The 5 Best European Countries on a Budget


Looking for an affordable European vacation? Europe is often considered quite expensive to travel to, but with a little thought and planning, you’ll find that there are many affordable destinations across the continent that can provide you with the perfect budget vacation.

From beaches and mountains to historical sites thousands of years old, Europe offers destinations for every interest and taste. Sadly, many of these places will stretch your budget to the max. So if you’re looking for the cheapest European countries, you’ll need to think outside the box and head to lesser-known but equally lovely spots.

Here are my top 5 recommendations for the most affordable countries in Europe – perfect for travelers looking for culture, history and natural beauty, but without spending a small fortune or requiring a second mortgage!

1. Hungary

Hungary is one of the most expensive countries in Eastern Europe, but still one of the cheapest in the whole of Europe. Here you’ll find a rich history, but also a cosmopolitan city with a thriving food scene that you shouldn’t miss.

Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is a delightful mix of two historic cities, situated opposite each other on the Danube. Buda features the historic Buda Castle, the Pest side is flanked by the majestic Parliament Building, busy streets and many other buildings that preserve a centuries-old architectural heritage. There are plenty of free attractions in the city, including walking on the Chain Bridge across the Danube and exploring the Castle Hill area.

While some attractions in the Castle Region are not free to visit, they are still very affordable. The neo-gothic Great Market Hall is Budapest’s oldest covered market and is a great place to find cheap souvenirs and cheap snacks, including many traditional Hungarian foods – the country’s most popular fast food is lángos, a deep-fried pizza, Topped with cheese, tomato sauce, or sour cream. GuruWalk offers numerous free walking tours of Budapest to help you discover all of the city’s hidden treasures.

suburbs of Budapest

Things are even cheaper outside the capital. The countryside is charming, with even older traditions, not to mention the passion of the locals for winemaking and tasting! Visitors to the lakeside resort town of Tihany and those heading to the Bick Mountains for outdoor adventures will find great prices year-round.

Pro Tip: In June, the City of Budapest sponsors “Night at the Museums,” which gives you free admission to many of the city’s landmarks.

2. Portugal

The abundance of natural beauty has made Portugal the most popular holiday destination in Europe. Unfortunately, most tourists don’t venture beyond the Golden Algarve beaches. But if you travel a little deeper and leave the crowds behind, you’ll find a lot more while making your vacation budget go further.

Top Portuguese cities like Lisbon and Porto are on most travel wish lists. Travelers on a budget should add cities like the Algarve and Cascais to the mix. These cities are ideal places to soak up the sun, and you can spend a few days immersing yourself in Portuguese culture and cuisine without breaking the bank. You can find affordable accommodation and cheap food in the many whitewashed villages and towns across Portugal, and cosmopolitan cities like Lisbon, Porto and Funchal are just as affordable thanks to a wide range of accommodation and dining choices.

Free Attractions in Portugal

Some of the most interesting destinations in Portugal are free to explore. These include the historic town of Évora, a World Heritage Site, and the 12th-century Templar Castle and Convent of Christ in the town of Tomar. Keep an eye out for free museums like Lisbon’s Museo de Colesan Berardo or the free walking tours of Faro in the Algarve . The Faro region in the south is popular for its golden beaches, cliffs and lighthouses, while tourists head to Madeira for rugged volcanic hiking trails, a pretty harbor and great scuba diving. This Affordable European Destination Offers the Perfect Blend of Adventure, Relaxation and Culture

Pro tip: The biggest expenses for a trip to Portugal are food and accommodation, although visiting outside of high season (April-June) will significantly reduce these costs.

3. Slovenia

Slovenia is the perfect choice for an affordable travel destination, it is one of the cheapest countries in Europe.


The capital, Ljubljana, is one of the cheapest and most underrated cities in Europe, and one of the most overlooked. It’s beautiful, full of history, and best of all, the relative lack of tourists means prices for attractions and historic sites are surprisingly low.

