There are so many little countries packed into Europe that the sights you’ll see, the cultures you’ll be exposed to, and the costs that you will pay vary greatly. There are even vast differences within individual countries, some of them small enough to fit into an average-sized U.S. state several times.
What you need is inside information – a lot of it – and getting your research done could be a time-consuming exercise. But not with Wanderu on your side! We gathered pricing information about the services and goods that travelers are most likely to spend money on, including hotels, beer, taxi, public transit, food, beer, coffee, and museums. We then used that info to rank European capitals from the most budget-friendly to the most expensive, using a specific methodology based on travelers’ average spending habits when they visit a new place.
Let’s look at the rankings that will help you figure out where your travel budget will go the furthest:
You can already see a pattern emerging. Eastern European countries generally offer the best value to travelers. There’s no shortage of scenic and historic attractions; and for those who love the party scene, there’s tons of vibrant nightlife to enjoy. So, although you may not know too much about Skopje or Yerevan, that doesn’t mean your budget holiday to these destinations won’t be action-packed.
On the other end of the scale, we have Northern and Western Europe with its high cost of living – but if price isn’t your primary deciding factor, there are unique experiences to enjoy. After all, a cruise down a Norwegian fjord or a view of the Northern Lights from Iceland might be expensive, but it’s still the experience of a lifetime. Just make sure you don’t fall for some of the well-known tourist traps, as that’s one surefire way to drain your budget really fast.
Wherever you plan to spend your budget, be sure to plan your trip during the best times to visit Europe to ensure the best experience for your vacation.
How Do European Capitals in Different Regions Rank?
As a traveler who is out to see a little more of the world, you’ll probably want to explore more than one country and travel as widely as you can within the region you’ve chosen to tour.
In fact, the best part of bus and train travel in Europe is that it allows you to visit many different countries relatively quickly and for very cheap. For example, did you know that you can visit 15 European capitals on a budget of less than $400?
So, the question here is: where should you spend the most time in any region of Europe if your budget is a little tight? Let’s find that out:
While Brussels isn’t exactly cheap, it’s the most affordable of the Western European capitals for travelers. Monaco, on the other hand, will eat up a bigger chunk of your budget with hotel and meal costs that easily outstrip any other Western European destination. So maybe a day trip to Monaco would be your best bet if you don’t feel like ballin’ out.
However, your choices will also be influenced by the things you like to see and do. Needless to say, marijuana enthusiasts should definitely head to Amsterdam (where weed is famously legal) and indulge into the huge variety of coffee shops selling different types of weed goods at pretty decent prices. And although Paris may have relatively high accommodation costs, public transport, taxis, and food are reasonably-priced for the region.
Iceland is consistently among the costliest destinations for everything from hotels to a warming cup of coffee. However, the awesome thing about Iceland is that you can pitch a tent basically anywhere in the wilderness and camp for free. However, you should always use designated campsites where they do exist. That’s a pretty sweet perk since hiking and exploring the incredible nature of Iceland is easily one of the best things to do there. While there are no buses or train to get you there (duh!), flights are pretty cheap, and you can easily book your transfer from Keflavík International Airport to Reykjavik on Wanderu!
By Northern European standards, Stockholm and Oslo aren’t too bad. If you want to see the Northern Lights, both Sweden and Norway extend well into the Arctic Circle and a visit to Northern Sweden could probably cost you less than a trip to Iceland.
Central Europe offers us everything from famed capitals to spots most of your friends will not have heard of. But just because it’s relatively obscure that doesn’t mean it will necessarily be budget-friendly. Just look at Liechtenstein’s ranking. It may be the sixth-smallest country in the world but taking in the sights could be a costly exercise.
Meanwhile, the much more affordable Zagreb in Croatia offers you more historic buildings than you can shake a selfie stick at for a much lower overall cost. Plus, there are plenty of things to do in Zagreb for any budget level. But despite this, Bratislava (a.k.a. the most affordable capital in Central Europe) offers the cheapest hotel costs, while the reasonably affordable Budapest has hotel prices that are nearly as high as those you’d pay in Liechtenstein’s Vaduz! Nevertheless, Budapest will give you very affordable transport, food and beverage prices.
Weigh your options and zero in on the destinations you’ll love. Now look for ways to economize. For example, if you save on hotel costs, that trip to Budapest may not be as expensive as it might seem.
