Once a marginal way of tourism, urban backpacking has now become the mainstream form of traveling. It’s no wonder, as who wouldn’t want to see fascinating cities around the world and get the best experiences at a fraction of the cost of a traditional journey. With meticulous planning, a well-allocated budget, and a little bit of flexibility with your choices, you can create some of your best travel memories.
If that sounds great, here are the best urban backpack-friendly locations in the world. Pick your sweet spot and fit your travel accessories and essentials in that single backpack. Then, head on to these amazing cities just waiting for you to explore.
Berlin has always been on the roadmap of many urban backpackers. Bursting with lots of mini adventures, it’s undoubtedly one of the first cities to visit in Europe. If you’re an art enthusiast, be filled with awe with many world-class museums located in this urban center.
Lots of other attractions are free, from the Reichstag Dome to the East Side Gallery, Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial, to Checkpoint Charlie, which means you keep your money safe in your wallet.
Then, you can jump from bars to jazz clubs, beer gardens, and cafes, depending on how you’d like to cap out your day. While transportation can be quite expensive, hostels are cheap, eating cheaply is certainly possible, cheap rental apartments are plentiful, you’ll never have a hard time fitting your budget in this city.
Another backpacker gem in Europe is Budapest. The Hungarian capital offers affordable accommodations, free-to-visit landmarks, and consistently low cost of food and drinks. Visit Heroes Square, the most photographed attraction in Pest, a 36-meter high column with archangel Gabriel standing mightily atop.
Afterward, you can climb Castle Hill to see fountains and statues and get scenic views over the city. Other attractions you should miss include the Parliament Building, the Fisherman’s Bastion, and the City Park. Nightlife is vibrant as well, with beautiful ruin bars entertaining customers after dusk. Don’t fret, as you can booze out with drinks available at incredibly affordable prices.
Maputo is only a rising backpacking destination, but it doesn’t it isn’t among the best. The quaint Mozambican capital has lots to offer from budget-friendly accommodations, inexpensive transportation, plus cheap food in huge portions!
There’s also no shortage of things to do. Start off by exploring Maputo’s rich history by seeing its fascinating galleries, museums, colonial buildings, and pastel-hued streets. Its main attractions include the Maputo Railway Station, which is deemed as one of the most spectacular train stations in the world, and The Iron House, which was designed by Gustave Eiffel himself.
To immerse yourself in Mozambican culture and know its people, you join the Mafalala Walking Tour. You’ll never experience true Maputo if you won’t visit this historic neighborhood within the periphery of the capital.
Within the city, you’ll find lots of attractions, from the Tennessee Aquarium, Bluff View Art District, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Tennessee Riverpark, and Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery. Judging from their names alone and adding the cheap accommodation and inexpensive eateries around, it’s a gimme that you’re set for a diverse backpacking experience in this city.
Yet, what makes Chattanooga even more special apart from being one of the top backpacking destinations in the U.S. is that it is fringed by spectacular mountains and ridges. As such, it provides you lots of adventure travel opportunities and chances to get close to nature, just in case you want to take a break from the city jam.
Renowned as the Land Down Under’s most famous city, Sydney promises urban backpackers a vibrant urban life, plus enjoy its amazing culture and history and natural landscapes. Here, you can enjoy epic festivals, parties, and events available all year round, visit beautiful museums, or relax in its stunning beaches, Bondi and Manly. Of course, never miss out on taking a photo of its world-renowned Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
What’s remarkable is that Sydney is welcoming to people from all walks of life, making it a true backpacker’s haven. Backpacking in this Australian city can be affordable in general, just allocate your budget to activities you prefer the most and devote extra time searching for budget-friendly accommodations – you’ll certainly have a fun time backpacking in Sydney.
When thinking about Slovenia, its charming capital Ljubljana is a surefire entry on anyone’s travel itinerary. Yet, just over and a half drive from the country’s center, you’ll reach Maribor, a blissful city on the Drava River, surrounded by picturesque wine-region hills. Visit wine museums and indulge in seriously cheap local wine.
If you’re fond of history and architecture, this city is filled with medieval buildings and beautiful streets, which you can explore for hours. Some indispensable sights include the Glavni Trg (central square), the Water Tower, Maribor Cathedral, and the Maribor Castle.
Given Maribor’s incredible array of summer festivals, the lively ambiance, budget-friendly accommodations, and relatively lower prices of food and drinks, this is, indeed, one of Europe’s best backpacking getaways.
Los Angeles, California, USA
Los Angeles often gets a bad reputation due to traffic, heat, and smog you need to overcome just to get to your intended destinations. Nevertheless, all are worth it due to plenty of highlights to see in the city.
One of its main draws is its cool neighborhoods, such as MacArthur Park, Leimert Park, Downtown Historic Core, and Little Tokyo, all offering a distinct feel. There are also more touristy spots like Silverlake, Hollywood, and Echo Park if you want to get a glimpse of LA’s glamorous art, entertainment, and music scene.
