We all like to get those small wins in life, right? So any chance to take a budget weekend trip without taking time off work is a win for me! So here are 10 ideas of budget quick trips you can take in Europe this summer.
These are all based on travelling from the UK, however all the carriers are available across Europe so if you’re travelling from elsewhere, be sure to check out their website - you never know, it could be even cheaper from your country!
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Ideas for budget weekend trips in Europe
I just returned from Malta a couple of weeks ago and had to put it on this list! With clear blue seas, plenty of beaches and swimming spots, cheap food and accommodation and the entire city of Valletta being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Malta has something for everyone. Plus there are direct, cheap flights from most major UK airports - even Bristol and East Midlands has direct flights!
We did take some time off work for this trip and went for Friday-Monday, but for 3 full days, all accommodation and flights plus car hire and spending, the total came to around £300. We flew Ryanair from Stansted and stayed at Soreda Hotel in St. Paul’s Bay and with our own car were able to see most of the island and head over to Gozo for a day too.
While it isn’t necessary to hire a car to see Malta, we decided it would be easier with four of us and actually we were happy to discover that they drive on the left in Malta - the same as the UK so it wasn’t too hard to get used to.
Head over to Gozo on the ferry for the day. With crystal clear water and plenty of beaches, plus some snorkelling and diving spots around where the Azure Window collapsed into the sea.
Of course you’ll have to visit Valletta but also make time for Mdina. This historical fortress town is absolutely stunning with the recognisable white stone walls and cobble streets. Grab a drink and lunch on one of the city walls overlooking the valley below.
2. Paris, France
Now hear me out. Everyone knows Paris isn’t the cheapest city in the world to visit, but as I proved in my weekend guide here, you can do a weekend in the city for £170!
The reason I’ve included Paris is because it’s such a major hub in Europe, meaning there are lots of options for getting there which don’t have to include the cost of flying. I cut costs by taking the bus to Paris from London. Companies like Flixbus or Omio operate all over Europe, so it’s worth checking their fares to see if you can get somewhere cheaper than by plane. It’s also worth checking train networks, Europe is known for its train network and chances are there are some great value tickets between major cities.
Once you’re there, use booking.com or Airbnb to find accommodation as it’s usually the hotels that are most expensive. The trick is to stay a bit further out the city but near a metro station so you can get into the city easily, I stayed at Oops! Boutique hotel & hostel which is in the 13th arrondissement. We had a private rooms with an ensuite for just £52 for two of us.
The Paris Catacombs - possibly the most unique and interesting thing I’ve ever done in Paris. Get there early because the queues get huge in the afternoon as only a limited number of people are allowed in the catacombs at a time.
Shakespeare & Company Bookshop - this beautifully higgledy-piggledy bookshop and cafe right across the river from Notre-Dame is a wonderful quiet escape from the city.
Get in for free if you’re under 26 - Paris operates a young person discount for most of the main attractions so make sure to take advantage. Some, like the Louvre, are completely free.
3. The Algarve, Portugal
Ahh the beautiful Algarve, my favourite weekend trip of 2018 and another weekend trip I did for £177 - see how I did it here. Ryanair fly daily direct to Faro on Portugal’s Algarve coast and since you’re only going for a quick trip you don’t need to pay for checked bags or priority boarding, okay?! There are flights leaving from all major London airports, Birmingham, Manchester, East Midlands and Edinburgh at various times on Fridays with Sunday returns so you can find a schedule to work for you.
Obviously as this is a summer destination and you’re travelling there in summer, flights do get expensive quickly. I booked about 2 months in advance and managed to get £65 flights in a Ryanair summer sale. Portugal is also a great destination because it’s comparatively cheap compared to the rest of western Europe so the cheap food, drinks and accommodation are ideal to offset more expensive flights.
Head to Lagos for some of the best beaches in the Algarve.
Make sure to try some seafood - it’s all fresh and so so good, you can’t go wrong with wherever you eat here!
Take a boat trip to the Benagil Sea Cave - one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.
4. Stockholm, Sweden
I know this is another notoriously expensive city again, but it’s also one of my favourite cities in Europe so I always find a way to do it cheaply. Again, there are numerous cheap flights to Stockholm, especially because Stockholm has two airports serving it so plenty of low-cost carriers fly in there.
My trick is to take the first early morning flight on a Saturday (because who wants to travel at 5am on a Saturday?) and by the time I arrive in Stockholm city, I’ve still got most of the day to explore. You can read about my weekend trip to Stockholm here. Obviously travelling somewhere just for Saturday and Sunday can be exhausting but it’s a good option if you’re looking at bank holiday weekends or perhaps if you have the flexibility to not work on Mondays.
