How to Plan a Trip to Europe [+ 2-Week Europe Trip Itinerary]

How to plan a trip to Europe + a 2-week itineraryIf you’ve been wanting to visit Europe for a while, you’re probably super excited to begin planning your trip and building your Europe itinerary. In this post, we’re going to show you how to plan a trip to Europe.

We know from experience that planning a trip to Europe can be quite overwhelming, because there are so many place to go and things to see. You want to make sure you add everything possible to your Europe itinerary.

Believe me, we understand! We’ve been traveling around Europe for more than 10 years. In fact, we now spend at least 2 weekends per month traveling in Europe. That’s why we’ve prepared the perfect Europe itinerary for you. If you have at least 10 days to spend in Europe, this itinerary will cover all the top spots you must see.

Where to Go in Europe

Europe is full of history, bustling cities, incredible sights and – my favorite – amazing food! There are a good number of tourist destinations that just about anyone planning a trip to Europe would want to include in the itinerary. But, obviously, with just 10-14 days in Europe, there’s no way you can cover them all. We’ve chosen the top destinations that we feel you can fit comfortably into 10+ days.

Do keep in mind that traveling in Europe can be expensive. You also have to be very wise in your planning to make everything fit together perfectly. You can fly between cities cheaply if you plan it right. Or you can plan to travel with the Eurail Pass, though this option will take longer.

The Louvre in Paris

Here are the top destinations we recommend visiting in 10+ days in Western Europe: London, Paris, Venice, Rome, Berlin and Amsterdam. If you have additional time, we suggest adding Munich, Barcelona, Dublin, and/or Edinburgh.

You might want to take a look at this post with 50 of the best street food destinations in Europe before you decide where to go. There are quite a few that would persuade me.

» If you need help planning an itinerary in another destination in Europe, check out our destination guides. We also have a ton of information on wine tasting in Europe.

How to Spend 2 Weeks in Western Europe

There are really two perfectly acceptable ways to take a vacation in Europe. Either way can be quite rewarding, but it depends greatly on your travel style and how much time you want to put into planning.

Option 1: Book a guided pre-planned tour

A guided tour is the easiest option, by far. While Europe is very easy to get around for travelers, it can be difficult to figure out how to get from place to place, and very tedious trying to decide what to do in each location. A pre-planned tour won’t give you the same freedom to do what you want, but it is completely planned out for you and you will always have a guide along to help you with anything you need.

Option 2: Plan your own trip

Planning your own self-guided tour of Europe gives you ultimate freedom to choose what you want to do and when. You can go to the places you want, without a group to tag along with. The drawbacks are that you have to plan it all out yourself, which can be daunting.  Check out these additional Europe travel tips to help with your planning.

We will give you the options for both below, including a pre-planned tour we highly recommend and a 14-day self-guided itinerary to follow.

Palace of Westminster
Westminster and Big Ben
 

Guided Tour of Europe

If you want to try a guided tour, we recommend the Classic Europe 14-day tour. The tour is run by Expat Explore Travel and includes everything except International airfare, extra excursions that aren’t in the tour itinerary, and personal incidentals.

» See more information about the Classic Europe tour.

14-Day Itinerary Includes:

  • Start in Amsterdam
  • Drive through Brussels for a quick stop en route to Paris
  • Visit Burgundy and the breath-taking Swiss Alps
  • In Italy, see Pisa, Tuscany, Florence, Rome, and Venice
  • Travel into Munich and Bavaria in Germany, then to Nuremberg and Berlin
  • Head back to Amsterdam

There are other Europe tour options with varying destinations. Check out the website to see all options with this tour operator.

Self-Guided Europe Trip Planner

With a good plan of action, your 2-week Europe trip will run smoothly and provide you with a comprehensive overview including some of the main countries in Western Europe.

If this schedule seems too ambitious for just a 10 day Europe trip, you can always extend your stay in the cities that interest you most and decide not to visit others. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. It’s entirely up to you.

european tour

Day 1-3: London

Arrive in London. Take the Heathrow Express from the airport to your hotel.

