Here are the top 5 cheap holiday destinations in Europe. We’ve picked this list based on the flights, local prices and the best value for money experiences. With the current cost of living crisis, taking those well-earned holidays is getting harder to make happen. But don’t lose hope yet. There are still many amazing places to visit in Europe, with plenty of things to do. If you’re looking for a cheap city break where you’ll have lots of wonderful experiences without having to break the bank, look no further. They’re also much less crowded. You get to meet the friendly local people and see some amazing sights you didn’t even know existed!
Without further ado let’s get started.
1. Budapest, Hungary
Budapest is a city steeped in beautiful history and architecture. It is also one of the cheapest places to visit in Europe so don’t worry you’ll never go hungry! It is the perfect short break destination. Pints of local beer is 0.95 euros and you can find great accommodation for as little as 30 euros a night.
Budapest is also full of incredible experiences to make your trip truly memorable, here are just a few.
Things to do in Budapest
- Szechenyi Medicinal Bath:
When you get to Budapest you have to visit the Szechenyi Medicinal Bath. This is the largest medicinal bath in Europe. The water comes from two thermal springs, keeping the temperature naturally at 74 c and 77 c. Perfect for those winter getaways. Not only do you get to enjoy the tranquil bath but you’re surrounded by beautiful historic buildings. Entry into the Baths gets you access to 18 pools, 10 saunas and steam room cabins. There are also several massage therapies and facial treatments.A spa day like no other only costs you 30 euros.
- Fisherman's Bastion:
The next must-see sight in Budapest is the Fisherman's Bastion. Located in the 1st district of Budapest, the Fisherman’s bastion's incredible architecture is what draws tourists from all over the world. Many compare it to something out of Harry Potter. When you reach the top, you’re treated to stunning panoramic views over all of Budapest from the Neo-Romanesque lookout terraces. Entry to the Fisherman’s Bastion is free, cementing its place as a must-see on our budget city break list.
- Buda Castle:
Just next door to the Fisherman’s Bastion is another piece of architectural brilliance, Buda Castle. This historic castle and palace complex was home to the Kings and Queens of Hungary. Commencing in 1265 and the palace being completed between 1749 and 1769, this landmark is one of the most important in Hungarian culture. On the way to the Castle, you get to enjoy wonderful gardens and enjoy a panoramic view over Budapest from the top. Buda Castle offers much more than history, beauty and scenery. It houses the National Széchényi Library, the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery.
With all this being FREE, Buda Castle is one of the most value for money experiences on the list.
- The Szechenyi chain bridge:
The Szechenyi chain bridge is next on our list. Built in 1849, it was the first bridge to be built across the Hungarian section of the Danube river, the second longest river in Europe. The Szechenyi connects Buda and Pest. From the Pest side of the bridge, you can see the grandiose Hungarian parliament building and see the Castle Hill towers dominating the Buda side. It Is one of the most unique and beautiful bridges you’re ever likely to see. The bridge is undoubtedly an architectural marvel. As you might expect this experience is completely free.
With only one of the sights costing you any money, Budapest is a must see if you’re looking for an experience packed short stay on a budget.
2. Valencia, Spain
Valencia is a must if you’re looking for a picturesque long weekend break on a budget. It’s the perfect mix of beautiful architecture and history as well as great weather and stunning beaches. Pints of beer are only 1 euro and the delicious local meals will cost you 12 euros on average. The only problem you’ll have is finding the time to fit it all in! Fun fact, Valencia is known as the birth place of the traditional Spanish dish Paella.
Things to do in Valencia:
- The City of Arts and Sciences:
The first place you need to visit in Valencia is The City of Arts and Sciences. It is a cultural and architectural complex and one of the most important tourist destinations in Spain. This complex is one of the 12 treasures of Spain along with the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Entry inside the complex is 31 euros which may sound expensive until you hear what’s inside. It’s home to the largest oceanographic aquarium in Europe with over 500 marine species, even dolphins. It also has an Opera house, a cinema, a large landscape point and is home to the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum.
Even if you don’t want to pay for the entry, just walking around the grounds is worth it.
- Mercado Central:
The next place to visit in Valencia is Mercado Central. Mercado Central is a public market which is one of the main works of the Valencian Art Nouveau. The Market has been taking place since the 19th century and is located in the heart of Valencia's old town. The building was built in the shape of a fish on one side and a parakeet on the other. It is one of the largest indoor markets in Europe, with over 400 stalls. You’ll find a huge array of seafood, cheeses, and tasty treats. You can let yourself get lost in the endless allies, surrounded by the bubbly atmosphere and smells. If you’re staying in an AirBnB you have to get some local fresh ingredients. It has everything you need and more.
Entry into the market as you can imagine is free but be warned with over 400 stalls and a never ending list of things to buy, it’s very easy to go a little wild.
