Is an extended tour of Europe on your bucket list? For those with international wanderlust, there’s never been a better time to travel. Because of weaker currencies, new bus options, and lots of budget airlines, getting around Europe these days is incredibly affordable.
How affordable? After you make your way through baggage claim, you can hop on a bus or train and loop around fifteen of Europe’s luxurious capital cities for just $500.
Thanks to Internet site Wanderu, scheduling budget European bus and train travel is a breeze. Prices for single trips come in at as little as $10. But low cost doesn’t mean you sacrifice quality. These buses and trains offer comfortable seats, free Wi-Fi, and routes that provide travelers with scenic views of mountains, water, and the streets of charming towns off the beaten path.
Whether you’re a seasoned globetrotter or a travel newbie looking to score some passport stamps, consider giving this unique approach to traveling a go. Take a look at the sample itinerary below to see how it’s done.
Leg 1: London, UK to Brussels, Belgium
Fastest time: Six hours, 25 minutes
Lowest cost: $20-$35
Kick off your tour of Europe at London’s Victoria Coach Station. Hop on board and get ready to soak up sights of the southeastern English countryside, travel through the tunnel under the English Channel, and take in breathtaking view the northern coastline of France. Once you arrive in Brussels, make your stay affordable by snagging a place on Airbnb. Be sure to indulge in all of the local culinary delights (think waffles, fries, beer, and, of course, chocolate) while taking in all of the stunning architecture of this new old city.
Leg 2: Brussels, Belgium to Luxembourg City
Fastest time: Eight hours, 40 minutes
Lowest cost: $28-$30
Say “vaarwel” to Brussels and wend your way through thick German forests on your way to Luxembourg City. During this trip, you’ll have a three-hour layover in the riverside city of Bonn. Take in the Rhine and head over to the house where Beethoven was born. Once you arrive in Luxembourg, spend your time checking out historic sites and exploring the many tunnels, parks, and gardens of this medieval old town.
Leg 3: Luxembourg City to Amsterdam, Netherlands
Fastest time: Six hours, 40 minutes
Lowest cost: $24-$40
Cultural haven Amsterdam offers travelers myriad low-cost options for soaking up the arts – you won’t have to spend a euro to check out the museum district. Here you’ll find the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum (home to works by Rembrandt and Vermeer), and the more modern Stedelijk. After taking in works by the masters, join the 800,000 bicyclists on the road and explore the city’s numerous bike paths, neighborhoods, canals, and shopping districts.
Leg 4: Amsterdam, Netherlands to Copenhagen, Denmark
Fastest time: 12 hours, four minutes
Lowest cost: $49-$53
Hop on your bus, settle in for the night, and awaken for a ride on the Fehmarn ferry. This picturesque 45-minute boat ride takes you through the Fehmarn Belt strait from Germany into Denmark. Hit the road again after docking and you’ll traverse stunning Danish towns and a rambling countryside on your way to Copenhagen. When you arrive, stretch your legs by wandering Nyhavn, Copenhagen’s waterfront entertainment district. Here you’ll find a gorgeous canal walk and plenty of cozy bars and restaurants to duck into.
Leg 5: Copenhagen, Denmark to Berlin, Germany
Fastest time: Seven hours, 55 minutes
Lowest cost: $20-$35
Pack in again for the night and you’ll be in Berlin by early morning. Take in the city’s stunning array of architectural design styles – ranging from Communist-era buildings to Gothic, Baroque, and Roman structures. Exploring this vibrant capital city doesn’t have to break the bank. Berlin is home to cheap beer, free street art, affordable Airbnbs, and beautiful parks.
Leg 6: Berlin, Germany to Warsaw, Poland
Fastest time: Eight hours, 34 minutes
Lowest cost: $20-$23
Next stop: Warsaw. Poland doesn’t often make it onto Americans’ lists of European countries to visit, and that’s a shame. In Warsaw, you’ll find cobblestone streets winding through Market Square and Castle Square. Marvelously rebuilt since its World War II occupation, Warsaw is a magnificent city restored from ruin. During your stay, put your diet on hold – local food offerings are delicious and cheap. You can score a fancy six-course meal for just $70.
Prague, Czech Republic
Leg 7: Warsaw, Poland to Prague, Czech Republic
Fastest time: Nine hours, 19 minutes
Lowest cost: $30-$38
Welcome to the “City of Spires,” home to grand architecture and a bustling nightlife scene. Here, you’ll want to spend a day or two exploring everything Prague has to offer. Visit the Prague Castle, walk across the 15th-century Charles Bridge, and cap off the day with some smažený sýr (breaded fried cheese) street food and a high-quality Czech beer.
