Photo: Marianna Ianovsk/Shutterstock

Every European Capital Ranked From Most Expensive to Cheapest

Insider Guides Budget Travel
by Matthew Meltzer Oct 11, 2018

Europe used to be cheap. Like dirt cheap. Ask your parents about their 1960s backpacking adventures across post-World War II Europe and they’ll tell stories of 10-cent hostels, five-cent beers, and the best pizza you ever had for a quarter. Like a lot of your parents’ stories, they’re highly exaggerated, but they’re also a far cry from the $7 pints and $200-a-night hotels you find in big Euro capitals now.

That’s not to say the entire continent is a bank-breaker, though. Look hard enough and you can find a European country for any budget. To help in the process, Wanderu — a site devoted to finding cheap bus and train tickets — looked at prices for all kinds of things in every European capital city: hotels, meals, beers, taxis, museum admission, public transportation, even cups of coffee. And they ranked all 49 of them by how much it will cost you to spend time there.

What results is a comprehensive ranking of every European capital from the most expensive to the cheapest that will help you plan your next vacation across the pond — no matter how financially responsible you want to be.

49. Monaco

Hotel: $456.55
Meal: $58.50
Beer: $6.14
Taxi: $2.34 per km

No huge surprise that a city best known for yachts, F1 racing, and no income taxes is the most expensive. But this little city-state wedged into the south of France can be done cheaply if you know what you’re doing. An average hotel here costs $456 a night, but you can find cheaper places like Hotel Columbus or Airbnbs in the French villages literally across the street. The museums here are surprisingly cheap; the zoo is five euros to get in and the auto museum just over six. You can even get around the cover charge to the famous Monte Carlo casino by joining its loyalty club. And if you hit the casino during the week, you can find tables with 10 euro minimums.

48. Reykjavik, Iceland

Hotel: $371.65
Meal: $56.43
Beer: $11.28
Taxi: $2.81

It’s not an exaggeration to say that your first meal in Reykjavik might cost more than your flight there. With WOW running $99 flights from much of America, getting to this little frozen, volcanic island is alarmingly cheap. Everything else here, though? Alarmingly expensive. The average meal is $56, the second most expensive in Europe, and the average beer is $11, the costliest in Europe. Meaning if you wanted to wash down your charred puffin with more than four drinks, you’ve now spent more than your airfare on your first dinner. The only thing that’s not jaw-droppingly expensive are rental cars, so it may be advantageous to rent one and see the country instead of paying for expensive tours.

47. Dublin, Ireland

Hotel: $328.10
Meal: $35.10
Beer: $6.08
Taxi: $1.33

The Irish are a crafty lot, knowing full well that every shamrock-suit wearing American tourist will want to drink copious amounts of beer while on the Emerald Isle. So while the average beer is just about $6, head to Temple Bar or any other place tourists go and you’ll likely be paying more. If you’re cool to drink Guinness, you can find pints at the Guinness Storehouse — kind of like a Wonka factory of dark beer — for a little less. That said, a tour there will run you about $22, a full $12 more than the average museum admission around the city.

46. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Hotel: $316.57
Meal: $35.10
Beer: $5.27
Taxi: $2.98

Guys out there will remember waiting with baited breath to hear about all the legal-weed-and-red-light-district adventures their friends had when returning from study abroad in Amsterdam. Only to be crushed to learn that exactly none of it was within a college student’s budget. Not much has changed, and while Wanderu didn’t include hash bars and houses of ill repute in its survey, the Dutch capital still ranked near the bottom in nearly everything but beer and coffee. With taxis at almost $3 a kilometer, biking around isn’t just the best way to see the city; it’s the only way many people can afford.

united kingdom

Photo: S.Borisov/Shutterstock

45. London, England

Hotel: $314.36
Meal: $32.82
Beer: $6.56
Taxi: $4.07

On the surface, London might look horrendously expensive, but it’s big enough that you won’t get soaked if you know where to go. Maybe dinner at Fat Duck isn’t on the agenda if you’re on a budget, but hitting any of the curry houses along Brick Lane won’t run you much more than $15, and sliding into an English pub anywhere outside the tourist areas won’t have you shelling out more than $5 a beer. The tube is surprisingly easy to navigate, so if the most expensive taxis in Europe are keeping you from exploring, don’t be afraid to jump on public transportation where rides are only about $3.25

