Short Walks on a Long Route

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  1. Introduction
  2. Easier Walks:
  3. Harder Walks:

In the era of fast travel, you can race from one end of Europe to the other in just a few hours. Europe feels domesticated, a simple and accessible place to travel, lacking the wilds of bigger, less connected continents. But as you fly over those wooded hills and iced mountains, at ground level there is a spider web of walking paths, often ancient trails, forged by pilgrims, traders, shepherds and smugglers.

This walking network is immense, and can take you into some of the hidden hearts of Europe, places that the airports haven’t colonised. While there are hundreds of interconnecting paths, there are 12 highways on an enormous scale, designed and maintained by regional Ramblers Associations, which can take you right across this continent, and show how much bigger it is than is often imagined.

Map courtesy of Chumwa

However, most of us do not have the time required to follow these trails from start to end. The E4 is the longest trail, from Tarifa in Spain to the islands of Greece, via France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, and stretches over 12,000 km. It would take almost a year of continuous walking to complete this trail. One man completed this trip from Tarifa to Budapest, and has an excellent blog on his journey: John Hayes Walks.

Many people do complete a whole trail in segments, taking a couple of weeks every year to come back and start up again where they left off last time.

However, just because you don’t want to commit all holidays for the foreseeable future to walking Europe doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to enjoy walking in Europe. This article is designed for the non-completist. It shows you which segments are doable from train station to train station, and over a long weekend or week.

It is also designed for the more casual walker. These trips are not up mountains, and generally you will pass through places where you can top up your supplies and sleep comfortably.

Do bear in mind that doing shorter sections of the walks, ones that take you from town to town in a day, will mean seeing more suburbs than if you can do a route that leaves you camping in the wilderness for a week. There are some truly stunning vistas to be had on the long walks, places you can only get to with a full days hike from the nearest road, and these walks below will not give you that. But they will give you beautiful scenery, fresh air, real nature and reminder that most cities are tourist destinations just because it’s where the plane lands.


Konstanz – Güttingen – Singen – Engen, Germany

At A Glance
Trail NumberE1
Total Length of Walk73km / 45miles
Number of days easy walking3
Trail typeRolling, gentle hills
Walk overview

A gentle walk on the outskirts of the Black Forest. Konstanz is an attractive lakeside town, right on the border with Switzerland, and an ideal place to stay for a night or two before and/or after the walk. The walk starts by following a peninsula that juts into Lake Constance, giving glimpses of water to both left and right.

This is quite a domesticate landscape. Fields and hedgerows, meadows and grass. One section even crosses a golf course briefly, so a very undemanding couple of days out.

Once you pass the peninsula, there’s a fairly steady stream of ruins and viewpoints. The final viewpoint Hohenhewen just outside of Ergen can, on a clear day, let you see all the way back to Lake Constance where you set out.

How to get there and away

Konstanz is well-connected, with direct trains to Zurich running regularly. and taking just over 1 hour. Stuttgart is also easily accessible, requiring one change at Singen, and taking around 2 hours 45 minutes.

At the end of the walk, you can get the train back to Konstanz directly from either Singen or Ergen and continue from there, or the trains to Stuttgart and Zurich also stop at Singen.

Engen Old Town, the end point of the walk.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Müller

Where to sleep

Night 1: Langenrain or Güttingen

The first day’s walk is relatively easy and flat, so you can choose to make it a longer one and spend the first night in Güttingen. This gives an easy few hours the next day into Singen, where you might want more time to look at some ruins. However, if you would rather keep to a steady 20 – 25km a day, spend night 1 in smaller Langenrain. This is a small village, dominated by the local castle, which is still in private hands.

Night 2: Singen

The second night is spent in Singen, a much bigger place than either Langenrain or Güttingen. It’s a bit of a generic, small industrial town, but the nearby ruins give a dramatic skyline and might make stopping a day here to visit them all properly worth your while. There is also an art museum, a car museum and an archaeological museum in town.

Night 3: Engen

The final night is in Engen, which when you find the old town centre is a rather charming, Black Forest-esque place, despite not quite being in the Black Forset.

Sights nearby or en route

Konstanz sits right on the border with Switzerland, so if you’ve time before of after the walk, take a stroll over the border and see two countries in one trip.

At Langenrain is a stately-home-style castle, which is only open on certain days of the year, and also an observation tower at Sophienberg.

On day 2, about halfway to Singen is the ruins of Burgruine Homburg, a medieval castle that switched hands some many times it’s hard to keep track.

Just past Singen, on day 3 of the walk, is a stretch of romantic ruins that can be visited. Castles Burg Hohenkrähen and Burg Mägdeberg and the fortress Hohenkrähen all look down from their raised seats.

