Travel

Best Central Europe Backpacking Route

September 30, 2020

A central Europe backpacking route guide to Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, Salzburg, Prague, and Budapest.

As a lover of old-school European cities, I have fallen in love with the architecture and shared culture of Central Europe. Dutch tulips, German pretzels and lederhosen, Austrian classical music, and so much more await a backpacking trip to these alluring cities. To top it off, most of these places are easily able to be traveled on a budget!

Route

I would recommend a minimum of 3 weeks to backpack this route, but stay even longer if you can. Each city can be optimized in about 2-4 days, the only exception being Salzburg at a day or two.

Amsterdam->Berlin: 6 hours by train

Berlin->Munich: 4 hours by train

Munich->Salzburg: 2 hours by bus (day trip)

Munich->Prague: 5 hours by bus

Prague->Budapest: 9 hours by train

Backpacking Amsterdam

Oh the ambiance of Amsterdam…the infamous legal marijuana, red light district, and bar crawls. To some travelers (cough cough, me in my first visits to the city) this is everything you could want to experience in a place. But luckily, there is also more to the story, as the city holds a rich and haunting history, full of unique activities. However, keep in mind Amsterdam is a bit more expensive in terms of other cities.

Currency: Euro

Expected Budget per Day: €40-€50

Where to Stay

As always hostels are my go-to accommodation, and there are a bunch of options in Amsterdam. Hostelworld is the app I always book through, as you can filter your results based on the features that are most important to you (i.e. distance to city center, ratings, etc.). Personally, I love StayOkay Amsterdam Vondelpark (there are a couple in different StayOkay spots throughout the city), as the location is amazing and the cleanliness has

always been on point. Here are some other great options:

The Flying Pig Downtown Hostel

Shelter City Hostel Amsterdam

Wow Hostel Amsterdam

Hotel Not Hotel

Things to Do

Coffee Shops

Note the very important difference between coffee shops and cafes here- coffee shops are places to hang out and engage in some extra-curricular activities, while cafes are a traditional place to grab a cup of coffee.

Canal Tour

A canal tour is one of the best ways to really see a city, but especially Amsterdam. I’ve done a private tour with wine and cheese, but also a budget tour by Lovers, which was super informational! Either way, I’d do the tour at sunset, as it’s the perfect time to relax, have a beer, and see everyone biking home or heading to dinner.

Anne Frank House

This experience was a very humbling experience and a unique way to learn more about the cold history of Amsterdam and Anne Frank’s experience. If this is an activity you are interested in, make sure you get your tickets in advance, as they can be hard to get (especially during high tourism).

Bike in Vondelpark

Biking around Amsterdam’s Vondelpark is a great way to “escape” the city and see Amsterdam’s largest park. Take a bottle of wine and cheese (can you tell I like wine and cheese?) and have a picnic in the park with the locals. If you stay at StayOkay in Vondelpark, you can rent a bike directly from the hostel! Word to the wise, I recommend biking in Vondelpark rather than the city as it is not a place for tourists…and I learned that after almost getting run over…twice.

Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is a Dutch National museum dedicated to Dutch history and art from hundreds of years ago to today. Among other amazing and notable artists, the Rijksmuseum has an extensive collection of pieces by Van Gogh. The Rijksmuseum is located in Amsterdam South and is near the Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, so you can hit a bunch in one day. Tickets for the Rijksmuseum run at €19, those 18 and under can get in for free.

Heineken Experience

The Heineken Experience is a brewery tour of the oldest Heineken brew house, right in the heart of Amsterdam. Tickets come with a tour, beer tasting, and two pints at the rooftop bar.

Tickets at the door cost €21, but you can save €3 when booking online.

Hit a Microbrewery

Brouwerij ‘t IJ is an artisan brewery in one of Amsterdam’s last remaining windmills. There is a large beer garden and small tours available in the brewery. Brouwerij ‘t IJis in East Amsterdam and can be accessed via the public transportation and Centraal Station.

