Europe presents an irresistible challenge to the budget traveler. A potent mix of culture, landscape, and history on the one hand and a cash-gobbling monster on the other, sticking to your daily allowance can prove tricky.
We all love to travel and there is no doubt that as we recover from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you are already starting to plan your long ovderue vacations. However, if you do not have much money to spend on your travels, and you’re interested in visiting a European destination, you may be wondering which are the cheapest places to visit in Europe that won’t break your bank balance.
While many cities in Europe are well-known for being extortionately expensive, there are still lots of options that do not cost the Earth to have a decent holiday there. To help you plan your wallet-friendly break, here is a guide to 12 cheap cities to visit in Europe.
A UK city might not be the first thing you consider when planning a trip to one of the cheapest places to visit in Europe, but Glasgow makes the list for being an incredibly affordable city, even though the UK is in one of the more expensive countries of western Europe. Often overlooked in favor of its more polished neighbor, Edinburgh, Glasgow nevertheless has plenty to offer visitors.
If you are a fan of museums, Glasgow is the place to come. Not only does it have some fantastic ones, but the vast majority of museums here are also free to enter. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is one of the most popular, with 22 state-of-the-art galleries displaying over 8,000 objects covering a wide variety of subjects, such as natural history, weaponry, and art from across the centuries; its two highlights are Sir Roger the Asian elephant and a Spitfire plane which hangs from the ceiling. Other free museums and attractions include Glasgow Cathedral, the Gallery of Modern Art, and the Botanic Gardens.
Glasgow is renowned for its nightlife, and you can certainly enjoy an evening of eating and drinking here for far less than in other major cities, especially London. The only downside to the city is the price of accommodation. Most options do tend to be on the pricier side, but if you do some shopping around and book your accommodation early, it is possible to get bargains. It is still one of the cheapest places to visit in Europe.
One of the more popular capitals and cheap cities to visit in Europe – Lisbon offers everything you could wish for in a city break – stunning architecture, lots of fun and interesting museums and attractions, an amazing culinary scene, and vibrant nightlife – and all for a relatively low cost.
This is because wages are still low in comparison to other European cities, meaning that life is generally cheaper, making it a great place to spend a European trip. All you need to do is watch out for the tourist traps; like in all popular city break destinations, there will be some establishments that will overcharge, so just make sure you avoid them and you can be sure to have a cheap stay.
One of the best things about visiting Lisbon – aside from the low cost – is the weather. Even in winter, the temperatures hover around 15°C during the day, so it is a wonderful place to travel to if you are looking to get some winter sun, especially when you consider the city’s close proximity to the beach, so you can easily combine a city break with some sun lounging and water sports. Even better is that prices drop during the colder season, meaning one of the cheapest places to travel to in Europe gets even cheaper!
For those of you who have never traveled to Berlin, you may be surprised to see the German capital on a list of Cheapest places to visit in Europe. However, Berlin is well-known for being a budget-friendly destination and it is perfectly doable for those with limited funds. One of Berlin’s biggest selling points as a cheap destination is its abundance of affordable accommodation options.
Obviously, the cheapest places are hostel dormitories – and the backpacker hostels here are definitely not of the stereotypical grubby type; you would be extremely comfortable if you went for this option – but there are also lots of cheap hotel rooms and apartments on offer.
If you intend to visit a lot of museums on your visit to Berlin, this is where the city might get expensive, but there are plenty of ways to do it cheaply. There are a variety of passes on offer, such as the Berlin Museum Pass and Berlin Welcome Card, which can net you massive savings. The Berlin Welcome Card also has the advantage of including public transportation in the price, plus it is more convenient than buying individual transport tickets.
While it may have slightly succumbed to increased prices due to the influx of tourists over the last decade, Krakow remains one of the cheapest cities in Europe to visit. Not only is Krakow easy on the wallet, but it is also one of the most beautiful and magical cities Europe has to offer. When stepping into the city’s main square, you would be forgiven for thinking you have walked straight into a fairytale – one which you do not have to pay a king’s ransom for!
Krakow’s old town is what most people travel to the city to see. Rynek Glowny, the main square, is the largest medieval square in Europe and dominated by the impressive Sukiennice – cloth hall and St. Mary’s Basilica. Just a short walk away is Wawel Castle which then leads onto the old Jewish district of Kazimierz. It is here that you will want to come to if you are looking to spend less money; most places in the old town have raised their prices, but in Kazimierz, you can still enjoy yourself on a pauper’s wage.
