I like to start planning my travels at least six months or even a year ahead. Summer months are considered as high season in most of the countries, especially in Europe. Therefore, plan at least a year ahead to make your vacation as budget-friendly as possible is very important. And to give you lots of options for your cheap European holidays, I collaborated with my fellow travel bloggers.
Cheap European Holidays in Eastern Europe
Albania – Travels of a Bookpacker
Albania is the perfect budget-friendly summer destination due to its cheap prices, stunning beaches and free and affordable activities. Food and accommodation are very affordable in Albania. There is cheap public transport as well as car hire; h
Some of the best things to do in Albania are free including the white sand or pebble beaches lining the coastline along the Adriatic.
Crystal clear waters stretch out before you; and if you do a bit of exploring you can find beaches all to yourself. There are accommodation options for every budget from beachfront hotels to amazing spots for wild camping.
For those with a love of adventure, Albania offers amazing hiking in the north of the country known as the Albanian Alps. Hiking between small villages you can discover clear waterfalls, pool, and stunning mountain views. In the south, you can find ‘The Blue Eye’ an impossibly clear deep water spring and a canyon filled with natural thermal pool.
And if you’re not already sold on Albania there are also quirky cities and UNESCO Heritage old towns to explore. The capital, Tirana, offers all kinds of historical, arty, and cultural things to do all surrounded by great cafes and restaurants.
Berat and Gjirokaster are both gorgeous old towns worth a stop off. Have a dreamy wander along their cobblestone streets. €25 per day would easily cover travels in Albania.
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Ukraine is another off the beaten destination for many travelers no matter the season. With its vast array of landscapes and attractions, the country can easily satisfy the needs of any traveler.
The port city of Odessa is the ‘pearl of the Black Sea’. Here, you can enjoy sandy beaches and clear blue waters; admire the Art Nouveau and Baroque architecture and try their pelmeni or vareniki, the traditional dumplings.
For those of you who love exploring cities and don’t care much about the beaches, Lviv is a perfect alternative. It boasts with a friendly atmosphere, colorful buildings, bustling dining scene, and plenty of things to do for free.
Similar to Ukraine, Georgia is a country full of different landscape offering a wide array of activities to its visitors. Whether you are a city person, a hiker, or love spending your day at the beach, Georgia has it all.
Still considered as off the beaten path for many travelers, Georgia is a combination of gorgeous mountain views, tasty food, and historic sites.
Tbilisi, the capital, is a bustling city full of old and new architecture. Here, you can do plenty of things for free or spending around $20 per day on attractions, museums, and food.
Moreover, the accommodation venues are quite budget friendly as well. There are plenty of charming Airbnb’s for less than $25 per night (get $25 discount coupon on your first booking).
Cluj-Napoca, Romania – LooknWalk
Cluj-Napoca is the capital of Transylvania, Romania, and one of the most visited cities in the country. Served by an airport, a train station, and bus station, Cluj-Napoca is super easy to get to. Should you prefer to drive, you won’t have problems reaching it, either.
Romania, in general, is (still) considered an affordable country to visit and Cluj-Napoca makes no exception. Affordable accommodation is plentiful but does book in advance especially if you plan your trip for early August. The month kicks in with a popular music festival (Untold), followed by a Tango festival (Tango Casino).
There are a lot of free things to do in Cluj-Napoca which will keep you busy for a good while. Also, if you have your eyes on visiting the Botanical Garden, you may want to check when it’s free to visit (many Sundays would fall into this category).
My favorite thing to do is stroll in Central Park and then climb to the top of Fortress Hill for some amazing views of the city.
If you love nature, just pack your daypack and make your way to Gilau (there are public buses for less than 2 USD one way) and then hike to the Gilau lakes.
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It’s a bit of a debatable subject weather Croatia is a budget-friendly destination or not. I think it depends on where you are traveling from and what’s the exchange rate of the Euro to your local currency.
But this put aside, it’s a gorgeous summer destination to travel to. The country boasts with crystal clear waters, jaw-dropping sunsets, finger-licking seafood, and beautiful architecture.
July and August are the most touristic months with hundreds of visitors flocking famous Dubrovnik and its nearby islands. Prices do increase during this months and the accommodation is limited, so book as early as possible. However, don’t let this ruin your plans of visiting this amazing country. Try to avoid super popular cities if you are keen on spending your summer vacation here.
The accommodation is expensive in those popular islands such as Hvar, Korcula, Brac, and in Dubrovnik. Croatia has more than 100 islands, and instead of visiting Dalmatia, explore Istria region in summer.
The coastal and a bit less known city of Zadar could be a great alternative. Here, you can do plenty of things for free, including listening to the Sea Organ and watching one of the most stunning sunsets.
Istria Region, Croatia – Why Not? Travel Blog
The Istria region in Croatia is another interesting destination for a summer holiday with a low budget. But all depends on how you’re planning your vacation. The most touristic cities here are more expensive and you could pay more for accommodation. The best choice to save money while not renounce to the beautiful beaches is the pretty city of Pola.