What to Eat

Stroopwafel

Bitterballen

Croquette

Waffle with Nutella and Strawberries

Dutch Cheese

Backpacking Berlin

BERLIN. One of the craziest and weirdest cities I’ve ever been to! The iron curtain era really drove why Berlin is the way it is today- during the fall of the Berlin Wall, East Berlin became inhabited by German artists and and creatives.

Currency: Euro

Expected Budget per Day: €20-€30

Click here for an ultimate Budget Berlin Travel Guide!

Where to Stay

While Berlin is a very geographically spread out city, the transportation systems are easy to use. This means that you can save some cash on your accommodations and book a little bit farther away from the city center!

EastSeven Berlin Hostel

Grand Hostel Berlin Classic

Three Little Pigs Hostel

St. Christopher’s Berlin Alexanderplatz

Citystay Mitte

The Circus Hostel

Things to Do

East Side Gallery

The East Side Gallery is the largest remaining bit of the Berlin Wall still standing. It has transitioned into a place where dozens of artists are able to display their works. The East Side Gallery is located in the center of Berlin, on Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg.

Hamburger Banhof

Originally a railway terminal, the Hamburger Banhof is now a massive, contemporary art museum, with pieces from Andy Warhol and Anselm Keifer. Tickets run €14.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Take some time and pay tribute to the atrocities of the Nazi party in World War II at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The memorial has over 2,500 concrete slabs that symbolize how the link to humanity was lost.

Tiergarten Park

Grab a beer and street sausage and hang out in one of the largest parks in Berlin, Tiergarten Park. There is always so much going on in the park and is a great way to hang out with the Berlin locals.

Reichstag Building

The Reichstag is home to German Parliament, and serves as one of the most important buildings within the city. The building is available for tours and has various art, as well as a 360-panorama view of the city. If you are interested in visiting the Reichstag, note bookings are only available online. Admission is free!

See Berlin Nightlife

Berlin is widely known for its wild nightlife and something that makes Berlin unique. The diversity of clubs, music, and people is something you don’t find everywhere in Central Europe. Pub Crawls are always a great way to meet fellow travelers, but hit spots like Watergate and TRADE if you want to hang with locals.

What to Eat

Wiener Schnitzel

Currywurst

Brockworst

Doner Kebab

Pretzels

Backpacking Munich

Munich is the home of Oktoberfest and lederhosen-clad festival-goers. Bavaria’s beloved capital boast beer, museums, and churches of the highest quality. You could easily get lost in the sheer amount of art and culture in this city.

Currency: Euro

Expected Budget per Day: €30-€40

Where to Stay

Wombats City Hostel Munich

Smart Stay Hostel Munich City

HI-Munich Park

MEININGER Munich Olympiapark

MEININGER Munich City Center

Things to Do

Marienplatz

Marianplatz is Munich’s most famous city square. Founded by the Duke of Bavaria in the early 12th century, it used to be a place for medieval markets and tournaments. Nowadays, its a bustling square of shops and restaurants. You can grab a bite to eat here and check out the intricate architecture.

St. Peter’s Church

Located close to Marianplatz, St. Peter’s Church overlooks Munich’s Old Town. Take a climb of almost 300 steps (299 to be exact) to see a gorgeous view of the city. The church is open 7 days a week to visitors and is free to enter.

Deutsches Museum

The Deutsches Museum has over 30 exhibits dedicated to Science and Technology, and it’s the world’s largest Science and Technology museum! The museum has a mineshaft replica, planetarium, and star show…so you definitely could spend a full day here! Tickets are €14 and are only available online!

Allianz Arena

If you can, catch an FC Bayern Munich football game at Allianz Arena. There is nothing like experiencing these games! If a game isn’t an option, tours are available at the stadium for

€19, and you also get access to the FC Bayern Munich museum.

Viktualienmarkt

The Viktualienmarkt is a daily food market in the center of Munich, similar to a farmer’s market. If on a budget, you can get produce and snacks here for a cheaper price than a grocery store. The food market is available until 8 pm, which then transforms into a biergarten. You can get to the Viktualienmarkt from Marienplatz and St. Peter’s Church.

