riga latvia window

Europe is the world’s most visited continent making it accessible but pricey and crowded at the same time. Much of Europe’s tourism however is concentrated in 7 countries, leaving plenty of cities for the budget traveler looking to see the less-explored.

When I was posed this question by a some backpackers in Estonia, these places immediately came to mind for travelers looking at alternatives to precise German architecture and English prices.

Sofia, Bulgaria

Don’t let Bulgaria’s harsh sounding name keep you away from its eclectic national cuisine, served through a remarkably modern restaurant scene health nuts, vegetarians, and vegans will especially enjoy. Accommodation in Sofia is inexpensive (I recommend Art Hostel) and given that Bulgaria has a GDP slightly less than that of Sudan, nothing is terribly expensive for travelers with Euro or dollars. Most Bulgarians also speak excellent English; although your Bulgarian will definitely improve after a few glasses rakia.

vitosha mountain bulgaria

Granada, Spain

I’m not sure where you stand on pub policy but bars in Granada after 8pm have a standard practice of serving a complimentary tapa (appetizer) with every beer or vice versa. Whichever way you order, the cost is around 1 Euro in a city with a strong Arabic influence remaining from the ruins of the Alhambra. Most people zip through Granada as they travel across southern Spain but these are all of the things you’ll discover on a longer stay.

alhambra windows granada spain

Reykjavik, Iceland

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Although Iceland isn’t quite the bargain it was after a banking collapse in 2008, flights are cheap and Icelandair even offers free stopovers. Prices are even better in winter since most people don’t realize Iceland basically has the same average temperature all year round. That’s only one of 7 reasons to visit Iceland in the winter, a country whose landscape looks like it belongs on Mars.

reykjavik blue lagoon iceland

Sibiu, Romania

There is a lot to like about Romania and one of the reasons it does so well in The Best City To Visit Contests is because its residents are passionate about promoting tourism. To see why many Romanians are optimistic about the future where most are generally melancholy about government, plan a trip to Romania’s success story Sibiu.

sibiu romania food

Riga, Lativa

Of the three Baltic states, Latvia is certainly the one with the roughest edges. Polished Lithuania and tech-addicted Estonia are nice but Latvia’s capital Riga is less like a museum painting and more like a DIY graphic novel. Depending on how tight you like to tie your budget, you can easily spend a weekend in Riga for less than $100.

riga latvia square

Girne, Turkish Republic Of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)

Most maps don’t show that the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean is actually split in two. You can read this quick travel guide to North Cyprus but in short its not internationally recognized. Whether or not the world wants to see it, on the ground the Turkish north is much cheaper than the Greek south; with beaches just as beautiful. The easiest ways to visit the TRNC are by air to Lefkosa from Istanbul or by taking a ferry from Mersin, Turkey.

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girne trnc

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Yes, Sarajevo is safe but sites like the abandoned 1984 Olympic bobsled track are reminders of how far the country has come since the Bosnian War ended in 1995. Sarajevo has a lot of the blending people can’t stop saying about Istanbul but in a much smaller package.

sarajevo market

See With Your Own Eyes

There are many people who might say about each of these cities, “there’s nothing to see there.” Ask any of them if they’ve been and they’ll probably tell you no. Each are experiencing rapid divergent evolution from their former selves without yet developing a tough tourist skin that’s hard to get beneath. Saving in Europe’s big tourist draws though isn’t impossible; you can spend a weekend in Rome on a budget or visit the rest of the first world, even if you live on a third world income.