44. Paris, France

Hotel: $296.10
Meal: $32.18
Beer: $8.19
Taxi: $1.52

Though Paris is a smidge cheaper than London, don’t expect your trip to be cheap; even stuff as simple as walking up the Eiffel tower is nearly $10. Admission to Versailles is upwards of $30, and the Louvre is $13 (though you can go for free on the last Sunday of the month). Still, a coffee here is only $4, and enjoying it with a croissant while strolling the river Seine is one the cheaper, simple pleasures you can have.

43. Copenhagen, Denmark

Hotel: $271.11
Meal: $47.09
Beer: $7.07
Taxi: $2.45

Taking a waterfront constitutional along Nyhavn is a scenic trip through colorful architecture with charming little waterfront bars and restaurants to relax at along the way. Charming until your bill for two beers is more than an entire bucket at your go-to bar back home. Wanna warm up instead? That won’t be much cheaper with the most expensive coffee in Europe at $5.56 — without pumpkin spice. No matter, while eating and drinking in Copenhagen can be prohibitively expensive, admission to Tivoli Gardens — perhaps the world’s most architecturally stunning amusement park — is still under $20. Just don’t plan on eating while you’re there.

42. Helsinki, Finland

Hotel: $267.91
Meal: $40.95
Beer: $8.19
Taxi: $1.87

Helsinki is one of those places where you walk into a gas station to get something simple like a chocolate bar and a pack of gum and walk out spending $17. So it’s no surprise that beer here is third-most expensive in Europe, and meals of any substance are the sixth-most. The good news is that you can entertain yourself for free pretty easily, touring architectural marvels like the Temppeliaukio Church, the grand Helsinki Cathedral, or the Russian Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral and its views out over the city. If you visit on a warm day, Helsinki even has its own public beach at Hietaranta, which might still be too cold for laying out but is still fun for volleyball.

41. Valletta, Malta

Hotel: $233.89
Meal: $35.10
Beer: $3.51
Taxi: $3.51

Malta, another small country with big prices, is one of the most scenic places in Europe with ancient sandstone buildings set up against clear, blue-green Mediterranean seas. Of course, such beauty comes with a price, and while it’s not on the level of Paris or London, Malta will still put a big dent in your wallet. The good news is that the views and ocean are free, and if you walk across the street from the Mediterranean Conference Center, you’ll find a trail that takes you along the coastline, past the rich cultural history of the city, where every turn has a new, picturesque view. Walking the whole thing will only take you an hour or so, but it’s a great way to kill an afternoon and see the city for free.

40. Stockholm, Sweden

Hotel: $213.22
Meal: $39.73
Beer: $6.81
Taxi: $1.71

Though stuff like food, hotels, beer, and even coffee ($4.24!) are nasty expensive in Stockholm, entertaining yourself is surprisingly not. For example, you can head to the island of Skeppsholmen and see works from Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dali at the Moderna Museet, which is free. Also free is the Royal Armory, a vault for war loot full of stuff like gold-plated carriages and 16th-century royal fashion. Tours of Parliament and the Natural History Museum won’t cost you anything either, so fuel up on a nice $40 plate of lutefisk and enjoy not spending much else.

39. Oslo, Norway

Hotel: $203.18
Meal: $49.26
Beer: $10.47
Taxi: $1.70

Much like its Nordic brethren in Iceland, Oslo is a loss leader where a deceptively cheap flight drops you in one of the most expensive cities in the world. But go when it’s warm and this city offers some of the best urban outdoors you’ll find, with waterfalls along the Akerselva River alternating with calm fishing holes and thick urban forest. Step just outside the city, and you’re in the Oslomarka Forest, with hikes to pristine Scandinavian lakes for a relaxing summer dip.

