Thanks to weaker exchange rates and fluctuating flight prices, heading off to mainland Europe can prove expensive for Brits. But don’t just write the continent off and stay home, as with a little preparation and research, it’s still possible to take a city break in some of Europe’s most exciting destinations without spending a fortune.
Our 2017 City Costs Barometer is a great way to judge the potential cost of a visit to one of Europe’s major cities. To put it to the test, we gave six bloggers the not-too-unpleasant task of spending a weekend away in Europe on a set budget and then reporting back with their best tips on how to get the most out of an affordable getaway.
So, go convert your pounds to euro and take yourself away to Lisbon, Amsterdam, Vilnius, Lille, Athens or Riga with our cash-savvy travellers’ tips as your guide.
Megs from @Wonderful_U visited Lisbon, Portugal
“My ultimate goal on a city break is to make sure I have the best time possible without breaking the bank. We did just that in Lisbon. First, make sure your accommodation is central; the whole city feels like a museum, so taking it in on foot ensures you see it in all its beauty. Snacking is essential and pastéis de nata are the most affordable way to do it. Lisbon is famous for these custard tarts and at €1 each, they taste even better. A train ride to Sintra is essential; it’s only €4 return and makes for a perfect day out, boasting one of the most beautiful palaces in Europe.”
John from @everyday_man visited Amsterdam, Netherlands
With a flight time of less than an hour from the UK, it’s hard to beat Amsterdam for a city-break. Away from all its notorious debauchery, the compact city is packed with great architecture, a buzzing bar scene and lots of fantastic museums and galleries. The best way to explore is on foot or by hiring a bike (most hotels have bikes available for free or at a discount). Head to Ma’dam bar at the top of the A’dam tower to take in the views without having to pay the entrance fee to visit the viewing platform, which is only one floor higher.
Ed from @rexyedventures visited Vilnius, Lithuania
My Top Tips for Vilnius:
Katy from @misskatyenglish visited Lille, France
“My first tip for saving money is to do your research. A lot of attractions like museums and famous sights will do discounts if you book in advance, so make a list of what you want to see and research it. Second: book accommodation that’s relatively central, as you’ll save a lot of money on travel if you can walk everywhere. And my third tip is to eat a big lunch, and a smaller dinner. A lot of restaurants have special lunch menus, where you can eat the local specialties for less than you’d pay in the evening.”
Scarlett from @Scarlett_London visited Athens, Greece
- Save on your hotel and stay slightly outside of the main city centre hub (Syntagma Square), you won’t miss out on any of the action as the metro is very easy and quick to use!
- Rather than a big meal at one of the touristic restaurant, opt for street food – or more specifically, gyros – which are €4 each on average and a hearty, filling snack of meat, fresh pitta and salad.
- The Acropolis museum is free to enter on a national holiday, so if you want to save on attraction fees, have a quick check to see what dates your trip falls on.
- For a stunning panoramic view of Athens (admired with a refreshing cocktail in hand), head to Electra Metropolis and while away the afternoon the afternoon at one of their balcony tables.
Eileen from @Crooked_Flight visited Riga, Latvia
Eat like a local to save on your food budget in Riga. Although potato pancakes with smoked salmon may sound like a funny breakfast food, it was much more wallet-friendly to order than the stack of American pancakes - and probably much tastier. The local 'Riga' sparkling wine is also fresh and delicious too. You can order this for dinner and forgo pricey champagnes or other bubbles. Keep your eyes peeled for free attractions hidden away from the main streets. Jewellery – especially of Baltic design – is very popular in Riga. While you can find jewellery stores on every corner, the Baltu Rotas shop has a small, complimentary museum in the back. You can learn all about the different ancient Baltic symbols emblazoned in silver, amber and various stones.
Our adventurous reporters have made it clear that it’s still very possible to explore the continent without spending a fortune. Planning your days carefully, to take advantage of deals or free entry to attractions, and sticking to local food over imported fare can make your travel money go much further. Do your research before you go and it’s possible to see the best of the best European cities without it costing the earth.