After the Christmas spirit leaves the cities and the streets turn back to their everyday looks, there comes January, a punch in the face in form of reality. That is why a lot of people decide to prolong that special atmosphere by travelling to a new place. Still, a lot has been spent during the holidays, so many will try to find more affordable options. Whether you prefer to escape from the coldness and enjoy the sunshine for a while, or you simply want to get the most out of the winter by visiting the most magical places, here are our options of a budget-friendly getaway!
1) Budapest, Hungary
The streets of Budapest can get really cold, but the number of cozy, warm places where you can snuggle up for a coffee or a traditional goulash soup is huge. Besides that, magical Budapest with all its sights such as Citadel, Buda Castle, Parliament building etc. is simply stunning in winter time, and if you’re lucky enough to see it covered in snow, you won’t mind the cold! Also, Budapest is famous for its thermal baths, and is there a better time to enjoy them? Try Gellert or Szechenyi, the biggest attractions among tourists, but if you’re looking for a more local experience, go to Veli Bej. All in all, Budapest is an affordable option since you can find really cheap buses arriving at Nepliget bus station.
- You can find a very affordable accommodation, especially in the hostels (from 5€). Also, public transport and eating outside is mostly below the European standard in most other European countries.
2) Transylvania, Romania
The mysterious land of the bloody vampire tales is a perfect place for all those who enjoy the gothic atmosphere. Just imagine the snow-covered castles, the fairytale-like Carpathian Forest, horse-drawn carriages making their way through the woodlands… Charming Transylvania has all it needs to make the winter magical. Visit the UNESCO sites such as city of Sighisoara and churches Biertan and Viscri, learn about Dracula and visit the Bran Castle to spice up the atmosphere with the fearsome tales. Discover the Transylvanian traditions and folklore and get to know its romantic side. Anyhow, dare to escape to this unique winter fairytale!
- Accommodation in Transylvania can get expensive, but planning the trip in advance can save you a lot of money. The prices for public transport and eating are below the European standard in most European countries.
3) Athens, Greece
This ‘open-air museum’ and the cradle of democracy is perfect during the winter for those who want to escape the extreme coldness. Its mild temperatures allow you to explore the archaeological sites, ruins and temples. But the biggest advantage of visiting Athens in winter is the fact that there are no tourist crowds like in summer. While most of the Europe is freezing, Athens offers a bit of sunshine with the locals sitting outside, sipping coffee or tea.
- The struggling Greek economy resulted in very low prices everywhere (besides the most recognizable tourist places), especially in the off-season.
- Check the bus routes to and from Athens bus station.
4) Dubrovnik, Croatia
Although majority chooses to enjoy Dubrovnik in summertime, this popular ‘Game of Thrones’ location has a lot of reasons to be seen during the winter. First of all, there are no unimaginable crowds like in summer, therefore, the prices are much lower. This makes a perfect opportunity to try all the delicacies of Mediterranean cuisine. Besides that, Dubrovnik at this period is rarely too cold, so it is a good escape from the snow-covered regions. Here, you will also find locals sipping coffee or tea outside, but city’s charming streets are pretty empty and the overall atmosphere in the city core is incredible.
- Generally, Croatia is an affordable country in the off-season. You might find a bit higher prices in the most attractive tourist places, but if you plan your trip in advance, it can get very cheap.
- Check the bus routes to and from Dubrovnik bus station.
5) Dublin, Ireland
Dublin is vivid even after the holidays end, so the end of January brings you an opportunity to attend the TradFest, a festival of traditional Irish music. Every year, best Irish folk musicians make the best party in the town, so if Dublin is your plan for this winter, make sure you experience this. As in all other touristy places, winter is not that crowded so you get to see all the museums and monuments peacefully. Although you might witness the snow-covered Dublin, the scenery will amaze you, but most of the time, Dublin doesn’t have a freezing winter. But dare to explore Ireland outside of Dublin! Remember that its position might even let you see the magnificent Aurora Borealis on the Inishowen Peninsula on the North.
- Ireland might not be the cheapest country on the list (especially when it comes to accommodation and eating outside). However, it is definitely not the most expensive one, and if you refuse eating outside and buy groceries instead, you can save a lot of money. Also, all the touristy places are more expensive than those less known, so have that in mind too.
6) Porto, Portugal
For some, Porto may feel like summer, with the temperatures rarely going under 10°C, so if you want to escape the cold, here is another excellent city. Still, its cozy places and comforting food such as francesinha or caldo verde will warm up anyone. Besides, Porto is famous for its wine cellars and everybody heard of Port Wine. Did you know that you can join the surfing lessons in the middle of the winter? It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any experience, you can join them anytime. In the end, explore its charming streets, monuments and UNESCO sites when there is no crowd.
- Porto is relatively cheaper than most of the countries. You can find hostels for 8-9€ per night, public transport is no over 3€. All in all, less expensive than most of the bigger European cities, in most aspects.
7) Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is a true winter fairytale with its Baroque palaces and cobbled streets, especially when covered in snow. Explore its streets and main sights such as Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral and Old Town Hall then hurry up in any of the numerous warm places for a beer or maybe hot chocolate. To spice up your trip, try visiting Cesky Krumlov, a tiny medieval town near Prague, easily accessible by train. This place is truly magical in winter, so try not to miss it!
- Prague is an affordable destination when it comes to drinking and eating outside because it is cheaper than most European countries. One night in a hostel can be found for less than 10€.
- Check the bus routes to and from Prague bus station.
8) Copenhagen, Denmark
If you haven’t been introduced with the famous Danish concept of living ‘hygge’, then winter time is the best time to do that. This concept of relaxed, non-stressed life spent with the loved ones comes to its peak during the holidays, but doubtlessly lasts throughout the whole year. Besides, Copenhagen is a true fairytale-like city in this period. Don’t miss Tivoli gardens, Christiansborg Slot and Rosenborg Castle, all of them being a stunning sight in the winter. There is always a chance to hide from the low temperatures in some of many cozy places which serve hot chocolate or some warm, traditional meal.
- January is off-season in Copenhagen, so the prices are lower. Still, planning your trip in advance can save you a lot of money.
- Check the bus routes to and from Copenhagen bus station.
9) Barcelona, Spain
If you want a destination with moderate temperatures and plenty of sunshine, visit one and only, Barcelona. Off-season in Barcelona lets you explore it in a more relaxed atmosphere. Regardless the time of the year, this city never sleeps and has so much to offer to its visitors, even in January. Use mornings to explore Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, La Rambla etc. and if you start feeling like going inside when sun goes down, Barcelona has many options to keep you busy indoors.
- Barcelona is inexpensive, especially in off-season. Dining can cost you less than 10€ while the accommodation will cost a bit more (around 20€ for a good hostel).
- Check the bus routes to and from Barcelona bus station.
10) Vilnius, Lithuania
Vilnius might not be the most popular capital in Europe, but you would be surprised how good an idea would be to visit it. Yes, Lithuania is a cold country, but don’t let that stop you from seeing this charming city with snowcaps. Still, don’t miss its main sights such as Vilnius Cathedral, Gediminas Castle and Mindaugas. But when you start freezing head to some of the indoor sights such as Museum of Genocide Victims or National Museum of Lithuania. You can always make a break in a cafe, warming yourself up with a drink.
- This city is renowned for being one of the cheapest cities in Europe. Eating outside can easily be done for less than 10€, public transport is 1€. A hostel bed can be found for 20€.
- Check the bus lines arriving at Vilnius bus station.