5 Wallet-Friendly European Destinations

These gorgeous cities offer romance, glamour, and sophistication — without the hefty price tag.
By: 
Veronica Mullen

When it comes to cosmopolitan pizzazz, Europe may have it all — art, history, fashion, gourmet food — but much too often, all that comes at a high price. With fluctuating exchange rates between the dollar and the Euro (not to mention the even more walletbusting British Pound), and the inflated prices typical to any tourist hotspot, a chic European jaunt can end up taking a big bite out of your bank account. Luckily, there are a few spots that offer all the style, elegance and good eats Europe is renowned for, at prices that are a bit more budget-friendly.

Croatia: Dubrovnik

With a spectacular coastline, charming hilltop towns, world-class food and wine along with plenty of style, it’s no wonder Croatia has emerged as one of the world’s most popular wallet-friendly vacation spots. Start exploring in beautiful, relaxed Dubrovnik, a historic, visitor-friendly city set on the shimmering Adriatic Sea.

dubrovnik
Photo courtesy of Adriatic Luxury Hotels

To do:
Between the well-preserved Old Town and the sun-dappled water, it’s hard to know where to look in photo-ready Dubrovnik. Start with a walking tour of the historic center (Dubrovnik Walking Tours offers one-hour strolls for 12 Euros, approximately $16) to explore its narrow alleys, picturesque squares and famous sites, like the Baroque cathedral and the oldest pharmacy in Europe.

Fans of Game of Thrones may recognize much of the town, as parts of the show are filmed here. Don’t miss a walk along the Old Town fortress walls (tickets are about $10), then take the electric cable car up the mountainside for the best city and sea views. For about $9, you can take a 15-minute boat ride to Lokrum Island, a small, UNESCO-protected island popular with locals for its relaxing shores and great views; in the summer, boats leave every half hour.

Where to stay:
Set about three miles from Old Town, the 308-room Hotel Dubrovnik Palace is spread out on a picturesque peninsula, with views of the outlying Elafite Islands. You’ll get a taste of the Adriatic life here thanks to the private beach, PADI diving center, three outdoor pools and scenic walking paths (room rates start at about $230 a night and include breakfast and WiFi; alh.hr).

Closer to town, sister hotel Grand Villa Argentina Dubrovnik also has water views and a beach, plus spectacular gardens. Don’t miss a meal at the Victoria Restaurant & Lounge Bar, whose executive chef, Thierry, was one of the cooks at the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William (room rates start at about $250 a night and include breakfast and WiFi; alh.hr).

dubrovnik
Photo courtesy of Adriatic Luxury Hotels

Where to eat:
Though the vibe in Dubrovnik is relaxed, there’s no skimping on beautifully presented gourmet meals. With tables scattered atop old city walls and in cozy, candlelit nooks, 360 by Jeffrey Vella offers a heaping serving of romance with its Mediterranean fine dining. Note: It’s open seasonally. Surrounded by views of the blue-green water and old medieval fortresses, Nautika is a local icon, with its fresh, regionally-inspired fare; the terrace is a particular favorite with visiting VIPs. For something different, dine aboard a 16th-century wooden boat during Karaka’s sunset dinner cruise.

Sunset sip:
Translated to hole in the wall, Buza Bar is a long-time local favorite — and thanks to its hidden-away location within a gap in the old city walls, you’ll probably have to ask a local to help find it. Once there, enjoy spectacular water views. Come early to snag a table for sunset.

More Romantic Places to Visit in Europe:
Budapest, Hungary ►
Istanbul, Turkey ►
Bologna, Italy ►
Porto, Portugal ►