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9 Bucket-List European Destinations You Can Afford

Plan a once-in-a-lifetime trip in these bargain-friendly destinations across the continent.

U.S. News & World Report

9 Bucket-List European Destinations You Can Afford

Men looking at map along Seine River, Paris, France
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Stretch your dollars further in these wallet-friendly European destinations.

Iconic cultural and historic attractions, Old World charm, eye-catching art and architecture, mouthwatering cuisine – Europe offers something for everyone. And you can plan the trip of a lifetime without pinching pennies. Whether you want to discover underrated gems and thriving culinary and art scenes or cross one-of-a-kind landmarks off your list, thanks to favorable exchange rates, it's easy to explore Europe's heavy hitters on a budget – without cutting corners. Plus, with growing competition among low-cost carriers driving down airfares, it's easy to snap up a deal, says Clem Bason, CEO of booking site goSeek. Here are 10 postcard-worthy places to visit on a tight budget.
Portas do Sol in Lisbon, Portugal.
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(Getty Images)

Lisbon, Portugal

Before you set your sights on Paris or London, consider heading to Portugal's capital, where you'll find budget-friendly hotels, cultural gems like St. George's Castle and beautiful backdrops along the city's seven rolling hills. The city also boasts elaborate architecture, ornate ceramic tiles and storied churches – make sure to check out the Monastery of St. Jerome, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Belém district. It's also a cost-effective vacation destination for wandering gourmands, with specialty dishes like pasteis de nata (a custard tart). Best of all, it's easy to land a flight deal. Google Flights currently shows round-trip flights from New York City and Boston airports for under $550 in May.
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Stretch your dollars further in these wallet-friendly European destinations.

Iconic cultural and historic attractions, Old World charm, eye-catching art and architecture, mouthwatering cuisine – Europe offers something for everyone. And you can plan the trip of a lifetime without pinching pennies. Whether you want to discover underrated gems and thriving culinary and art scenes or cross one-of-a-kind landmarks off your list, thanks to favorable exchange rates, it's easy to explore Europe's heavy hitters on a budget – without cutting corners. Plus, with growing competition among low-cost carriers driving down airfares, it's easy to snap up a deal, says Clem Bason, CEO of booking site goSeek. Here are 10 postcard-worthy places to visit on a tight budget.

Lisbon, Portugal

Before you set your sights on Paris or London, consider heading to Portugal's capital, where you'll find budget-friendly hotels, cultural gems like St. George's Castle and beautiful backdrops along the city's seven rolling hills. The city also boasts elaborate architecture, ornate ceramic tiles and storied churches – make sure to check out the Monastery of St. Jerome, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Belém district. It's also a cost-effective vacation destination for wandering gourmands, with specialty dishes like pasteis de nata (a custard tart). Best of all, it's easy to land a flight deal. Google Flights currently shows round-trip flights from New York City and Boston airports for under $550 in May.

Barcelona, Spain

If you want to follow Antoni Gaudí's footsteps and admire famous architectural gems, such as the Sagrada Família, Park Güell and Casa Batlló or enjoy flourishing food, art and cultural scenes, it's easy to plan a cost-effective trip to this Catalan capital. Aside from must-see attractions (hat tip: the Picasso Museum and the Boqueria), four-star accommodations are available for less than $85 a night in the spring and summer, Bason says. Plus, affordable flights are also easy to come by. Google Flights currently shows round-trip journeys from major New York City airports starting at under $450 in May and round-trip flights from Los Angeles hubs under $600 for the same time period.

Rome

The Eternal City is awash with free historical landmarks and monuments (think: the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain), putting must-see attractions within easy reach. Beyond storied sights, cutting-edge trattorias (tavern-style restaurants) abound, from Piazza Navona to the Testaccio neighborhood. You can easily slash costs by buying a Roma Pass for discounted rates to top museums and free transportation. Plus, you can stay at a five-star hotel for under $115 a night, Bason says. What's more, it's easy to book an affordable flight. Google Flights lists round-trip tickets from top New York City airports for under $500 in May and flights from Chicago hubs for less than $750 in June.

Budapest, Hungary

If you're itching to plan a high-culture break on a low budget, Budapest might just be the underrated capital for you. "If you love the arts and history, go there," Bason says, noting that high-end hotels are inexpensive in spring and summer, with four-star options available for under $50 a night. In Budapest, you'll find free cultural attractions, such as Castle Hill and Heroes' Square, along with a striking blend of Ottoman, Roman, neo-Gothic and Renaissance architecture and more than 100 thermal baths. Plus, getting to Budapest is a breeze. Google Flights currently lists round-trip treks from New York City and Los Angeles airports for under $600 in May.

Dublin

Dublin is a top wallet-friendly destination, with lower flight prices year over year, says David Solomito, vice president of North American marketing at Kayak.com. He suggests planning a trip in October, when flight prices drop significantly, to get the biggest bang for your buck, pointing out that you can enjoy plenty of cost-effective attractions, hotels and dining options once you arrive. St. Stephen's Green, the National Botanic Gardens and the National Gallery are just a few free musts to check off your list, along with the pedestrian-friendly Grafton Street, where you'll find street performers and authentic souvenirs, such as handmade scarves and throws.

Reykjavik, Iceland

"From the northern lights to the Blue Lagoon, this is a destination for those seeking adventure," Solomito says. Home to awe-inspiring landscapes, punctuated by dramatic waterfalls and impressive fjords, and an abundance of geothermal spas, Iceland's capital appeals to active types with a zest for excitement. When you're not taking in the captivating views along the 190-mile-long Golden Circle Route, take a daytrip to Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to enjoy striking vistas of the aurora borealis. Best of all, thanks to aggressive pricing from low-cost carriers, Iceland is easy to reach on a budget. Google Flights currently shows round-trip flights from Boston starting at $360 in May.

Copenhagen, Denmark

With attention-grabbing midcentury modern architecture, trendy cafes and emerging culinary enclaves, the Danish capital is the perfect place to get your culture fix without paying a high price tag. The ultimate destination for foodies – Noma has been recognized as the world's best restaurant – the city entices visitors with scrumptious delicacies available at the Torvehallerne gourmet market. Other attractions abound, from the iconic Little Mermaid statue to the National Museum of Denmark, which features everything from Egyptian mummies to objects from pre-Danish history. What's more, Copenhagen offers rock-bottom airfares thanks to Norwegian Air, and four-star hotel rooms are available for as low as $90 per night, Bason adds.

Prague

With its storybook setting, Prague lures travelers thanks to its celebrated architecture, verdant gardens and parks and impressive cafe culture that rivals other world-class cities across the continent, Bason says. You can't skip meandering along the charming Charles Bridge, visiting Prague Castle or admiring the Old Town Square. An added bonus: You can stay at a four-star hotel for less than $50 a night, plus inexpensive flights are easy to come by, Bason says. Currently, Google Flights shows round-trip tickets from Los Angeles International Airport for under $600 in May.

Berlin

For an unforgettable trip filled with plenty of culture, historical and natural treasures, plan your getaway to Berlin. UNESCO World Heritage-recognized architectural gems at Museum Island and the modern East Side Art Gallery's world-renowned murals like the "Fraternal Kiss" are sure to appeal to art aficionados, while the tranquil 543-acre Tiergarten park is a hit with budget-conscious families. Trendsetters will also want to explore the Marheinekeplatz market in the fashionable Kreuzberg neighborhood before making their way to iconic sites, like Brandenburg Gate. Best of all, you can easily secure budget-friendly accommodations for around $130 a night, and it's easy to snag flight deals with Norwegian Air, Bason adds.
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