The summer holidays are almost upon us and now is a great time to be seriously researching your summer break destination. There’s no need to bust your wallet wide open, especially if you consider one of these fabulous (yet budget savvy) cities across the four corners of Europe.
Best budget city in Eastern Europe
For the budget traveller, Sofia, Bulgaria is one of the cheapest East European cities to visit. Sofia is an ideal destination for travelers who appreciate impressive architecture and charming cobblestoned boulevards found in many centuries-old Eastern European capital cities, but in Sofia without paying impressive capital city prices. Budget airlines, affordable 4 and 5 star hotels and delicious local food make Sofia the ideal destination for travelers looking for a chic escape without sacrificing quality.
The Neo-Baroque, Neo-Rococo, Neo-Renaissance and Neoclassical architecture can be enjoyed with free English-language sightseeing walking tours of Bulgaria’s capital. Free hiking and bicycling tours also help budget minded travelers appreciate Sophia’s extensive green space and mountains without having to leave the city. The must-do free English-language walking tours are organised by volunteers and begin at the corner of the Palace of Justice and Finish the National Parliament.
Best low priced city in Western Europe
Brussels, the Belgian capital, is widely considered to be one of Europe’s most romantic cities and right now, it is also one of Europe’s great travel bargains. With historic attractions and contemporary arts and music events and gastronomic delights, there is something for everyone in Brussels. For young couples looking a city with a vibrant nightlife, Brussels has over 80 bars featuring some a vast array of Belgian beers. The trendiest spots in the city are located downtown towards the Place St. Gér.
Cheap sightseeing tours are available on hop-on hop-off buses and travellers can purchase Brussels Cards which are travel passes and museum passes in one. Accommodation in Brussels is less expensive than Europe’s other great romantic cities such as Paris, London and Rome making the city ideal for honeymoons and romantic get-a-ways. West European trips don’t get any more hip, arty and cosmopolitan than Brussels which has really upped its game since being labelled the ‘Cultural Capital of Europe’ in 2000.
Most wallet-friendly city in North Europe
Parnu in Estonia is a very affordable destination for families looking for beaches and traditional summer fun in the sun. While relatively unknown to many, Parnu, home of the famous Pärnu Mud Baths, is Estonia’s most popular health tourism destination. Upscale spa hotels abound but there is a wide selection of great value accommodations throughout Parnu for families looking for a cheap beach holiday. Visit Parnu during summertime (or shoulder season) to see the city at its best; the warm Baltic sea water and fresh air are as invigorating as the mud baths and spa treatments which Parnu is famed for.
The best value activity in Parnu is strolling the boardwalk; walk along the boardwalk in the evenings taking in Parnu’s glorious, picture perfect sunsets or enjoy people watching as the locals frequently do. The sidewalk cafes are great places for catching up with friends and for relaxed informal dining.
Top low cost city in South Europe
Nestled in a lush secluded valley in the district of Braga in Portugal, Guimarães is a true find for the budget-conscious traveller. The old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring medieval streets with well-preserved Portuguese architecture from the 15th to 19th century and a 10th century castle. The historic city centre is compact and very easy to walk as it is almost car free. The Guimarães Tourist Officeat Largo Cónego José Maria Gomes provides free booklets outlining the city’s attractions so visitors can easily plan their own self-guided tours.
Guimarães has traditionally been overshadowed by Oporto, just 30 minutes to the southwest, so the city remains affordable but be sure to book your holiday quickly. A hot spot of artistic creativity, the city has been appointed the European Capital of Culture in 2012, so the bargains will not last. Visit now, while there are still hidden gems, like charming B&B’s and inexpensive cafes, to be found.
By Julie Bowman