This is one of the main city in Istria. Here, you can find cheap apartments to stay and good connections to each attraction of the surrounding area. You’ll be in front of the Brioni National Park, amazing wild islands where you can enjoy nature. But not only, but Rovinj, Porec and all hinterland with lavender fields are also reachable in less than one hour.
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Hungary’s capital is another great destination for budget-friendly summer vacation. The important sights are in Buda and Pest sides of the city. You can embark on a walk and save money on public transportation.
The city offers various interesting landmarks and activities for you to see and do for free. Explore the famous ruin bars, enjoy panoramic views from the Fisherman’s Bastion,
Kefalonia, Greece – W
anderlust Crew Family Travel
If you’re looking for an incredible budget-friendly holiday destination in Europe this summer, there can be a no better choice than Kefalonia, Greece, located in the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Ionian sea on the western coast.
It might be one of the best-hidden gems in Europe, not only because it is spectacularly beautiful, but also because it is so affordable!
Kefalonia is a fantastic way to see Greece and experience the culture without breaking the bank. Getting to Kefalonia is very inexpensive from London. You can catch a flight on Ryan Air for under 20 Euros. Rental cars are affordable and you can stay in an apartment rental for as little as 35 Euros a night! Food is also reasonably priced.
The weather in Kefalonia during the summer is warm, but the ocean is abundant and stunning beaches lie before you at every turn. You can wander the old fishing town of Fiskardo and eat the best seafood of your life, hike up St. George Castle, explore the peninsula of Asos, take a ferry to the main town of Lixouri, or just enjoy the incredible beaches. There is no shortage of nearly-free things to do on Kefalonia.
Our favorite stop on the island was Mellisani Cave, a breathtaking underground lake and cave with the most luminous water you have ever seen.
You can purchase tickets and ride a boat to explore the lake and cave.
Kefalonia is really one of the best little Greek secrets and makes for a fantastic summer getaway if you’re on a budget.
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Black Sea Coast, Bulgaria – Travelnuity
The Mediterranean isn’t the only stretch of sea to keep in mind for a summer break, there’s also the long shoreline of the Black Sea. One of the best sections to visit is along the coast of Bulgaria, including the cities of Varna and Burgas. I stayed for awhile in Varna in early September last year, in one of the cheapest but most comfortable Airbnb apartments I’ve stayed in. Availability and price is not an issue here, compared to other popular seaside destinations during the European summer.
All along Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast, you’re never far from an excellent beach. But there’s also plenty of history to explore. One of my favorite days out was to the ancient remains of Nessebar, a peninsula that juts into the city and has been UNESCO World Heritage listed. Shopping for a bargain is also a popular activity here, as is dining at one of the many restaurants.
The seafood options are fresh and tasty, plus far cheaper than elsewhere in Europe. I highly recommend the juicy calamari, in particular, ideally washed down with a glass of local wine. Another popular dish throughout Bulgaria is
Cheap European Holidays in Western Europe
Madrid, Spain – Crashed Culture
The reason Madrid, Spain is so budget-friendly is that everything is so reasonably priced! Because of the Spanish economy, someone accustomed to an American or more expensive country will be amazed at how far they can stretch a euro. Everything from groceries (shopping just for myself was around 20 euros a week) to eating out to goods is generally cheaper. There are only a few random things that can be incredibly expensive; for example, over-the-counter vitamins that are normally about $15 for a 90-day supply in the US was about a dollar per pill in Spain!
That being said, the sites that you’ll want to see around Madrid are usually free, cheap, or available for free at certain times/for students. For example, Madrid has some world-famous museums that you can check out for free if you go at certain times, or get a significant discount by flashing a student ID. Other things to do, like Retiro Park or Puerta del Sol, are completely and utterly free.
One thing that Spain is famous for is its tapas – in particular, free tapas when you purchase a beer. Now, this isn’t the case in all restaurants (in fact, it’s more common in Southern Spain than Madrid), but you can pay a visit to El Tigre, which gives you a free plate of tapas when you spend 5 euros on some alcohol! While the tapas may not be the highest quality, it’s free food!
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Valencia, Spain – Veni Vidi
Valencia is a very different city compared to Barcelona and Madrid, but it might be my favorite city in Spain. The city has everything you could wish for: it has modern architecture, historic buildings, and Roman ruins. Moreover, the sea is very close. It is also the perfect place to eat paella since this dish originates from Valencia!
The city is also surprisingly cheap. We purchased a Valencia Tourist Card (22.50 euros for 72 hours if you purchase it online), which includes free public transport, free entry to municipal museums and monuments (such as the Llotja de la Seda, the old silk exchange), and discounts for many other attractions. There are also several things in Valencia you can do for free, such as exploring The City of Arts and Sciences complex. You don’t need to go inside these modern buildings. Instead, you can admire the architecture of the exterior for free.
