Planning a trip to Europe for 2 weeks? 14 days may sound like a long vacation, but not on this incredibly diverse continent. With so many attractions, sights to see and cultures to experience, your 2 weeks in Europe will go by in the blink of an eye! Deciding where to start, what countries to visit and how to spend your time in Europe may be overwhelming. This guide will give you activity ideas and tips for planning your itinerary.
Table of Contents
- 1 Things to Consider When Planning Your 2 Weeks in Europe Itinerary
- 2 Itinerary Ideas for Your Two Week Trip to Europe
- 3 Tips for Traveling in Europe
- 4 A Final Note
Things to Consider When Planning Your 2 Weeks in Europe Itinerary
Being born and raised in Europe I always get asked these two questions: when is the best time go to Europe and what is the best itinerary for a first time visitor to Europe. My answer it’s always the same: it depends what you want to do in Europe and how much time you can spend there. If this is your first time in Europe, there are a few things to consider before deciding what to add to your list:
• Keep your travel plans simple
Most first time visitors to Europe are determined to see as much as possible on that first trip. Keep in mind that Europe is a big and diverse continent. There is a lot to see everywhere you go. Fitting all your bucket-listed locations in a 2 weeks trip to Europe is nearly impossible.
• Start with the most popular cities
Your first trip to Europe is not the best time to go off the beaten path. I recommend sticking to the big cities, even though they are more crowded. Major European cities have it all: top notch museums, beautiful architecture, great restaurants and a vibrant nightlife. Besides, they are big transportations hubs and are cheaper for flying in and out of Europe.
• Choose to visit places that are close to each other
The closest major European cities are at least two hours apart, whether you travel by car, by train, or by plane. Transit between cities takes at least half a day, if you consider the time you need to check out of one hotel and check into your next one. Therefore, you won’t be able to do much sightseeing on the day you travel.
• Plan to spend at least 3-4 days in each city you visit
“I just visited six European countries in 10 days! I walked the streets of Amsterdam, eat pizza in Rome, climbed the Eiffel Tower in Paris, rode the London Eye, eat tapas in Barcelona, and drank wine in Lisbon.” While it’s possible to cover more than half a dozen countries in your 14 days in Europe, just running between destinations doesn’t mean you actually visited them! If you want to see at least the major sights, you should plan to spend a minimum of 3-4 days in each city you visit.
• Book an open-jaw ticket
If you plan on touring a specific region or doing a multi-destination trip, you can often save a lot of time and money with booking one.
Itinerary Ideas for Your Two Week Trip to Europe
Without knowing anything about you or your interests, I can only give basic generic advice. Below is a list of 10 suggested itineraries for the best way to see Europe in 2 weeks. I grouped them according to the different European regions. However, you can choose any combination from the cities listed here, according to your tastes and interests.
Western Europe 2 Weeks Itinerary
London, Paris, and Amsterdam
These three cities have more than enough to keep you engaged for 2 weeks. They are among the world’s greatest cities and enjoy a perenial popularity, despite the many problems they have been facing lately. I think they are worth seeing at least once, even though they are always crowded.
You have excellent train, bus and plane connections between all three. There are overnight trains between Lisbon and Madrid that run daily, departing at 11:34 p.m. and arriving in Madrid at 8:40 a.m. Also, there are direct flights, trains, or busses from Madrid to Barcelona.
Lisbon, Madrid, Barcelona
All these Iberian cities are packed with culture, culinary delights and incredible landscapes. They are easy to reach from most major hubs in the United States. Although you could easily spend two weeks in Spain alone, I suggest including Lisbon in your European itinerary as well. Portugal’s capital is romantic, cultured, and inexpensive!
Rome, Florence, and Venice
These are Italy’s most captivating and rewarding cities. If you prefer to spend your time in one single country, this combination makes one the best 2 week European itineraries. Italy has a wealth of archeological sites, most of which are concentrated in relatively compact areas. These three cities also have excellent train, bus, and plain connections.
Sicily is another great place where you can spend 2 weeks in Europe. There are so many archeological sites and beautiful towns in Sicily to add to your list! I promise that you won’t get bored if you choose to spend your entire European vacation on this island. Palermo alone can keep you busy for a week! You have good bus connections between cities, but Sicily is best explored by car. You can choose visit the nearby Malta if you go to Sicily.
Central Europe 2 Weeks Itinerary
Central Europe is becoming increasingly popular. 30 years ago, cities like Prague, Budapest, Dresden, or Wroclaw were largely unknown to the world traveler. But after the fall of communism, Central Europe experienced a strong cultural and tourist revival.
Prague, Vienna, and Budapest
These three capitals have it all: beautiful architecture, fascinating history, packed concert calendars, and delicious food. For those who want to tour Central Europe, this itinerary is perfect. Traveling by rail is the best way to go between these three, as distances are relatively short. You can buy tickets at the station right before the train is scheduled to depart.
Berlin, Dresden and Wroclaw
Combining the cosmopolitan Berlin with the phoenix-city of Dresden and the picturesque Wroclaw, will give you a great understanding of what makes this part of Europe so fascinating. You have direct trains between all these cities.