Oktoberfest

Of course Oktoberfest is what Munich is known for! Lederhosen clad festival-goers visit Oktoberfest for food and overflowing beer. Unfortunately, you will have to wait until 2021 to visit Oktoberfest, as the 2020 festival was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

What to Eat

Hofbräuhaus

Weisswurst

Knodel

Schweinebraten

Backpacking Salzburg

Salzburg is only a couple hours journey from Munich, making it an easy way to cross another city (and country) off of your list! Salzburg is the birthplace of the Sound of Music, so if you’re an avid fan of the movie, this is definitely for you. Beyond that, Salzburg is a dreamy city on a hill, with groomed gardens, lock bridges, and more.

Currency: Euro

Expected Budget per Day: €40-€50

Where to Stay

Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of affordable hostel accommodations in Salzburg. I would recommend a day trip if you’re on a strict budget, but if not here are some decently priced options:

Junges Hostel

Muffin Hostel

Gästehaus Steinerhof

Things to Do

Sound of Music Tour

The Sound of Music Tour consists of a day trip from Munich to Salzburg, with a boat ride at the end of the day at Lake Wolfgang. The tour hits some highlights on Salzburg, like the Mirabell Gardens and Salzburg Old Town. The tour is pricey at €55, but keep in mind it covers transportation to and from Salzburg and a professional guide.

Mirabell Palace

Built in the 17th century, the gorgeous Mirabell Palace holds a rich history of Mozart and Wolfgang here. The palace is now widely known as one of the most. beautiful weddings venues in the world! If you stop here, make sure to check out the Pegasus Fountain and Rose Garden.

Salzburg Cathedral (also known as the Salzburg Basilica)

Even if you’re not a traveler who enjoys old churches, the Salzburg Cathedral is one to visit. The 17th century Baroque cathedral is so intricate in design and dates all the way back to 774! The history of the cathedral is long and detailed as well, being rebuilt multiple times throughout the years.

Mozart’s Birthplace

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born at No. 9 Getreidegasse, Salzburg in January 1756. The house has now been transformed into a museum of the composer’s life and works. Admission to the museum is €14.

Salzburg Old Town (Alstadt)

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Salzburg Old Town is the city center and lies in the middle of the Salzach River. The Alstadt is so well-preserved and feels like you’ve traveled back in time to when Mozart lived. There are also so many sites to see here, like the Salzburg Cathedral, Nonnberg Abbey, Hohensalzburg Fortress, Mozart’s birthplace, Holy Trinity Church, and more. Travel Yes Please has a great self-guided walking tour of the Alstadt.

What to Eat

The food in Salzburg is quite similar to German food due to the close proximity, so I wanted to share some unique desserts:

Sachertorte

Salzburger Nokerl

Mozart Balls

Backpacking Prague

Prague is another historic and beautiful town, that when entering feels like you were transported back in time. The city is virtually untouched, even after the wars of the 20th century. The Baroque buildings boast dozens of spires throughout the city, and the narrow, winding streets feel like a fairytale.

Currency: Czech Crowns

Expected Budget per Day: $25-$40

Where to Stay

One of the best features of Prague is the affordable accommodation available, there are tons of options available in all parts of the city:

DREAM Hostel Prague

Hostel Santini Prague

Travel&Joy Backpackers

Brix Hostel

Clown & Bard Hostel

Hostel Rosemary

Things to Do

Prague Astronomical Clock

The astronomical clock is a medieval era mix of science and art, located in Old Town Square. As an astronomical clock (and one of the world’s most functional), it shows the relative positioning of the sun, moon, and constellations. You can also grab some street food or gelato here and hang out for a bit, there are typically street performers and something going on.

Charles Bridge

A quite extensive bridge crossing the Vltava River, the Charles Bridge is a magnificent piece of Gothic stone architecture. This bridge, that connects Old Town to Lesser Town, is a pedestrianized bridge, to which you can watch street performers and buy art. This is an absolute sight at sunset!