Leg 8: Prague, Czechia to Vienna, Austria
Fastest time: Three hours, 55 minutes
Lowest cost: $16-$22
Vienna may be an expensive city, but you can keep your travel budget intact by taking advantage of the city’s low-cost sightseeing. And the city’s vibe will make your travels seem opulent no matter how cheaply you travel. Once the seat of the Habsburg Empire, Vienna has some of the most ornate palaces in the world. Check out the Schönbrunn Palace, which boasts gardens on par with those of Versailles. Head over to the oldest zoo in the world at Tiergarten, and then set your sights on the Secession Building, an iconic example of Vienna’s turn-of-the-century art nouveau movement.
Leg 9: Vienna, Austria to Bratislava, Slovakia
Fastest time: 49 minutes
Lowest cost: $5-$7
Once your bus arrives in Bratislava, you’ll be just a few minutes’ walk to the city center. Here you’ll find historic charm, delectable food, and a laid-back vibe. Take a walk along the Danube and you’ll find an abundance of classic architecture and the Bratislava Castle rising over the city.
Leg 10: Bratislava, Slovakia to Budapest, Hungary
Fastest time: Three hours, 45 minutes
Lowest cost: $13-$28
When it’s time to travel on, consider leaving Bratislava on the 10:20 a.m. Not only is this bus the cheapest, it will also get you to Budapest in time to hit the town. Need a travel recharge? Take a soak in one of the city’s natural thermal hot baths, which date back 400 – 500 years and will only set you back $15. Take your time to explore this romantic old town – cheap Airbnbs will let you extend your stay as long as you want.
Leg 11: Budapest, Hungary to Zagreb, Croatia
Fastest time: Five hours
Lowest cost: $20-$26
Depart Budapest and settle in to a ride through the rolling hills and quaint towns of northern Croatia. Once you arrive in Zagreb, you’ll wonder why so many tourists skip this town on their way to the Adriatic Coast. Cobblestone streets lead you past the old city’s many historic cathedrals, set against the backdrop more modern architectural styles. Zagreb is anything but stuck in the past; the city is home to trendy bistros, jazz clubs, wine bars, art galleries, and counterculture bookstores.
Leg 12: Zagreb, Croatia to Rome, Italy
Fastest time: 20 hours, 15 minutes
Lowest cost: $50-$65
This 20-hour ride is quite a trek, but it’s well worth it. Along the way, you’ll see stunning mountains of Slovenia, where you’ll stop over in the evening for two hours to grab a bite. When you get to the Eternal City, you’ll be glad you made the trip. Filled with piazzas, fountains, and markets, Rome has plenty to do for the budget traveler. Be sure to visit the Colosseum, throw your coin in the Trevi Fountain, and wander the Imperial Fora. And, of course, treat yourself to some delicious handmade pasta washed down with a glass (or two) of wine.
Leg 13: Rome, Italy to Bern, Switzerland
Fastest time: 19 hours, 25 minutes
Lowest cost: $59-$60
On your way to Bern, you’ll wind past mountains and chalet-lined streets of small Swiss towns. Once you arrive in the Swiss capital, take in views of the Aare River and the towering Alps. Explore Old Town to see true medieval architecture, dating back to the 12th century. Then take your travels to more modern sites and check out the two main art museums, the Einstein museum, and the Museum of Communication.
Leg 14: Bern, Switzerland to Paris, France
Fastest time: 13 hours, 45 minutes
Lowest cost: $37-$46
Bid farewell to Bern and set out for the City of Love and Lights. During the first leg of this trip, you’ll ride along the shores of Lac Léman and through Geneva. After a stop in Lyon for dinner, you’ll arrive in Paris at daybreak. Paris can be overwhelming to do in a short period. If your time is limited, set your sights on visiting the Eiffel Tower, strolling along the Seine River, and soaking in the majestic Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Don’t forget to eat (as much as possible). Fragrant bakeries abound, serving impeccable baguettes to pair with the vast selection of delicious French cheeses.
Leg 15: Paris, France to London, UK
Fastest time: Seven hours, 30 minutes
Lowest cost: $27-$32
Back in London, your grand European tour comes to a close. If you’ve got limited time, head for the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and the Eye in one swing. Keep all the cash you saved on your travels by hopping on a cheap double-decker bus tour, strolling through Piccadilly Circus, or watching for the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Stuff your souvenirs in your suitcase, head to the airport, and take off for home, all while relishing the memories you made, and the money you saved.