Best Interrailing destinations and routes for a European adventure

This interrailing destination guide was last updated 28th October 2022

Hey train travellers! If you’re here, you’re probably wondering how to plan your next Interrailing trip. Interrailing around Europe is a fantastic way to explore this culture-crammed continent. And guess what, it’s also cheap as chips! In this ULTIMATE Interrailing route guide, we’ve selected a handful of iconic cities and underrated spots for you to explore.

TLDR: In this guide, we’ve planned some iconic Interrailing routes including the best interrailing destinations for you, written by interrailers. All you have to do is buy a ticket, get on board and be whisked away to your next adventure.

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Don’t forget, no European adventure is complete without a place to stay! We’ve got a great selection of hostels throughout Europe and some great tips on free things to do in Europe. (If you’re strapped for cash.) Have a look!

Read Next: How much does interrailing cost?

11 best Interrailing destinations

With so many iconic European cities calling out for you to visit them this year, which ones should you choose on your next Interrailing trip? With prices rising in cities like London and Paris, Interrailing is a great way to see some of Europe’s great cities on a budget. And which cities make the cut? Here are some of the best Interrailing destinations, featuring your favourite European cities (and islands!) Hop on board!

1. Paris, France

@viajandoconela

Ah, Paris. The city of love (and Louvre) tops travellers’ must-see lists again and again. And for good reason. You can spend mornings sipping café au lait and wandering the cobbled roads of Le Marais, and afternoons culture vulturing at one of the city’s many museums and galleries. Then head back to your hostel to meet up with your new friends and grab dinner or hit up a rooftop bar. The possibilities are endless!

Book hostels in Paris 

 

2. Brussels, Belgium

@tilly_heal

Once reserved for politics buffs and seen as little more than a stop on the Eurostar, Belgium’s capital city is quickly becoming a must-see destination on any Interrailing itinerary. Yes, there are beautiful municipal buildings and Art Nouveau architecture on every corner. But where the city really shines is at its quirky markets, cultural hotspots and, of course, craft breweries. What more could you want from a weekend stop?

Book hostels in Brussels

 

3. Berlin, Germany

@amogh_meshram

We all know Berlin’s reputation as Europe’s hedonism capital and, take it from us, it’s NOT one to miss if you’re looking to party. But did you know that Berlin was named the 5th friendliest city in Europe by Interrail themselves? No need to worry about making new friends here! Whether you’re after a techno rave, a chilled coffee, or a wander around one of the city’s 175 museums, you’re guaranteed to have a jam-packed stay.

Book hostels in Berlin

 

4. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

@hostelle_amsterdam

Home to the world’s only ‘mayor of nightlife’, it’s no secret that Amsterdam takes its party scene very seriously. If you’re looking for a more chilled-out visit, however, the city has so much to offer. Pitch up in a park to people watch, or cycle through the canal network to a museum, stopping in at boutiques and bars on the way. Amsterdam’s fun and friendly atmosphere keeps solo travellers returning again and again.

Book hostels in Amsterdam

 

5. Prague, Czech Republic

@cletus_mascarenhas

Famous for being one of Europe’s loveliest old towns, Prague should earn a spot on any Interrailing itinerary. In the summer months, the riverbanks fill with young city-dwellers enjoying the sunshine and cheap beer. During the winter, the streets are filled with festive stalls touting cherry gluhwein and cinnamon chimney cake. If you’re lucky enough to avoid the stag and hen parties on the weekends, Prague is a partier’s paradise, too.

Book hostels in Prague 

 

6. Bratislava, Slovakia

@reisemuus

On a rise to fame since the country’s independence in 1993, Slovakia’s capital is becoming a go-to destination for travellers on any Interrailing route. Slivovica sippers spill onto medieval streets in the heart of the gothic old town; the nightlife here is NOT to be ignored. Scoff down locals’ favourite ‘bryndzové pirohy’ (a type of dumpling) before heading out for a wild night out at the bustling beer halls.

