Many people rank Europe at the top of their travel list for the future, but it seems expensive from far away! While London and Paris may really cost you a pretty penny to do it right, there are some hidden gems that are less well known throughout this gorgeous continent.
Giant thermal pools, castles from the 13th century, ancient temples and long lost mythology — quite a few wonders await you at these shockingly affordable European locations. Let’s take a peek!
Beer Baths: Prague, Czech Republic
Perhaps the Czech Republic has not been the setting in enough Hollywood movies yet, because it seems few people abroad really know how beautiful it is! That is, until they visit for themselves. Prague has actually seen a great increase in tourism over the last decade, and the city has a lot to offer for travelers with an architectural eye. The city is incredibly old — founded in 870 — and retains a lot of buildings and bridges from hundreds of years ago that miraculously survived WWII. If you’re in the mood to see a real castle with free admission or an ornate historical cathedral, Prague is just the place. Fun fact: This destination is the beer drinking capital of the world!
The drill-down: Hotel prices are far less than in many other European cities competing for visitors, starting at $10 a night! Find restaurants outside of the tourist traps in the city and you can get a full meal of authentic meat and dumplings — with half a liter of beer included — for only $5 per person! Additionally, visitors can enjoy something called a “beer spa” in the city. What is this, you ask? Customers can actually lie back and soak their body in a bathtub filled with beer, while also drinking a cold one! Unique, funny, and highly recommended for an out-of-the-box vacation in one of Europe’s oldest major cities. Cheers!
Thermal baths and Goulash: Budapest, Hungary
Budapest is actually the combination of three older settlements separated by a river — Óbuda, Buda, and Pest! A logical name if there ever was one, though it seems Óbuda got the short end of the stick. In all seriousness: This urban area dates back thousands of years, and it has plenty of history for curious pedestrians with a desire to soak it all in. Buda Castle from the 13th century is the site of the National Gallery as well as the Budapest History Museum. Definitely worth a look when you’re in the area! Walking on the street means you might run into a Roman Catholic neoclassical basilica or a synagogue that is hundreds of years old. Even the Hungarian Parliament Building is an architectural wonder!
For Hungary, this capital city is not only the center of government but also culture and commerce. It is the place to see if Hungary has ever interested you! Budget travelers will enjoy free walking tours of the city streets, and a whole pint of beer is often just $1! While you’re there, authentic local goulash is available in a large size for only $5 — meaning you can save your cash to explore the city’s thermal pools! Budapest is actually located on a fault line, and 120 hot springs feed stylish thermal baths all over the city. Some are hundreds of years old and still in use by the public! All in all, we are wowed by this destination. Burning question of the day: When is the next direct flight?
Island Hopping: Athens, Greece
Everyone knows that Athens was the beginning of democracy itself, and it’s definitely worth having at the top of your list! What can visitors expect? Most of the city is very modern, but it retains many of its old and beautiful historical structures. Definitely a striking contrast you cannot see everyday in the new world! Major attraction: The Acropolis is a hilltop area where early city settlements occurred, and it is not far away from the famous Parthenon temple! Visitors can enjoy the extensive historical collections of statues, vases, and other ancient artifacts at the Acropolis Museum for around $10. Very knowledgeable staff are more than happy to take you through history and answer questions you may have in English and other local European languages.
Beyond enjoying the contemporary restaurants and shops in the city center, the outer limits of the city is home to a port with a very special opportunity to hop, skip, and jump to various Greek islands nearby for a nominal fee. Visiting Athens is actually only the starting point for your adventure! A short cruise on a giant ferry is another $10 deal, and the rides come and go all day long from the port — and from island to island in the blue Mediterranean sea. Each stop has its own charm to explore with stunning views along the way. Locally, your dollar will go very far: It is not uncommon to find AirBnb listings for $20 a night! All in all, Greece is definitely a scenic and memorable trip through Southern Europe that won’t bust your budget!
Game of Thrones: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Croatia borders the Adriatic Sea and boasts spectacular views that are a little bit different than the Atlantic or Pacific we all know. The major city of Dubrovnik is located in the south, and it is a splendid opportunity to walk through history with your morning coffee on vacation. There are walls still standing from the 1500’s, and gorgeous churches and palaces to see. And for residents of Dubrovnik, that seems to be no big deal — just everyday scenery! Fun fact: If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you might have already seen this city as the setting for the fictional King’s Landing. Wow, who knew?
So what can you do with your time in the city? Just $3 will provide admission to Sponza Palace, a structure that actually dates back to the Renaissance period! For lunch, food costs will not break the bank on a day in Dubrovnik if you leave the tourist heavy Old Town area. Outside the bubble, lunch and breakfast usually cost $5 — and dinner might be $10. Last but not least, beer outside of Old Town is around $5 for a whole pint. Pro tip: accommodations are much cheaper outside of the center! Don’t be fooled, this can definitely be an affordable destination if done wisely!
Art Nouveau: Riga, Latvia
Latvia is an underrated country in the European destination list that deserves a little more attention! Riga is the capital, and visitors can enjoy beautiful architectural sites while strolling down the old cobblestone. Currently, about ⅓ of the country actually lives there — a visit to Riga means a good chunk of culture in one place to get to know the country as a whole. Around the 20th century, massive building began to modernize the city. Today, there are more than 800 art nouveau style structures which contrast with the existing historical landscape. That’s more than in any other city in the world, actually. Very nice!
Some Riga hotels are known to charge only $20 a night, and the city offers both international and authentic local cuisine for reasonable prices in a European capital city. A beer runs about $3 and a burger is typically $5, which means you can save most of your money for the flight! A nice choice to see something besides the typical London and Paris trips too many assume is the whole of Europe. Why not try Riga?