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Are you planning your first European backpacking travel adventure? Packing for a trip can be exciting but stressful, especially if you don’t know what to bring. Whether you’re going for a week or for an entire summer, there are a few backpacking Europe essentials for your packing list. To help you get started, take a look at our backpacking Europe checklist, which will ensure you have everything you need for your trip. 

1. Backpack

The right backpacking can make or break your trip. A backpack that’s too big can make traveling uncomfortable, while a backpack that’s too small won’t allow you to fit all your belongings in it. 

When backpacking Europe, you won’t want to bring a large, rolling suitcase. European cities were built before the age of elevators, which means that you’ll be walking lots of stairs. When navigating the metro, the old buildings, and the hotels, you’ll be happy to be able to take the stairs instead of lugging around an unwieldy backpack.

When it comes to essentials for your backpacking Europe packing list, it’s best to bring a carry-on sized backpack to avoid baggage fees on budget airlines.

Backpacking backpacks come in sizes based on the liter volume that they can carry. A 30-40 liter bag is comparable to a carry-on size suitcase, while a bag that’s 50-65 liters will be too big to take with you as a carry on.

Make sure you choose a bag that fits comfortably on your body. If you’re visiting a store, the employees will be more than happy to help you select a few bags that are suited to your body size. 

If you’re looking for the best backpack for backpacking Europe, the Osprey brand has some great all-rounder backpacks. Osprey is the go-to essential Europe backpacking option and fits most people comfortably. 

2. Day bag

When you’re taking a day trip or going on a hike, you won’t want to bring your huge backpack with you. Leave most of your items locked safely at your accommodation and take along a day bag. Your best bet would be to purchase a foldable daypack that can fit into your bigger backpack.

It will need to fit essentials such as money, a snack, water, and maybe a change of clothes, so it shouldn’t be too big or bulky.

3. Padlocks

Padlocks are a quick, convenient, and inexpensive way to secure your bags and hostel lockers. When assembling your backpacking Europe essentials for your packing list, a small item like this can be a lifesaver! You can also use your luggage lock on your backpack during travel days, ensuring all your belongings are safe, including your passport.

4. Universal travel adapter

Your Europe backpacking packing list should include a universal travel adapter, which will work for your phone charger or any other electronic devices. 

The outlets in continental Europe use the same 2-pronged plug, but if you’re traveling in the UK and Ireland, you’ll need a different 3-pronged system. Rather than taking multiple chargers with you, a multifunctional adapter will do. 

5. Camera

The best travel camera for backpacking europe

Your phone camera is sufficient for everyday life, but backpacking around the world is an incredible experience that you will never want to forget!

Your travel photos will prove invaluable once you return from your epic journey, so be sure to capture all the incredible things you encounter along the way. Bring a camera that not only takes great pictures but also fits easily into your backpack.

These days, the majority of cameras are equipped with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi capabilities, so they can be transmitted easily to your laptop or phone to post them online.

You may wish to bring a high-tech DSLR camera to take stunning photographs. For some, a more compact point-and-shoot camera will suffice, and will fit in a day pack without taking up much space.

If you want to take your backpacking adventures to the next level, then consider bringing along a GoPro, which will accompany you everywhere from underwater adventures to skydiving during your European backpacking adventures.

6. Travel towel

Your essential backpacking Europe packing list should include a quick-drying travel towel, since you will be moving from hostel to hostel as you backpack between cities. My favorite travel towel is a Turkish towel which is quick to dry and easy to fit in your backpack. You can also use the towel as a privacy screen if you secure a bottom bunk in a hostel.

7. Power Bank

A power bank is one of the essentials on my backpacking Europe packing list, for multiple reasons. While traveling, you’ll be using your phone much more than normal – for navigation, taking photos, videos, or researching travel tips. On days like this, you’ll want to have a backup battery for your phone. 

I’ve also relied on my power bank during long travel journeys when I use my phone and want to make sure I have enough juice to find my way to the next destination.

8. Change purse

Reliance on physical money is surprisingly still pretty high throughout Europe. Plus, having lots of €1 and €2 Euro coins is a good idea if you want to leave behind tips or donate to street musicians that you’ll see on your trip. 

9. The right shoes

For your backpacking Europe packing list, don’t forget to throw in a pair of rubber sandals for the hostel showers. You should also bring a pair of comfortable but stylish walking shoes. Some nightlife spots will require a certain dress code, but you can get away with leather-style sneakers. And women can get away with stylish looking flats that are secretly super comfortable.

10. Hostel survival kit

If you’ll be staying in hostels, don’t forget these 4 backpacking Europe essentials. We call it the hostel survival kit:

11. The Best Apps for Backpacking Europe

The Best Apps for Backpacking Europe

And lastly, before heading off for your European backpacking adventure, you should load up your phone with a few essential apps that will make backpacking Europe a breeze.

