One of the great things about living in the UK is your proximity to so many European countries, making it ideal for quick trips to Europe on the weekend. And we all like to get those small wins in life, right? So any chance to take a weekend trip to Europe without taking holiday leave or time off work is a win for me!
I worked full time in Oxford, just an hour from London, for 3 years and I really made use of my proximity to London airports and the cheap flights available from budget airlines.
So this list is my guide to the best budget weekend trips to Europe from London. Whether you’re looking for an action-packed adventure weekend in Malta, or a relaxed escape to some of the most incredible beaches in Albania, or even how to spend a weekend in Paris for just £170 (yes, really!) This guide will give you plenty of ideas for weekend trips to Europe.
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11 of the best budget weekend trips to Europe from London
I went to Malta in May 2019 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 is full of natural beauty and history making it a great option for almost anyone looking for a weekend trip to Europe. Plus there are direct, cheap flights from most major UK airports as well as London - even Bristol and East Midlands have direct flights!
For 3 full days, all accommodation and flights included, plus car hire and spending, the total came to around £300. I 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.
Check out my 3 day itinerary for Malta to help you plan your trip.
Top recommendations for things to do in Malta:
While it isn’t necessary to hire a car to see Malta, we decided it would be easier with four of us and worked out significantly cheaper than buses or taxis. We were also happy to discover that since they drive on the left in Malta, driving was very straightforward, if that’s something you’re worried about.
Head over to Gozo on the ferry for the day, it’s relatively cheap at just 15.70 euros return for one car and all the passengers. With crystal clear water and plenty of beaches, plus some snorkelling and diving spots around where the Azure Window collapsed into the sea, Gozo is perfect for relaxing on the beach and some adventure.
Whilst visiting Valletta, Malta’s capital is a must-do, also make time to visit Mdina. This historical fortress town is absolutely stunning with the Mediterrean style 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 here in my Paris budget weekend guide, 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 from London to Paris. 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 going by plane. It’s also worth checking train networks, weekend trips from London to Europe by train are so simple from the capital and Europe is known for its great train network. Chances are there are some great value tickets to major European cities.
Where to stay in Paris on a budget:
Finding cheap transport to Paris is possible, the difficult part is finding accommodation in Paris on a budget. Use booking.com or Airbnb to find accommodation using the price range filters and accommodation types. I suggest this because usually the hotels that are most expensive, whereas self-serviced accommodation, apartments or hostels are cheapest. The main trick is to stay a bit further out of 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 room with an ensuite for just £52 for two of us and the metro was right nearby.
Top recommendations for things to do in Paris:
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 into top attractions 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 attractions, like the Louvre Museum, are completely free.
3. The Algarve, Portugal
Ahh the beautiful Algarve, one of the best weekend getaways to Europe I’ve done in recent years and another weekend trip to Europe I did for just £177. You can read about how I did my weekend in the Algarve on a budget 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. There are flights leaving from all major London airports, as well as 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 if you’re travelling there in summer, flights can get expensive quickly. I booked about 2 months in advance and managed to get £60 flights in a Ryanair summer sale. But if you have the flexibility, as with any trip, I suggest visiting during the shoulder seasons to keep your short Europe trips as budget friendly as possible. For the Algarve, this would mean visiting during April-June or September-October.
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.
Top recommendations for things to do in the Algarve near Lagos:
Head to Lagos for some of the best beaches in the Algarve. Read this guide to find the best beaches around Lagos.
Make sure to try some seafood - it’s all fresh and 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
Although this is another notoriously expensive city, there are ways to make a trip here extremely cheap and enjoyable. It's also one of my favourite cities in Europe so I always find a way to do it cheaply. The huge money saver for travelling to the Swedish capital is that there are always 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 no one ever takes those flights so airlines make them cheaper. I usually take the 5am or 6am flight and arrive at 9.45am. This flight usually costs anywhere between £20- £60 return depending how far in advance I book. £60 is the most I’ve ever paid for a return flight to Stockholm, Sweden.
Getting this early morning cheap flight means by the time you arrive in Stockholm city centre, you’ve still got most of the day to explore. Use this guide to plan how to spend 2 days in Stockholm.
Obviously travelling somewhere just for Saturday and Sunday can be exhausting but it’s how to travel without taking that important holiday leave from work and 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.
In Stockholm I stayed in a ship hotel which was not only incredibly fun but also so cheap for such a novel experience! I stayed at the STF af Chapman & Skeppsholmen. They also have a regular building with a hostel and hotel rooms if staying on a ship doesn’t really float your boat (sorry for the pun!). They have rooms from as little as 22 euros a night. We paid 50 for a private room for two people on the ship.
