When it comes to planning a European city break that doesn't break the bank, there's a wealth of options to suit every interest. From charming historic towns to vibrant cultural centres, these destinations offer exceptional value for money. Check out our list of 8 budget-friendly European city breaks and what you can expect from each:
Tirana, with its intriguing blend of history, art, and vibrant atmosphere, is an undiscovered treasure for travellers seeking a unique city break destination. This blossoming capital is quickly garnering attention as an alternative European escape, making now the perfect time to experience Tirana's charms before it lands on the mainstream radar. So, pack your bags and dive into Tirana's colourful world, where an unforgettable adventure awaits.
The currency of Albania is Albanian Lek (ALL). 1lek is divided into 100 Qindarkë. €1 = 111 Albaninan Lek. According to Hikers Bay a 2 course Meal for 2 People in a mid-range Restaurant you can generally get for just under €40.
Tirana's thriving culinary scene showcases the authentic flavours of Albanian cuisine. Discover hearty staples such as Tavë Kosi, a delicious baked lamb and rice dish with a yogurt sauce, or Fërgesë, a comforting vegetarian or meat-based dish featuring peppers, tomatoes, and creamy feta cheese. Complement your meal with a glass of raki, the local spirit, for an authentic dining experience. If you really want to experience traditional food, Oda casts a light on Ottoman culinary influences present in Albanian cuisine.
Perfect For Art Lovers: The city's vibrant art scene is undeniably captivating. A visit to the National Gallery of Arts offers a glimpse into the diverse work of Albanian artists, with exhibits spanning from the 13th century to highly contemporary pieces. For street art enthusiasts, the Blloku neighbourhood is a treasure trove of colourful murals and graffiti that showcase the creative energy that pulses through the city.
Home to central and Eastern Europe’s largest medieval old town, Lithuania’s capital city is filled with bustling cafés and fairy-tale castles. Tucked away in the Baltic region, Vilnius remains a lesser-known European destination that beckons travellers with its winding cobblestone streets, beguiling Baroque architecture, and rich artistic scene.
Popular sights can be viewed from a height in a hot air balloon tour viewing the many magnificent castles and lakes below. For around €2 you can sip on a delicious local craft beer or if you prefer wine, a bottle will cost around €7.
At the heart of Vilnius lies its enchanting Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site brimming with exquisite architecture and a rich historical tapestry. Meandering through the maze of narrow streets and hidden courtyards, you'll find yourself transported to a bygone era. Key sites to explore include the stately Gediminas Castle Tower, which offers spectacular panoramic views of the city, and the elegant Vilnius Cathedral, an impressive display of Neo-Classical design.
Perfect For Nature Lovers: Nature enthusiasts will appreciate Vilnius' abundance of lush green spaces, perfect for a leisurely walk or a quiet moment of reflection. Vingis Park, the city's largest park, offers trails for walking, biking, and even rollerblading, while the serene Bernardine Gardens provide a peaceful retreat with meticulously landscaped grounds and fountains.
Riga, the charming capital of Latvia, is an extraordinary blend of rich history, splendid architecture, and a thriving cultural scene. As the largest city in the Baltics, Riga enchants its visitors with its stunning medieval Old Town, delightful parks, and vibrant nightlife, making it a perfect city break destination.
Discover the allure of Riga and unwrap its countless treasures during your visit. Similar to Vilnius, there’s a big craft beer scene in Riga and a half litre bottle will cost you approx. €2. Dining out in Riga is a steal - you can get a generous evening meal for around €5 – €9 per person. According to The Savvy Backpacker it costs around €40-€65 per day to visit Riga comfortably as a budget traveller. You can spend a lot more if you partake in Riga’s robust nightlife, which offers a range of late bars and clubs.
Perfect For Architecture lovers: There are over 800 art nouveau buildings in the city of Riga. Walk around the Art Nouveau district and gaze at the intricately decorated buildings and pay a visit to the museum on Alberta Street.
Separated by the river Danube, Budapest is home to the magnificent Buda Castle, the famous Szechenyi thermal baths and a host of gothic buildings to marvel at. A beer will cost you less than €2 and you can sample the delicious local cuisine for as little as €8 in a sit-down restaurant. Even though Hungary is an EU member, the local currency there is the Forint. However, many shops and restaurants in Budapest accept payments in Euros, but applied rates are unfavourable to the customer.
Budapest's thriving cultural scene is highlighted by its numerous museums, galleries, and historical sites. Visit the Hungarian State Opera House, an architectural masterpiece and a hub for world-class performances. The Hungarian National Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts showcase the country's history, art, and culture, while the moving Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial pays tribute to the victims of World War II.
Perfect For Night-Life Lovers: As the sun sets, Budapest comes alive with a multitude of entertainment options. The city's famed "ruin bars", situated inside dilapidated and abandoned buildings, draw visitors with their unique décor, live music, and electrifying atmosphere. Another of the many reasons why Budapest is the perfect location for booking a last minute holiday.
