Last Updated on: 13th March 2023, 04:10 pm
Europe is a vast continent with tons of amazing places to visit. While some people might think that you have to spend a fortune to enjoy a city break in Europe, that’s not always the case.
As long as travelers are willing to step off the beaten path, there are plenty of affordable places to explore on a budget.
That is why we’ve written this article on the 16 best cheap city breaks in Europe, so you can discover the history and beauty that Europe is known for without breaking the bank!
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Good to Know: This post was written in collaboration with TheTurkeyTraveler, a world-leading blog for all things travel Turkey related.
Stephanie Craig (me, the girl in the sidebar) has edited and added my own tips, so you’re getting two European travel experts for the price of one!
What Are The Best Cheap City Breaks In Europe?
From the Nordics to the Balkans and everything in between, these are the best cheap European city breaks!
With the currency decline of the Turkish Lira, Istanbul has become one of the best city breaks in Europe on a budget. Once considered the center of the universe, this city now offers a unique mix of culture, history, and architecture.
There are many things to do in Istanbul for every type of traveler. Many of the landmarks in Istanbul are religious monuments such as the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, which means that the entrance is completely free.
But don’t be afraid to spend some money, as many paid attractions such as a Turkish Bath and Bosphorus Cruise should be added to your Istanbul itinerary.
Public transportation is affordable and easy to navigate, allowing you to travel around the city easily.
It is also important that you avoid taxis because they are known to scam passengers. And when you are shopping in the souvenir shops in Istanbul, make sure you bargain!
You can find hotels in Istanbul with a pool for less than 100 USD per night for two people, so even luxury can be enjoyed at an affordable rate!
Budapest is the perfect destination for a budget-friendly city break. Located in Central Europe, it’s easy to access from many European cities with low-cost flights and trains.
With its grand architecture, vibrant nightlife, and relaxing thermal baths, there are so many things to experience in Budapest.
The city’s affordable public transport makes it easy to get around and explore all that Budapest has to offer without spending too much.
You can explore the sites that make up the city’s UNESCO site, but there are many things to do beyond this as well!
Budapest highlights include the epic Parliament building, stunning Buda Castle, unique Fisherman’s Bastion, and iconic Chain Bridge.
Not only are food and drinks cheaper in Budapest than in other western European cities, but you’ll also find some delicious local specialties, like goulash or chimney cakes.
When the sun has set, don’t miss the chance to visit one of the many ruin bars in the city! These are bars that were constructed inside abandoned buildings that come with their own unique character and decoration!
The Bulgarian capital of Sofia is the perfect place for a budget city break. The city has so much to offer in the way of culture, history, and entertainment.
From its ancient Roman ruins to its vibrant nightlife, visitors are going to fall in love with the things to do in Sofia.
With a generally low cost of living, visiting Sofia can be very affordable. Accommodation and food are both available at great prices, making it a great option for those on a tight budget.
The city has an excellent public transport system of trams, buses, and metro that are reliable and efficient, meaning you can get around without taking a taxi.
The city is also surrounded by pristine nature and hiking trails that offer stunning views of the cityscape.
But when you are not exploring the outdoors, spend some time in the cultural sites of the city such as St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the National Palace of Culture!
The capital of Romania, Bucharest, is one of the cheapest city breaks in Europe. The majority of the attractions in Bucharest are located in its gorgeous old town, where visitors will find cobblestone streets and historical buildings.
Because of this, visitors typically don’t have to spend much on transportation. But they must get accommodation in the Old Town, otherwise, they would be far from all the tourist places.
When you are in Bucharest, don’t miss the Palace of Parliament, the world’s heaviest building. Make sure to visit the Orthodox churches and explore the city’s many parks. It has amazing nightlife too for those that like to party!
As one of the oldest cities in Poland, Krakow is a city is full of culture, history, and gorgeous architecture.
Most of the attractions in Krakow are situated in Krakow Old Town, which means that visitors can just walk around and save money on public transportation.
Its cobbled streets are lined with beautiful Renaissance buildings and travelers will find a massive town square in the square of the old town.