Zurich, Lucerne, Lugano and Milan
You can never go wrong with Switzerland and the northern part of Italy! These cities have stunning scenery, art museums, old cathedrals, historic palaces, and more charm than you can imagine. However they are not very big, so 2-3 days in each one would most likely be enough.
The best way to move between these cities is by rail. Switzerland is famous for its top of the line panoramic trains, so you can choose to travel from Lucerne to Lugano aboard the Gotthard Panorama Express. You can also take the same route on a non-panoramic train if you want to avoid paying the mandatory reservation fee.
Northern Europe 2 Weeks Itinerary
Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen
These three cities are definitely in a league of their own. Although they can’t compete with Rome’s historic sites or with the charm of Paris, all three have stunning architecture, world-class museums, and some of the best shopping and dining in Europe. If you plan to spend your 2 weeks in Europe during the summer months, this itinerary is your best bet. While the rest of Europe is be boiling hot, Northern Europe enjoys much cooler temperatures and longer days in summer.
Riga, Tallin, and Vilnius
I can’t mention Northern Europe without including a tour of the Baltic capitals. The Baltic States of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania weren’t even on the map when I was growing up. But like many other European countries that lived in the shadow of the Soviet Union till the 90s, they have enjoyed a true renaissance in the past years. If you want to travel somewhere your friends haven’t even heard of, you should visit the Baltic capitals.
South-Eastern Europe 2 Weeks Itinerary
The Balkan Peninsula is the most culturally diverse in Europe. This region has also an extremely varied topography. Bordered by the Adriatic and Ionian Sea to the west, Aegean Sea to the south, the Sea of Marmara to the southeast and the Black Sea to the east, the Balkan countries are stunningly beautiful. There are so many great destinations in South-Eastern Europe, that it’s difficult to decide which ones to include into your itinerary. Here are two suggestions:
If you plan to build your itinerary around these three cities, you could spend 3 days in Athens, 7 days in Istanbul and 2-3 days in Bucharest. Or you can choose spend your entire 2 weeks trip to Europe by visiting just one country. Countries like Greece, Turkey, or Romania have plenty of amazing sites to keep you entertained and engaged for 14 days.
The best way to travel between these 3 countries is by plane. Between Istanbul and Athens you an use Pegasus Airlines (a budget airline) and between Istanbul and Bucharest you can use Turkish Airlines.
Ljubljana, Split, Dubrivnik, Kotor
These four cities will take you through 3 of the most beautiful countries in the Balkans: Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro. The best way to travel between these cities would be by car or by bus, as there are no train connections between Split and Dubrovnik. For those who want to rent a car to drive through the Balkans, I recommend this 14 days Balkans road trip itinerary. If you have a car, you can extend your itinerary to some other points of interest in this region.
Tips for Traveling in Europe
• Stay as close as you can to the city center
Hotel rates are higher in the city center, but it’s worth paying the extra dollars if you can afford it. You’ll save time and money on transportation.
• Use Hotel Alternatives
AirBnB or VRBO for lodging instead of booking hotel rooms, especially if you travel in a bigger group. They are a much better deal and have beautiful apartments all around the world. For the same price you would pay for an average hotel, you could rent an entire apartment.
• Don’t exchange money in the airport
Airports, train stations, or tourist areas have the worst exchange rates. But if you look for an exchange office outside these areas, your hard earned money can go a way longer way. If no exchange booths are around, use the ATM machines throughout the city.
• Consider using public transportation
Driving a car Europe is an expensive and inconvenient complication. None of these European cities were built with cars in mind, so the roads are crowded and full of restrictions. Rather than worrying about parking fees, one way streets, and pedestrian zones, consider using public transportation during your 2 weeks in Europe.
• Travel by train, or use budget airlines
Train travel through Europe is one of the best ways to see the continent. The rail network is extremely developed and train service is very reliable. For longer distances, flying one of the many European airlines is also a great option. There are over a dozen budget airlines in Europe that fly anywhere on the continent for unbelievably low prices. They charge extra for seats and luggage, but even so you can fly for as low as €30-40/one way.
• Dress comfortably
Dressing comfortably when you travel to Europe is very important, but avoid looking like a tourist. Not sure how to blend in with the locals? Read my guide about how to dress like a European. Also, buy the best shoes you can afford. I can stress enough the importance of wearing comfortable shoes while traveling in Europe. Many of the old European cities are still paved with cobble stones which are very rough on your soles.
• Travel off season
Everyone wants to travel when the weather is stable, but summers can be brutal in Europe: big crowds, expensive accommodations and airfare, busy trains and public transportation and very hot. The best time to visit Europe is in fall and spring, unless you are headed there for the winter holidays. Summers are hot and busy.
A Final Note
This guide is a good resource if you intend to visit Europe independently. However, if you prefer an organized tour there are plenty of great tours of Europe to choose from.
Hope the itineraries above gave you some idea on how to travel Europe in 2 weeks. And if you like a place you saw, make a plan to return and explore it more in depth. Two weeks in Europe will not be enough to see this magical continent.
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