Europe’s not easy for budget backpackers. In 2014, 6 of the top 10 most expensive cities in the world went to European cities. These include Oslo, London, Geneva, Paris and Amsterdam to name a few. They’re awesome cities and great stops on any European tour, but they’re also serious budget killers.
Fortunately, Europe is home to myriad budget friendly capitals and smaller cities. These cities generally lie in Eastern and Southern Europe, which means the climate tends to be warmer, the people are often friendlier, and the produce is fresh and cheap. And since you have greater purchasing power, you can eat and do much more too.
They’re ideal stops for budget backpackers or for runaways looking to live long-term in a new place. They’re also some of my favorite cities in the world.
At number 7, Barcelona is the most expensive city on the list. However, it’s significantly cheaper than Rome, Paris, or Berlin. Not only is it relatively cheap, but it’s Catalonian charm and party friendly people means you’ll often find yourself walking down quaint alleys with a coke bottle mixed with wine and a bunch of new friends by your side at 3 in the morning.
During the high season, hostels fill up quick and prices increase dramatically (25-35 Euro/night), so be sure to book in advance. If you’re a group, you might want to consider renting an apartment. For short and long term apartment rentals, check out ApartmentBarcelona.com.They have a wide selection and some pretty cheap options.
Catania is the kind of city where you can still buy a mozzarella and tomato sandwich for 1 euro at a deli. Like most Sicilian cities, it has awesome street markets where you can buy fresh vegetables and fish for a fraction of what you’d pay in Paris. It’s also the party capital of Sicily, which means every night’s an epic party night.
Hostels in Catania average around 20 Euro/night. But like Barcelona, backpackers outnumber hostel dorms from May through August. Check out Where To Stay & Things To Do In Catania for short and long term living options.
Ljubljana (Lu-bli-yana) is the capitol of one of the most underrated countries in Europe, Slovenia. The city is clean, quaint and quiet. It’s ideally situated along the Danube river and at the foothills of the Alps. It’s perfect for those who love low key corner cafes, hip basement bars, and day trips into the mountains. Not to mention, it’s Eastern European cheap.
Hostel dorms can be found for as little as 10 Euro/night. Whether you want to stay a few nights or a few weeks, definitely check out Youth Hostel Tabor. It’s centrally located, super cheap, and is perfect for meeting locals and other backpackers. Although I broke my hand when I was there, I still have fond memories of playing soccer in the courtyard outside and going out with a group of backpackers.
Istanbul lies at the crossroads between East and West, literally straddling the European and Asian continents. For centuries, it has been a place where people, cultures, religions and ideas collide and converge. You can see it in the unique faces of the people and through the ancient Chruches, Mosques and Temples. Not only is the city visually stunning, but the Turks truly live up to “Turkish Hospitality.” They love to share their city and invite you in for a cup of apple tea. It’s ideal for budget backpackers or anyone interested in discovering a new way of life in a massive metropolis.
For short term stays, check out the hostels along Sultanahmet street. This street is hidden behind walls and vines yet somehow it’s just steps away from the Blue Mosque and downtown. Here prices range from 15 to 20 Euro’s a night for a dorm. Although you can find much cheaper hostels in Istanbul, none are as centrally located. For long term options your best bet is to go in person, put yourself out there and ask locals.
Prague makes you feel like you’ve walked onto the set of a Dracula film. It’s full of gothic steeples, winding back alleys, and beer gardens and taverns. Despite being the capital of the Czech Republic, it’s remarkably cheap. A half liter of beer can be bought for just 75 cents, and a sausage or cup of mulled wine on the street costs about a dollar.
For backpacker hostels, check out Travellers Hostel Ujezd. It’s just 9$ a night! It’s grungy and smelly but that’s what makes it so memorable. It’s how hostels used to be before they got commercialized and turned into budget hotels. It epitomizes a “backpacker hostel” and I love it every time I visit.
Budapest is the gem of Eastern Europe that few people ever make it to. Not only is it cheap but with cherry fruit soup and glorious Goulash, it’s delicious too. It’s full of hairy and happy hungarians who hang out at hip abandoned building bars and beer gardens. It’s also home to one of the most epic European music festivals, Szeiget Festival. Whether you’re backpacking through or looking to runaway to a new city, Budapest is arguably the best. For more info on Budapest, check out Budget Friendly Budapest.
Let Me Know What You Think!
Tom Carden says
I reckon Krakow should be in there somewhere. Even cheaper accommodation than Budapest. Plenty of students means heaps of bars and partying. Great city.
The Runaway Guide says
Agreed. I definitely should have added Krakow! Love that city!
Heey runaway guide! I really got hooked on your articles! Nice job, not only informational stuff but also spiritual perspectives. I have one correction though…Ljubljana isn’t set by the Danube river…it lies by Ljubljanica (named by the town)…Danube doesn’t really cross Slovenia on its path :) Thought I should mention it.
Good luck on all your future travels….can’t wait to read more of your articles!
The Runaway Guide says
Thanks! I appreciate it and glad you like it. Ahh, good call. I’m going to update that!
Really enjoyed reading this.
What time of year would up recommend trips to Barcelona and Istanbul then, to avoid the expensive busy period?
The Runaway Guide says
Hey, I was in Barcelona in the fall around mid october and the weather was perfect and the prices were better. I think the spring is the best time for IStanbul :)