For European culture, exquisite cuisine, and history without the sticker shock, these are the top budget destinations to head for this year.
Yes, you can have a first-rate vacation on the Continent by looking beyond the tried-and-true (and crowded and pricey) European capitals. Here, five of our favorite cities where your dollar will go farther thanks to shockingly low hotel rates, and your Instagram will be the envy of everybody back home.
1. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is sometimes referred to as the most beautiful city in Europe thanks to such eye-popping architectural must-sees as the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and historic Old Town Square. The city has seen an uptick in tourism over the past few years thanks in part to comfortable lodging that starts at under $100/night and culinary delights that include a variety of cheeses, dumplings, tripe soup, and cold foamy Pilsners.
2. Athens, Greece
The dollar goes farther in the birthplace of democracy, philosophy, and, well, Western civilization in general. You’ll be awed by ancient wonders like the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike at the Acropolis (best viewed in the afternoon and early evening thanks to the setting sun and nighttime illuminations). You may also be awed by the reasonable hotel rates, with excellent rooms available in the $80 to $100/night range. But this city isn’t all classical antiquity: Save time for trips to the local taverna for small plates, fresh seafood, and dolmades, plus the popularly potent local liqueur, ouzo.
3. Porto, Portugal
Porto is one of Europe’s “second cities” that offer huge savings. The second largest city in Portugal, after Lisbon, Porto is located in the Douro River region, known for fantastic wines, including, of course, rich, red Port. But there’s much more to Porto than wine. Here, you’ll savor fun public markets like Mercado do Bolhao, contemporary art galleries along Rua Miguel Bombarda, and playful architecture such as Casa da Musica concert hall, designed by Rem Koolhaas. Hit the Ribeira neighborhood for buzzing cafes and bars, and then navigate the city’s old winding streets in search of the sculpture of Henry the Navigator by the harbor. Reliable lodging in Porto starts in the $80 to $100/night range.
4. Lodz, Poland
Our colleagues at Budget Travel’s parent company, Lonely Planet, chose Lodz, Poland, as one of 2019’s top value destinations, rocketing the third-largest city in Poland from, “Where?” to “Wow!” for a lot of travelers. The revitalization of industrial spaces has transformed former factories and other buildings into a hot destination for shopping, culture, and entertainment, including a new planetarium, science and technology center, and the MS2 Museum of Art. You’ll find comfortable hotels for well under $100/night.
5. Budapest, Hungary
With views of the legendary Danube River from hotels that start at around $100/night to some of Europe’s tastiest street food, including langos, essentially fried bread topped with sour cream, cheese, and garlic (we know, right?). The Great Market Hall should be a first stop for foodies, but don’t miss the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Castle Hill including the Royal Palace (dating back to the 13th century and now the home of the Hungarian National Gallery), and gorgeous Matthias Church. You should book a sightseeing cruise on the Danube, and prepare to snap unforgettable images of the city’s majestic Chain Bridge.