Direction: Konstanz to Engen
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Irun – Hernani – Tolosa, Spain

At A Glance
Trail NumberE3 / GR65
Total Length of Walk48km / 30miles
Number of days easy walking2
Trail typeConstant hills, never too far from roads, villages and suburbs
Walk overview

To be very up front about this, this is not a walk that will win any awards. Stretches of this walk that follow the valley bottom now follow the backs of warehouses, which follow the railway line which also followed the valley bottom as the path of least resistance.

However, there are viewpoints of real beauty, and plenty of time out in the countryside as well. There are hilltop chapels and tiny Basque villages, and both the start and ending towns are charming, peaceful places to explore and relax in.

How to get there and away

Irun is a border town, just a bridge over the river away from Hendaye in France, which has direct trains to Paris, Biarritz and Bordeaux, while Irun itself has trains running into Spain and Portugal. San Sebastian is 20 minutes away, Pamplona a little over 2 hours and Barcelona is direct in 6 hours. San Sebastian, Biarritz and Barcelona all have international airports.

At the end of the walk, Tolosa is on the trainline, so you can be back in Irun in just over an hour, or you can hop off after only 30 minutes and enjoy San Sebastian.

Tolosa

Photo courtersy of Egizu

Where to sleep

Night 1: Hernani

Hernani is a small town that lies at the foot of Mount Santa Barbara. It’s famous for its cider making, and has many cider festivals throughout cider season (usually January – May). Although it’s sprawled further than the tourist board might like to admit, the medieval centre is still much intact and the town is a heritage site which is well worth a visit.

Night 2: Tolosa

Another lovely hill town, with a popular regional market on Saturdays. Regional speciality here is a T Bone steak, so this is an excellent holiday to walk hard and eat well.

Sights nearby or en route

A short distance from Irun is local beauty spot, Pozas de Aitzubide. It’s a small, man-made cataract in the river which creates the perfect spot for bathing in the wild.

Sitting in the woods just above this spot is Torre de Elatzeta, an old fortification tower, now overgrown and abandoned.

A short climb up the hill behind Hernani will give not only spectacular views across the town and the valley, but also access to the small chapel of Ermita de Santa Bárbara. An unusual design, it’s worth a look even if it is not always open.

Direction: Irun to Tolosa
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Vienna, Austria – Bratislava, Slovakia

At A Glance
Trail NumberE8
Total Length of Walk79km / 49miles
Number of days easy walking3
Trail typeRiverside, largely flat
Walk overview

From capital to capital, this is ideal for those who want to be able to bookend their walk with city breaks. A largely flat walk that follows the Danube, occasionally rising through the wooded banks a little to detour a schloss or unpredictable bend of the river.

The paths are flat, wide and well worn. The only real downside to this walk is that the lack of hills does mean the only views you get are across the river to the other side, or across flatlands.

The first day is a bit longer than the other two, but still nothing too strenuous.

How to get there and away

Vienna and Bratislava are both extremely well connected cities, both by air and rail. To get to a good starting point in Vienna for the walk you can take the U-Bahn (the Viennese metro system) to Donauinsel, on line U1. This station is literally on top of the walking path.

Vienna and Bratislava are linked by regular trains and buses. Train run once an hour, take about 1 hour and cost less than €20, so if you don’t want to fly into one city and out from another, it’s easy enough to get back to your starting point.

Hainburg an der Donau

Photo courtesy of Jaroslav Petráš

Where to sleep

Night 1: Orth an der Donau

Orth an der Donau is one of those deceptively tiny places that seems to have been pivotal beyond it’s means throughout history. The schloss in the centre of town was built in the 12th century, and used by nobles through the centuries, despite being somewhat destroyed in 1529 by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent on his way to the Siege of Vienna. Crown Prince Rudolf, the tragic son of the famous Empress Elisabeth, used to visit and the museum in the castle still has an exhibition dedicated to him. Napoleon’s younger sister Caroline went into exile in the castle there following the Hundred Days War.

Today the castle is also the Visitor Centre for the National Park Donau-Auen, which is where almost all of this walk is within, so it’s nice a stop to see some information on the local fauna and flora.

Night 2: Hainburg an der Donau

Hainburg an der Donau is another small town with a classic heritage centre, but the real selling point of the town are the three hills that it lies at the foot of. Each of the Hundsheimer Berg, the Schlossberg and the Braunsberg offer outstanding, although similar, views across the largely flat plains around. Climbing all three is definitely not required unless you really love a hill!

The Schlossberg, which rises really almost from the centre of town, has a ruined castle on top, which complements the well preserved medieval fortifiations that still survive in the town itself. 

Down by the river banks is the Kulturfabrik, which is an exhibition centre cross arts centre, and often holds concerts in the old tobacco warehouse.

