If you’re planning on travelling on a budget, there are some European cities that are affordable and worth their weight in gold. Check out these seven European destinations that won’t break the bank and are budget-friendly.
1. Prague, Czech Republic
We’re starting off strong with the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague. There are plenty of budget-friendly accommodation and food options found throughout this fairy tale city. To complete your holiday here, the entire city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which adds the icing to your cake. Free attractions near, or within, the city centre include Prague’s iconic Charles Bridge, the historic Old Town Square and popular Astronomical Tower and Clock. Don’t miss visiting one of its beer gardens where you can often find a traditional Czech meal for under €15.
2. Berlin, Germany
In 2022, Time Out surveyed residents across 53 different cities and found that Berliners were least likely to call their home city expensive…so even locals know that Berlin is a city that won’t break the bank. If you time it right, over 60 museums are free on the first Sunday of each month. There are also plenty of other landmarks that are free year-round, from the East Side Gallery (the world’s longest permanent open-air gallery) and Brandenburg Gate to the Reichstag Dome (don’t forget to book in advance) and Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. For the foodies, you’ll be able to find snack bars and market halls dotted around the city that sell tasty local fare (think currywurst and doner kebabs) as well as street food from around the world. Finally, the public transport system is divided in zones A, B and C. Most of the main tourist attractions are found within A and B so buy a travel pass and you’ll be on your way!
3. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Another fairy tale city, Ljubljana is often overlooked as a destination that won’t break the bank. It is very safe, and most locals speak English. Admire its gorgeous architecture in the Old Town (car-free since 2008) walk across the Tromostovje (a set of three bridges), stroll through the picturesque Tivoli Park, and indulge in delicious local meals that feature sausages, cheese dumplings and soups.
4. Lyon, France
As France’s third-largest city, Lyon is approximately 20% cheaper than Paris on average. It is also more compact so it’s easy to explore the city centre on foot. We think one of the best parts about Lyon is that even though it’s known as the gastronomic capital of France, its food scene is still incredibly affordable. There are many cheap bouchons to dine at, offering traditional meals in a homely setting; or you will often spot a prix fixe menu at a restaurant, offering two- or three-course menus for a decent price. You will also find a range of free activities in Lyon – wandering through the Parc de la Tete d’Or and its zoo, visiting the jaw-droppingly beautiful Notre Dame de Fourvière, and discovering Lyon’s historic traboules.
5. Budapest, Hungary
Despite being a formerly royal city, Budapest is now one of the cheapest European destinations to visit. The local cuisine is delicious and reasonably priced – dive into a hearty goulash or treat yourself to a langos (savoury fried bread). Budapest’s renowned Great Market Hall is set in a gorgeous building and is free to discover its local vendors. You will also want to tick off as many of Budapest’s famous attractions as you can. Most are €7 or less, like an entry ticket to St Stephen’s Basilica or a 1-hour boat cruise on the Danube River. Looking for something even cheaper? Look no further than Heroes’ Square, Fisherman’s Bastion, and exploring the Castle District and Gellért Hill for top notch views of the city.
6. Porto, Portugal
In general, Portugal is an affordable European destination, but we are quite partial to Porto. Its colourful buildings set beside the Douro River are reason enough to visit, let alone its budget-friendly nature! If you do have to pay for one of Porto’s must-do’s, it is usually quite reasonable. For spectacular views across the city, the Gaia Cable Car is just €6 for a one-way ticket. For something a little quirky, put Livraria Lello on your list. Supposedly the most beautiful bookshop in the world, it costs €5 to visit however this is deducted from the purchase of a book. You will find it easy to get change from a €2 coin when after a coffee or pastel de nata snack, and keep your eyes peeled for a menu do dia, a restaurant’s lunch time menu of the day offering an affordable set menu.
7. Kraków, Poland
Kraków is the second biggest city in Poland, and often touted for its well-priced nature that is a fraction of the price that you’d come across in other European cities. Kraków is the perfect walkable city so you can save on public transport costs. Its local food scene is mouthwatering, yet cheap (hello, pierogis!), and almost every museum offers free admission one day a week. Book in advance to climb to new heights up Kraków’s town hall tower, discover the heart of Poland at Wawel Royal Castle, and even share a special meal with local members of the Jewish Community Centre. These are all free activities (some with a donation) to take advantage of.
Timing your holiday for the off-season months and choosing to shop at local supermarkets for easy meals also helps to keep your holiday budget in check, alongside choosing one of these seven European destinations that won’t break the bank. Visit these cities on an Avalon Waterways river cruise, or coach tour with Globus or Cosmos.