Your Europe itinerary: 10 routes to explore the continent

written by Rough Guides Editors

updated 11.10.2023

You can’t expect to fit everything Europe has to offer into one trip and we don’t suggest you try. For those taking a big, extended trip around the continent you could join a few countries together. Each of these itineraries could be done in two or three weeks if followed to the letter but don’t push it too hard – with so much to see and do you’re bound to get waylaid somewhere you love or stray off the suggested route.

This article is inspired by our Rough Guides guidebooks — your essential guides for travelling the world.

1. Britain and Ireland

Where else to begin but London (1) – one of the world’s greatest but most expensive cities. While your wallet is still intact move on to the storied grounds of Oxford (2) before heading to Snowdonia (3), where the Welsh mountains provide excellent hiking.

Soak up some history in the medieval streets of York (4), then make the trip north to stunning Edinburgh (5). Find your inner Braveheart in the Scottish Highlands (6) and fit in an unforgettable hike, climb, or ski while you’re at it.

Pop across the North Channel to Belfast (7), but be sure not to miss the nearby Giant’s Causeway – one of Europe’s great natural wonders. Grab a perfect pint of Guinness in Dublin (8), then wind down on the windswept beaches of Ireland’s West Coast (9).

Rough Guides tip: For more practical guidance that will help you make the most of your Britain and Ireland trip, have a chat with our local experts, who can help you plan your dream trip.


2. France and Switzerland

Start in Paris (1), Europe’s most elegant capital, then venture off to the châteaux and prime vineyards of the Loire Valley (2). Move south to beautiful Bordeaux (3), which boasts bustling city life and some of Europe’s finest surfing beaches to boot.

Head south of the peaks of the Pyrenees (4) before taking a trip through Southern France to the Côte d’Azur (5). Don’t miss the magic of Corsica (6), a true adventure playground, or traditional cooking in Lyon (7), the country’s gastronomic capital.

Try your luck skiing and climbing in the Alps (8), and end by relaxing riverside in laid-back Zürich (9).

Rough Guides tip: If you're planning a trip to France, our fully customisable French itineraries can help you get the most out of your trip.


3. Benelux, Germany and Austria

Kick-off in Amsterdam (1) before enjoying more atmospheric canals and beautiful buildings in Bruges (2). Cologne’s (3) spectacular old town is a perfect first stop in Germany, but be sure to head north soon after for the vast port and riotous bars of Hamburg (4).


Few cities can compete with the style and youthful energy of Berlin (5), while Dresden (6) has also become a favourite backpacker hangout. Then head south to Munich (7), where Bavaria’s capital boasts everything from snowy scenery to beer-fuelled Oktoberfest.

Cross over the border to Austria (8), and conclude this itinerary among the palaces, museums, cafés and boulevards of Vienna (9).

While travelling in Benelux, read our guide to the best things to do in Belgium and you may want to stay in the country longer.

Rough Guides tip: Don't know where to start planning your trip to Germany and Austria? Start planning with our local experts who will help you customise our German itineraries according to your preferences.

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 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.

Rough Guide tip: This route may seem a bit intricate. That's why our Spanish, Portuguese and Moroccan itineraries will come in handy, fully customisable they leave room for imagination.

5. Italy

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.

Rough Guide tip: Planning a trip to a popular tourist destination like Italy can be difficult, as there are so many tempting places to visit. To make it easier, contact our local experts who can help customise our Italy itineraries to suit your preferences and help you have an unforgettable experience.

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 the 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.

Rough Guides tip: Central and Eastern Europe can safely compete with their Western neighbours. Until recently, these regions were off the tourist radar, but that has changed. Contact our local experts and create an itinerary covering the places you want to visit.

7. Scandinavia

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.

Rough Guides tip: In our opinion, each of the Scandinavian countries is worthy of a separate visit. Start with our Norwegian or Swedish itineraries and see how both countries will keep you occupied for a long time. And if you want to cover the whole Scandinavian destination, get in touch with our local guides who will help you create a convenient and complete itinerary.

8. Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera (Balearic Islands island hopping)

Start your island hopping trip with Mallorca (1), a Mediterranean gem boasting stunning beaches and vibrant culture. Move east to Menorca (2) with its tranquil coves and untouched beauty. Discover the island's natural wonders, including the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the ancient megalithic sites that dot the landscape.

In Ibiza (3), embrace the vibrant nightlife and dance your nights away at world-famous clubs. During the day, unwind at the beautiful beaches, explore the picturesque old town of Ibiza Town, and revel in the bohemian vibes that permeate the island.

Formentera (4) beckons with its idyllic beaches and laid-back vibes. Immerse yourself in this island paradise, then head back to (5) Mallorca for the perfect finale - a journey that combines the best of the Balearics!

Rough Guides tip: To make sure you don't miss out on the gems of any of the Balearic Islands - contact our local experts who will create the most comprehensive itinerary for you.

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.

Rough Guide tip: Discover the riches of Croatia and Romania: each country is a treasure trove of fascinating experiences. Start with our carefully designed Croatia or Romania itineraries and you will be immersed in a world of coastal wonders, ancient legends and delicious cuisine. To fully experience the magic of both destinations, our local guides are ready to create an unforgettable journey through these enchanting countries.

10. Greece and Turkey

Begin by finding the perfect beach in Kefaloniá (1), and continue to Athens (2) for a sunset 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).

Rough Guides tip: Choose our Greek or Turkish itineraries for a fascinating journey into ancient history, breathtaking coastlines and tantalising cuisine. For a complete Mediterranean adventure, our local guides will create a seamless and unforgettable journey through both countries.

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