I reached out to 20 top travel bloggers to get their expert opinions on backpacking across Europe! Read on for their ideas on where you should go, tips on how to travel well in Europe, and why they believe backpacking in Europe should be on anyone’s bucket list.
I love Europe- the diversity, the history, the people, the architecture, the nature. It is a rich and vibrant landscape that holds a special allure to aspiring travellers all over the world.
But it can be a little daunting for a first timer planning on backpacking across it. I’d know- I’m yet to really explore much of the continent! I’ve explored a little, but not a lot.
What I have seen though (from travelling around France, to hitchhiking across Greece, soaking up the sun on various Spanish islands and visiting numerous other European cities) has definitely whet my appetite for more. It’s a definite one for the bucket list…
Europe is an undeniably special place. But it’s big too. And, as I mentioned a second ago, diverse. How do you decide where to go and what to do? To help answer these questions, as well as providing further inspiration for a future trip to Europe, I asked 20 leading travel bloggers their thoughts.
But first, let me go into some practical stuff about backpacking in Europe.
Backpacking Europe Routes
As I’m sure you’re aware, Europe is a large continent with many many countries. Where should you start your trip? Where should you end it? And what route should you follow in between on your backpacking in Europe itinerary?
I’m going to bow out of suggesting a single best backpacking Europe route! Honestly, your Europe backpacking route is your own, so I don’t feel the need to recommend any particular order of events.
Know that the suggestions you’ll read below all sound fantastic though. I’m sure your exploits will be duly rewarded if you incorporate any of these options into your plans.
One thing I would say though is that when deciding your backpacking in Europe routes I’d suggest first figuring out the places you absolutely want to visit.
From there, consider in more detail the logistical considerations involved of working them into your itinerary. Look at a map to see where they’re all situated and, if you can, physically, mark where you want to go.
As you do so you’ll notice obvious routes emerging and before you know it you’ll have your route all mapped out…
The Cost of Backpacking Europe
Europe isn’t the cheapest place to travel in the world. However, if doesn’t have the break the bank and backpacking across it is definitely possible on a budget.
As a very rough rule of thumb, count on approximately £45-70 on average per day, all in. I’ve got a full piece on this topic though, so be sure to check it out to read how I calculated this figure!
And, again, I’ll emphasise that what you spend on the road is generally down to you. You could almost certainly spend less, or more, than the figures I just suggested.
The Best Backpacking Europe Backpack
Actually owning a backpack is, surprisingly, a good place to start when you’re planning on backpacking in Europe!
Rather than delving further down this rabbit hole here though, be sure to check out my post on the best backpacks for travelling Europe.
I go into a tonne of detail about how to choose your backpack, as well as providing comprehensive reviews of some of the best backpacks currently on the market.
I hope it helps you choose the best pack for your Europe trip!
Travel Blogger Advice for Backpacking Across Europe
I asked 20 amazing travel bloggers three questions:
Their answers to each are included below in the same order. Though most answers address each point, a few simply talk about the amazing features of the particular country of choice.
This is by no means a full list of all the places you should include on your Europe backpacking itinerary.
However, I hope that the suggestions and tips will go some way in helping you plan your trip.
Travelling solo? Check out 13 of the best places to travel alone in Europe (also recommended by expert travel bloggers!).
Backpacking in Europe: Where, How & Why
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
By Eric and Lisa from Penguin and Pia
Edinburgh is a great destination to add to any Europe itinerary. As a cultural powerhouse in the United Kingdom, Edinburgh has so much to offer visitors and their diverse interests.
From “Edinburgh’s best bars and pubs” to museums and galleries, outdoor hikes and seaside paths, and stunning architecture - there truly is something for everyone in Edinburgh.
One tip we’d recommend first time travellers to Europe is to pace yourself. Europe has so many places and it can be overwhelming to try and experience them all.
Checking out a few cities to see what you like might be better than speeding through many places just to say that you got there on your first trip. Taking time to immerse yourself in the culture is key.
