Where to Go for Cheap Travel in Europe
Europe can cost a lot of money as a travel destination. Cities like Stockholm, Paris and London are so expensive, even Europeans complain about them.
But that doesn’t mean cheap travel isn’t possible on the continent. There are plenty of places that offer beauty, history and good food without breaking the bank.
These are the best cities in Europe for surprisingly cheap travel.
Best budget stay: Riverview apartment on Airbnb
Best cheap attraction: The Dragon Bridge is a free attraction that provides some of the coolest photo ops in the city.
Visiting Ljubljana on a Budget
Why did U.S. News and World Report include 21 rather than 20 destinations? Our guess is that they simply couldn’t leave Ljubljana out.
The Slovenian capital remains an underrated and overlooked gem. With terracotta rooftops, stone bridges that cross the Ljubljanica River and a castle on a hill, this is storybook Europe at its finest.
Ljubljana’s relative lack of fame works for budget travelers, as prices are much cheaper here than in other places that compare in beauty. A great way to see everything without spending a lot of money is to buy the Ljubljana Card, which provides entrances to several attractions, public transport, bike rental and even a river cruise.
Best budget stay: Apartment in the city center on Airbnb
Best cheap attraction: The Belgrade Fortress is the city’s most iconic landmark. The entrance fee is less than $5.
Visiting Belgrade on a Budget
The Serbian capital was once the heart of Yugoslavia and an important city for the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Austrian empires. Like many former Soviet nations, Serbia is relatively cheap compared to Western European countries, yet packs a heavy load of history.
You’ll find that accommodations, food and transportation are very affordable. U.S. News and World Report points out the Church of Saint Sava as a perfect budget travel attraction. You can see one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world for free.
Best budget stay:Ambassador Hotel
Best cheap attraction: The Gallery of Modern Art is one of the most popular museums in Scotland and is completely free of charge.
Visiting Glasgow on a Budget
It may be surprising to find a Scottish city in a list of cheap travel destinations, but Glasgow outdoes Edinburgh once again.
Sure, the city isn’t as cheap as others in this ranking, but it is pretty affordable compared to other places in the United Kingdom. Glasgow also provides free admission to some of its most important places of interest, including the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the Gallery of Modern Art.
Best budget stay:Hilton Garden Inn Bucharest Old Town
Best cheap attraction: Herastrau Park, Bucharest’s largest park, is a popular spot with locals for picnicking, reading, people-watching or simply lying on the grass and enjoying the sun.
Visiting Bucharest on a Budget
Bucharest is beautiful, cheap and free of crowds. You won’t have to pay much to see the confluence of history and modernity that make the city pulse with an exciting energy.
For around $2, you can visit the Curtea Veche Palace, whose former resident, Vlad the Impaler gave rise to the myth of Dracula. The Soviet-era Palace of Parliament, the second largest administrative building in the world, will only set you back $10. Food, beer and accommodations are also extremely cheap.
Best budget stay:Old Corfu Town apartment on Airbnb
Best cheap attraction: Indulge in olives and olive oil. Corfu has around 2 million olive trees, which means that this healthy and nutritious food is abundant and cheap throughout the island.
Visiting Corfu on a Budget
Corfu is located on the Ionian Sea. As such, it is closer to Italy and Albania than it is to the Aegean Greek Isles. With two Venetian fortresses, a grand palace, imposing mountains and a long shoreline, there are plenty of (cheap and free) things to do on the island.
Most of your time will be spent walking around and sunbathing, so you’ll save money while enjoying the island. There are also several churches and monasteries to visit, most of which are free of charge. Food in all of Greece is deliciously affordable, so you’ll get to relish in the Mediterranean diet while having money left over for all the souvenirs you could want.
Best budget stay:Capri by Fraser Berlin
Best cheap attraction: Every Tuesday at 1 p.m. the world famous Berlin Philharmonic does free shows that are open to the public.
Visiting Berlin on a Budget
If you needed another reason to think that Berlin is the coolest place in Europe, here it is. The capital city isn’t content to have world-class museums, countless historical attractions, more parks than you could visit, interesting architecture and possibly the continent’s best nightlife. It also has to offer all of this at a great price.
Several main attractions are free. This includes the iconic Brandenburg Gate and the somber Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The Topography of Terror, a museum housed in former Nazi headquarters, is also free. Another popular place to enjoy without having to pay is the East Side Gallery, where street artists have found a perfect canvas on what’s left of the inner Berlin Wall.
Best budget stay:Apartment with a terrace on Airbnb
Best cheap attraction: The Fortress of Starigard can be reached by hiking uphill for about an hour. At the top, there are incredible panoramic views, and the experience will only set you back about $4.
Visiting Split on a Budget
Split is one of Croatia’s most popular cities, yet it remains fairly affordable. The best thing to do is visit the Old Town, where cobblestone streets meet the ruins of Diocletian’s Palace. What makes the center so unique is that what’s left of the Roman palace has become a central part of city life, rather than being cordoned off. It’s also free for you to explore and enjoy as much as you want.
