9 surprisingly affordable places to visit in Europe
A trip to Europe doesn’t have to break the bank. Visiting Europe in the off-season can help you save money, with the continent quieter between peak tourism months. And even Europe’s famously expensive places—London and Paris come to mind—offer tons of free things to do and see. If you’re traveling on a budget, here are nine of the most affordable places to visit in Europe on tour with us.
(Need help with budgeting for travel? We’ve got tips for making your dream trip more affordable than ever. Wondering when and where to travel to get the most bang for your buck? We’ve got a month-by-month breakdown of where to go if you’re craving savings.)
Just walking through the cobblestone streets of Florence feels like exploring a museum, which makes it one of the most popular European cities among travelers. We even have a weeklong Florence City Stay tour, which is just the thing for travelers hoping to take a shorter trip on a budget. No matter how long you stay in the city, here are some of the best free things to do in Florence.
- Walk around Piazza del Duomo, the heart of historic Florence and the most visited area of the city. Entrance to the Duomo, Florence’s spectacular main cathedral that was once the largest in the world, is free.
- Visit Piazzale Michelangelo for a panoramic view of Florence (and a close-up look at a bronze copy of Michelangelo’s David). A bit further up the hill is San Miniato al Monte basilica, offering a viewpoint that’s even more elevated and less crowded. We recommend visiting at sunset—it’s absolutely stunning.
- Go for a stroll in Florence’s rose garden, where you can see 400 varieties of roses just a short walk from Piazzale Michelangelo.
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London can be an expensive city to visit, but it doesn’t have to be—especially if you’re on a shorter trip like our weeklong London City Stay tour. Make the most of your free time and take advantage of the British capital’s free cultural offerings.
- Visit a free museum or gallery. Nearly all of London’s world-class museums and galleries offer free admission, from the British Museum to the Tate Modern. Check out some of the city’s best free museums →
- Wander around London’s markets, like Borough Market and Camden Market, taking in their vibrant sights, sounds, and smells.
- See Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament from Westminster Bridge for one of London’s most postcard-worthy views.
- Witness the Changing of the Guard, the formal ceremony in which the soldiers currently guarding Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s residence, are replaced by new soldiers. It’s one of the most iconic events in London, and, fortunately, it usually happens every other day!
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Visiting Rome in the off-season will help you save money and avoid the throngs of travelers that crowd the city’s iconic sights in the summertime. Many of Rome’s most famous sites are absolutely free, too, which makes it one of the best places to travel on a budget on tour with us.
- Gaze up in awe at the Pantheon, the 2,000-year-old structure that remains one of the best-preserved monuments of ancient Rome. The square outside the Pantheon, Piazza della Rotonda, is always lively.
- Climb to the top of the Spanish Steps, the largest outdoor staircase in Europe. You’ll have a bird’s-eye view of Roman rooftops and a prime vantage point for people-watching. Be warned: You’re not allowed to sit on the steps!
- Stroll through the medieval Piazza Campo dei Fiori in the daytime and Piazza Navona, home to two of Bernini’s fountains, in the evening.
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Yes, Paris is notoriously expensive for travelers, and it may not immediately come to mind when you think of affordable destinations. But the city’s historic beauty can be experienced on foot—and walking, as we all know, is free. Plus, if a shorter French adventure is up your alley, then our weeklong Paris City Stay tour will let you dive into the city’s top sites in just a week (and on a budget!).
- Visit Sacré-Cœur Basilica, the recognizable crown of Montmartre. You can see inside the white marble church for free, but the best part of Sacré-Coeur, honestly, is the view of Paris.
- Explore the city’s gorgeously landscaped parks, such as the placid Luxembourg Gardens, the statue-filled Tuileries Garden, and the Champ de Mars, which offers something of a manicured runway to the Eiffel Tower. See why these gardens are our favorite places to picnic in Paris →
- Dive into a good book at one of Paris’ many magical outdoor spots. One of our favorite places to read during free time? The Left Bank, which is full of artists, students, and scenic benches for some sunny day reading. Check out four reading spots in the city →
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Portugal doesn’t yet have the cachet among travelers, like say France or Italy does, which means it’s less crowded and less expensive. It offers similarly beautiful coastlines, vibrant cities, and fantastic food, which make it one of the best affordable places to visit in Europe. Here are some of the top inexpensive things to do during free time.
- See Lisbon from its various miradouros, or viewpoints, usually found at the highest point of the city’s seven hills. Each miradouro has a terrace, and some have a garden or a café serving snacks.
- Relax on a white-sand beach in the Algarve region, which is one of the top things to do in our ultimate Portugal Travel Guide →
- Watch the sunset from Porto’s Jardim do Morro. You can see the whole city from this hilltop point.
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6. Edinburgh and Scotland’s castles
Between Edinburgh’s free museums and the freedom of the Scottish Highlands, Scotland is rich with opportunities for those traveling the country on a budget. Here are some of the best free things to do while exploring these affordable destinations.
- Walk the City Centre Mural Trail to see the fun, unique public art enriching Glasgow’s buildings.
- Hike up (and back down) the Old Man of Storr, a dramatic rock formation in the Scottish Highlands. The hike takes around 90 minutes.
- Visit the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh to see masterpieces from the early Renaissance to the 19th century. Find more free museums to visit in our Edinburgh Travel Guide →
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7. Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe might not be as inexpensive as it once was, but its major cities are small enough to be walkable, making it easy to see the best of the region on a budget.
- In Prague, walk across the Charles Bridge, admiring the views and statues. Read a travelers’ memories of visiting this iconic bridge →
- In Budapest, visit Fisherman’s Bastion, a monument famous for its dramatic turrets and spires.
- In Kraków, climb up Krakus Mound, once the site of pagan rituals. It’s the city’s oldest structure and highest point.
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When you think of la dolce vita, you might be picturing Sicily. With so many free historic and natural sites, it’s a great place to travel on a budget. Get excited for your trip with our Sicily Travel Guide, and read on for some of the top free things to do while exploring the island on tour.
- Visit Palermo Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Palermo’s most beautiful religious buildings.
- Visit Mount Etna, an active volcano in Catania. “Seeing Mount Etna on the horizon while exploring Taormina on tour is one of my favorite travel memories,” said Go Ahead staffer Jamie. “There was even a little bit of smoke coming out of the top, which made for great pictures!”
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9. Ancient Greece
Greece is filled with world-class cultural and historic sites, but Athens is much less expensive than similarly famous European capitals, making it an ideal destination for those looking to travel on a budget. Here are some of the top free things to do in Athens.
- Climb up Lycabettus Hill, the highest point in the center of Athens. You can either walk up or take a funicular. See more free time activities in our Athens Travel Guide →
- Visit the National Gardens, an oasis in the heart of Athens. (They’re one of the best places to visit if you’re a solo traveler to Greece.)
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P.S. You can book your tour of Europe for only $99 down with AutoPay, and kick back for 60 days before your first interest-free payment! Lock in your lowest price today, and pay for your Go Ahead trip on your own schedule.