Traveling can often be a massive expense, and going on a trip can take significant time saving and creating a budget. Europe in particular is an amazing continent with so much to offer travelers, but with cities like London and Paris, it’s not necessarily going to be cheap.
One of my best travel hacks? Traveling to cheaper destinations. There are plenty of places in Europe that are friendly for budget travelers, and won’t necessarily break the bank. Many of these cities are in Eastern Europe, my favorite region in the world and one that I love traveling to in part because it’s so affordable. However, I have chosen to leave off cities in Russia (particularly St. Petersburg) and Belarus (mainly Minsk) due to the associated costs of visas, and/or the extra expenses of visa-free regimes.
So here you go, in no particular order: the top 10 budget European cities in 2017!
Currency: Ukrainian Hryvnia
Kiev is the cheapest city I’ve ever been to, and Ukraine is by far the most affordable destination I have ever visited. Following the political protests, annexation of the Crimea, and the war in Eastern Ukraine which all started in 2013-2014, the local currency, the Ukrainian hryvnia, has plummeted. The city has so much history and is full of things to do and see, and you’ll never have to worry about your budget! Two courses for two (including drinks) at my beloved Puzata Hata comes in at 140 hryvnia, or $5.50 // £4. Beer can cost as low as 15 hryvnia, or 60 cents (USD) // 43 pence (GBP). My bed in a dorm room in arguably the best hostel in town was less than £7 (~$9.20) per night. I tried to spend money in Kiev. The city is incredible, and definitely one of my favorites in Europe. If you are looking for a cheap city break, Kiev is my top choice!
Read More: A Guide to Kiev
Currency: Serbian Dinar
The capital of Serbia, Belgrade is emerging as a haven for budget travelers as the Western Balkan countries of Croatia and Slovenia become more and more popular. Luckily, Belgrade remains wonderfully affordable, with drinks and cheap eats generally just costing a handful of change for those traveling with dollars, pounds, or euros. The nightlife is insane (in a good way!), the history is fascinating and poignant, and the stylish people are welcoming to visitors and easy to become friends with over a few drinks.
Read More: First Impressions of Serbia: Belgrade
Probably the most affordable of all the capitals in Western Europe, sunny Lisbon is a welcome stop for anyone trying to pinch a few pennies on the road. A tram ride is only 1.25€, you can get a beer for 2€ at the right places, and even entry to the most impressive attractions in the city should typically be less than 10€. Better yet, there are loads of miradouros (viewpoints) dotted across the city—and they’re all absolutely free! One of my best decisions was staying at Yes! Hostel in Lisbon, which (besides being a fantastic hostel) offered a 3-course “family dinner” every night for 10€, which included unlimited drinks from the bar. Definitely the best way to spend time in Lisbon! 😉
Although Germany might not strike you as a particularly cheap country to travel in, it has a wonderfully affordable capital city in Berlin. There’s no other way to say it: Berlin is just cool. The city is full of start-up companies, entrepreneurs, and a diverse range of people. Berlin is also steeped in history, and has many beautiful parks to explore in the city center. Public transportation, drinks, and kebabs are all within range of a budget traveler, and there are loads of things to do for free.
Read More: The Top 8 Free Things in Berlin
Move over Riga, there’s a new Baltic budget destination in town: Vilnius. Having only visited Lithuania for the first time this February, I’m a bit slow on the uptake. But a few days had me convinced that this hidden gem in the Baltics is a budget traveler’s dream. Most public transportation was 1€ or less, drinks were usually 1.50-3€ (depending on the place), and my hostel (Jimmy Jumps) cost 8€ per night in a 6-bed dorm. A lot of the museums I went to were less than 3€, and visiting the city’s many beautiful churches is always free. I absolutely loved my time in Vilnius—so give your wallet a break and head to Lithuania!
Currency: Polish Złoty
Oh Krakow. Forever one of my favorite cities in Europe, and definitely one to visit if you’re traveling throughout Europe and in need of a break in your budget. The currency, Polish złotys, has a very favorable exchange rate for anyone with dollars, pounds, or euros. During my first trip in April 2014, I found a nice bar down a rather sketchy alleyway where beer was 4 złotys, or $1.33 USD then. Having returned over New Year’s Eve this last year, I remembered why Krakow is such a great destination: it’s affordable, it’s beautiful, and there is SO much to see and do. The city has amazing architecture in its churches and castles, and so much modern history from the Nazi occupation (Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp is an easy daytrip). If you’re looking for a destination with lots to offer, but that won’t break the bank, I highly suggest visiting Krakow (or hell, all of Poland in general!)—you won’t regret it.
Currency: Hungarian Forint
Throughout my first visit to Budapest, all I could think was, “how has it taken me this long to get here?!” Budapest is one of my favorite cities in Europe, and has a gritty, intense beauty throughout the city. The architecture is phenomenal, and even my “splurge” activities like the Szchenyi Baths were quite affordable (less than $20). The currency, the Hungarian forint, can be a bit confusing—but pretty much everything is cheap, from food to drinks to museums. Budapest is a great place to visit if you’re looking for a cheap city break.
Currency: Moldovan Lei
Surprised to find the capital city of Moldova on this list? Me too. But Chisinau (pronounced kish-in-ow) is probably the cheapest European capital I’ve been to after Kiev. While Chisinau doesn’t necessarily offer that much in terms of attractions, it makes a great base for exploring more of the country: Cricova and Milestii Mici wineries, the Orhei Vechi Monastery, and the “country that doesn’t exist,” Transnistria. Moldova has a massive wine industry, and honestly it’s some of the best wine I’ve ever had. Oh, and did I mention that it was cheap? Because bottles from the official winery are less than £3 // $4. Go now, before everyone else gets there and raises the prices.
Currency: Romanian Lei
Bucharest has the grandeur of Paris mixed with the grit and ugly communist architecture common throughout Eastern Europe. The city often gets passed over for popular Transylvania by tourists, but definitely merits a few days stay. And if you’re looking for budget relief, you’re in luck—Bucharest is perfect for people traveling on the cheap. My hostel cost less than £8 (~$10.50 USD) per night in a 6-bed dorm room, a fancy dinner for two (plus drinks) cost less than £12 // $16 each, and a Metro ticket cost just 2.5 lei (~£0.50 GBP // $0.65 USD). I loved stumbling across so many beautiful buildings—and a visit to the Palace of Parliament is a must!
Read More: A Quick Guide to Bucharest
Currency: Czech Koruna
One of the most beautiful and charming cities in Europe, Prague has longtime been a friend to budget travelers. While its popularity is constantly on the rise and more and more tourists are packing in on the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, it is still a very affordable destination. Beer (something the Czechs are famous for!) can be as cheap as $1.50-$2.00 (~£1.15-£1.50 GBP), museums and attractions won’t break the bank, and public transportation is very affordable.
Read More: 3 Days CZECHing Out Prague
What are your favorite budget destinations in Europe? Have you been to any of the cities on this list? Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below!