By Gloria Atanmo for the CheapTickets Travel Blog
If you're looking in the mirror and wondering when it's time you finally take the plunge and book your first trip overseas to Europe, then yes, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, you're the smartest of them all!"
2015 is definitely THE year to travel.
While the strength of the U.S. dollar increases, you're literally getting more bang for your buck. The Euro is down and that means all of your European expenses subsequently are too! Things that take up a majority of your traveling expenses such as transportation, accommodation and food will all be less than it was last year.
The exchange rate is in your favor, America.
Now that you've picked a date, and you're all set for your first European getaway, I've compiled a list of the cheapest destinations that I've experienced while gallivanting through this amazing continent. While there are plenty more suitable candidates, these are the ones I enjoyed the most.
5. Nice, France
This gorgeous coastal city on the French Riviera is not only a €4 train ride away from Monaco (which hello, who doesn't want to go there for a quick day trip to drool over things you can't afford and breathe the same oxygen as the affluent), but it's also incredibly scenic. From the hilltop views, to the promenade, your camera will be in Heaven. With the varied cuisine, you can easily eat well for under €10 a meal.
The view of the Promenade from Castle Hill!
4. Granada, Spain
Granada is one of the few cities where you get free tapas with your drinks! I'll say that again -- FREE TAPAS! Quick reminder, tapas are mini portions of food to satisfy temporary cravings. We call them appetizers in America.
These tapas can range from plates of rice, to croquettes, to a large meatball, and other variations of Spanish-influenced foods.
So your beer, which is already €1 on average, now comes with a plate of rice. So for the whopping price of €2, you could have two drinks and two plates of food. There are some places who even increase the portion and amount of food with every drink you purchase. Seriously Granada, you're a walking dream for a budgeter's heart. Get over here and let me love you.
Enjoying my large meatball and bread!
3. Athens, Greece
Despite what the news outlets want you to think about the whole situation with Greece's debt and failing economy, think about it, they need tourism now more than ever! So please don't let the media scare you into thinking you should avoid Greece by any means!
Athens, despite its graffiti-filled alleys and streets, is still one of the most historically-beautiful cities the European continent has to offer, and if you're looking for ways to support their economy, then come and spend your dollars here! As many banks are temporarily out of business, just be sure to have enough cash on you to last you through your time there. That being said, always stay alert for pickpockets! You can read more tips about that in general here.
P.S. Gyros will be your best friend.
Standing atop of Acropolis Hill after having a glass of wine or 5.
2. Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon just might be my favorite city in Europe. I'm in denial because my heart belongs to Barcelona, where I lived for an entire year. But Lisbon truly has it all. The food, museums, and free open air festivals make it such an attractive city for your wallet.
There are also gorgeous baths, markets, and parks to really experience an authentic atmosphere. The people are super friendly and even though you won't know a lick of Portuguese, your eyes won't have any problems reading all the prices under €5 that you'll see on the menu.
1. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona, Barthelona. Oh how you have my heart. Barcelona is a top destination for Erasmus students, gap years, vacationers, and everyone else in between because of its wide variety of everything from affordable living to free Wi-Fi in most public parks and streets.
Barcelona does a great job of looking out for its tourists. After all, they do make up a large percentage of their economy, so they find ways to accommodate and cater to their needs.
While this may include street vendors selling you €1 cans of beer to casually drink on the metro before arriving to the local bodega or free concerts in parks, you can always count on a city like Barcelona to make an extremely fun, affordable, and unforgettable getaway when crossing the Atlantic. Every day feels like a walk through a museum as you take in the gorgeous scenery from the architectural genius of Antoni Gaudí, whether at La Sagrada Familia or strolling through Park Guell.
Barcelona is simply NOT to be missed!
The view from the top of Montjuïc!