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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 cheap European vacations. Help us determine next year's ranking by casting your vote below. And for additional ways to save money, check out these European cruise deals. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)
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This cheap Portuguese destination is getting increasingly popular, so make sure to visit while it's still affordable. Right now, you can take the train one way from Porto to Lisbon for as little as $30 one way. Once you arrive in Porto, you'll be delighted to learn that several top attractions here, such as the Dom Luís I Bridge, the Porto Cathedral and the Crystal Palace Gardens, are free to visit. And if you're seeking out a wine tour, a spot in City Lovers Tours' Wine Tour Porto excursion costs less than $35.
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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 Old Town Square, the Charles Bridge 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 (about $2.25) per drink.
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Tallinn#3 in Best Cheap European Vacations
Overlooking the Baltic Sea, Tallinn draws travelers to Estonia with its charming atmosphere and historical attractions. Start by walking through the capital's Old Town, which is webbed with cobblestone streets, old-world buildings and all kinds of medieval delights. Then, explore the city's eclectic museums, which cover everything from maritime history to the KGB. Look into purchasing a Tallinn Card if you plan on visiting multiple museums. The cards vary in duration and price – the longest option for 72 hours costs about $60 – and include access to museums and public transportation, plus discounts for tours, shops and restaurants.
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Compared to Barcelona, Valencia not only has equally beautiful 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 del Ayuntamiento, exploring the Valencia Cathedral and shopping at Mercado Central, the crown jewel of one of the oldest food market areas 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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Zagreb#5 in Best Cheap European Vacations
Zagreb, Croatia, proves a compelling, cheap destination because most of its top attractions are accessible and enjoyable on foot. In fact, you'll only have to walk about a half-mile to visit the Cathedral of Zagreb, the Lotrscak Tower and the Stone Gate, three of the city's premier attractions. For affordable food, head to Dolac Market, a massive market in the city center. If you enjoy checking out quirky attractions, leave time for the Museum of Broken Relationships, which pays tribute to and catalogs break-ups from around the world. The museum's entrance fee only costs about $6.
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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. You can also 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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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. These savings 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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Spring and fall are the most cost-effective times to visit Galway, as you'll avoid summer crowds and winter weather. Free cultural attractions abound in this small Irish city, so you can check out must-visit sights like St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church and Galway City Museum without spending a dime. But a trip to Galway would be incomplete without exploring its surrounding natural wonders. While access to Connemara National Park is free, you'll need to fork over a few euros to get to the Aran Islands or access the Cliffs of Moher.
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Siena#9 in Best Cheap European Vacations
While everybody is off visiting Italian hot spots like Rome, Venice or Florence, you and your wallet can rest easy in Siena. To save money, visit in 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. The stunning Piazza del Campo is free to visit, and climbing to the top of the Torre del Mangia only costs 10 euros (about $11) per person. Bed-and-breakfast accommodations are often affordable (and charming) lodging options in the city.
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Compared to other western European capitals, Lisbon, Portugal, is one of the region's 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 Tram 28 and the Santa Justa Elevator, is about $7.
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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. Plus, 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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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, is free. Meanwhile, admission to other popular attractions, including the Hagia Sophia Museum and the Topkapi Palace Museum, costs less than $30 combined. And with meals averaging between 30 and 150 Turkish lira (about $5 to $22), you have plenty of room to splurge on souvenirs or your hotel.
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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 affordable 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 Manneken-Pis and the Grand-Place, are free to visit. If you start to feel peckish, hit up the cheap food stalls, which serve Belgian specialties like fries and waffles for next to nothing, that line the city center.
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While you can certainly spend a small fortune experiencing Vienna's opulent cultural offerings, a trip to the Austrian city doesn't have to break the bank. Summer visits mean warm weather but also extravagant prices, while winter brings Christmas tourists and chilly temps, making spring and fall ideal times to visit. Use your budget to peruse the city's world-class museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts and the House of Music, where entrance fees are less than $20 per person. Free attractions include stunning St. Stephen's Cathedral (some areas cost extra to explore) and Naschmarkt, a sprawling open-air market.
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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. Other than 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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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 $5 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 that a pint of 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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Bucharest#18 in Best Cheap European Vacations
In comparison to other European cities, Bucharest provides an affordable destination for food and history lovers alike. Be sure to stop by a beer garden to feast on reasonably priced Romanian dishes like sarmale (cabbage rolls) while throwing back a few drinks. Also check out the Palace of Parliament, which holds the title of being the world's second-largest administrative building. Indoor tours of the property start at about $10. Because Bucharest remains a relatively under-the-radar destination, crowds aren't a significant issue, so plan on visiting in spring or fall when the weather is most idyllic.
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Admiring the landscape on this Greek island is enough to keep travelers busy for days at no extra expense. If you do find yourself getting tired of sunbathing, check out some of the island's religious sites, including Paleokastritsa Monastery and the Church of Saint Spyridon. Both are free to visit. 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.
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Scotland's largest 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 morning touring important cultural attractions like the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum for free, 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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Malmo#21 in Best Cheap European Vacations
The first thing you should do in Malmo is eat some falafel, which you can pick up for about $3. After feasting on this cheap, tasty dish – which has become a part of the Swedish city's identity – spend a day wandering the cobblestone streets of Malmo's Old Town, including the city's oldest and largest square: Stortorget. Alternatively, head to historic Folkets Park, where you'll find an amusement park and expansive green spaces. Malmo sits across a strait (accessible via the striking Øresund Bridge) from Denmark's capital, Copenhagen, providing a more cost-effective way to visit another top vacation destination.
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