London, Paris, Rome – Europe is famous for being astronomically expensive, from accommodation to eating and even just the plane ride there (not to mention the train into the city … ugh). But despite a reputation of a good time being rather costly, there are plenty of beautiful cities on the continent that can be done on the cheap. Here are a few of our favourites:
It’s possible to travel Latvia’s capital, an urban oasis of 17th- and 18th-century buildings and restoration projects, on a shoestring but only by using common sense. Hailing a taxi is a common tourist mistake, which usually ends in getting ridiculously overcharged. Luckily, Riga’s Old Town area is easy to explore by foot. Most tourist attractions range around $4 USD, too.
This is the ultimate walking city, with so much stunning history and architecture always available to gaze at, free of charge. A fancy cocktail or wine on an upscale patio will also only costs around $3 USD, sometimes less!
When Londoners and Parisiennes arrive in the German capital, they can hardly believe how inexpensive it is in comparison to their own stomping grounds. It’s thanks to Berlin’s thriving community of starving artists and beatniks that everything continues to stay so affordable. You can get a hostel room for €10 a night, and street food shouldn’t be more than €5.
Budapest is one of Europe’s most lively and eclectic cities, with breathtaking courtyard and gardens and thermal baths that also double up as nightclubs. It’s difficult to believe what a great deal it is, especially with the nickname “Paris of the East” – Paris, but with low-cost mass transportation and a sensible cost of living.
With its former communist charm, wandering through Belgrade is like going back in a time warp. The taxi fares are also delightfully retro, never be more than €10 a pop. However, there can sometimes be problems with drivers trying to rip people off. Calling up reputable taxi companies and insisting on the meter price is the right way to go.
Warsaw is not only the capital of Poland, but also a bustling university city with an alert and effervescent restaurant and bar scene. And where there are students, there are also student prices, of course. A half-litre local beer from the supermarket is only $1 USD!
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague may be the historic capital of Bohemia, but it’s also the perfect destination to live the modern day bohemian lifestyle too. Prices are kept low by an over-saturated market of hotels and restaurants, so a basic dinner will cost around $5 USD. Drinks are also cheap, including alehouses that serve $2 USD beers on tap.
This Eastern European gem is actually the sixth largest city in the European Union, but nowhere near as expensive as Paris, London, Madrid and the like. Visitors can get a fast-paced, big city experience for just a fraction of the cost – $6 USD for dinner and $5 for a bottle of top-notch wine.
Portugal’s capital has a lot of ways to stay on a budget, for example the pension (pensão) guesthouses which are just a fraction of the cost of hotels. Most tourist attractions are free on the first Sunday of each month too.
Despite being a massive tourist hotspot, the recent economic crisis has definitely made the Greek capital a cheap city to trek across. There are really good discounts for students at the Acropolis and museums like the Benaki, Athens Byzantine and Christian and the National Archaeological Museum. Don’t forget to show your school ID!