Ghent, Belgium is a port city in northwest Belgium where the Leie and Scheldt rivers meet. This city feels more like a quaint small town with very pretty and well preserved architecture. Similar to many other western European cities, Ghent can be quite expensive to visit. However, done correctly, you can visit Ghent, Belgium on a budget. We recommend spending 1-2 days here. Here is our quick guide on Ghent, Belgium on a budget.
Note: This post is written based on a trip taken in early April
What to do in Ghent
Free Walking City Tour
This tour is by far the best walking tour–paid for or free–that we have gone on. We have gone on HEAPS of walking tours so this says a lot. Our guide was funny, entertaining, informative and engaging. If you only do one thing in Ghent, do this.
We did not book this beforehand and just showed up to it but you can book it in advance. Make sure to tip your guide well at the end if you enjoy it like we did.
In Ghent, it seems like there is a church on every corner you turn. The most famous is St. Bavo’s Cathedral that houses the famous Ghent Altarpiece. We paid a small fee to see this up close and have an audio tour of the art piece.
Go to a local brewery
We went to the local Gruut Brewery while in Ghent. This small brewery had very funky decor, fun staff and a very local feel. If you are not feeling a brewery stop, consider hitting up one of the many bars with ample choices of delicious Belgian beers.
See the Gravensteen Castle
The Gravensteen Castle is a 12th century castle with medieval architecture. You can take a tour here. With the amount of time we had, we opted not to take the tour but it was neat to see, even just from the outside.
Where to Eat in Ghent
Sample different local cuisine near the main Ghent square
We ate at the Holy Food Market, a market in a restored church, that had a lot of local options. Unfortunately, this place has closed since we were in Ghent in 2018 but we think you could get a similar experience by restaurant hopping in/around the square. Some of our favorite foods in Ghent included croquettes, frites and waffles.
Where to Stay in Ghent
Stay within walking distance of the main Ghent Square
We stayed at Monastery Hotel and would recommend it. We actually had booked another hotel but that hotel was accidentally overbooked so we ended up at Monasterium PoortAckere and it was a pleasant surprise. This hotel was a former 19th century monastery and has its own chapel. The architecture inside the hotel makes it one of the most unique places we have ever stayed for the night.
Paris is one of the most romantic and elegant European cities. Whether you’re watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle under the night sky or eating a fresh pastry at one of the many local cafes amongst the surrounding iconic architecture, you will feel the magic of this city. Despite being one of the most distinguished cities in the world, you can visit Paris, France on a budget easily. We recommend spending at least 3 days here. Here is our quick guide on what to do when visiting Paris, France on a budget.
Note: This post is written based on a trip taken in early April
What to do in Paris on a Budget
Que the cliché but the Eiffel tower is truly magnificent to behold. See the Eiffel tower at as many different times of day as possible. Our favorite was when it was lit up and sparkling at night. It was truly magical! We also really enjoyed going up to the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower and seeing the panoramic views of the city.
Tip: Go here early in the morning to enjoy the Eiffel Tower without the crowds. We stayed near the Eiffel Tower, and we really enjoyed jogging around the tower/surrounding park in the morning when we were some of the only people there.And guess what? This was completely free!
Next, go see the world’s largest, and arguably most iconic, art museum–the Louvre. The Mona Lisa is housed here amongst many other iconic pieces of art. You can literally get lost here (we actually did) but that is part of the fun. Sam also likes to try to be the art (see pictures below). The unique iconic architecture outside of the museum is not to be missed either.
Tip: Make sure to check to see what days the Louvre Museum is open before you visit. The museum was closed on Wednesdays when we were visiting and we were glad to know this prior to arriving so we were able plan out seeing the rest of the city accordingly.
Notre Dame Cathedral
After seeing the Eiffel Tower and Louvre, make a stop at Notre Dame Cathedral. This Cathedral is really a stunning piece of iconic architecture. Unfortunately, the Cathedral was damaged by a fire in April 2019 since our visit but restoration is underworks. This should be completed by Summer 2024. This cathedral was very impressive and even with the damage, we would still recommend a visit here.
Explore city by foot
On a nice day, this is a great way to see the city. Walk along the Seine river and use this landmark as your home base for navigation. If walking the city (it is quite large!) is not your cup of tea, there are plenty of bus tours that you can book to see the whole city in a day. Make sure to see the Arc de Triomphe, Jardin du Palais-Royal and the Luxembourg Gardens in addition to all the sites above!
