There is no shortage of wonderful cities in Europe. Paris, Venice, and London are some of the world’s most sought-after destinations. European visits are spent getting your fill of culture, history, architecture, nightlife, and good. However, they can be heavy on the bank account. To keep European city breaks affordable and accessible, we investigated where your money will stretch a bit further.
We looked at the average prices of:
- Cup of coffee
- A bottle of local beer/larger in a café/bar
- A Coca-Cola or Pepsi in a café/bar
- A 175ml house glass of wine in a café/bar
- A three-course meal for two, including house wine
- Return airport bus or train transfer
- 48-hour travel card
- Sightseeing city bus tour
- Top tourist heritage attraction
- Top museum
- Top art gallery
- Two nights in a three-star accommodation (across the weekend)
Being an affordable place isn't quite enough to make it one of the best cities to visit in Europe. We also considered things to do, culture, history, and food. Here are the best places to visit in Europe, whatever your budget.
The Best Cities to Visit in Europe
10. Rome, Italy
Who knew the Eternal City was such an affordable place to visit? With designer shops aplenty and grand palatial architecture everywhere you turn, many travellers consider Rome to be an expensive destination. However, after looking at generic daily costs and the price of a two-night, three-star hotel stay, we’ve found it to be one of the least expensive cities to visit in Europe. Not bad for one of the world's most iconic, timeless destinations.
Rome’s ancient wonders – the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trajan’s Forum, and more – can be explored on a budget. After all the sightseeing, the best way to round off the day is with a delicious meal of Italian fare. And surprisingly, a three-course meal for two people (including wine) is an average price of £64.
9. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik has captured the attention of travellers across the world for its medieval walls, but it’s still one of the most affordable cities to visit in Europe. Fortunately, the small city and its indigo Adriatic views and wealth of museums, galleries, and Baroque buildings remain an affordable destination. Waking the 13th-century city walls is an unmissable experience, followed by a trip to Rector’s Palace. Dubrovnik is a living museum, but the historical attractions will likely be the biggest expenditure. However, it’s a small price to pay to explore one of the world’s most well-preserved medieval areas. Plus, accommodation is some of the most affordable in Europe at around £63.50 for a two-night stay at a three-star hotel, if sharing a room with one other person. And of course, spending languid afternoons relaxing on one of Dubrovnik’s gorgeous beaches costs nothing at all.
8. Berlin, Germany
Berlin is arguably Europe’s coolest capital, with thumping nightlife, vibrant culture, open-minded communities, and bold architecture. It’s home to some of the most important monuments in the continent, including the Berlin Wall and Brandenburg Gate. The city is also a buzzing hub of beer gardens, street food markets, and local galleries. There’s something for everyone here and for an affordable price. It’s surprising for such a popular capital city to be one of the most inexpensive to visit (we’re looking at you, London), but it’s easy to keep costs down here – most of the sights are free, and the museum entry fees are affordable. Plus, a glass of wine is an average price of £4.07 – it’s a no-brainer.
7. Madrid, Spain
Spain’s capital has shed its reputation of business-first-fun-second. Especially when you can get a bottle of beer and a glass of wine for £6 altogether. Madrid’s long history, world-class art museums, and incredible food scene can all be enjoyed on a budget. The top heritage sights and museums are under £10, and some are even free. The Gran Vía is the main artery running through the city, an attraction unto itself. If you can resist popping into the shops, it’s completely free. El Retiro Park is another top free sight in Madrid. The park is a sprawling maze of lakes, rose gardens, statues, and buildings, and there’s even a crystal palace. You can save those euros for an obligatory paella – a three-course meal for two with wine is around £62.
6. Prague, Czech Republic
Admire Baroque structures, meander through the charming Old Town, explore the Prague Castle complex, and sample the world-famous Czech beer. The medieval city has the second-highest number of bars per person worldwide – highly convenient when a bottle of beer is only around £2.40.
There’s so much to see and do in Prague on a budget. The Old Town is one of the world’s best-preserved medieval sites, so simply walking through the charming streets is a joy. A sunset stroll across the 14th-century Charles Bridge is particularly special, too. And join the crowds of visitors gathering around the Astronomical Clock to watch the world’s oldest clock strike the hour.
After all that walking, you’ll probably want to refuel. Prague is not only known for its beer but also for its thriving coffee scene. From nitro brew to slow drip, all bases are covered. For a more traditional experience, visit one of Prague’s traditional coffeehouses – a standard cup of coffee is around £2.
