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The Best Summer Interrailing Routes

Written by Alice McLeod on 27 / 03 / 2024

Gap Year Advice

Interrailing - a Gap Year rite of passage

Everyone wants to know the best interrail routes while they are on their gap year, and interrailing is a fab introduction to travel if you're new to the game or limited for time. The weather in Eurpoe is often an improvement so summer is a great time to explore. Why not consider a summer of interrailing followed by joining a programme somewhere further afield? You can download our guide to nailing your gap year here.

Here is some inspiration to get you started.

Interrail for 2023

An interrail global pass is the ultimate gateway to Europe: cheap, simple and a whole lot of fun. Every one of the 30 countries the pass covers has its own charms and is well worth a visit.

However, unless you’re planning to interrail for your whole year off (not our recommended option as variety is the key to any great gap year), then your first step to planning the perfect trip is choosing an area of Europe to explore.

We’d recommend aiming to see four to six countries in a month rather than rushing from place to place. This way you’ll avoid ending up seeing more of the train networks of each place you visit than the incredible sights on offer.

We’ve come up with four parts of Europe to travel around and a popular route for each. Hopefully, it’ll give you a few ideas for when you start planning your interrail adventures. If you'd like more advice then get in touch.

Eastern Europe

Great for:

A chilled summer break, beautiful beaches, stunning ancient cities and tonnes of history.

Route:

Prague (Czech Republic) - Krakow (Poland) - Warsaw (Poland) - Vienna (Austria) - Bratislava (Slovakia) - Budapest (Hungary) – Bucharest (Romania) - Belgrade (Serbia) - Zagreb (Croatia) – Split (Croatia), Dubrovnik (Croatia)

Must sees and dos:

Prague – Prague Castle, St Vitus Cathedral, and Old Town Square are both mandatory sights of a visit to Prague. It also boasts some of the best beer in the world, but good luck pronouncing it!

Krakow – Experience the stunning Wawel Castle and Cathedral, the Wieliczka Salt Mines, or take a sobering trip to nearby Auschwitz-Birkenau. Fuel your travels with tasty pierogi (Polish dumplings).

Warsaw – Much of Poland's capital city was destroyed during the war, but much has been rebuilt, and now makes for an interesting collection of architecture and neighbourhoods. Discover more of Poland’s wartime history at Warsaw Rising Museum, the Jewish ghetto and the Pawiak Prison Museum.

Vienna – Just enjoy the endless cultural delights and coffee shops, the latter being added to the Unesco list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2011. Many retain their opulent interiors, and specialise in a particular cake - delicious.

Bratislava – There’s something to satisfy everyone’s taste buds with plenty of restaurants offering traditional Slovak and fusion foods or pop into one of the city’s many sidewalk and river front cafes. For night owls there's Bratislava's uproarious nightlife to enjoy, from beer halls to hidden nightclubs.

Budapest – Relax and unwind amongst beautiful architecture at one of Budapest’s natural hot spring baths.There's something for everyone, from the beautiful Fisherman's Bastion to a buzzy club scene.

Bucharest – Romania’s top museums sit in the capital and cover everything from the rural life of peasants to the communist developments of the late 20th century. Also, drop by the world’s second largest administrative building the ‘Palace of Parliament’.

Belgrade – Whilst not as pretty as some of the others on this list, its gritty feel adds to its unconventional charm. An array of museums showcase this city's fascinating and often turbulent history.

Zagreb – Croatia's lively capital is best explored on foot. A great destination for culture, arts and music – don’t miss the lakeside concerts in the summer.

Split – Beautiful beaches, unmissable dive spots and magnificent scenery and waterfalls in nearby Plitvice.

Dubrovnik – Walk the magnificent old city walls by dusk, sip coffee in the Stradun, and explore the 15th century Gothic-Renaissance Rector's Palace.

Useful info:

• Possibly the cheapest area of Europe – plenty of hostels around.

• Great cheap flights to start in both Prague or Budapest.

Not sure where to head to after your interrailing?

We have a great team to help you plan your gap year and work out the best experiences for you, so get in touch on 01672 519922.

Or take a peak at our adventure, volunteering programs across the globe.

Inspire me

Northern Europe

Great for:

Incredible landscapes, kind-hearted, welcoming people, ornate architecture, great food and barrels of beer.

Route:

Copenhagen (Denmark) - Goteborg (Sweden) - Oslo (Norway) - Stockholm (Sweden) - Helsinki (Finland) - Stockholm - Copenhagen

Must sees and dos:

Copenhagen – stroll along the stunning waterfront packed with shops, restaurants and great museums. When night falls, enjoy the light shows of the charming, old-fashinoned Tivoli amusement park. Two fantastic day trips from Copenhagen allow you to see the impressive cathedral and Viking boat museum at Roskilde and Hamlet’s epic castle at Helsinger.

Goteborg – Art and fashion! As well as Liseberg fun park: dazzling heights, great thrills and panoramic city views.

Oslo – Munch’s work. Long but very scenic day includes the Norway in a Nutshell rail trip to Flam and a combination of boat/bus journey along the Sognefjord to Bergen, Norway’s prettiest town. World-class museums and art galleries as well as forests, hills and lakes awash in adventure activities.

Stockholm – Tour the urban waterways and wander the magical, labyrinthine Old Town. There's enough museums to keep you busy for weeks, including an ABBA one - snazzy.