There are plenty of things to do in Krakow, such as visiting Wawel Castle, exploring St. Mary’s Basilica, and enjoying the nightlife in the district of Kazimierz.
Last but not least, make sure you take a day trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, the biggest concentration camp in World War II. It is one of the most historical places in Europe.
You can pair a trip to Krakow with a weekend in Warsaw if you are looking for a longer vacation!
Vilnius is a beautiful and enchanting city to visit for a cheap European city break. Sitting on the banks of the Neris River, it is one of the oldest cities in Europe and features stunning Baroque architecture.
The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you could easily spend days wandering around its cobbled streets filled with breathtaking churches, galleries, museums, and cafés.
The Gediminas Castle Tower offers spectacular views over the city while Vilnius Cathedral stands as a symbol of Catholic culture in Lithuania.
Being a Baltic city, visitors will find the affordable prices they normally see in Eastern Europe.
Prague might be one of the most expensive cities on our list, but it is certainly affordable in comparison to western European cities such as Rome and Paris.
Travelers can find hostels for as cheap as 10 to 15 USD per night, which is a great value considering the plethora of attractions in Prague.
The city is filled with some of the most iconic landmarks in Europe, such as Prague Castle and Charles Bridge.
In its UNESCO World Heritage Old Town Square, visitors will find the famous Astronomical Clock, the oldest astronomical clock still in operation.
The historic center is also filled with remarkable gothic and baroque architecture, and the city oozes with a unique charm. There are so many great things to do in Prague, you’ll wish you had more than a weekend!
Tourists looking for cheap entertainment should not miss the world-famous ‘black light theatre’ shows!
Skopje is the capital of North Macedonia and perhaps the cheapest place in Europe for a city break.
The city is surprisingly beautiful, with its mix of Ottoman and Byzantine architecture, mosques, churches, and monuments.
The most landmark is the “Man on a Horse” Statue which stands in the main square of Skopje. It is designed to look like Alexander the Great on its horse and its grandeur is undeniable.
Across from the “Man of a Horse” statue, travelers will find the Old Bazaar, a series of streets that has everything Ottoman-related – from shops to restaurants to mosques!
When you are in Skopje, don’t forget to take a day trip to Matka Canyon. It is one of the most beautiful nature spots in Europe and is surrounded by crystal-clear lakes.
Belgrade is an excellent destination for a cheap European city break. As the capital of Serbia, this vibrant city offers plenty of attractions and activities that will keep visitors entertained, no matter their budget.
From the cobbled streets of Stari Grad to the shops of Knez Mihailova Street, Belgrade has something for everyone.
The city’s historical buildings are a must-see. The grandiose Belgrade Fortress stands tall over the Danube river, while the nearby Kalemegdan Park is full of oases of green space and monuments to explore.
For cultural activities, the National Museum or Nikola Tesla Museum are great options for those looking to learn about Serbia’s heritage.
The city is also full of trendy cafes and quirky bars, perfect for those that like their city breaks a little bit more unique!
Gdansk is a beautiful city in the North of Poland. Located in Northern Poland and situated at the mouth of the Motlawa River, it has long been one of Europe’s most important seaports.
The Old Town is the gem of Gdansk, which has been painstakingly rebuilt to its original glory after being heavily damaged during World War II.
There are many historical sights to see here, including St Mary’s Church which was completed in 1502 and is one of the largest brick churches in the world.
You can take a boat ride on to explore Westerplatte and the area of Gdansk bay. This is where the first shots of WW2 were fired and the historical site is well worth a visit.
Apart from a beautiful Old Town and plenty of history, Gdansk is also a beach destination. It is situated a short ride from Sopot, where travelers can swim in the Baltic Sea. It is quite a popular summer destination for the Poles!
Riga is one of the most diverse cities in Europe. Not only is it affordable to visit, but the city has plenty of culture and nature all at a price that won’t break the bank.
The Old Town is one of Riga’s greatest gems, with its iconic churches and cobbled streets lined with beautiful Art Nouveau buildings.
The abundance of museums scattered throughout the city provides plenty of opportunities to explore the rich culture and heritage of Latvia’s capital.
