The second I finished college, I knew I had to take the momentous, and almost essential Interrail trip through Europe. A few weeks, my first solo trip, an Interrail pass – pretty much the ingredients for one hell of an adventure. An Interrail (or Eurail) ‘backpacking’ trip through Europe is a coming-of-age that ranks high on every twenty something’s bucket list. So where do you start? I’ve put together what I consider the most comprehensive itinerary of this railroad pilgrimage through the continent, with plenty of adventure packed in for those seeking an adrenaline rush.
Before I get started though, you need to understand how the Eurail pass works – you can either get an unlimited pass valid for say, a month or two, or you buy a pass that gives you a certain number of trips through three or four neighbouring countries. Your best bet is to figure out how much time you have, and choose a pass BEFORE deciding what your itinerary is going to be. Be smart about timing your journeys, as some consecutive journeys count as one, while some overnight journeys can count for two if you don’t choose the right times. Check out the pass here and figure out what works best for you before digging deeper.
You can’t really get started without stopping by to see the Queen, so make this cosmopolitan your first stop. Spend a few days getting a taste of the city, hit up the classic spots like Westminster, Tower Bridge, Covent Garden, Shoreditch (not on your classic tourist list but essential for an authentic London experience), Borough Market, and Buckingham Palace. Spend as much time as you can walking around the city, as I truly believe it is best seen on foot. If you’re feeling peckish, hit up some of my favourite London brunch spots (list here)!
Take a quick train to the land of Loch Ness and spend a weekend in Edinburgh, exploring the university town, and hiking up to Arthur’s Seat – a few hours well spent mid-morning to catch the best views of the city. Refuel after the hike with some brunch at JK Rowling’s old haunt – Spoon Café. Head back to London for a quick pit stop before moving on to….
France – Paris, Annecy, Chamonix
Easily one of the most charming cities in Europe, I recently had the pleasure of rediscovering it after a decade, and fell in love all over again. Spend at least three days here – eat yourself into a pastry coma, take the quintessential photographs with the Eifel Tower, walk the markets around Montmartre, see the Moulin Rouge, stroll through the prestigious 8e arrondisemont, and visit the Bastille. A full three-day itinerary for Paris will be hitting the blog soon, stay tuned!
Head towards the Swiss border to the beautiful mountain and lake towns of Chamonix and Annecy. A day in each is more than enough if you’re there over the summer, as ski season is well over by then. For the ultimate panorama, paraglide over Chamonix! Swim in the Annecy lake and eat all the crepes you can find before heading on over the border.
The home of the Alps! Summer or winter, what a view this country offers. Interrail your way through, hitting Geneva first on the French side, before moving through Zurich, Zermatt, Interlaken, and Lugano. For Zermatt, take the panoramic train from Zurich and head towards the Matterhorn. Go skydiving in Interlaken for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to freefall right next to Switzerland’s highest peak – Jungfrau. End your swiss sojourn in Lugano, a beautiful seaside town on the border of Italy, and Interrail into the next… oh and don’t forget the fondue!
Italy – Rome, Venice, Verona, Florence
Now this is one of my all time favourite countries in Europe. If there’s one place I could go back to every month, it’s Italy. Now this is easy to do if you have an unlimited pass but you might need to reroute if you don’t. Spend a few days in Rome to try and get a flavor of this beautiful city, before heading south towards Venice (my top ten guide to Venice is here), Verona and Florence. If you’ve got some more time, hit up the coast and drive along Amalfi before heading further down south the a littlie slice of paradise called Cinque Terre (guides here and here)!
Ok, now this country… spectacular! A little hidden gem in Eastern Europe that not too many people know about, hit up the capital, Ljubljana for a day or two with a stopover in Lake Bled for an overnight at the most romantic lake in Europe.
A hidden gem that almost nobody knows about (now you do!) is Piran – a city on the Adriatic coast reminiscent of Croatia’s pre-tourist coastline – still a relatively undiscovered treasure you must see in Slovenia.
Budapest & Prague
The trend hitting today! I can’t help but talk about these two cities as a combination. Brimming with history in its architecture and monuments, you can’t hide from the incredible stories these two cities have regardless of where you turn. Hit up the famous Budapest baths and ruins bars and of course, walk across Prague’s spectacular Charles Bridge for some of the city’s best views. And don’t forget that quintessential Instagram at the John Lennon Wall – did you even really go to Prague if you didn’t pose by the wall?
Berlin & Bavaria
Make your way across the border, starting at the Southern parts of Germany and winding your way North to Berlin. The Blackforest region in the south is worth of a road trip and some extra time – stops on your way are Mummelsee and Baden-Baden for a quick spa stopover in the playground of Europe’s rich and famous – a guide to the Blackforest will be hitting the blog soon, check this space for updates!
Move further north to Berlin and Hamburg and soak in the culture and history of these gorgeous cities. When I visited Berlin, I was convinced that could be home – the city has so much to offer and is one of the greatest cosmopolitan melting pots of Europe.
Keep your fingers crossed you’re here during Tulip season (early-mid Spring) and make your way to Keukenhoff for the world’s most spectacular flower display, gorging on some strawberries, waffles and cream on the way. Explore the canal city by bike, stop into the gorgeous museums (Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, and Alard Pierson Museum are some of my favourites), and relax at the many unique coffee shops across the city – pick any you can’t go wrong I promise.
If you’ve got a month or a little less, this is your classic Eurail trip through Europe. That said, if you’ve got plenty of time and aren’t tired of the adventure just yet, hit up Spain and Portugal for some sangria, sun, and spectacular architecture, and make a pit stop in Austria to visit Salzberg, reliving the Sound Of Music as you do so.