Book hostels in Bratislava 

 

7. Vienna, Austria

@reneegoesroaming

Lovers of art and music can’t miss this stop. As you speed into the city, you’ll see baroque architecture blossoming amongst contemporary bars and restaurants. Vienna, we have arrived. The Austrian capital has a long and passionate relationship with classical music, and if you’re interested in checking out a performance, queue up around two hours early at the Staatsoper and try to get your hands on incredibly cheap standing tickets.

Book hostels in Vienna

 

8. Zagreb, Croatia

@saraligutti

At one time, Zagreb was seen as just a brief stopping point along the way to other Croatian destinations like Dubrovnik. These days, travellers are beginning to see that this red-roofed city is worth more than just a quick visit. Have a seat in Bana Jelačića (Zagreb’s main square) and watch people stroll across cobblestones bordered with church spires and vibrant concrete murals. Zagreb is the queen of café culture, but after you’ve finished your latte? Bathe in the warm glow of Zagreb’s buzzing street life: pop-up bars, markets and food stalls await your jingling pockets.

See all hostels in Croatia 

 

9. Sarajevo, Bosnia And Herzegovina

A city with a turbulent past, the Sarajevo of today has a distinctive East-meets-West ambience. Travellers can stroll through the Baščaršija bazaar to the shiny new cable car station, where a £10 ride will take you 1km into the clouds. Suspended above the city, you’ll see a mishmash of cathedrals, mosques and synagogues scattered below towering forested mountains. Another one for café culture, expect open-fronted cafes serving up strong blends of Bosnian coffee while the locals puff lazily on Hookah pipes.

See all hostels in Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

10. Athens, Greece

@kyndal_rayne_travel

Spread below the Acropolis is a city toeing the line between ancient grandeur and hip and happening. Athens is unmistakeably grungy but in the most effortlessly cool way known to mankind. A mosaic of balconies, blocks and bars litter the cobbled streets in a clash of shapes. In the evenings, street performers serenade you outside bustling eateries as you sip on red wine and scoff down spanakopita.

Book hostels in Athens

 

11. Ios, Greece

@comealongwithme

Move over Mykonos, Ios is an affordable Greek island to party on (yes you can use your Interrailing pass for islands). For sun, sea and undoubtedly sexy vibes, head here in the summer months to experience young hedonism at its finest. From fine sand beaches to traditional hilltop towns; to party, chill or explore, Ios is the island for you.

Book hostels in Greece

 

 

Off the beaten track – the best small cities in Europe for Interrailing

Alnwick, Zwolle and Hossegor – They don’t conjure up quite the same excitement as London, Amsterdam and Paris, do they? But when planning your I route, you should consider throwing a few of the best small cities and towns in Europe into the mix. Yes, Interrail not only covers the big-hitters, you can travel practically anywhere on the rail network with your golden ticket. Not only can small towns be more budget-friendly than the big capitals, they are also less crowded and you’ll have the thrill of discovering a more offbeat side of Europe.

For this section, we’ve focused on the best smalls cities in Western Europe – in our experience, this is where getting an  makes the most sense, particularly if you’re hoping to be spontaneous and see a few places in a relatively short space of time. Anybody who’s tried to buy a ticket from London to Edinburgh on the day of travel will know what we’re talking about! For clarity, Eurail Passes are only for non-European citizens or residents while InterRail Passes are only for European citizens or residents.

So, here’s our pick of the best European cities to visit for an off-the-beaten-track adventure, featuring quirky bookshops, underground trampolining and a poison garden.

 

San Sebastian – Spain

This gorgeous coastal city in the north of Spain, not far from the French border, was a revelation when we visited earlier this year. If you’re looking for daily foodgasms, amazing surf and stunning coastal hiking ops then you need to add San Sebastian to your Interrail itinerary ASAP.

Where to stay: A Room In The City Hostel is quite possibly one of our favourite hostels in Europe and features a mahoossive roof terrace, ridiculously friendly staff and cosy pod beds for a good night’s sleep. Not for you? View all hostels in San Sebastian.