For an aspiring traveller, Europe is a fantastic continent to put prejudices to rest. With so many countries as one another’s neighbour, you’ll quickly learn about the cultures, the languages, and the people.
You’ll see past the differences and truly embrace their uniqueness as a strength. This is what makes Europe so fascinating to explore!
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By Megan & David from Half This World Away
No trip to Europe would be complete without a visit to Dresden; whilst perhaps not as well known as Berlin or Munich, this German city is a fascinating place to visit.
The most incredible thing about Dresden is that the city was almost completely destroyed during WW2, and has since been restored to its former glory.
When you wander down its cobbled streets, past the stunning churches and palaces it is easy to believe those structures are hundreds of years old, when they are actually only decades old. The restoration of Dresden is unbelievably fascinating.
Our tip would be to visit places other than capital cities, so many travellers will jump from Berlin, to Prague to Vienna and miss out the rest of the country.
There is so much more to the countries in Europe than their capital cities and we would encourage first time travellers to explore out with these cities.
Europe is an incredible place to visit as there is no other continent where so many countries are within such close proximity to each other other. You can quite literally wake up in the Czech Republic, pop over to Austria for lunch before enjoying dinner in Slovenia.
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By Dhara from It's Not About the Miles
Rome is an absolute must-visit destination on your first visit to Europe! The Eternal City has much to offer every type of traveller.
If you are into art and architecture, you'll love visiting all the monuments, churches, museums and art galleries. If you're a foodie, you can sample delectable dishes and gorge on yum gelato.
A photographer? From the panoramas you can see from the top of St. Peter's Dome to the fountains at the Piazza Navona, you'll find much to keep your shutter-clicking finger busy.
A people watcher? Relax at a cafe or stroll along the Via Corso to watch street performers, hawkers, and sidewalk artists join a throng of visitors and residents on this popular main drag that runs through the historic centre.
Love shopping? From the chic stores near the Spanish Steps to the open air food markets such as the Campo dei Fiori, you can browse and shop to your heart's content.
Every moment of every day you are in Rome, you will feel the vibrant pulse of this city throb within you as you gawk at the stunning sights in every direction.
And once you've had a taste of Rome, you will not be able to stop yourself from throwing that coin into the Trevi Fountain, to ensure that you will return some day to re-experience the magic.
Don't try to cram too much into your itinerary for your first visit to Europe. There's way too much to see in one trip, or two, or three.
Be selective and pick things you will enjoy the most, then spend time savoring each one to its fullest. You will go home with rich memories and the desire to visit again and again!
I love Europe. It's my favourite travel destination outside the USA, where I live. The sense of being in the midst of history, beautiful buildings, bustling squares, and the juxtaposition of the old and the new all make for a fascinating trip.
You will love experiencing beautiful train journeys, different types of natural and urban landscapes, and varied cuisines as you hop from one country to another.
Traveling through Europe is educational, entertaining, and exciting, an experience no traveler should miss!
Be sure to read Dhara’s piece about fantastic free things to do in Rome.
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By Kaia Trouber from Magnetic Voyage
Cities across the globe tend to be more and more similar the larger they are, at least in my experience. To get a more specific feeling for the local culture small places like Garmisch-Partenkirchen are ideal.
Typical German and Austrian food, buildings more than a hundred years old and views of beautiful mountains already from within the city.
A good way to get there is by train from Munich or Innsbruck. Within the city public transportation is available well into the late evening and since it is a small place walking might actually be the better choice to see everything.
What makes this place so unique is that it is already within the Alps and a great base for daily outdoor activities, even when the weather isn’t perfect.
If that is the case you might be better off if you skip visiting the highest German mountain the Zugspitze and visit the two gorges Partnachklamm and Höllentalklamm instead.
For hikes on top of the mountains many different cable cars are a great option to get directly to great views with easy hikes, like it is the case on top of the Kreuzeck or Alpenspitze. Kayaking, diving and canyoning are also really popular.
Trying to see everything in a short time is nearly impossible. Do not exhaust yourself and plan flexibly enough that you can stay longer if you feel like it!
