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Your European Vacation Just Got Cheaper: 8 Ways to Explore a Now-Cheaper Europe

02/02/2015 07:20 pm ET | Updated Apr 04, 2015

Enjoy Europe for less nowEnjoy Europe for less now!

You know what's the best thing when you're a budget-conscious traveler? When something happens that makes your entire trip cheaper, without you having to change a single thing on your itinerary. That something, in this case, is a steep drop in the value of the euro, making European trips cheaper than they've been since 2003.

As of this writing, the euro is valued at just over $1.13, with some experts predicting it'll drop below $1.10 by the end of 2015. The euro's peak value was around $1.60 back in 2008, but even as of May of last year, it was valued at just shy of $1.40. That's a 19-percent drop in less than eight months.

All of this is due to the European Central Bank's efforts to stabilize the eurozone economy. You don't have to understand the complex financial news or even all of the numbers listed above, however, to know that your trip to Europe this year just got a lot cheaper -- and you didn't have to do a thing.

Here are eight ways to explore a now-much-cheaper Europe -- plus splurge-worthy experiences that are more affordable now that you're saving money on other parts of your trip.

Head to the Eiffel Tower!Head to the Eiffel Tower!

The Grand Tour: Paris, Rome, Madrid

If the value of the euro is a throwback to the past, then your itinerary can be too. Take your own Grand Tour like wealthy 17th- and 18th-century Europeans did -- only now you don't need to be wealthy.

Start in Paris, as most travelers did after leaving England. Look over this timeless city from the Eiffel Tower, soak in the artistic heritage of the Louvre, and gobble up as many baguettes with brie as you can get your hands on. Head south to Rome to bask in the glory of a once-great empire, see more artistic masterpieces at the Vatican Museums, and eat your weight in gelato. And because you're not limited to 17th-century transportation, you can easily move on to the Spanish capital of Madrid to see 20th-century masters on display at the Reina Sofia Museum, watch a flamenco show, and sample the patatas bravas in every bar. It's an even grander tour when you realize how much you're saving.

Splurge While You Save

Take a VIP tour of Versailles, including a private viewing of the Royal Quarters, as a day trip from Paris. It's a close-up view of old-school luxury befitting of any Grand Tour.

Go Greek island hoppingGo Greek island hopping!

Mediterranean Island Hopping: Greece and Malta

The phrase "island hopping" usually conjures the "ka-ching!" of cash registers, but the current value of the euro means you can have a luxury island experience for a lot less.

Greece is an ideal spot for island hopping, as there are thousands of islands in the country. Visit the well-known islands of Mykonos and Santorini in the Cyclades, Corfu in the Ionion Islands, or any number of other islands. It's easy to get from one to the other by boat for a leisurely trip. You'll enjoy the glorious Mediterranean sun with a backdrop of Greece's famous whitewashed and blue-domed buildings.

You could also choose to hop between the seven islands of Malta on the opposite side of the Italian peninsula, visiting its UNESCO World Heritage Sites and prehistoric temples in between hours spent at the beaches.

Splurge While You Save

In the ancient capital of Athens, get an exclusive tour of the Acropolis and New Acropolis Museum followed by an authentic Greek dinner. Enjoy unforgettable Acropolis views while you dine, and try to wrap your head around so much history.

Explore the Iberian PeninsulaExplore the Iberian Peninsula!

The Iberian Peninsula: Lisbon, Porto, Madrid, Barcelona

Most of us can find Spain on a map, but not everyone knows that the peninsula in which Spain is found is called the Iberian Peninsula -- or that there's a often-forgotten country tucked into its western side.

Portugal has long been touted as one of Western Europe's more affordable countries, and that's even truer with the current value of the euro. Climb Lisbon's seven red-roofed hills to look over the river of the capital city, perhaps taking in a fado show. Head north to Porto to sample the fortified wine that shares the city's name and enjoy the scenic beauty of the Douro Valley.

If Spain is more to your taste, you can make a beeline for the bustling capital of Madrid with its world-class art museums, flamenco dancers, and legendary bullfighting traditions. You could also choose the seaside gem of Barcelona to absorb Catalan culture, nibble on tapas, and stroll Las Ramblas. No matter where you end up, the Iberian Peninsula won't disappoint -- or, at least right now, drain your wallet.

Splurge While You Save

Get to know a truly distinctive cityscape with an exclusive architecture walking tour in Barcelona. An educational tour like this is like the most fascinating college class you've ever had.

Eat your way through EuropeEat your way through Europe!

A Gastronomic Tour of France:  Paris, Normandy, Burgundy, Lyon, Provence

France doesn't require visitors to be foodies upon arrival -- instead, it converts everyone by the end of a trip. No matter where you go in the country, you can revel in the culinary bounty.

In the northwest region of Normandy, you'll feast on scallops and oysters, spread camembert on your bread, and wash it all down with cider and Calvados. Wine lovers would be clever to go to the Burgundy region, famous for the eponymous wine, but don't overlook the food -- including several smoked meats and cheeses. Lyon has long been thought of as the capital of French haute cuisine, and even its working-class cafe culture is not to be missed. Provence's southern location offers a variety of citrus and other fruits, as well as olive oil, seafood, and the anise aperitif Pastis.