38. Lisbon, Portugal

Hotel: $205.99
Meal: $20.48
Beer: $2.05
Taxi: $0.55

The only expensive thing in Lisbon is going to be your hotel because even flights here have gotten vastly cheaper even as tourism has boomed. Going out along the steep, narrow streets of Barrio Alto, you won’t just find bars overflowing with friendly people but also giant pints of Super Bock for under $2. The fancier restaurants in town will cost you, but wander over to the Time Out Market and you can get a full meal for under 10 euros, easily. Or sample a little bit from everywhere and enjoy the joyful noise until well after midnight.

37. Athens, Greece

Hotel: $201.49
Meal: $23.40
Beer: $4.68
Taxi: $0.87

Though you won’t get sticker shock in Athens, it’s still the third-most-expensive capital in Southern Europe, due mostly to jacked-up hotel rates and pricey restaurants. And unlike some cities where historic sites are cheap or free, spots like the Acropolis can cost you upwards of 20 euros to tour. Though you can buy passes for a little more that give you access to the Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library, and other ruins for a week. Athens is also full of botanical gardens and other urban oases, and the National Garden of Athens and Diomidous Botanical Garden won’t cost you a thing.

36. Vienna, Austria

Hotel: $194.76
Meal: $26.33
Beer: $4.56
Taxi: $1.71

Vienna is the most expensive capital in Central Europe, more than even notoriously expensive Switzerland. Still, it’s a beautiful city with some of the most stunning architecture in the world, with a palace at Schonbrunn that some say is even grander than Versailles. To get a full dose of culture without shelling out for tickets to the Vienna State Opera, head to the Naschmarkt where vendors from all over the country flock to sell their wares, and much of the city shows up to buy them.

Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Tallinn, Estonia

Photo: kavalenkava/Shutterstock

35. Tallinn, Estonia

Hotel: $193.45
Meal: $23.40
Beer: $4.39
Taxi: $0.59

Few would expect a Baltic nation to be this high on the list. But while tourism in Estonia has taken off, hotel construction hasn’t followed, meaning supply and demand has made it the most expensive Northern European capital outside Scandinavia. Still, a trip to Tallinn shouldn’t put you in the poor house as you can lounge in the historic town square sipping a $3 coffee, then take a free tour of the city with Tallinn Traveller Tours. You can also visit the oldest continuously operating pharmacy in Europe at Town Hall Pharmacy. It’s been open since 1422 and has a full exhibit of bizarre 17th- to 20th-century medicinal remedies.

34. Bern, Switzerland

Hotel: $169.28
Meal: $50.37
Beer: $6.05
Taxi: $3.28

Perhaps the most surprisingly cheap city on the list is Bern, the capital of a country where people regularly cross the border into France to go grocery shopping. The ranking here is a bit misleading as unusually cheap hotels have driven a city where meals regularly cost upwards of $50 to the middle of the pack. Point being: Don’t expect this Swiss city to be cheap. The only free entertainment to be had is along the Aere River, which surrounds the city and where you can find a bear pit, an animal park, and even a free public pool to hit up on a hot summer day.

33. Rome, Italy

Hotel: $181.41
Meal: $29.25
Beer: $5.85
Taxi: $1.52

For a dollars-to-quality ratio, there may not be a better value in Europe than eating in Rome. A bowl of fresh pasta and glass of Italian wine for less than a meal at most chain restaurants is tough to beat, even if hotels approach $200 a night. The great Italian tradition of slowly sipping espresso and doing nothing is also pretty cheap as Rome boasts the fourth-cheapest coffee in Europe at a scant $1.40 a cup. Plus St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pantheon, and many of the city’s grand churches and cathedrals are all free to visit.

32. Vaduz, Liechtenstein

Hotel: $167.90
Meal: $50.40
Beer: $6.05
Taxi: $1.70

If you had to name the city with the third-most-expensive food in Europe, Vaduz probably wouldn’t be your first guess. Probably because only about 45 people in America know the capital of Liechtenstein. The second-smallest capital in Europe has only 5,400 residents and looks like a charming Swiss mountain town with spired castles and covered bridges. It’s a principality like Monaco, and though you can’t tour Vaduz Castle, it’s still a striking landmark with great views of the city.

