Bear in mind, many of these places are also fantastic in the off season., not only perfect in July, August and September.
As we really, really love the beach…and food…and a cool hostel, we want to start wiiiiiiiiith:
1. Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes and actually all the Greek Islands are famous for being an awesome European summer destination!
You can either join the popular nightlife or just hang out at the beach all day long and go early to bed to repeat it the next day.
Either way, don’t miss out on the food, you would regret it!
Make sure you get out of the city as well. The island has plenty of different corners to explore. Therefore, get a bike, scooter or rent a car and hit the road. Check prices directly with Discover Cars here.
Everybody will be jealous of your sunset photos from Santorini! This is why we added the instagrammy-glam-factor!
Known as one of the most beautiful islands in Greece, it is much better to stay on the island than doing a single day trip.
Once the tourists from the cruises leave the island, you will feel like in heaven. Make sure you rent a car in Santorini. We always compare car rentals with Discover Cars. But, make it a small one. You will be glad you did, since some streets are narrow. Economy car rental prices start from around 11€ per day.
It’s time to find a nice terrace and watch the magical sunset while delighting some Greek food.
We recommend combining both trips to Rhodes and Santorini. Both islands offer everything you need for your epic European summer. From here you can take as well day trips to smaller islands around.
Where to stay in Santorini?
Experience to sleep in a cave! The 5 Star Hostel Caveland Santorini used to be a winery, and a former luxury hotel.
It was totally refurbished and nowadays it is a unique hostel.
They offer yoga classes on the rooftop terrace, cozy vibes, and… a swimming pool!
The perfect combination to feel relaxed and refreshed after an exploring day.
Interlaken is known as a sports capital, so you will struggle to decide what to do. You can find all the best things to do in Interlaken with Outdoor Interlaken.
They also list all of the activities in Interlaken in Winter. For the relaxed travelers, it is also a great destination, as you will be surrounded by incredibly amazing nature.
4. Ghent, Belgium
Ghent is a real hidden gem in Europe.
The city of Bruges and Brussels are the famous spots in Belgium, and they eclipse Ghent.
In our opinion, Ghent is a more lively city: Its architecture, its canals… and the lively student flair fills up the city.
Let the big tourists crowds go to the nearby Bruges and enjoy a European hidden gem.
Especially at night, Ghent is extremely beautiful. Walk around at night, have dinner, and wander along the canals. Like in many European destinations, the lights of the main sights are turned off at midnight.
BTW: Bruges is really beautiful. It’s worth it to stop by for day trip!
Where to stay in Ghent?
Stay at a cute old Belgian house with cozy rooms just in front of the Castle.
Fuerteventura is a volcanic island in Spain with great food, good weather, and smiley people. Yes, Canary Islands are Spanish even though their location is more South than Morocco.
We like to say: It’s Africa with Europeans living on it.
Super important will be to rent a car. We have lived two months on Fuerteventura. The public transport exists, but it is not very frequent and not easy to get around. We highly recommend to rent a car. This way you can drive to Cofete in the South and explore the area around El Cotillo.
Where to stay in Fuerteventura?
Fuerteventura looks small on the map but distances are tricky and long. You should adjust your location to the activities/ places you want to do and see.
The best option for Fuerteventura is to rent an apartment or to stay at a super cool surf hostel.
Lisbon is easy to move, to find good food and to enjoy your time. No need to rent a car or anything. It is easy to get to the beaches by public transport and get around the city. Even renting a bike is not the best idea, as it can be hilly. Personally, I do not enjoy this when cycling.
My best tip, is enjoy the beautiful trams and take buses around. I always enjoy this in Lisbon. That being said, you can also make a full Portugal trip out of your time. Rent a car in Lisbon and drive up the coast to Porto; you will encounter beautiful, small villages along the way.
It is still a hidden gem. From Lisbon we move up to the North to Porto. It is cheaper than Lisbon and smaller. And it has different things to do. You can climb the bridge here, taste the world famous port wine and wander the Douro River along to the ocean.
Porto is amazing!
It is also home to the famous Lello library. You know the one J. K. Rowling was writing partially Harry Potter. It is one of the most beautiful book shops in the world.
They have a clock tower in the very city center to climb, the Clerigos Tower. From here you see the whole city. This is especially wonderful during sunset.
We even took a day trip to Costa Nova Beach and Aveiro, called the “Portuguese Venice“. For this you will need to rent a car. There is tolls in Portugal, but they are very cheap, so nothing to worry about.
In the shadow of the big Barcelona and Madrid, Valencia is yet a beautiful destination who managed to keep it’s authentic vibe and lifestyle.