Apps to book transportation from place to place

Given the relatively compact size of Europe, you can travel between major cities by train or bus. There are a few useful apps for European transportation that can help make sure you find the best deal while sticking to your schedule.

  • Omio – compare trains, buses, and flight options in Europe and travel using mobile tickets
  • Trainline – a popular app in the UK to find train and bus tickets 
  • Flixbus – a long-distance bus company that is a favorite mode of travel for budget backpackers
  • Kiwi – a flight search comparison site that helps you find the lowest prices
  • Skyscanner – another classic flight search website that has powerful flexible search options

Apps for Finding Accommodation in Europe

Apps to book discounted activities and Skip the Line tickets

Apps to stay in touch with friends and family back home

If you don’t want to change to an international mobile plan, you can use these apps over free public WiFi to stay in touch with people back home.

Regardless of your travel style, Berlin is a must when backpacking around Europe. This city has something for everyone: history buffs, night owls, foodies. But between the history and the infamous modern Berlin vibe, how can possibly decide what to do in Berlin in 3 days?

After living here for 5 years, I have put together a list of things to do if you only have 3 days in Berlin, to make sure you get an authentic impression of the city. I share it with my friends who come to visit! Berlin’s storied past is one of the reasons I love this city, but I’ll also provide some ways for you to get off the tourist trail and see a glimpse of the real Berlin.

1. Get an Introduction to Berlin with a Free Walking Tour

If you have 3 days in Berlin, it’s definitely worth spending at least half a day soaking in the history. There’s no better way to get an introduction to Berlin’s important history than with a free walking tour. Sandemans is the most popular, and for good reason. In about 3 hours you’ll learn about Berlin’s role during WWII and how the Berlin Wall later divided the city in two. The historical center of Berlin is compact, and this walking tour will hit all the major highlights. It’s one of the first things you should do while backpacking in Berlin in order to get your bearings. During your tour, you’ll see the major highlights of central Berlin including the Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial, and Checkpoint Charlie.

Don't miss a stop at Brandenburg Gate while backpacking in Berlin

Don’t miss a stop at Brandenburg Gate while backpacking in Berlin

2. Explore the Reichstag and Tiergarten (by Bike!)

During your 3 days in Berlin, you should rent a bike to explore the areas around the Reichstag and the Tiergarten. You can walk the symbolic glass dome of the Reichstag, but you’ll need to make reservations in advance. Continue deep into the Tiergarten, don’t miss the Victory Column (Siegessäule). End your bike tour with beers and snacks at the Cafe am Neuen See Biergarten, where you can rent a rowboat for one of the kitschy fun things to do in Berlin.

Berlin Reichstag Parliament Building

Berlin Reichstag Parliament Building

3. Spend an Evening at a Local Watering Hole

Whether you want a swanky cocktail bar, a grungy dive bar, or an outdoor Biergarten, Berlin has tons of options. Over the years I’ve selected a few favorites that I always recommend to my friends.

I love Monkey Bar on the rooftop of the 25 hours hotel. The bar gets its name from its view over the monkey habitats at the Berlin Zoo. This place has artisan cocktails, upscale bar snacks, and an unbeatable view over Berlin’s skyline. It’s one of my favorite viewpoints in the city and should definitely be on your list for your 3 days in Berlin.

If you’re looking for a locals-style bar, you have endless choices. You can find a large concentration of great bars on Oranienstrasse in Kreuzberg or the area around Boxhagener Platz in Friedrichshain. Some of my favorites are Mano Cafe, Das Hotel, Mein Haus am See. Keep in mind that most bars in Berlin still allow smoking inside, but if you do your research ahead of time, you can find some smoke-free options.

For an outdoor drink spot, my favorite place in Berlin is James Simon Park with its stunning view of the River Spree, Berlin Cathedral and Museum Island. You can relax in a Biergarten chair and try a Berliner Weiße (a beer mixed with fruit flavor). While in the area, wander over to Mombijou park to watch the locals dancing Salsa.

While Berlin isn’t particularly known for Biergartens (it’s more of a Bavarian thing), you still have some great options. Schleussen Krug in the Tiergarten boasts organic Biergarten fare, Prater Garten in the heart of Prenzlauer Berg was the first and still-largest Biergarten in Berlin, and BRLO Brewery is a modern interpretation of a Biergarten serving craft brews and modern food pairings.

4. Eat a Delicious Brunch

Take advantage of each day you’re in Berlin to check out some great brunch spots around the city. You’ll wish you had a full week in Berlin to try them all! I love Napoljonska in Prenzlauer Berg, Distrikt Coffee in Mitte, or Restaurant Bastard in Kreuzberg. Some of our other favorites are Hallesches Haus or House of Small Wonder (make a reservation).