31. Prague, Czech Republic

Hotel: $175.49
Meal: $15.84
Beer: $1.58
Taxi: $1.13

The only gross expense in Prague is hotels, and pretty much everything else is cheap. So maybe snag yourself a cheap Airbnb and enjoy the city with the ninth-cheapest beer and 15th-cheapest food in Europe, plus some of the grandest architecture in the world. The nightlife might be the best value on the continent as a night in Old Town rarely means dropping more than $50. And even nights at Karlovy Lazne — the four-story, biggest club in Europe — won’t find you spending more than a c-note for a first-class good time.

Panorama view from Riga Cathedral on the old town of Riga, Latvia

Photo: Olesya Kuznetsova/Shutterstock

30. Riga, Latvia

Hotel: $169.67
Meal: $20.48
Beer: $2.93
Taxi: $0.59

Latvia’s capital city is a colorful collection of nouveau, modernism, and Gothic architecture. The House of the Blackheads is the grandest of them all, a red Gothic home to merchants nearly 700 years ago that’s now the city’s most photographed landmark (though this one is a re-creation built in 1999 to honor the original destroyed in World War II). For shopping, check out Bergs Bazaar for unique little shops and relatively cheap restaurants. Or hit the Central Market and see how locals both buy and sell their weekly groceries.

29. Budapest, Hungary

Hotel: $168.07
Meal: $16.24
Beer: $1.77
Taxi: $1.01

Budapest is another wonderfully inexpensive Central European capital where the stunning architecture is outshined only by the city’s collection of ruin bars. These bars are funky dives set in abandoned buildings, and though they’re not technically squatting, the spaces feel like not-quite-yet repurposed renegade popups. Szimpla Kert is the original, but enjoy the outdoor courtyard at the Grandino Hostel for some ruin-bar day drinking. Or hit the Corvin Club to party in an abandoned communist-era department store.

28. Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Hotel: $147.09
Meal: $40.95
Beer: $5.85
Taxi: $3.28

The second-most-expensive capital in Western Europe is the seat of this tiny country, with a population of just over 100,000. The city is a steep maze of castles, colorful row houses, and tall bridges with a 17-km system of tunnels under it that opens up to magnificent views of the city. The old city was once a fortified area set atop a rock, and walking from there down to the town of Grund on the Alzette River is free and takes you through most of the historic city. Luxembourg City also serves as one of three official capitals of Europe, and as a result, nearly 70 percent of the population here comes from outside the country.

27. Madrid, Spain

Hotel: $154.12
Meal: $23.40
Beer: $3.51
Taxi: $1.23

Though some might think of it as Western Europe, Wanderu classified Spain, Andorra, and Portugal as part of Southern Europe, where Madrid is the fourth-cheapest capital. It’s a huge tourist destination, which means you’ll have plenty of backpacker hostels and cheaper hotel options than the $154 average. It’s also chock-full of free attractions like the Contemporary Art Museum and the Metro Museum set in an old subway station. But even headliners like the Prado are free after 6:00 PM, and the planetarium, Transport Museum, and Museo de Las Americas are all under five euros for admission.

26. Kiev, Ukraine

Hotel: $164.76
Meal: $9.57
Beer: $0.96
Taxi: $0.23

Kiev has the second-cheapest food in Europe and is an easy place to tie one on with beers under a dollar. Besides eating and drinking, the city has some fantastic outdoor recreation, best experienced by renting a bike and rolling through Golosiyivsky Forest. The city is also home to towering Russian Orthodox cathedrals, most notably the UNESCO World Heritage site at St. Sophia. It’s also worth taking a walk through Sculpture’s Alley, a stretch of streetscape filled with modern sculptures and colorful murals.

