Best Cheap European Vacations
Travel to Europe can be expensive, but if you avoid tourist hot spots like London and Paris, and get creative, you'll be able to dodge high price tags and snag some deals. U.S. News considered average hotel prices, flight deals, available vacation packages, affordable attractions and overall accessibility – plus user votes – to rank the best destinations in Europe for budget travelers. Help us determine next year's ranking by casting your vote below.
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This cheap destination is getting increasingly popular as the years go by, so make sure to visit while it's still affordable. Right now, you can take the train to Porto from Lisbon for as little as $62 round trip. Once you arrive, you'll be delighted to learn that several top attractions here, such as the Dom Luís I Bridge, Porto Cathedral and Crystal Palace Gardens, are free to visit. And if you're seeking out a wine tour, Port Wine Tastings & Tours offers tastings for as little as $14.
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Apart from the flight here, you won't have to dish out too much dough to experience Prague. Many of the city's most popular attractions are free to visit, including the Old Town Square, Charles Bridge, Prague Castle and Petrin Hill. You can also find five-star hotels for less than $250 per night here, plus plenty of solid three- and four-star accommodations for even cheaper. What's more, the city is known as one of the cheapest places in Europe to drink, with wine and beer at many bars averaging less than 2 euros per glass.
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Compared to Barcelona, Valencia not only has better beaches but fewer crowds and is, comparatively, a lot more affordable. The city offers a diverse range of free things to do, including relaxing on its beaches, wandering through Plaza Ayuntamiento, exploring the Cathedral and shopping at Mercado Central, one of the oldest food markets in Europe. Plus, if you time your trip right and want to visit a few Spanish cities, you can often find flights and train routes from Barcelona or Madrid to Valencia for less than $100 round trip.
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Brussels is a great cheap vacation option if you're already in Europe: Numerous affordable flights operate between the city and destinations like London and Rome, plus the train is another cheap option from cities like Paris and Amsterdam. Once you arrive at the train station, walk to the center of town where you'll find that most of Brussels attractions, including Mannekin Pis and the Grand-Place, are free to visit. If you start to feel peckish, hit up the cheap food stalls that line the center of town, which serve Belgian specialties like fries and waffles for next to nothing.
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Hungary's capital is a slam dunk for bargain travelers in more ways than one. Several of Budapest's top attractions are free to visit, and you can expect dining to be affordable, with coffee and drinks averaging around $2 a pop and multicourse meals, including a bottle of wine, averaging around $28 per person. Additionally, you can find some great deals at the city's best hotels year-round (think: less than $200 per night for rooms at five-star properties).
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Compared to other western European capitals, Lisbon is one of the cheaper destinations to visit. You can find five-star accommodations for less than $250 per night (plus even more affordable vacation rentals and three- and four-star lodging), and most of Lisbon's top attractions are free to visit or require modest admission fees. And getting around is cheap, too. A day pass, which covers unlimited rides on the metro, trams, buses and elevators, including the famous Tram 28 and the Santa Justa Elevator, is about $7.
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If you're a foodie on a budget, Athens should be at the top of your European itinerary. Here, you can find delicious meals of Greek salad, fresh seafood and small plates for cheap. This will leave plenty of room in your budget for accommodations, which you can find for less than $200 per night at select four- and five-star hotels. Plus, with all of the city's major attractions less than a mile from one another, you'll save loads on public transportation and rideshares just by walking.
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Thanks to a favorable exchange rate, Istanbul is incredibly affordable for Western visitors. Entrance to important religious sites, such as the Blue Mosque and Süleymaniye Mosque, are free, while admission to other popular attractions, including the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace Museum, costs less than $15 combined. And with meals averaging between 30 and 150 Turkish lira (about $5 to $30), you have plenty of room to splurge on souvenirs or your hotel.
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If you book your flight and hotel well in advance, you can make an affordable trip to Russia possible. Once there, the exchange rate is extremely favorable, so your dollars will go far on your visit. Entrance to top attractions won't break the bank: The world-famous Hermitage Museum costs about $12 for admission and the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood costs around $10 to enter. Plus, getting around the city is less than a dollar on the metro, no matter how far you travel.
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Like Prague, Berlin is a cheap place to drink – so much so that you may find a beer costs less than a cup of coffee. In between soaking up the local culture at night, visit some of Germany's most important historical and cultural attractions for free, including the East Side Gallery, the Brandenburg Gate and the Topography of Terror. And with Berlin's extensive public transportation system, you can snag a hotel farther outside the city center for considerably less and use the easy underground rail system to access all of Berlin.
