Traveling on a budget indefinitely means traveling differently. It means nights at hostels instead of hotels, eating take away food by a river bank instead of dining on the patio of a Michelin star restaurant, it could mean taking the middle seat on a transatlantic flight. It also means doing your research with money always on your mind. Some people choose to travel to traditionally cheeper locations in lieu of cities that get a bag rap for their price tag however I’m here to prove to you that that is not your only option. Here are six capital cities which don’t have to break your bank account to visit.
I don’t care what kind of spending plan you are on. If you are visiting Europe for the first time you HAVE TO see Paris. Granted, Im biased. I have been Paris obsessed forever and that has not ceased even after three visits. Luckily the city of love can be ,surprisingly, a bargain hunters dream. Heres a short list of some of the free (or nearly free) things you can do while visiting Paris.
Free Things To Do In Paris
- Hot Chocolate and Macaroons by the Seine. – Cheep wine by the Seine…anything by the Seine. Another benefit is that a lot of monuments are located on it’s banks so you get quite the view and can easily find your way to almost anything.
*HOT TIP* When looking to eat out in Paris keep in mind that anything with a killer view comes with a bigger price tag. Check out a Patisserie, or Café a few blocks back and you’ll find the cheaper eats.
- Shakespear & Company – Across the bridge from The Notre Dame, is the famous English language bookstore which claims to be the first English language bookstore on the continent. Even if your not into reading, it is worth the look, its charm and history will grab you.
- Carnavalet History of Paris Museum. – An exhibition in a beautiful renaissance era hotel, what more could you want. This museum takes you on a complete tour of the history of Paris. There is a suggested donation of €5 which is so worth it (they don’t hound you if your too broke to donate).
- The Pére Lachaise Cemetary – Ok, so a cemetery normally would be a very morbid place to visit. This is possibly the coolest cemetery I have ever been to. I mean come on Jim Morrison, Eidth Piaf, Chopin, and Oscar Wild are all buried here and that is to name a few of the notable people who made the Père Lachaise their last stop. If your on your way to Paris I would print out a map or at least have it on your phone. (Map of the Pere Lachaise)
- Take a walk in the parks. – And Paris has quite a few. Check out this list of the top rated parks to visit while in Paris for a ‘starter guide’. Or you can pick a park by anything else you want to visit, wander and enjoy.
- Take some killer photos with the Eiffel Tower. – You don’t have to be on the tower to take some amazing snapshots of it. My two favorite places to grab shots of the tower are shot from the Place de Trocadéro during the day and from Sacré-Cœur at night.
- Free Exhibits and Monuments – Suprisingly the famous Notre Dame and Sacré-Cœre are both free to visit. If you plan your visit so that your in Paris for the first Sunday of any month many musems are free including the Louvre and the Musem D’Orsay.
Lodging Costs: FREE. I couchsurfed for this trip on a peniche and had an absolutly amazing experiance. Hostels range from €9 – €24 with a view of the seine.
Transit Costs: €1 – 2 / Free on New Years!
When I Visited: New Years Eve, September, and Early April
Budget Tip: If you haven’t been up the Eiffel Tour do it at dusk. You will get daytime/nighttime shots from the tour AND an amazing sunset view.
Broke status while I was taking this trip: Don’t forget you have to be able to eat for the rest of the month.
No, I didn’t flunk geography. Barcelona, while it is not the capital of Spain it IS the capital of Catalonia, a self-governing, autonomous-community which is the northeast corner of Spain. Really it is NOT SPAIN and the residents are very proud of their independent status. They have their own nationality ,capital city, and language called Catalan. Also, francophones, you have a one up on the local lingo. In Catalonia saying ‘Merci’ means thank you! (As opposed to gracias in Spanish) and will get you a tun of brownie points with the locals for using it.
I absolutely loved Barcelona. The architecture, parks, food, people, nightlife…I could go on and on about how this city captured my heart. Ill admit I had no clue about Spanish culture or history before visiting Barcelona. So, I took myself to the closest free walking tour and I was not disappointed. Having educated myself about the country I was in I set off to spend an entire day getting lost and literally walking all over the city. From dawn to dusk I saw every thing from Park Geüll to the Sagrada Familia I was able to walk everywhere in the Barcelona sun.
Lodging Costs: A nice hostel downtown was €9 euro/night
Transit Chosts: From Reus Al Prat – City Center €8 euro (€3 euro public bus from the airport to the train station, €115 euro train ride to the city center) I walked everywhere after that.
When I Visited: Early October
Budget Tip: Grab your lunch to go at the Mercado de la Boqueria and enjoy a cheep, local, meal to go.
Broke status while I was taking this trip: If I splurge on one local meal I will still survive.
