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5 European Cities to Visit on a Budget

The future of the travel industry may be uncertain at the moment, but many are expecting a post-COVID boom in the years to come. If you’re someone who likes to get ahead of your planning, here are some economically friendly options that don’t compromise on experience, perfect for when it’s safe to travel again.

Naples, Italy

Naples with a backdrop of Mount Vesuvius.

Naples is often overlooked by tourists in favour of its northern alternatives, yet it can boast the same culture, food, and weather as the other cities and with its own unique selling points (and a significantly lower price tag) too. For starters, Naples is widely regarded as the pizza capital of Italy. The first pizza restaurant – the Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba – opened in Naples in 1738, and is still serving their traditional dishes. If that isn’t reason enough on its own, Naples is also unique for being located in the shadow of an active volcano. Just by taking a short train to Pompeii you can visit the archeological site of the ancient town destroyed by its eruption in 79 AD. There’s also the option to go wine-tasting on Mount Vesuvius’s slopes. Definitely worthy of adding to the bucket-list!

Warsaw, Poland

Mermaid of Warsaw Statue in Old Town.

Its skyline dominated by a Stalinist landmark, Warsaw is the best budget travel destination for history nerds and culture-lovers alike. The Polish capital had a very significant role in the Second World War, so it’s no surprise that it’s now full of enough museums to satiate even the most zealous historian. Make sure to visit the Warsaw Uprising Museum to learn about the city’s resistance to Nazi invasion, and the emotionally harrowing POLIN Museum, which pays tribute Poland’s Jewish community. If you visit in the summer months, Łazienki Park is a beautiful place to picnic. Dining out is very affordable too, especially in traditional Polish restaurants, so immerse yourself in the culture and try some pierogi from its original source.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague’s Astronomical Clock, installed in 1410.

Although Prague is more expensive than other cities in the Czech Republic, it’s still comparatively cheaper than its Western alternatives. It’s famous for having (among other things) possibly the cheapest beer in the world. But aside from cheap drinking, Prague can also be very romantic. One of the most sophisticated (but affordable) restaurants is Café Louvre, which was frequented by Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein during their lifetimes. There’s plenty of quirky photo opportunities too, like the Dancing House and the Astronomical Clock. If you want to escape a rainy day then you can duck into Prague’s National Gallery and peruse works by Klimt, Schiele, and many others free of charge.

Freiburg, Germany

Freiburg Cathedral in Münsterplatz.

Freiburg is a medieval university town that has been described as Europe’s ‘secret gem’. The Black Forest, known for the folklore of the Brothers Grimm, surrounds it on all sides, making it a fantastic base for hiking and walking holidays. Schauinisland is the third highest mountain in the Black Forest and very accessible from Freiburg – there’s even the option of a cable-car to the peak. The town itself is full of Gothic architecture, and climbing the narrow steps of the 800-year-old cathedral is a great way to earn some breathtaking views. Freiburg is also a great option for a winter break; the Black Forest is especially magical in the snow, and the town is unbeaten when it comes to traditional Christmas markets, hosting some of the best every December.

Budapest, Hungary

The Hungarian Parliament Building, completed 1904.

Budapest is often cited as one of the cheapest capital cities in Europe, and it is certainly true that if your goal is to see lots of things on a tight budget, this is the place to do so. The city is separated into the ‘Buda’ section on the west side of the river (where the famous Castle District and the Fishermen’s Bastion is) and ‘Pest’ section on the east side. Pest is where you’ll find ruin bars: dilapidated pre-war buildings transformed into grungy and unique drinking spots. For something less bohemian, visit the Hungarian Parliament Building, both a stunning feat of Baroque architecture and a leftover relic from the affluent days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Days out can’t be cheaper than the free walking tours available nearby, just make sure to tip the experienced guides with a donation as a thanks.

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