Night 3: Bratislava

I don’t need to say much here about Bratislava, as there is clearly too much to do in this exciting city to fit into a few short paragraphs. Here you can find what the Bratislavan Tourist board recommend to do if spending a few days in their splendid city.

Sights nearby or en route

Shortly after leaving Vienna, you enter a park area called the Lobau. Here you may spot signs to the Bibergehege– this is a beaver lodge, and you can walk past and see if you can spot any beavers, although they are most active at dusk.

Also in the Lobau you can take a small detour to the Badestelle Donau-Oder-Kanal, a small canal cut from the Danube which offers wild swimming. It is a naturist favourite, so do be aware of that before heading there.

On the second day, about 9km after you leave Orth an der Donau, is Schloss Eckartsau, a stately home still in all its baroque splendour. Visits are only permitted with a guided tour, so if you want to peek inside, it’s worth checking the tour times online to see if you can match it to your schedule. Otherwise, the walk still passes through the grounds and you can peer in through the windows all you like.

Immediately after crossing to the south bank of the Danube is Carnuntum, a museum of Roman antiquities, complete with a reconstructed city quarter to help bring the also present ruins and foundations back to life.

On day 3, shortly after leaving Hainburg an der Donau, the path skirts round the Ruine Röthelstein. If you’re not too tired and have a love of ruins, these overgrown remains on top of the hill feel like a real discovery as you weave through the woods up towards them.

After crossing the border into Slovakia, you can find Museum B-S-4 on your left. This unpromising sounding museum is dedicated to preserving the pre-WWII Czechoslovakian fortifications and bunkers. The pseudonymic Bunker B-S-4 is reconstructed and contains exhibitions on weapons, plans and maps and other bunker-type paraphernalia. Just behind this is also Bunker B-S-3. This is not yet restored, and the path to it is often overgrown, but if you’re a bunker enthusiast, you might enjoy hunting it out.

Direction: Vienna to Bratislava
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Budapest – Visegrad, Hungary

At A Glance
Trail NumberE4
Total Length of Walk62km / 39miles
Number of days easy walking3
Trail typeWooded hills, some steep sections, remote
Walk overview

A much wilder walk than the previous ones, up through the hilly, wooded and sparsely populated Duna-Ipoly Nemzeti Park. Even though it starts in the major capital city of Budapest, you are swiftly very isolated in this trip, and accommodation is very limited en route, so please ensure you book ahead.

The paths are not usually paved, and some of the steep hill section may be bit of a scramble. Definitely a walking boot holiday and not a place for regular trainers. The first two days are quite long, around 23km a day on often uphill terrain, but the third day is a much easier 15km on more downward paths. This is because the villages are so sparse along the route.

There are fewer cultural attractions along this walk, but many natural features, such as cave networks and eagle spotting.

How to get there and away

Budapest is a major hub in Europe, by both plane and train, so getting in is no trouble. The walk starts on the outskirts, but you can easily get there by public transport. Take the Metro to Széll Kálmán tér, on line 2, and then change to the light rail network and take line 56 or 61 to Hűvösvölgy. The walk starts just 5 minutes from this station.

To return, take the ferry across the Danube from Visegrad to Nagymaros. The station Nagymaros-Visegrád is just a few minutes away from the ferry landing. The ferries run once an hour and the trains twice an hour. The train is back in Budapest Nyugati station in about 45 minutes, and costs about €4.

You can also get a boat all the way back to Budapest down the Danube. There are a few companies plying the route. The Hydrofoil is the quickest, cost around €18, and takes about an hour, but only leave once a day.

Csobánka

Photo courtesy of Kerekes Bálint

Where to sleep

Night 1: Csobánka

It is important to understand how limited accommodation is along this route. At present, Csobánka has just one cabin listed on AirBnB. Please ensure you have secured accommodation before setting out on this walk.

Csobánka is a small town, with pretty white buildings and a striking local church, but beyond it’s handy location for a good night’s sleep and a stocking up on some food, there is little remarkable about the town.

Night 2: Pilisszentlászló

Another tiny town, with again currently just one place listed on AirBnB and also Hotel Pilis, which has no website but can be contacted via email. The town is very proud of its 700 year old church, and there are many hiking routes that start from here, so you want to break up your route with a few days exploring the national park and the nearby caves and gorges, this might not be a bad spot to do so.

Night 3: Visegrad

While this is a small town by most standards, after the previous 2 stops, Visegrad will seem like a metropolis, and one with a long history. After a raid by the Mongols in the 13th century, the town was heavily fortified, with the first parts of Visegrad Castle being built. These fortifications still stand today, not exactly complete but still very dramatic and imposing, on the hilltop overlooking the town.