Once again, it’s worth looking at more than the overall picture. For instance, while Macedonia’s Skopje is the cheapest capital in this region overall (and in all of Europe!), its food, beverage, and museum admission costs are higher than those in some other capital cities in the region, including Ankara, Pristina, and Kiev.
And everything is relative. On the regional listing, Kiev is the most expensive Eastern European destination, but as European destinations go, it’s mid-priced and will still cost you far less than a visit to Rome, London, or Paris.
Southern Europe offers some surprises. If you thought a stay in Athens, Greece was going to cost you less than a sojourn in Rome and Madrid, think again! Having said that, hotel prices in Malta’s capital, Valletta, are substantially higher than they are in Athens, or anywhere else in the region.
Lisbon is a hands-down winner when it comes to affordability on all counts but one: hotel prices. Unfortunately, as accommodation eats up about 42% of a traveler’s budget, it’s not ranked higher on our list because of that very reason. However, food and transportation costs should more than make up for that, and if you can score a room for less than the average price, you could hit a cost-saving home-run. Also, Lisbon is the European city that has the cheapest concert tickets, so if you can combine your visit with seeing your favorite performer live, you’ll definitely come out on top!
European Travel Cost Analysis by Item
The cost of your European holiday will depend, not only on your destination, but also on your personal tastes and your situation. For example, you may have friends who will let you do a little couch surfing that eliminates hotel costs. Or perhaps you don’t plan to eat out often so that restaurant meal costs are less of a factor in your decision making.
Whatever the case, let’s take a closer look at European travel costs by the item to see what destinations you should put on your itinerary based on the factors that are most important to you:
|11.||Sarajevo||Bosnia and Herzegovina||$88.30|
|18.||Andorra la Vella||Andorra||$115.89|
|19.||San Marino||San Marino||$117.77|
Hotel costs account for a large portion of most people’s travel budgets and they can be a deciding factor on whether or not one ends up visiting a certain destination.
For instance, a taste of jet-set living in Monaco will be costly, even if you choose a relatively average hotel. Since you can’t bet on winning big at Monaco’s casinos, a budget-friendly holiday in Eastern Europe will definitely get you more bang for your buck.
Regardless of your destination, you can use our average hotel price guide to look for good accommodation deals. Save on this line-item, and the overall cost of your holiday will be considerably lower than you might expect.
|11.||Sarajevo||Bosnia and Herzegovina||$0.60|
|25.||Andorra la Vella||Andorra||$1.35|
|27.||San Marino||San Marino||$1.70|
If you’re looking for ways to save, cutting down on taxi use is a good place to start. Still, there will be times when you need to hail a cab after late-night revels or as a means of getting to train stations or the airport without having to drag your luggage along from your hotel.
European taxi fares range from the “no surprises” high cost of a London taxi, to the surprisingly reasonable fares charged in Moscow. Wherever you go, however, make sure you only use legitimate taxi companies, as there are many private drivers who will make their cars appear as your run-of-the-mill taxi, but will then charge you at three times the regular rate.
Some of you will probably wonder why we didn’t take into consideration services like Uber or Lyft. The truth is, a lot of countries around Europe have banned these and other ride-sharing apps. However, if you do find yourself in a country that hasn’t (like the United Kingdom, for example), it probably will end up being cheaper to call an Uber than to hail a cab.
|15.||Sarajevo||Bosnia and Herzegovina||$1.08|
|25.||Andorra la Vella||Andorra||$2.11|
Public transport in Europe is invariably excellent, and since you’ll want to get around a bit, it may be a bigger part of your travel budget than initially planned. Look out for ways to save. For instance, although Stockholm has the 5th highest single ticket transport prices, a Stockholm Pass gives you cheap metro access and free entry to several tourist attractions you will not want to miss.
Then again, Chisinau in Moldova has super-cheap (and highly recommended) public transport, and who would want to miss a chance to tour the city by trolley bus?
|7.||Sarajevo||Bosnia and Herzegovina||$11.97|
|21.||Andorra la Vella||Andorra||$19.01|
|San Marino||San Marino||$23.40|
No matter where you are, you do need to eat. Don’t be taken by surprise if a relatively average restaurant meal in Monaco sets you back a whopping $56. If you’re not a big spender when it comes to eating out, head to Turkey’s Ankara, where the cuisine is equally tasty (if not even tastier) and comes at just a fraction of the price.