- The Lonja de la Seda:
The third place on our list is The Lonja de la Seda. It’s a late Valencian Gothic-style Civil building. Built between 1482 and 1533 this building is truly a masterpiece of gothic architecture. What was originally built as a centre for trading in mediaeval times, is now a historic building filled with 100s of stone eyes watching you walk through the former trading centre. Inside is filled with historic representations of a long gone civilization. Not only that but this majestic building reveals how the past impacts the present and future, through its revival of ornate architecture and rich stonework. It is a very beautiful and tranquil experience costing only 2 euros.
- Playa de la Malvarrosa:
You’ve seen the wonderful architecture and immersed yourself in the history of Valencia. It’s time to mix things up and relax at Playa de la Malvarrosa. This is a sensational beach which is both long and deep, with clean golden sand. There are plenty of sun loungers, kiosks and places to eat. It has a grand promenade that takes you down the beach and straight into the mediterranean sea, which means you don’t have to drag your things through the sand. The beach is easily accessible from anywhere in the city.
It’s of course free to visit.
3. Bratislava, Slovakia
Bratislava truly is a hidden gem. It’s perfect for a quick getaway. The petite capital city is packed with things to do and see, all within walking distance from one another. You’ll find pints for as little as 97 cents, a meal is around 6 euros and the hotels are only 30 euros a night!
Things to do in Bratislava:
- Bratislava Castle:
Kicking off our list is Bratislava castle. Originally built in the 9th Century, The massive rectangular building with 4 corner towers stands on an isolated rocky hill of the Little Carpathians. It’s built directly above the Danube River in the middle of Bratislava, protected by mountains on all sides. The views stretch out over Bratislava and the Danube. Over the years Bratislava Castle has been home to Celtic rulers, Great Moravian migrants and Hungarian Kings. Now a museum which houses exhibitions of the Slovak national museum.
Entry inside the castle is 10 euros however if you don’t want to pay it is worth visiting to stroll around the impressive grounds and share the spectacular views on the short steep walk up to the castle
- The Blue Church:
Next up is the Church of St. Elizabeth, more commonly known as the Blue Church. The Blue Church is a Hungarian-Secessionist Catholic church located in the old town of Bratislava. St Elizabeth, to whom this church is dedicated, was the Empress of Austria as well as the queen of Hungary. She also happened to be born right here in Bratislava. As you can probably guess from the name, it’s a one of a kind blue church. It has the same colour scheme inside matching the blue exterior. The Blue Church is the most beautiful building in the whole city of Bratislava. Built in the 20th century, this unique building is a masterpiece of the Art Nouveau. Just a short walk from the old town, this church is unlike any other and a must do on your trip to Bratislava.
Entry into the church is free.
- The Most SNP:
Whilst in Bratislava it’d be a crime not to visit the Most SNP, commonly referred to as Most Slovenského Národného Povstania or the UFO Bridge. This stunning landmark is a road bridge over the Danube River. It is the world's longest bridge to have one pylon and one cable-stayed plane. This bridge can be seen from miles away, you walk underneath while the traffic flows above you. This amazing bridge also has a UFO observation deck above it, which even has a restaurant.
Entry to the UFO observation deck is free and to top it off they even throw in a complimentary drink as well!
- Michael’s Gate:
The last landmark on our list is Michael’s gate. Michael’s gate is the last remaining of 4 mediaeval fortifications and ranks as one of the oldest buildings in all of Bratislava. Michael’s Gate was first built around the year 1300. At the top of the tower is an incredible statue of the archangel Michael, slaying a dragon. The road which leads underneath the gate takes you directly to the town centre. On the pilgrimage, you’ll see the walls covered in golden crowns. These glistening crowns mark the historical coronation from the time Bratislava was the capital city of coronations in the Kingdom of Hungary.
This awe inspiring experience is, yeah you guessed it free.
4. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It’s packed with history, breathtaking scenery and modern architectural brilliance. You’ll never be short of things to do, all while sticking to your budget. Let’s not forget it has some of the best beers in Europe which you’ll be able to enjoy for 1.3 euros. The meals are 5 euros and the hotels average 30 euros a night, what’s not to love?
Things to do in Prague:
- Prague Castle:
The first place on your list is none other than Prague castle. But don’t let the name fool you, it’s closer to a mini city than a castle. Built in the 9th century, it still acts today as the official office of the president of the Czech Republic. In years gone by Prague castle was the seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors and presidents of Czechoslovakia. Within the complex is also the incredible St Vitus cathedral as well as some of the other most important buildings in Prague. The castle sits on top of a hill and has incredible views over all of Prague. You’re able to climb the watch tower and see even further out onto the beauty of Prague.
Entry to this fabulous complex is free.
