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Most European cities are known for being costly to visit. Accommodation in season can eat up a big slice of your budget while daily expenditure such as eating out and museum entrance fees can roll up to a hefty sum.
When planning short city breaks abroad outside the main holiday, most of us would want to go on cheap and cheerful holidays without overdoing it. Fortunately there are beautiful European cities where you can have great & cheap city breaks – Here are my top three:
Having evaded the heavy bombing of World War II, the medieval capital of Poland has kept a host of beautiful historic buildings to visit while staying in this gorgeous city. You’ll find a wonderful combination of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, as well as 28 museums and a handsome number of art galleries. Some of them offer free admission on one day of the week (often on a Sunday) and where admission is charged, is normally around £2.
Wander around the atmospheric old town, or take a walk around the Jewish quarter and Oskar Schindler’s factory to give yourself an insight into a dark period in Poland’s history. You can also visit the Gothic Wawel castle and get inspired by the beautiful 14th century architecture.
Eating out is not expensive in Krakow – a good quality, three course meal (excluding wine) can be had for £12, or try a Zapiekanka – a Polish pizza on a half baguette for under £2. Bars are also plentiful and cheap in this city and you can’t leave without having had a shot of Polish vodka or a pint of ale in one of the atmospheric cellar bars.
Hungary’s capital city Budapest, perched on the shores of the Danube river is a tale of two cities – Buda and Pest. The hillier, greener part is Buda, where you’ll find the castle and the Fisherman’s Bastions (all turrets and towers). Pest is the more modern, urban, built-up part where many of the cultural highlights and the shops are situated. Do visit both!
Admire the Chain Bridge that crosses between the two areas, and visit the shoes memorial on the Pest bank of the Danube – built to commemorate the death of Jews in the area. The House of Terror is a major exhibition that remembers the terror regimes that have unfortunately been part of the city’s history.
If you want to relax and unwind it would be a great idea to spend a bit of time in one of the impressive bath and spas – the beautiful Szecheny charges around £9 for a whole day of pampering in and around their health-giving hot springs.
Hungary is excellent for good quality, cheap wine, and eating in one of the small, family-run Etkezde restaurants will cost only a few pounds. (Try the goulash – a soup in Hungary, not a stew). For afters, nightlife is something that you’ll not run short of – Budapest has a wide variety of bars and clubs to choose from and alcohol is not expensive with beer at around £1.60 for a pint.
Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia is also situated on the banks of the Danube. A beautiful gothic cathedral and fairy-tale town hall are just two of the buildings in the old town that give this beautiful city character and flair.
The quirky is also pleasingly present – statues of a man popping up out of the gutter, or a Napoleonic soldier and a paparazzi photographer sneaking from behind a corner are all curious photo triggering subjects scattered around the town.
To eat out cheaply, try to stay local and seek out the restaurants that serve local food such as dumplings in soup and grilled trout with herbs and almonds. Stick to the local beers and you will be guaranteed a very good value for your holiday money.
Julie McNamee writes for Spa Travel an online travel agent dedicated to offering the cheapest Spa Breaks, flights, hotels and holiday packages for the UK outbound Traveller.