Five bargain short-haul breaks
Krakow topped our European city survey with its Renaissance palaces and Baroque churches on every corner, not to mention alfresco coffee shops strewn on cobblestone streets.
But the best bit? Krakow continues to resist the urge to shake down visitors with extortionate prices. The Eastern European favourite was the only city in our survey to score the full five stars for value for money.
Not only is the average hotel room just £63 per night, but eating out is also a steal. Avoid the main square rip offs and you'll get a good meal for less than a tenner, and a pint of beer for £2.
Often overlooked by tourists planning their Italian itineraries, beautiful Bologna is an inexpensive stay.
Served by cheap flights and home to Europe’s oldest university, the city is priced to cater to its student population. Here, affable locals flock to affordable bars tucked down centuries-old lanes lined with medieval architecture.
The real highlight though is its food. Bologna is the birthplace of tortellini, mortadella (spiced pork sausage), and tagliatelle al ragù (don’t try to order our second-rate copy, spaghetti Bolognese) with restaurants, delis and markets offering some of the very finest cuisine in all of Italy. So go ahead and indulge in the Emilia-Romagna region’s mouth-watering dishes without the eye-watering prices found in Rome, Florence or Venice.
Straddling the Danube, Budapest is a firm favourite with Which? Travel readers - scoring an impressive 89% in our European city survey, and rightly so.
Budapest offers plenty of things to do for free, like strolling down the picturesque river banks and admiring its turn-of-the-century mansions and imperial architecture. Its grand cafés and trendy ‘ruin’ bars (literally built in the ruins of abandoned buildings) are reasonably priced too, with a glass of wine starting at £2.50.
An undoubted highlight of any trip to Budapest is the Széchenyi Thermal Bath. Open since 1913, this palatial spa is one of the largest in Europe and takes opulence to another level with its wedding cake columns and sun-terrace tiers, dotted by 16 picturesque pools each heated to a different temperature. Entry is just £14 for the whole day, while a relaxing massage will set you back £32 for 45 minutes - especially good value given the salubrious, neo-baroque setting.
In the Atlantic Ocean some 1,000km from mainland Portugal, the island of Madeira has attracted British visitors for hundreds of years. It’s popular with Which? members too, who gave it a city score of 85%.
The undulating capital is a lovely base from which to explore both the city and the island itself, with its many walking trails.
Our readers rated it a very respectable four stars for value for money, no doubt because of the island’s host of free attractions - including the cathedral, beaches, museums, churches, parks and municipal gardens. Better still a pint of beer will set you back just £1.65, while a three-course dinner for two including wine will leave you change from £40. Now that should really should put the fun in Funchal.
One of 2018’s European Capitals of Culture, Valletta may be compact but it is utterly crammed with historic architecture and attractions. Which? members, who came to gawp at its 16th century facades, awarded the city a score of 83%.
Being such a tiny city, Valletta is just the right size for a long weekend - and it’s just the right price too. The average evening out will cost you 20% less than it would in London, with transportation a whopping 60% cheaper too.
Some of the city’s best-loved attractions are its public gardens, which are free to explore: Upper Barrakka Gardens is a perennial favourite because of its impressive views over the Grand Harbour.