For 75 years in the 14th century, this was that Royal seat of Hungary, before it was moved to Buda. The Royal Palace, now known as the Matyas Kiraly Museum, was built then and are now open to public, some bits as ruins and excavations and some as reconstructions.

Sights nearby or en route

One thing this walk is not short of is observation points, decks and towers. The first of these comes shortly after setting out at Guckler Károly Terasz. This is not far from Budapest, so popular with day trippers and locals, but the view back across the city is pretty wonderful.

The next at Guckler Károly-kilátópont is a bit unusual, as it’s by a paraglider base, so the view also often includes paragliders drifting down the valley.

Just as you pass by the village of Pilisborosjenő, on your left is Kálvária, or Calvary Hill, complete with stations of the cross. A little further on from this you can take a small detour to view the ruins of Eger Castle. The interesting thing about this ruined castle is that it is a fake. It was built as a film set for “The Stars of Eger” and then just left to crumble away. Recently, it was used again as Sodden in The Witcher.

On your second day, as you leave Csobanka, keep you eye out for waymarkers to Szentkút. This is a spring, with a small chapel and shrine there, and many people come to wash in the waters in order to be healed.

After this, the route enters the Dera Gorge, a well known local beauty spot, which follows a creek that has worn a deep path through the hills.

At the next village of Pilisszentkereszt is a ruined Cistercian abbey from the 1100s which was destroyed by the Ottomans in the 1500s.

Around this are are several cave networks. Many require caving gear, but a few are just impressive walk in caves. It is best to obtain local information about these to ensure weather conditions are right for visiting.

Dobogókő is a popular tourist destination, as the highest point in the Visegrad Hills and a crossing point of many hiking trails in the region. There is a lookout deck which gives amazing views across the woods and the Danube. The town is seen as the heart of the neo-shamanist movement in Hungary, who believe it’s the meeting point of many leylines.

Direction: Budapest to Visegrad
Elevation automatically generated and accuracy is not guaranteed


Florina – Vigla Pisoderiou – Agios Germanos, Greece

At A Glance
Trail NumberE6
Total Length of Walk43km / 27miles
Number of days easy walking2
Trail typeRemote, some steep sections, not always well marked
Walk overview

A very remote walk, with practically no villages en route at all. The best stopping point is at a ski resort in a place called Vigla, which has next to nothing else around. The next best is a village called Pisoderiou, also used for skiing, and staying here will add about 3km to each leg of your journey, getting between the accommodation and the route.

It’s advisable to take enough food with you for both days walk, in case you cannot get supplies at the halfway point.

There is a good description of the trail at the home of the E6 trail in Greece, but the trail isn’t always well marked, so make sure you take good maps with you.

Florina is a functional little town, which is far from ugly but not particularly memorable either. It’s a good place to start the walk, but not somewhere to linger.

How to get there and away

Florina is on the railway line from Thessaloniki, but has only 3 trains a day, so make sure you check your timetable before heading there. It take 2 and half hours from Thessaloniki, and Thessaloniki itself is connected with Athens by train, and has an international airport.

Returning, Agios Germanos has a bus service to Florinas that leaves twice a day on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. You can also take a taxi for around €70.

Where to sleep

Night 1: Vigla Pisoderiou

Vigla and Pisoderiou are in fact two separate places, but as mentioned above, Vigla has basically nothing there. There is a ski resort, which makes excellently located accommodation for this trip, and a handful of other buildings, but no real town. If you cannot stay at Vigla, stay at nearby ski resort Pisoderiou. It does add 40 minutes or so to your journey, but there’s a few places to stay and even a restaurant.

The draw to this area outside of ski season really is hiking, so the town has little of interest to offer, although the church at the bottom of the village is very pretty.

Night 2: Agios Germanos

The small town of Agios Germanos is idyllic. It is full of squat stone cottages, and the church at its centre is one of the oldest monuments in the region, dating from the 11th century. There are views right over the Prespes lakes.

A short walk up the river from the village is an old watermill that has recently been restored.

Sights nearby or en route

This terrain is so remote and mountainous there is little to see en route. You’ll pass at least 4 little pathside churches, but other than that, it’s the hill, the sky and the distant lakes to keep you company.

Agios Germanos is very close to the Prespa Lakes, which are excellent for bird watching.

Direction: Florina to Agios Germanos
Elevation automatically generated and accuracy is not guaranteed

Hopefully these walks have been inspiring. You do not need to be a dyed-in-the-wool hiker to enjoy a few days walking, and you don’t have to miss out on these incredible paths either. With tens of thousands of kilometres of trails across Europe, there are plenty of routes to be discovered, and small towns to enjoy on the way.