Cities In Europe You Can Visit On A Small Budget And My Favorite Thing To Do In Each

·11 min read
  BuzzFeed / Rebecca Khera / Brooke Greenberg
BuzzFeed / Rebecca Khera / Brooke Greenberg

1.Prague, Czechia

In recent years, Prague has grown in popularity among budget backpackers. And for good reason! With gothic castles, baroque churches, and views that look like they're pulled straight out of a fairytale, Prague is beautiful to visit any time of year. Prague is a city where beer is cheaper than water, so you won't have to break the bank to have a good time. My favorite things to do in Prague on a budget include: Strolling across the Charles Bridge at sunrise, visiting Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral (tickets range between $5-11 USD), adding art to the John Lennon Wall, marveling at the astronomical clock, and exploring Letna Park, which arguably has the best views overlooking the Vltava river.

In recent years, Prague has grown in popularity among budget backpackers. And for good reason! With gothic castles, baroque churches, and views that look like they're pulled straight out of a fairytale, Prague is beautiful to visit any time of year.

Prague is a city where beer is cheaper than water, so you won't have to break the bank to have a good time.

My favorite things to do in Prague on a budget include: Strolling across the Charles Bridge at sunrise, visiting Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral (tickets range between $5-11 USD), adding art to the John Lennon Wall, marveling at the astronomical clock, and exploring Letna Park, which arguably has the best views overlooking the Vltava river.

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Cylindrical pastry being held out with the Vltava river in the background

Hot tip: When walking around the city, you'll see cylindrical pastries all over, these sugary treats are called trdelniks and for a couple dollars you can grab one filled with Nutella, ice cream, or whipped cream. Trdelnik stands are definitely geared towards tourists, but don't let that fool you into thinking they're not delicious, because they're the perfect treat after a long day of sightseeing.

If you want to splurge a bit, consider adding a weekend getaway to Český Krumlov, this town is a Unesco World Heritage site and easily accessible by train from Prague.

Rebecca Khera / Via Instagram: @bekyykhera

Stay at the Czech Inn with prices starting at just $10 per night.

Hostel dorm with three sets of bunk beds and large windows

With a 9.0 Superb rating on Hostelworld, this hostel is in a convenient location with a tram stop just steps away. It offers 24-hour reception and security, luggage storage, airport transfers, laundry facilities, and even hosts happy hour events in their on-site bar and restaurant.

Promising review: "It was like a luxury hotel but in a hostel. It was really clean and it was also really pretty and modern. The beds were very comfortable. The kitchen was awesome for late night chats. Price was the cheapest we’ve ever found. 11/10 would recommend." — meritxellbn5407, Spain

Czech Inn via Hostelworld / Via hostelworld.com

2.Krakow, Poland

Wawel Cathedral in Krakow during sunny day.

Located in the south of Poland, just north of Slovakia, Kraków is a city popular for history buffs. And while the city has held tight to its medieval old town, there is so much more to explore than just the town square.

My favorite things to do in Kraków on a budget include: Visiting Wawel Castle and St. Mary’s Basilica (tours start at $2.50 USD), exploring the Jewish Quarter, touring Oskar Schindler's Enamel Factory, and of course, walking around the old town and admiring the medieval architecture.

I also think it's important to consider a day trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. You can book a tour that offers transportation between Kraków and Auschwitz-Birkenau as well as a guided tour of the memorial and museum.

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Spend the night at Atlantis Hostel which has beds for just $8 per night.

Set of bunkbeds in a well-decorated room with a graphic wallpaper design and small table with chairs

I stayed at Atlantis Hostel a few years ago and loved it, it's a beautiful old building that's got some quirks, but that only made me love it more. It's in a prime location and just a short walk to some great restaurants. It has a small kitchen to cook your meals — you might have to wait for the stove, but that just makes the perfect opportunity to enjoy a drink and chat with other guests.

Promising review: "We didn’t use any public transportation during our stay because of how close the hostel is to the city center and the main attractions. Our room was perfect and clean and the staff were nice. We did’t use the kitchen, but the bathrooms were spacious and clean (not separated for males and females however). Overall great experience, price, and location." — omar_dahrawy20006236, Egypt

Atlantis Hostel via Hostelworld / Via hostelworld.com

3.Zagreb, Croatia

St. Mark's Church on a sunny afternoon in late summer. The church with its colorful roof tiles is in the center of the frame.