Helsinki – Visit the quirky harbourside for the latest in Finnish fashion, dining, and nightlife. Nature is also right on your doorstep, boat to nearby islands, hike in the nearby forests, or ice skate on frozen lakes in the winter.

Useful info:
  • Northern Europe can be very expensive compared to other parts of Europe so keep that in mind before you set off.

Western Europe

Great for:

Historic architecture, parties and nightlife, great music, majestic cathedrals, and more beer.

Route:

Paris (France) - Brussels (Belgium) - Amsterdam (Netherlands) - Cologne (Germany) – Berlin (Germany) - Munich (Germany) - Zurich (Switzerland)

Must sees and dos:

Paris – There are 101 ways to tick off the Eiffel tower from your bucket list: pedal beneath it, hike up or take the lift for panoramic city views, buy a crepe from a nearby foodstall and picnic before it, take the ultimate selfie in front of it, ascend at evening amid twinkling lights and more… The Louvre and a day watching the buzz of the world go by from a rooftop café are musts too!

Brussels – Seek out the enticing cafes and chocolate shops before savouring the ‘world’s most beautiful square’, Grand Place.

Amsterdam – Stroll the canals and soak up beautiful, vibrant and off-beat Amsterdam. Of course there are funky and mellow bars, brown cafes full of life, and a raging nightlife too.

Cologne – Cathedral central! Visit Dom for the Germany’s biggest and the world’s most gargoyle-festooned Gothic cathedral.

Berlin – Leave the sleeping for the train journeys as the parties continue day and night and the sights are never-ending. Definitely pay a visit to the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag building and the Holocaust Memorial (all free) as you wander around this historical city.

Munich – Sunbathe nude (it’s pretty much obligatory) in Englischer Garten park or join the merriment at one of the park’s chilled beer gardens.

Zurich – Hip, quirky bars can be found all across the city and a relaxing stroll along the city’s sublime lake is a daytime must.

Useful info:
  • There are loads of super accessible places to start from, from Luxembourg to Manchester, but we'd probably suggest Berlin or Paris for a trip of the western highlights!

Think Beyond....your summer plans sorted but what happens once you're back? Find your perfect gap year mix

Southern Europe

Great for:

Mediterranean sun, culture and cuisine galore and all kinds of nightlife.

Route:

Lisbon (Portugal) – Madrid (Spain) – Seville (Spain) – Barcelona (Spain) – Marseille (France) – Nice (France) – Milan (Italy) – Venice (Italy) – Florence (Italy) – Rome (Italy) – Naples (Italy)

Must sees and dos:

Lisbon – Explore Lisbon's beautiful cobbled alleyways and streets before making your way to the showstopping Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.

Madrid – Explore the old streets, soak up the culture in a number of galleries and museums and then hit the party area for Madrid’s legendary nightlife.

Seville – Tour the intoxicating blend of Islamic, Gothic, and Renaissance architecture before stopping in one of the city's countless tapas restaurants along the banks of the Guadalquivir river.

Barcelona – Wander down Spain’s most famous boulevard: Las Ramblas. Exploding with life, there are street artists, news stands and vendors selling everything from mice to magnolias!

Marseilles – Discover the charms of the souq-like markets, ancient port and marvellous coastal roads.

Nice – Waterski, paddleboard, paraglide and more on Nice’s shimmering shorelines. Don’t forget to indulge in the very best of Mediterranean food too! Use Nice as a base to day trip to other nearby picture-perfect coastal towns.

Milan – Ogle at Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, the immense Duomo church and the world-famous La Scala opera house.

Venice – Lap up the city’s unique and magical atmosphere on the obligatory gondola ride through the streets.

Florence – Marvel at the Medicis’ art collection in the Uffizi Gallery. Enjoy gelato as you gaze up at the Duomo, and gaze upon Michelangelo's David in all his glory.

Rome – A day at the iconic Colosseum and Roman Forum before a sunset picnic on Palatine hill.

Naples – Pizza, pizza, pizza. Perhaps explore the baroque backstreets to work up an appetite.

Useful info:
  • Geared towards tourists, this part of Europe is well-connect by its rail network and is easy to navigate.
  • This is also a popular interrail route so you'll meet lots of fellow travellers along the way.

Get planning...

Now you’ve just got to gather your mates, buy your interrail ticket and get that backpack packed. If trains don't float your boat then consider island-hopping in Greece to get your fill of sunshine and adventures. You can read our island-hopping guide here.

It’ll be an adventure of a lifetime wherever you choose to go. How much of it you’ll remember, however, is a whole other story.

Top tip: if you've got a full gap year then use your summer to interrail and explore with friends not on a gap year, then you'll have the confidence and travel bug to keep exploring and venture out beyond Europe. Interrailing is a really popular way to travel, but if you're looking to go further afield then we've got you covered! Even if you have no idea at all of how to plan your gap year then get in touch and we can help you.

Not sure where to head to after your interrailing?

We have a great team to help you plan your gap year and work out the best experiences for you, so get in touch on 01672 519922.

Or take a peak at our adventure, volunteering programs across the globe.

Inspire me

Need inspiration and direction?

Get in contact with the gap year travel specialists.

Here at The Leap we can help both team traveller through our programmes and/or the backpacker.

Jot a message below or call us on +44 1672 519 9222

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