacular scenery, ice-cold rivers and forests out of a fairy tale.

DAY 52-53: LAKE COMO (optional)
Lauterbrunnen to Lake Como: Departs 8am, Arrives 1pm, Travel Time 5hrs

DAY 54-56: NICE (compulsory stop)
Lake Como to Nice: Departs 1pm, Arrives 6:30pm, Travel Time 5.5hrs

Back in Nice for 1 or 3 nights. Why not explore the region also known as the Cote d’azur including Cannes and St. Tropez.

DAY 57-58: AVIGNON/PROVENCE REGION
Nice to Avignon: Departs 8am, Arrives 12:15pm, Travel Time 4.25hrs

Comprised of picturesque towns such as Avignon, Arles, Marseille and Aix-en-Provence, this ancient region cultivated by the Romans is a world unto itself. Yes, it is often heavily touristed, but the juxtaposition of romance, country life, modern style and innovation has not detracted from Provence’s historic character and seductive charm.

DAY 59-61: BARCELONA (compulsory stop)
Avignon to Barcelona: Departs 12:15pm, Arrives 7pm, Travel Time 6.75hrs

Delightfully eccentric, enthusiastically modern and tirelessly festive, is an essential stop on any European tour. Reborn since the demise of Spanish dictator, Franco, Barcelona’s development was spurred when it hosted the 1992 Olympics. Since then, it has regained a spot as one of Europe’s most beautiful, interesting and cutting-edge cities. Montuïc overlooks the city, situated on the hill is beautiful castle, many museums, the “Olympic Ring” and various sports facilities that supported the events. Check out La Barceloneta, the waterfront at the bottom of Las Ramblas. With many nightclubs, restaurants and shops, this a great place to view modern public art as well.

DAY 62-63: VALENCIA
Barcelona to Valencia: Departs 8am, Arrives 1:30pm, Travel Time 5.5hrs

Famous as the birthplace of Paella, Valencia is found on the sunny Mediterranean coast of Spain and is the third-largest city in the country. Originally founded by the Romans, Valencia has numerous ancient monuments, natural scenery and a warm climate that makes it a popular destination year-round. Visitors love the city’s amazing cathedral, seasonal festivals and the new entertainment complex known as the City of Arts and Sciences. With throbbing nightlife and a charming old town area, Valencia is well worth a stop.

DAY 64-66: MADRID (compulsory stop)
Valencia to Madrid: Departs 1:30pm, Arrives 7pm, Travel Time 5.5hrs

Madrid is somewhat daunting and not so pretty at first, but after a couple of days in this bustling city, you will understand why it is the capital of Spain. Large and vibrant with an equally energetic population, Madrid’s cafés, bars and nightclubs are never ending… it’s almost exhausting. There are a number of parks, monuments and museums, including the must-see Prado, to occupy your days. Take your time and explore the cities restaurants, shops, markets and historic sites…including taking in a bullfight (Sundays and holidays).

DAY 67-68: PAMPLONA
Madrid to Pamplona: Departs 8am, Arrives 3pm, Travel Time 7hrs

Pamplona is home to the most famous location where the Running of the Bulls occurs, as part of the San Fermin festival in early July each year.

Notes: If you need two cut two days off your trip, you might skip Pamplona.

DAY 69-71: SAN SEBASTIAN (compulsory stop)
Pamplona to San Sebastian: Departs 3pm, Arrives 5pm, Travel Time 2hrs

Watch your worries float away on the waves at San Sebastian, a vacation destination on the northeast coast of Spain that has long called travelers to its sandy shores. With two glorious beaches separated by an easily climbable mountain dotted with ruins, this cozy little city offers beach time as well as authentic Spanish culture, fresh seafood restaurants, pinchos bars and traditional buildings. Visit a historic church, stroll the narrow streets or head out to surf in this amazing coastal town.

