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Here’s how to plan your first trip to Europe

Group of Young Travellers exploring Greece

Been scrolling through Instagram and falling in love with the dreamy sunsets, sleepy towns, and cultural hotspots? Are you obsessed with the European Summer trend and itching to create your own content? You’ve come to the right place. If you’ve been looking to finally take the plunge and plan your first trip to Europe then we’ve got your next adventure covered. 

From when you should travel to what you should pack we’re here to answer all your most pressing questions so that you can be as prepared as possible for Euro ‘24 and curate your own magical getaway. Whether you’re backpacking through Europe or wanting to tick one country off at a time, here’s your guide to planning your first trip to Europe.

What months are best for a Europe trip?

Well, the truth is that there is no real best time to visit Europe because anytime is the right time! It all depends on what you’re looking for or if you have any specific countries in mind. Europe is a big place and the cultures, temperatures, foods, and landscapes all vary drastically, so you really can’t go wrong. But here’s a Europe travel guide just in case.

trip to europe - couple sunbathing in dubrovnik

Image source:Contiki

Winter in Europe is festive and twinkly and full of magic. Make sure you head to Edinburgh, Bavaria, Strasbourg, and Vienna for the most charming Christmas Markets and indulge in rich hot chocolates (but beware of sticky marshmallow noses). Or if you’re looking for a wonderland head up to Scandinavia for a chance at a glimpse at the Northern Lights and lots and lots of snow.

Spring in Europe is sweet and special, temperatures are mild but getting warmer. What better way to experience the re-awakening of the world than in Paris or Budapest or Copenhagen? Explore the pretty streets and the impressive collection of cultural and art museums. Grand architecture and beautiful river-side views (have you seen Nyhavn?!) will make you fall completely head over heels!

10 places in Europe that are beautiful in all four seasons

10 places in Europe that are beautiful in all four seasons

by Chantal Ford Jul 09, 2017

Summer in Europe can be anything you want it to be! Fancy some sailing and stunning coasts? Make your way to the Greek Islands or Dubrovnik and bask in that Mediterranean and Adriatic sun. Looking to get outdoorsy and challenge yourself on hikes? The Alps are your best friend. Europe enjoys bright and sunny Summers for the most part so you can’t go wrong here, just remember that Summer is Europe’s biggest tourist season, so if you’re not into crazy crowds consider travelling off-peak.

QUIZ: Which OFF-SZN season is the best time for you to travel?

QUIZ: Which OFF-SZN season is the best time for you to travel?

Charlie Fabre
by Charlie Fabre Jul 11, 2023

Autumn in Europe is a great option for those who want to feel the full weight of the dramatic landscapes without freezing on the spot. Get yourself to Ireland for walks along the coast or to the north of England for a break in the Lakes. Or if you want to soak in the last sun rays, travel to balmy and colourful Cinque Terre or vibrant Barcelona where you can still get a golden tan without melting into a puddle. 

What should you visit first in Europe?

For all you bucket list travellers out there the major European cities are a no brainer: they’re popular for a reason and each has a unique vibe and culture for you to get to know! Go see the Eiffel Tower or take an illusion selfie in Pisa! Book a mythology tour in Athens or duck down the canals of Amsterdam. 

For your first trip to Europe the major cities are your easiest option as many of them are used to travellers passing by and the locals will be happy to help you out if need be. So much of Europe is easily accessible, especially when you travel within the European Union, so you don’t have to pick one country and stick with it – branch out! Settle in a hub and go for day trips here and there. 

But if you need specifics here are some of the best places for your Europe itinerary:

17 of the most beautiful wild swimming destinations in Europe

17 of the most beautiful wild swimming destinations in Europe

Amy Bonifas
by Amy Bonifas Oct 05, 2020

How easy is it to travel within Europe?

So easy! You’ll have no trouble getting from point A to B whether it’s around the corner or even kilometres and kilometres away. First of all most European cities are soooo walkable, and if you don’t want to walk for an hour the public transportation systems are immaculate. Reliable and quick, a short stint on a bus or tram will get you where you want to go!

Even if you’re heading for a multi-country quest you have nothing to worry about. Ever heard of interrailing? It’s huge in Europe because of how well established train travel and train stations are. Most car rental countries will allow you to take the car through different EU countries, so make the most of that and have the perfect road trip!

Just make sure to plan a loop that makes sense (maybe don’t leg it from London to Dubrovnik to Lisbon) and you’ll be golden. 

i-amsterdam-sign-removed

Image source:Contiki

What are the European Foodie musts?

How can you organise a first trip to Europe and not try everything it has on offer? Including both food and drinks, here’s the list of our favourite foodie bites in Europe:

10 of the best street food in Europe you must try

10 of the best street food in Europe you must try

by Chantal Ford Mar 08, 2019

What should I pack for Europe?

Generally the weather in Europe isn’t too wild. The north has warm summers and colder winters, whereas the south and east of Europe have warmer temperatures that get high in the summers and stay relatively mild in the winters. 

But the best advice for your Europe packing list is to use common sense. For example if you’re travelling to Greece in July you’re going to want to keep it light and pack lots of bathing suits. Same goes for mediterranean countries and the Balkan countries as well. Though keep in mind the weather can take a turn so always have a raincoat with you.

If you’re travelling during the colder months we recommend packing some long sleeves and jumpers, and if you’re heading all the way up North, dig out your thermals and heavy duty boots for all that rain and snowfall. 

capri-beautiful-country-italy

Image source:Contiki

How much should I budget for Europe?

Different cities are more or less cheap and travel costs can also vary depending on the time of year you travel. As a general rule of thumb peak season (that’s to say between July and August) is when Europe is at its most expensive. But that being said there are many budget friendly countries throughout Europe and there are ways to make your travel more cost-efficient.

Keep it local: Don’t fall into all the tourist traps where prices are driven all the way up. Instead buy your souvenirs in local shops and have your lunch and dinner at the restaurants and cafes the locals do. Not only are the prices lower but it’s a more authentic and charming experience of that country and you get to engage with people along the way. 

If you’re travelling for a long period of time, hostels will be your best friend because they’re cheap and cheerful! Lots of travellers pass through hostels in Europe and the culture for them is big, so not only are they safe and budget-friendly options, but they’re also a great way to meet people while travelling solo.

5 things I wish I’d budgeted for on my Europe trip

5 things I wish I’d budgeted for on my Europe trip

Jess Borten
by Jess Borten Aug 22, 2019

How many countries should I visit in Europe in 3 weeks?

In 3 weeks you’ve got time to tick a decent amount of European countries off your list. You can see as many as you like and in as much depth as desired. 3 weeks is more than enough time to get well acquainted with Europe and still want to see more.

If you’re into a long getaway check out Contiki’s Europe tours which will take you all over the continent to the best places, hassle free! We’ll be your perfect Europe trip planner so you don’t have to worry about a thing – just live your best life. 

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