Imagine going on holiday and paying less than you would usually spend on a typical weekend? For some major urban dwellers, this is perfectly possible. If you too are justifiably weary from the eye-watering prices in some of Europe’s most visited cities (*ahem, Paris*) – this list is for you.
Sofia – Bulgaria
With a skyline as varied as its history, this Bulgarian capital is a majorly underrated destination, particularly for architecture lovers. Explore dome-shaped churches and sprawling mosques with towering minarets – a legacy of the city's Ottoman heritage. Of course, the real star of the show is the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral, an impossibly blue and bulbous building built in neo-Byzantine style.
Eating out in Sofia will set you back very little, since the restaurants are so cheap. By some estimates, you needn’t spend more than ư27 (€14) a day on food, and you can easily find dorm beds for as little as ư10 (€6).
Krakow – Poland
The unofficial cultural capital of Poland, Krakow is crawling with festivals, architecture, music, and museums – enough to make for an action-packed weekend getaway. It’s also famously an incredible city for a night out, and Poles know how to party! If you’re prone to counting the pennies when you’re out on the town, you’ll think you’re in heaven when you see how much a round of drinks will cost you in Krakow.
A few must see sights include the Main Market Square (a perfect 200m by 200m), St Mary’s Basilica or the claustrophobic (but fascinating) labyrinthine Wieliczka Salt Mine. Eating out in Krakow will cost you roughly zł38 (€8) and hostel beds start at zł46 (€10).
Porto – Portugal
Lisbon’s little sister, Porto is easily one of the most underrated and stunning cities in Western Europe, crammed full of teetering red-roofed houses and sprawling sandy beaches. Save money on the (already budget) museums, by exploring the fabulous street art this city is known for – from stunning murals to intricate blue ceramic tiling.
Baroque churches and palm tree-lined gardens make for perfect afternoon strolling, before stopping by a Petiscarias for a coffee and a custard tart (Pastéis de nata). A day of eating out in Porto will likely set you back €29 and hostels start at €17.
Valletta – Malta
Why are people sleeping on Malta? I ask this question everyday as I sob over images of this impossibly beautiful island. Looking like something out of a Bond movie (The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only to be exact), Valletta is Malta’s beating heart; a chaotic hodge-podge of crumbling cream-brick houses and towering churches. Spend your days getting lost down the narrow streets, peering into the bright-painted bay windows that suspend over the street and watching the boats as they drift into the harbour.
Though they may not be the most secluded, Valletta’s bustling city beaches are heaven for people-watching, as well as for taking a dip in the translucent turquoise waters. By night, hundreds of fancy restaurants spill out over the harbour, providing world-class cuisine to the world’s rich and famous, who stop by on their yachts. By eating at local places and skipping the hotel restaurants, a day of eating out will cost €35, whilst hostels start at €15.
Tallinn – Estonia
Hopping all the way across Europe to the Northern coastline, you have the medieval city of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. For those that grew up dreaming of Genovia from The Princess Diaries, or Far-Far Away from Shrek, the cobbled streets and turreted buildings of Tallinn feel like something straight out of Disney.
For the perfect weekend, spend your days exploring the Old Town, checking out The Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour Museum and strolling through Kadriorg Park. For the best views of the city, hike up Toompea Hill and step inside the cavernous and glorious Aleksander Nevski Katedraali (yes, another one!). Eating out in Tallinn will cost you €29 per day, and hostels start at €10.
Kotor – Montenegro
Just a short drive away from crowded Dubrovnik, Kotor is an equally beautiful medieval city located over the border in Montenegro. With an easily walkable Old Town, visitors can spend their days perusing the Maritime Museum, Saint Tryphone’s Cathedral and even the local favourite Cat Museum!
Another great place for getting lost in, your best discoveries will be those you stumble upon down a winding backstreet – whether it be a small boutique shop, a cosy café or a historic, local pub. A day in Kotor will cost you €34 and dorms start from €10. For more about Kotor, check out our guide.
Sarajevo – Bosnia & Herzegovina
History buffs will know why Sarajevo is so fascinating. A simple walking tour through the city streets of this Bosnia & Herzegovina city, will tell you everything about Sarajevo’s turbulent past and cultural diversity. From cathedrals to synagogues to mosques, this city has them all in abundance, each telling an (often tragic) story about the lives of their regular visitors.
Top attractions include the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, the Latin Bridge and the Kovači Memorial Cemetery, dedicated to the Bosniaks who died defending the city. There are even walking tours dedicated to retracing the movements of Franz Ferdinand on his final day, before the killing that triggered the start of World War I. A day of meals will cost you KM46 (€23) and a hostel bed starts at KM14 (€7).
Budapest – Hungary
Finally, we have the ever-popular Budapest in Hungary, a classic stop on the European school-leaver’s interrailing route. If you love spas, this is the city for you. By day, trek up Gellert Hills for views across the city, before soaking in a soothing thermal bath. By night, the city comes alive, particularly on a Saturday night at Széchenyi Bath, where revellers can dance and splash in the warm outdoor pools for the world-famous “Sparty”.
A day in Budapest will set you back €21 for food, and hostels are readily available all across the city, starting at €7.
Starting from Skratch? Here are a Few Tips to Get You Started: