Getting ready for that big two-week trip to Europe? 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 2 weeks in Europe itinerary.
- 1 Things to Consider When Planning Your 2 Weeks in Europe Itinerary
- 2 Itinerary Ideas for 2 Weeks in Europe
- 3 Activity Ideas While Visiting Europe
- 4 Tips for Traveling to Europe
Things to Consider When Planning Your 2 Weeks in Europe Itinerary
Being born and raised in Europe I get asked pretty often what would be the best itinerary for a first time visitor to Europe. My answer it’s always the same: it depends how much time you can spend there. If this is your first time in Europe, there are a few things to consider before choosing your itinerary:
• 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 traveled to six countries in Europe in two weeks! 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 2 weeks 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 2 Weeks in Europe
Without knowing anything about you or your interests, I can only give basic generic advice. Below is a list of 10 suggested itineraries. 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
1. London, Paris, and Amsterdam 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.
2. 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!
3. Rome, Florence, and Venice 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 weeks 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.
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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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 them 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
7. 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.
8. 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
Activity Ideas While Visiting Europe
Tips for Traveling to 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 Airbnb or VRBOfor 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. Your hard earned money can go a way longer way if you look for an exchange office outside these areas, or 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, use public transportation.
• 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, 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.
• Travel off season. Is the best way to avoid crowds and save money on accommodations, airfare, train tickets, and tours. The best time to travel to Europe is in fall and spring, unless you are headed there for the winter holidays. Summers are hot and busy.
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.
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