Wide angle night scene of the Grand Place and King's House in Brussels, Belgium

Photo: cge2010/Shutterstock

25. Brussels, Belgium

Hotel: $140.88
Meal: $35.10
Beer: $4.68
Taxi: $2.11

God bless this land of beer and chocolate, the cheapest capital in Western Europe and a place where you can taste the best beer in the world for less than the cost of a macro brew at most bars in America. You’ll also want to make sure you gorge yourself on plenty of waffles and fries as Belgians do fried potatoes better than anyone. Brussels is also the capital of the EU, meaning you’ll encounter people from all over the continent. Preferably while taking in the grand architecture and relaxing in the much-photographed Grand-Place.

24. Berlin, Germany

Hotel: $149
Meal: $24.57
Beer: $4.10
Taxi: $2.34

For the country seen as the financial rock of the EU, Germany’s capital is surprisingly affordable given all it has to offer. Berlin is home to some of the best nightlife in the world and offers surprisingly good value as a party destination. But as much as the city is about the good times, it also has fascinating, sobering reminders of the past. Checkpoint Charlie is still around to visit as is the East Side Gallery, the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall. You’ll also want to visit the Topography of Terror at the old Gestapo headquarters, where you’ll learn the harrowing tactics Nazis used to control the population.

23. Ljubljana, Slovenia

Hotel: $145.19
Meal: $20.48
Beer: $2.93
Taxi: $1.04

As our first lady’s native land, this country on the tip of the Adriatic coast is gaining recognition for its stark mountains, shining coastline, and general jaw-dropping scenery. Its capital sits in a valley between the Alps and Karst mountain ranges, along the Ljubljanica River. The city is known for its abundance of bridges and cobblestone streets, with small beaches along the river and easily cyclable streets. It’s an excellent jumping-off point to see the rest of Slovenia, and though not the cheapest capital in Central Europe, it’s still an outstanding value.

22. Baku, Azerbaijan

Hotel: $143.38
Meal: $11.84
Beer: $0.89
Taxi: $0.36

Baku is home to the cheapest beer in Europe, a slogan the city really ought to look into putting on its civic seal. Until then, we’ll do the bragging for this historic, coastal city. It’s one of the most underrated capitals in Europe where an ancient old city sits right next to glass towers and a modern skyline. Baku also boasts unheralded culture with 30 museums, seven theaters, an opera, and a philharmonic, plus the Heydar Aliyev Center, a Zaha Hadid-designed cultural center that’s one of the most striking structures in the region.

21. Moscow, Russia

Hotel: $133.75
Meal: $19.96
Beer: $1.59
Taxi: $0.18

With the cheapest taxi rates in all of Europe, getting around Moscow will thankfully not involve any walking or cycling. Because, ya know, it’s cold. Once you get over the freeze and the looming fear of surveillance, Moscow is one of the world’s great centers of art with the Bolshoi Ballet, Tretyakov Gallery, and Lenin’s Mausoleum all doable in a day. If the weather’s not freezing, you can also stroll through Gorky Park and Red Square before taking your requisite ice-cream-cone-licking portrait in front of the Kremlin.

San Marino

Photo: Mike NG/Shutterstock

20. San Marino, San Marino

Hotel: $117.77
Meal: $23.40
Beer: $4.10
Taxi: $1.70

Most people haven’t heard of San Marino, mostly because it’s the fifth-smallest country in the world and the smallest capital in Europe, completely surrounded by Italy. It’s the oldest sovereign republic in the world, existing in its current state since 301 AD, and the last of Italy’s once-numerous city-states. Its iconic attractions are the three towers atop Monte Titano, which once stood as sentinels and now stand as a source of independent pride for San Marinans. The country has nine castles in about 25 square miles, giving it the highest density of castles of any country in the world. So despite its size, you can easily spend days here without running out of places to visit.

19. Tbilisi, Georgia

Hotel: $129.04
Meal: $10.28
Beer: $1.03
Taxi: $0.21

With the fourth-cheapest beers and fifth-cheapest food in Europe, it’s no wonder Georgia is starting to creep to the top of people’s destination wish lists. The triple-digit hotel prices are easy to avoid, too, with spots like the Fabrika Hostel (in an old sewing factory) offering rooms for $15 a night and an all-hours party to go with it. During daylight hours, you can cruise the cobblestone streets looking around at the diverse architecture, from Art Nouveau to Soviet brutalist. Then take the cable-car ride over the historic city up to the Narikala Fortress — a restored fourth-century fort in the hills outside Tbilisi.

