How to Spend 2 Weeks in Europe – Itinerary Ideas for First Time Visitors

    How to Spend 2 Weeks in Europe – Itinerary Ideas for First Time Visitors

    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.

    2 weeks in Europe Itinerary

    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 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 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.

    Paris - 2 week European Itinerary   

        • 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.

    destinations for 2 weeks in Europe itinerary

    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 for the best way to travel 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.  2 weeks in Europe itinerary ideas      

            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! 

    2 weeks in Europe itinerary ideas

            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 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.  2 weeks in Europe itinerary ideas

    The island of Sicily would make a great 2-week European itinerary. There are so many beautiful places in Sicily to be explored, that you won’t get bored spending your entire vacation on this island. You have good bus connections between cities, but Sicily is best explored by car.

    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. 2 weeks in Europe Itinerary     

         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.

    Central Europe 2 weeks itinerary

         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.

    2 weeks in Europe itinerary ideas

    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.

    2 weeks in Europe itinerary ideas

          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.

    Vilnius, Tallin, Riga 2 weeks in Europe Itinerary

    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 2 weeks European itinerary. Here are two suggestions:
     
           Athens, Istanbul, Bucharest 
    You can easily build a 14 day European itinerary just in Greece, or Turkey, or Romania, if you want to spend your vacation in one country only. Each one of them plenty of breath-taking scenery, historic sites and culture to keep you engaged for 2 weeks. However, if you want to have a taste of each one, you should spend 3 days in Athens, 7 days in Istanbul and 2-3 days in Bucharest.
     
    If you decide to do this itinerary, the best way to travel 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.
     
    Athens, Istanbul, Bucharest 2 weeks in Europe Itinerary
     
         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.
     
    Ljubljana, Split, Dubrovnik, Kotor 2 weeks in Europe 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 if you 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. Everyone wants to travel when the weather is nice, 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.   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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