What to eat in Paris on a Budget
Bread, bread, bread!
After exploring the city by foot, you’ll certainly be hungry and have plenty of an appetite to try some fresh French bread and pastries. These baked goods here are really unmatched in taste. Sample a couple everyday and find your favorite!
Sam loved these and tried as many as possible during our time in Paris. There are little shops and stands all over the city that sell these. We highly recommend chocolate or nutella filling!
Where to Stay in Paris on a Budget
Stay near the Eiffel tower. We stayed at Hotel Eiffel Rive Gauche near the Eiffel Tower and recommend it. It was nice to be able to run or walk around Eiffel tower park in the morning. This hotel is also within walking distance from most of the other major attractions. The rooms were quite chic and as always, it was budget friendly.
Bonus: Your stay at this hotel includes a complimentary wine and cheese tasting every afternoon. Being from Wisconsin, we are all about a good charcuterie board.
We hope this post helps you plan your trip to Paris on a budget. Anything else you’d add to our guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Leave us a comment.
Tip: Consider visiting London while you are in Paris. There is a high speed train that can get you there in under 2.5 hours! See our London, England Quick Guide for more tips on visiting London.
We loved Lisbon, Portugal! This city is beautiful with all the different patterned cobblestone streets, colorful buildings and design tile work. We enjoyed exploring the city by foot as well as eating the freshest seafood and most delightful desserts. You can take in the beauty of Lisbon, Portugal on a budget too as most of the attractions are completely free. We recommend spending at least 3 days in Lisbon. Here is our guide on what to do when visiting Lisbon, Portugal on a budget.
Note: This post is written based on a trip taken in early March
What to do in Lisbon on a Budget
Explore the Alfama District by foot
This area is the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon. The cobblestone streets and labyrinthine alleyways give it a very unique feel. The streets here are full of shops selling traditional crafts and food.
The area overlooking the Tagus river is filled with traditional white buildings with ionic orange roofs. Some of the best views of the city are here including Miradouro Das Portas do Sol, a famous viewpoint of the city.
Fun fact:Different patterns of black and white cobblestone pave most of the pedestrian walkways throughout Lisbon. We counted 25 + different patterns! The picture above features just some of our favorite cobblestone patterns. Challenge: see how many patterns you can find when visiting.Bonus, seeing all these cobblestone patterns is completely free!
Day trip to Belem
Belem is about 5 miles outside of Lisbon’s city center. You can either walk here or take a Tram from the city center. Here you can explore the iconic sites of Padrao dos Descobrimentos (Monument of Discoveries to honor Portugesse explorers who departed from here), Belem Tower (UNESCO World Heritage Site, Built to protect access to Portugal on the Tagus River) and the Monastery of Jeronimos. You also can get Pastel de Nata at the iconic Pastries de Belem (see what/where to eat section below).
Day Trip to Sintra
Sintra is an approximately 40 minute train ride from Lisbon and definitely worth the ride. This magical city is well known for its historic palaces, castles and gardens. The highlight of our trip here was exploring the Pena Palace and hiking in the Sintra Mountains.
We embarked on a steep, very picturesque and green hike through part of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park to get to the Pena Palace located atop of one of the Sintra Mountains. Alternatively, you can take a cab ride to the top of the mountain if hiking is not your idea of a fun time. However, this hike was so pretty (and completely free) so we really recommend you hike if you can.
The Pena Palace is unlike any castle you have ever seen before with its vibrant colors and unique architecture. It was very foggy on the day we visited but this only added to the mystical atmosphere of this countryside castle and city.
On our hike down from the castle, we enjoyed exploring the charming gardens as well as the very expansive and luxurious Sintra estates.
Tip: If you have more time, there are plenty of other attractions to visit in Sintra and you may want to consider making it an overnight trip from Lisbon.
What/Where to eat in Lisbon
Pastel De Nata
Delicious traditional Portuguese egg tart made with a flakey crust. We loved these! There are little shops selling them everywhere in Lisbon.
Our favorite Pastel de Nata experience was at Pastries de Belem where Pastel De Nata originated in Belem. This pastry was created by Catholic Monks in the 18th century to sell and keep the Monastery of Jeronimos open when it was facing closure due to finances.
