Cheap flights to Europe are hard to come by and once you get there it can be an expensive holiday destination. Particularly the western countries. You can haemorrhage cash in central London (beer: £6). Burn a hole in your wallet during a long weekend in Stockholm (wine: 60 Swedish Krona). Break the bank on an excursion to Zurich (coffee: 4.5 Francs). It’s pretty difficult to snag weekend that is both cheap and long, unless you’re able to grab a last minute deal on a city break.
Our advice for cheap flights to Europe is play to the market. The best deals to the expensive parts of Europe are normally last minute bookings – the same is true of accommodation. So be flexible for your weekend breaks to the Zurichs and Stockholms of the world and remember to factor in some holiday days for when the good prices crop up. In the meantime, while you wait for those last minute city breaks to appear, we’ve rounded up what we think are some of the best city breaks in Europe for the budget traveller. These destinations will even be cheap in peak summer months – relatively speaking.
Access to this town on the Polish north coast is cheap and easy thanks to its impressive network of flights (Norwegian, Lufthansa and SAS). Its history is slightly grittier than the darlings of the European city breaks. Its maritime history is surmised in the 15th century wooden port crane next to the Maritime Museum. The patchwork of architecture assembled by merchants that profited from trade between Teutonic Prussia and Slavic Poland makes for some picturesque waterside walks.
Cheap flights to Gdansk in Poland are in the spring and autumn, either side of the summer rush but it’s still cheaper in the summer than many other European destinations.
Shot of vodka: €1
Daily budget (basic): €30-40
Cheap flights to Porto, Lisbon’s supporting actor, are set to become a rarer thing as this food and drink hotspot makes itself increasingly comfortable on the tourist radar. You could arguably put Porto on the more expensive list (it’s the priciest option on this page) but its great value for a destination that holds its own against the pricier, traditional European options. Plus it has beaches. Spend mornings wandering the coastline, gardens and climbing miradouros (lookouts). Then, descend to partake in the simple things in life – swigs of tawny port in the backstreets of Miagara, perhaps, served with pesticos (small dishes) such as cold cuts and cheese.
It’s best to book flights to Porto as close to the summer as possible. Late May and mid-September and look out for last minute deals with these airlines flying from the UK: Ryanair, Tap Air Portugal and easyJet.
Glass of port: anywhere between €2-€10
Daily budget: €50-€60
The cat’s out of the bag for Albania’s coastline but in capital Tirana, tourism is still climbing through the gears which means few crowds, low costs and charm hiding in plain sight rather than somewhere off a beaten track. Like many eastern European cities, Tirana is full of Communist legacy but skip the pyramid (built by relatives of dictator Hoxha and often listed as a ‘sight’ of the city) as the boutiques along the main avenue are probably of more interest. You’ll find plenty of restaurants heavily influenced by Italian cuisine too. The city centre is compact and has a growing cafe culture that defines those cheap weekends away. Dajti National Park overlooks the city from the east and there’s a cable car service that takes you to the top.
Flights to Tirana last about three hours. British Airways fly non-stop from London. Fly to Tirana in the summer whilst it’s still semi-off the tourist map.
Bottle of red wine: About £5
Daily budget: About £50
The city centre is a buffet of art nouveau, baroque, classical, neoclassical, eclectic – the list goes on. Come here for one of those health and wellness holidays – without the price tag. A spa here will cost around €15 up and down the Turkish baths along the River Danube. Dig deeper into Ottoman bathing culture and discover aqua therapy, locals attached to floating chess sets, steam rooms, plunge pools and saunas. Stroll across the river to the Pest side to find art galleries and a Jewish Quarter with boutiques and bars squirreled away down narrow alleys and backstreets.
Budget airlines from London are the likes of Ryanair, Wizz Air, easyJet and British Airways. Summer trips to Budapest are probably best. That said, the thermal springs means it’s also a great winter break, which just so happens to be the best time for cheap flights to Budapest, excluding the Christmas period.
Beer: About £2.65
Daily budget: About £45