Through extensive research, we can prove that travel doesn’t have to be expensive. Many of Europe’s most popular destinations offer a wide range of attractions, activities and experiences for (almost) free. Combined with affordable local transport and inexpensive food and drink options, these destinations are the best for travelers on a small budget.
The best low-budget destinations for travelers
Travel enriches our lives way more than other activities and hobbies. When we go on holiday, we leave everyday life and stress behind. Travel broadens our horizons and boosts our self-confidence, it creates unique experiences and new memories that stay with us for years to come. However, with increased costs, it’s only natural that we want to save our money rather than splurge it on a trip. That’s why we’ve taken the time to find the best cheap European destinations, so you can still travel.
After evaluating 100 cities in Europe, Granada in southern Spain came out top as the best budget travel destination. Savvy travelers should plan their next trip to the Andalusian city as it has a wide range of free activities—112 to be exact. This includes the city’s biggest landmark, the Alhambra, where admission costs nothing and is just one of 10 museums that’s free to enter. Classic sightseeing tours in Granada cost around $6, a bargain compared to other European cities. Granada’s nightlife also offers savings potential, with 86 bars and nightclubs where beer costs just over $2.
The city of Bruges, shaped by the Middle Ages, is definitely worth a visit and has lots to offer, especially for low-budget travelers. With 42 free sightseeing attractions, there’s plenty to do on the cheap, including joining one of the city’s inexpensive walking tours. Bruges is famous for being the world’s chocolate capital, and many tours focus on the culture and craftsmanship of Belgian chocolatiers. Make sure to try some praline when walking through Bruges. Be warned, this town is not for calorie counters, particularly if you want to eat cheaply, as most bargain meals come from fast food chains.
Believe it or not, it is possible to have a cheap holiday in Venice. Travelers only need to follow a few simple tricks to turn some of Venice’s most expensive places into low-budget havens. First of all, some of the most interesting places in Venice are free to visit. These include 136 sightseeing attractions, such as St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal. There’s also a total of 22 museums with free entry. Instead of buying expensive bottled water, Venice has 186 public drinking fountains. At these fountains, you can fill up your water bottle at any time for free and it’s more environmentally friendly too! These and other savings aspects show that even expensive destinations like Venice can still be one of the most affordable travel destinations in Europe.
How Omio compiled the rankings
In order to determine the best cities for a low-budget trip, we selected the 100 most popular travel destinations in Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and Spain. This selection is based on our internal booking data from 2022.
All cities were then examined to see whether or not they are suitable for a low-budget trip. A total of twelve indicators were selected in three fields of investigation: “Activities,” “Food & Drink” and “Infrastructure.” The following two assumptions apply:
If at least one of the factors is cheaper and there are more cheap and/or free activities, the better the city will rank. Travel costs and accommodation costs were not taken into account.
In order to ensure a fair comparison between large and small cities, a value per 100,000 inhabitants was used for some of the calculations.
The following indicators and sources were used:
- Free activities: Information about the number of free activities available all year round was taken from Tripadvisor.
- Free museums: Information about the number of museums that do not charge an entrance fee was taken from Tripadvisor.
- Free sightseeing attractions: Information about the number of attractions that can be visited for free was taken from Tripadvisor.
- Affordable guided tours: Information on the number of guided tours available year-round, which cost no more than 25 euros (22 dollars) per person, was taken from Tripadvisor.
- Affordable city tours by bus: Information about the cheapest ticket price for a city bus tour was researched manually. Sources included Get Your Guide, local bus tour operators’ websites and/or the city’s official tourism board. Only the ticket price of the cheapest provider was noted. Some cities do not offer sightseeing tours because they are too small or for other reasons. Therefore, calculations were adjusted so that these cities are not disadvantaged in the evaluation.
- Bars and nightclubs: Information about the number of bars and nightclubs in a city was taken from Tripadvisor and Yelp. The entry cost and drink prices were not taken into account.
Food and Drink
- Fast food menu: The price of a regular menu from McDonald’s (McMenu) was researched as a representative. Information on this comes from the Numbeo database.
- Dinner for two: An alternative to fast food restaurants is inexpensive restaurants with table service. Information on the average price of a dinner (starter, main course, dessert for two people) was taken from the Numbeo database.
- Public drinking fountains: Public drinking fountains offer a cost-effective way to quench your thirst and/or fill up a water bottle without having to rely on expensive drink prices. Information on the distribution of public drinking fountains was obtained using Open Street Map.
- Beer: The price of a bottle of beer is not usually a sign of quality, so cheap beer prices can be viewed positively. Information on the average price of a local bottle of beer (0.5 liters) was taken from the Numbeo database.
- Public transport ticket/24h ticket: Information about the ticket price for a public transport day ticket was taken from local transport provider websites. Some rural towns do not offer a day ticket for local transport, therefore, the calculation has been adjusted so that these cities are not disadvantaged in the evaluation.
- Free WiFi spots: Information about open public WiFi hotspots have been taken from various sources, e.g. B. Wifimap and Instabridge.
To compare the results of all the cities examined, the research was standardized using a scale from 0 to 100 for each factor on the index. This was achieved by applying the following normalization calculation: in each factor, the city that performed the best received a score of 100. The city that performed the worst received a score of 0. All other cities scored between 0 and 100 according to their results. The evaluation result of an investigation field resulted from the sum of the points of all influencing factors in the respective investigation field. The evaluation results of all cities were also standardized to enable comparability. The overall evaluation resulted from the sum of all evaluation results of all examination fields, which was also standardized on a point scale from 0 to 100, which resulted in the final ranking. A common normalization formula was used for the standardizations. The research was conducted in October 2022.”
Trains to Granada
Trains to Brussels
Trains to Valencia
Trains to Venice
Trains to Malaga
Trains to Edinburgh
Trains to Innsbruck
Trains to Seville
Trains to Barcelona
Trains to Naples
Trains London to Paris
Trains Madrid to Barcelona
Trains Seville to Granada
Trains Amsterdam to Paris
Trains London to Manchester
Flights to Granada
Flights to Brussels
Flights to Valencia
Flights to Venice
Flights to Malaga
Flights to Edinburgh
Flights to Innsbruck
Flights to Seville
Flights to Barcelona
Flights to Naples
Flights to Italy
Flights Barcelona to Ibiza
Flights Rome to Palermo
Flights Barcelona to Athens
Flights London to Prague