The best part about Europe is all the different cultures with their unique history and interesting modern life being so close together and easy to travel to.
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By Natasha and Cameron from The World Pursuit
The capital of Iceland is an essential destination to put on any European travel list. Reykjavik, for one, is easily accessible from North America. With cheap flights from WOW Air you can easily get to Iceland in less than six hours from the east coast.
It's also one of the safest capital cities in the world, but at the same time there are barely any chains or massive high rise buildings ruining your time. It's just all Icelandic.
If you are traveling in Europe for the first time I cannot stress enough the importance of purchasing a universal power adaptor. The outlets in Europe range from the British three prong to the Europlug to even the old Swiss style plugs.
Europe is one of the easier continents to travel. In my opinion it is the easiest, cheapest to travel around, and you can cross off so many countries and cultures in a short trip.
Distances are short and there is so much to experience. It was the first place I traveled solo and Europe still keeps me coming back every single year.
Check out Natasha and Cameron’s tips on Things to Do in Iceland.
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By Kate and Jeremy from Our Escape Clause
As the Cradle of the Renaissance and home of some of the most incredible artwork in the world (not to mention some of the most delicious food), Florence is a must on any first-time Europe itinerary.
The rolling hills and soft, golden light of Tuscany, paired with classic Florentine architecture and a delicious meal, will be an absolutely unforgettable combination during any Europe trip.
By far, our best tip for traveling in Europe for the first time is to slow down. It’s so tempting to jump from location to location, but it’s also a good way to wear yourself out and ensure you don’t see nearly as much as you could.
We’d recommend whittling down your number of destinations as much as you can bear, hitting up only your most desired places on your first trip. Your time in Europe will go much more smoothly that way!
We have traveled all over the world, and yet, Europe remains our favorite place to travel. The absolute ease of jumping from place to place, to the point that you can hop on an inexpensive 1.5 hour flight and arrive in a place with a completely different language, culture, and landscape than the one you just left is intoxicating.
Add in some of the best food in the world, beautiful cities, incredible nature, friendly people, and fascinating history, and you have a recipe for a continent we’ll never be done exploring."
Check out Kate and Jeremy’s great piece on Things to Do in Florence.
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By Maire from Temples and Treehouses
It’s essential you don’t skip Barcelona on your first trip to Europe. I think it’s the perfect city - amazing weather for most of the year, incredible food (tapas, churros, paella and more) and an adorable European old town.
Think gothic churches, cute maze-like alleyways and Gaudi’s famous architecture. Plus, there’s a fun local fiesta atmosphere, good nightlife and a great beach! Barcelona is the best of all worlds.
Don’t be intimidated by the public transport system in Europe. It’s super cheap and easy to use. Even if you don’t understand the language, it’s all well signposted and easy to follow anyway.
There’s so much history in Europe, and so many incredible buildings, monuments and artworks from loads of different eras, all built on top of each other. Even if you’re not a history geek, it just looks amazing and you feel like you’re in a movie everywhere you go.
Plus, there is nothing in the world like sipping a drink at a pavement cafe on a charming European street as the sun goes down.
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London, United Kingdom
By Claire from Claire’s Footsteps
There’s nowhere in the world quite like London. Its history, its culture, its nightlife and its food scene all yearn to be explored, and you’ll see so much in London that you won’t anywhere else.
Although some backpackers are horrified at the prices of the capital of England, there are lots of ways you can see the city on a budget making backpacking London entirely feasible.
Free museums, cheap drinks deals, beautiful walks on foot and amazing street food make visiting this city on a budget completely realistic.
When you’re travelling London for the first time, be sure to make the most of any rainy days by seeing as many museums as possible; most of the biggest ones in the city are completely free to see.
And when you’re leaving London and heading to the continent, coach is a great way to get around for very low prices – most leave from Victoria Bus Station.
Travel around Europe is something that everyone should do once in their life; no other part of the world has such an incredible diversity of culture and wealth of history in such a small area.