If you’d be spending 3 days in Valencia (like we did), you would only need around 15 euros a day for tourist attractions and public transport (using the 72 hours Valencia Tourist Card). You would typically need 30-40 euros for meals. Budget tip: there are several lunch deals which give you quite a large meal, so you can have a lighter meal at dinner.
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Barcelona, Spain – Greta’s Travels
Barcelona in sunny Spain is, in my opinion, one of the most fun and budget-friendly cities that you can visit this summer. Like a lot of Spain, it’s a much cheaper destination than a lot of its neighboring countries. Barcelona is full of bars and restaurants that offer typical Spanish tapas or pinchos, tasty meals that won’t break the bank. I personally really enjoy pinchos, as they are usually served at a buffet where the food is served skewered on a piece of bread. You can take as much as you want and at the end of the meal, you pay depending on the number of skewers you have on your plate. The price per skewer is usually around 1 EURO so you can see how nice dinners outs in Barcelona can be budget friendly.
In Barcelona, there are also plenty of free attractions that you can enjoy. For example, the Barcelona Cathedral has a free entry every morning excluding Sundays. Other popular attractions such as the Sagrada Familia, Casa Battlò, and Park Guell you will have to pay a small fee to access, or if you’re not interested in seeing the interiors you can enjoy Gaudì’s architecture for free from the outside.
My personal favorite spot in Barcelona is Bunkers del Carmel, a park where locals go to hang out, have picnics and enjoy the view over Barcelona. It’s also completely free to visit. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly destination in Europe, Barcelona in Spain should definitely feature in your travel plans.
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Belgium – My Bucket List Project
When travel is involved, choosing a country the size of a peanut is a great advantage. Belgium is all about a harmonious fusion of old world charm and modern culture and trends. From vintage castles, mansions, museums, and churches to modern architecture, shopping arcades and amusements; This heart of Europe is the home of many spectacular places for all types of vacationers, even if you want to travel on low budget.
Plenty of the towns in the country retain excellent architectural examples from the Middle Ages. Thinking of Bruges, a major attraction for tourists, with its perfectly-preserved medieval streets rimming tranquil canals that lure flocks of travelers each year.
Brussels, the country’s capital where you can visit the little Manneken-Pis, the Magritte Museum and the Grand Place where you can find over 800 different local beers, top quality chocolates, real authentic Belgian waffles and have gastronomic experiences.
Antwerp and Ghent, are just a short trip away, thanks to an efficient train network, local trams and buses that help you out.
Safe Money by buying a Brussels city card (free entry to 30 museums, plenty of discounts at shops, bars and tours), stay away from Grand-Place dining, search hostels out of season, and visit the country between March and May and September and October.
Last but not least, have fun!
Porto, Portugal – Around the World in 24 Hours
Two of my favorite words in the English language are tasty and cheap, and that is why I love Porto, Portugal. It is one of the few places where you can feel like you are living the high life on a shoestring budget. I think a person could have a wonderful time in Porto for no more than 55 Euros a day, including a room.
One of the most popular things to do in Porto is a stroll along the gorgeous Douro river and cross the Dom Luis I Bridge, and this experience costs absolutely nothing.
Porto is also popular for its elaborate blue and white tiles, and you can see as many of those as you like just by wandering around the city. If you’re willing to spend a little money, the best attraction in Porto is the Torre dos Clerigos, and it only costs 4 Euros. From the top of the Torre, you can get amazing views of the charming orange-red tile roofs that give Porto its special character.
The city is famous for its food and much of the food is available at budget-friendly prices. A
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Azores, Portugal – Passions and Places
If you want a European vacation that’s both budget-friendly and off the beaten path, check out the islands of Portugal’s autonomous region known as the Azores.
The chain of volcanic islands is a budget traveler’s dream with inexpensive accommodations (entire villas are available for less than $75 a night on Airbnb), amazing food (a good meal can be had for $5 and a bottle of wine for $3), and astounding natural beauty that costs nothing to explore. Frugal travelers can easily enjoy a holiday here for less than $50/day.
Sete Cidades, the twin volcanic lakes on the western tip of the island of Sao Miguel are one of the most popular and postcard-worthy attractions. A hike from the picturesque lakes to the rim of the caldera takes a few hours and provides some of the most stunning views of the island.
At the summit is an unexpected treat for urban explorers – the abandoned Monte Palace Hotel. Built in the late-1980s when islanders believed hordes of tourists were just around the corner, it now sits as a vacant shell beckoning adventurous travelers to wander its interior.
You can also experience the island’s healing volcanic waters (and overpowering sulfuric stench) in the town of Furnas, near the eastern edge of the island. The Poca da Beija hot springs are free, though you’ll want to wear some older swimwear as the orange-tinted waters will permanently stain it.
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As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments down below, or connect with me on my social media channels. I will be happy to assist you as much as possible.