5 cheap European destinations you never considered
Some up-and-coming 'hidden gem' holiday spots that won't stretch your overdraft
Summer is coming, and we're looking for somewhere to spend the (tiny) remains of our student overdraft. However, all the big names in Europe are pretty expensive, and let's face it... pretty overdone. So, here are some suggestions for some smaller, lesser-known gems, which all come at a fraction of the price of the big holiday destinations.
1. Wrocław, Poland
- Flights: from £17
- Accommodation: £5-10/night
- Restaurant Meal: £4.18
- Pint: £1
Wrocław is just one of the many fantastic destinations that Poland has to offer, along with places such as Gdansk and Poznań.
As a student town, as well as cultural hub, the nightlife here is fantastic, with clubs to suit any person's taste. In the daytime there is plenty to keep you busy, with some of the highlights including: the central square, Rynek, where people gather to drink beer; the beautiful Japanese Garden; the 'multimedia' fountain, featuring 300 jets on which animations are displayed.
For particularly cheap food, try visiting one of the Communist-era milk bars, which are canteens serving traditional Polish fare.
2. Porto, Portugal
- Flights: from £23
- Accommodation: £10-15/night
- Meal: £4.54
- Pint: £1.27
Portugal's a popular destination, but rather than heading to the beaches, or indeed the capital, try out the second largest city of Porto, also known as 'Wine City' because of its fantastic port wines.
This city mixes old with the new, with a UNESCO heritage site for its historical centre featuring beautiful medieval and baroque architecture, but has also become a draw for some of Europe's biggest DJs.
If you're looking for a good night, head down to the riverfront, or even cross the river to Villa Nova de Gaia, where all the clubs and bars you could ever need can be found. Meanwhile, if you're still craving a bit of sunbathing, you can go the beach of Matosinhos, which is also where the famous Optimus Primavera festival shall be taking place in June, featuring acts such as Bjork and The XX.
If you're looking for a bit of culture, the historic centre has plenty of delights on offer, as well as a flourishing museum scene, with the Museum of Contemporary Art being a particular favourite. Try climbing the Torre dos Clerigos for a beautiful view of the entire city.
3. Ohrid, Macedonia
- Flights: no direct flights from England, but averagely-priced transfers are available from Amsterdam, Vienna or Belgrade
- Accommodation: Less than £10/night
- Restaurant Meal: £2.22
- Pint: £1.02
Although Ohrid is slightly harder to get to than our other suggestions, this is a worthwhile trip.
On arriving, prices are negligible, and with its glittering lake, cobbled alleyways, and flourishing nightlife all snuggled into a green valley, this is an up-and-coming destination. As one of the oldest settlements in the whole of Europe, the city is steeped in culture, alongside its natural beauty.
Try visiting the many churches, the fortress or even the Hellenistic theatre. Meanwhile, the beaches on the lakeside are vibrant places, full of students and music. As the spiritual capital of Macedonia, it has an extremely proud cultural heritage, boasting the first European Slavic university, and the summer Ohrid Music Festival, celebrating classical music and theatre.
4. Plovdiv, Bulgaria
- Flights: from £36
- Accommodation: less than £10/night
- Restaurant Meal: £4.47
- Pint: 57p
Plovdiv is worth going to just for the price of their beer, but if that isn't enough to tempt you, it's also a bohemian, trendy city known as the Paris of the Balkans. As another university town, it has some great nightlife - with salsa, hip-hop, house, and even Balkan folk-pop, chalga on offer.
Culture fans will enjoy the mix of history in the city, with a Roman amphitheatre (where operas are still performed), Ottoman-empire mosque and the Bachkovo Monastery.
If you're looking for some other activities in the area, it's only a short journey away from the gorge and caves to Trigad, as well as a nearby ski resort. There's also a free city tour every Wednesday - this really is a cheapskate's haven!
5. Riga and Liepāja, Latvia
- Flights: from £20
- Accommodation: £5-15
- Restaurant Meal: £7.10
- Pint: £1.17
The 'fairytale' city of Riga, capital of Latvia, is an up-and-coming European destination, tipped for having one of the best club scenes in Europe. If you're there, the Riga Black Balsam liquor is definitely worth a try.
However, if a capital city is a bit too mainstream for you, it's only a £3.50 bus ride away to Liepāja, an ex-secret Soviet military town, and home to beautiful white beaches. These beaches are renowned for being generally free of tourists, although it is also home to the Balkan Beach Party Festival.
Liepāja is also famous for being a centre for rock music, with its famous multi-storey club RockCafe, and the Liepājas Dzintars (Amber of Liepāja) rock festival. For those who crave a truly unique experience, Liepāja also has a prison where you can stay the night for just over £11!
*Prices taken from Ryanair (optional fees/charges not necessarily included), hostelbookers.com, numbeo.com and pintprice.com