Alternative Budget European City Breaks!

Letter 130

Lost on where to next visit in Europe? I’d like to offer my input of some of my favourite European cities that suit a student budget! I’ve not been to a huge amount of countries in Europe, but those I have been to I’ve travelled well so I hope my insight will help!

All of these cities can cost as low as £30 per day including accommodation, but it will depend on your travel style. Eating out every meal of the day and staying in hotels vs hostels or airbnbs will increase your expenditure! Anyway, I hope you enjoy.

Lisbon, Portugal

This has to be one of my favourite cities. It is just so cool. This is a city full of colour and excitement. There’s something different around every corner and you can be kept busy for any length of stay. Street art adorning any wall that’s not already covered in wild tiling, pastry shops filling the air with the sweetness of pasteis de nata, rattling trams winding there way up the many hills, flea markets found in tiny squares around the city and more viewpoints than you can make it up to (unless you’re a very fit person). Lisbon truly is a photographers dream and an amazing place to visit. By day you can be hunting street art and exploring the squares and parks of the city and by night you can be drinking buckets of sangria and listening to live music in one of the hidden bars.

For some restbite from the hustle and bustle, you can venture out to Sintra, only a train ride away but world’s away in terms of its natural landscape and monumental buildings. You can also visit the suburb of Belem where the famous pastry was invented. This place actually charmed me in other ways than it’s pastry-making skills.

Lisbon can be a budget destination if you want it to be but it can also be pricey – your decision. My one request is that you spend a decent amount of time here – it has so much to offer.

Read about my visit here: 13 reasons why … Lisbon was the best. | Castles + palaces + forest = Sintra

lisbon car park 4

lisbon belem parade

lisbon graffiti 8

sintra pena palace 4

Budapest, Hungary

Notoriously a favourite with everyone who steps foot in this charming city, it’s a must-visit. Luckily, it’s also very budget-friendly and has tons to offer. It boasts picture-perfect streets lined with pristine classical architecture, huge expanses of green to relax in, quirky ‘ruin bars’ unique to the Hungarian capital and luxurious spas where all of your troubles will melt away. You can spend your days wandering the different neighbourhoods, exploring both sides of the river, trying out local delicacies and getting lost on the tube. There really is no limit to this city and if you have enough time there are some great things to visit outside the urban boundaries as well.

You can come for a romantic getaway, boozy weekend or cultural visit, whatever suits you. I stayed in an airbnb right in the centre which I loved and was only £25 per night for a room! Hostels are cheap too so your money will stretch a long way. Local restaurants are cheap and the food is hearty.

You can read about my (very short) visit to Budapest in this post:

BUDAPEST, ZAGREB, PLITVICE AND PULA

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budapest 7

Cordoba, Spain

I consider this to be Spain’s hidden gem. The lesser visited Cordoba feels like a medieval town with a modern twist. The most famous landmark is the Mezquita which was the main reason I decided to visit. This building completely blew me away, but more than that, so did the city. The stone buildings and cobbled streets create a shaded maze away from the pleasant river-front and spacious plazas lined with tapas bars and tiny museums. For a small city it packs a punch with so many different things to see and do, as well as lots of space to relax, enjoy the food and soak up the sunshine.

It also hosts a couple of festivals which completely electrify the city. The Feria happens at the end of May, and I happened to be there for the 2 days it was happening – complete coincidence. It’s an incredible event that brings together what feels like the whole of Spain. Everybody comes out in force in traditional dress for long evenings of dancing, food and drink. The patio festival happens in early May and is supposed to be spectacular. There were still a few courtyards open when I went and they were marvellous. Basically May is the time to be in Cordoba! It’s worth noting that because it’s inland, it is burning hot from June to August so maybe avoid it then.

I found Cordoba to be pretty cheap if you eat and do what the locals do. I also went to a lot of museums and galleries that were all very cheap – and half price for students!. The downside to Cordoba is you can’t fly there. You instead have to fly to either Malaga, Seville or Grenada which are all pretty close, but still a couple of hours bus or train ride.

You can read more about it here: Cordoba at it’s best

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cordoba mezquita 4

cordoba second day 3

cordoba walking tour 5

Athens, Greece

Think white-washed buildings, monumental ruins, hazy sunsets, bustling squares and night-time markets. Athens is a love it or hate it kind of place and it will always upset me that more people don’t fall in love with this insane city. Never have I been anywhere with more history, character, or diversity. In Athens you could find yourself wandering up a dusty hill towards a viewpoint or staring up at one of the oldest buildings on the planet. You could be eating a gyros surrounded by colour and noise of street vendors and steel drums or exploring the narrow winding streets lined with graffiti and terrible parking. This imperfect city is different to any other and I believe it’s somewhere everyone should visit.

Not only is the city fantastic, it’s also only 30 minutes to either the port with access to dozens of beautiful islands (some a mere 40 minute ferry ride away) or the beach which at the weekend is full of locals getting some fresh air and a warm bath in the salty waters.

If you’re looking for culture, history, relaxation, stimulation, beauty, food and night-life then you can’t go wrong with this budget destination.

Read more about my thoughts of Athens here: I loved Athens | I loved Athens… again | Sharing my love of Greece…

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Zagreb, Croatia

When you think of a city break to Croatia, you’d probably think of Split, Dubrovnik or even Zadar. Those are all great, but I’d like to tell you about Zagreb. The capital of Croatia gets overlooked and I don’t think it should, so I will tell you why you should visit. Out of all of the places I visited in Croatia (and I did a lot) Zagreb was the one that stood out because it was different. I loved all of the places I went, the old towns were wonderful, the views to the sea and the islands are incomparable, but hidden inland sits tiny Zagreb with it’s modern façade and small city vibe. To me it felt like it was lived in. It wasn’t a tourist hub, it was a home.

