You want to travel, but you also don’t want to break the bank. I get it. Traveling can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be! Here are my top 3 European cities that are just perfect for traveling simply, getting the best bang for your buck, and still having a great time.
#3: Nuremberg, Germany
This classic German city gives you all the charm without the crowds. Nuremberg is full of history and culture that you can soak up without having to pay a dime.
Nuremberg is shaped like a big circle, in classic European style. The old town is seriously still within a wall with a castle on the edge looking down over the city. That being said, staying within the wall is a bit difficult.
I stayed in an AirBnB and had the hardest time finding any options close to the old town. I stayed a little bit out from the center but for a really good price and was able to either walk or take public transportation in to the city without an issue.
Nuremberg does have hostels but I would be shocked to find anything affordable within the walls of the old town. Prepare to do some walking before you get to exploring (though the outer areas of the city are pretty cool to see, too!).
Nuremberg is VERY German. They love their culture and they embrace it fully! It was a bit challenging to find vegan options for me, but if you want to try some classic German sausages or sauerkraut, this is the place to be!
The old town has the most adorable German pubs and restaurants and even coffee shops are cuter here. I would definitely grab a coffee anywhere in Germany…it is so incredibly good!
Look out for the tourist traps! Sometimes the cutest uber-German places are actually not that authentic on the inside at all. Try to eat away from the center of town and find a side street where the real Germans are!
Nuremberg has trains going in and out of the old town at all times of day. It is pretty easy to hop on a train and get dropped off at the central station that is located right outside the wall of the old town.
Once within the wall, it is only a diameter of about 1 mile so you can easily explore all the good old stuff on foot! (Don’t try driving a car…I saw more than one fancy car get stuck on the super narrow streets within the wall!)
Nuremberg’s charm is in her architecture and culture. The most entertaining thing for me was just strolling the streets and learning the history of the city and its people. The old wall itself and the castle on the hill were some of my favorites, not to mention the classic German town square! SO CUTE! Check out the gold gothic churches as well. And it is all free to see!
If you want to learn more about Nuremberg’s darker past, visit the Nazi Rally Grounds Museum just a bit out of town. It is a short train ride away but has an amazing exhibit teaching you more about the Nazi stronghold in Nuremberg and the rally grounds Adolf Hitler had built there and celebrated at annually. It’s less than 10 USD to get in.
#2: Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is one of the only cities in Europe that wasn’t destroyed by bombs during the World Wars, so it has plenty of rare historical charm. The city is super walkable and the cheapest place I have ever been…splurge a little!
I stayed at an AirBnB slightly outside of the city because I booked a little late but when I first looked, there were plenty of affordable places right in the city. The good news is that all the suburbs are connected by a frequent train so going in to the city for the day is no problem if you want to save money. (And my AirBnB outside the city was SO nice!)
Prague is a huge young tourist destination so there are TONS of hostels available. I suggest booking ahead of time due to the number of visitors, but I don’t think you would be sleeping on the street if you didn’t.
Prague has AMAZING food at AMAZING prices. I scored myself a glass of red wine for under 2 dollars…and when I say a glass of wine, I mean a GLASS of wine. I accidentally found myself eating a 5-course meal cooked right in front of me for 20 bucks and it was flippin’ amazing (Long story….let me know in the comments if you want to hear more!).
The vegan food scene in Prague is on point and super affordable. They have tons of amazing restaurants that boast organic products, unique food options, and sustainable practices.
Prague has a super efficient metro system that gets you from one side of the city to the other in no time at all…and it is incredibly affordable. I think I got a one day ticket for a dollar or two.
I didn’t use the metro unless I had to get all the way across town because once you are in the city, you want to walk around and see it all! The streets are just too cute not to walk around as much as possible and catch the views of old town. And everything is pretty close!
Prague has tons to do! I spent about 12 hours in the city just exploring one day and could have absolutely done it for another day or two without seeing it all. My favorite area was in the old town. The castle is so gorgeous and you can feel the history in the streets you are walking on.
Head over to the Lennon Wall and leave your message of tolerance and acceptance as natives and visitors have done since the 60’s. Walk along the Charles Bridge and take in all the art, music, energy, and history of Prague. It was the first bridge in Prague and built in the 1300s!
In Prague, food is entertainment. Grab a 1 dollar Czech beer, stop in to the cute bars and restaurants, and just soak up the addicting energy of the city.
#1 Budapest, Hungary
Budapest is a 20-something minimalist’s paradise. No doubt. This absolutely gorgeous city is bursting with nightlife, food, history, and entertainment, all at an outrageously low price!
Budapest boasts a variety of hospitality options for travelers. I stayed with AirBnB and met one of the coolest people ever (if you ever need to book a stay, search for the passionate and giving Hungarian historian, Zsolt!).
When I first searched, Budapest was one of the most affordable cities in Europe on AirBnB and one of the first stays I booked. There are SO many options, and really affordable ones in the heart of the city on either the Buda or Pest side.
Budapest also boasts a plethora of hostels or affordable hotels and plenty of room for young travelers on a budget.
To Die For! Don’t leave Budapest without trying Hummus Bar. It is a local chain throughout the city so you are bound to be near one, and I am drooling just thinking about their hummus right now.
The food in Budapest is super affordable, so treat yourself and go out a bit more than you normally would! If you are into vegan food, this is the place to be! I went the same vegan restaurant, Napfenyes, 3 out of 3 days in Budapest and don’t regret it one tiny bit.
Get lost on the winding back streets full of bars and restaurants and lights and pick one and enjoy the food, the vibe, and the happiness of Budapest.
Budapest has a killer public transit system. I stayed 3 nights and 4 days and didn’t feel like I needed a car at all (as is true in most European cities).
Their metro goes everywhere, including across the river so you can check out both sides (Buda and Pest) of this amazing city. It is crazy cheap and they offer passes for different time durations (I got one for 72 hours for SO CHEAP (about 15 USD).
The other perk of Budapest is that it is an extremely walkable city. The main reason I used the metro sometimes was due to the 95+ degree temps but if it were milder, I probably would have walked nearly everywhere.
Budapest is booming for the young people! On Saturdays in the summer, they even shut down an entire bridge over the river for people to bring booze, grab snacks, and chill on the bridge while listening to some great local music.
Budapest is full of bars and has a booming nightlife. It felt as though more people were out after dark than during the day! There are bars in some of the parks in the center of the east side, pools, farmer’s markets, and even a giant Ferris wheel.
My favorite thing to do was to walk down some of the narrow streets that light up at night and listen to the music coming from within these cute little restaurants and bars. Stop in for a 2 dollar beer…you can’t go wrong!
A European vacation or travel experience can seem very overwhelming when it comes to cost…but it doesn’t have to be! With a lot of strategy, some good planning, and a little luck, you can explore some of Europe’s most beautiful cities without breaking the bank! Stay simple and have ALL the fun!
Forever moving forward,