18. Andorra la Vella, Andorra

Hotel: $115.89
Meal: $19.01
Beer: $2.93
Taxi: $1.35

Andorra is another country people who live outside Europe often forget exists, but this little country in the Pyrenees Mountains offers some of the best value skiing in the world. With affordable hotels, trips to resorts like Soldeu, Vallnord, and Grandvalira are relatively cheap. Especially with lift tickets in the $65 range for most days. You won’t be finding those sub-$20 meals at the resorts, but in town, you’ll find a colorful mix of French and Catalan/Basque restaurants, long on seafood, hearty stews, and cream sauces. Most of which will cost a fraction of what they would in Paris or Madrid.

17. Vilnius, Lithuania

Hotel: $113.48
Meal: $20.48
Beer: $3.51
Taxi: $0.70

Vilnius is the cheapest capital in Northern Europe, full of all the cobblestone streets, church spires, and red roofs one expects in any historic European city. Ironically, some of the best bars in the city are in a neighborhood that’s not even part of Lithuania if you ask the locals. Uzupis declared itself a separate republic, full of artists and riverside bars, like a European answer to Key West’s Conch Republic. You also might want to check out the Snipiskes neighborhood, where unpaved roads and houses with wood-burning stoves keep the area frozen in the 19th century.

16. Warsaw, Poland

Hotel: $111.48
Meal: $16.29
Beer: $2.62
Taxi: $0.66

Warsaw is a city for history and culture. And with an average museum admission of only $5.60, you can fill your brain and your vacation time here pretty cheaply. The museums in this city will stay with you, especially after spending a day touring the Warsaw Uprising Museum and learning the sad fate of the country under Nazi Germany. The POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews is equally fascinating and inspirational but might call for a trip through Warsaw’s old city afterwards so the bright colors and bustling shops can lighten the mood.

Agios Mamas, Greek Orthodox Monastery in Morphou, Nicosia, Cyprus

Photo: kirill_makarov/Shutterstock

15. Nicosia, Cyprus

Hotel: $91.61
Meal: $29.25
Beer: $4.10
Taxi: $0.85

For fun in the Mediterranean sun, you won’t find a better value in Europe than Cyprus. Does it have the beautiful people and rose-all-day clubs of the French Riviera? No. But it does have hotel rooms under $100, cheap beer, and reasonably priced food. Its capital city sits less than an hour inland, smack between the Med and the Troodos Mountains. Though the nearby beaches of Larnaca, Paphos, Polis, and Ayia Napa are popular tourist destinations, Nicosia has almost none, leaving this international, cosmopolitan city devoid of tourist traps. And if you had any inclination of moving to Europe, Cyprus is also known for is dramatically low tax rates.

14. Zagreb, Croatia

Hotel: $95.32
Meal: $19
Beer: $2.38
Taxi: $0.95

Anyone who’s been on holiday along the coast of Croatia would be shocked to see its capital listed among the cheapest in Europe. But there’s a big difference between the touristy coast and inland Zagreb. Though it lacks the Adriatic waters, it is awash in Austro-Hungarian architecture that’s worth strolling the city just to photograph. And while it does have the usual assortment of art and historic museums, you’ll probably have the most fun if you opt to hit the Zagreb ’80s Museum, a look into what everyday life was like in 1980’s Yugoslavia. It’s equal parts nostalgia and cultural immersion, showing visitors how the era of Miami Vice and Wall Street played out behind the Iron Curtain.

