Happily, life is full of choices .and travelers have plenty. It’s part of what makes a journey such great fun. Why not uncover clever ways to save money in pricey but unmissable European cities rather than skipping them altogether? After all, these places are famous for good reasons.
Naturally, the basic travel pointers like avoiding high season, shunning high-end hotels and touristy restaurants are obvious to a budget-minded traveler. But there are lots more ways to save and it all adds up.
No worries, as you’ll be eating well, enjoying concerts, exploring top sites and embarking on wonderful adventures while economizing in major destinations such as London, Paris, Stockholm, Venice, and Barcelona
Expensive European Cities
When a gust of wind picks up across Lake Geneva, passersby get gently sprayed by the world’s tallest water jet spout. The famous jet d’eau situated mid-lake is the city’s best-known landmark.
Get up close and personal with the picturesque lake encircled by Mont Blanc and more impressive snow capped mountains when taking a ride across the water on the public transit yellow boat.
The journey is free with a Geneva Transport Card provided by each of the city’s hotels and hostels. If you’re staying at Airbnb-type accommodation instead, Geneva Pass can be purchased online for a 10 percent discount to cover boat rides, the Mont Saléve cable car and museum entries.
Landlocked, mountainous and surrounded on all sides by EU member nations, Switzerland has its own reasons for scoring high marks on lists of the most expensive cities. With its island-like situation and non-euro currency status, clearly the Swiss must pay more for just about everything brought in from beyond its borders.
Nonetheless, outstanding views are free. Zürich’s own mountain, Uetliberg, isn’t impressive on an Alpine scale. But at nearly 3,000 feet above sea level, it offers hikers panoramic city vistas that reach as far as the Alps from an urban summit above the fog.
The United Nations reports that Norway is among the happiest nations on earth, but no one could be pleased about paying the price of beer or museum entry in Norwegian krone (NOK for short).
Since Oslo is manageable for pedestrians, avoid buying the Oslo Pass. While it offers free entry to 30 museums and attractions, plus travel on all public transport, it costs a hefty $50 for 24 hours.
Better yet, visit Oslo’s Botanical Garden on foot. Stroll the lovely grounds that contain a palm house, a greenhouse, manor house, scent garden, and sculpture garden. Stop for a bite in a garden adorned with ornamental flowers.
Arlanda Airport is a good long way out of town, so the first challenge is getting into town at a reasonable cost. Avoid the Arlanda Express train and take Flygbussarna bus at less than half the price.
Stockholm is small enough to be walkable except in bone-chilling wintery weather. To get to Gamla Stan, the lovely Old Town, simply walk over one of the bridges. Or, use the bike public system that provides a card (for under $20) giving access to free unlimited use for three days for journeys up to three hours at a time.
Scandinavian capital cities are notoriously attractive…and pricey. the local currency is linked to the euro, but visitors still need Danish krone in their pockets.
Beer is a way of life in Denmark, said to have more breweries per person than any other nation. If you’d like to try some Tuborg, Carlsberg or Mikkeller, there are much cheaper places than in the Copenhagen bars, cafés and restaurants where prices are typically very high.
Because there aren’t any civic ordinances prohibiting drinking in a public place, your best bet is to buy a six pack at the grocery store and enjoy some pilsner al fresco in a park or perched on a waterfront bench.
Learn how to reserve a free guided walking tour in this friendly, open city filled with excellent English speaking residents. An enthusiastic, genuine Amsterdammer is pleased to show you around on a pay-what-you-like basis. Reserve ahead (there could be a small booking fee of about $2 per person) to secure a place and cancel up to 24 hours in advance without penalty.
Choose from four or five tour companies. Classic walking tours are two to three hours, beginning in easy-to-find Dam Square at the National Monument. Visit the Red Light District, go past the Anne Frank House, spot the museums to return later, check out the narrowest house in Europe and the city’s widest canal bridge.
Venice is all about the water, of course. If you’re eager to experience the magical city from a boat, don’t be tempted by Venetian gondoliers. The vessels are lovely to look at but ridiculously expensive to a board. Instead, tour the city by vaparetto, spending under $2 for a 75-minute ride or $16 for 10 rides.
Nineteen scheduled waterbus routes ply the Grand Canal, the main canals and nearby islands such as Murano, Burano, and the Lido. Catch the “big show” No. 1 vaporetto to go up and down the Grand Canal, stopping briefly in each of the six sestiere, or neighborhoods, where you can disembark or carry on full circle.
Travel by night on the vaparetto (Route N) for magnificent views of Venetian palazzos lining the Giudecca and for peeks at occasional interiors sparkling under priceless crystal chandeliers.
Skip the Vatican Museums and visit the spectacular Pantheon for free. The large crowds and lengthy queues in St. Peter’s Square that build from daybreak may be enough to convince you about the merits of this alternative.
Due to Rome’s surfeit of cultural draws, the ancient Pantheon is one of Europe’s most under-appreciated sites. Yet, the former Greek temple built for Emperor Hadrian in about 125 AD stands as the best preserved ancient Roman building. Nearly as old as the Colosseum, yet still perfect in every detail,
the Pantheon is the only structure of its age and size to survive intact with all its splendor. Topped by the world’s largest unsupported dome, it surpasses the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Free Paris museum days are rare, but two famous cemeteries are free and provide extraordinary historical insights to those who wander their green interiors.
Leafy Père Lachaise is the final resting place of guitarist Jim Morrison, whose grave attracts millions of people to the world’s most visited cemetery. The expansive grounds cover more than 100 acres in the 20th arrondissement, a district near the trendy Belleville neighborhood.
Other famous tombstones include Edith Piaf, Maria Callas, Honoré de Balzac, Oscar Wilde, Camille Pissarro, Frédéric Chopin, Colette, Yves Montand , nd Simone Signoret.
In this sprawling capital city, access to extraordinary treasures is free. See Egyptian mummies, the Rosetta Stone, Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.” Know which of London’s national museums are admission-free? (Hint: all of them!)
Visit vast permanent collections in the British Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, Natural History Museum, National Gallery, Science Museum, Tate Modern and Tate Britain, among others.
The no admission policy introduced in 2001 has nearly tripled attendance, so expect crowds. The intimate Wallace Collection with its interior courtyard café in Manchester Square behind Selfridge’s Oxford Street store is a quieter find.