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If you time your trip right, Munich can be an affordable destination. Visit outside of Oktoberfest or the peak summer travel time, and you'll be more likely to score deals on hotels and flights. While partying will definitely cost you a pretty penny, know that the majority of Munich's daytime activities are free, including strolling through the English Garden, visiting the Church of Our Lady and relaxing in Marienplatz. Keep in mind, certain biergartens let you bring your own picnic, allowing you to save money on dining costs.
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Despite being one of the largest cities in Spain, Seville is quite affordable. Here, you can find five-star accommodations for less than $200 per night, and entrance fees to top attractions, such as the Real Alcázar, the Catedral de Sevilla and the Museo de Bellas Artes are downright cheap: You can visit all three for less than $30. And since Seville is so walkable, you'll seldom find yourself needing to use public transportation.
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Granada is not as easy to get to as other destinations on this list, but its affordability and beauty will be more than worth the journey. With the exception of the Alhambra, the city's top sights are free to visit and enjoy. Most of those attractions, including the beautiful Albaicín neighborhood and the Plaza de San Nicolas, are within walking distance of one another. And if you do need to hop on the bus, know that a one-way ticket is about $2. Plus, unlike other destinations in Spain, tapas here are often free when you order a drink.
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Travelers to Spain's capital will find their day-to-day costs considerably low thanks to Madrid's many free things to do. Hot spots like Sol, Plaza Mayor, Plaza Cibeles and Retiro Park, which measures 300 acres and features gardens and playgrounds, are all free to experience. Plus, the city's famous museums, including the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofia, are free to visit on specific weekdays during certain hours. What's more, most attractions are within a mile radius, so you won't need to hop on the metro as much as you think.
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Admiring the landscape on this Greek island is enough to keep travelers busy for days at no extra expense. Flights from Athens are only an hour and, depending on when you travel, can cost less than $150. Hotel prices are affordable as well. You can find deals on four- and five-star properties for less than $150 per night, as well as car rentals for as little as $20 per day.
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Skopelos#16 in Best Cheap European Vacations
The most you'll be spending in Skopelos is on your transportation to get there. The island does not have an airport, so getting to Skopelos requires flying to a different Greek island, then taking a ferry. However, once you arrive, you'll find everything else (from food to lodging) is relatively inexpensive. Plus, the majority of the island's attractions are its natural wonders – from beautiful beaches to green forests – so you will save a ton on entertainment costs.
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France's revered wine country can be doable on a budget, as long as you're willing to get crafty in your planning. The trick? Use trains or buses to travel between destinations and avoid visiting in the summer when the rest of Europe does. Start your trip in Dijon, Burgundy's capital, then head to Beaune, located right next to the Côte d'Or vineyards. If you like the outdoors, don't miss Morvan National Park.
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Scotland's biggest city is much cheaper to visit than its popular capital, Edinburgh. Here, you can easily find hotel rooms at four- and five-star properties for less than $150 a night. Another bonus: Numerous top sights are free to visit. You can spend a day touring important cultural attractions like the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum for free in the morning, then have a picnic in one of the city's parks, such as Pollok Country Park or Kelvingrove Park, in the afternoon.
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Siena#19 in Best Cheap European Vacations
While everybody is off visiting hot spots like Rome, Venice or Florence, you and your wallet can rest easy in Siena. To save money, visit in the fall or spring, take public transportation (tours in Tuscany can cost an exorbitant amount of money) and stay in town as opposed to in the country. Bed-and-breakfasts are often affordable (and charming) accommodation options in the city.
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Bruges is an excellent place to visit if you're already in Belgium. From Brussels, you can catch the train for less than $40 round trip. Bruges is famous for its striking good looks, and travelers can enjoy visiting the city's parks, plazas, neighborhoods and select churches for free. With all of the money you'll be saving, you can likely splurge on a luxury hotel, but even four-star properties in Bruges can cost less than $200 a night.
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Bordeaux#21 in Best Cheap European Vacations
One of France's most popular wine hubs can definitely be done on a budget. From Paris, you can find flights to Bordeaux for less than $100 if you plan accordingly. Since hotels here tend to be on the expensive side, consider a vacation rental to save some coin. And rather than purchasing wine by the glass in restaurants, buy a bottle and meal materials at a grocery store, then have a relaxing picnic alfresco in the beautiful Jardin Public park.
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