Heeding the call of wanderlust doesn't have to put a strain on your bank account. It's easy to find European city break deals that will allow you to explore dazzling destinations packed with history and culture, or boasting a dynamic culinary scene and vibrant nightlife. Take advantage of free walking tours or cheap bike rentals, and stay in self-catering holiday rentals located close to the stops on your itinerary.
Thrifty travellers should consider Bratislava
In Slovakia's capital, you can spend your budget-friendly city break wandering the Old Town and discovering alluring churches and buildings, then stopping for cake and a Turkish coffee in one of the myriad cafes in the main square. Perched on a hill and standing guard over the city, the storied Bratislava Castle is impossible to miss. You can make it your first stop to get your bearings in Bratislava – on a clear day, the stunning views stretch from the Old Town and the Danube all the way to Austria and Hungary. You'll also spot the UFO Bridge, a quirky landmark named for its flying saucer–shaped cupola.
Book an inexpensive city break to Bucharest
Besides being Romania's capital city, Bucharest is the country's commercial and industrial centre, but a holiday here is actually quite affordable. The top sightseeing stops include the enormous Palace of the Parliament – the world's second largest administrative building, after The Pentagon in the US – and the stunning Romanian Athenaeum, home of the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra. Bucharest has lots of museums set in palaces and historic buildings, along with an array of parks, churches and villas off the touristy track. For folk culture, visit the Muzeul National al Satului, an open-air 'village museum' with nearly 300 houses and farms from all over the country.
Krakow will allow you to stay within budget
Krakow, a city in southern Poland, is an excellent destination for admiring medieval architecture. St Mary's Basilica is a 13th-century Brick Gothic landmark whose baroque interiors will take your breath away – while you're here, check out the Veit Stoss altarpiece, the world's most massive Gothic altarpiece and one of Poland's national treasures. Rynek Glowny, located next to St Mary's, is the biggest market square in Europe, while Wawel Hill is the site of the Royal Castle and Cathedral. Get your culture and cocktail fix in one go when you explore Kazimierz, the historic Jewish quarter that has transformed into a trendy area with intimate art galleries, cool bars and offbeat boutiques.
Budapest is one of the best cheap city breaks
You don't need to spend much in the Hungarian capital when you can see the grandiose landmarks and buildings in various architectural styles while exploring on foot. Stroll along the Danube River, which bisects the city, or cross the 19th-century Chain Bridge and take in the imposing Parliament building and the Royal Palace. Holiday rentals in hilly Buda put you close to historic attractions like Matthias Church. Or, stay in Pest for proximity to lovely squares and a wide range of shops, restaurants and bars, including Budapest's famous 'ruin bars'. You can also explore Margaret Island's parks for a picnic and some peace and quiet.
Enjoy an affordable holiday in Ljubljana
A low-cost city break in Ljubljana can mean strolling along the Ljubljanica river and seeing the city's beautiful bridges – don't miss Dragon Bridge and Triple Bridge – and exploring the rest of the car-free city centre. Take a breather in tranquil Tivoli Park, the largest park in the city, which features fountains, landscaped walking paths and outdoor gyms, plus an outdoor gallery along the Jakopic Promenade. Alternatively, get a good leg workout and walk to the hilltop Ljubljana Castle. For a peek into the city's alternative scene, check out the autonomous cultural hub of Metelkova, where former military barracks now house atmospheric bars and art galleries.
This Baltic break won't break the bank
A buffet of castles, palaces and churches await visitors to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, a fantastic destination for frugal travellers. The city's major landmarks include the neoclassical Vilnius Cathedral and the baroque Church of St Peter and St Paul, whose stunningly intricate interior is decorated with 2,000 stucco figures. If you love museum hopping, you'll be glad to know that ticket prices in Vilnius are among the cheapest in Europe, so get your culture and history fix at attractions like the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights, housed in the former KGB headquarters, and the National Museum of Lithuania.