DAY 72-73: BORDEAUX
San Sebastian to Bordeaux: Departs 8am, Arrives 11:30am, Travel Time 3.5hrs

More than a delicious red wine, Bordeaux is a proud and historic city located in the Aquitaine region in the southwest of France. Walk along Les Quais on the shores of the Garonne River, cross the bridges or hop on a ferry for a unique view of the city. Hit the pedestrian center for shopping, dining and cultural pursuits and explore Bordeaux’ many gardens, museums and cafes along with a bottle of – what else? Bordeaux.

DAY 74-75: TOURS
Bordeaux to Tours: Departs 11:30am, Arrives 4:30pm, Travel Time 5.5hrs

Located on the Loire River in the spectacular central valley region of France, Tours is beloved for its unique architecture, delicious wines and numerous beautiful gardens. Explore Tour’s amazing medieval old city, le Vieux Tours, which features half-timbered buildings and busy public square full of restaurants and bars. Home to a university, Tours has no shortage of young energy and this historic town hosts a number of festivals, fairs and celebrations throughout the year.

DAY 76: PARIS
Tours to Paris: Departs 4:30pm, Arrives 9:30pm, Travel Time 5hrs

Spend one or two final nights in Paris before flying out or returning to departure city for your flight home.

Notes: If you need to take this trip in 30-45 days (4-6 weeks), Bakpak Dave suggests skipping the following optional stops which require two nights: Cesky Krumlov, Gruenau, Innsbruck, Milan, Lauterbrunnen, Lake Como, Bourdeaux or Tours, Pamplona plus you will need to stay in a few of the compulsory stops for only 1 night, eg. Munich, San Sebatian, Madrid, etc.

Contiki's 22-day Expedition Tour

(Priced from: $2,379US)
Meals: 20 breakfasts, 12 dinners
Accommodations: Twin Share Tent, Hostel
You will visit: England, France, Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, Vatican City, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium (in transit)

DAY 1-2: LONDON
Check-in to your hotel after 2pm and the remainder of the day is free to relax before meeting your fellow travellers at 6pm. After dinner take a short walk to explore nearby Covent Garden.

Meet up with your fellow travellers and Contiki team as you start your adventure. Your Tour Manager knows all the ins and outs of where you’re going and your tour’s own On-road Cook will make sure you get big portions of tasty meals, made from fresh, local produce.

DAY 2-4: PARIS
Then we hit the road and take a ferry past the White Cliffs of Dover. We travel via World War I battlefields in the Valley of the Somme to Paris.

Once we have set up camp we will depart for the 'Tour of Illuminations', where the French capital transforms into the "City of Lights". Lamp-lit bridges and cool little cafés give us a real taste of Paris’ romance.

Your Tour Manager will fill you in on the world’s most recognised monuments, like the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. If you’re adventurous, get right into French culture when you arrive at a Parisian café with the opportunity to try out France's national delicacy - escargot! You’ll also get to toast the start of your tour with French Champagne.

This town is loaded with possibilities. Discover its many bistros, museums, tree-lined avenues and diverse quartiers (neighbourhoods). Get a feel for French flair by window shopping on the Left Bank, step into the huge Notre Dame Cathedral or explore the endless galleries of the Louvre where you can get up close to the famous Mona Lisa. Try indulging in some delicious pastries and relax in one of Paris’ many green spaces.

Treat yourself to a real Parisian night out, starting with an optional dinner in an atmospheric restaruant, where you can get to know your group. Then sign up for an authentic cabaret experience, complete with can-can girls and Champagne.

DAY 4-6: SWISS ALPS
With down-time on the coach, listen to your MP3, chill out to some music and chat with friends while travelling through the scenic wine producing regions of Burgundy and Chablis.

Tonight, we head to the Alpine heights of Lauterbrunnen and stay in a typically Swiss region, complete with chalets and green fields. It’s a change of pace among Switzerland’s massive Alps. Take in the amazing views from the campsite.

Opt to visit Jungfrau Mountain, head up the sheer slopes of this UNESCO World Heritage-listed site on a cog rail to Europe’s highest railway station, and step out onto the “roof” of Europe for spine-tingling views.