Most of the museums in Krakow are not free, but they do have free days, so if you plan your trip accordingly you can save even more money. For example, Schindler’s Factory Museum is free on Mondays except for the first of the month, Wawel Castle and Cathedral are free on Mondays and Sundays with the exception of special exhibits, and the Rynek Underground Museum is free to enter on Tuesdays, although you will still need to book your free ticket in advance as this museum is really popular.
Once a popular destination for stag and hen parties, many other travelers have since discovered that Riga is in fact one of the more cheap cities to visit in Europe and, since the advent of budget airlines, has become a city to add to travel bucket lists. And there is certainly a lot here to keep you occupied for a few days.
Riga’s old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a fun thing to do is just wander its cobbled stone streets and get lost in the alleyways. Unlike many other old towns in Europe, there are a number of architectural styles represented in Riga’s old town, including Gothic, Baroque, Modernism, and Art Nouveau, so it will definitely be one of the more unusual quarters you will ever visit.
As well as the traditional sightseeing, Riga has set itself up as a go-to destination within many other industries. Firstly, it is becoming well-renowned as a gastronomic destination with restaurants catering to all tastes and budgets; if you do not have much money to spend, you can easily get a meal in an inexpensive restaurant for around £5.
Riga has also become known as a wellness destination, with spa treatments, beauty procedures, and traditional Latvian baths all costing far less than in Western and Northern Europe. Finally, if you want to get active, Riga is perfectly situated to enjoy all kinds of outdoor activities, including hiking, kayaking, river rafting, and motorsports.
Another Baltic favorite, more and more travelers are choosing to visit Kaunas over the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius for many reasons, the predominant one being cost; everything here from accommodation and food to souvenirs and attractions are much better for your wallet. But there are many other advantages to visiting Kaunas. Lithuania’s second city gets far fewer tourists, the city is much greener than Vilnius, and it gives you the chance to experience a more authentic side to the country.
When you arrive in Kaunas, you will see that its old town is much smaller than Vilnius’s but still just as beautiful. In fact, being smaller is actually a big plus as it makes the city much more compact to get around – no need to pay for public transport here, just use your feet. Kaunas is also a great place to check out some street art before heading to the river for a pleasant evening stroll.
Many people sing the praises of Prague and Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic’s most famous cities. However, despite them both being utterly beautiful, it is also true that they have both been getting more and more expensive in recent years – although still relatively affordable in comparison to western and northern European cities. But if you really want to visit a Czech city that is still ridiculously cheap, head east to Olomouc.
Olomouc may be pretty small when compared to Prague, but the city definitely makes up for it in personality. It is a lively university city whose beauty rivals that of any other Czech city with a plethora of free things to see and do, such as the Holy Trinity Column, Botanic Gardens, and many Baroque fountains. But the thing where Olomouc really comes into its own is its dining and nightlife culture.
As a student city, you will find cheap eats dotted all around the city, from takeaway food to sit-down restaurants. Many places do lunchtime specials where you can get a soup, main dish, and a soft drink for around £5. When it comes to drinking, many pubs sell local beer for just over £1 so you can be sure to have a fun and cheap evening.
Sarajevo is one of those places that should be on everyone’s bucket list. As one of the few predominantly Muslim countries in Europe, it is architecturally different from many other cities with its mosques and bazaars. It is also a city of great historical importance and there are many sights to see relating to the Bosnian War and the siege of Sarajevo. To get the most out of visiting these sights and learn more about what happened during this time and how it has continued to impact the city, it is highly recommended you take a tour.
These tours include your guide and transportation, take approximately four hours, and only cost around £14 with some companies, so it is well worth putting this into your budget; highlights of the tour include Sniper Alley, the Tunnel Museum (entrance needs to be paid for), and the 1984 Winter Olympics Stadium.
Elsewhere in the city, you will find that Sarajevo has a great cafe culture, and there is nothing better than sitting with a cup of coffee and watching the world go by. Eating out and nightlife are really cheap here, plus if you want to spoil yourself and get a massage or other beauty treatment, you will find that they are at a fraction of the cost than what you would pay at home.