My only regret about my trip to Ireland was that it was not longer. Ireland holds a huge piece of my heart literally, I have a mostly Irish lineage. Heading back to the homeland was a blast and did not put a dent in my wallet. The food was cheep, the beer cheeper, and the friends (and memories) I made along the way are with me to this day. I don’t know if its the booze, the weather (it was sunny the entire weekend I was there), or the Irish brogue, but everyone seemed to be in an amazing mood in Dublin.
After visiting the famous temple bar the night before (and paying the costs) I decided that a bus tour outside the city was needed. The €24 euro day bus tour took us to Hollywood, Glendalough Lower Lake, Wicklow Gap (Braveheart anyone?), and Kilmacolm. It was perfect for fitting in some last minuet exploring.
Lodging Costs: €12 euro a night with breakfast included.
Transit Costs: €24 euros for a roundtrip bus ticket from the airport to the city center. €12 euros for a bus tour outside of doublin
When I visited: November.
Budget Tip: Opt in to the pub crawl that ends at a night club. Its like paying an entrance fee with shots, and friends included.
Broke status while I was taking this trip: Heck yes I’m in Dublin lets find a pub crawl..I want ALL THE GUINESS!
Munich, the capital of Bavaria is breathtaking. From the town hall to hidden churches, to the English Gardens this city packs a punch. There is ALWAYS more to see in Munich. I have visited this city three times and I am constantly finding new gems. The food is great (if your a meat eater), the beer is top notch, and the sights well they speak for them selfs.
Everyone should experience Oktoberfest once in their lives. Even if drinking isn’t your thing, whats more fun than getting dress up in costumes and going to a carnival that the whole world is headed to. This is more than a festival of beer it is a cultural experience. So strap on your liederhosen and lace up your dirndles because joining the masses is one way to have an unforgettable Munich experience.
*Hot Tip: Head up to the top of the Olympiaturm at night to get a look at how Oktoberfest lights up the city.*
Lodging Costs: €15 euro a night at a campsite with camping gear, hot showers, breakfast/dinner, transport to the city center and unlimited beer/sangria included.
Transit Costs: Free during Oktoberfest!
When I Visited: Late September
Budget Tip: Find a street vendor for brautwurst they are €6 euro at a restaurant and €2 at a stall!
Broke status while I was taking this trip: Oh yah! Im starting seven months in Europe with Oktoberfest lets go…but calmly, I already spent $99 on this dirndle.
It is quite a shock when you see how much your dollar is worth when converted to pounds (good for you UK) but London can be surprisingly budget friendly even after discovering the horrible exchange rate. Granted, I did not splurge on high tea and my breakfasts were far traditional english breakfasts but I did get to see some major hot spots and even dined on fish and chips by the Thames.
Going to London while their christmas markets are taking place not only gets you in the holiday spirit, at their ‘winter wonderland’ there is a ferris wheel that you can take a ride on. While it is not the iconic London Eye you do save quite a bit ( 8 pounds instead of 21) and get a great view of the city!
Lodging Costs: Free. I lucked out and was able to crash with a friend.
Transit Costs: Avoid the tube (metro) it is so expensive and you are charged by distance traveled. If you need to take transportation, hop on a bus, its cheeper and comes with a view of the city.
Budget Tip: Skip the restaurant fish and chips, there are plenty of food stalls that are cheeper, and as good if not better than the ones that come with an expensive price tag.
Broke status while I was taking this trip: I get paid on Monday, already paid for transport back home, and just spent my last $0.50 on ramen…oh boy.
Belgium gets looked over way too often. The food, sights, beer, and good humor are contagious in Belgium. Come on, the mascot of their capitol city is a peeing cupid! This eclectic city is a unique mix of historical and modern and the architecture reflects that attitude. Their picturesque medieval city center will satisfy even the pickiest of travelers with the gilded flemish homes in the city square and the world famous Delirium Brewery.
I love Brussels because it likes to surprise you. The Atomium, a giant atom from the worlds fair in 1958 peeks out above historic buildings,Manneken Piss (a bronze statue of a peeing boy) is basically the cities mascot, and depictions of the cities famous cartoon Tintin pop up to add color to the city. There is something for everyone in Brussels!
How to eat fries in Belgium? Don’t be caught calling them french fries, or eating them with ketchup. Mayonaise is the way to go in Belgium. Not to worry this isn’t Hellmans, the mayo you get on top of your Belgian friets redefines what mayo is supposed to taste like. Not a huge fan? Try Stoverij Sauce…it’s beef stew on top of fries and is A M A Z I N G.
Lodging Costs: €12 euro a night hostel with breakfast included.
Transit Costs: €12 euro bus from the city center to Charleroi.
Budget Tip: Under 26 (or over but you look young)? Take a trip and explore anywhere in Belgium for only 6 euros one way on the national train line!
Broke status while I was taking this trip: I can survive off €1 waffles, fries, and Belgian beer right?