Heading to Europe on a tight budget? There’s no need to max out a credit card if you know how and where to save. Here are some affordable (and even free!) ways to enjoy Europe.
Museums for Less
Love museums but can’t afford to pay a $30 entry fee? Try some of these, and be sure to arrive early or late on free or discounted dates. Museums are often busy on these days.
If you’re under the age of 26 or you’re a teacher, visiting the Louvre in Paris is always completely free. Simply show an ID that confirms your status at the ticket office and skip the long queue, as well as the 15-euro admission fee. For travelers over the age of 26, the first Sunday of the month is free.
In Munich, Museum Brandhorst costs just 1 euro ($1.20 USD) on Sundays, giving you access to more than 60 works by Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, and other notable artists.
In Madrid, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, which focuses on 20th century art, is free to enter on Saturdays after 2:30 p.m. and all day on Sundays. The Prado museum -- Madrid’s must-see fine art museum -- is also free on Sundays.
In Rome, you’ll save 16 euros by visiting the Vatican Museum on the last Sunday of the month, when admission is free. This extensive collection of paintings and sculptures includes the famous Sistine Chapel.
Before you spend another dime riding a funicular or buying tickets to climb a tower, head instead to these scenic spots, which all offer amazing 360-degree views of cities across Europe.
Generator Hostel Venice not only offers affordable and comfortable rooms for budget travelers (usually less than $100 per night) but the view from the bar across the Giudecca Canal is one of the loveliest in Venice.
In Florence, Italy, the Piazzale Michelangelo offers some of the most breathtaking views of the Renaissance city -- and a bronze version of the sculptor’s masterpiece, David. Just 20 minutes from the city center by foot, it’s a perfect place to catch the sunset.
In Budapest, put on some comfy shoes and walk along Fisherman’s Bastion, located on the Buda side of the Hungarian capital. The views from the top are unbeatable. Note that while the lower terraces are free, you’ll pay a nominal price (the equivalent of about 3 euro or $4 USD) to climb to the top balconies.
About an hour outside Dublin, the town of Howth is known for its famous fish and chips, but head to the summit at Howth Head and you will be rewarded with incredible sea views of Ireland’s Eye, a small island which is also a bird sanctuary.
In Berlin, it’s free to enter the dome and roof terrace of the Reichstag Building when you register online in advance. The glass building is home to the Bundestag (German Parliament) and has a rooftop restaurant with stunning views of the city.
Even if you can’t afford to stay at a luxury hotel, you can definitely still have a drink or dinner in one. You can also find reasonable prices at select Michelin-star restaurants. Here are our picks.
In Vienna, two iconic properties will appeal to your sweet tooth: If you’re a chocolate lover, head to Hotel Sacher for their famous Sacher Torte cake. If you prefer fruit desserts, stop by the Palais Hansen Kempinski hotel for their house-made apple strudel, which comes with a generous dollop of fresh cream. Cakes start at just 7 euros ($9 USD) -- a small price to pay for a slice of luxury.
In London, you can get eight dim sum dishes, including king crab dumplings, at Yauatcha for under 30 pounds ($50 USD).
In Paris, L’Agape offers a 35-euro menu ($49 USD) for a glamorous four-course lunch. So, for just 9 euros per plate you can some of the hottest dishes in Paris. Dinner starts at 120 euros -- so you are better off having lunch at this restaurant.
In Barcelona, dine at Nectari and spend just 25 euros for dishes made with spendy ingredients like truffles and wild mushrooms.
Skiing Without Spending
Want to hit the slopes in Switzerland without spending a fortune in a place that's known for its luxury ski resorts? There are also affordable options for budget-minded thrill seekers. If you are an avid skier, you can become a member of the Swiss Youth Hostel Association, and pay just 33 CHF ($34 USD) a year for access to at least 52 youth hostels in Switzerland and 3,500 hostels around the globe. These include ski resorts in Grindelwald, Gstaad, and even Zermatt -- all luxury-focused regions. Prices start at 17 CHF ($17 USD) per night. And don’t let the name “youth hostel” fool you -- there’s no age limit to become a member, and families and seniors are welcome. Just how luxurious are these hostels? The Wellness hotel4000 in Saas Fee, Switzerland has a design-forward spa, sauna, steam room, hot tubs, and water slides for kids. Prices start at just 69 CHF ($70 USD), with the slopes a mere four-minute walk away.
In Amsterdam, on Tuesday afternoons from September to May, you can catch a free classical music concert at Boekmanzaal, part of the Muziektheater at the Opera House. From September to June, free concerts are also available at Concertgebouw, with shows starting at 12:30 p.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday.
In London, classical music lovers will find a roster of free concerts provided by the Royal College of Music during lunchtime at the following venues: St. Mary Abbots, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Lincoln’s Inn Chapel, and St James’s Piccadilly. You can also catch 6 p.m. concerts at The National Gallery, The V&A, St. Stephen’s, and Steinway Hall.
In Paris, luxury hotel Le Cinq Codet has live jazz in its restaurant on Saturday evenings. This is also a great place to get some well-crafted cocktails on a secluded patio before meandering over to the Eiffel Tower.
In Salzburg, Austria check out free concerts by students of Mozarteum University throughout the year, as well as a free summer musical festival under the stars.