Check out Claire’s fantastic piece about Backpacking London.
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For more on London travel, take a look at my piece with suggested London itineraries!
By Mike of 197TravelStamps
Lisbon is one of the most amazing destinations to visit in Europe for backpackers. The weather in the capital of Portugal is great all year round and the food is amazing.
While traveling around Europe can get expensive in some countries, you don’t have to worry too much about money in Portugal. Food and nightlife are cheap.
For me, one of the best things about traveling is trying new dishes and new sweets. And this is one of the reasons why I love Lisbon so much. While you are there, make sure to try Pasteis de Nata, an incredibly delicious custard pastry.
Plan ahead. Whether you are looking for a hostel or a train ticket, walk-in prices in Europe are usually much higher than online prices. This doesn’t mean that you have to plan your trip to the last detail but booking in advance can help you save a lot of money on transport and accommodation.
Europe is incredibly rich in history and extremely diverse. You can spend one day in Rome and feel the spirits of the Roman Empire and the next day on a mountaintop in Switzerland.
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By Carolyn from Holidays to Europe
If there’s one destination that I consider essential in any Europe travel itinerary it is the beautiful village of Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland.
It may not be a well-known city like Paris, Amsterdam or Rome, but that’s why I believe it should be included as part of any European trip. Lauterbrunnen may not have famous museums and architecture but it has beauty by the bucket load.
Located close to Interlaken and at the foot of the Jungfrau mountain, I fell in love with Lauterbrunnen the minute I arrived for the first time.
The postcard-perfect village is nestled in a valley surrounded by sheer cliffs over which waterfalls tumble down. In fact, the Lauterbrunnen valley is home to 72 waterfalls including the thunderous Trummelbach Falls.
Just gazing at the scenery will keep you occupied for some time but if you prefer to get adventurous, this is the place to be. There are lots of mountain excursions by cable car and train to enjoy, as well as hiking, mountain biking, paragliding and white water rafting.
With so much to see and do in the area, Lauterbrunnen appeals to all ages. Whether you visit for the adrenaline sports, the mountain excursions, or just to relax and breathe in the crisp alpine air, you’ll be glad you included Lauterbrunnen in your Europe travel itinerary.
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By Karen from WanderlustingK
Amsterdam is one of the best cities to visit in Europe!
The Netherlands is a must visit as there's beautiful canals, delicious beer, and a lot of culture. Although people only visit Amsterdam, there are a lot of easy day trips from Amsterdam that are less than an hour away, including Dutch cheese markets and a lot of cute cities that are perfect for a long walk.
Most people come to Amsterdam for partying, but there are many great museums to visit in the city. Amsterdam has so much to offer for people of all ages, including kids, so don't be afraid to visit as a family.
If you come to Amsterdam, be sure to explore the neighbourhoods outside of centre. The centre is the heart of the partying in Amsterdam, but there's so much beyond this!
I love to explore De Pijp, which has lots of cool cafes and street art. Obviously, cruising along the canals is always fun although I think that it's even more fun to pilot your own boat.
The great thing about Europe is that there are so many different cultures and languages, so even going a few hours means that there are so many differences.
Check out Karen’s awesome piece about experiencing Amsterdam in 3 days.
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By Ayngelina from Bacon Is Magic
The first time many people visit Italy they only see Rome, Florence and Venice. Of course these are amazing cities and so it's natural one would want to visit.
But the problem is that everyone wants to visit and so there are lots of crowds and it can be difficult to find authentic places to go that are not tourist traps.
However, Bologna is one of the prolific cities for food lovers. It’s the largest city in the Emilia Romagna region, which produces products like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Modena balsamic vinegar, prosciutto. This is what Italy is all about!
There are so many things to do in Bologna. It's also home to the oldest university in Italy and it has a great nightlife without the prices of a big city. If you're on a budget get a hotel close to the university, it's a bit more noisy but there are lots of cheap hotels and you'll be close to the action.