Zagreb is an often overlooked destination in Croatia. Most people flock to the seaside towns of Dubrovnik, Split, and Zadar, ignoring the inland cities. But Zagreb is definitely worth a visit in my book!

My favorite things to do in Zagreb on a budget include: a free walking tour (but don't forget to tip your guide), snapping pics of St. Marks Church, and a visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships (around $6 USD).

Rebecca Khera / Via Instagram: @bekyykhera
Traditional Zagreb breakfast at Otto & Frank. Bread with fried eggs, greens, and radish on top.

Hot tip: Get brunch at Otto & Frank and order the Zagreb Breakfast, it's a traditional breakfast, but they make it with a modern twist. It's so filling and will only set you back around $7 USD.

If you want to splurge a bit, book a day trip to Plitvice Lakes.

Rebecca Khera / Via Instagram: @bekyykhera

Chill out at the Chillout Hostel Zagreb for just $12 per night.

Busy rooftop bar nestled between buildings in Zagreb

If the rooftop bar isn't enough to make you want to book a few nights, then maybe the location will sway you. Chillout Hostel Zagreb is right in the city center, it's just a quick walk to all of the major tourist attractions (think museums, churches, parks) and some of the best restaurants in the city.

While it's not my first choice hostel when visiting Zagreb (The Swanky Mint has a rooftop pool...how can you beat that?!), it is perfect for those traveling on a budget.

Promising review: "This was a great place to stay! The rooms are new and feel very clean. Staff was responsive and helpful. Additionally, the rooftop bar was a great place to hang out at night. The location is very central and we were able to walk anywhere we needed to go. I would definitely recommend this hostel if you are thinking about visiting Zagreb!" —madisoncarter22682, USA

Chillout Hostel Zagreb via Hostelworld / Via hostelworld.com

4.Istanbul, Turkey

If you're a cat lover then you'll definitely want to add Istanbul to your list. The city is filled with cats and they're all treated like royalty. I love catching families walking around sharing treats with the local street cats.Istanbul is a city that spans two continents: Europe and Asia. Making it quite unique compared to other cities on this list.My favorite things to do in Istanbul on a budget include: Wandering the Grand Bazaar, visiting the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, taking photos of the Galata Tower, and exploring the many colorful neighborhoods.Hot tip: If your budget doesn't allow for a guided food tour, DIY your own! Between street food vendors and affordable cafes, it's so easy to eat on a budget in Istanbul. Draft a list of all your must eat Turkish foods (may I suggests: döner kebab, menemen, lahmacun, balık ekmek, simits, pide, kunefe, manti, and of course, Turkish delight). Then you can explore the city stopping for these delicious dishes.If you have a little extra to spend, I highly recommend a cruise down the Bosphorus at sunset or a day trip to the Prince Islands.

If you're a cat lover then you'll definitely want to add Istanbul to your list. The city is filled with cats and they're all treated like royalty. I love catching families walking around sharing treats with the local street cats.

Istanbul is a city that spans two continents: Europe and Asia. Making it quite unique compared to other cities on this list.

My favorite things to do in Istanbul on a budget include: Wandering the Grand Bazaar, visiting the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, taking photos of the Galata Tower, and exploring the many colorful neighborhoods.

Hot tip: If your budget doesn't allow for a guided food tour, DIY your own! Between street food vendors and affordable cafes, it's so easy to eat on a budget in Istanbul. Draft a list of all your must eat Turkish foods (may I suggests: döner kebab, menemen, lahmacun, balık ekmek, simits, pide, kunefe, manti, and of course, Turkish delight). Then you can explore the city stopping for these delicious dishes.

If you have a little extra to spend, I highly recommend a cruise down the Bosphorus at sunset or a day trip to the Prince Islands.

Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

Stay at Moda Drei for only $9 per night.

Balcony overlooking a quit street in Istanbul

Okay, being completely honest, Moda Drei is one of my absolute favorite hostels I've ever stayed in. If not #1, it's definitely in the top 5. I even extended my trip, I loved it that much. The staff are friendly and helpful, happy to sit and chat or just recommend some things to see and do. The building is on a quiet street, making it so nice to sit out on the balcony and plan your day exploring the city.

So, not only is the hostel beautiful, contemporary, and clean, it's also in one of the best neighborhoods in Istanbul, Kadiköy, which is the perfect mix of trendy and local. While many tourists flock to hotels in Taksim, Sultanahmet, or the Bazaar District, the real fun is on the Asian side of Istanbul in Kadiköy. There are tons of vintage shops, stylish cafes, affordable street food vendors, and it's just a short walk to the Bosphorus river where you can take a ferry to the European side, or join a sunset cruise.