13. Bratislava, Slovakia

Hotel: $90.30
Meal: $17.55
Beer: $1.99
Taxi: $0.66

Though beer prices have crept up in the Slovakian capital since their under-a-dollar heyday a few years ago, Bratislava is still one of the best budget party cities. The city’s main square — and the squares that surround it — are filled with bars slinging cheap drinks and hotels within stumbling distance for under $80. For fun in daylight hours, you can get to ski resorts, wineries, and hiking trails within a few minutes of the city center. And if you’re looking to explore another capital, you can take a boat ride on the Danube River into Vienna for less than $25.

12. Ankara, Turkey

Hotel: $97.03
Meal: $7.30
Beer: $2.50
Taxi: $0.62

Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re looking for the cheapest food in all of Europe, you’ve found it. Cruise the streets of Kizilay and take in the savory scents of grilling meats and sautéeing vegetables before you grab a kebab or a shawarma and join the locals at tables along the sidewalk. Ankara also has the third-cheapest museum admission in Europe at $1.38, and with archeological sites like the Ankara Citadel spread throughout the city, you can check out most of them without spending much money.

11. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Hotel: $88.30
Meal: $11.97
Beer: $1.80
Taxi: $0.60

Some may be surprised to learn that Sarajevo is the most-visited city in the Balkans, but the Bosnian capital has come a long way since the war-torn 1990s. One of the most interesting things to do here is explore the ruins of its past, whether it’s the graffiti-covered bobsled course from the 1984 Winter Olympics, the abandoned ski-jumping hills, or the grand Hotel Igman, built for the Olympics and torched during the war. Sarajevo is also where World War I started, and you can visit the assassination site of Archduke Ferdinand, marked with a memorial plaque.

Diners outdoors in downtown Bucharest, Romania

Photo: Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock

10. (Tie) Bucharest, Romania

Hotel: $82.27
Meal: $15.08
Beer: $1.76
Taxi: $0.42

A hundred years ago the Romanian capital was called “Paris of the East,” a cultural jewel adorned in nouveau architecture and lush parks. Then a couple of wars, half a century of communist rule, and a devastating earthquake happened, and Bucharest lost a little of its luster. No matter, the city has restored many of the dilapidated buildings in Old Town, and walking through it you understand the old nickname. If you want over-the-top architecture, visit the biggest parliament building in the world, the three-million square foot Palace of Parliament, a testament to Nicolae Ceausescu’s opulence filled with marble and gold.

9. (Tie) Belgrade, Serbia

Hotel: $83.18
Meal: $14.88
Beer: $1.79
Taxi: $0.64

The party people of Belgrade certainly aren’t ones to waste a good geographic feature. The city sits at the confluence of two rivers, which are frequent homes of Splavs — floating nightclubs on the river. The loud, flashing, Champagne-spraying discos float by on the Danube and Sava, a cultural phenomenon that even non-clubgoers have to see. Belgrade is also rich in history and archeological sites, like the Belgrade Fortress where the rivers look white when viewed from the right angle. This phenomenon gave the city its name, which when translated means White City.

8. Sofia, Bulgaria

Hotel: $79.77
Meal: $13.46
Beer: $1.19
Taxi: $0.48

Though Bulgaria has become a budget-travelers dream with skiing and beaches both painfully affordable, the capital city is worth a visit no matter what your final destination. It’s home to the fifth-cheapest beer in Europe, whose hangover is easily cured with the continent’s fourth-cheapest coffee. Sofia is filled with golden-domed churches and archeological ruins, the most interesting of which is the open-air Ancient Roman City of Serdica, a site discovered when the city was excavating its metro nine years ago.

7. Minsk, Belarus

Hotel: $73.55
Meal: $17.64
Beer: $1.54
Taxi: $0.35

Wanna visit the last standing dictatorship in Europe? Then get yourself to Belarus, friend, where the not-quite-iron fist of Alexander Lukashenko has been overseeing the country since it began in 1994. Though aside from the large police presence, you’d never know this city was a dictatorship walking along the banks of the Svislach River, where bright churches reflect off the water and people jog by. The city was completely destroyed during World War II, so nearly everything was built from the Soviet occupation forward.