Winding up a gastronomic tour of France in Paris gives you a chance to try some of the world's best Michelin-starred restaurants in one of the world's most beautiful cities.

Splurge While You Save

Indulge in a full-day gourmet experience with a Paris food tour, including charcuterie, pastries, wine tasting, and lunch. You'll explore a typical market, sample the city's best chocolate, and learn about French wine from a sommelier.

Germany has so many beautiful sightsGermany has so many beautiful sights.

Germany's Past and Present: Berlin, Munich, Romantic Road, the Rhine

In some parts of Germany, you can effectively look back in time through historic monuments and traditions. In other parts of the country, you can almost see it changing before your eyes.

Visitors to Munich love its old-world style -- not to mention its beer, even if it's not Oktoberfest. The famous Rhine River region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to quaint villages and old cathedrals. Southern Germany's so-called "Romantic Road," stretching from Würzburg and Füssen, is a parade of ancient castles and spectacular scenery. This is the land of the fabled Neuschwanstein, the inspiration for the Disney castle.

Berlin is truly a city of neighborhoods, reflecting its not-so-distant past as a divided city. It's one of the most rapidly changing places in Europe, and yet the city's history is on display everywhere you look -- from old royal palaces to the remnants of the Berlin Wall. This is a city that is still evolving, and never dull.

Splurge While You Save

Ease into southern Germany with a three-day tour of the Romantic Road, from Munich to Frankfurt. You'll visit castles, enjoy scenic drives, and see Europe's most perfectly preserved medieval town.

Take a Sound of Music tour while in AustriaTake a Sound of Music tour while in Austria!

Eastern Europe: Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia

In the early days of the euro, Eastern Europe was where budget-conscious travelers went to escape the unfavorable exchange rate. Today, even though more Eastern European countries are part of the eurozone, it's still a comparative bargain -- especially now.

The tiny country of Austria looms large in terms of historical reach, and it's a boon for outdoorsy travelers in any season. Skiing and hiking are national pastimes, followed closely by music and cake. Slovenia, part of the former Yugoslavia, still flies under the radar of most travelers, despite its stunning natural beauty. Parts of the country still feel a bit like the Venetian Republic, and there's a small stretch of Slovenia on the Adriatic Sea.

Tourists flock to Prague and the Czech Republic, but Slovakia -- the other half of the former Czechoslovakia -- often gets overlooked. Bratislava is a beautiful capital city, and the rest of the country is largely made up of picturesque forests and villages stuck in time.

Splurge While You Save

Find out more about the real-life family behind the movie phenomenon with an exclusive Sound of Music private tour, including breakfast at Schloss Leopoldskron. The grounds of the rococo palace in Salzburg were the setting for many of the film's scenes.

Sample Italy's finestSample Italy's finest!

Eat Your Way Around Italy: Bologna, Rome, Florence, Naples

Most of us think we know Italian food because it's available all over the world. What you don't realize until you get to Italy is how regional the cuisine is -- which makes eating your way around the country that much more educational and fun.

Bologna is considered by many to be Italy's culinary capital. It's the birthplace of the rich and meaty bolognese sauce and tortellini pasta, and both prosciutto and parmigiano-reggiano come from the surrounding region. Florence is home to some of the best (and biggest) steaks you'll ever see -- the bistecca fiorentina -- and Tuscany's famously salt-free bread. It's also where many people think you'll get Italy's best gelato. Rome is home to plenty of haute cuisine restaurants, but some of its best dishes are the traditional ones served up in the Testaccio neighborhood (where the slaughterhouses once were). Don't miss the Jewish artichokes in the spring.

Naples is responsible for Italy's most ubiquitous culinary export -- pizza. It's still the best place in Italy in which to eat pizza, but it's also famous for its pasta, pastries, and sweet coffee. In short, Naples is foodie paradise. What's more, a famous Neapolitan pizza is only a few euro -- a bargain in just about any economy.

Splurge While You Save

The simplicity of Italian cuisine means it's actually pretty easy to duplicate great dishes at home -- especially if you enroll in a cooking class in Italy. Of course, if you'd rather focus on eating, you can sign up for an exclusive breakfast at the Vatican before early access to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.

Emerald Isle: Dublin, Belfast

Ireland earns its nickname as the "Emerald Isle" over and over again, almost no matter where you look. You might have to put up with a little rain, but it's worth it.

The gorgeous historic center of Dublin is cut in two by a river, and it's exceedingly walkable and welcoming. It's a city that embraces its literary past, celebrates its musical present, and marries sedate old buildings with a modern flair for partying like no other city. You can explore the green countryside easily too, with a day trip to the famous Cliffs of Moher, or a longer trip to see the impossibly picturesque Ring of Kerry.

Head for Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, for a completely different look at the Emerald Isle. Learn about the city's fascinating (and sad) recent history, and enjoy how peaceful Belfast is today. Dive into the history of the Titanic, which set sail from Belfast on its fateful 1912 voyage. Get out into Northern Ireland's green heart with a day trip to the Giant's Causeway.

Splurge While You Save

Fans of the Game of Thrones series won't want to miss a private Game of Thrones and Giant's Causeway Tour from Belfast, visiting several key filming locations -- including the cave where Melisandre gave birth to a shadow.

All photos courtesy of Viator