Have you ever dreamed of going to Europe, but felt intimidated by the cost? Crossing the pond isn’t always cheap, but where you go can significantly affect your travel budget. You may be surprised by the number of fun but cheap European vacations out there.
Everyone wants to imagine themselves atop the Eiffel Tower overlooking the Parisian sky at night or seeing the Roman Coliseum up close and personal. The simple economic theory of supply and demand means places like Paris, London, and Rome can charge a premium because everybody wants to go there. But if you’re flexible with your destination, these cheap European vacations offer more bang for your buck:
- Lisbon, Portugal
- Budapest, Hungary
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Krakow, Poland
- Zagreb, Croatia
1. Lisbon, Portugal
The capital city of Portugal is charming and picturesque, full of cobblestone streets, outdoor patios, and fantastic and inexpensive wine. Lisbon has the beach, art, and culture, all for a fraction of the cost of other European hotspots.
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Lisbon was hit hard during the Great Recession, so prices are fairly low for tourists.
I visited the city two years ago and found it to be extremely affordable and welcoming. I stayed at the Lisbon Destination Hostel — by far the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in — for about $20 per night. A great bottle of wine cost less than $2, and there are plenty of affordable dining options. This city by the sea stole my heart and kept my budget in shape.
2. Budapest, Hungary
Looking for romance, dramatic landscapes, and historic architecture? You might want to check out Budapest, Hungary. You can enjoy hot springs, check out WWII relics, and enjoy a variety of food and wine for less. A few years ago, the Telegraph named the city one of the cheapest options for travelers.
Eastern Europe provides value for travelers on a budget and tends to be more affordable than Western Europe.
3. Prague, Czech Republic
Castles. Cathedrals. Pubs. Museums full of history. The capital of the Czech Republic offers a dose of history and majesty, not to mention a good time for young folks looking to explore.
Prague is cheap vacation destination for travelers, especially because its currency, the koruna (or crown), is weak. As such, your dollar will go far when it comes to accommodations, food, and fun, making it an excellent option for those seeking cheap European vacations.
You can also make your trip even cheaper by taking advantage of sites like Groupon and Booking.com. Not only is Booking.com an amazing resource when it comes to budget travel, but you can also be super specific when deciding on location, all while opting for a secured online payment.
And these days, Airbnb is just as popular in Europe as it is in the United States. Even if you don't book a room with Airbnb, you can rent out your own place while you're vacationing and make some money back!
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4. Krakow, Poland
Poland’s economy has dealt with its own financial setbacks. While it’s unfortunate, that makes it a friendly, cheap European vacation spot for tourists. And there are few places with architecture as impressive as Krakow, one of Poland’s majestic gems. With structures ranging from bold new designs and brutalist monoliths to a 15th-century university and a 700-year-old salt mine, exploring Krakow can feel more like traveling through time.
5. Zagreb, Croatia
Aside from the spectacular Adriatic coastline, Croatia has been gaining a reputation in the realms of fashion, art, and music; and its capital, Zagreb, is at the heart of it all.
The Museum of Contemporary Art is the largest museum in the country. About half of its featured artists are Croatians who have been making waves in the art world.
Year-round, Zagreb pulses with a wide variety of festivals, many of which are focused on different contemporary performing arts. Croatia’s economy has been steadily improving since 2015, and so has international tourism. While it's still relatively affordable to visit now, that may begin to change.
Cheap European Vacations: Extra Money-Saving Tips
Going to one of these five European destinations can cut down on your vacation costs. In order to reduce the cost of getting there, consider travel hacking with a rewards credit card.
I flew to Europe for the past two years for less than $100 round trip because of credit card rewards. Of course, this option is only good for those with good credit and who make their payments in full and on time. You can also use Hopper or Google Flights to score affordable deals on flights.