DAY 6-8: FRENCH RIVIERA
This morning we wind our through the stunning Swiss Alps and cut across Italy, where you’ll see the blue waters and pretty villages of the picturesque Lake District. Then we hit the rugged coast line of the stunning Côte d’Azur. Follow the beautiful sapphire waters past the sun-soaked shores of Nice to Antibes.

Next stop on the Riviera and home to the French perfume industry is Fragonard Perfumery. Learn about how perfume is made and some of its more surprising ingredients. It’s also a chance to pick up a bottle or 2 at great prices.

In your free time live a bit of the lifestyle with a visit to the local markets. Try out the region’s produce like lavender honey, aioli (garlic mayonnaise) and mouth-watering rosé wine. Window shop the chic boutiques or choose a beach and catch some sun among all the bronzed bodies!

Tonight get a taste of the high life in Monaco, the glamorous principality packed into just 1.92km2 and home to the Formula 1. Get the inside story on the Royal Family and their place of residence from your Tour Manager. Try your luck at a casino later on.

DAY 8-10: FLORENCE
Onwards to Italy, land of passion! Heading to Renaissance Florence, we stop by Pisa and get up close to the famous Leaning Tower. The scene-stealing Duomo Cathedral rises above Florence, which serves up frescoes, markets and priceless art. After dinner, walk along the River Arno with your Tour Manager, take in the atmosphere and head into the heart of Florence, where you can sit back and relax Tuscan style with a glass of Chianti wine.

Jump start the day uncovering this open-air museum and its UNESCO World Heritage city centre. Our Local Guide gives you the inside track as the group learns about Florence’s cultural beginnings and explores streets crammed with artworks from masters like Michelangelo. Then take a look into a skillful demonstration of Florentine leather making and understand this region’s traditional art. With bargains and bustle, the city’s markets are a great place to hang out. Grab a gelato and enjoy this gorgeous city.

Tonight, there’s a choice of a group dinner – an authentic Tuscan feast. Try regional dishes in the heart of Florence. Then keep it moving with a night out and get your groove on at Florence’s biggest club.

DAY 10-12: ROME
Travel through Tuscany’s rustic hills, past the recognisable cypress tree landscapes of this olive oil producing region, to vibrant Rome. Stylish Rome oozes energy and overflows with relics from another age.

Our special access coach tour gets you right into the thriving atmosphere of this living timeline as your Tour Manager shows you the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia. Continue on foot to check out the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. Honour tradition at the Trevi Fountain and throw a coin in the fountain’s waters (it’s meant to improve your chances of returning to Rome!) or maybe hang out with your new friends at the Spanish Steps, sit back with a few slices of pizza and people watch.

This morning, make the most of our Local Guide’s inside knowledge with an optional guided tour of the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Then check out Rome’s imperial glory by visiting the Colosseum and Roman Forum.

Take off into the city and absorb the atmosphere, as Vespas flash past timeworn monuments that are surrounded by fountains, pizzerias, cafés and bars. Before you hit the shops, let your Tour Manager point you in the right direction with some tips on the best buys.

In your free time, live the local lifestyle by indulging in a long lunch on a paved piazza or knock back a shot of espresso at the bar, like the Romans do.

DAY 12-14: VENICE
This morning, it’s your chance to splash some cash, with our stop at Barberino Designer Outlet mall for our exclusive Italian food & fashion experience. You can use this opportunity to get some gear to show off to your friends at home…This outlet mall is amazing, with your chance to pick up some designer fashion at incredible prices. With between 30%-70% off regular retail, the savings are epic, and because you’re with Contiki you’ll get up to an additional 10% off! From labels like Missoni, Bose, Dolce & Gabbana to name a few – there’s going to be plenty to tempt you today. We take it up a level too, with some extra special Italian experiences with our local expert, like sampling regional produce for those authentic local flavours.

With no doubt lots of bags in hand, we’ll hit the road en route to the floating city of Venice. Known as the “floating city”, Venice is packed with character, crammed with hidden lanes and linked by a network of canals.