You’ll want to stay in West London for easy access to all the top sights. London is very walkable. To get around to all the sights in a day or two, you’ll want to get your walking shoes on. You can take a hop-on-hop-off bus tour if you’re not up for the walking.

For foodies, we highly recommend spending some time doing any of these fun foodie activities in London. The city is one of the best for restaurants in the world.

If you want to take a day trip from London, we suggest Stonehenge, Bath, or Windsor. They’re all very close by and offer a fantastic experience.

In London, be sure to see these sights:
(You can purchase tickets in advance for these activities through our affiliate links, with no additional cost to you.)

 If you want to see all the top sights in London, we have a London walking tour that hits up all the highlights in one day. You won’t be able to go into all of these attractions, so choose the ones you really want to see for full tours. The rest can be admired from the outside.

Where to Stay in London: We recommend the Trafalgar St James by Hilton. It’s in a historic building in a really prime location. The hotel and rooms are designed in art deco and the rooms are really spacious and bright. ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor. The Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street is our second choice.

Day 4-5: Paris

Sacre Couer in Paris, France

Travel to Paris on the Eurostar train. The journey takes just 2 hours from St. Pancras Train Station. Don’t forget to take a picnic lunch and a bottle of wine with you to enjoy on the train.

There are so many things to do in Paris. In only two days, you can cover a lot of ground. You’ll want to either plan on walking a lot, or acquaint yourself with the Paris Metro map and take short trips in between sights. You can also take the Paris hop of hop off bus to get between sights.

In Paris, be sure to see these sights:

 If you want to see all the top sights in Paris, we have a 3-day Paris for first-timers guide that hits up all the highlights. You’ll just have to shrink it down to fit the time you have.  You won’t be able to go into all of these attractions, so choose the ones you really want to see for full tours. The rest can be admired from the outside.

If you’d rather just walk around and find great foodie things to do in Paris, we think that’s a fantastic way to see the city without being a total tourist.

Where to Stay in Paris: The best location to stay in Paris is 6th Arrondissement. It is the Latin Quarter. The heart of Paris. And it’s the best location for tourist who are planning to see everything. We recommend the boutique 4-star Hotel Parc Saint Severin. The rooms are larger than most in Paris and they’re nicely refurbished. Plus it’s a really great location. The metro is really close.  ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor.

 

Day 6-7: Venice

Venice gondolas

Venice is just one of those places you have to visit at least once in your life. It’s an incredibly enchanting city, with so much character that you feel a little like you’re floating around in a Disney movie. The views across the Grand Canal are so beautiful, and the narrow alleys can lead you to get lost in a city of charm. Everywhere you turn is another incredible view, and a gondola floating by in the distance. It’s one of a kind.

With so many great things to do in Venice, you really need to set up a good itinerary before you leave, to make sure you fit everything in.  Check out our shortcut guide to all the best parts of Venice, which will help you plan.

Definitely make time for a Venice food tour. The food in Venice is great, if you know where to look. And you can check out our YouTube video for the top 10 things to do in Venice, if you need more ideas.

You can pre-book some of the activities. I would definitely pre-book the activities below, so you don’t miss out.

Where to Stay in Venice:Ai Patrizi di Venezia  If you’re staying for 3+ nights, I highly recommend this apartment. It’s in the perfect location, is incredibly comfortable and clean, and has a kitchenette. We sometimes prefer an apartment to a hotel so we’re not being bothered by housekeeping. This place is a gem. | Read Reviews or Book a Stay

Hotel Londra Palace  If you’d rather stay in a hotel because you like the extra amenities, then Hotel Londra Palace is a great choice. It’s in a very good location, only 5 min walk from St. Mark’s Square, with free wifi and a restaurant. Some rooms have a balcony and an incredible view. | Read Reviews or Book a Stay

Day 8-10: Rome

Coliseum in Rome - how to plan a trip to europe

Rome is a city that will capture your heart the moment you arrive. It’s incredibly to see so much history packed into one place, and so much of it is scattered right in the middle of a modern city. There’s really no where else like it.