Athens, the fascinating capital of Greece, beckons as a premier city break destination, blending millennia-old history with a modern, cosmopolitan atmosphere. From ancient ruins to bustling markets, and from traditional tavernas to trendy bars, Athens offers an unparalleled array of experiences for travellers.
You can find really good value when visiting Athens. A pint of standard beer in a bar ranges from €2-€5. While meal prices in Athens can vary, the average meal should cost around €15 per person if you’re looking to sit down or you could just pick up a delicious Gyros for €3 while on the go. (there is a lot to see after all)
Perfect For History Lovers: Athens is renowned for its ancient history, and a visit to its most famous landmark, the Acropolis, is an absolute must. Wander around the Parthenon, the pinnacle of Greek architecture, and marvel at the stunning views of the city below. The nearby Acropolis Museum hosts a remarkable collection of artifacts uncovered at the archaeological site.
Don't miss the chance to explore the Ancient Agora, the Roman Forum, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which provide further glimpses into Athens' rich historical tapestry. For something a little different The Panathenaic Stadium, the only stadium in the world constructed entirely of marble, will captivate sports enthusiasts with its awe-inspiring atmosphere.
The medieval Old Town of Ljubljana, nestled along the Ljubljanica River, serves as the heart of the city. Wander the cobblestone streets and marvel at the delightful blend of Baroque, Renaissance, and Art Nouveau architecture. Key attractions include the striking Ljubljana Castle, which offers panoramic views of the city, and the picturesque Triple Bridge, a must-visit photo opportunity.
The National Museum of Slovenia and the Museum of Contemporary Art showcase the country's artistic and historical treasures, while the Slovene Ethnographic Museum provides a glimpse into the nation's multicultural heritage. Tivoli Park, the largest park in Ljubljana, offers a peaceful haven for leisurely walks, picnics, and outdoor activities. The idyllic Ljubljana Botanic Garden, established in 1810, is a must-visit destination for plant enthusiasts, while the Ljubljana Marshes offer an intriguing blend of natural and cultural experiences, although you may want to rent a car to visit them. We can give you a few tips if you want cheaper car rentals.
Perfect For Food Lovers: Ljubljana is home to a vibrant culinary scene, showcasing a diverse range of Slovenian and international flavours. Traditional Slovenian cuisine incorporates fresh, locally sourced ingredients in delicious dishes such as žlikrofi (potato-filled dumplings), kranjska klobasa (Slovenian sausage), and potica (nut-filled pastry). The city boasts a vast array of eateries, from cozy cafés to Michelin-starred restaurants, with Time Out referring to it as a Gourmands Heaven.
Istanbul has played a pivotal role throughout history. Previously knowns as Constantinople, the city has hosted the Roman, Ottoman and Byzantine empires and the influence of each can still be seen in the diverse city today. We highly recommend taking a cruise on the Bosphorus Strait, the enchanting waterway that divides Europe and Asia. Take in the captivating views of the city's skyline, waterfront mansions, and ancient fortifications as you glide past iconic sites such as the Dolmabahçe Palace and the Rumeli Fortress.
A pint of beer will cost around €3.50 and you can eat a full dinner for as little as €5. The Turkish lira is the accepted currency in Turkey. Although you can pay with euros in some places, you'll always get a better deal paying in the local currency.
Perfect For Market Lovers: Visit the Grand Bazaar street market and try your hand at some haggling in one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. Consisting of 61 covered streets and featuring over 4,000 shops you will find stalls selling jewellery, antiques, textiles and carpets. Make sure to take a break to enjoy some Turkish coffee or apple tea.
The beautiful city of Porto is located upon Douro River and makes for the perfect weekend break location. Think superb sights, delightful wines and delicious food and you’ve got the idea. Adorned with tiny streets to get lost in, you’ll find ancient plazas, ornate churches and monuments hidden throughout the city. The heart of Porto lies in Ribeira, a UNESCO World Heritage Site characterized by its winding cobblestone streets, colourful buildings, and historic charm. Stroll through the narrow alleys and discover hidden plazas, quaint shops, and delightful local eateries.
Porto offers a sensory culinary adventure, from traditional Portuguese dishes to innovative fine dining creations. Relish in local specialties such as Francesinha, a hearty meat-filled sandwich, and Bacalhau, a versatile cod dish prepared in numerous ways. A glass of wine averages at €3 and a meal comes in at around €10 in more casual restaurants.
Perfect For Wine Lovers: Sampling port wine for which the city is world-famous is a must when visiting this vibrant city. Embark on a guided tour of the city's renowned wineries, or 'caves,' in the neighbouring Vila Nova de Gaia area. Indulge in a wine tasting experience, learning about the history and production of this distinctive fortified wine.
If none of the above tickle your fancy or are a little further than you’d like to travel we have this handy guide to more city-break holiday destination’s less than 3 hours from Dublin.
Wherever you’re heading and even if you’re travelling solo, avoid any unexpected expenses with a good value travel insurance policy from AIG. Choose single trip travel insurance or opt for an annual travel insurance policy to save more money throughout the year. We can advise on the best travel insurance for a European holiday.