 

Zwolle – Netherlands

Zwolle best small cities in europe for alternative interrailing route (c) Hans Westerink
@Hans Westerink

Located in the North of the Netherlands, Zwolle is a historic little city that’s home to one of Europe’s most impressive bookshops. The Waanders in de Broeren occupies three floors of a magnificent gothic cathedral, complete with an original 15th-century organ and stunning stained-glass windows. There are plenty of comfy seats dotted around plus a café, so if you’re looking for somewhere inspiring to catch up on your reading/studies, then look no further.

Where to stay: Zwolle isn’t the easiest place to get to, but you can make the trip for the day from a few bigger places in the Netherlands, including Amsterdam and Utrecht. View all hostels in the Netherlands.

 

Folkestone – England

Folkestone best small cities in Europe alternative interrailing route (c) Emma Martell
@Emma Martell / Loz Pycock

A revival of Britain’s forgotten coastal resorts has been happening recently, with towns such as Margate leading the charge. Folkestone is still a little rough around the edges, but with its own creative quarter, picturesque coastal walks and just 50 minutes by train from London, it looks set to be the next Brighton.

For the best fish and chips, head to The Smokehouse, the budget outpost of Michelin-starred Rocksalt restaurant. For great coffee try the Steep Street literary café. And for everything from zine workshops to vintage trinkets, take a walk around the creative quarter down by the harbour. If you’re lucky enough to be in town for the next Trienniale (Sep-Nov 2017), you’ll be treated to amazing contemporary art in unusual locations all around town.

Where to stay: Located just 50 minutes by train from King’s Cross Station, you can easily visit Folkestone for the day from the capital. Check out all our amazing hostels in London.

 

Blaenau Ffestiniog – Wales

 

Surrounded by the stunning Snowdonia National Park, this tiny former mining town is a must for thrill seekers exploring Europe. The nearby Llechwedd Slate Caverns are home to not one but two unusual attractions: above ground, you’ll find the largest zip line network in the world, Titan, and below ground a psychedelic trampoline-filled wonderland, Bounce Below. Just don’t ask us how to pronounce Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Where to stay: Take a day trip from nearby Carnaerfon, where you’ll find the c Not for you? View all hostels in Wales.

 

Hossegor – France

Hossegor best small European cities (c) Flickr
@Viktoriia Vidal VB

This tiny French town first came onto our radar when our friends Sunset Sons set up home there. It’s just along the coast and over the border from San Sebastian, and it’s supposedly one of the best places to surf in Europe, if not the world. The fact that it’s such a small place means there’s a lovely community vibe, and you’ll get chatting to other surfers from all over the globe in between catching waves. Gnarly.

Where to stay: Le Surf Spot is a surfer’s dream hostel, found less than 50 metres from the beach and offering free surfboard hire. Not for you? View all hostels in France.

 

Freiburg – Germany

Freiburg best small European cities alternative interrailing route (c) Lovely for Living
@Lovelyforliving

Pretty much every list of the best small cities in Europe includes Freiburg, so it’s no insider tip. But with stunning natural beauty, great coffee and beer, and a studenty vibe that oozes cool, we just had to include it. Climb the Schlossberg hill for amazing views of the city, soak up all the history in the Freiburg Münster and strike a pose on the Blaue Brücke. Do like the locals, and follow one of the pretty hiking trails out of the city and straight into the Black Forest, or if you’re feeling lazy take the cable car over the forest and up to the Schauisland mountain.

After a full day exploring, relax in the beer garden of local brewery Hausbrauerei Feierling or head to the recently opened Vida for amazing vegan and veggie food.

Where to stay: Try Kultur|Jugendherberge Rottweil located in a former convent in nearby Rottweil, or view more hostels in Germany.

 

Alnwick – England

alnwick best small cities to visit in Europe for alternative interrail route (c) flickr

@milo bostock, Martin Burns, Jo Jakeman, madraban

Poison garden. Giant treehouse. A bookshop housed in an old railway station. Alnwick is one of the coolest little places we’ve visited in England, and it’s hard to believe that even many Brits haven’t heard of it. The bookshop in question is Barter Books, and aside from being the best second-hand bookshop in England, it’s also where the original “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster was discovered in a dusty old box. So now you know who to blame. The poster now hangs on the wall above the till.