Lennon Wall

The Lennon Wall is an ode to of course, John Lennon- filled with John Lennon grafittied quotes and Beatle’s songs. The wall can be somewhat hard to find, as it is tucked away. Plug the address in below and get walking directions for the easiest access:

4-6 Velkopřevorské nám.

Prague, 118 00

Czechia

River Cruise on the Vltava

Like I said earlier, a river cruise is one of my favorite activities in a city. There are plenty of options for a river cruise, from a dinner cruise (€33) to a very basic tour guided cruise (€11). Viator is my favorite option for comparing activities!

Day Trip to Kutna Hora

Kutna Hora is a teeny town about 45 miles outside of Prague, and is very easy to get to by train. Kutna Hora has several attractions that are unique to the town, specifically the Sedlec Ossuary (or Church of Bones). The church is intricately decorated with bones from 40,000-70,000 skeletons, of those who parrished from the Black Death. Other activities include Saint Barbara’s Church and the Terrace of the Jesuit College, as well as cute restaurants in the town.

What to Eat

Pork Knuckle

Beef Steak Tartare

Goulash

Trdelnik (Chimney Cake)

Palacinky (Czech pancakes)

Backpacking Budapest

Budapest lives up to its commonly known title, “Paris of the East”, with its elegance and stunning architecture. However, in combination with the beauty of the city, you should expect a much grittier and harder exterior, thanks to its communist rule. Budapest is also different to other Central European cities, thanks to the ruin pubs and natural thermal baths. These features attract a lot of younger travelers and can be a great place to make some friends!

Currency: HUF

Expected Budget per Day: $25-$40

Check out this 24 Hour Guide to Budapest for the highlights of Budapest!

Where to Stay

Fifth Hostel

Avenue Hostel

Grand Backpackers Hostel

Full Moon Hostel Budapest

Boomerang Hostel

Things to Do

Széchenyi Baths

Okay…this is by far my favorite thing I did in Budapest! There are a couple different thermal bath options, but the Széchenyi Baths are the most affordable and accessible. After a long backpacking trip, there’s nothing better than spending a day in the thermal baths. Plus if you’d like (and you’ve got a bit of extra cash from the trip), you can book a massage there.

Danubi River Cruise

Should I just retitle this blog post, “River Cruises Around Europe”? I’m not gonna tell you how great river cruises are again, just check out these options:

Danubi River Dinner Cruise

Danubi River Drinks Cruise

St. Stephen’s Basilica

St. Stephen’s Basilica is the largest church in Hungary, and is dedicated to the first King, St. Stephen. While this is another beautifully intricate church on this backpacking route, St. Stephen’s Basilica also houses another treasure…the mummified hand of St. Stephen. You can also get a great view of Budapest from the cupola! The church is open everyday and admission is free (although donations are typically accepted upon entrance).

Szt. István tér 1, Bp., 1051, district V.

Faust Wine Cellars

Have a glass of cabernet in an underground wine cellar at Faust Wine Cellars. As known by locals, it is the best place to taste traditional Hungarian wines!

Ruin Pubs

A key focal point of Budapest’s tourism are the ruin pubs, which are a great night out that is also rooted in history. These buildings were destroyed due to the devastation of World War II and these condemned buildings were turned into the local watering holes. You can hit a ruin pub crawl or visit these on your own- keep in mind that lines start to get lonnng for these, so maybe arrive a bit early. If you’re not into going out to a club, you can also check these out during the day for a more laid back experience. Check out my 24 Hour Guide to Budapest for more on the ruin pubs!

The Chain Bridge

Connecting Buda and Pest is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. Walking across this huge bridge is a must-do when in Budapest, the view is absolutely unreal. Plus, you get to check out both sides of Budapest.

Great Market Hall

The Great Market Hall is the largest market in the city and features some of the best street/stall food you can get! This is also a great way to eat on a budget as it’s cheaper than a sit-down restaurant. Grab yourself local meats, cheeses, fruits, pickled vegetables, and create your own charcuterie board!

What to Eat

Lángos

Dobos Torta (Drummer Cake)

Kolbász (sausages)

Been to any of these cities? Drop your tips and stories in the comments!

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