7 Affordable Europe Vacations For Summer
Summer is a fantastic time to plan that European vacation (as if we needed an excuse). And thanks to a combination of affordable must-see destinations and rising hotspots, there’s a city out there for everyone, no matter how many stamps you might have in your passport.
For the best savings on flights to smaller locations, book a transatlantic deal to a major hub, and then search one of Europe’s many low-budget carriers—Ryanair, EasyJet, Norwegian—for airfare the cost of a night out.
Editor’s Note: Prices were accurate at time of publication and are subject to change based on availability.
One of Europe’s most vibrant countries is also one of its most affordable. Cities like Porto and Lisbon offer intoxicating music and culture, fresh seafood, and unique wines like the lunchtime-favorite vinho verde (not forgetting port, of course!), while a trip to the eccentric Pena Palace, just outside Lisbon, is a must for history-lovers and architecture buffs. From there, a road trip north through Coimbra and Amarante to Porto is an excellent way to see the country—just beware of the highway tolls and stick to the back roads (and isn’t that what travel is all about anyway?). The Inspira Santa Marta Hotel in downtown Lisbon is the perfect base—and the open-plan rooms go for less than $150 a night.
Admittedly, London is never cheap, but if you're careful, there's ways to do it well within budget. It has everything, after all: world-class dining, palaces, shopping, and a host of museums (don’t skip the V&A!)—and that’s if you don’t leave town for a day trip to seaside Brighton or charming Rye. Flight deals from major U.S. airports to London come up more than frequently, too. Luckily, a hotel doesn’t have to run you a queen’s ransom: check into the citizenM Tower of London for just $169/night.
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Whether you stay on the mainland in Athens or go island-hopping to Crete and Mykonos, the country’s gorgeous beaches and amazing slow, local food have never been more accessible. Unfortunately, this isn’t just due to a strong dollar but a local economy that’s been crippled by a significant recession—though tourist dollars are a huge help. One of our favorite getaways? The Rimondi Boutique Hotel in Crete. The best part: it starts at $179 a night.
Flowing cava, tapas restaurants that spill out on the sidewalks, and al fresco markets are just a few of the wallet-friendly attractions in Barcelona. One major caveat: The city is trying to curb its tourists—it does get a bit overrun, especially in the high season—so, if possible, time the trip for the off season, where you can score some serious sales. There are often deals on direct flights from major U.S. cities, and you can stay in the Hotel Granvía for less than $200 per night.
Croatia’s cities of Zadar, Zagreb, Split, and Dubrovnik are all increasingly on traveler’s radars and for good reason: The country is known for its gorgeous beaches and stunning old towns (many of them UNESCO World Heritage Sites), fantastic mountains for hiking and a mouth-watering food culture. Plus, the cost of living is about half that of New York, according to Expatistan—a factor that helps you snag a stylish guest room and bliss out in the 64,500-square-foot spa at the Falkensteiner Hotel & Spa Iadera.
A long-time favorite of backpackers, Budapest has plenty to offer travelers out with the hostel crowd. Castles? Check. Cathedrals? Check. And let’s not forget the gorgeous baths the city is famous for (the canary yellow Széchenyi Baths are a must), the delightfully bizarre totalitarian Memento Park, the funky arts scene in District VII, or the coffee culture on practically every corner. Stay in the top-rated, four-star Hotel Moments Budapest to be in the center of it all.
Belgrade is one of Europe’s up-and-coming destinations, and while there’s not a ton of tick-the-box sightseeing, the city offers excellent Balkan cuisine, trendy Savamala’s art scene, a gorgeous cathedral, and vibrant nightlife along the city’s riverside bars. At the end of a busy day, the Jump Inn Hotel in Savamala is a stylish place to rest your head—or begin your night.
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