5 Fantastic Budget-Friendly European City Breaks
The idea of a city break can be pretty attractive to travellers short on time. You head off to an interesting city for a weekend or few days and do a deep dive on what makes a city tick. You see the city’s sights, uncover the best local foods and drinks and learn about the local culture. Go somewhere like Europe though, and the cities and their endless attractions can cost a pretty penny. Anyone who has spent a nice weekend in London, Paris or Copenhagen knows what I’m talking about.
Luckily, there are some European city-break destinations where your money goes much further. Sure, it’s not enough that these cities be affordable, they also have to fascinate and delight your senses. With that in mind, here are 5 budget-friendly European city breaks that are sure to entertain.
The second city of Portugal, Porto is fast becoming a popular destination, thanks to its spectacular scenery, inviting culture and tantalizing food and wine scene. Porto often seems like it hasn’t let the modern world change it, and that charm permeates every inch of the city.
Famed for being the gateway to the wines of the Douro Valley, Porto pairs its acclaimed wines with down-to-earth Portuguese cuisine. What’s great is that you won’t need to fork out loads of cash to eat or drink well in Porto. There’s no need for fine dining when you can devour plenty of great local dishes like frango asado and francesinha with a few glasses of wine in a nice but unassuming local restaurant.
But Porto is also a city full of things to do, many of which are completely free. It costs nothing to admire the detailed blue and white tiles on the side of a church like the Chapel of Souls, or look out across the city from the terrace at the Porto Cathedral. In many ways, Porto is a work of art and you could easily while away your time there seeking out the best viewpoints and sunset spots (the best of which is up at the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, in my opinion).
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Perhaps not a city that immediately springs to mind for many people, Sarajevo is nevertheless a dynamic and vibrant place to explore for a few days. Unfortunately, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina still bears a reputation that grows more outdated with each passing year. To be perfectly clear, Sarajevo is as safe for visitors as any European city.
What sets Sarajevo apart is that it’s a destination laden with monumental historical sights and an intriguing blend of cultures. You only need to walk through the city’s Ottoman old town, over past the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque to the Sacred Heart Cathedral, to see why this city is often called the “Jerusalem of the Balkans .” Watch a sunset from the walls of the Yellow Bastion as the call to prayer echoes out, and it’s hard to deny the beauty of this place.
The fact that everything about this city is so affordable is just the cherry on top. With plenty of free sights to see, incredibly low accommodation costs and an unpretentious local cuisine, you have yourself an ideal budget city break.
Up by the Baltic Sea, the city of Riga couldn’t be a more charming place to visit. Latvia’s capital has been slow to gain favor with travelers, but good word of mouth is changing that. Put that together with the increasing number of budget airlines that fly to Riga and you have yourself an up-and-coming city break, and probably the cheapest one you’ll find in northern Europe.
At the center of Riga lies the city’s Old Town, built up over centuries of trade along the Baltic coast. This beautiful historic center is full of quaint cobblestone streets to explore and exactly the kind of pretty houses you’d imagine should be in a medieval quarter. Just take a look at the House of the Blackheads or the Three Brothers if you have any doubts. Move beyond the Old Town and you get all of the city’s art nouveau architecture to admire, not to mention the romantic splendor of Bastion Hill Park.
It’s not just the many free sights that makes Riga budget-friendly though. You should find that accommodation is far more reasonable here than in other northern European cities, not to mention other expenses like dining out and public transport.
Known for being one of Europe’s most affordable destinations for travelers, Belgrade is also an ideal city getaway. With the kind of diversity that comes from being the largest city in the Balkans, Serbia’s largest city appeals all sorts of people. Whether you’re a culture vulture or just looking for a fun trip, Belgrade can deliver.
Belgrade is especially well-known for its nightlife, mostly for the bars and clubs down along the Sava River, many of which actually float on the river. While you might think that these floating bars could be exclusive or expensive, drinks at these venues are actually quite affordable. The Serbian capital also happens to be a good place to go shopping, thanks to its cosmopolitan nature and favorable exchange rate.
But the city also has more traditional sightseeing attractions too. With a walk down the central pedestrian boulevard of Kneza Mihaila, you can see Belgrade’s baroque architecture. At the end of the street, you’ll find the huge Belgrade Fortress, where the city first formed. Then there are beauties like the Temple of St Sava, one of the largest churches in the world. Simply put, there’s plenty to see in Belgrade at little expense.
The quintessential affordable city break, it’s almost as if Budapest was designed for this exact purpose. And that’s really because Budapest manages to tick all of the boxes of a great city break, not just a cheap one, while also being an undeniably grand destination.
A dream for photographers, it often seems like Budapest doesn’t have a bad angle. Whether it’s looking along the Danube River from a waterfront promenade, standing in awe at the city’s elaborate Parliament building or admiring the cityscape from the Fisherman’s Bastion on Castle Hill, it’s all dazzling. But it’s just as easy to focus on fun and relaxation with a soak in Budapest’s famous thermal baths or a drink at one of the city’s cool ruin bars. With these kinds of sights and activities, you can spend as much or as little you like.
Surely the greatest strength of Budapest as a budget-friendly city break is how easy it is to get there. Budapest has become a hub of sorts for budget airlines coming into central/eastern Europe, meaning cheap flights are rarely hard to find.
About David Johnston:
David is an avid traveler from Australia who has spent the last three years exploring as much of Europe as he can. He has a passion for trying to find the lesser-seen, quieter pockets of the world, fostering a love of photography along the way. From hiking in the outdoors, to exploring medieval towns, his travels have taken him to some fascinating places well off the beaten path. You can follow his travels on his blog Travelsewhere and on Facebook.
All content provided in this blog is supplied by David Johnson and is for informational purposes only. Barclays takes no position as to the views, and makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.
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