For Stockholm I stayed in a hotel on a boat which was super fun - STF af Chapman & Skeppsholmen. They also have a regular building with a hostel and hotel rooms if staying on a boat doesn’t really float your errm, boat? They have rooms from as little as 22 euros a night. We paid 50 for a private room.
Metro Stations - Stockholm’s metro stations are a work of art, literally. Check out my post here for my favourites.
Take the water taxi between Gamla Stan, Södermalm and Kungsholmen at sunset. If you have one of the city transport passes then the water taxi is included and you can ride it as much as you like - much cheaper than the water tours!
The ABBA museum - enough said.
5. Riga, Latvia
I love Riga, but you can’t really go wrong with any of the Baltic countries if you’re looking for a cheap weekend. There are more and more airlines with direct flights to the Baltic countries, including EasyJet, WizzAir, Ryanair and British Airways. I like to fly WizzAir from Luton as the flights are always especially cheap and there’s some great weekend flight times.
Riga is also fairly cheap with lots to see and do in a small area, so you really can get as much as possible into a weekend and keep costs low by walking everywhere!
Rozengrāls restaurant - this medieval dining experience is set underground in caves, with medieval music and authentic decor, it’s so much fun and the food is incredible.
National Library of Latvia - booklovers’ heaven. Head to the desk and ask for a temporary visitors pass to get in for free. Check out the wall of books and the rooftop view.
Art Nouveau district - beautiful buildings to wander around and the art museum has the most stunning staircase which you can view for free.
Find all the best Riga photo locations.
6. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
What would this list be without Amsterdam on it, eh? Similarly to Paris, Amsterdam is such a big hub in Europe that there are loads of options and ways to get there, in fact, I have taken the bus, the train and even a boat (from Hull, UK) but never actually flown to the Netherlands, so check all your transport options as the chances are there could be one cheaper. Equally Amsterdam is often one of the popular destinations on flight sales so keep an eye out, set alerts, check Skyscanner, those cheap flights will come up and they often do in the shoulder seasons.
Amsterdam isn’t always the cheapest place but by using the public transport, cycling and staying in Airbnbs, you can make it a relatively cheap weekend, plus it’s a great city to explore and wander endlessly around the picturesque streets - which costs you nothing!
get to grips with the public transport - the daily tickets cover the tram, metros and buses but not trains.
If you go to the Anne Frank museum - you will need to book tickets for this several weeks or even months in advance.
If you visit in April or May, don’t miss the tulip fields. You can get a bus directly to Keukenhof from Amsterdam airport. Save money by renting a bike for 10 euros from outside Keukenhof and cycling around the fields, rather than paying 28 euros to go into the Keukenhof gardens with everyone else! You can read my full Lisse guide here.
7. Ohrid, Macedonia
Haven’t heard of it? Don’t worry I hadn’t either until I was checking WizzAir’s destinations list (I know, I’m weird) and I saw Ohrid on the list with cheap, direct flights from Luton. Ohrid is the town beside Lake Ohrid which is one of the biggest and oldest lakes in Europe and it straddles the border of Macedonia and Albania. The airport is tiny but Macedonia is oh so cheap!
I spent my birthday of 2018 in Ohrid and it was stunning. It has beaches, cruises, water sport activities, mountains, hikes, national parks, quaint old towns - basically there’s something for everyone and it would definitely be a unique place to visit for a weekend. We stayed in an apartment literally in the centre of the city called Darija Studios, right on the Old Town Square with a view of the lake - this prime location, with parking and free breakfast in the cafe below was £60 a night for two of us - amazing!
Galichica National Park - you’ll need to take a bus here or drive if you hire a car but the views are spectacular - you can see three countries from the top: Macedonia, Greece and Albania.
St. John the Theologian - don’t miss the iconic church perched on the edge of the lake just a short walk from the town.
The markets and Bazaars are so interesting there, with a mix of Balkan, Turkish and Greece influences.
8. Budva, Montenegro
Quick - visit Montenegro while it’s still cheap and untouristy! This tiny country is lesser known than its famous neighbour - Croatia, but with the same beautiful coast, blue waters, amazing mountains and landscape. There are now direct flights from London Stansted to Podgorica and London Gatwick to Tivat so it’s not necessarily the easiest town to get to, but you could also fly into Dubrovnik and drive/take the bus over the border. Whether you’re outdoorsy or prefer to stay on the beach, Montenegro has got it covered - read my full guide here.
Alternatively, there are many more flights to Dubrovnik from the UK and there are day trips into Montenegro so why not hit two birds with one stone and see two countries on a quick trip? Norwegian and EasyJet often have £80 return flights to Dubrovnik from London Gatwick in the shoulder seasons (April, May, June and September, October).
