Europe represents a compelling blend of vibrant culture, striking landscape and rich history on the one hand and a money-guzzling beast on the other. Sadly, European city breaks are far from renowned for being kind to the wallet. This challenge that Europe presents to the budget traveller can prove irresistible, making it essential that they stick to their affordable daily travel allowance.
However, the expensive label that has been acquired by many European cities is largely a result of 'crowd mentality' - we all want to go where everyone else is going. The most popular cities in Europe, such as Paris, Copenhagen and Amsterdam, have become increasingly expensive as they have grown in popularity. However, there are so many other European cities that pack in just as much charm, beauty and fun as the old classics at a fraction of the cost.
I have put together a list of the cheapest European cities to visit on a budget in 2021. This list of affordable cities in Europe will leave you wondering how you never considered them before. From well-known but cheaper alternatives to the more obscure cities you might not be that familiar with. This travel list of budget-friendly European cities will help you explore this fabulous continent without having to fork out the big bucks. Nevertheless, just because a city is 'cheap' certainly doesn't automatically translate to it being a worthy destination to visit. In this budget travel list I have focused on European cities that I believe offer the best value for money - being both affordable and unmissable.
If you have the luxury of being more flexible in terms of when you travel, you should definitely choose to avoid school holidays and peak summer season as these are by far the most expensive times to travel Europe. Spring and early autumn tend to still be sunny in Europe, and if you don't mind the cold then aim for November or January to avoid places increasing the prices.
Capital cities are often the most expensive places to visit or live in the country and so it is best to avoid them when trying to travel on a budget. Unfortunately, however, a countries capital city is often where all the life is and so they tend to be the must-see places to visit. There are a few exceptions - I have included some capitals on this list - as a general rule it is best to opt for a quieter, less touristy location with a more local feel.
There are tourist traps in all cities - even the cheapest ones. So, wherever you decide to go it is always a good idea to avoid the tourist traps in order to stick to your daily travel allowance. Avoid restaurants on the main strip of the city, instead opting for something down a little side street - the food will likely be better as well as cheaper! The same goes for attractions - you will find cool and free tourist sites to see in every city on this list.
The Cheapest Cities in Europe to Visit on a Budget:
Budapest is one of the largest cities in the EU, often referred to as the 'Paris of the East'. It remains a popular destination for tourists, students on gap years and backpackers alike because of its low prices, stunning architecture, vibrant nightlife and rich history. What makes Budapest stand out as a must-visit budget European city is the dynamic blend of Western and Eastern Europe that keep be seen wherever you look. As the city continues to transition, increasing numbers of young Hungariansare breathing new life into this historic city. You can easily find plenty of budget-friendly restaurants serving up delicious traditional dishes and cheap local beer. Hostels and hotels are also incredibly affordable and you can get a good quality for little money.
I would recommend budgeting £20-£40 per day on a backpackers budget.
- Danube Promenade- The banks of the river Danube are a great place to see some of Budapest's best sites Free
- Castle Hill - Perched high above the rest of the city, Castle Hill is a must-visit neighbourhood of Budapest, with centuries old buildings and narrow cobbled streets to exploreFree
- House of Terror- One of the cities most visited attractions, the House of Terror is a museum detailing Budapest's time under Nazi and communist rule, housed in the Secret Police's former headquarters £7.79for an adult ticket
- City Park - This 302 acre park is where the people of Budapest go to escape hectic city life, featuring both a zoo and a replica Transylvanian castleFree
- Saint Stephen's Basilica- The largest church in Budapest which contains St Stephen's mummified right hand. But perhaps more impressive are the 360-degree views of the whole city at the top £2.60 per adult/ £2.00per student
- Thermal Baths- Budapest is famous for its natural thermal baths and there are a number of different thermal bathhouses you can visit of varying opulence. One such bathhouse is Gellert, costing less than £20for a ticket.
- Free Walking Tour- A great way to explore the city from the point of view of a local. It allows you to get your bearings and to see which sites you might want to revisit during your travels.
As an international city, it is easy to find just about any cuisine in Budapest, but I would highly recommend trying some traditional Hungarian food. You can easily find cheap, yet tasty, lunches for under £5 and delicious dinners for under £10 if you look in the right places. Hungarian food tends to largely consist of hearty meals, including filling soups and stews, as well as a huge variety of meats, seasonal fruit and vegetables, fresh bread and dairy.
My top tip for eating on a budget in Budapest is to avoid restaurants and cafe's in the tourist centres, where you are almost guaranteed an overpriced and poor quality meal. When it comes to finding the best budget restaurants in the city, I would advise taking a look at guides written by locals. Also, take a look at some of my recommendations below for the best and cheapest places to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in Budapest:
Like most eastern European cities, Budapest has a huge variety of quality and low-priced hostels for those travelling on a budget to stay at. Most hostels in Budapest cost around £8-£20 per person per night, but many hostels tend to raise their prices for weekends or during holidays. Yet, if you want to go slightly more luxurious and stay in a private room without breaking the bank, you would expect to pay between £40-£70.
