I backpacked across Europe for 2 weeks. Booking Airbnbs in small towns to save money was the most unexpected highlight of my trip.

  • I backpacked across six cities and four countries in Europe last year, including Berlin and Zurich.

  • I booked two Airbnbs in the suburbs to save money, and the towns surprised me.

  • These small towns felt like hidden gems. And if I wasn't on a budget, I never would have seen them.

When I planned my two-week backpacking trip through six European cities across four countries in October 2022, the last thing I expected was to be blown away by my budget bookings.

Berlin, Vienna, Venice, Rome, Milan, and Zurich were the destinations on my itinerary. For most of these stops, I booked accommodations within city limits. But to save some money, I stayed in two Airbnbs about an hour outside of Berlin and Zurich by train.

When I visited Berlin, I spent two nights in a tiny-home hotel in Neustrelitz, Germany, for $140.

A 3D map of Neustrelitz, Germany found in the town square in October 2022.
A 3D map of Neustrelitz, Germany found in the town square in October 2022.Joey Hadden/Insider

My hotel was a 20-minute walk from the train station. Sure, it would have been easier to wake up in Berlin. But to my surprise, I enjoyed starting and ending each day with a relaxing walk through a place I'd never heard of, where I spotted the occasional backpacker among mostly locals. I thought it was a peaceful town with charming cobblestone streets. And if I hadn't been traveling on a budget, I probably never would have visited it.

A composite image of two cobblestone street scenes in Neustrelitz with signs in the foreground and buildings across the streets behind them.
Quiet streets in Neustrelitz, Germany.Joey Hadden/Insider

When I left Germany with stays in Vienna and three Italian cities ahead of me, I was already looking forward to my final accommodation several nights later in Switzerland.

My last stop in Europe was Zurich, and I slept in a tiny wine-barrel home in a small village named Roggwil for two nights for $400.

A cyclindrical tiny home next to another small building with two deck chairs in front of it, at night.
The author's Airbnb in Roggwil, Switzerland.Joey Hadden/Insider

Rogwill rests in the rolling hills of Switzerland, and to me, it had the most striking scenes of the entire trip. On my final night in Europe, I took an unplanned hike in the area and caught a gorgeous sunset over the village. It was an epic ending to my two-week adventure, and like in Neustrelitz, I couldn't help thinking if I hadn't booked that specific Airbnb, I never would have seen it.

A sunlit field.
A sunlit field in Roggwil, Switzerland.Joey Hadden/Insider

I expected nothing more than a place to sleep in these towns, so I was pleasantly surprised to find they felt like hidden gems. Neustrelitz and Rogwill were relaxing counterparts to my travels in Berlin and Zurich.

Next time I backpack through Europe, I'll find more accommodations in small towns to experience the quiet, slower pace of suburban life while photographing landscapes in less-visited areas of the continent — and save some money.

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