10 affordable European destinations for budget travelers

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Traveling to Europe doesn’t have to mean emptying your savings. This carefully curated list of the cheapest travel destinations in Europe offers the beauty and culture of Europe without the hefty price tag. Embark on an adventure that’s both enriching and economical, perfect for budget-conscious travelers eager to explore the continent’s hidden gems.

A woman in a hat pointing at one of the cheapest travel destinations in Europe.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean skimping on the richness of experience, especially in a continent as varied and vibrant as Europe. For those who’ve caught the travel bug, the quest for new adventures can be as relentless as it is rewarding. Thankfully, Europe caters to the wanderlust of budget-conscious explorers without sacrificing the allure of its destinations. Whether basking in the sun-kissed shores of Portugal or meandering through the storied pathways of Hungary, the continent is a treasure trove of affordable travel gems. The beauty of Europe’s cities and landscapes is accessible to all, ensuring that even the most frugal of travelers can indulge in the cultural, historical and natural splendors.

With careful planning and a sense of curiosity, you’ll discover that the magic of Europe is not reserved for the affluent but open to all who seek it. Here are 10 affordable destinations that promise unforgettable experiences without the hefty price tag.

10 cheapest travel destinations in Europe

From picturesque villages to vibrant cities, discover 10 budget-friendly European destinations that offer unforgettable experiences without breaking the bank.

Portugal

Portugal stands as a beacon of affordability in Western Europe, offering travelers picturesque landscapes, rich history and a vibrant culinary scene at a fraction of the cost of its neighbors. Whether you’re exploring the colorful streets of Lisbon, tasting port wine in Porto, or sunbathing in the Algarve, Portugal provides an array of budget-friendly accommodations and eateries. Moreover, many of its museums and historical sites offer free admission on certain days, making cultural immersion accessible to all.

“Portugal is possibly my favorite country in Europe, and it’s surprisingly budget-friendly. Lisbon is a fun place, but venture out further to places like Funchal in Madeira, which is right on the ocean with a fantastic beach for dolphin and whale watching and so much more. The people in Portugal are incredibly friendly as well, and tourist areas will have English speakers.”

Michelle Price, Honest and Truly

Croatia

Croatia’s allure lies in its crystal-clear waters, historic towns and stunning national parks, many of which you can enjoy without a hefty entrance fee. The country’s coastline, dotted with affordable seafood restaurants and budget accommodations, provides a perfect backdrop for a cost-effective European getaway. Cities like Dubrovnik and Split and regions like Dalmatia offer insights into Croatia’s rich history and culture, and these destinations can easily be explored while staying within budget.

A body of water with boats and buildings in the background, showcasing one of the cheapest travel destinations in Europe.
Croatia. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Spain

Spain is synonymous with vibrant festivals, delicious tapas and stunning architecture, all available on a budget. The country’s culinary tradition of tapas allows travelers to taste a variety of dishes without overspending, especially when paired with the affordable wines for which Spain is famous. Regions like Andalusia offer remarkable value with their free historical sites and low-cost accommodations, ensuring a rich travel experience that’s gentle on the wallet.

Italy

Italy’s charm doesn’t need to come with a high price tag. Traveling during the off-peak season, utilizing the extensive public transportation system, and indulging in the Aperitivo culture for cheap yet delicious meals can significantly reduce costs. Exploring lesser-known regions such as Puglia or Sicily can offer a more authentic Italian experience at a fraction of the cost compared to the tourist hotspots of Venice or Milan.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria is a hidden gem in Europe, offering an incredibly low cost of living compared to most European countries. From the sandy beaches of the Black Sea to the historical cities that dot the country, Bulgaria is ripe with affordable accommodations and dining options. The country’s rich history and natural beauty make it an excellent choice for travelers looking to stretch their euros.

Iceland

Iceland might come as a surprise entry on a budget travel list due to its reputation for being expensive. However, the country’s natural wonders, including waterfalls, hot springs and glaciers, are accessible free of charge. Budget travelers can save further by opting for camping instead of hotels and shopping at local supermarkets. With a little planning, the Land of Fire and Ice can be an affordable and unforgettable adventure.

A view of the old town square in Prague, one of the cheapest travel destinations in Europe.
Prague. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic, and particularly its capital, Prague, is renowned for its beer, which is often cheaper than water. This affordability extends to its accommodations, public transportation and attractions. Free walking tours are abundant, providing a budget-friendly way to explore the city’s rich history and stunning architecture. Smaller towns like Cesky Krumlov offer an even more affordable and quaint experience.

Turkey

Straddling two continents, Turkey offers an incredibly diverse experience, from bustling bazaars and historical sites in Istanbul to the serene beaches of the Turkish Riviera. The cost of meals, accommodations and entrance fees to many of its world-renowned attractions remains low, providing an excellent value for money. The rich tapestry of culture, combined with the affordability factor, makes Turkey a must-visit for budget travelers looking for the cheapest travel destinations in Europe.

Lake Bled, Slovenia, one of the cheapest travel destinations in Europe, at sunset.
Slovenia. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Slovenia

Slovenia is an underrated destination that boasts incredible natural landscapes, from the Julian Alps to the serene Lake Bled, all accessible on a budget. The capital, Ljubljana, is a model of sustainable living and offers a plethora of affordable dining and lodging options. Slovenia’s compact size makes exploring easy without the need for expensive internal flights or long train rides.

Hungary

Hungary, with its beautiful capital, Budapest, presents a variety of experiences that contradict its affordable cost of living. The city is famous for its thermal baths, which provide a unique and inexpensive relaxation option. Hungarian cuisine is hearty, delicious and remarkably affordable, allowing travelers to indulge without breaking the bank.

Final thoughts

Europe’s diverse landscapes and cultures make it a coveted destination for many travelers. Fortunately, exploring this continent doesn’t have to deplete your savings. This list of the cheapest travel destinations in Europe offers a blend of natural beauty, historical richness and culinary delights while keeping your budget intact. Whether you’re looking to roam ancient cities, bask on sunlit beaches or hike through pristine landscapes, Europe’s affordable destinations await discovery.

Kristen Wood is a photographer, writer, world traveler, and creator of the blog Foodventures Abroad, where food and travel intertwine. She is also the author of Vegetarian Family Cookbook, Fermented Hot Sauce Cookbook, and Hot Sauce Cookbook for Beginners. Her work has been featured in various online and print publications, including Elle, Martha Stewart, Yoga Journal and more.

2 thoughts on “10 affordable European destinations for budget travelers”

  1. I just Visited Iceland. No, it’s not affordable. Food and lodging are 40% and more, more expensive than most places in Western Europe. Getting to and from the airport alone is $120 to $300+. It’s a lot more expensive than Eastern Europe (about which you have great examples of affordability).

    If you have to recommend camping in a tent to justify Iceland’s inclusion on this list, maybe it doesn’t belong. By that definition, setting up a tent under a bridge outside Monaco makes Monaco affordable.

    Reply
    • Hi! While not every itinerary would be considered affordable, it is possible to enjoy Iceland on a budget with a little planning. Reykjavik, for example, has some of the most affordable hostels in Europe. If you purchase the city card (around $35), it will cover admission to countless attractions, free bus travel, discounts at geothermal pools, and more. If you are in the US, Iceland is also one of the cheapest European destinations you can fly to, fare-wise.

      Reply

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