If you’re planning a trip, we’ve got you covered with our shortcut travel guide to Rome: an informative and helpful infographic that will give you a quick peek at all the top things you should plan to do in Rome.

PRO TIP: Skip the line tickets are necessary in Rome, especially during high season. You won’t waste time waiting in huge lines.

Where to Stay in Rome: The best location in Rome depends on what you want to accomplish during your stay, but it’s always best to be centrally located so you can walk to all of the main attractions. Two great choices in the affordable luxury range are The Inn at the Spanish Steps (with a gorgeous roof-top pool) and Il Palazzetto. We also really enjoyed staying at Nerva Boutique Hotel in the popular Rione i Monti area.

 

Day 11-12: Berlin

Berlin, Germany

Berlin is a very modern city with a good art scene, many museums, great food options, and cultural/historical things to see and do. It’s a sprawling city so you’ll want to be ready for public transportation. 

There are a few Berlin attractions and sights you don’t want to miss like the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin Cathedral, Checkpoint Charlie, and the Reichstag parliament building. The best way to see all of these sights is on this Discover Berlin half-day walking tour. The tour is really inexpensive and is the best way to learn the historical and cultural past of Germany, while see the top sights.

Foodies will also want to check out Markethalle Neun, an indoor market with international food vendors, especially on Street Food Thursdays! 

Also plan for a craft beer tour and a Berlin food tour in order to taste the best parts of the city!

Where to Stay in Berlin: One of my favorite hotels is the Hotel am Steinplatz, Autograph Collection. It’s located right in the center of the city, conveniently located for transportation, so you can easily get around to the top sights. There’s a bar, restaurant, and really comfortable rooms. ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor.

Day 13-14: Amsterdam

Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

As a tourist, you’ll likely find it to be a very welcoming and acceptable place. The food in Amsterdam is exciting. Be sure to try bitterballen, all the craft beer, Poffertjes, and frites (which you can get with dozens of different sauces).

The many activities in Amsterdam include history, art and food. There are dozens of different canal cruises you can take that are often paired with cheese, beer, wine or even pizza. There are a couple of breweries you can visit, as well as the House of Bols Genever distillery. We loved the cheese and wine tasting we did. 

Here are a few links to our favorite tours and activities in Amsterdam so you can purchase your tickets in advance:

Amsterdam Evening Canal Cruise with 4-Course Dinner and Drinks

Skip the Line: Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum Tour Including Amsterdam Canal Cruise and Lunch

⇒ Eat like a local in Amsterdam with Eating Europe Food Tours – there are 5 tours available:

Where to stay in Amsterdam: We like staying near Dam Square in central Amsterdam. It’s fun and lively, close to or within easy walking distance of many of the top attractions, and easily accessible for public transportation. 

Radisson Blu – This is a nicely-decorated 4-star hotel located directly on a canal near Rembrandt Square. Great place to stay. Read Reviews | Book a Stay

How to Plan a Trip to Europe

Best Time to Go to Europe

When you decide to go to Europe should be based on what type of experience you want to have. A lot of people make it a priority to go to Europe in the summer because that’s when they take vacation, or when the kids are out of school.  However, everyone else is doing the same thing. That means July-August is high season and there are a lot of visitors. Attractions are packed, lines are long, prices are high, and it can be really hot outside.

The best weather in Europe can be found from late March to early June and from late September to early December. This is considered the shoulder season in Europe and there will be less people and lower prices. We prefer to travel during these times because it’s just so much easier. And the nicer weather makes all the difference.

We especially caution against traveling in Italy in August. It is one of the hottest months and the weather can be a real hindrance to your happiness.

St Paul's Cathedral, London

Getting to Europe

Many top airlines from around the world have direct flights into London. It’s probably one of the easiest cities to get into. Check Skyscanner for great deals on airfare. We prefer to fly into London for the ease of it all, but you can skip London and fly directly into Paris, if you wish.

Also keep in mind that airfare is lower on the shoulder and off season than it is during the summer. (See this article for more on how to find great airfare).

We also recommend flying into one city and out of another, so you don’t waste some of your holiday time flying back to the starting point. Using the multi-city option on Skyscanner, you should be able to find this option without the fares getting to high.

