Europe, it’s truly one of the most magical and beautiful parts of the world. There’s the old world beauty of Paris, the stately grandeur of London, and the unforgettable beaches of the Mediterranean.
Unfortunately, many European cities can cost a pretty penny (Euro penny, that is), making travel difficult for some seniors living on a budget. But those with a little travel savvy know that there are many great parts of Europe that are still affordable, and offer experiences that will rival or even best the classic destinations. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of these fantastic destinations across the whole continent, and learn a few neat tricks to make sure getting there is cheap and easy as well.
Let’s start our eurotrip off with one of the biggest names out there – Berlin, Germany.
Just because we’re travelling on a budget, doesn’t mean we can’t get cultural and historical amenities on the scale of London and Paris. While those two cities have become obscenely expensive, Berlin has managed to retain most of its downmarket charm, all while conveniently staying in the Eurozone.
Don’t believe us? Well, Numbeo.com’s cost of living calculator proves that Berlin is a whopping 30% less expensive than London.
So what are the best things to do with those savings? We’d say make use of all of Berlin’s amazing museums! While the city is filled with hundreds of world class museums and galleries, we’ve got some favorites, including the Hamburger Bahnhof: an amazing contemporary art museum located in a beautiful former train station, and the very Germanic Museum for Architectural Drawing.
Of course, no visit to Germany would be complete without touching on the country’s dark history, and there are a number of powerful institutions that will assist you with this. The DDR Museum and the Stasi Museum offer looks into the workings of old East Germany, and its espionage activities, respectively. The Jewish Museum and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe offer two very powerful insights into Jewish experience in Germany, and the tragedy of the holocaust.
Next, there’s the East Side Gallery, a 1.3 kilometer long section of the former Berlin Wall. Just as it stood as an amazing graffiti art project during the time it divided Berlin in two, it continues to be an eye-catching mecca for street art, all visible completely free of charge.
All this museuming will leave you hungry, so cap your adventure off with a visit to the Currywurst Musuem, and sample many varieties of the city’s most famous food. Best of all, Berlin’s U-Bahn and S-Bahn train systems cover the entire city, so you’ll be able to get around from destination to destination with an affordable multi-day pass that also gets you discounts on many of the city’s tourist highlights.
So as they say in Germany, auf widersehen!
Our next destination is also in the Eurozone, but has a decidedly different climate. While many head to Italy for warm weather, delicious food & wine, and millennia of history, they quickly find their pocketbooks drained.
Instead, head to Greece, a land so rich with history that many of its amazing archeological sites were already considered ancient history during the time that Rome ruled the earth. While an amazing meal and wine may set you back at least $30 in Italy, you’ll find you can have that same experience in Greece for under $10.
Consider starting off in Athens, the country’s charmingly chaotic capital. Ever since investing billions for the 2004 Olympics, getting around town has become a lot simpler for tourists, meaning you can easily access must-see sights like the Parthenon, the Ancient Agora, and the National Archeological Museum.
Once you’ve had your fill of the city, head to the coast!
Greece is full of many amazing and affordable beaches, both on the mainland and separate islands. Mykonos and its surrounding islands are renowned for their warm water, beautiful sand, lush sunsets, and laid back vibes. Or save yourself the ferry fare and head to somewhere like Corinth, where you’ll have your choice of beaches on both sides of the country’s narrow isthmus, as well as more ancient historical sites to keep your mind full of wonder.
If you want to stretch your savings even further, look to a country that doesn’t use the Euro. We heartily recommend the Czech Republic, especially its fairytale like capital of Prague. People of all ages will love strolling the historic Old Town Square (featuring the world’s oldest operating astronomical clock), or crossing the Charles Bridge, first built in 1357.
Anywhere you look you’ll see the country’s rich history, including the Vyšehrad (good luck pronouncing that!), a beautiful historic castle on a hill overlooking the Vltava River. For an only slightly less ancient castle, head to Prague Castle, home of the country’s president, and the largest castle in the ancient world. Next, mix your state with some church, and take a look at the breathtaking St. Vitus Cathedral, first founded over a millenia ago.
If those are enough historical sites for you, Prague has some great modern offerings as well. The Dancing House, an amazing contemporary structure designed by the world renowned Frank Gehry, is a feast for the eyes, and completely free to view. And for those that still love The Beatles, don’t forget to stop by the lovely Lennon Wall, a free artistic tribute to the late, great John Lennon.
Looking for a beach getaway that’s even more affordable than Greece? Then head to Croatia, a European country that, like the Czech Republic, hasn’t yet adopted the Euro. This means you can head to historic beach towns like Dubrovnik, and still manage to snag a high amenity, well located hotel for under $100 per night. Renowned as “the Mediterranean as it once was,” you’ll find this to be a quiet getaway, with many hotels having their own private beaches, all with crystal clear water and warm waves lapping at your feet.
The country is lined with hundreds of other amazing beaches, such as Zlatni Rat (meaning “golden horn”) or the island of Rab. While some locales may become a bit hectic with nightlife, such as Zrće, for the most part you’ll find every inch of sand to be more enjoyable than the last.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of the sea, head inland to Zagreb, the country’s capital. While the city might not have the most name recognition, you’ll quickly find it to have an unexpectedly rich history, as it dates back to the first century, and is adorned with many historic sites and wonderful museums. The Museum of Contemporary Art is especially well regarded, while the Museum of Broken Relationships is a humorous testament to the frailties of love, and something unique to only Zagreb.
These destinations may all be affordable and senior friendly, but what about getting there?
Depending on which country (or countries) you choose to visit, a rail pass can be quite affordable, starting at under $100 for multiple uses within a month. Europe is also rife with discount airlines, such as Ryanair and Easyjet.
While these airlines may have some amazingly cheap fares (for example, you can fly Ryanair from Athens to Berlin for under €20,) they might not be the most senior friendly, as they contain very narrow aisles / seats, and like to trick you with hidden fees and upcharges. So, make sure to do your research before you book a flight with them, or stick to the wide aisles and low hassles of train travel.
Getting to Europe is also surprisingly inexpensive right now, thanks in part to lower oil prices. While this means traditional carriers are offering lower fares, we also recommend checking out a new carrier: Wow Air. If you book far enough in advance, they’re offering deals as low as $400 round-trip from America to Europe. They may not serve every city yet, but if you live near LA, SF, DC, or Boston, they’re worth checking out as an affordable way to cross the Atlantic.
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