The group travels on our private boat through the waters of the lagoon to visit the city’s historical heart. The limestone Bridge of Sighs, the Gothic arches of the Doge’s Palace and the expanse of St Mark’s Square (pigeons and all!) show off Venice’s unique beauty and way of life.

Take some time to explore the floating city and lose yourself in the backstreets. There’s an optional walking tour where you can discover the labyrinth of interweaving lanes, waterways, palaces, piazzi and markets with our Local Guide. You’ll see historic monuments, hidden treasures and the Rialto market – a local favourite for food shopping.
Maybe grab a table on St Mark’s Square and eat some delicious Italian food al fresco.

Cap off the day with an optional gondola ride & share this amazing experience with your friends - seeing Venice from on the water is unforgettable!

DAY 14-16: MUNICH
Say farewell to the romance of Venice as we make our way to Germany & into the home of the world-famous Oktoberfest, Munich - a city that blends traditional Bavarian culture and modern lifestyle.

As we make our way through the cute villages & mountains of Austria, there’s your chance for an adrenalin rush – an awesome whitewater rafting adventure in the Austrian Tyrol!

Later, it’s back on the coach as we head to our destination. When we arrive, there’s time to explore the heart of Munich’s Old Town with the crew, and head to Marienplatz. It’s a central gathering spot famous for the Glockenspiel - a Gothic clock, complete with 32 dancing figures and 43 chiming bells.

Then head off with some friends for a taste of tradition to a typical beer hall and park yourselves at a long wooden table. In this optional excursion, you’ll feast on hearty local food, like roasted pork knuckle, and quench your thirst with a stein of one of Germany’s 5000 brews.

Use your free time to discover more of Munich. Give an optional bike tour a go and get off the beaten track and onto Munich’s side streets with our Local Guide. Otherwise head back to the old town and hunt around the little shops on the pedestrian-only lanes or for a change of scene, head to the university area. With shaded streets, buzzing pavement cafés and cute bookstores, it’s a great way to spend a chilled-out afternoon.

DAY 17-18: PRAGUE
Say farewell to the good times in Germany. Relax on the coach as we head to the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague.

Prague is a beautiful and atmospheric city. It’s also pretty compact, so it’s best explored on foot. Get straight into Prague’s historic heart with your Tour Manager. You’ll walk together over the landmark Charles Bridge, through Hradčany Castle, the home of the original Bohemian Kings and to the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral along the way.

Choose a lunch cruise on the Vltava River, which runs through the heart of Prague, and take in stunning views of the city from the water. The Czech capital has a really mixed past so look out for signs of the Holy Roman Empire, the Bohemian Empire, the Nazis and the Communists.

Free time means you can get deeper into Prague’s Old Town in your own time. The city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with a jumble of little lanes, alleys and courtyards. Slow the pace down and give yourself a chance to uncover its hidden treasures.

Spend some time in the picturesque Old Town Square, where historic buildings and churches surround cafés that spill out onto the pavement. With some world-famous Czech pilsner in hand, park yourself at a table, people-watch and try out some of the traditional local dumplings. This is also the spot to pick up some famous Bohemian glass, beads or garnet and amber jewellery.

By night, Prague bursts with possibilities. Loaded with all types of music, from jazz bars and hip DJ's to opera, there is something for everyone, so make the most of it with your friends.

DAY 18-20: BERLIN
As we make our way back into Germany, we’ll stop for lunch in Dresden - the former home of Saxon royalty & an economic, educational, political & cultural hub of Germany. Your Tour Manager will give you a run down on the history of the city & its gorgeous buildings, much of which were rebuilt after being controversially destroyed near the end of World War II. Later, soak up some beautiful countryside views as we motor down the autobahn and get ready for a dose of über-cool Berlin.