The poison garden and giant treehouse are both housed in the nearby Alnwick Garden, and if you have time then Alnwick Castle is also worth a look. When you’re done exploring, head over to the wonderfully named Grannies Tearoom for delicious scones and a proper British brew.

Where to stay: Alnwick Youth Hostel, housed in the town’s former courthouse, or if you’d prefer to stay somewhere a bit livelier, check out our hostels in Newcastle, which is 25 minutes by train and a short bus ride into the centre of Alnwick.

 

Matera – Italy

Matera Italy best small cities in europe for alternative interrail itinerary (c) Robbie Shade / mary93mod

Robbie Shade / mary93mod

Given the popularity of places such as Cappadocia and Santorini, it’s surprising that this quirky little town in Southern Italy home to thousands of ancient cave dwellings isn’t better known. The historic centre, known as the “Sassi” (lol) was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in the 90s, and the caves are now home to characterful restaurants, cafes and galleries. Make sure you explore the tiny cave churches scattered around, where you’ll find some of the oldest frescoes in Europe.

Where to stay: Check out the quirky Rock Hostel in Matera’s Old Town, or view more hostels in Matera.

 

Roubaix – France

Roubaix la piscine museum best small cities to visit in Europe on interrailing trip

@ Alain Leprince/La Piscine, musée d’art et d’industrie de Roubaix 2016

Roubaix’s museum of art and industry aka “La Piscine” is guaranteed to make your Instagram feed more fabulous. Its impressive collection of sculptures, paintings and ceramics is housed in a former swimming pool, where the exhibits and gorgeous Art Deco design of the building are reflected in the water of the now-disused pool. Other original features such as the old changing cubicles have been preserved, making this one of the quirkiest museums we’ve ever visited.

The museum alone is worth making the trip to Roubaix, but the city also boasts some pretty cool architecture from its glory days as an industrial hub. Take a walk around and keep your eyes peeled for buildings such as the Church Saint-Martin, Huchon Water Tower, and the National Archives of the Working World.

Where to stay: Roubaix is just 10km from Lille, where you can stay at the cosy Hostel Gastama, who do a mean vegan curry. Not for you? View all hostels in France.

 

5 of the best Interrailing routes

Okay, so you’re heading out to Europe. But what Interrailing route should you take? There are so many great spots in Europe, it can be a minefield deciding where to go. Not to worry! We’ve pulled together some of the most popular routes for all your train travel needs. Whether going Interrailing for 1 week or 1 month, you’re bound to have a brilliant time.

Bear in mind, most of the stops we’ve included here are cities. If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-track adventure, see the section above!

 

Agatha Christie’s choice: best Interrailing route from London

After a few cups of tea (or a few pints), you’ll be ready to set off on your Interrailing route from London. Our chosen itinerary follows the iconic train journey of the Orient Express itself: London to Istanbul via Paris. Before the take-off of private jets and first-class flights, the world’s elite travelled across Europe in the velvet seats of extravagant trains. While today’s Interrailing route is tediously modern – what do you mean there isn’t a mahogany dining car with crystal goblets?! – the grandeur of this itinerary is not to be skipped over. And don’t worry, Agatha Christie won’t pop in to enlist you to solve a murder.

Duration: 7 days to 1 month

Stops:

  1. London, Great Britain
  2. Paris, France
  3. Munich, Germany
  4. Zagreb, Croatia
  5. Belgrade, Serbia
  6. Sofia, Bulgaria
  7. Istanbul, Turkey

Best pass: Global Pass

Best time to go: To feel like you’re in an Agatha Christie novel, head off during winter.

