No Plans for this Summer? The Best 4 European Capitals to Visit on a Budget
How much is a trip going to set you back? Not much really…
Summer is quickly coming our ways, and unless you prefer to sit on a beach for your vacation, I think you should give it a try to one of these four best, cheapest European capitals. Europe is pretty much connected by low-cost carriers, so getting to any of the 4 capitals listed bellow is cheap and easy.
Also, with so many accommodation options, you can literally spend up to a week in any of the 5 cities, and it will still cost you no more than a hundred bucks in the end. You can always get a nice hotel room for more money, but my advice is that you don’t, and just stick to the lower end hotels, or try out an AirBnb apartment or a hostel instead.
After researching the different booking websites the Internet is so keen to be hosting, I managed to come up with the top 4 European capitals you should visit this summer, not only for the low prices, but mostly for the attractions, things to do, see, eat and drink at any of the locations.
The Eternal City is my favourite metropolis in Europe. It has a bit of everything, but also a lot of everything. It really is a museum of a city, with the Colosseum on one side, the Trevi Fountain on the other, and the Vatican at the far end. Coming to Rome in the summer, you will enjoy the beautiful warm weather, the delicious gelato and superb Ancient ruins. And pasta!
Hotel Prices for 3 Nights: between 40–100 USD per night at a 3* hotel near Termini Station. Hostels start from 10 USD per night for a bed;
Meal Prices: 8–15 USD for a pasta course, 7–12 USD for a pizza, 1–4 USD for a gelato cup, 2–5 USD for beer or a glass of wine, medium ranged restaurants;
Free Attractions: Rome is a walk-able museum, every street has a sight to be photographed, but the main attractions are the Colosseum, Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, the Roman Forum, Circus Maximus, the Vatican Museums, Basilica of Saint Peter, the St. Peters Square, Castle Sant’Angelo, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, Campo dei Fiori, the Trevi Fountain and many more.
My Top 3 Paid Attractions: Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill: 12 Euros; Galleria Borghese: 15 Euros; Scavi Tour: 16 Euros;
Low-cost Airlines that Fly to Rome and Ticket Prices: Wizz Air, EasyJet, Ryanair, prices range from anywhere between 20 and 60 USD for return trips.
Pro Tip: The Roman metro system is on of the smallest in all of Europe, but the good thing is, there’s no need to take the subway. Just walk from sight to sight and get back to your area at night using public transport, as you will surely miss a lot of the city by going underground too often.
I only stayed for two nights in Athens, but that one full day was enough for me to see the main attractions. You can definitely spend more time here, actually I encourage you to do so, to not rush your trip, to get to know the locals and what not, and also try some more of the cuisine. If you’re on a budget though, two nights in the Greek capital are more than enough.
Hotel Prices for 3 Nights: between 30–100 USD per night at a 3* hotel near the city centre. Hostels start from as low as 6 USD per night for a bed;
Meal Prices: 4–8 USD for a souvlaki, 8–15 USD for a seafood main course, 1–3 USD for beer, medium ranged restaurants;
Free Attractions: The most important places are available to see for free from afar, but you do have to pay for tickets to get closer for most of the important sights. Some free attractions are Syntagma Square and the changing of the guards, the National Gardens, the old Turkish quarter of Plaka, Dionysiou Areopagitou, Monastiraki Square and the market nearby and even the Ancient ruins inside the metro stations.
My Top 3 Paid Attractions: Acropolis combined ticket — 30 USD, which gives you access to the Acropolis, the Hadrian’s Library, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, Archaeological Site of Lykeion, the Temple of Zeus and other attractions; Acropolis Museum — 5 USD; National Archaeological Museum of Greece — 10 USD;
Low-cost Airlines that Fly to Athens and Ticket Prices: Wizz Air, EasyJet, Ryanair, Blue Air, Eurowings, Norwegian, Pegasus, Vueling, prices range from anywhere between 15 and 80 USD for return trips.
Pro Tip: Avoid grabbing olive oil, sweets or any other souvenirs from the first vendors in the market near Monastiraki Square. Go further down the little streets and you’ll find the same products at half or even a quarter of the price.
While I love Rome to the fullest, Skopje, the Macedonian capital is up there with the Eternal City in my books. The city has a cool vibe, the temperature is almost always great and the food is amazing and cheap. Did I mentioned the people? They are some of the warmest, coolest in Europe, which few expect from a country like Macedonia. There’s something special about this city, and you’ll thank me later after you’d discovered it by yourself.
