Sticking with my recent recession theme, I thought I’d highlight some affordable destinations in Europe.
Now that July and August have come and gone, the crowds have left Europe. September and October are some of the best months to travel here– think fall colors, crisp days, and dining al fresco with a blanket across your lap.
And while some of the most expensive cities in Europe (London, my own Dublin, Stockholm, Paris..) can all be explored affordably, they also will never be cheap. Here’s my top choices for affordable locations across Europe:
1. Hamburg, Germany: If you’re looking for canals and romance, but think Venice and Amsterdam may be a bit pricey, then head to Hamburg, Germany. With more bridges inside the city center than any other city in the world, you could be strolling along a peaceful canal and still have money left in your wallet.
I found the city to have a certain student, underground, developing vibe to it. The majority of shops, restaurants, and bars seemed to be independently owned, resulting in more affordability for the traveler. While Berlin is the larger city, Hamburg still offers plenty of culture as well: including more than 40 theaters and 100 music venues. Whether you’re looking for opera or jazz, this city will have something for you.
In comparison to Berlin, you’ll also be a bit more immersed in German culture in Hamburg. Cuisine will be hearty, beers and wine will be German, and you won’t find as many people with fluent English. While some people only spend a day or two in Hamburg, there is much more to explore in these rapidly changing streets than tourist attractions.
2. Lisbon, Portugal: Climbing the hills of Lisbon, it is easy to see exhibitions of past wealth. Once a great power, responsible for exploration across the Atlantic and the expansion of trade, Lisbon today is a different story. Lucky for the traveler, the beauty of this period of wealth has remained, and yet prices are reasonable.
A day in Lisbon can easily be spent eating. A trip to the bakery is a sweet start, where you can enjoy a pastry and coffee standing at the counter for pocket change. For lunch or dinner, fish is fresh and popular. A variety of open-air markets and second-hand shops will keep you busy if the major tourist attractions aren’t tempting you, but make sure to see St George’s Castle, perched over the city.
Old-world trolleys still rattle through the town, and are an affordable method of transportation. Ask for assistance at your hotel about which lines to take and the fares, and you’ll be traveling through town instead of beneath it like many other tourists on the subway.
3. Siena, Italy: Overall, Italy is an extremely affordable country. Coffee for 1 euro, a sit down lunch with wine, under 20 euros, and gelato at a euro a scoop. Of course this won’t be the case at the gelato shop across from the Trevi Fountain in Rome, but affordability is still at the core of any trip to Italy.
Trains are very affordable and tend to run on time. Even snack shops in train stations will offer affordable pastries and a jolt of morning coffee for a few coins. One of the best meals I had during my time in Italy was in the market square, just off the main square Piazza del Campo, in Siena.
Pappardelle with wild boar may sound a little out of the ordinary, but not for this restaurant. Tables were crowded with boisterous families on the afternoon I arrived, and although we were told no more tables were available for lunch, with a smile and a bit of patience, we sat down to an affordable, flavorful, unique meal.
If you’re taking a trip to Europe this fall, try having your big meal of the day at lunchtime. Seek out a restaurant with local looking families dining over large portions, and grab a seat for an afternoon of people watching. The cuisine and portions will be comparable to an evening meal, but the prices will be much lower.
This short list is of course the tip of the iceberg when it comes to affordable Europe. What are your favorite affordable locations in Europe? Any special off the beaten path locations? What about little-known districts in popular cities? Share your travel discoveries by posting below.