Come here, enjoy the Spanish lifestyle at its best within Valencia’s old town.
Oh and the beach is not far away from the city center!
Cantagua Hostel comes with a beautiful interior design, super cool dorms, and a chill out vibe you will enjoy.
The staff is on top of the game, and the location is in Eixample, directly at Russafa. If you have read our introduction, we have mentioned Russafa and City Center are the best neighborhoods to stay in Valencia.
Cantagua Hostel is fantastic for its vibes, its cleanliness, location, and design. It has an age limit though.
As for renting a car, for Valencia itself as a city break, you won’t need a car at all. You can rent a bike and ride it to the beach, I always enjoyed this.
As for day trips, I absolutely recommend visiting the castle in Xativa. You won’t expect this, I promise. Another highlight for me was the tiny town of Bocairent. It is TINY and you can visit a very authentic bullfighting arena and caves.
You will need a car for these day trips. I know I sound like a broken record, but Discover Cars…well, you know!
Visit Barcelona on a shoe string budget? Then check all the FREE Things to do in Barcelona. Whatever you do, do NOT rent a car in Barcelona. It is a pain to park, seriously.
Of course, for visiting the Costa Brava and such, the car is a very good idea. The train will only bring you to Blanes, the first village at Costa Brava. The bus is also an option as it connects villages like Tossa de Mar, Pals and others.
Please remember that there is tolls in Spain. Yo can calculate your route and total costs for gas and tolls with Viamichelin.com.
As for sights, we collected here the 3 places you should book in advance. You can buy your tickets on the following links:
It is one of the tiniest countries in Europe, surrounded by mountains.
Andorra is a sports country, you can enjoy kayak, mountain bike, skiing, rafting,… or simply admire the scenery. I both enjoy it for hiking in summer as well as winter sports in winter.
Getting to Andorra by public transport from Barcelona is not very easy. Getting to Andorra by car is much easier and more flexible. In fact, all the other travelers at Mountain hostel came by renting a car from Barcelona.
It is a great chance to visit one more country in Europe most people do not even know.
Fun Fact about Andorra: Andorra has no army and an agreement with both France and Spain about their defense. Both countries would defend Andorra with their military in case something happens.
Where to stay in Andorra
Located in an old farmhouse, Mountain Hostel Tarter is the place to be. You will get the vibes and mood to enjoy this tiny country at the best.
Mar, the owner of Mountain Hostel, will help you to design your perfect itinerary.
She knows this country as the back of her hand, and she loves to show it to all the hostel guests. Have a look at the hostel story on the video below.
NOTE: They even have an open air Jacuzzi. One more reason to stay with them.
Kayak, Mountain Bike, skiing (in winter time), rafting… There are plenty of activities to do in this tiny country!
The scenery is very beautiful. If you do not want to practice any sport, you can just relax and enjoy the views.
Andorra is also known for their low taxes.
Many people from the countries nearby come just to buy Alcohol, electronics, and even cheese and sugar products.
14. Venice, Italy
It is incredibly beautiful with its old buildings, romantic flair all along the city, nice sunsets and Italian food.
The floating city of Venice is one of those places everyone wants to see at least once in their life.
The city of Venice is very very touristy. This is no secret. However, to my surprise, you can sneak away from the tourist path really easily. Just go away from the main San Marco Square and the street connecting it with the train station.
It is beautiful, romantic – come here, please.
It is great in summer and winter. Actually, all year long!
Where to stay in Venice
Located in an old form monastery, Combo Hostel is the place to stay during your visit to Venice.
A premium hostel in the main island of Venice with cozy designed rooms and in-house bar offering one of the best spritz in the city.
As for transport in Venice, you cannot even drive a bike in the actual center and city. You can take a train to the entrance of the city, and that is it. At some points you can cross the big canal with a public boat, which costs around 2€.
There is no bikes, no cars, no segways and so on in Venice. Do not be that person calling a hotel asking for parking spots in Venice…just, don’t!
If you plan to travel by car around Italy, you will need to park you car in the Mestre area.
Take a trip to Bologna too. It is the birth place of Italian Cuisine. We recommend staying 2 nights in Bologna. Check out WE Bologna, a fun and design hostel we love. The train connection to Bologna and Florence is perfect and very affordable.
Our full article: We_Bologna, the 5 Star Hostel in Bologna
Its nickname is Jewel Box and it is still a hidden gem for many people. Dresden is not very known outside Europe!
Dresden also has one of the most impressive nature landmarks nearby: Elbe Sandstone Mountain.