Top recommendations for things to see and do in Stockholm:
Metro Station artwork - Stockholm’s metro stations are a work of art, literally and you’ll find them all over the city. My favourites are at T-centralen and Stadion Station. Use this guide for Stockholm photo locations to help you find these stations and more photography locations.
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 boat tours!
The ABBA museum - this might not be to everyone’s taste, but if you’re an ABBA fan and you’re visiting Stockholm, you can’t miss this opportunity.
Spend some time exploring the beautiful historic Old Town, Gamla Stan. The orange and yellow buildings and traditional architecture and streets are so unique and it’s the perfect chance to stop at a local coffee shop and experience hygge!
5. Riga, Latvia
Riga is the perfect destination for your budget weekend trip to Europe from London. Although you can’t really go wrong with any of the Baltic countries if you’re looking for cheap weekend breaks to Europe. 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, plus I find airport parking at Luton to be a lot more reasonable.
Riga is one of the cheapest cities in Europe to visit, 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!
I had return flights to Riga, Latvia in November and they cost just £52 return, with hand luggage only. I stayed at the Tree House Hostel in Riga which cost just £19 for two nights in a shared dorm. The location was perfect, just off one of the main squares in the Old Town so I could walk everywhere. If shared rooms aren’t your thing, they do have very cheap private rooms too. Or check out these alternative options for cheap places in stay in Riga, Latviua.
Top recommendations for things to see and do in Riga, Latvia:
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 - a booklovers’ heaven. Head to the desk and ask for a temporary visitor's 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.
This itinerary for 2 days in Riga, Latvia will help you plan your trip and make the most of your time in Riga.
6. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Similarly to Paris, Amsterdam is such a big hub in Europe that there are loads of options and ways to get there, making it an ideal option for weekend getaways from London to Europe. In fact, I have taken the bus, the train and even a boat, from Hull in the UK. But I’ve 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 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!
I took the bus from London Victoria to Amsterdam Schipol Airport for just £65 return.
Travel tips for Amsterdam:
If it’s your first time in Amsterdam, get to grips with the public transport, it’s useful and cheap to get around, 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.
Find out here how I did two days in Lisse and Amsterdam on a budget of just £155.
7. Ohrid, North Macedonia
Haven’t heard of it? Don’t worry I hadn’t either until I was checking WizzAir’s destinations list and I saw Ohrid, North Macedonia with cheap, direct flights from London 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 one of the cheapest countries in Europe to visit so this is the perfect idea for a budget weekend getaway to Europe.
I spent my birthday 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.
Flights were £49 return during September, so this could be a little more expensive during the summer but Wizz Air has great sales throughout the year so book in advance and avoid the add-ons like checked luggage or selected seats.
We stayed in an apartment literally in the centre of the city called Darija Studios, which overlooked the Old Town Square with a view of the lake - this prime location, with free parking and free breakfast included at 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 lake Ohrid just a short walk from the town.
The markets and bazaars in the town are so interesting there, with a mix of Balkan, Turkish and Greece influences.
Check out this 10 day Balkan road trip itinerary covering North Macedonia, Albania and Greece.
Slovenia is most famous for the iconic Lake Bled with the picturesque church in the middle, but its capital city of Ljubljana has so much to see and do too. With an interesting history, beautiful old town and great flight links from the UK, Ljubljana is a great choice for a budget weekend trip to Europe. It’s even possible to see Lake Bled on a day trip from Ljubljana if that’s a bucket list item you want to tick off!
I flew to Ljubljana, Slovenia during the off season in April, so flights were very reasonably priced at £66 return. Flights are usually over £100 during the summer months because Slovenia is a great destination for outdoor activities like hiking, mountain climbing and watersports. Going in April allowed me to do some hikes and enjoy Lake Bled and the city, although there was still snow in the mountains.
I highly recommend staying in Airbnbs in Ljubljana as the prices are amazing value, you can rent an entire apartment for between £50-70 for 2 nights. I did this with my family, so for four of us staying two nights, that works out at around £7.50 per person, per night!
Top recommendations for things to see and do in Ljubljana, Slovenia:
Old Town free walking tour - the walking tour in Ljubljana was fascinating and lead by a local who was able to tell us so much about the history of Slovenia and the culture of the city. I highly recommend doing free walking tours as you only give what you’re able to pay at the end or pay what the tour was worth to you, so they’re super budget friendly.
Take the funicular up to Ljubljana Fortress - the medieval castle fortress sits high on the clifftop above the city. But thankfully there is a funicular to take you to the top and save you the walk! There are incredible views of the city from the fortress walls, as well as interesting exhibitions on the castle history inside.