 

Short and sweet: best Interrailing route for 1 week

A 1-week Interrailing pass is perfect for getting to grips with a European country of your choice. Our recommendation? Take a once in a lifetime journey through the rolling hills and jagged mountains of the Swiss countryside. Switzerland deserves to rise above its famed chocolate shops and cuckoo clocks (although both are undoubtedly excellent.) Lovers of folk-core can stroll through Bern’s cobbled alleyways and peer precariously into the cyan Aare River from medieval stone arc bridges. Thrill seekers head to rocky heights for year-round alpine adventure. Summer brings white-water-rafting and rambling hikes with storybook views; Winter hears skis slice through powder-sprinkled glaciers while roaring fires await under mounted deer heads at the bottom of the mountain.

Duration: 7 days

Stops:

  1. Zurich
  2. Lucerne
  3. Interlaken
  4. Bern
  5. Geneva

Best pass: Switzerland Pass

Best time to go: Switzerland in Spring or Summer is perfect for train travel.

 

Happy medium: best Interrailing route for 2 weeks

In two weeks, you can cover A LOT of countries. For a top-to-bottom tour of some of Europe’s most beautiful cities, we suggest this North to South Interrailing itinerary. Whizz through the natural wonders of Sweden, Germany, Austria and Italy, and watch the scenery shift from Nordic to the Mediterranean before your very eyes. Stroll through Stockholm’s storybook city centre; head into the belly of Berlin for a night to remember; parade the imperial streets of Vienna; then finish up in a family-run bistro overlooking the Colosseum pleading with the waiter: ‘una pizza grande per favore’.

Duration: 2 weeks

Stops:

  1. Stockholm, Sweden
  2. Berlin, Germany
  3. Munich, Germany
  4. Vienna, Austria
  5. Venice, Italy
  6. Rome, Italy

Best pass: Global Pass

Best time to go: Go in spring to watch the landscapes change dramatically.

 

Long and leisurely: best Interrailing route for 1 month

Well, you could really go anywhere in Europe in a month. But, if you’re an itinerary-kinda-person, this London to Athens Interrailing route covers some of Europe’s most well-known cities.

Duration: 1 month

Stops:

  1. London, UK
  2. Paris, France
  3. Brussels
  4. The Hague, The Netherlands
  5. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  6. Berlin, Germany
  7. Munich, Germany
  8. Salzburg, Austria
  9. Zurich, Switzerland
  10. Lucerne, Switzerland
  11. Lugano, Switzerland
  12. Milan, Italy
  13. Venice, Italy
  14. Florence, Italy
  15. Siena, Italy
  16. Rome, Italy
  17. Bari, Italy
  18. Patras, Greece
  19. Olympia, Greece
  20. Corinth, Greece
  21. Athens, Greece

Best pass: Global Pass

Best time to go: Let’s have a summer adventure baby!

Sun and sea seekers: best Mediterranean Interrailing route

If you’ve got a beer-on-the-beach kinda vibe, a coastal Mediterranean Interrailing route might suit you best. A sensual celebration of sun-warmed cities, lapping waves and lots of olive oil, this route covers legendary spots in Spain, France, Monaco and Italy. Starting out among cosmo-champs like Valencia and Barcelona, you’ll wind your way through the coastal cities of Southern France; blow some of your budget in Monoco; before finishing up your adventure in six legendary Italian port cities.

Duration: 14 days to 1 month

Stops:

  1. Valencia, Spain
  2. Barcelona, Spain
  3. Montpellier, France
  4. Marseille, France
  5. Cannes, France
  6. Nice, France
  7. Monte Carlo, Monaco
  8. Savona, Italy
  9. Genoa, Italy
  10. Pisa, Italy
  11. Livorno, Italy
  12. Rome, Italy
  13. Naples, Italy

Best pass: Global Pass

Best time to go: Head out in early autumn to avoid the crowds but keep the sun shining.

 

To sum it all up

Whew! So, there we go. All that talk of train travel has got us itching to book our next window seat. If you’re looking for even more Interrailing advice, we have some handy Interrailing tips to help make your trip smooth as possible. And don’t forget to check out our amazing range of European hostels when you’re speeding into your next European city.

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