Riga is definitely a city which doesn't get the attention it deserves. The city's low prices, incredibly affordable booze, bustling nightlife, delicious food and stunning architecture make Riga an ideal location for budget travellers. The only downside of Riga for travelling on a budget is that it is slightly off the beaten track of the usual backpacker's route. Nevertheless, it is easy to find cheap flights from most major cities if you book in advance.
I would recommend budgeting around £45 per day on a backpackers budget.
- Old City Riga (Vecriga) – A charming maze of narrow and crooked cobblestone streets, filled with a mixture of architectural styles Free
- Central Market (Centraltirgus) – A market for finding the best local produce, including fresh fruit and veg, as well as fantastic cheeses, meats and fish Free
- KGB Building – The former headquarters of the KGB, including a museum which outlines the history of KGB activities in Latvia during the Soviet occupation. A guided tour costs around £8.60 for adults or £3.45 for students
- International Vodka Museum – suggested donation of around £17, includes free tasting samples
- Museum of the Occupation of Latvia – donation with £9 guided tour
- Art Nouveau Museum – A museum which celebrates the city's most prolific art nouveau architects. A ticket costs £1-£3 depending on the season
Food tends to be fairly affordable in Riga, but you'll want to do your research beforehand to ensure the best quality. As always, there are areas to avoid, such as Castle Square, where you will be paying premium prices for food that's not that great. Like most Baltic and eastern European food, traditional Latvian cuisine largely comprises pork, potatoes and cabbage.
As in most eastern European cities, the hostels in Riga are affordable and usually pretty decent. For nice hostel, you should be budgeting about £12 per person per night, but it's worth remembering that most hostels raise their prices on weekends. Yet, if you like your privacy, then rental apartments are also very reasonable.
Prague is one of the most popular European destinations, and it's not difficult to see why. The beautiful scenery, vibrant nightlife and relatively affordable prices make Prague a must-visit city for any budget traveller. Due to the surge in Prague's popularity, prices have begun to increase over the past few years, but there are still plenty of cheap places to sleep, eat and have fun in Prague. So, visit Prague sooner rather than later to take full advantage of it's affordability.
I would recommend budgeting around £40 per day on a backpacker's budget.
- St. Charles Bridge – Built in 1357, it may be the most beautiful bridge in the world Free
- Old Town Square – A historic square in Prague's Old Town and is filled with some of Prague's most famous sites and plenty of cafes and restaurants Free
- Astronomical Clock Tower – Located in Old Town Square, this 600-year-old astronomical clock is an impressive timepiece. Admission costs just over £8.
- Wenceslas Square – The go-to shopping area. A long boulevard of shops as well as a large statue of St. Wenceslas Free (unless you get enticed into buying something)
- Prague Castle – The largest ancient castle in the world, covering nearly 70,000 sq m's. The Prague Castle largely dominate's the city's skyline. Admission costs just over £8.
- Jewish Quarter (Josefov) – Home of the Old Jewish Cemetery, the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe, and the Old-New Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Europe Free
Traditional Czech cuisine tends to be quite heavy, but it is filling and affordable – perfect for the penny-saving budget traveller. Like all European cities, it is crucial to try to avoid the busy tourist areas where you are sure to find overpriced and poor quality restaurants.
Prague has loads of cheap accommodation options to choose from, but it is best to book early to ensure you get the best spots. You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to well priced hostels, expecting to pay around £12-£20 per person per night. However, if you want something a little more luxurious or don't want to share, there are is also a great range of cheap hotels and rental apartments.
While Naples might not have the charm or must-see tourist attractions of many other European cities on this list, it definitely does have some good bargains to offer those travelling on a budget. If nothing else, Naples is the birthplace of Neapolitan pizza and has an endless supply of cheap hostels to stay in.
I would recommend a daily travel budget of around £50 on a backpackers budget.
National Archeological Museum – This museum features all of the interesting finds from Pompeii and Herculaneum after the violent eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD. Admission costs around £10.
Fontanelle Cemetery – A cemetery that cover approximately 3000 sq m and contains the remains of an unspecified number of people Free
Underground Naples – Explore the labyrinth of tunnels, tanks and cavities hidden below the city. A ticket costs around £12.
Museo Capella Sansevero – Built in the 1500s, this is a gem of Italian artistic heritage, influenced by the Prince of Sansevero. Around £8-£9 for a standard ticket.
Spacconopoli – Explore this quirky thoroughfare to see a real community still thriving on the former Neopolis street grid Free
Free walking tours – get shown around the city by someone who knows it best. A great way to start your trip and to see what else you might like to do while you're there.
You won't want to miss out on Naples' local cuisine. Incorporating seafood, fresh mozzarella and pasta, you won't want to stop eating! The city is well known for its Margarita pizzas, gelato and liqueur-soaked rum cake (baba) which can be found throughout the city. Cheap dining options are abundant across Naples – prices are incredibly affordable and exceptionally cheap if you stray from the classic tourist areas.