Beyond the city center, there are tons of outdoor activities to be enjoyed, from kayaking in the Daugava River to visiting one of Riga’s many parks.
Day trips from Riga are also common and can provide even more unique experiences like exploring the Gauja National Park or venturing out to some of Latvia’s stunning coastline.
Kotor is one of the most popular destinations in Montenegro, and for good reason. This beautiful, historic city boasts a stunning mix of historical architecture, culture, and nature.
The old town is a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets, dotted with quaint shops, cafes, and restaurants that offer a variety of local dishes and drinks.
Venture out of the Old Town and you’ll find a city in complete harmony with nature. The city of Kotor is built around the Bay of Kotor, where visitors can swim in its refreshing waters or admire the towering mountains in the distance.
Outdoor lovers can also take advantage of the many hiking trails in the region. The most famous one is the Old Kotor Fort. It takes you over the Old Town of Kotor and gives you panoramic views of the town and the surrounding landscape!
Tirana, the capital of Albania, is an ideal destination for a cheap city break.
Although it is one of Europe’s smallest capital cities, Tirana offers a wide range of cultural and historical attractions that make it a great place to visit.
The city has an interesting past, and visitors can bits of its past through the Ottoman Fascist- and Soviet-era architecture.
If you want to learn more about the history of Tirana, take a tour of the city’s many museums, such as the National History Museum and the Ethnographic Museum.
But perhaps what Tirana is most known for is its nightlife. The city is home to several lively nightclubs, bars, and restaurants that stay open late.
Locals in Albania are also super friendly and are not afraid to mingle with foreigners! So if you are looking for a city break in Europe for partying, then head to Tirana!
The capital of Slovakia, Bratislava, is an incredibly beautiful city, full of stunning architecture and lush green parks.
The Old Town district is the city’s most famous attraction, with its cobbled streets and iconic Bratislava Castle looming above. The views from the castle are simply stunning and should not be missed.
After visiting the castle, spend some time exploring Bratislava’s Old Town. The main square of Hlavne Namestie is a great place to start, where you can admire the city’s many churches and historical buildings that line the street.
For those that are traveling on a budget, taking a stroll along the Danube River and admiring its stunning views is a great activity. The city also has plenty of beautiful parks that are completely free!
If you don’t have time for a full city break in Bratislava, you can also visit Bratislava as a day trip from Vienna or Budapest!
Plovdiv is one of the best-hidden gems in Europe and it is the perfect destination for a cheap city break! The city is full of ancient history, culture, and beautiful architecture.
It is Bulgaria’s second-biggest city and is known as one of the oldest cities in Europe. Start with exploring its historical center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which abounds with Roman ruins and cobblestone streets lined with traditional red-tiled roofed houses.
Visitors must not miss the Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis, an ancient Roman amphitheater that has been restored. If you are lucky, you can even participate in one of the events held there!
The capital of Poland, Warsaw, is an affordable city break destination with plenty to see and do for travelers on a budget.
With its unique combination of historical sites, modern attractions, and vibrant nightlife, it’s the perfect place to spend a few days.
The city’s old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to dozens of historic churches, museums, and monuments that offer insight into the city’s turbulent past.
The city was nearly destroyed in World War II, but visitors would not be able to tell from walking around the old town, which has been beautifully renovated.
Visiting the museums in Warsaw is a must. They include the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which tells an important story about this tragic chapter in history.
The Warsaw Uprising Museum is also quite an interesting one as it details an important event in World War II.
Warsaw also has a lively nightlife scene, with plenty of bars and clubs to explore. And when you want to detox from a bad hangover, head down to one of the city’s many parks.
The Łazienki Park is a beautiful green oasis in the middle of Warsaw and worth visiting!
For a full breakdown of how to plan a Warsaw city break, read my guide to two days in Warsaw.
Conclusion: The Best Cheap City Breaks In Europe
From historical cities to places that are more about fun, there are places of cheap city breaks in Europe for you.
So whether you are looking for a laid-back weekend or an adventure-filled one, there will be something that caters to your needs and budget.
So pick one of these cities and start planning the ultimate city break!