Promising review: "The staff is awesome, they always went beyond their limits to accommodate our needs and make us feel at home...The rooms are spacious, clean and the lockers are extra large. Moda Drei is also a great co-working space with fast wifi, simply the best choice for digital nomads." — Anonymous, Rwanda

Moda Drei via Hostelworld / Via hostelworld.com

5.Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon has become a major travel hub in the past few years with the rise of TAP Portugal offering direct flights to Lisbon from the United States. While this dramatic increase in foreign tourists has definitely spiked prices, it is still possible to travel Lisbon for much less than the nearby countries of Spain and France. 

Lisbon has become a major travel hub in the past few years with the rise of TAP Portugal offering direct flights to Lisbon from the United States. While this dramatic increase in foreign tourists has definitely spiked prices, it is still possible to travel Lisbon for much less than the nearby countries of Spain and France.

Alexander Spatari / Getty Images
Belem Tower with ocean waves crashing around it

My favorite things to do in Lisbon on a budget: Enjoy a picnic outside of Belem Tower, eat lots of pastel de natas, take a free walking tour of Alfama, experience a night out on the famous pink street, take a ride on tram 28, take a day trip to Sintra (which is easy and affordable to reach by train), and visit the National Tile Museum (tickets start around $6 USD).

Rebecca Khera / Via Instagram: @bekyykhera

For just $9 a night, enjoy the gorgeous Independente Hostel and Suites

Sitting area in a beautiful old building in Lisbon with checkered floors, intricate ceiling tiles, and lots of marble arches

When I tell you I am drooling over these photos, I'm not kidding. The Independente Hostel and Suites is an architectural dream. If your heart beats a little faster when you see crown molding, then this is the hostel for you, from the doors to the ceiling to the floors to the walls, there's nothing I don't love about this place aesthetically. And the fact that they also have a restaurant, bar, and beer garden on-site seals the deal.

Promising review: "Most likely the best hostel I have stayed at. The staff are very friendly and helpful. I was there for 2 and a half weeks having originally only booked for a few days. In the lounge, there is an excellent area that people use to work during the day and eat and drink at night. The hostel sits opposite a lovely park with an excellent view over the city. The location is also ideal. Could not recommend this place more." — sebbrixton2947, England

The Independente Hostel and Suites via Hostelworld / Via hostelworld.com

6.Budapest, Hungary

Sunset Scene of The Hungarian Parliament, the Chains Bridge and Danube Rive, Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, like Istanbul, is a city divided in two parts. On one side, there's Buda, and on the other side, Pest, hence the name Budapest.

Like many capital cities, Budapest is filled with museums, historical sites, and raging nightlife. It's the perfect city to visit on your way between Prague and Zagreb.

My favorite things to do in Budapest on a budget include: Joining a free walking tour, exploring Fisherman’s Bastion, soaking in the thermal baths (tickets start at $19 USD, so it's not super budget friendly, but it's worth every penny and could easily take up a whole day), admiring the gorgeous parliament building, walking across the chain bridge.

Ratnakorn Piyasirisorost / Getty Images
Outdoor bath in Budapest with baroque building in the background

Hot tip: If you love to party and really want to splurge, the baths in Budapest often hold wild spa parties at night! You can book a ticket online or through your hostel.

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Spend some time at the Baroque Hostel and Co-working space for just $9 per night.

Living room with L-shaped couch, tv, and chairs

While Baroque Hostel and Co-working doesn't look like much, I found it to be very cozy, close to some great restaurants, and near two popular thermals baths.

Honestly, the space itself kind of reminds me of being in college and hanging out at someone's off-campus house they share with five roommates, and tbh it has a similar social atmosphere. It's a great spot for anyone on a budget, who wants to meet other travelers, and stay somewhere low-key.

Hot tip: If you do stay here, grab dinner at Paprika, a nearby restaurant, it was one of my favorite meals I had when I last visited Budapest.

Promising review: "Everything was really nice, the staff was really helpful and caring. The whole atmosphere was cozy and relaxing." — holod2884, Ukraine

Baroque Hostel and Co-working via Hostelworld / Via hostelworld.com
  Education Images / Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Education Images / Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Travel doesn't always have to be expensive! With a little creativity, you could even travel on less than $45 a day. While these are some of my favorite cities in Europe to travel on a budget, there are plenty more! What are some cities you love to travel on a tight budget?

*Some reviews have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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