And is the capital of Saxony, and was the former royal residency.
Where to stay in Dresden
To get the authentic Dresden flair, stay at Lollis Homestay. A creative, laid-back hostel, run by genuine backpackers.
They turned an old DDR car into a cosy bed. They do offer a room where you will feel you shrink yourself, like in the 80s movie „Honey, I shrunk the Kids“.
We highly recommend to visit the Sandstone Mountains. It is about 45km from Dresden, a great day trip. Have a look at the photo below. Wanna go here for a hike?
The Elbe Sandstone Mountain is located in the Czech Republic, just across the border. You can rent a car with Discover Cars and drive there.
16. Ljubljana, Slovenia
It is the perfect bite-size city! The capital of Slovenia is also a cheap, safe destination, and you will find friendly locals.
Ljubljana means “beloved” in a literal translation. And believe us: It won’t take you too long to fall under his charm.
We have visited for 3 nights, this is a great time window to see it all, enjoy the free walking tours and eat at the markets. I absolutely enjoyed the car-free inner city. More cities should follow their example.
If you are coming for 3 days to Ljubljana, you can also throw in a day at the famous Lake Bled. Get a car or take a short bus ride to the lake. Go for a hike here and enjoy the warmer months here.
Did you know that there is actually free-living bears in the mountains of Slovenia? No worries, they actually never come to the cities. But, there is areas where you can go and watch them. Amazing!
Where to stay in Ljubljana
As Ljubljana is a very cheap destination, why don’t treat yourself with a faboulous penthouse with a terrace?
Estonia is still a hidden gem in Europe and most of the travelers will choose Tallin to visit.
But if you want to get to the bottom of what Estonia is really about, go to Tartu.
Tartu is actually the oldest city in Estonia. It dates back to the 11th Century! It is also home to one of Northern Europe’s oldest universities.
Even though is the second largest town in Estonia ,Tartu is very compact. With most sights, restaurants and nightlife nestled across a couple of parallel streets, the best part is that it is a hot bed for creative and scientific culture.
Tartu is full of students. Meaning, there is always something on from theatre performances to concerts and festivals.
Such a hidden gem that no many posts about the city are yet written.
In Leiria, you can visit the castle, one of the many expositions or simply enjoy the lifestyle and Portuguese food.
Just 14 minutes away, you can visit one of the 7 wonders of Portugal, the Batalha Monastery.
Best time to visit Europe on a budget?
As always, Europe is busy in the vacation time of the schools, meaning AUGUST!
This is when you find most places more expensive and crowded.
We especially enjoy traveling in Europe in May, June and September to November. This is when the places are usually a bit cheaper, less people and therefore a bit more to enjoy.
This is especially good to know if you are traveling Europe on a budget.
How to get around Europe?
Getting around Europe is fairly easy. There are many options and it can be really really cheap, if you play your cards right.
The main transportation in Europe are:
The most flexible way to get around.
It is perfect to be independent. You can visit villages, beaches, you name it. There is MANY rental companies out there.
The absolute easiest way to compare car rentals is Discover Car.
Finally we can recommend a car rental site. We have tested this website several times and it is great.
They compare different companies and is no hidden costs etc. It is all very well straight forward. They also offer car insurance with them directly. This makes things much easier and cheaper!
Why? Because the car insurance is usually the most expensive part.
As always, we recommend checking the small letters when renting cars.
Bear in mind: It’s more expensive to rent a car when you cross borders. Renting a car in Spain and giving it back in France can be quite expensive. Plus, not all rental companies allow crossing borders. I recommend renting cars inside one country.
A great tip: Always bring a jacket to the bus when traveling. Some countries like Spain are world championship winners in Air conditioning. At least, that is what it feels like. I once got really sick from an AC in summer, not a great way to spend the warm days, right!?
This is obviously more of the coast lines. You can take ferries from Valencia to Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca. Around Italy you can take ferries, in Croatia, Greece.
There is always a local company running these ferries, so I do not have a generic rule or website about this. If you have any, I would love to add this to the list.
Just to have this list completed, the #vanlife movement in Europe is huge.
France has a big cultural thing going on with vans and caravans, same as Germans, and Dutch. In counties like Portugal you can even rent vans for a day or week.
This is more for the adventurous traveler, but certainly possible.
This one however takes a long time, so not really recommended for a 2 weeks Europe trip. However, Europe is very bike friendly. Especially “flat” countries like the Netherlands are wonderful for cycling.
Personally, I took once a bike trip from Stockholm to Oslo, amazing time!