Get the most out of your budget in these 10 cities!
When deciding on a destination for a short city break in Europe, there’s a lot of planning and factors that go into that decision making. Perhaps it’s beautiful architecture or rich culture you’re looking for. Maybe you want a huge night out. Or maybe you just want a chance to practice some French! But of course, there’s another huge factor that plays a part too – affordability. If you’re looking to go on a city break but are worried that your budget won’t stretch far enough to let you have a good time, be sure to read on. I’ll recommend 10 cities that are perfect for the smallest of budgets – and 10 that aren’t!
Whether you’re a solo traveller, a couple or a family looking for a quick little getaway, city breaks are a fantastic experience that I really can’t recommend enough. In the space of a few days you’ll experience brand-new cultures, get stuck into bucketloads of history and cuisine, and make loads of unforgettable memories along the way!
However it’s one thing to find cheap flights or a cheap hotel to a particular destination. It’s another to take the actual cost of living whilst you’re there into account as well. After all, some countries are notorious for being eye-wateringly expensive (Iceland, I’m looking at you!). Not to worry though – to help give you a little peace of mind I’ll be taking a look at Europe’s 10 cheapest cities to visit (and 10 most expensive), as decided by the UK Post Office’s City Costs Barometer. You’ll be delighted to see how many opportunities will be open to you in Europe, even if you’re on a super tight budget!
The cheapest – and most expensive – cities in Europe
A proper hidden gem that deserves a whole lot of love, Vilnius is a compact capital that’s delightfully charming. From the Gedinimas’ Tower you’ll have fantastic views out across the city, or you can go for lovely strolls through the city’s historic core that boasts some of the best Baroque architecture in Europe. After ranking as the second-cheapest city to visit in 2018, the Lithuanian capital has clinched first place in 2019! While dining out at restaurants can come to similar prices to more well-known cities such as Vienna or Prague, self-catering is ridiculously cheap at supermarkets, and you can enjoy a night checking out all of the fantastic bars and nightclubs without having to fork out loads. Even a local craft beer will set you back less than €2 – so on that note, definitely look into checking out some of the micro-breweries as there’s a flourishing scene going on here.
A newcomer to the top 10, Belgrade is a city well worth checking out if you like places a bit off the beaten track. It’s definitely one of the grittiest cities on this list – you’ll encounter grubby façades on almost every corner – yet scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find a vibrant character that belies many people’s first impressions. Neighbourhoods such as Dorćol and Savamala have a young, almost rebellious nature that’s reflected in the abundance of street art and live music. And all across the city there are terraces, bars and clubs aplenty. The dinar’s low value means you’ll get loads for your money. A typical Belgrade coffee (kafa) will cost you less than €2, and you’ll be looking at €23 a head for a generous 3-course meal at a restaurant. Belgrade may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s definitely one of the most rewarding to explore!
Warsaw may not have the reputation for being a beautiful city, but if you’re not really fussed about that then it’s time to pack your bags and go! Scratch beneath the surface of the buzzing Polish capital and you’ll find that there’s a ton of things going on here, whether it’s shopping, museum-hopping or simply getting stuck into the vibrant nightlife and atmosphere. Public transport in Warsaw is cheap compared to other European capitals, with a taxi from the airport probably only setting you back less than a tenner. Food and drink are also budget-friendly too, especially if you stick to Polish cuisine (which is absolutely delicious might I add!). Warsaw is often a destination for business travellers, so as a small tip from me try to avoid mid-week stays in hotels as you may find prices unexpectedly higher than you’d first expect.
Straddling the border between east and west, Istanbul has long been an important crossroads of cultures and trade. Turkey’s bustling capital has cultural and gastronomic offerings by the bucketload, and best of all it can be incredibly budget friendly. The low cost of food and drink means you can get stuck into amazing dishes and street food without having to constantly think about your budget. Top sights such as the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace can fetch quite steep entry prices though, so to really as much as possible in Istanbul, do a bit of research in advance and figure out which landmarks are a must for your trip. I also recommend opting for an Airbnb or apartment rather than a hotel, just to save a little extra. Do all that and you’ll be able to really enjoy and experience the many sights and sounds of this fascinating city worry-free, no matter how large or small your budget is!
