Cheap European City Breaks

A city break is an opportunity to relax, soak up culture and enjoy delicious food & drink. Luckily, it is possible to do it cheaply. Read on to find out more.

Everyone’s financial situation is different, and how much money you would like to spend on a trip is a very personal thing. Therefore, nobody can tell you exactly which trip is the right choice for you, or how much you should spend while you are away.

You have the best chance of enjoying your time away if you are comfortable with how much money you are spending – nothing can spoil a city break like realising you’ve just spent next month’s rent on a boat ride and a museum ticket.

There is a common misconception that every city in Europe is expensive. This is patently untrue. Europe is made up of 50 countries, with many cities worth visiting, so while some may be on the pricey side, others will fall well within your budget.

Some cities are renowned for being expensive, though, and may not be the best option if you want a guaranteed cheap break. Cities that fall into this category are Oslo, Copenhagen and Paris – amazing, but perhaps too expensive.

The best place to start when planning your budget is figuring out what you are and aren’t willing to skimp on. Are you happy staying in a basic hostel and using a shared bathroom, or is it imperative that you have a nice hotel with an en-suite? Are you happy grabbing fast food and packing sandwiches in your bag, or is a slap-up meal absolutely necessary?

Do you prefer to explore free exhibitions and open places, or is the city’s most expensive museum at the top of your list? Once you have decided in which areas you want to save money, you can start looking for the best deals.

Here are three cities you should consider for a cheap city break, and a few tips to help you get the most out of your trip without spending a lot of money.



Krakow is not the capital city of Poland, but it is arguably the most impressive. With cheap accommodation and a wealth of free or reasonably priced attractions, it is a great place to go if you want to soak up some European charm and atmosphere without breaking the bank.

As it is a popular city on the routes of many backpackers and gap year travellers, there is an abundance of cheap downmarket accommodation, including hostels, B&Bs and apartments.

Poland uses the Polish zloty, rather than the euro. Roughly, one euro is equivalent to four zloty, one British pound is equivalent to five zloty, and one US dollar is equivalent to three zloty. If you are not familiar with the Polish currency, it may be worth making a note of how it compares to your native currency so that you can have a clear idea of how much things really cost.

Krakow has many parks and gardens, both within the city centre and in the outskirts. Ideal for nature lovers and travellers who want an open space in which to sit and read, write, think, or people-watch.

Krakow’s parks may not be at their best in the winter months, as the temperature has been known to drop to around -30˚C. In the summer months the temperature can reach 25˚C, making a park a great place to enjoy the weather without spending any money.

Some of these spaces may charge admission – the botanical garden, for example, will set you back little more than a euro – but it is not likely to be extortionate and will be a great way to spend some time.

It won’t be too difficult to find a filling and delicious meal in Krakow for under 5 euro (around 20 zloty). For a truly cheap and authentic meal, look for a milk bar or bar mleczny. These distinctly Polish establishments began life as communist canteens, and while some have been modernised, others are still very similar to how they may have appeared many years ago.

If you’re looking for something a little more upmarket, even fine dining in Krakow will not set you back as much as it would in London or Rome. For a truly low-cost trip, make sure that your accommodation has cooking facilities, and make use of cheap groceries.

Bread, cheese, potatoes and eggs will all be available for a low price, and will provide you with filling meals so that you are not distracted by hunger while sightseeing.

To say hello, say cześć or halo

To say goodbye, say bye or do widzenia

To say thank you, say dziękuję

To say please, say proszę


tram in lisbon

The Portuguese capital is among the world’s oldest cities, yet is modern enough to pull in many travellers.

A trip to Lisbon is likely to offer much better value for money than other destinations in Western Europe – and probably better weather too. Lisbon has a temperate climate and many things to do outdoors, so you can easily while away a day just walking around, seeing the sights, and taking photos.

Although walking around is enjoyable in itself, you will eventually want to stop for something to eat and drink. Thankfully, there are many places where you can do just that. If you allow an approximate budget of seven euro for a meal, and two euro for a beer, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised at the quality and quantity of food and drink you can get for your money.

Lisbon is blessed with stunning architecture, including monasteries, castles and towers. While some important architectural buildings may charge admission, it is usually possible to admire them from a non-paying distance, or to pay a smaller fee to enter the grounds without entering the building.

If you are serious about seeing as many of the city’s sights as possible, you should look into purchasing a Lisboa Card. It may seem pricey, but when you consider that it grants you free or reduced entry to many tourist attractions and free public transport within the city, it might be a great deal for you.

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Lisbon is the number 28 tram. While a good public transport system makes any city easier and cheaper to spend time in, the appeal of the number 28 tram is that it is an old-fashioned wooden tram. Buy an all-day tram ticket for a couple of euro, and then you can enjoy winding your way around the city, jumping off whenever you see something that interests you.

To say hello, say olá

To say goodbye, say adeus

To say thank you, say obrigado

To say please, say por favor



The Slovak capital has emerged in recent years to become a city that every bargain-hunting tourist should make some time for. The dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993 left Bratislava in the odd position of suddenly being a capital city again.

For this reason, anyone who visited in the early 90s may have found the city lacking in any kind of tourism industry. This has all changed now. It likes be known as ‘The Little Big City’, drawing attention to the fact that while the city itself may be small, there is a lot to do and see.

With some bars still serving beer for one euro or less, and most not exceeding two euro, Bratislava is the ideal place for keen drinkers to congregate. There are bars and pubs all over the city, so you will never have to walk far to find another, whether you’re looking for old world charm or modern glamour.

Food is also cheap and easy to come by, with many restaurants offering a daily set menu with soup, a main course, and a drink. This can be as cheap as two euro, but an average price is four euro.

Slovakia is a country with many castles, and there are even a few within Bratislava. Overlooking the old town is Bratislava Castle, or Bratislavský hrad. Devin Castle is a little further out of the city, but can be easily reached by bus or boat. Once you have explored the castle, you can take a short boat trip to Hainburg, Austria and spend a little bit of time in Slovakia’s more expensive neighbour.

When it comes to accommodation, Bratislava seems to have very little middle ground between budget hostels and luxury hotels. It is not a simple task to find a reasonably priced, mid-range hotel. There are a number of apartments available for holiday lets, if this provides a better option for you than a backpacker’s hostel or romantic hotel suite.

To say hello, say ahoj or cầu

To say goodbye, say dovidenia

To say thank you, say d’akujem

To say please, say prosim

Currency conversions are an approximate guide based on exchange rates at time of writing. For an accurate conversion, check with a bank or reputable bureaux de change. 

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About the author


Reader, writer, blogger, part-timer, volunteer, all things to all men. I can usually be found wearing yellow clothes and drinking green tea. Some of my favourite things include waterfalls, polar bears, rum, and charity shops.

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