5. Budapest, Hungary
With medieval and baroque architecture packed into the city’s Castle District, Budapest is undoubtedly one of Europe’s best cities. From watching the city skyline sparkle from the neo-Gothic Fishermen’s Bastion to hopping around ruin pubs, the city is a treasure trove of history and culture. And it’s all possible on a budget. The beer is the cheapest in Europe at around £1.95 a bottle, and the accommodation is affordable too. There is also a wealth of free sights. Budapest Castle, the Roman ruins of Pest and Óbuda, Gellért Hill, the Basilica of St Stephen, and the Great Market Hall are all free to explore.
Some of the top attractions – the thermal spas, some museums, and art galleries – will require a small entrance fee, but it won’t break the bank. And soaking in a thermal spa is one of the best things to do in Budapest. It’s unique to the city, thanks to the mineral-rich thermal water that lies beneath it. Many of them date back to the Ottoman Empire, including the popular Rudas and Király baths.
4. Riga, Latvia
Riga is a living, breathing art gallery. The city has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in the world, as well as beautiful medieval architecture in the historic centre. The centre is even a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its display of the world’s finest Art Nouveau architecture. There are few Riga activities more enjoyable than admiring the intricate buildings. The ten-minute walk from the corner of Strelnieku to Elizbates Street is a quick snapshot of the masterpiece buildings, although you can spend hours admiring the artwork. And of course, it's completely free. There are plenty of other free sights in Riga, including the 19th-century Orthodox Cathedral, the War Museum, the Kalnciema Quarter, and the poignant Žanis Lipke Memorial.
Some heritage attractions require a fee, but they’re usually no more than £5. Riga is also one of the most affordable cities in Europe for good accommodation – a two-night stay for a three-star hotel is around £90.
3. Kraków, Poland
Bursting with history and culture, Kraków has long been a favourite destination among European travellers. It’s the perfect city break – it’s affordable, there’s lots to do, and it’s easy to get around. Plus, the city has a thriving street food scene – an inexpensive way of trying local foods in a cultural setting. But if you do want a sit-down meal, you can do it on a budget. A decent three-course meal for two (including wine) is around £65, on average.
The city is home to some of Europe’s most important sights, including former Jewish Quarter Kazimierz and Auschwitz. While those reminders of dark tragedy are sobering, there’s always light in Kraków these days. The UNESCO World Heritage Old Town is abuzz with visitors meandering through the cobblestone streets, marvelling at the Gothic churches, and haggling at market stalls.
2. Lisbon, Portugal
Portugal’s colourful capital is a treasure trove of culture, art, history, ancient ruins, and music. It’s also affordable, with some of the best things to do in the city costing very little or nothing at all. You could spend days exploring the Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest district. It’s a weaving maze of tiny cobblestone alleyways, traditional colourful houses, and of course, miradouros. The miradouros are spectacular viewpoints dotted around Alfama, which give way to the city’s characteristic terracotta-roofed skyline. Some of the best include Miradouro de Santa Luiza, Miradouro das Portas do Sol, and Miradouro de Senhora do Monte. By night, the melancholic melodies of fado music will float through the narrow streets. You can enjoy the music for free, or with a glass of wine. Lisbon is the place to be for wine lovers at just £2.94 (on average) per glass.
As well as its affordable (or free) attractions, Lisbon is also a great place to eat good on a budget. Sandwiches are a huge part of the food culture in Portugal, and the bifan is local to Lisbon. It’s affordable, filling, and delicious. There are also plenty of tasca spots in Lisbon – a local, inexpensive restaurant serving traditional dishes. But if you want to, you can still enjoy a fancy dinner here without breaking the bank. A three-course dinner for two, including wine, is around £41.
1. Athens, Greece
As the foundation of Western civilisation and democracy, Athens is bursting with historical monuments to explore. The main ancient sites include the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Ancient Agora of Athens, and the Acropolis, which is also where you’ll find the dwarfing Parthenon.
While entrance to the Acropolis is around £17, it’s a small price to pay to witness this impressive relic of ancient Greece. You could spend hours exploring the ancient ruins, dating back to the 5th century B.C., while taking in the panoramic city views. And fortunately, Athens is the most affordable city in Europe for food and accommodation.
While Athens is known for its historical monuments, the city has a refreshing youthful side. Explore the buzzy art galleries, quirky bars, relaxed coffee culture, and vintage shops of the ‘new Athens’.