6. Tirana, Albania

Hotel: $76.16
Meal: $12.87
Beer: $1.39
Taxi: $0.92

Stalinism: not exactly known for its colorful architecture. Which is why when Albania finally emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, it took much of the bleak, brutalist landscape of its capital and gussied it up with bright colors. The result were streets that look like communism meets the Caribbean, where staid old apartment buildings are done up in bright reds, greens, and oranges to give the city some life. Also worth visiting is the Pyramid of Tirana, an abandoned pyramid built by dictator Enver Hoxha’s daughter that’s now covered in colorful graffiti and political slogans.

Sf Teodor Tiron Monastery, Chisinau, Republic of Moldova

Photo: Serghei Starus/Shutterstock

5. Chisinau, Moldova

Hotel: $74.15
Meal: $12.09
Beer: $0.97
Taxi: $0.18

Ignore for a second that beer in Chisinau is forever at college-happy-hour prices and stop to appreciate the truly great bargain in this city: transportation. The cheapest public transport in Europe costs only about 12 cents to ride, and taxis are a fat 18 cents a kilometer, also the cheapest. Basically, this means you can enjoy as much of that 97 cent beer and amazing wine as you want and won’t need to budget much for getting home. That’s… about the extent of the beauty of Chisinau as most of the city still looks like Soviet-era Eastern Europe.

4. Yerevan, Armenia

Hotel: $72.54
Meal: $12.60
Beer: $1.26
Taxi: $0.21

Few people have probably heard of Yerevan, and even fewer know it’s actually older than Rome. This 2,800-year-old city is a stark stretch of pink buildings set amongst a green forest with the Caucasian mountains off in the distance, the kind of city you see a picture of and ask, “Where is THAT?” Because the country has been politically troubled since the fall of communism, only after last year’s “Velvet Revolution” has Armenia had a government fostering creative businesses and tourism. So while the world isn’t beating a path here just yet, it’s only a matter of time before this becomes another hot Eastern European destination.

3. Podgorica, Montenegro

Hotel: $67.12
Meal: $14.63
Beer: $1.76
Taxi: $0.53

Like a lot of Eastern European cities, the architecture in the mountainous capital of Montenegro leaves a lot to be desired. But over the past couple of decades artists have spruced up the streets with graffiti, and there’s a vibrant café culture that makes Podgorica feel distinctly European. It’s also only about 30 miles from the Adriatic Sea and has mountain hiking trails that leave from the outskirts of town, so if you’re looking to explore the geographic diversity of Montenegro and want to enjoy the second-cheapest hotels in Europe, Podgorica is ideal.

2. Pristina, Kosovo

Hotel: $70.34
Meal: $8.78
Beer: $1.76
Taxi: $0.59

It’s hard to pin down any specific reason why one would go out of their way to visit Pristina, but it does have some of the best coffee in Europe and the second-cheapest at $1.17. It’s also home to one of the few truly noteworthy examples of brutalist architecture at the National Library of Kosovo. It’s a series of blocks covered in metallic latticework, giving the look of a fort wrapped in an insect’s web from the outside and an almost prison-like feel from the inside. It’s been called the ugliest library in the world, but for fans of unique architecture, it’s definitely a must-visit.

The Art bridge in Skopje, Macedonia

Photo: Robert Zahariev/Shutterstock

1. Skopje, Macedonia

Hotel: $62.91
Meal: $9.50
Beer: $1.90
Taxi: $0.48

Your cheapest capital in Europe is not surprisingly home to the cheapest hotel rooms, too, where a meal and beers will run you under $20, and you can probably do a full weekend for under $250. It’s one of the more surreal-feeling cities in Europe, where the neoclassical buildings along the Vardar River look hundreds of years old but only date back to about 2010. Skopje also literally has statues everywhere; it’s not at all uncommon for them to outnumber people on a street, and you’ll see 20 to 30 from any given point in the city. There’s also a Middle Eastern bazaar that actually is old, Europe’s second-oldest after Istanbul. And also a series of futuristic-concrete structures that look like Blade Runner meets Norma Rae. It’s cheap, visually alluring, and altogether a trip to visit. And it’s definitely Europe’s most entertaining city for the money.

Discover Matador