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Budget travel

Best budget European city break destinations: Value hot spots for your bucket list

Explore the wonders of the Continent in cost-effective style at one of these affordable locations

Saturday 02 March 2024 20:09
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<p>Izmir Town makes for the perfect summer city break</p>

Izmir Town makes for the perfect summer city break

With 44 countries to choose, our European neighbours offer endless city break possibilities, from classic capitals to smaller, lesser-known destinations. And, in amongst them, there are plenty of affordable options where accommodation, transport and activities don’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

As Britain tightens its collective belt amid a spike in living costs, many travellers are looking to save on their next trip. Tourists after a quick escape from everyday life without breaking the bank can look across the Channel for inspiration, with a two or three night urban escape.

Here’s our pick of budget-friendly, bucket-list city break destinations in Europe to consider visiting this year.

Izmir, Turkey

Izmir’s Aegean coast

Turkey’s third largest city, Izmir, is a Mediterranean port on the west coast of Anatolia boasting beaches, markets and ancient ruins – including the Unesco World Heritage site of Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis, once considered one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. Yet the lesser-known cousin of Istanbul has escaped tourist trap prices to remain affordable. It’s formed of quaint fishing villages, one of which, Birgi, was named in the world’s best villages list by The United Nations World Tourism Organisation in 2022.

Where to stay

The central Helen Inn Hotel is in a great location for access to the city centre, Izmir clock tower and Ataturk Museum, as well as including free Wi-Fi and clean, modern interiors.

Krakow, Poland

Krakow’s bustling Old Town

Poland’s second oldest city makes for a great-value few days away. In the market square and surrounding roads, street food and beers can still be purchased for only a few pounds. Top attractions such as St Mary’s Basilica, Wieliczka Salt Mine and The Cloth Hall are also super cheap or even free to visit.

Where to stay

Vienna House Easy by Wyndham Cracow is a cosy, functional three-star located within walking distance of Krakow market square and Kraków Główny Railway Station.

Read more on Europe travel:

Bucharest, Romania

Bucharest Old Town looks radiant in the sun

Bucharest, the capital and cultural hub of Romania, offers tourists not only cheap, direct flights, but bargain accommodation for far less than the likes of Paris and Rome. Notable highlights include the Palace of the Parliament government building, an iconic landmark of the communist era. Much of Romania’s traditional foods, such as ciorba de burta and sarmale, are locally produced, keeping costs down.

Where to stay

Budget Hello Hotels offers a city-view roof terrace and bar just a three-minute walk from the Gara de Nord train station.

Sofia, Bulgaria

Travel by tram through Sofia

The capital city of Bulgaria, Sofia, built atop Roman ruins and overlooked by Vitosha mountain, is a versatile destination with a variety of hot springs, ancient art and museums. Voted joint cheapest European holiday destination in the Post Office’s Holiday Money Report 2022, expect to spend no more than £10 on several glasses of famously cheap Bulgarian wine to participate in the equally lively nightlife.

Where to stay

The boutique hotel Andesite Residence, offers bold, baroque doubles in the Vitosha region, perfect for hiking, skiing and cycling with views over Sofia.

Athens, Greece

The ancient Acropolis of Athens

The Greek capital makes for a surprisingly affordable few days away. In stark contrast to the islands of Mykonos and Santorini where a “beach snack” has been known to go for £500, Athens has a rich history which you can explore with a €2 gyros in hand. Most budget hotels have views of the Acropolis from rooftop terraces and bars, meaning you aren’t losing out on experiencing Greek mythology first-hand by spending less on accommodation.

Where to stay

Hotel Solomou in the centre of Athens, mere walking distance from the Acropolis and Omonia Square, offers stunning terrace views of Lycabettus Hill and double rooms for those on a budget at just £33.

Lisbon, Portugal

Lovely views over the Alfama District of Lisbon

Penny-save in Portugal’s coastal capital by travelling by tram or walking the hilly terrain on the hunt for budget local eats and drinks. In the right taverna, a pint will only set you back one to two pounds.

Where to stay

Save by staying down the coast rather than in the city itself; Oeiras is a 30-minute trainride away. Traditional INATEL Oeiras includes a continental buffet breakfast and pool access in the room price.

Prague, Czech Republic

Vltava River, Prague

Known for its Old Town Square, medieval gothic buildings and having hosted famous composers such as Mozart, Prague promises a culturally rich trip on a budget. Even with flights and accommodation, it’s easy to find a weekend break the baroque Czech city for under £250pp when travelling outside peak season. Prague City Pass and CoolPass also bag you discounted admission to attractions such as Prague Castle.

Where to stay

Four-star Don Giovanni Hotel Prague, an elegant budget hotel, hosts daily piano concerts and welcome drinks for a taste of affordable luxury.

Toledo, Spain

Toledo Cathedral, Spain

The old capital of the Spanish Empire, Toledo, is a walled ancient city in central Spain known for its religious monuments, Unesco World Heritage historic quarter, fortresses and cathedrals. Explore the winding streets on foot to try local speciality sopa de ajo or ‘garlic soup’, and spend a fraction of the money you’d shell out on a trip to Barcelona.

Where to stay

Hotel Carlos V sits on the doorstep of Toledo’s cathedral and the Alcázar Fortress. Rooms boast views of the World Heritage quarter.

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