Make your wallet happy in 2014 with these scintillating gems, where thrifty travellers can experience their next adventure at one of the cheapest cities in Europe.
We’re really spoiling you here – yes Riga is both an affordable destination and also one of the hottest in 2014! The party city will shine all year thanks to its hosting of the European Capital of Culture 2014. Prepare yourself for a culture, history and architecture overload! This Baltic beauty boasts a stunning Vecriga, aka Old Town, rich heritage from the Hanseatic trade period and more Jugendstil Art Nouveau architecture than you can shake a stick at.
Top 3 Things to do in Riga: Soak up the architecture of UNESCO-listed Riga Old Town, learn a little at one of Riga’s fascinating museums and take in the amazing view from atop Peter's Church Tower.
Know before you go: Despite its reputation as a party capital of Europe, it is an offence to consume alcohol in public.
Did you know? This is the only city in Europe that contains churches that represent five different religions.
The young and vibrant city of Budapest also happens to be the one of the best value in Europe right now. The romantic waterways of the Danube meander through the two main districts of Buda and Pest (great for a Valentines destination), the classical music scene is the best on the continent and the World Heritage listed Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue continue to enthrall.
Top 3 Things to do in Budapest: Discover the rebuilt Castle Hill (Varhegy) district which was destroyed during World War II, catch a performance at the Hungarian State Opera House which is a faithful copy of the Vienna Opera House and walk the Chain Bridge which dates back to 1849 and connects Buda and Pest.
Know before you go: Allow time to indulge in one of the many hot-water spring spas in the city – perfect after all that sightseeing!
Did you know? Many of the traditional Hungarian dishes are made with a real emphasis on paprika – ideal for those colder days.
The buzzing capital city of Portugal also happens to be a wallet-friendly destination, which, for some bizarre reason, travellers to southern Europe seem to overlook. The historic port city Lisbon is handsome and charming with it, sitting astride seven hills. Reputedly predating even Rome, Lisbon’s most captivating district is undoubtedly Alfama, which is also its oldest. Cobblestoned streets exude rich heritage and fascinating culture.
Top 3 Things to do in Lisbon: Wander the Gulbenkian Art Museum which also stages concerts, take in the pretty panorama from atop the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte and chill out in the Cascais Old Town as you experience the sting of the Atlantic Ocean on your face.
Know before you go: The Portuguese have a ferocious sweet tooth and the local cafes are bursting with an enticing array of pastries – in fact their custard tarts are well known in former colonies too, as any visitor to Macau will attest to!
Did you know? Lisbon hosted the European Capital of Culture honour to mark the awards 10th anniversary.
Hailed as one of the cheapest holiday hotspots for last summer, we continue to hear great things of the World Heritage gem of Dubrovnik, aka the much-touted ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’. And in 2014 we confidently predict that more travellers than ever will uncover the exquisite religious structures, rich Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture and UNESCO listed city walls for themselves.
Top 3 Things to do in Dubrovnik: Walk the engineering marvel of the Ancient City Walls, which along with the Old City of Dubrovnik was awarded a highly coveted UNESCO inscription in 1979. Ride the Dubrovnik Cable Car for awesome panoramic views and chill out on one of the surrounding Mediterranean island gems: Korcula, Lokrum and Mljet all offer pretty villages, secluded bays and heavenly beaches.
Know before you go: Croatia joined the EU in July 2013, but to date has not adopted the Euro as a currency. So you’ll still to purchase some Croatian Kuna (Kn).
Did you know? Renowned Irish playwright and author George Bernard Shaw wrote of the city: “Those who search for paradise on earth should come and see Dubrovnik”.
The decline of the Turkish Lira is benefitting travellers right now, with some great bargains to be had on accommodation, meals out and attractions. Head to Istanbul which epitomises the classic east-meets-west promise: with colourful markets, traditional temples and intriguing attractions all vying for your attention. The gateway to Asia (or Europe, depending on which way you’re travelling) was the ancient capital from the Roman to Ottoman period, bequeathing a rich heritage upon the city.
Top 3 Things to do in Istanbul: Explore the ancient Greek Orthodox Chora Church and Kariye Museum, admire the Byzantine wonder that is the Hagia Sophia and stop by the ornate Suleymaniye Mosque which was designed by architect extraordinaire Sinan.
Know before you go: Don’t forget that as from 11 April 2014 all travellers to Turkey must have applied for an online visa in order to enter.
Did you know? Constantinople, aka Istanbul was the ancient capital of both Turkey and many other empires during past rule, but today Ankara is actually the official capital city. However Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, with some 13 million residents.
Sofia is the perennial budget travellers’ favourite and regularly appears on lists hailing the cheapest cities in Europe. The compact cosmopolitan city center is brimming with a curious blend of Ottoman, soviet and European architecture. Many of Bulgaria’s tourists head to the beach and ski resorts, which is to your advantage!
Top 3 Things to do in Sofia: Admire the impressive Cathedral Saint Alexandar Nevski which unbelievably only dates back to the early 20th century, admire the curious exhibits on display at the Museum of Socialist Art and take in the breathtakingly beautiful Ivan Vazov National Theater.
Know before you go: Sofia remains a budget travel hotspot thanks to the plethora of free attractions and cultural sights: the Sofia Art Gallery has free entry all year round, the National Museum of History has free entry on each last Monday in the month and the fascinating Monasteries at Sofia Mount Athos are also free to explore.
Did you know? Sofia boasts many colourful and lively annual festivals and events, from the Night of the Museums in May, the A to JazZ festival each June and Sofia Architecture Week each November.