Western Europe

For many long-term travelers, this is the region that hooks them on a love of travel. It’s the land of the classical backpacking trip, the budget airline city getaway, and the ski reorts of the alps. If you want to be in a region of the developed world where a traveler can see a large variety of cultures in a small space, this is it.

Countries: Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg (Britain and the Nordic Countries are in separate categories)

Most Useful Languages to Know: English, Italian, French, Spanish, German, Greek

You’ll Love: The architecture, the famous sights, the countryside, the food, the public transportation

You won’t Love: The massive crowds of other tourists, the prices

Cultures: Western Europe is the birthplace of western culture. It is made up of many countries in a small area, so there’s a lot of diversity to be had. Spain and Germany are far more different from one another than say, New York and Texas are. The countries differ the most in their architecture styles and languages, but in mannerisms, food, holidays, and traditions they differ too.

Travel Advice

Itinerary Advice

While Western Europe has some destinations that are far more popular than others, it has no “typical tourist trail” in the way Asian and Latin American regions do. There are many, many places to go and they are very easy to access with budget flights or public transportation.

While the variety of incredible cities in Western Europe can leave a traveler feeling like they need to check many sightseeing boxes, this ends up often being the mentality that damages their experience. Just as in any region, you simply aren’t going to see it all in one trip. While this is good advice for any traveler to remember, it is particularly important here, as there’s simply such a huge amount to see. Make sure to vary your backpacking trip, and if you are planning a trip for more than a month, make sure spend some down-time away from the big cities.

Transportation

Cars aren’t necessary, unless you’re spending lots of time in rural regions such as Provence, or in certain parts of Greece. Cars are out. Trains, Buses, and Cheap Flights are IN. The train system in this region is very comprehensive. It includes regional trains to small towns, high speed trains like the TGV and AVE, and it connects very well to buses when necessary. There is also very comprehensive public transit in cities. Flying in this region is also a good deal, as there are budget airlines such as EasyJet and Ryanair. Be wary of extra charges on these airlines though, for everything from printing boarding passes at the airport, to bag fees.

Cities

 

Many regions around the world have incredible cities. What makes this region so great for city-lovers is the fact that there are so many incredible cities in such a small space. Cities in this region are generally very walkable and have great public transportation. Aside from the odd pickpocket or scammer, or the far-flung suburbs, the cities are very safe too.

 

Rural Areas

 

Many rural areas in this region, especially in France, Italy, Greece, and Spain, are known for quaint villages with cobblestone streets and weekly markets. Without the cars and the people using smartphones, these could like like anywhere from Medieval times. The region’s countries have preserved their rural histories remarkably well. Even the most remote villages, far from the tourist trail, tend to have at least a few old, interesting churches or monasteries nearby.

One cannot talk about rural western Europe without mentioning the incredible Alps. It can be said that the Alps are the Western World’s most iconic mountain range. The mighty Alps extend from France to Slovenia, featuring some of the most amazing mountain landscapes for outdoor activities in the world. In winter, skiing is a popular pastime, although climate change is leading to less reliable snow supplies. During summer, the hiking and mountain bike trail systems are some of the most scenic and well-managed in the world.

Etiquette and social norms

  • Mannerisms vary between the countries, but generally, there are some things in common.
  • Europeans don’t desire as much physical personal space as North Americans in day-to-day social interaction with others.
  • Loud talking on trains and in public spaces, a stereotype of American tourists, is frowned upon.
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