Hotel Prices for 3 Nights: as low as 15–50 USD at a 3* hotel near the city centre per night. Like Athens, hostels start from 5–7 USD per night for a bed;
Meal Prices: full meal at mid-ranged restaurant will cost between 4–8 USD, upper class restaurants meals will set you back between 6–12 USD for a full three course, local beer starts at 0.5 and gets to a maximum of 2 USD for the most expensive kinds. As I said, Skopje is a paradise for backpackers and other budget travellers;
Free Attractions: Off the top of my head, I’ll have to go with the Old Bazaar of Skopje as the main, free attraction of the city. The place is big, the biggest bazaar in Europe outside Istanbul. You can buy pretty much anything here, at extremely reasonable prices. I got the best haircut and beard job of my life here for a few bucks, but also a pair of fake Nike’s.
Another attraction that is free to admire is the Matka Canyon, located just outside the city to the South, just a quick 20 minutes bus ride from the city centre. Don’t forget about the city centre and the newly refurbished buildings, the huge Alexander the Great statue and also the promenade along the Vardar river, filled with cafes and restaurants. A lot of the museums in Skopje are free or inexpensive, so give them a go.
My Top 3 Paid Attractions: Archaeological Museum of Macedonia — 5.5 USD; Skopje ZOO — 1 USD; Aqualand Skopje — 5 USD;
Low-cost Airlines that Fly to Skopje and Ticket Prices: Wizz Air, flyDubai, Pegasus, prices go from anywhere between 25 and 100 USD for return trips.
Pro Tip: After a Turkish tea in the Old Bazaar, walk up to the Kale Fortress overlooking the city for some nice pictures. It’s free of charge and it gives you the best views over the central area and the further parts of Skopje.
The Romanian capital continues to redefine itself, merging its storied history with a modern identity. I’m not saying that just because it’s the capital of my country. Actually, I’m not saying it at all, but the people at CNN, in a recent article about Bucharest and why you should visit it as soon as possible. Besides being a budget friendly city, Bucharest is buzzing with nightlife, great green spaces, nice museums and is home to the heaviest building on Earth, amongst other great architectural wonders.
Hotel Prices for 3 Nights: between 18–65 USD for a 3* hotel near the city centre per night. Hostels start from 12 USD per night for a bed;
Meal Prices: the city is filled with nice little restaurants and bistros, so do some research before you go and choose depending on your preferences. One portion of traditional sarmale, cabbage rolls filled with meat and rice, along with a side of polenta should cost no more than 5 USD; a plate with three mici, the Romanian culinary staple and the equivalent of a shish kebab without a skewer, served with bread and mustard, costs no more than 3–5 USD; beer is 1–5 USD depending on the location of the bar;
Free Attractions: The number one attraction is a church, which is somewhat normal, as Romanians are mostly religious people. Head to the 18th century Stavropoleos Church, steps away from the National History Museum, for an amazing little place that will definitely impress you. After that, it’s time to go for a walk through Old Town, which is constantly renewing and a perfect scene for relaxation and partying alike. Visit Herastrau Park for some more free time, enjoy reading a book or have a picnic under the old trees.
My Top 3 Paid Attractions: Tour of the Parliament building — 8 USD; Village Museum — 2,5 USD; “Grigore Antipa” Natural History Museum — 4 USD;
Low-cost Airlines that Fly to Bucharest and Ticket Prices: Wizz Air, Blue Air, Ryanair, Pegasus, TAP Portugal, prices in the summer months go from anywhere between 30 and 90 USD for return trips.
Pro Tip: While Bucharest is a very walk-able city, be aware of the stray dogs. Especially at night and if you’re staying in a non-central area, it is better to call a taxi to get you back to your hotel, to avoid any inconveniences. This, apart from some infrastructure issues, is on of the only remaining main problem of the city.
Hotels prices were searched over at Booking.com, for the same period in all of the capitals, 19th to 20th of June 2017. Flights were researched at Skyscanner, applying the cheapest period method and also searching the highest prices for low-cost carriers in the same month. All flights were out of London and return after two nights, other departure cities may vary in prices. Meals prices come from personal experience, as do the paid and free attractions in each capital.
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