Italy is a country with great food, history and culture and no traveler should miss out on traveling here. Although with caution, as once you travel to Italy your first time you're certain to come back again and again.
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Backpacking in Eastern Europe: Where How & Why
Prague, Czech Republic
By Lizzie & Dave from Wanderlust & Life
Any trip to Europe has to include a visit to Prague. The moment you step foot in this magical city feels like you are walking around in a fairy-tale. The architecture is grand and the city’s history is really fascinating.
It is also a lot cheaper than other European capitals. Plus it has some of the best beer in Europe so you know that a night out in the city is going to be immense. The bars are hip and the beer is flowing and to top it all off the people are so welcoming.
One top tip if you are travelling to Prague, or even Europe, for the first time is to get up early to photograph some of the more popular locations.
For example, we got up for sunrise and went to the Charles Bridge. It is usually swarming with tourists but at this time of the morning it was quieter and we had an amazing view of the sunset.
Europe is the ideal place for any aspiring traveller. First of all you can see a lot of countries in a short space of time because they are all relatively close together. It also has a lot of history and some incredible architecture that you just don’t get in other parts of the world.
Check out their awesome piece on the most instagrammable spots in Prague.
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By Halef from The Round the World Guys
While many travelers flock to the most popular European tourist destinations such as Paris, London, or Rome, a lot of less-traveled gems remain untouched. One of the destinations that often forgotten is Minsk, Belarus.
Minsk is a very unique place in Europe, even for first-time travelers.
Minsk and the rest of Belarus remained mostly closed off from Western influence until recently. Here, you can still find huge grey concrete architecture, populated by people who sometimes seem fearful of "defying the rules."
While this means that crime in Minsk is relatively low, even minor offenses, like jaywalking or taking photos in public places, are forbidden and often reported. For example, while I was innocently taking a video clip inside a Minsk subway station, a local woman reported me to the police. It feels very regimented and controlled.
On the other hand, not everything conforms to old stereotypes.
Young people crave change, and most of them learn and speak English pretty well. Minsk is the home of one of the most advanced software developer communities in Europe. KFC fast food joints, iconic of capitalism in many places, have sprung up in many corners of Minsk.
And foodie culture is becoming quite common. You can check out some great Belarus food in our DIY Belarus Food Tour Guide. It's worth the trip.
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By Ruben from Gamin Traveler
An essential destination that you have to include in your Europe travel itinerary is Riga. Visiting the capital of Latvia is a must and is my favorite country in the baltics.
Riga is full of life, the weather is really nice and you can find a lot of beautiful historic areas and designs all around.
I most enjoyed trying traditional food and local beer. At night, places are full of people as summer is their peak season. The city is so beautiful and has many places to walk around and admire the sights.
It is a mix of art nouveau architecture and old town. The square is a public space, holding a weekly farmers' market, concerts, outdoor film screenings and more.
There are museums related to Second World War in Riga. City Hall and House of Blackheads are nice places to visit! The city isn´t big and everything is walking distance.
One great tip we can give when you're traveling to Europe is checking the best time to go. We believe that the best time to visit Riga would be during the summer season.
Prices for accommodation, food and transportation are quite affordable in the Baltic countries!
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By Mary from A Mary Road
Uzupis in Vilnius, is probably the coolest place I have been in Lithuania. It is full of street arts, some are made of old furniture which you can find on dainty alleys or by the river.
While you can also see some cool street art paintings around. Uzupis is also located right next to the Old Town which holds the fascinating history of Lithuania. Affordable hostels in Vilnius are easy to find as well.
Use couchsurfing- it is definitely my top tip for a first time traveller here. You will explore and learn about a country with a different approach. You can interact and learn the history right from a local. I have couchsurfed in Southeast Asia and the middle East, but personally, I think the experience was a lot better in Europe.
Travelling around Europe is epic. The flights are cheap and so are the trains and buses. Since this continent is so compact, hopping from country to country is so easy and surprisingly affordable.
Also, even though Europe is pretty small, it is undeniable that the culture and history in this part of the world is fascinating and so rich. The diversity of food culture is something you cannot miss.