5. Mauerpark Flea Market

If you happen to be in Berlin on a Sunday, be sure to visit the Mauerpark Flea Market in the afternoon. More than a market, it’s like a music festival every weekend with buskers, the popular karaoke amphitheater, and people from all over the world picnicking in the park. An afternoon in Mauerpark is one of the quintessential things to do in Berlin, and it’s not to be missed.

6. Take Your Pick of UNESCO Museums on Museum Island

If you have 3 days in Berlin, you should spend at least some time exploring Museum Island, which is home to 5 (yes 5!) UNESCO World Heritage Museums. The Pergamon is the most visited art museum in Germany and features Babylonian and Islamic exhibits. The DDR Museum is a living-history time capsule displaying typical East Berlin life. Both Museums are along the river where you can later take a Spree River Cruise to see East and West Berlin from the water.

Berlin Cathedral Berliner Dom

Berlin Cathedral on Museum Island

7. Stroll Around an Iconic Berliner Kiez

Berlin is famous for its Kiez-culture (Kiez = neighborhood). During your 3 days in Berlin, you can window shop, people watch, and mingle with the locals for an afternoon in one of the bustling neighborhoods in Berlin. My favorite areas are:

  • Bergmannkiez in Kreuzberg
  • The area around Kastanienallee, Eberswalderstrasse, & Oderbergerstrasse in Prenzlauerberg
  • Wrangelkiez in Kreuzberg.

8. Sample Berlin’s Best Restaurants

Berlin is home to a growing foodie scene, and there is something for everyone from takeaway Döner Kebab to Michelin Star cuisine. During your 3 days in Berlin, be sure to explore the restaurant scene. Great options are The Bird (Burgers), Zula (Israeli), but seriously… don’t leave Berlin without a Döner Kebab– they were invented here!

9. Walk the East Side Gallery

Nowadays, most of the Berlin Wall itself is gone, but the border is still marked throughout the city by a line of bricks. You’ll likely cross between former East and West sides of the city multiple times during your 3 days in Berlin! If you want to see the longest stretch of the Wall still standing, you should visit the East Side Gallery, which is basically an outdoor museum using the Berlin Wall as an ever-changing canvas for artists. After walking 1.3 km/.8 mile stretch of mural-covered wall, cross the red Oberbaumbrücke bridge into the heart of Kreuzberg. Meander along Skalitzer Strasse toward Oranienburgerstrasse, and you’ll encounter more famous Berlin street art and get a taste of Kreuzberg. End your afternoon at Markthalle 9, a culinary smorgasbord.

Berlin Wall Street Art Mural Graffiti with Trabi Car. A quintessential thing to do in Berlin

Mural of the classic East German Trabi on the East Side Gallery

10. Go Clubbing

Clubbing in Berlin may require recovery time the next day– you won’t be home before sunrise if you want to do it right. If you only have 3 days in Berlin keep in mind that one full day will be spent recovering.

To start your evening in Berlin, head to an outdoor bar near the Spree River. Badeschiff is a beach bar named after its swimming pool, which floats in the river and is actually a repurposed boat.

If clubbing is at the top of your list of things to do while backpacking in Berlin, keep in mind that the door policies differ from club to club. Be sure to do a bit of research ahead of time. People start to trickle in around midnight, but the real action gets started around 2 or 3. Most of the famous clubs are near the Warschauer Strasse U-Bahn stop. You can try your luck at the notorious Berghain or head to other favorites Club Zur Wilde Renate or Ritter Butzke. Just don’t get too dressed up because the vibe is decidedly black T-Shirt

Berlin also has a steady rotation of themed dance parties around the city (Dirty Dancing 80s, Balkan Beats, Electro Swing, etc.). If techno isn’t your thing and you just want to let loose and dance, you can probably find all sorts of theme parties happening all around the city. You’ll see posters for parties like this all over the city, or you can check out Facebook events to see what’s happening.

And More…

If you’ve already hit the highlights during your 3 days in Berlin, and you’re looking for something further afield, spend some time checking out these awesome parks and day trips.

Tempelhofer Feld

The site of the supply airdrops and airlifts for West Berlin, this huge expanse is now an open park where Residents have created ‘installations’ such as community gardens and pop-up mini-golf courses. Best explored with a bike because it’s HUGE, on a weekend you can spot kite-surfing skateboarders, or families having barbecues. The old airport building at Tempelhoferfeld is currently home to many refugees and the park is the site of a regular ‘Schön, dass ihr da seid’ (Good to have you here) welcome barbecue.

Teufelsberg

Translated as ‘Devil’s Hill’ Teufelsberg is the site of Soviet-era spy tower station where the Americans listened in on East Berlin. The hill itself is man made – it’s built from the rubble of the city after WWII. The buildings still standing at Teufelsberg are covered with street art, and you can get lost meandering through the rooms which lead to the roof. A popular room is the echo room at the top of the towers.

Next Up: Learn more about Backpacking and Travel in Germany

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A 3 day itinerary for things to do in Berlin