For those who have “expensive” cities like Bern, Oslo, or Reykjavik on their bucket list, here’s a red-hot tip: choose hotels where breakfast is included and make breakfast the main meal of your day just like your mom always said you should!
However, one of the best parts about traveling across Europe is getting to experience the amazing local cuisine and trying out dishes that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Europe is definitely a foodie’s paradise, so you might want to actually splurge on this aspect of your trip.
|14.||Sarajevo||Bosnia and Herzegovina||$1.80|
|21.||Andorra la Vella||Andorra||$2.93|
|San Marino||San Marino||$4.10|
There’s nothing like chilling out with a tall glass of cold beer after a day of adventure and excitement. In Northern Europe, the price of alcohol is influenced by the heavy taxes that are levied on just about everything. No surprise then that Iceland, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden have some of the most expensive beer in the world.
In Eastern Europe, on the other hand, a cold one at a bar will likely cost you less than a bottle of beer from the supermarket in most other places. Now that’s something worth drinking for. Cheers!
|San Marino||San Marino||$1.40|
|8.||Sarajevo||Bosnia and Herzegovina||$1.50|
|17.||Andorra la Vella||Andorra||$1.84|
If you’re like most of us, your day doesn’t begin properly without a piping hot cup of coffee. The good news is some cities are ready to give you a break with surprisingly cheap coffee.
Rome may not be a cheap destination overall, but the coffee flows freely and is among the cheapest in Europe.
|12.||Sarajevo||Bosnia and Herzegovina||$3.15|
|24.||San Marino||San Marino||$5.97|
|40.||Andorra la Vella||Andorra||$11.70|
Pristina wants you to enjoy its history and art for free! That’s just one more reason to make the third-cheapest European capital one of your holiday destinations. Other cities are less generous, and with much of Rome’s old city being a gigantic museum that draws tourists from around the world, it’s no wonder that the city has the fourth highest museum admission price in Europe.
Meanwhile, Icelandic history may be less widely-known, but in true Icelandic style, you will pay a premium rate to explore it first-hand.
City to City with Wanderu
Now that you’ve planned your itinerary, you need to consider how you will get from place to place. What’s the fastest and cheapest way to travel from Stockholm to Oslo? Can you travel directly from Paris to Lisbon by bus or train? What will it cost you to travel from Budapest to Sofia?
Wanderu has the answers. Compare routes, schedules, and prices across major carriers and book your tickets on a single platform without paying more. Get the Wanderu app to use on the move or use the Wanderu website. Either way, you’ll have all the trip information you need at your fingertips.
Planning your European holiday? Use this guide as a basic source of info and dig a little deeper with Wanderu. Perhaps you’re a recent graduate looking for a destination in Europe that’s both fun and affordable to visit before you get launched on your career, or maybe you want to head off the beaten tourist track for a unique experience.
Whatever the case, let Wanderu help you find the cheapest and most convenient way to get where you need to go!
We analyzed the prices of the following goods and services in every European capital to determine the average cost for each: hotel, taxi, public transit, food, beer, coffee, museum admission.
Cost and pricing sources:
For hotels, we calculated the average price for a one-night stay for one person at the top 10 Best Value hotels on Trip Advisor at each destination.
For taxi service, we looked up the average taxi tariff for 1 km of driving in each city.
For public transit, we looked up the average price of a one-way public transit ticket in each city.
For food, we looked up the average price of a three-course meal for one person at a mid-range restaurant.
For beer, we looked up the average price of a 0.5-liter glass of draught domestic beer in each city.
For coffee, we looked up the average price of a cup of cappuccino in each city.
For museums admission, we calculated the average cost of admission at the top 10 museums on Trip Advisor for each city.
For taxi, public transit, food, beer, and coffee, we gathered pricing information from Numbeo.com.
Once we collected all the pricing information, we used a study published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine what portion of their travel budgets people normally spend on each one of the aforementioned services/goods.
Finally, we calculated the weighted average for each city and, using the results, ranked them from the cheapest to the most expensive.
You are welcome to use the information and graphics on this page, crediting Wanderu. If you do so, please link back to this page, so that travelers around the world can see all the data and find out how we came up with the ranking.