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
One of the top city break destinations in Europe by far – not just because of its classical beauty and rich history, but also because of its sheer affordability too. The cost of food and drink in Krakow means that you can opt for proper meals at restaurants without walking away with a guilty conscience! A solid three-course meal in a decent restaurant should only set you back around €12 – €14 per person, and in actual fact Krakow is one of the cheapest cities in the world to buy beer in. Even in the market square a beer will only cost you just under €2. Pretty much all of the museums in Krakow also offer free entry to their permanent exhibitions for one day of the week too, so do a bit of research before you go and pick which ones you wanna check out, whether it’s the Old Synagogue or parts of Wawel Castle.
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. Much like Krakow, Vilnius also enjoys a low cost of living. 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.
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.
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.
Much like Krakow, Budapest is a giant amongst city break destinations in Europe! The Gothic façades of the Parliament Building and beautiful Fisherman’s Bastion looking out across the river are just a few of the wonderful sights that await adventurers here. On top of that, you have the Budapest’s legendary public baths and spas that have been pampering people throughout the city’s entire history. Entry tickets to the Szechenyi Baths, probably Budapest’s most famous baths of all, start from just €20pp, so if you want to get in on an experience that’s truly unique to the city you won’t have to be forking out that much for it!
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?
Don’t let the naysayers put you off visiting the Greek capital. It’s a city that’s rough around the edges, but the wealth of historical sights and their sheer importance in terms of human history means that it’s a city you have to see at least once in your life. And you don’t have to be a huge history buff to enjoy the city either – you’ll love exploring the pretty streets of Plaka, one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods, or even soaking up some of the buzzing atmosphere over in the seaside neighbourhood of Glyfada. Entry prices to the Acropolis and museums offer fantastic value for money, while staple meals such as souvlaki will fill you up without emptying your wallets. Be sure to look at dining away from the main tourist areas to avoid any extortionate prices and tavernas often have table wines on their menu for reasonable prices.
Lisbon is an absolute gem. Colour everywhere you look, beautiful climates and mouthwatering cuisine – you can really live the good life in this city, and to sweeten the deal even more you’ll be able to really treat yourself here without breaking the bank. A glass of local port wine can be surprisingly affordable, while the wide range of international cuisine on offer in the city will make it easy to spot establishments that offer good value. But above all, it’s the sightseeing and accommodation where you’ll make the biggest savings. There are lots of really lovely little guesthouses that offer super competitive rates. Many of the top sights and museums in Lisbon are free, and you can hop on the no. 28 tram as a super cheap way of touring the city!
Tucked away in the north of France close to the Belgian border, Lille is an absolute stunner and worth the adventure getting there, whether as a stand-alone city break or as part of larger adventure. The cost of living in Lille is on average about 33% cheaper than Paris, so if you’re getting a bit sick of extortionate prices in the capital, Lille is a good alternative. Entry to top museums and galleries averages to about €5 – €6, while hotels and accommodation are some of the cheapest amongst major French cities. A good excuse to pay a little visit to the city perhaps? Just look at that architecture!
The most expensive cities to visit in Europe
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 Krakow, Budapest and Lisbon 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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