- Charles Bridge:
From Prague castle, you’ll be able to point out your next destination, Charles Bridge. Charles bridge is a mediaeval stone arch bridge that crosses the Vltava river. This bridge offers breathtaking views and is brimming with statues along the way. You can see sights such as the national theatre, Prague castle, plus many more. The bridge is for pedestrians only so it is buzzing with many talented street performers, musicians and artists. Be sure to visit during the day and also at night if you can. They’re two incredibly different experiences, both as magnificent as one another. There are two towers guarding each end of the bridge which are great to visit.
The towers cost just 4 euros each but walking across the bridge is free.
- Prague Astronomical Clock:
Next up is the Prague Astronomical Clock. The Astronomical clock is a mediaeval clock at the top of the Old town hall. The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest clock in operation. Every hour when the clock strikes the hour mark, the glass window opens, revealing the different apostles rotating behind the clock face. This clock also shows the relative positions of the Sun, Moon, Earth and Zodiac constellations. There is a great atmosphere here as people eagerly await to see the clock hand hit 12 and see the wonders inside. The clock is in a perfect location, right in the middle of the old town square, which is full of bars and restaurants. So don’t fret if you miss it just have another one of their superb beers whilst you wait for the next one.
This incredible landmark is free.
- The Dancing House:
You’ve revelled in the historic sites this wonderful city has to offer. It’s time to head over to The Dancing house. Finished in 1996 this piece of architectural brilliance is a site to behold. It is arguably the most eye-catching building in the whole city. This twisted building emulates people dancing, hence the name. The only thing that matches the beauty of the building is the views from the top. There is a restaurant on top where you can grab a bite to eat. There is also a cafe where you can grab yourself a coffee and sit and enjoy the 360 views it provides over Prague.
Entry to the sky deck of the Dancing house is free. If you wish you can visit the dancing house gallery on the ground floor for 7.5 Euros.
5. Krakow, Poland
Krakow is a budget destination dreamland. The accommodation is very cheap with hotels starting at 20 euros a night. The hostels come with breakfast and dinner included. There are plenty of incredible experiences that will fit your budget.
Things to do in Krakow:
- Saint Mary’s Basilica:
Kicking off our list in Krakow is Saint Mary’s Basilica, a brick gothic church in the heart of the main market square in Krakow. The church’s foundations date back to the 13th century. This church showcases the best of Polish Gothic architecture. This church is unlike any other western Christendom because of the beauty of the gothic outside, paired with the richly colourful interior. The inside is illuminated with wonderful carvings and pictures. The amount of detail gone into it is nothing short of amazing. There are two striking towers on the top, both different sizes. There is also a Mass service on a Sunday that you’re welcome to attend.
The location is great as it’s right in the main market square, which is full of bars, cafes, restaurants and shops.
Entry into the church is free.
- Wawel Royal Castle:
While you’re in Krakow be sure to visit the Wawel Royal Castle, which is just walking distance from Saint Mary’s Basilica. The castle grounds are huge, it is one of the largest castles in Europe. You can easily spend the whole day admiring the impressive grounds. Admission into the grounds grants you access to the cathedral, the bell tower with stunning views over Krakow and the Wasla river which defies description. You also get to visit the crypts where some of Poland's most notorious and influential poets are buried.
Entry is 4 euros, which with everything you get to learn and see, I think it’s well worth it.
- Wieliczka Salt Mine:
The third place on our list is the Wieliczka salt mine. This salt mine was first in operation during the Neolithic times and was one of the first UNESCO world heritage sites. Don’t worry about being claustrophobic, there are monumental underground spaces. There are hundreds of kilometres of galleries, works of art and underground chapels. The tour is very informative and interactive. You can even lick the wall and taste the raw salt if that’s what you’re into. At the heart of the mine is the Chapel of Saint Kinga, full of illuminated religious sculptures, carved in salt at the turn of the 19th century. The floor is made of salt but polished like marble and the salt chandeliers will leave you mesmerised.
Entry is 23 euros but this experience is well worth it.
- Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum:
The last place on our list to do is Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum. If you’re feeling up to it you have to go but it is a very moving experience. The site includes the main concentration camp at Auschwitz and the remains of the extermination camp. This is a very surreal but impactful experience. It is a place to reflect and remember the thousands of people who died there. There is so much history there. Being there is a much more raw experience than learning about it in school. The organisation has done a wonderful job of preserving the museum. This is a must see if you’re in Krakow but again it’s not for the faint of heart.
Entry is free and it is a 2-euro coach journey from Krakow.
I hope we’ve put your mind at ease and shown you that you can still get away and have incredible experiences and see wonderful places all while sticking to your budget. These things to do I’ve listed are just a small part of what all these fabulous budget cities have to offer. There are plenty of other free and cheap things to do in all these places. Now you know the best budget breaks in Europe, the only problem you’ll have is deciding which one to choose!
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