There’s a popular misconception that European cities are expensive. Some places really are – London, Paris, Dublin, and pretty much all of Italy immediately come to mind. And while those places are definitely worth the visit, there are plenty of other incredibly beautiful European cities that are a fraction of the cost.
I tend to measure the cost of a destination by the price of a pint of beer. It’s been a fail proof system so far.
It’s no longer a secret that Prague is one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe thanks to its remarkably preserved architecture and the striking Prague Castle standing on top of the hill. Prague was one of the few European cities that didn’t get bombed out during WWII. It can get crowded and expensive, it’s true, but if you keep away from the Old Town you’ll spend a lot less.
The average price for a bed in a hostel dorm is between 5 EUR to 15 EUR, and hotels are quite a bit pricier starting around 80 EUR. Pints? You can find a really good Pilsner for 2 EUR. Prague has a really great transit system, and it’s easy to get to the centre of town if you stay just beyond the Old Town. Plus you’ll find the best foodie options outside of the Old Town area.
I’m clearly a little biased since I live in Berlin, but I think it’s one of the best cities in Europe. It’s certainly the cheapest city in Germany – although it’s not one of the best looking destinations that the country has to offer, I must admit. It’s hard to be as sexy as Prague when you’ve been bombed a gazillion times.
But if you like culture and world history, Berlin is the place to be. If you take a walking tour around Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall, you’ll be pretty amazed by how much Berlin’s role in world history has shaped our present. Also, if you like partying, Berlin is a true test of endurance. I’ve seen some people go hard for days. Not sure how they survive, but somehow they do.
Most hostel dorm beds are under 20 EUR, while hotels start around 80 EUR. Pints of beer, on the other hand, tend to be around 2.50 EUR. You shouldn’t have to ever pay more than 3 EUR for a beer, unless it’s a special craft one!
Sofia is Bulgaria’s capital, and a fine capital it is! While many visitors head to the coast or the mountains, most people will have to travel through Sofia first, so it’s worth it to spend some time here. There’s a young population and a vibrant energy, and it’s the sort of place where elaborate Ottoman mosques are contrasted against Soviet monuments. There is an insanely large number of galleries and museums as well. You’ll find endless restaurants and bars to keep the students happy, and entertainment venues are a dime a dozen.
Beds in hostel dorms start at 7 EUR while you can find a decent hotel room starting at 40 EUR. And the beers? Under one euro for a pint. Hallelujah!
Come for the pierogies, stay for the culture. You might want to head to Krakow now because it’s been getting a lot of attention lately as a prime travel destination, which could mean some price jacking in the near future. Krakow is famous for its architectural beauty, as well as its “milk bars” – a form of cheap Polish cafeterias left over from the wars. Poland suffered heavy losses, especially during World War II. From Krakow it’s easy to arrange day tours to Auschwitz.
A good hotel room starts around 50 EUR while hostel dorm beds start at 4 EUR. The price of a pint is less than 2 EUR.
Budapest was one of the greatest surprises of my travelling career so far. I hadn’t expected it to be so beautiful! With the winding Danube carving the city in half, and with Castle Hill leading up to the picturesque Old Town, Budapest is one of those places you’ll find you need tons of time to explore properly. And so you should. Sometimes Budapest is known as the “Paris of the East,” which just kinda makes sense. Pro tip: if you’re going to splurge on anything, make it a river cruise at night. The Hungarian National Parliament and the Chain Bridge will be all lit up, and it’s truly a sight to see. A pint of beer in Budapest is about 1.20 EUR, making it definitely one of the best nightlife options as well (you wouldn’t believe the clubs that pop up in abandoned buildings). Decent hotel rooms are available from as low as 40 EUR, and hostel beds are under 10 EUR.
Sarajevo is one of the great loves of my life. Bosnia and Herzegovina was one of the most life changing countries I’ve ever visited, and Sarajevo was no exception. Learning about the siege of the city during the Yugoslavian War was an eye-opening history lesson in the horrors that happened during that time. Today you can still wander the streets and observe the scars of war on all the buildings.
Don’t worry though – Sarajevo is now a peaceful city. The “Meeting of Cultures” memorial is a good testament to that, and so are the friendly locals. The Tunnel of Hope Museum is well worth a visit.
The average cost of a pint is 1.37 EUR. Good quality hotel rooms start as little as 40 EUR a night, and hostel beds tend to be under 10 EUR. If you stay close to the main area, you won’t need to rely much on public transit as everything is in walking distance.
Much like Sarajevo, Serbia’s capital of Belgrade also suffered greatly during the Yugoslavian War. Most of the city was destroyed over and over again. It’s not exactly a pretty city, but Belgrade is all about attitude…and it’s got plenty of it. The Serbs living here are spunky, outgoing, and not afraid to tell you like it is (in the kindest way possible, of course).
Do some people watching in coffee houses, or stay up all night partying in Belgrade’s insane nightlife scene with the locals. The city’s ancient Kalemegdan Citadel is worth exploring, as well as the pedestrian street of Knez Mihailova.
Most hotel rooms start around 60 EUR, but hostel beds are between 10-15 EUR. Beer is usually just one Euro per pint!
1. St. Petersburg
It always strikes me as weird to think of Russia as being a part of Europe, but there we have it. Many people consider St. Petersburg a much better option over Moscow – it’s prettier, cheaper, and much more tourist-friendly.
The historic centre of town is absolutely covered in stunning architecture, and much of the city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are baroque bridges and endless canals, and the Hermitage Museum in the Winter Palace of the Romanov Dynasty hold’s one of the best art collections in the world. The palace itself is absolutely massive and dominates the city centre. Then of course there’s the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, the elaborate and iconic Russian church built on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated.
In St. Petersburg, a pint of beer will cost you just under 2 EUR (but if you’re here, you might as well be drinking vodka anyway). Most hotel rooms start at 37 EUR per night, and hostel beds under 10 EUR.