Exploring Europe has not been this cheap in a long time and with careful planning and being open to new experiences, you can see a wide variety of European cities on the cheap. The following guide will introduce you to six wonderful European cities and what they have to offer the thrifty traveller.
Krakow is one of the largest cities in Poland and the birthplace of the legendary Pope John Paul II. This city is also one of the oldest in the region and boasts a bevvy of amazing historical sights as well as a fantastic culinary and nightlife scene that can rival any great city of Europe. The National Museum of Poland is located in Krakow and is the prime depository for priceless Polish and world artifacts as well as home to great works of art by the masters, such as Leonardo and Michelangelo. The Ludowy Theatre in downtown Krakow is also a great draw with sweeping productions of Opera and stage theatre, many tourists fly into Krakow just to catch a show. Walk around the huge Main Market Square, aka Rynek Glowny and explore Krakow’s UNESCO World Heritage listed center. The Krakow tourism industry is booming, in the fiscal year of 2010 almost 8 million people visited Krakow and you will find plenty of accommodation and tourist friendly areas.
The capital of Belgium, Brussels, is truly one of the great cities of the world. With influences from France, England, the Netherlands and Spain, this country has an eclectic world feel and is home to many different nationalities and cultures. Brussels is a very welcoming city to world travelers and has a very developed tourism industry, mainly based on architecture as well as art and culture. Belgium is a large city, with almost two million inhabitants. There are a number of UNESCO world heritage sites in the city, including The Grand Place. The Brussels Stock Exchange and the Palace of the Ministry are also very famous architecture landmarks located in downtown Brussels. Many foodies travel to Brussels due to the melange of cultures that are exhibited in Belgian food. There are many fantastic restaurants in town, serving food from around the globe.
Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark and the largest city population wise in the country of Denmark. Traditionally the seat of the Danish monarchy, Copenhagen has grown into a great world city with much to offer the savvy traveller. In international reviews Copenhagen has been ranked the best place to live on the planet and this also leads to it being a great place to visit. The Copenhagen nightlife is one of the most popping on the continent of Europe and most nightclubs do not close until the early morning when the sun comes out. Liberal drinking laws enable partiers to stay out later than most other world cities and the sheer number of people taking advantage of the nightlife means there are a great deal of options for those wishing to partake. The National Gallery is a great art museum and has some of the finest works in all of Europe collected over a period of hundreds of years. Visit The David Collection art museum which is free to enter, explore The Museum of the Danish Resistance which showcases the Nazi occupation during World War II and 6,000 years or art await you at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum which is home to the biggest collection of Ancient Mediterranean artwork in north Europe. Visit the picturesque Church of Our Saviour, chill out for a few hours in the Frederiksberg Have Park and take in an opera or baller performance at the Copenhagen Opera House.
Athens is the birthplace of democracy- this sets the bar high in terms of expectations, and Athens certainly delivers on every level! In fact Athens was also the very first European City of Culture when the prestigious title began back in 1985. Luckily due to recent Greek economic turmoil it has never been cheaper to visit Athens. The city has a fantastic tourism industry built around ancient Greek and Roman monuments as well as a night life that doesn’t stop. Athens also has some good Mediterranean cuisine as well as some of the best seafood in all of Southern Europe. Once you get to Athens you’ll be overwhelmed with cultural attractions such as the majestic ruins of ancient Parthenon, the world renowned Acropolis and the Coliseum, three hugely famous tourist attractions and for good reason! Explore the Acropolis Museum, the carefully preserved Temple of Hephaestus and the fascinating Benaki Museum. You can also take tours of the Mediterranean coast in Athens as well as a helicopter ride showing you all of the ancient monuments and theatres. Be sure to be careful when you visit due to poverty in the country.
Madrid is the largest city and capital of Spain. With about 4 million people living in the city it is a sprawling metropolis that is easily explored thanks to a great public transport system. There are a number of minor and major league soccer teams located in Madrid, so be sure to catch a game when you visit. In fact there are around 72 football clubs based in Madrid, and the three biggest clubs are Real Madrid, Atlético de Madrid and Rayo Vallecano. There are also an abundance of local traditional events and festivals such as flamenco performances and bull fighting shows; check the local listings on arrival for details. In terms of cultural and historical sights, check out one the biggest art collections in the world at the Prado Museum, browse the post-impressionist Spanish works of art at the Sorolla Museum and enjoy some relaxation time at the Retiro Park, which has beautiful water features amongst the carefully manicured gardens. The city is also known for a burgeoning Molecular Gastronomy craze, so check out some of the high tech restaurants sprinkled throughout the city.
Riga is sure to attract much acclaim as it prepares to host the European Capital of Culture for 2014, along with Umeå in Sweden. The capital and biggest city in the country, Riga has all the culture and swagger of other European capitals whilst being considerably cheaper. Eastern Europe is generally cheaper than the rest of Europe and Riga is no exception. From hotels to car hire, museums to shopping, everything in Riga is keenly priced. The National Museum has a great deal of Latvian and Eastern European artifacts, and the Grand Opera Hall is home to some of the best Opera in Eastern Europe. Take a walking tour of the Old City, admire the view of historic Riga from St Peter’s Church Tower and there are interesting museums aplenty with the Occupation of Latvia Museum, Ethnographic Open Air Museum and Riga Motormuseum all worth a visit. Riga also operates some of the finest casinos in all of Europe and the low cost of business here means you will get great service without spending a bundle.
By Julie Bowman