Getting Around Europe

When planning your Europe itinerary, keep in mind the distance between each destination. Europe seems small, but it takes a while to get between destinations. In most cases, you’ll need at least a half day to get between locations, more if taking the train.

Once you arrive in Europe, you can either fly or take the train between cities. We prefer to take early morning or late night flights, to avoid burning active hours in our destination.

Via Air

Flying is relatively cheap on budget airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet. We fly with them all the time. There are fees for any extras you add, and checking luggage can be expensive, so do be mindful of that.

See here for an idea of what it costs and the flight times for each of the legs in our itinerary:

  • London to Paris: $50
  • Paris to Venice: $85
  • Venice to Rome: $70
  • Rome to Berlin: $95
  • Berlin to Amsterdam: $70

train station in Europe

Via Train

Another way to travel around Europe in by train. You can purchase individual train tickets for each journey you wish to take. That will help you mix and match, if you want to fly between some cities and take the train between others. However, a more economical way to go by train is with a Eurail Pass. 

The price of the Eurail Pass varies depending on your needs. They range from $250 to over $1000. For the itinerary we laid out in this post, you would need a 5 days within 1 month pass, which costs $326 (updated 2019). This allows you to travel on any 5 days over a period of a month. There’s also a 7 days in one month pass for $388, if you think you’d like to tack on another destination. 

These passes entitle you to travel on specific trains only. You can’t just show up and get on any train, but you don’t need reservations except for the high-speed and overnight trains (which also require an extra fee). They’re only for non-European travelers. And they can only be used for the class of service booked.

Tipping in Europe

Yes, you do need to tip in Europe. However, it’s not at the level of the U.S. There are some key differences.

First of all, 10% is the norm for tipping in a nice restaurant. You can give more if you had a stellar experience, but that’s more like 12%. Not 20%.

In a cafe or deli, just round up your bill to the nearest dollar. If it was €3.80, leave the .20 cents as a tip. In pubs in London and bars in Europe, tipping isn’t expected on small amounts.

Whatever you do, always check the bill for a service charge. There are MANY places throughout Europe now that charge a set service fee and include it in the bill. This is often 10 or 12%. If this fee has been added to your bill, there is no need to tip.

Eating in Europe

cacio e pepe pasta

Since you’ll be visiting many different countries while in Europe, the food will be very diverse. You will have the best overall experience if you’re willing to try all the foods you come across and have an open mind that you mind really like something you’ve never tried before.

In London, you should have a Sunday roast, Fish and Chips, a Steak & Ale pie. In Paris, are you daring enough to try frog’s legs or escargot? Definitely make room for crepes and a Croque Monsieur. In Italy, you’ll find an unimaginable array of pasta dishes, pizza, dried meats, and cheeses. Berlin has a very international food scene. It’s not just Schnitzel and sausage anymore. And in Amsterdam, you must try the frites, the bitterballen and the Poffertjes (pancakes).

In every city, there is now a food tour taking place. We always recommend going on a food tour first thing when you arrive because it gives you a very good overview of the foods you should look out for and where to find them.

CONCLUSION

Now you know how to plan a trip to Europe, and we’ve given you a 2-week itinerary to follow. What are you waiting for? Whether you take a guided tour or doing this Europe 2 week itinerary on your own, I am certain it will be one of the most exciting and rewarding trips you’ll ever take. Europe is fascinating and full of surprises.

Let us know how your trip to Europe turns out!

Like this post? Why not save it to your Pinterest board?

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.)

How to Plan a Trip to Europe [+ 2-Week Europe Trip Itinerary]

2 thoughts on “How to Plan a Trip to Europe [+ 2-Week Europe Trip Itinerary]

  1. Shelley says:

    A great two-week itinerary for those looking to see the capital cities of Europe Laura – and totally agree with the London food choices! We are heading to the UK early next month and the Sunday roast and fish and chips ( with curry sauce) are high on our agenda;) Also an afternoon tea with clotted cream! 🙂
    Thanks for sharing this thorough article.
    Shelley x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.