Updated February 18, 2022
Published March 7, 2019
Fancy a quick city break before summer but don’t want to break the bank? As we say goodbye to travel testing requirements in the UK – and the costs that come with it – it’s a great time to pick up a bargain. From Prague and Porto to Barcelona and Rome, we round up some amazing budget deals that won’t make your wallet wince.
1. Prague, Czech Republic
A historic capital with a flair for dramatic architecture and quality beer, Prague is right up there with the best cities in Europe – and it’s cheap to boot.
Easily explored on foot, you can see many of Prague’s top attractions in two days. Get lost strolling through the winding cobbled streets of the medieval city centre, check out impressive Prague Castle and wander across the iconic Charles Bridge at your leisure.
Spring explorers can expect chilly weather on a cheap break in March so if you have a little cash to splash, aim for April when temperatures can reach the mid-teens.
Not many cities combine holiday activities like Barcelona – whether you’re after sightseeing, sunbathing, or just sipping sangria, the Catalan capital doesn’t disappoint. Of course, there are the big hitters to explore, such as Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia, Camp Nou and Las Ramblas, but there’s also the simplicity of the beach, the subtle art of MACBA Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona and the city’s pulsating nightlife to enjoy.
For return visitors looking for something off the tourist beat, Colonia Guell, where you’ll find a mosaicked church and crypt designed by Gaudi, is around 30 minutes out of the city.
All decked out in flowers and minus the scorching summer temperatures, Rome makes for a lovely spring city break. You’ll be thankful for the pleasant weather too – part of the joy of visiting the Italian capital is wandering its ancient streets (Trastevere and Monti are particularly pretty areas).
Serious sightseers will also have plenty to keep them occupied here; from the Colosseum and the Sistine Chapel to the beautiful gardens of Villa Borghese, Rome’s attractions need no introduction. With so much to squeeze into two days, try to cut your queuing times by visiting the sights early in the morning and leave your afternoons free to enjoy a little dolce vita.
Lisbon’s streets fill up with tourists come summer, making spring a lovely time to visit without the crowds. And with two days, you can take in many of the city’s sights. Take a rattling ride on the yellow number 28 tram to the pretty Alfama district, enjoy the views from the city’s miradouros, and head out to Belem to marvel at the magnificent Jerónimos Monastery.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Lisbon city break without sampling a pastel de nata. Pasteis de Belem is a top spot to try one or head to the Time Out Market, where some of the city’s top chefs have set up shop. Here, you can also try one of Portugal’s national dishes, the prego sirloin steak sandwich.
Enjoy the craic on an unforgettable night out in Dublin. Nightlife in the Irish capital is the stuff of legend, and though you’re unlikely to find a cheap city breaks around St Patrick’s Day itself, the city rarely needs a reason to revel.
During the day, your two days in Dublin is enough to get a great feel for the city. Sights include Trinity College, with its breath-taking Long Room library; the Guinness Storehouse, where you can master the art of pouring a pint black stuff; and Dublin Castle, which is celebrating one hundred years of independence in 2022.
6. Athens, Greece
Think of a holiday to Greece and you’ll probably imagine sun-bathing in Santorini or partying the nights away in Mykonos. But to skip its cities is to miss out. Take Athens, for example. The compact Greek capital was once the cradle of western civilisation, and a plethora of ancient sites from the Acropolis to the Temple of Hephaestus remain.
Nearby, clinging on to the sides of the Acropolis hill, is the Plaka neighbourhood. A stroll through its maze of cobblestoned streets is worth the workout for shoppers and foodies alike. Up and coming neighbourhoods, such as the hip Psirri, also contain plenty to explore, or you can take short taxi ride to the newly revitalised ‘Athens Riviera' area, especially pleasant when spring days reach highs of 20C.
7. Porto, Portugal
Second timer city breakers in Portugal head straight to Porto. This northern Portuguese city may not be packed with renowned tourist attractions, but that’s part of the charm. Instead of working your way through a TripAdvisor top ten, you’ll get to know the city through its colourful architecture, cobbled streets and, of course, its food.
You’re in port country here, and a tasting tour in one of its major wine houses comes highly recommended. For food, Porto is the home of the francesinha. This mother of all sandwiches stacks at least three types of meat between two slices of bread, then covers the lot in melted cheese and a tomato and beer sauce. It’s a hefty number, often best shared – unless you’re feeling famished!
Krakow’s relatively compact walled Old Town makes it a very easy city to explore over two days. The jewel in the city’s crown is the vast Rynek Glowny (Central Market Square), which contains the imposing Gothic St. Mary’s Basilica and the artisan market Cloth Hall. Outside the city walls, but still within walking distance, you’ll find the mighty Wawel Castle, the Jewish Quarter and Oskar Schindler’s Factory.
If the weather’s warm, consider hiking up Kościuszko Mound for panoramic views of the city; if not, stay indoors at Krakow Arcade Museum – there’s over 150 arcade games and pinball machines to try.