Accommodation tends to be pretty reasonable in Naples. However, for a backpacker's budget, there is only a handful of hostels to choose from. Despite there not being many, the hostels that are available are really nice and will set you back around just £20 per person per night. Airbnb is also popular in Naples, so if you're not keen on sharing or are struggling to find a room in a hostel, this is probably your best bet.
Lisbon is one of the most reasonably priced cities in Western Europe. Taking shabby chic to the next level, Lisbon is known for its beautiful pastel buildings, cafe culture and laid back atmosphere. It has a whole host of great sites and attractions to offer, as well as plenty of budget-friendly restaurants and hostels.
I would recommend a daily travel budget of around £40 on a backpacker's budget in Lisbon.
Alfama – As the oldest neighbourhood in the city, it is characterised by irregular winding streets and alleyways and filled with quirky cafes and restaurants Free
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos – A masterpiece of Manueline and Gothic architecture in 1502, this is a sight to behold. Admission costs around £8.20.
Sao Jorge Castle – Built in the 11th century, you can hike up to this impressive castle and soak in the best views of the city. Admission costs around £7.30.
National Tile Museum – Portugal is famous for its tiles and this is the place to see five centuries worth of ceramic tiles. Admission costs around £4.30.
Free walking tour – Again, a walking tour is the best way to explore the city from a local's point of view – and you can't complain when it's free.
Dining out in Lisbon is surprisingly affordable so you won't have too much trouble eating on a budget. Lisbon's local cuisine largely consists of seafood. Bacalhau (salted cod) is the Portugese national dish and is used for many traditional recipes, including in stews and stir-fries.
There are absolutely loads of budget hostels to choose from in Lisbon. Per person per night, you should be expecting to pay around £15 for a decent hostel. If you're not one for sharing and want something a little more up-market then you will be paying a fair bit more for a private room. You should expect to pay between £38-£75 for a private room, so it might be a better deal to rent an apartment.
Given that Greece was so hard hit by the 2008 economic recession, it is still attempting to claw its way back, which means that it still remains an extremely affordable European city to visit on a budget. Despite being so cheap, however, you can still expect to pay a high premium for staying near to the Acropolis so it is best to find accommodation far from the tourist sites.
I would recommend a daily travel budget of around £50 on a packpacker's budget in Athens.
Food prices in Athens are fairly reasonable, so you should be able to find plenty of great eats on a budget. As with other European cities, dining out will get pricey if you stay around the main tourist areas, so you should look for places where the locals tend to eat. A great way to fill up without breaking the bank is to browse the city's street food stalls and takeaway restaurants.
Accommodation in Athens tends to be fairly affordable but hotels are quite pricey so it's best to avoid them if you can. For a night in a hostel per person you should expect to be paying around £20, but if you want a private room in a hotel then you are looking at around £65-£100.
While Berlin might not be quite as cheap as it once was, it still provides great value for money. As Germany's second largest city, the capital has so much to do and see, keeping you busy for days on end. There are endless hostels and rental apartments which conveniently keeps accommodation prices fairly low. Berlin is also full of good deals on food and beer if you know where to look.
I would recommend a daily travel budget of around £55 on a backpacker's budget.
You certainly don't have to worry about going hungry in Berlin – there are an endless number of budget dining options to choose from. Most meals are hearty enough to keep you fuelled up for long periods of time and the beer is fantastically cheap. What else could a budget traveller want?
Berlin has so many great affordable hostels to choose from. For a good hostel, you should plan on budgeting around £25 per person per night. If you aren't keen on sharing, you should be able to find a reasonably priced hotel if you do a bit of digging.
Dubrovnik is an incredibly beautiful medieval city that is rapidly increasing in popularity with visitors from all over the world. This means that the prices are rising quickly and it can feel fairly touristy in the summer. While food and accommodation can be slightly more expensive than other European cities, it is definitely worth the extra pennies and you can easily seek out some great deals.
I would recommend a daily travel budget of £50 on a backpacker's budget.
Once again, it is important to stay away from the touristy areas in order to get some good quality budget meals in Dubrovnik. The Old Town, although offering the perfect location to wine and dine, is an expensive place that should be avoided for budget travellers. Dubrovnik's cuisine is largely influenced by Italy, so you can expect to find plenty of seafood and pasta. Mussels, ham and cod are the main staples of many meals.
The Old Town of Dubrovnik is extremely compact which means that options of places to stay are limited and can be costly. Therefore, to stick to your budget, you may need to stay outside of the old town, but good public transport makes it easy to reach. For a decent hostel in Dubrovnik you should be expecting to pay around £15-£30 per night per person. However, there are a number of good apartment rentals available in the city too which might be worth considering.
Two of the highest rated hostels in Dubrovnik include the Hostel Angelina and Rooms Old Town. Both of these hostels are in the Old Town but are still reasonably priced. If you want to spend even less on accommodation then you should look outside the city centre.