Want to take the off-beaten path instead? You can visit El Matador State Beach, one of the city’s hidden gems, or explore LA’s abandoned sites – just be sure to prepare well for a unique backpacking journey!
Famous for its buzzing nightlife, flamenco performances, spectacular coastline, inexpensive tapas bars, and a captivating old Gothic city center, you can spend days backpacking in Barcelona without getting bored. The first thing to do is visit the Boqueria market, a large public market famous that entices 40,000 visitors a day. Here, you can indulge in sangria and Spanish ham or get a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, seeds, needs, and sweets at an affordable cost.
Afterward, you can start exploring free attractions, such as the Roman remains of Barcino, the Magic Fountain, Parc de la Ciutadella, and the city’s quaint neighborhoods. The world-renowned Sagrada Familia has an entrance fee, but you may simply just walk around and enjoy the awe-inspiring architecture of one of Europe’s most famous cathedrals.
In general, Barcelona isn’t as expensive compared to other Western European cities. Thus, you can just open your horizons and backpack in the “City of Counts” on a budget.
Ecuador is easily one of the most favorite South American destinations for backpackers. You can go urban backpacking in any of its cities and you’ll never go home disappointed. Head on to the country’s capital, Quito, and witness historic churches, museums, and a delectable food scene. With accommodation and travel prices at affordable price points plus the warm equatorial climate, you’ll surely do a lot in this South American charmer.
Alternatively, you can visit the nation’s largest city, Guayaquil. Wander around the neighborhood of Cerro Santa Ana, see the galleries in Las Peñas housed in beautiful old buildings, or spend an afternoon strolling Malecon 2000. Its third-largest city, Cuenca, has also its unique offerings being inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its majestic indigenous and colonial architecture.
If those aren’t enough to get you packing to Ecuador, airfare to the country usually comes at bargain prices, plus it has plentiful affordable accommodations, making it a true backpackers’ paradise.
As Southeast Asia’s most-visited gem with nearly 40 million visitors annually, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t backpack in this country. For some urban adventure, your obvious best bet is Bangkok, the nation’s vibrant capital. It’s noisy and crowded, but it’s part of its amusing personality. From delicious street foods, busy markets, fun riverboat rides, ancient temples, trendy bars to an animated nightlife scene, Bangkok has just nearly everything.
Remember, however, that Thailand has a pretty distinct culture, which they were able to protect from colonizers. Just learn more about the do’s and don’ts of backpacking in Thailand so you can have a worry-free outing.
Prague, Czech Republic
Famous for its castles, beers, medieval streets, gorgeous architecture, and soaring old towers, Prague is a surefire delight to any visitor. Backpackers from across the world visit the Czech capital to see its stunning spires, get a grip of its sprawling beer scene, and to party, as it’s home to Karlovy Lázně, Europe’s biggest club!
Other notable attractions include the Lennon Wall, St Vitus Cathedral, Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, and the Astronomical Clock. The great news is that Prague is cheaper to visit than many major cities in Western Europe. Thus, your money can definitely go a lot further than other European countries if you just plan and allocate your budget properly.
Going back to Asia! This time, let’s discover Jaipur, one of India’s backpacker-friendly cities. It has been colloquially dubbed as the “Pink City,” due to the dominant romantic dusty pink shade of its buildings. Some of its main attractions include the Jal Mahal, the Palace of Winds, and the City Palace, all of which tell a story about Jaipur’s rich history. Inexpensive guesthouses abound, lots of cheap eats are available, and budget-friendly modes of transportations are around – all you have to mind about is how to fully enjoy your stay in this fascinating city!
Istanbul is one of the most alluring and magical places to go backpacking in Europe. Dubbed as the “City where East meets West,” it nestles perfectly between Europe and Asia, which then creates a fascinating blend of traditions, culture, and cuisine throughout. Also ruled by various empires, the city also boasts a fascinating history, as seen in its famous landmarks like the Aya Sofya, Topkapi Palace, and the Blue Mosque.
While the city looks elegant, Istanbul is relatively cheaper than many other European destinations, but still offers the same luxuries and comfort. The city is also very safe, and plus the locals are very friendly, you’ll feel just right at home.
Capping this list is London, which might have come as a surprise as the “Big Smoke” isn’t really known as an inexpensive city. Yet, backpacking London can provide you one of your most unforgettable travel experiences. Relish its history and art and music scene.
Don’t forget the food! The city is a haven for foodies, where you can have nearly every cuisine you can imagine. Though not all restaurant options are cheap, just do some research and you’ll find lots of affordable delicious options.
London’s famous attractions, such as the Changing of the Guard ceremony, the British Museum, Sky Garden, National Gallery, Greenwich Park, and the Houses of Parliament, (home of Big Ben) are free to visit, which means you don’t actually need to spend a fortune to see amazing sights and get the most out of your trip.
As such, plan ahead, look for accommodations in advance, and just be careful of your budget, there’s no stopping you from having a backpacking adventure not only in London but across the many other backpacker-friendly locations across the world. Happy travels!