Many people do not class Turkey as a European country, but its landmass actually covers both Europe and Asia, with one city, in particular, straddling both continents – Istanbul. This mix of cultures is precisely what makes Istanbul an exciting destination to visit; it certainly is one of the more exotic places on any list of cheapest places to travel to in Europe. Here you can stay in fairly luxurious hotels for a fraction of the price that you would pay in other parts of Europe, and if you are on a really strict budget, you can stay in hostel dorms for less than £5 per night.
When it comes to sightseeing, pretty much all the main sights are incredibly affordable. For example, the Hagia Sophia Museum ticket will only set you back around £9, and the Blue Mosque is free, although small donations are always welcome. Other costs, such as eating out and transportation, are also really low, so there is no need to worry about running out of cash while you are there.
Photo: Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock
Many travelers heading to the Balkans tend to miss out North Macedonia in favor of more popular destinations such as Serbia and Croatia, but this really is a mistake as you miss out on the wonderful city that is Skopje. The city went through a massive regeneration a few years ago and has been transformed into an incredibly visually appealing place, with amazing buildings and monuments to be found all over the city center.
For those looking for cheap shopping opportunities, Skopje is a fantastic place to satisfy any retail therapy cravings. Just across the river from the Warrior on a Horse monument is the Old Bazaar, a quarter which has a distinctly Ottoman feel about it. It is one of the oldest and largest marketplaces in the whole of the Balkan region, and it is easy to spend an entire strolling its narrow streets and soaking up the charming atmosphere.
There are many stalls here selling all kinds of products, from clothing to spices, and all of them are really cheap, so remember to save some space in your luggage! Aside from shopping, the Old Bazaar is an area of cultural and historical importance, and there are lots of sights here to see too, such as the clock tower, the Cifte Hamam, and plenty of mosques.
Ukraine is often touted as one of the cheapest places to visit in Europe and it certainly makes a splendid travel destination, especially for those who live to visit less polished places. Lviv might be the most popular city in Ukraine for tourists, but if you really want to save your pennies, head to Kyiv.
You may think that as the capital, Kyiv is more likely to be more expensive, but as it tends to attract fewer visitors than Lviv, a trip here can work out much, much cheaper. The best thing about Kyiv is that it is much, much less touristy than its western cousin, so you get a sense of what the real Ukraine is like. It’s definitely one of the cheapest cities in Europe.
Despite being thought of as a cold, grey city, Kyiv actually has lots of beautiful buildings to see, such as St. Sophia’s Cathedral, Pechersk Lavra, and Golden Gate. It is also home to the shortest main street in Europe – Khreshchatyk Street – which runs for just over a kilometer; it is, however, one of the widest and is closed to traffic at weekends, and makes for a pleasant stroll.
Kyiv is also a very green city with an abundance of parks and gardens which, in addition to being a free activity, give you splendid views across the city. If you enjoy high-street shopping, you will find all the best brands here with all the collections you would find in the west, but much cheaper, so if you want to do some shopping, wait until you get to Kyiv to do it.
Photo: Calin Stan/Shutterstock
Possibly the cheapest city in all of Europe, Chisinau may not get the same attention as other Eastern European cities such as Bucharest and Sofia, but it is still definitely worth checking out, especially if you are looking to save money. It is possible to rent a whole apartment for yourself for under £20 per night, so you can imagine how Chisinau has made its way onto a list of cheapest places to travel to in Europe.
Unlike many other places on this list, it is safe to say that Chisinau does not always make the best first impression. Most of the city was destroyed during the Second World War and was then rebuilt in a typical Soviet-style, so you will definitely not find beautiful classical architecture here; what you will find is a destination that has city citizens in mind, with an abundance of green parks and pedestrian spaces. Chisinau is a wonderful destination for those who just want to experience the local life of a country that is still untouched by mass tourism rather than spending a vacation running around all the major sights.
Moldova’s capital is also well-known for having fantastic cafes and nightlife scenes, so you should certainly spend a large part of your holiday enjoying this side of Chisinau. As well as being an incredibly vibrant city after dark, you can also get a lot more for your money. A meal in an inexpensive restaurant will only cost around £4, and if you are drinking local beer, you will not pay more than £1 per bottle. You can easily have a night out here for around £10, definitely something you could not do in western Europe!
Europe, in general, might have a reputation for being one of the more expensive continents in the world, especially when compared with Asia and Africa, but as this list shows you, it is perfectly possible to have an amazing holiday for not much money at all. So if you are not particularly flush with cash at the moment but still want to get away and explore somewhere new, this list of cheapest places to visit in Europe should hopefully give you some ideas.