Let's face it: Europe is not exactly a “cheap” part of the world to travel in. Especially when most people dream of visiting cities like London and Paris and Amsterdam and Rome – all great cities, of course, but definitely not easy on the travel budget.
So what if you really want to visit Europe, but can't quite afford the price tag of those famous capital cities?
Well, good news! There are some cities in Europe – some major, capital cities – that are still affordable.
5 affordable cities to visit in Europe
Check out my list of 5 major cities in Europe that are both budget-friendly AND really cool.
(You can, of course, plan affordable trips to just about any city in Europe if you try hard enough, but the cities I've listed here are just inherently more affordable, and have lots of cheap or free things to do!)
1. Budapest, Hungary
Hungary's capital is a fantastic city. It actually used to be two separate cities – Buda and Pest – located on two sides of the Danube River. Today, the cities are combined into one, but you can still feel the different vibes depending on which side of the river you find yourself on.
Budapest is known for its architecture and history, along with its wallet-friendly prices. Budapest is one of my favorite cities (period) in Europe, and the fact that it's so affordable is just an added bonus.
Great affordable things to do in Budapest:
- Visit Castle Hill and Fisherman's Bastion (FREE to just walk around)
- Walk across the famous Chain Bridge (FREE)
- Soak at the Szechenyi Baths ($20 for a whole day)
- Visit some ruin bars (cost will vary)
- Cruise the Danube at night ($10-$30, often with dinner included)
- Take a stroll down Andrássy Avenue to Heroes' Square to admire the architecture (FREE)
Read more: 48 Hours in Budapest and 10 Things to Do in Budapest for the History Lover
2. Prague, Czech Republic/Czechia
Prague – the capital city of the Czech Republic, located on the Vltava River – is often named as one of the prettiest cities in Europe. And the architecture does indeed make it feel very fairytale-like.
But, thankfully, the price to visit Prague has not risen a ton, even though its popularity as a travel destination certainly has. Accommodation will cost you the most here, while things like food, drink, and attractions are, overall, pretty cheap.
Great affordable things to do in Prague:
- Free walking tour with Sandeman's New Europe ($5-$10 to tip your guide)
- Explore the grounds of Prague Castle (FREE unless you go inside)
- Visit the Old Town Square (FREE)
- Stroll across the Charles Bridge (FREE)
- Have a beer – it's notoriously cheap in Prague
- Get a view out over the city from Letna Park (FREE)
Read more: Pretty Prague in Photos
3. Warsaw, Poland
Poland's capital really surprised me when I visited it for the first time. While Krakow often gets all the attention when it comes to tourism in Poland (to be fair, Krakow is also a great, affordable city in Europe), it was Warsaw that won my heart.
I love the mix of traditional architecture in the Old Town and the nearby Soviet apartment blocks. I also love all the history, and the quirky vibe in many parts of the city thanks to its large university-aged population.
Great affordable things to do in Warsaw:
- Walk around the (new) Old Town (FREE)
- Learn your Warsaw history at the Warsaw Rising Museum ($6)
- Take a tour of the Royal Castle ($7.50)
- Relax in one of Warsaw's many parks (FREE)
- Visit the Neon Muzeum to see old neon signs from the Soviet days ($4)
- Wander through the old Jewish Cemetery
- Eat at a traditional milk bar (cafes known for very affordable meals)
Read more: 7 Reasons Why Warsaw is Awesome
4. Berlin, Germany
Berlin, Germany, is another one of my favorite cities in Europe. It's a little bit gritty and a little bit hipster, and yet there's a ridiculous amount of fascinating history to be found, too.
And, even though Germany is on the Euro, Berlin remains an extremely affordable city. Food, public transport, and even accommodation can be found for reasonable prices.
Great things to do:
- Take an Insider Tour of Berlin – I recommend their Third Reich tour ($21)
- Go to Museum Island (get a day pass for all 6 museums on the island for $23)
- Check out the Brandenburg Gate (FREE)
- See murals painted on an old section of the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery (FREE)
- Go up into the dome of the Reichstag (FREE – you just have to register for a time online)
- Stroll through or picnic in Tiergarten (FREE)
- Visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the Holocaust museum beneath it (FREE)
Read more: Berlin: Much More Than Its Past
5. Bucharest, Romania
Lastly, don't count out Eastern Europe. Bucharest, the capital of Romania, was designed to be a “Little Paris,” and boasts wide avenues and detailed architecture.
The city is definitely an up-and-comer – its communist ties are still a recent memory and some parts of the city aren't exactly pretty, but Bucharest is very easy on the budget.
Great things to do:
- Go on a free walking tour ($5-$10 to tip your guide)
- Stroll through the Cismigiu Gardens (FREE)
- Tour the Palace of Parliament, the second-largest administrative building in the world ($20)
- Chill out at a cafe in the revived Old Town
Read more: A Tale of Two Capitals: Bucharest and Sofia
So WHY are these cities so much more affordable? Well, first of all, many of them are in Central Europe. And many countries in Central Europe have not yet switched over to the Euro, meaning your dollar stretches a lot further here.
Many of these cities aren't top tourist attractions yet, either (well, except Prague; tourists have definitely discovered Prague), meaning prices for food and accommodation haven't started soaring since visitors are sharing the space with locals.
Add to this plenty of low-cost airlines in Europe that service all of these cities, and you have the trifecta for affordability.
Want a few MORE ideas for affordable capitals in Europe? You can also check out: Lisbon, Portugal; Sofia, Bulgaria; Riga, Latvia; Bratislava, Slovakia; and Ljubljana, Slovenia. All will offer you a lot more for your money!
READ NEXT: 12 European Capitals You Need to Visit