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By Maggie from The World Was Here First
If you're looking for the perfect destination to start any European backpacking route, then Budapest is the answer. The Hungarian capital is getting more popular for tourists by the year, and for good reason.
Not only is Budapest absolutely beautiful and packed with great things to do, it has an amazing nightlife, is quite affordable, and has seemingly endless options for budget accommodation and hostels.
Due to its location in the centre of Europe, it is also possible to reach many other popular backpacker destinations from Budapest.
If you're travelling to Budapest or just to Europe for the first time, the best piece of advice I could give is to not try to see everything.
I've personally found that it is altogether more rewarding to travel slowly and spend more time in one place than to exhaust myself trying to squeeze everything into a short period of time.
Europe is incredibly vast and diverse and it can be so rewarding to travel anywhere, but Budapest really takes the cake for the best backpacking destination on the continent!
Because it is safe and has a developed tourism infrastructure, heading to Europe really is a great option for first-time travellers.
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By Alex from Swedish Nomad
Ksamil in Albania is a great destination for backpackers who want to experience white beaches and crystal clear turquoise water. Albania has a lot to offer, and not only the beaches, but also hiking and beautiful mountains as well as a rich culture.
The prices are lower here as well and you get a lot of traveling for your money. The locals are very friendly and you will always have a good time in Albania.
Don't travel to Southern Europe during August if you can avoid it, August is the absolute high-season and all of Europe plus many Americans, Aussies, Canadians and so on will be there for vacation, thus making it ridiculously crowded and overpriced almost everywhere.
Europe is probably the easiest and most convenient continent to travel. If you don't take money into account, Europe is very diverse and sometimes you can experience 2-3 countries just in the matter of a couple of hours if you're driving.
You're never far away from a new exciting place and culture if you feel like you've seen enough of a particular place or country. Almost everyone speaks English as well, so it's easy to get around, and you will meet people from all over the world.
Check out Alex’s awesome Albania Travel Guide.
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By Clemens Sehi from Travellers Archive
The Turkish capital Istanbul is a true gem for every single traveller. Divided into an Asian and European section and parted by the Bosphorus, there are endless things to do.
Start your day with a nice walk towards the water. Get yourself a nice seat by the sea and simply watch the old ferries cruise by and the even older fishermen on the Galata bridge fish all day long.
Doing so, you can get a glimpse of the popular mosques, such as the Blue Mosque, as well as Hagia Sophia, which used to be a church and a mosque and has been turned into a museum now.
Istanbul is a city to walk– a lot. It has so many different faces that it is hard to actually get hold of them. One of my favourite things to do in Istanbul is a little ferry cruise that takes me from Europe to Asia.
It’s a nice way of getting an idea of how big Istanbul is and it is usually super romantic and cosy. The best thing about it? There is always tea on the ferry, always!
Apart from that, I would totally recommend getting lost in the steep alleys of Cukurcuma. This old district is famous for its antique shops and also offers the perfect setting for a walk.
Refresh yourself with a Turkish pizza and a freshly squeezed orange juice before you head over to the famous Istiklal street, Istanbul’s major shopping street. Especially in the evening the street turns into a kind of open-air-stage for musicians and artists.
It’s always great to listen to live music and to watch some shows for free. Other than that Istanbul is a great city to simply get lost in as you’ll always find something amazing.
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By Stephanie from Sofia Adventures
No one should head to Europe without a stop in Sofia. The capital of Bulgaria, Sofia is perfect for anyone interested in Roman history, post-Communist tourist, hiking and nature travel, and those looking for a skiing or winter break.
Don’t over plan your time! You need to have room for surprises.
With budget prices, Sofia is a great destination for luxury and sophisticated travelers looking for a fabulous time while enjoying spending less than in some of Europe’s more crowded destinations. At the same time, budget travelers will find Sofia a great place to stretch precious travel dollars.
Check out Stephanie’s piece with 101 things to do in Sofia.
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