We’ll give you the background on Berlin’s troubled history on a driving city tour. Learn about the East/West split at the Berlin Wall and check out the controversial Reichstag (German Parliament) as well as Tiergarten (one the world’s biggest parks), while you Tour Manager points out the little details and peels back the layers of history. Visit Checkpoint Charlie, where many East Berliners tried to escape to the West, and be reminded of Germany’s darker past at the Brandenburg Gate.

With two nights in this historical hot spot, you’ve got time to find out what makes Germany’s capital one of the most cutting-edge cities in the world. It’s hard to believe that this funky town has had such a troubled past.

With free time, get inspired by Berlin’s creative scene and check out its galleries and street art. As a world forerunner in contemporary art, Berlin’s walls are covered in cutouts and graffiti.

Shopping-wise, this town has it all and is right up there defining style. Berlin is great for small boutiques, funky fashions and one-of-a-kind buys. Your Tour Manager knows Berlin’s ins and outs, so get some pointers before you splurge.

Do as the Berliners do and grab a currywurst (a local favourite) and kick back at a bierkeller (German beer house). Experience the world of espionage in an optional evening Eye Spy Berlin tour with our Local Guide, and enjoy a fascinating look into the Stasi (what was once the East German Secret Police). Then top off your time in Berlin with some of your new friends and explore the city’s legendary nightlife. With cool cocktail bars and some of the best techno clubs in the world, there are heaps of fun choices.

DAY 20-22: AMSTERDAM
Get ready for some fun in the vibrant free-wheeling city, Amsterdam. Check out Amsterdam’s eye-opening Red Light District, where the creative and wacky come together on narrow cobbled streets, 24/7.Try out Amsterdam’s multi-ethnic cuisine. This cultural melting pot dishes up loads of affordable food.

With an optional evening canal cruise, you’ve got a chance to get to know the group, unwind with a few drinks and uncover Amsterdam at water level. Get some pointers on the city’s hot spots from your Tour Manager and head into town for a fun night out.

Kick start the morning with an optional bike ride and cruise into the countryside, where you can bike around like the laid back locals, past working windmills, to the world-famous cheese village of Edam. In an intro into Dutch culture, see how clogs are made and try some of the famous Dutch Edam at a cheese farm.

There’s free time this afternoon to experience Amsterdam’s coffee shops, museums and quirky, cool boutiques. Wander along the canals and past gabled houses or experience Amsterdam’s multi-ethnic cuisine. This cultural melting pot dishes up loads of affordable food.

For your last night on tour, treat yourself to a feast at a rice table dinner with the group in a popular restaurant. With this fun way to eat, you’ll be served loads of dishes from colonial times.

Get some pointers from your Tour Manager, dive into Amsterdam’s night action with your friends and finish up your travels with a night to remember.

After breakfast, there will be a transfer for you to Schipol Airport (estimated arrival at 10:00 am) OR choose to take a complimentary transfer to central London with your Tour Manager and Driver and extend your stay.

With a campervan you can follow any of the routes suggested with the freedom to go where you want, when you want - the free-spirited way to experience Europe. 

Campervans are available from London and Lile, France, about an hour from Paris and sleep between 2 and 4 travelers. From France, campervans cost between €59 and €99 per day while campervans from London range between £35 and £80 per day, all depending on length of travel and season.

Find out more from our Europe Campervan Rental section.

Eat fish and chips with your ale at a pub in London...

Check out the ancient Roman muffin pans at the British Museum...

Dally in the green spaces of Paris, from Luxembourg Gardens to Pere Lachaise Cemetery...

Have a glass of Bordeaux in Bordeaux...

Dip your toes in the twin crescent beaches of San Sebastian...

Walk along the boardwalk of Nice and pretend to be rich...

Spend a whole day roaming Rome and celebrate your dirty feet that evening with a bowl of spaghetti Bolognese...

Ride in a gondola in Venice, and shop for green glass bead necklaces...

Bungy jump in Switzerland over an alpine river, white from the glacial flour...

Learn to love sauerkraut in Austria Try on a pair of lederhosen in Munich...

Enjoy Amsterdam with a canal-side picnic and a bicycle ride around the beautiful city...


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