Where to Find European Hotel Bargains in the Summer: 5 Top Cities

Summer vacations in Europe are very popular for people from nearly every continent. It seems like half the developed world wants to eat gelato, go on a river cruise, or visit the Eiffel Tower on their summer break. Then the Europeans themselves are on the move, especially in August, so it’s not easy finding European hotel bargains in the summer. 

Lisbon view European bargains

It doesn’t have to cost you a small fortune to visit Europe between May and September, however, if you do a little contrarian thinking instead of following the herds. First, if you can go in May or September, any destination will be much less crowded. This is especially true for the greatest hits of travel such as Paris or Amsterdam. Or the top party destinations in Europe such as Berlin and Ibiza.  

If you must travel to Europe between June and the end of August because of school schedules or another reason, then the other strategy to keep prices in check is to go to a city or two that’s not so expensive. There’s a perception that the whole continent is pricey, but that’s not true. Norway and Switzerland have a far different price structure than Bulgaria or Hungary and there are fantastic cities that could keep you occupied for weeks that cost half of what you’d spend in Amsterdam. 

As the author of The World’s Cheapest Destinations book, now in its 5th edition, I know a thing or two about where the bargains are. Based on my own findings as well as those from number-crunching researchers who have published articles elsewhere, here are five cities to consider where lodging prices will be lower than you’ll find in your average American or Canadian city. 

Budapest

Budapest, Danube River and Szechenyi Chain Bridge and Gresham Palace

Many travelers all along the budget spectrum mention Budapest as one of their favorite European cities. Interesting architecture, interesting food, and a great location on the Danube River make this an attractive city to spend some time in. That river brings in a lot of cruisers, so it does get crowded in the summer, but they’re headed back to their boat at night so hotels stay reasonably priced. 

Budapest has good flight connections and good train connections, so it’s easy to combine a trip here with other capital cities in Europe. I once took an overnight train and woke up in Transylvania. Another time I took a train to the wine region of the Czech Republic from here: Moravia. Plus not many tourists explore the rest of Hungary. If you do that, you’ll definitely get away from the crowds. 

Sure, you can spend a fortune if you want, especially if you’re staying at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace, but the bill won’t sting much at the grand Corinthia Hotel we reviewed, going for under $200 as I write this, or the 20+ hotels in the center listed for less than $150 per night in June. 

Sofia

Sofia Moon hotel room

Sofia has long been the European capital city that almost nobody seems to write about, but I’ve been there three times now and each time it gets more attractive. These days, Sofia is worth visiting for sure, especially if you’re on your way to a hiking destination or the beach area of Varna.

It’s on several train routes to other cities and WizzAir connects it to a lot of other capitals for cheap. I even flew direct once from Malaga, Spain to Sofia for less than a hundred bucks, including luggage. 

If you like the idea of eating and drinking to your heart’s content without worrying about what it’s going to cost, Sofia will make you feel like you’re rich even if you aren’t. The local transit system is one of the best in Europe, getting you from place-to-place on the metro, tram system, or a nice bus for less than a dollar. You just swipe your debit or credit card and you’re off. 

As I write this, the gorgeous Moon Boutique Hotel I reviewed here is $126 double with breakfast included, the Sofia Hilton I stayed at once I got for 30K points, and Booking.com currently lists 28 Sofia Hotels that are $50 or less per night. 

Istanbul

Istanbul European hotel bargain

Turkey has been in a heap of trouble the past few years, with its wannabe dictator-for-life totally wrecking the economy with fiscal policies that have kept some of the world’s highest inflation rolling for years. At the beginning of 2020, the exchange rate was 6 Turkish lira to the U.S. dollar. Now it’s 33 to the dollar. 

An exchange rate plunge doesn’t always translate to cheaper hotel prices since the country will inevitably start listing rates in a hard currency instead of their own. Istanbul was a good value before all of these troubles, however, and it certainly is today. You can easily find a variety of 2-star and 3-star hotels for under $100, including international chain hotels. 

With Istanbul having one of the world’s greatest concentrations of historic sites to visit, many of them within walking distance of each other, this is a great destination to visit or to combine with other European cities. Its flagship carrier, Turkish Air, flies to more destinations than any other airline. 

Lisbon

entrance of the Corinthia hotel lisbon

It seems like half the articles about Lisbon the past few years have been about how foreign remote workers are taking over and driving up prices, but the narrative is often overblown and the capital of Portugal remains the best value in Western Europe. Prices here are still half what you’ll spend in the most expensive cities to the north and you’ll get a lot more for your money when it’s time to go out and eat too. Or order a bottle of wine. 

TAP Portugal is based here and has plenty of incoming flights, plus Lisbon is served by many budget airlines and has a lot of flights that stop in Madrid first on Iberia. You can also get to it from Spain by bus or train. 

When I pulled up dates in June for Lisbon on Expedia, I found 168 hotels going for $150 or less per night, including some international chain hotels under $100. 

Berlin

Hotel de Rome Berlin Junior Suite

Berlin appeals to partying college kids and retirees traveling the world alike. It’s a center for the arts, music, and dance, plus you’ve got the whole odd history of communism when it was a divided city. It’s now Germany’s capital again and is one of the best choices for European hotel bargains. 

Berlin is also one of the easiest cities to get to in Europe, well-connected by Lufthansa, budget airlines, and train systems. So again, this is an easy city to include on a multi-city tour of Europe. If your flight is headed to Frankfurt or Munich instead because the fare is better, just hop a train to visit Berlin as well. 

When I searched June dates for Berlin on Booking.com, I found 78 hotels going for $99 or less per night, many of them in prime locations near tourist attractions. Bump the budget up a little more and you can find ones we’ve reviewed like the ibis Berlin Kurfuerstendamm ($119 when we checked) or the nHow Berlin design hotel ($148). Prices are a deal at the high-end, with brands like Intercontinental, Marriott Luxury Collection, and Grand Hyatt listing for under $300. 

How about you? Where have you found great European hotel bargains?

2 Comments

  1. Buzzy Gordon May 26, 2024
  2. Tim Leffel May 28, 2024

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