Need ideas for affordable European summer vacations? European destinations can be notoriously pricey in the summer, but there are still great bargains to be found. Whether you’re looking for a historic city with plenty of museums and great dining, or a visit to the countryside full of natural splendor and charming villages, you can find an affordable European summer vacation! We’ve gathered five of our favorites here.
Madrid is an art-lover’s dream, but this stunning metropolis is way more than museums. In fact, Madrid might be one of Europe’s most versatile old cities. Come for the Goyas and Picassos, stay for the all-night cocktail bars and clubs. Can’t pick a favorite architectural movement? Have them all: Madrid’s buildings are an intoxicating blend of medieval, baroque, belle époque, neoclassical and beyond.
Don’t miss the Museo del Prado, one of the world’s greatest art collections, housed in palacial splendor. Take a walk in El Retiro, Madrid’s lovely central park, complete with marble monuments and a Victorian glasshouse. Once it was reserved for royalty; today you can rent a boat for a row on the lake under the watchful eye of Alfonso XII, whose equestrian statue looms on the shore. Look up at the Flemish-style spires of Plaza Mayor, a lively square where you can stop for a sandwich and soak up the history all at once.
And of course, you’ll want to spend time tasting tapas, visiting the largest palace in Western Europe, and watching the sun set over Templo de Debod, an Egyptian temple gifted to Spain and reconstructed in a Madrid park.
The coastal towns of Spain’s southern Mediterranean coast are summer vacation magnets for Europeans, but the region remains affordable and makes an exciting home base for a southern Spain adventure. Stay along the coast in Torremolinos or Malaga, and take a day or two to relax on the area’s famous beaches, lined with palm trees and fine sand. In the hills above Malaga, a Moorish palace called the Alcazaba beckons with serene Islamic architecture and tile mosaics, while the Spanish fortress of Castillo de Gibralfaro offers sensational views over the city from its medieval stone walls.
Plus you’re only a day-trip away from enchanting spots like the cliff-top village of Ronda, where a gorge splits the old town from the new. Walk across its legendary bridge, Puento Nuevo, which took more than forty years to build. The old city’s massive stone walls and gates are still intact, as are historic plazas, gardens and other buildings dating back to Moorish rule.
Or take in Gibraltar, with the incredible Rock of Gibraltar, a resident colony of Barbary Apes, and a view of Africa in the distance.
These imperial cities boast an intoxicating blend of architectural styles, incredible history, and fun food scenes. Linked by train or motor coach, a Budapest/Prague combo is hard to beat for an affordable European summer vacation, especially if you’ve got a thing for fairy-tale castles and stunning palaces.
In Budapest, explore history from the Magyar reign to the turbulent twentieth century. Home to magnificent heritage like the Basilica of St. Stephen (where you can find the saint’s mummified right hand), the riverfront Parliament (here you can find St. Stephen’s crown) and the Great Synagogue, a stunning nineteenth century synagogue in Romantic and Moorish style.
Then head to Prague, where the stunning medieval old city waits to dazzle you with its famous astronomical clock, clustered church spires and one of Europe’s largest castles.
Read More: Budapest & Prague: Perfect Together
London… an affordable summer destination? Before you laugh, consider all the things London offers you for free, from world-renowned museums to glorious royal parks. And while you’ll pay for admission into the Tower of London, the site’s incredible history and warren of medieval rooms, arms and armour displays, and the breathtaking Crown Jewels will occupy so much of your day, you might find the entrance fee’s a bargain.
Add in inexpensive mass transit options via the Underground and those iconic doubledecker buses, endless dining options and enough eye candy on the historic streets to keep you busy just walking around, and you’ll find London is a surprisingly affordable European summer vacation option.
Read more: 10 Free Things to do in London
What do you say to a road-trip this summer? With visits to medieval villages, Gothic castles, the Black Forest, and Roman baths? A drive through Germany’s stunning landscapes could be the European summer vacation of your dreams. Book a vacation package complete with car rental, accommodations and a suggested itinerary to get the most out of your trip, and you’ll be immersed in fairy-tale destinations in no time.
Drive the Romantic Road, Germany’s most famous scenic route, to the medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Go castle-spotting through the Rhine River Valley, where villages and vineyards cling to the hillsides. Drive the Black Forest scenic route for breathtaking views across the Rhine to the Vosges Mountains. Explore historic Baden-Baden, and Romerplatz, home to the ruins of Roman baths. It’s a European twist on the traditional American summer vacation that we think you’ll love.
Did you spot your next summer vacation on this list? Start planning now and this summer could be your best vacation yet!