Go on a day trip to Lake Bled - Lake Bled is only 40 minutes drive from Ljubljana, or 1.5 hours by bus, so you can easily see this stunning lake on a day trip from the city.
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 of Budapest. I’ve now been to Bucharest twice and can’t get over my love and fascination with the city!
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, good food and beers which won’t cost you much more than £2. This area is between Strada Smârdan and Strada Selari.
Return flights start from £35 which is what I paid during September. During the summer, my flight cost a little more at around £70. Bucharest is often featured in the Ryan Air or Wizz Air sales though, so keep an eye out for even more of a bargain!
Hostels here are around £12 a night for somewhere centrally located. I also recommend checking Airbnb for some great locations and amazing prices.
Top recommendations for things to see and do in Bucharest:
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 after the Pentagon. It is ornate, huge and tickets to visit are just £7.50.
Visit the beautiful Cārturesti Carusel library. Whether you’re a book lover or not, this beautiful bookstore is well worth perusing, enjoying their cafe upstairs or just taking a couple of photos. Just don’t forget to be respectful of others using the bookstore if you do go for photos!
10. Tirana, Albania
Most people would not consider visiting Albania on a trip to Europe, but the country is really pushing its tourism efforts, especially in light of its application to be in the EU. Albania shares a coastline with Greece, so you can expect the same stunning beaches, as well as mountains, quaint, untouched villages and very welcoming locals.
Albania’s capital city of Tirana is probably the most colourful capital city in Europe, after the city Major and now Prime Minister decided that painting the buildings in bright colours would revitalise the city. It certainly does make for a very unique, but also one of the best city breaks in Europe that I’ve ever done.
You can read my full Tirana City Guide here.
There are now direct flights from London Luton with Wizz Air and from London Heathrow with British Airways. Flights with Wizz Air are as low as £59 return during September which is a great time to visit, the weather was beautiful with warm sea and no crowds. Then again, Albania is still flying under the radar so you’re not likely to find huge crowds even in peak season!
We paid £27 for a private room with an ensuite in Tirana at Milingona Hostel in the city centre. Throughout Albania, we also rented Airbnbs and hotel rooms on Booking.com and we never paid more than £30 per night for a private room with an ensuite, and usually breakfast was included (except for at Airbnbs obviously).
You could easily keep a weekend trip to Tirana under £200 per person including flights and accommodation!
Top recommendations for things to see and do in Tirana, Albania:
I cannot recommend the free walking tour enough in Tirana. The country has such a fascinating recent history as the last communist state to fall in Europe, in 1992. The rise of democracy and the opening up to the rest of the world is fascinating, especially when told by a local.
Bunk’Art 1 and Bunk-Art 2 are two ex-nuclear bunkers converted to contemporary art museums dedicated to Albania’s communist history. Bunk’Art 2 is located in the city centre and will be the easiest one for you to get to. Bunk’Art 1 lies on the outskirts of the city.
Go up the Sky Tower for amazing views over the city and to see the colourful buildings from above. Sky Tower is a bar, however there is a viewing deck just before the main doors at the top, so you don’t need to go in and buy a drink to enjoy the view.
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!
Krakow has lots to offer in terms of history, so if you’re a history buff, you need to visit. You can visit incredible museums and learn about the city and its citizens role in the World Wars, tour the city walls, visit Auschwitz on a day trip, see the salt mines and enjoy some of the cheapest beer and of course, Polish grappa!
There are direct flights to Krakow from all major London airports, and also Manchester and Edinburgh. Even in the summer there are cheap flights from London on July and August weekends from £50-£80 if you book just two months in advance. In the off seasons, flights can be half that.
I stayed in a hotel just off the main square for £14 a night or a private room was £25.
Top recommendations for things to see and do in Krakow, Poland:
Visit the Salt Mines - it’s a bus journey away but this underground network of salt mines is incredible - it was built for entire generations to spend significant amounts of time underground to maximise work time. 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, which I highly recommend. You can also take buses to Auschwitz from Krakow, which is a harrowing but important historical trip.
Make sure to sample the local night life - the Polish know how to party, enjoy live music, cheap beer and grappa all night long.
I hope this list has given you some inspiration to take a quick weekend trip this summer and plenty of ideas for where to take the best budget weekend trips to Europe from London. Weekend trips aren’t always the most relaxing but it’s amazing what you can see and do on a weekend in a new place. Let me know if you end up going to any of these places!!
Save this post for later to help you plan your future trip!
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.