Ljubljana is also known for being a green and pedestrian-friendly city – the Old Town is home to Ljubljana Castle, Ljubljana Cathedral and the Triple Bridge (Tromostovje), and has been car-free since 2008. In addition to its green and cultural activities, the city is also a popular destination for reasonably priced restaurants and cafes, many of which line the banks of the Ljubljana River in summer, creating a lively open-air scene.

Most tourists come to Slovenia for the Adriatic coastline. Koper Beach, nearby Mestina Beach, Moon Bay and the famous seaside resort of Portoroz are all very affordable in late spring, when temperatures are already summer but tourists haven’t arrived yet. Away from the shore, Lake Bled is perhaps the country’s most famous destination, and one of its most stunning sights. Other economical destinations include the medieval town of Piran; the fortified village of Stanyer; and Triglav National Park, where you can hike to the summit of Mount Triglav.

winter in Slovenia

Don’t miss a winter trip to Slovenia either. If you’re looking for some of the best ski resorts in Europe, this country is well worth considering. Prices in beautiful resorts like Kranjska Gora are significantly lower than their French and Austrian counterparts, and if you don’t know how to ski yet, you can always sign up for some lessons at the local ski school.

4. Slovakia


One of the cheapest countries in Central Europe, Slovakia has a lot to offer not only in major cities like Bratislava but also in its smaller towns. Tourists will find much more for their vacation dollars here than in many other European destinations. Slovakia is home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, castles, memorials and monuments – all of which can be found for free or very cheaply.

Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is the most expensive destination in the country – but even here you can take advantage of the many free things the city has to offer to keep your trip cheap. Relatively small and easily explored on foot, Bratislava also has a lot of street art and sculpture, in addition to the numerous galleries scattered throughout the city.

Outskirts of Bratislava

Food and accommodation are even cheaper outside the city. Slovakia has some stunning countryside with lots of room to explore, especially in the High Tatras, the country’s tallest mountain range, and massive national parks with hundreds of miles of hiking trails. All national parks in Slovakia are free.

Pro Tip: Bratislava is only an hour away by train from Vienna.

5. Montenegro

Once part of Yugoslavia, Montenegro is a very new country that regained its independence in 2006. It’s also a country that many people can’t put on the map! Montenegro is a very affordable destination but is prepared to pay a little extra for accommodation etc.

Having said that, Montenegro is only as expensive as you let it be. If you want a budget-friendly trip, you can probably get to Montenegro for as little as $20 a day, or $200 if you want to go all out for a luxurious vacation. But if you’re somewhere in the middle, you’ll find this too.

Compared to other Mediterranean countries, Montenegro is easy to travel without breaking the bank. Most travelers visit coastal cities like Budva, Herceg Novi and Kotor, but there are plenty of other attractions to explore. Ada Bojana, a small island away from the expensive coastline towns, is a prime destination for kitesurfing and a lovely summer destination at very affordable prices.

Outdoor activities

Hike through some of Montenegro’s national parks and experience the hills and mountain scenery of this beautiful country. The further you go into Montenegro, the more affordable it becomes. Prices are halved and hospitality doubles once you leave the coast – so don’t skip the country’s green heart, where you’ll find craggy mountains, glacial lakes and UNESCO-walled towns. Crno Jezero, an alpine lake surrounded by deep green-blue forests, is a stunning destination for hiking and swimming and is completely free to visit.

For cheap eats, stick to hearty local meat options such as burek, a thin, flaky pastry stuffed with meat, cheese, spinach, or potatoes. This is one of the oldest Balkan dishes, dating back to the Ottoman Empire. Buregdzinica AS in the town of Tivat is known for the best Bureks in Montenegro.

When traveling in Europe, we don’t expect cities like Paris, Berlin and London to be cheap, but you can and should add some relatively budget-friendly countries to your itinerary – just make sure you choose the right ones! But no matter where you decide to go or what you decide to do on your European vacation, I have no doubt you’ll make some great memories.

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