Other free and amazing activities include hiking the Marjan Hill and watching the sunset over the Adriatic Sea.
14. St. Petersburg
Best budget stay:Apartment with terrace and fireplace on Airbnb
Best cheap attraction: The iconic Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the symbols of Russia. Admission is about $5, so even the most budget-conscious traveler can check it out.
Visiting St. Petersburg on a Budget
Getting to Russia may not be the cheapest, but once you’re in the country, you’ll find it to be pleasingly affordable.
The former imperial city has many incredible landmarks, including the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, with its colored spirals, the State Russian Museum and the Hermitage Museum. None will set you back more than $15.
Best budget stay:Hotel Palacio Santa Inés
Best cheap attraction: The 19th century Carmen de los Martires offers free admission. It has six large gardens all done in different styles, including one imitating Alhambra’s famous Nasrid Gardens.
Visiting Granada on a Budget
The main reason people visit beautiful Granada is to see the Alhambra. Sadly, the palace is not what we’d call cheap. But at around $36, it’s also not impossible, especially since this is simply the most beautiful Islamic palace in Spain.
For budget travelers, the good news is that pretty much everything else in the city is cheap. Enjoy drinks and tapas for under $5, walk around the pretty Andalusian city, and visit parks and gardens to see other examples of Moorish architecture.
Best budget stay:Hotel Schani Wien
Best cheap attraction: For about $6, you can go up the South Tower of St. Stephen’s Cathedral and get amazing views of Vienna.
Visiting Vienna on a Budget
Another European capital to make it to the list, Vienna is like Berlin’s less loud, more refined older sister. You won’t get to go to the city’s famed Opera House for cheap, but there are plenty of other activities that travelers with limited budgets can enjoy.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the most popular free attraction. Cultural institutions like the House of Music and the Museum of Applied Arts also have discounted prices for specific dates and times. For food, look for restaurants with a set menu, or mittagsmenu, which typically costs about $12. Those with a sweet tooth will be happy to know that enjoying a famous sachertorte and coffee is an inexpensive local pastime.
Best budget stay:Apartment with views of Galata Tower on Airbnb
Best cheap attraction: The Archaeology Museums is a cluster of museums that contains one of the largest collections of classical sculptures and art. The group is made up of the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient and the Museum of Islamic Art. The entrance fee to each museum is about $3.50.
Visiting Istanbul on a Budget
A city famously straddling between Europe and Asia, Istanbul is a living museum. Walking around the city will allow you to see incredible landmarks like the Roman Hippodrome and the Egyptian obelisks for completely free. Even better, the emblematic Hagia Sophia Mosque and the Blue Mosque are also free.
Food is very cheap and very good, so most of your money will probably go towards buying beautiful decorations, clothes and items at the city’s many markets.
Best budget stay:Castle Hill Flat on Airbnb
Best cheap attraction: Lisbon has more than 30 miradours, or viewpoints that offer beautiful vistas over the city. Most of them are completely free to visit and are a popular spot for locals.
How to Visit Lisbon on a Budget
Hills and coastline define the topography of Lisbon, the cheapest Western European capital. This is a city that really checks all the right boxes. It has amazing food, friendly people, beautiful architecture, unique music, great weather and many parks. And it offers them all at bargain prices.
The cheapest way to see the city is by foot, but you can get a Lisbon Card if you’re planning on using public transportation a lot. Many of the things to do in the city are free, since attractions mainly involve walking up and down the hills, taking in views and appreciating the Portuguese azulejos that transform the facade of buildings into works of art.
Best budget stay:Apartment with a view on Airbnb
Best cheap attraction: Plaza de España is Seville’s most important attraction. You can tour the semi-circular building and the square for no cost at all.
How to Visit Seville on a Budget
There is no town in Andalusia that isn’t breathtaking. So when people say Seville is the crown jewel of the Spanish region, you know it’s something special.
The best part about the city is it's accessible to all kinds of travelers, including those who have to mind their budgets. Most of the best things in the city are free, including the Plaza de España, which virtually defines the city. Other free attractions include the Inquisition Museum and the Palacia de los Marquese de Algaba. At the latter, you’ll get to see fine examples of Mudejar architecture, the Christian-Islamic mix that defines the region.
Best budget stay:Breacan Cottage B&B
Best cheap attraction: If you can find transportation to it, there is no entrance to the wild and beautiful Connemara National Park.
How to Visit Galway on a Budget
Ireland’s second city may be relatively small, but it packs a punch and doesn’t ask you to pay much for it. The Galway City Museum, the Galway Cathedral and St. Nicholas’s Collegiate Church are free to enter. This means you’ll have more money to spend at the pub at night.
If you have a car or know someone who does, don’t skip taking a drive along the Wild Atlantic Way, which will give you unprecedented views of the Emerald Isle’s coastline.
