4. Spain, Portugal and Morocco
Begin in the Basque capital of Bilbao (1), Spain’s friendliest city and home of the Guggenheim. Then it’s on to the city beaches, late-night bars and enchanting old town of Barcelona (2). Ibiza's (3) nightclubs are famous the world over, but its pockets of peace and quiet are worth the trip alone.
Gobble tapas and dance the night away in Madrid (4) before heading west for the countless port lodges of Porto (5). Cruise down the Atlantic coast to the historic Portuguese capital of Lisbon (6), then make for the region of Andalucía (7), stopping in the cities of Seville and Granada as you venture further south.
If you catch a ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco and set course for Fez (8), explore the medieval Moroccan city of labyrinth alleys, souks and mosques. Finish up in Marrakesh (9), a colourful city with a stunning backdrop of the Atlas Mountains.
Start in Milan (1) for a little Prada, Gucci, and Leonardo da Vinci. Veer east to visit the world’s most beautiful city, Venice (2), then south to the foodie nirvana of Bologna (3). Glide onwards to Tuscany (4) where Florence and Siena make excellent bases to explore the region’s hill towns.
You can hardly “do” Europe and not see Rome (5), and there is truly no better place to eat pizza than in the crumbling yet attractive city of Naples (6). Experience a Roman town frozen in time at Pompeii (7), before sleeping in one of Matera’s (8) hand-carved caves.
Kick back in Sicily (9) on idyllic beaches beneath smouldering volcanoes, or enjoy the hectic pace of Palermo, one of Italy’s most in-your-face cities.
6. Central and Eastern Europe
Get going in Prague (1), a pan-European city with beer that never disappoints. Move east to Warsaw’s (2) vodka-soaked bar scenes, Old Town, palaces and parks.
Arty and atmospheric Kraków (3) shouldn’t be missed, and neither should a trip to charming cafés of L'viv (4). Leave cities behind for the majestic wilderness of Slovakia's Tatra Mountains (4), then head back to civilisation and immerse yourself in Budapest (6) where you'll find two great cities in one.
Finish this itinerary up in Ljubljana (7); Slovenia’s capital is a perfectly formed pit stop between central Europe and the Adriatic if you’re eager to push on to the Balkans.
Start in the lively lanes of beautiful Copenhagen (1), and head north to Gothenburg’s (2) elegant architecture, fantastic nightlife and fully-functioning rainforest. A visit to Oslo (3) is worth the expense, but after a while you'll feel the pull of the Norwegian fjords (4).
The mild climate and wild scenery of the Lofoten Islands (5) should not be skipped, but neither should the reindeer, huskies and elusive Northern Lights of Lapland (6). Of course, no trip to Scandinavia would be complete without a stop in Stockholm (7).
If you’re travelling in summer, get to Gotland (8) – Sweden’s party island, buzzing with DJs and bronzed bodies on the beach.
8. Russia and the Baltic Coast
Big, brash, expensive surreal – Moscow (1) is almost a nation in itself, and well worth a visit before moving on to the jaw-dropping architecture and priceless art collections of St Petersburg (2).
Head west to Helsinki (3), the proudly Finnish love child of Russian and Swedish empires, then hop across the gulf to charming and beautifully preserved Tallinn in Estonia (4).
Latvia's cosmopolitan Riga (5) should not be missed, and when you need your nature fix go further south to the Curonian Spit (6), a strip of sand dunes and dense forest ideal for cycling and hiking. Wind this trip down in Vilnius (7), the friendliest and perhaps even the prettiest of all Baltic capitals.
9. The Balkans
Start with a slew of cheap but delicious wine, watersports, and vitamin D on the Dalmatian coast (1), then move on to Europe’s war-scarred but most welcoming capital, Sarajevo (2).
History-steeped Dubrovnik (3) rivalled Venice in its day, and is an easy stop on the way to Budva (4), Montenegro’s star resort with unspoilt beaches and throbbing open-air bars. Head further south to Tirana (5) for charming architecture and urban exploration, before visiting the shimming shores of Ohrid’s (6) mountain-backed lake.
Be sure to check out the chilled vibe of Sofia (7), and the more upbeat buzz of Serbia’s hip capital: Belgrade (8). End this itinerary by discovering Transylvania (9) – you probably won’t find any vampires, but you will find fairytale villages, colourful festivals, and wolf tracking in the Carpathians.
10. Greece and Turkey
Begin by finding the perfect beach in Kefaloniá (1), and continue to Athens (2) for a sun set over the Parthenon. Sail first to the island of Íos (3) for partying backpackers and hippie-era charm, then on to Crete’s (4) Samarian Gorge.
Get to the Turkish mainland for a visit to the remarkably preserved temples, mosaics, and baths in Ephesus (5) before mountain biking, paragliding, or diving in Kaş (6).
Then venture east to Cappadocia’s (7) volcanic landscape and subterranean city, and wrap up among the bazaars, hammams, and surprisingly hectic nightlife in Istanbul (8).
Explore more of Europe with the Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.