Getting value for your money is a huge topic at the moment. With inflation for everyday essentials running at its highest rate in decades, everyone is feeling the squeeze on their budgets.
Whatever it is you’re buying, you’re probably putting more work into finding the best deals possible.
That certainly applies to holidays. While some people will no doubt be thinking seriously about cutting out or at least cutting down on travel plans over the next year or so, for others it will be more a case of working out how to get away on a tighter budget.
According to a recent survey by UK travel industry trade body ABTA, 35% of people are
already weighing up how to travel cheaper next year.
There are all sorts of ways to holiday on a budget, of course, from hunting out early bird deals well in advance to leaving things to the last minute and grabbing late booking bargains.
Another great option for cheap travel is short-haul city breaks – especially during the winter months, when prices in general are well down on the summer peak. You can find cheap flights with budget airlines to destinations all over Europe, including major tourist cities like Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Rome.
But once you get to these popular destinations, you can find the savings you think you’ve made on flights evaporate very quickly. In Europe’s most popular cities, hotels, restaurants, bars, museums and other attractions are far from cheap at any time of the year.
If you really want to enjoy a trip away at bargain prices, you are better off looking beyond the big hitters. Luckily, Europe is jam packed with gorgeous, historic, culturally vibrant cities where you can still live it up for fabulously low prices.
Here are five of the best Budget-Friendly European Cities
While Krakow gets much of the plaudits as a jewel in the crown of Poland’s tourism industry, the historic port city of Gdansk is every bit as beguiling in its own right. Formerly part of the mercantile Hanseatic League (along with cities like Hamburg, Bremen, Groningen and Stockholm), Gdansk still retains the atmospheric character of the old medieval port.
RyanAir flies direct to Gdansk from several UK airports for as little as £9.99 one way. Double rooms in the heart of the central old town are readily available starting at £30 a night, and the average price of a beer is under £2.
Just be warned – like everywhere else on the Baltic coast, Gdansk gets very cold in the winter months. As well as frequenting the many atmospheric bars and restaurants, you could do worse that invest in an £11 pass that gets you into all the city’s museums, galleries and various other indoor attractions.
Another Baltic city you’ll need to wrap up warm for (and another former member of the Hanseatic League) is the Latvian capital Riga. Along with a compact and pretty old town, Riga is also famous for its fabulous art nouveau architecture, which is rated among the best in Europe.
Again, you can fly direct to Riga from several UK airports with both RyanAir and Air Baltic, with return prices easily available for under £50. An average one-bedroom Airbnb comes in at around £50 a night. Once you are there, the enormous range of food and drink options covers everything from indulgent splurge to bargain basement, especially if you venture just a short way out of the city centre.
Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast has earned a reputation as a great budget destination for summer sun. But as far as city breaks go, the capital Sofia is right up there if you’re looking for value for your money, too.
Sofia is underrated for just how pretty a city it is. In winter, the snow-capped Vitosha Mountain makes for a stunning backdrop (guided treks in snow shoes are a great option for a day out). And if religious architecture is your thing, Sofia is a dream destination, with an amazing and eclectic mix of Bulgarian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox and early Christian churches dating back to the Roman period.
As it’s a little further away (about a three hour flight), it costs a little more to get to Sofia, although daily direct flights from London can be found for just over £100 return. Once you are there, a three-star hotel will set you back less than £40 a night, and food and drink is great value.
Finally, if you’re looking for a cheap winter city break that you won’t have to pack the thermals for, Palermo on the Italian island of Sicily is a great option. With average daytime temperatures still a comfortable 15 o C even in January and February, you won’t have any qualms about wandering around the historic sites – which is a big bonus, as Palermo boasts more than its fair share of UNESCO heritage sites, reflecting the city’s long and varied history.
You can fly with RyanAir and EasyJet direct to Palermo from London, with cheapest prices starting at around £25. There are plenty of B&B rooms available for under £50 a night all over the city, including right in the centre near the port. The average price per head in a neighbourhood restaurant is around £10, and a pint of beer can be found for as little as £2.
Wherever you choose for a bargain city break, don’t be tempted to skip holiday insurance to save a few pounds. Getting injured in an accident, falling ill or losing your luggage will end up doing a lot more damage to your finances than the cost of a travel policy.
Please note this post is a collaboration.