Best budget stay:Apartment with views of the Acropolis on Airbnb
Best cheap attraction: Aristotle’s Lyceum, where the Greek philosopher once held his Peripatetic School, is free and open to the public.
How to Visit Athens on a Budget
Once a center for an empire that continues to define Western culture, Athens is surprisingly inexpensive. The city invites all to rejoice in its numerous ruins, with many metro stations displaying archaeological findings for commuters and travelers.
Food and accommodations are also affordable, so you don’t have to feel guilty about splurging on Greek food. This also gives you more leeway to visit the Acropolis, whose entrance costs about $25.
Take advantage of the city’s many hills to wander through neighborhoods, get a glimpse at how locals live and get a bird’s eye view of the city. We recommend Strefi Hill, where you’ll also find one of the best outdoor basketball courts in the world.
Best budget stay:Downtown apartment on Airbnb
Best cheap attraction: Walk up the whimsical Fisherman’s Bastions for free and get a panoramic view of the city center, including the astonishing Parliament building.
How to Visit Budapest on a Budget
Budapest’s beauty is free for anyone to gawk at. This is particularly true along the Danube River, where anyone can simply walk about and take in the sight of the Buda Castle and the Parliament Building. It is also a perfect place to catch a sunset. Another cheap but worthy attraction is the Memento Statue Park, where for about $6 you can see all the communist statues that have been taken down and gathered in one place for those interested in seeing them.
The Hungarian capital also has reasonably priced food and drink, so you can try Hungarian wine and goulash without even thinking about the cost.
Best budget stay:Hotel Dubrovnik
Best cheap attraction: Go on the hunt for amazing street art. Zagreb’s street art is so noteworthy, the city has started a Street Art Museum project.
How to Visit Zagreb on a Budget
Even though Dubrovnik gets more attention, Zagreb is a decidedly better destination for cheap travel. Free attractions include the Dolac Market, a local favorite and a great place to find souvenirs, and the Zagreb Botanical Garden. At the garden, you’ll find numerous native and non-native species as well as a stunning arboretum.
Luckily, accommodations in the center are far from costly. This also means you won’t have to spend much money on transportation to get to sites like the Stone Gate and the Zagreb Cathedral.
Best budget stay:Palace Hotel Tallinn
Best cheap attraction: Go to the Dome Church on a Saturday to see its beautiful interior and enjoy organ music at no cost.
Visiting Tallinn on a Budget
Most people would never believe it possible to find a Baltic capital on a ranking of cheap European destinations. But Tallinn likes to surprise. It’s kind of its thing.
Woefully underrated and under-visited, those in the know can take advantage of the city’s relatively inexpensive prices. Enjoy the Medieval Old Town, visit the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and spend time at the Kadriorg Park, which dates back about 300 years.
Best budget stay:Venecia Plaza Centro
Best cheap attraction: Any of the city’s beautiful sandy beaches are worth a visit.
Visiting Valencia on a Budget
Valencia is a thrilling mix of modern and Medieval architecture. While it is certainly a famous destination, it’s not as famous as we think it should be. Not only will you get all the best of Spain, including the delicious jamones, cheap wines and Moorish architecture, but you will also find extensive public beaches.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can spend time at the Central Market, or visit Valencia Cathedral and the Plaza del Ayuntamiento.
Country: Czech Republic
Best budget stay:Mosaic House Design Hotel
Best cheap attraction: At the turn of every hour every day, the Astronomical Clock at the Old Town Hall provides a free animated show to anyone in the Old Town Square.
Visiting Prague on a Budget
With storybook beauty, Prague is a city you visit simply to see it with your own eyes. The top things to do include walking on Charles Bridge, going up Petrin Hill and spending time at the Old Town Square. And none of these attractions charge anything.
Accommodations, drinks and food are also very cheap, so budget travelers can experience the picturesque city just as much as more affluent travelers. We recommend spending most of your time just walking about town, drinking Pilsner Urquell and understanding for yourself why Prague is considered one of the best places to visit in Europe.
Best budget stay:Apartment near Douro River on Airbnb
Best cheap attraction: Porto residents and travelers head to the public Crystal Palace Gardens to get magnificent views of the Douro River and Porto.
Visiting Porto on a Budget
If Porto beats every other city in Europe — even Lisbon — as the best budget destination, it’s because it's beautiful almost to the point of absurdity. Like the rest of Portugal, it’s also very cheap.
Most of the tourist area centers around the Douro River, where you can stroll about, catching street performers or capoeira groups doing their thing as large crowds gather around to watch. Thank Europe for its open container laws, buy a $3 bottle of wine — we promise it’ll be one of the best you’ve ever tasted — and sit by the edge of the river to take it all in.
You can also walk about looking for photo ops with azulejos, the country’s famed blue tiles. Or take advantage of the free entrance to the city’s main attractions, like the Porto Cathedral and the Dom Luis I Bridge.