Another newcomer to the list for 2019, Bucharest is quickly making a name for itself as the “new Berlin” – think cheap drinks, amazing bars and a buzzing, alternative atmosphere! The city’s newly restored old town (centru vechi) has café scenes and grand buildings that look like they were plucked straight from Paris – they even have their own miniature take on the Arc de Triomphe! Guided tours are very reasonable and give amazing insights into the city’s street food scene and history, to name but a few! Nightlife is amazing here too – rooftop bars and beer gardens boast amazing surrounds and a fantastic atmosphere, and a local Csíki Sör beer will set you back less than 2 quid.
2019 has seen Porto replace the Portuguese capital in the standings for the cheapest cities to visit in Europe. This is a city where you can really enjoy the finer things in life, even if you’re strapped for cash. From delicious pintxos and Portuguese cuisine to the city’s famous port wine, you can really unleash your inner gourmand! Apartments in the city centre offer amazing value for money compared to other major cities in Europe and you’ll find that the vast majority of them are also decorated and furnished to a very high standard. If there’s one thing you should splash out on here, it’s a tour of one of the famous port wine cellars. Prices range from about €10 – €20 per person, and as well as giving you fascinating insights and histories behind the city’s most famous export, you’ll be able to taste some port wines at the end as well.
Riga is a city that I absolutely adore. Small but mighty – you’ll be able to see the city centre in a short amount of time but the sheer beauty of the architecture has got me head-over-heads in love with the place. Much like Vilnius, Riga has a burgeoning nightlife scene and you’ll be able to enjoy local brews for a fraction of the price in other cities. But dining here is also a hearty affair that’s easy on the wallet too. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, going to a restaurant in Riga is very budget-friendly and you’ll be able to get stuck into a generous evening meal for around €5 – €9 per person (excluding drinks). The cost of accommodation in Riga is super competitive all year round, so don’t be afraid to look into 4* options as you may be pleasantly surprised what you can afford with your budget.
Situated just an hour’s drive away from Vienna is the cute and cosy capital of Slovakia. Bratislava is a wonderful little place to explore during a quick city break and its budget-friendly cost of living will please everyone! If you’re visiting just for the day from Vienna you’ll immediately notice that Bratislava is much more affordable, with a nice three-course meal coming to about €15 per head. The fact that the Old Town is incredibly walkable means that you won’t have to fork out for public transportation either. This city might not be on most people’s to do lists, but its sheer affordability make it well worth the time to visit!
Alright, so I know that there are quite a lot of political developments going in current affairs – but you can’t argue with the stats! Moscow has a reputation of being expensive, but it tends to be the plush, top-end hotels and restaurants primarily geared towards tourists that seem to skew the preconception slightly. You’ll find that you can actually get a lot for your Euros here. Public transport is essentially a steal. A 580-rouble metro card that’s valid for 20 trips essentially works out to just 29 roubles each trip – or €0.41 as things currently stand! And here’s another super useful tip as well. Look out for “business lunch” offers – or Бизнес ланч in Russian – they’ll save you a fair few roubles which is very handy, especially when you’re in the middle of a huge sightseeing tour.
Another top city break destination – just goes to show that you don’t always have to fork out loads when going for one of the more popular destinations! Prague’s wealth of historic architecture has to be seen to be believed, and even just wandering down all of the winding cobblestone streets and soaking up the magical atmosphere is an experience in itself (and a free one at that!). But it’s not just the architecture the city’s famous for – the city’s heaving nightlife and abundance of cheap beers draw huge crowds all year round. A pint of local draft beer will cost you less than €1. Opting for traditional Czech food is also another great way to save on cash while still eating incredibly week. How about getting stuck into some amazing roast dinner with dumplings for €4?
I won’t spend too much time on these, but it’s still useful for any budget-minded traveller to know which cities to save up for a little more in case you’re planning a trip here. Have a little scroll through the gallery below for a quick and simple overview of the most expensive city break destinations in Europe. However this doesn’t mean in any way that these places are to be avoided! It just comes with an extra bit of planning and preparation involved.
Plan your next city break
As you can see, Eastern Europe still comes out tops when it comes to great-value destinations and affordability. To see loads of top city break destinations such as Porto, Prague and Istanbul also up on the list of the cheapest European cities to visit is something I’m mega delighted about too! However, even the most expensive cities in Europe aren’t necessarily beyond reach. Granted, once you’re there things are pricey, but if you have a little look around you’ll be able to find fantastic deals for flights and hotels to the Nordic countries or Amsterdam, for example. It all comes down to taking the time and doing a bit of research in advance.
And if you don’t really have the time? No worries! That’s what your Guru’s here for! I’m constantly on the look out for awesome city break deals, so if you’re in the mood for a mini-adventure simply have a little peruse through my deals and see what tickles your fancy! :)
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