There’s cool museums, a charming old town, trendy eateries, wide open spaces and a beautiful lake sitting a mere half an hour out of the centre. I honestly think it’s a great place. Plitvice lakes is also easily accessible from here, although they deserve a visit of their own instead of day trip. I found it was the cheapest place in Croatia, probably because of the lack of seaside and less tourists. Definitely good for a budget break.

Read more about my stay here: BUDAPEST, ZAGREB, PLITVICE AND PULA

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zagreb 4

zagreb 7

Milan, Italy

An Italian city in a ‘budget breaks’ post? Indeed. I’ve been to 5 Italian cities – Rome, Florence, Venice, Turin and Milan. I found the northern metropolis to be by far the cheapest of the lot and with few expectations, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s big, bold and beautiful. Striking buildings line sprawling squares full of people leading to never ending avenues with glossy expensive shop windows. Milan is glamourous and fun. On the other hand, it has huge parks both in the centre and on the outskirts, an ancient castle overlooking the city and if you time it for the last Saturday of the month you’ll catch the antique market on the canal – it’s wonderful.

If you’re going for longer than a weekend then you might want to visit the allusive lakes which are easily accessible from the city – bonus! Milan still isn’t cheap but I think it can be a budget location as accommodation is affordable and I found eating out much cheaper than elsewhere in Italy.

Read more about my stay here: Turin vs Milan | Milan: the city of shopping | Milan’s monthly antique market

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Kotor, Montenegro

Okay so this one is kind of cheating as Kotor is a town, but I can’t seem to resist including Montenegro so just let it slide. Kotor is a charming cobbled town nestled in a fjord surrounded by the black mountains. It’s overlooked by a monastery which is the viewpoint for arguably one of the best sunset views in the world and offers it’s visitors winding routes around the old buildings, walks along the shore and a quick dip, small local restaurants and beautiful churches and museums. It’s a quiet place for relaxing days but vibrant nights in the various bars where you’ll find live music and a great atmosphere.

You can fly to Tivat and then grab a cheap cab to Kotor.

I left my heart in Montenegro so I have to include it.

Read more about Kotor here: Reminiscing about the beautiful Bay of Kotor

4 montenegro kotor streets

kotor town 6

kotor beach

kotor monastery 4

Berlin, Germany

What can I say about Berlin? This is another city that to me felt more lived in than touristy. I was lucky to have a good few days here just before Christmas to explore as much as possible. The imperfections around the centre of the city give it more visible character and history than most cities. The art museums, galleries and street art are second to none here and are the heart of the cultural scene. You can spend your days flying place to place on the metro, exploring different corners of this sprawling city, but then you come to the centre. It almost feels like a different place with classical buildings, striking squares and monuments galore. It really is beautiful. Then you have the parks – I read that 40% of the city is green land. You can really tell when you’re there, I can imagine in summer it would be wonderful.

This city is different from any other and will offer you a very diverse mix of history, culture, relaxation, shopping, monuments, nature and nightlife. It’s super affordable so there’s no excuse to go explore this northern beauty!

Check out my posts about Berlin here: Warming to Berlin at Christmastime | Beauty of Berlin

berlin cathedral 5

Bebelplatz 1

berlin street art courtyard 3

Malaga, Spain

This is the Spanish city that surprised me most, and unfortunately I had a miniscule amount of time here, not enough, but enough to make an impression. Malaga seems to have the perfect balance of modernity and history and these synthesise to create an exciting city. The streets and buildings are beautiful and sit alongside spacious plazas and green spaces which stretch far away from the centre on the seafront. There are stunning churches, mosques and a castle, all with a unique history to them. There’s a great culinary scene and sufficient nightlife to enlighten any weekend break.

It felt like the most affordable place to me and is so easy to get to as Malaga airport is huge and cheap to fly to. Definitely worth a visit!

Read about my visit here: Malaga in pretty purple

cathedral and yellow building

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4 castillo plaza

I hope this is a useful post, I will only write about places I have personally been to so obviously this post doesn’t cover every budget city in Europe – just 9 that I have been to and find to be budget friendly.

Over the next year I will be exploring more European cities, that I know to mostly be budget friendly, which will include:

  • Krakow, Warsaw and Wroclaw in Poland
  • Prague and Brno in the Czech Republic
  • Vienna and Salzburg in Austria
  • Bratislava in Slovakia

I will also be heading somewhere in May which is yet to be confirmed – but I’m hoping for somewhere in the Balkans. Top of my list are Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria.

In general the east is cheaper so if you’re looking for a cheap city break it’s worth looking in and around the Balkans.

Thanks for reading!

From Lou

About Me

PS. I have a list of other European city locations that I have found to be less budget friendly but still great places to go, so I may be uploading that soon!

2 thoughts on “Alternative Budget European City Breaks!

  1. livechicandwell says:

    Incredible photos and great description, you really make me want to visit all these places!
    Must admit I haven’t visited many on this list, but most of them are on my list. Especially Budapest, Berlin and Lisbon. There are so many great cities accessible to the U.K., it’s just finding the time to fit the visits in!

    Liked by 1 person

    • aletterfromlou says:

      Thank you so much! Yes it’s so easy to get to but time is always the issue! It’s crazy how Europe is so varied, I just keep wanting to go and explore all of the countries – forgetting there’s also the rest of the world to go and see!! Thanks for reading 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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