Perast is the most beautiful waterside town situated on the edge of the world’s southern-most fjord. Take a boat trip out to Our Lady of the Rocks island for approx £5 round trip.
Sveti Stefan - the iconic image of Montenegro is worth going to see from the coast road even if you can’t afford £1000 to stay at the hotel there!
If you like the outdoors, amazing hikes and incredible views - Lovcen National Park is the place for you with plenty of trails to explore.
9. Bucharest, Romania
Bucharest was my first stop on my European interrail trip because of the cheap flight deals into the country and the easy train links out to our next stop (Budapest). There are direct flights from Birmingham and Gatwick but the cheapest are from Luton with WizzAir.
Bucharest is beautiful, so cheap and so friendly with lots of history. The golden triangle area in the old town is full of bars and cafes all of which are super cheap with lots of quirky outdoor areas and good food. This area is between Strada Smârdan and Strada Selari. Hostels here are around £12 a night for somewhere centrally located.
Do the Old Town free walking tour - this is one of the best walking tours I’ve ever done and it was so fascinating to learn about the recent history of Romania.
Visit the Palace of Parliament - this huge building built in the Communist era is the largest administrative building in the world, it is ornate, huge and so cheap to tour.
Visit the beautiful Cārturesti Carusel library.
10. Sarandë, Albania
Albania is one of the most underrated and unexpected trips i took in 2018, but considering it shares the Greek coastline it’s no surprise that the beaches on this coast are some of the most stunning beaches I’ve ever seen in Europe. Unfortunately there are no direct flights to Albania yet from the UK, but there are exceptionally cheap flights to Corfu and Albania is a short boat ride away - so why not? UK citizens do not need a visa to enter Albania.
Hostels right on the beach front are £16.
Enjoy the beach clubs and seafront restaurants here, alongside the clear blue water.
Climb up to Lëkurësi Castle - fortress ruins on a hill overlooking Sarande and Corfu.
Hire a boat or pedalo to explore the coastline and the beautiful islands and National Park further south along the coast at Ksamil.
11. Krakow, Poland
Krakow is the only place I’ve been to in Poland and the reason it left such a lasting impression on me is because there is so much to do there, it’s so cheap and friendly, the food and drink are amazing and it’s nice and small so you can save money by getting everywhere on foot! There are direct flights to Krakow from all major London airports, and also Manchester and Edinburgh. Even at the time of writing (May) I can see cheap flights from London on July and August weekends from £50-£80!!
I stayed in a hotel just off the main square for £14 a night or a private room was £25.
Visit the Salt Mines - it’s a bus journey away but this underground network of salt mines is incredible - it was build for entire generations to spend significant amounts of time down there. There is even the deepest underground cathedral in the world, carved entirely from salt which took 65 years to complete.
It might be a lot to take in on a weekend but Krakow is home to one of the best museums I’ve ever visited - Schindler’s Factory. You can also take buses to Auschwitz from Krakow.
Make sure to sample the local night life - the Polish know how to party!
I hope this list has given you some inspiration to take a quick weekend trip this summer. Weekend trips aren’t always the most relaxing but it’s amazing what you can see and do in a weekend in a new place. Let me know if you end up going to any of these places!!
Flights: I use Expedia to find great flights and the best deals all over the world, they have regular sales and offers so I always check their website. I also check CheapOair to find cheap deals on round trip flights.
Car Rental: I love the customer service I've always gotten and the variety of options with Rental Cars. But for short notice rentals, I've been using Expedia for the last year, they always seem to have great one-day rates or last-minute rates from the main rental companies.
Accommodation: I prefer the flexibility of booking accommodation with Booking.com so I can cancel or change my reservation without a fee or only pay on arrival for most properties. For longer or more unique stays I prefer AirBnB because you can get the long stay discount, you can also find more unique properties and book experiences with talented locals and businesses. For my budget trips, I always stay in hostels and book through Hostelworld because they have great guarantees if anything does go wrong. If you arrive and your booking is not at the property, they refund the full deposit AND give you $50 extra credit.
Tours and organised trips Although I don’t use tours that often, I do like to book local experiences or day trips once I reach my destination. For that I use GetYourGuide because it has the biggest selection and variety of tour and experience options.
Travel Insurance: For all my longer trips and for the entire year I’ve spent in Australia, my partner and I have always used World Nomads. They cover everything I need and I can buy coverage for a year at a time, they also allow you to purchase cover when you’re already outside your home country. Plus my camera gear and equipment is covered and they also have special cover for when I’m scuba diving too.
My camera gear and equipment: I use a Canon 77D with an 18-135mm lens or a 50mm lens. And a DJI Mavic Mini Drone. For all my gear including laptops, tripods and more camera accessories read my travel photography gear guide.