Mercado da Ribeira
The Mercado de Ribeira or “Time Out ” Market in Lisbon has a variety of local Portugese food stands all within the same building. We enjoyed trying a diverse selection of Portugese food here. We liked this market so much that we ate here twice so we could try more of the food options.
El Rei D. Frango
This location is a hole in the wall restaurant (with maybe 10 tables in total) that we stumbled upon while walking around late one afternoon. The seafood and atmosphere here were really unmatched. This dinner was our favorite meal in Lisbon and we highly recommend eating here! We want to fly back to Lisbon to eat here again.
Tips: This restaurant is cash only so make sure to bring enough to pay. Plan to eat an early dinner unless you do not mind waiting in line outside of the restaurant for a table to open up. There was a line down the street to get in as we were leaving on a Tuesday. We were fortunate to stumble upon this gem!
Restaurant in the Alfama district with an incredible view of the river and the whole city. Here you dine in a rooftop garden and it’s the perfect spot for lunch when the weather is nice. The food and atmosphere were both on point.
Tip: This place is easy to miss because it looks like a gallery from the street. You have to walk through a little gallery and then take a metal spiral staircase to the main dining area.
Sardines & Sangria
To Sam’s delight, Sardines are a delicacy in Portugal and in no short supply. Sardines were even featured on one of our cheese boards. While Sardines were not Natalie’s cup of tea, the fresh Sangria found throughout Lisbon was.
Where to Stay in Lisbon on a Budget
VIP Executive Eden Aparthotel
This hotel was large with no fancy frills but the location and price were great. The rooms were also much bigger than most European hotel rooms and included a small kitchen.
Madrid, Spain’s capital city, is not one to miss. Despite being a modern city, much of the traditional architecture is well maintained. Madrid is also a great stepping stone for a day trip to the unique, quaint and ancient city of Toledo aka the “City of Three Cultures”. We recommend spending at least 2 days here if you plan to take a day trip to Toledo. A trip to Madrid does not need to be pricey and can be done on a budget as well. Here is our guide on visiting Madrid, Spain on a budget.
What to do in Madrid on a Budget
Day Trip to Toledo
If you do one thing while in Madrid, do this. We LOVED our day trip to Toledo. Toledo is only a 30 minute high speed train ride from Madrid. This old city is located on a hilltop, surrounded by the Tagus River on three sides and has a very quaint feel.
It is called the “City of Three Cultures” due to its Jewish, Muslim and Christian influences. The unique architecture that stems from the mixing of these three cultures is definitely worth seeing.
We enjoyed exploring the city streets by foot as well as the Alcazar (Stone Fortification, Army Museum). The best views of the city are from across the river at Mirador del Valle (our first picture is from right before sunset).
Tip: If you spend three days in Madrid, you could also take a day trip to Segovia. We did not have time for this but have heard great things about this city.
Catedral de la Almudena and Palacio Real
Back in Madrid, this Cathedral has a colorful, bright and unique interior. Not your typical dark cathedral and certainly a photographer’s dream!
Right next to the Catedral de la Almudena is Palacio Real. This Palace has 3,418 rooms and is the largest functioning Royal Palace in Europe.
Parque de Retiro
This area is a huge and very pretty park in Madrid. We had this park all to ourselves for an early morning Sunday run. The size and diversity within this park reminded us of Central Park in NYC (see New York City Quick Guide). Though slightly smaller, it is still over 300 acres!
Dear Hotel Rooftop Bar
Great sunset and/or golden hour spot. Grab a drink at the rooftop bar and enjoy the panoramic views of the city.
What/Where to eat in Madrid on a Budget
A very cute tapas bar, only a street or two from Puerta de Sol (the main square in Madrid). This place was recommended to us by one of our friend’s who lived in Madrid for a period of time and we really felt like locals here. The staff were very friendly, the tapas were not only generously portioned but delicious and the atmosphere was really fun. Definitely make a stop here!
Chocolateria San Gines
This cafe specializes in traditional delicious chocolate with churros and has been open since the 1890s. The atmosphere in here feels very traditional.
This delicacy is a very simple yet very delicious dessert. Made out of ground almonds and sugar. Make sure to get some while in Toledo.
Where to Stay in Madrid on a Budget
This accommodation is a very cute bed and breakfast less than 10 minutes from the main square, Puerta de Sol. We were able to walk everywhere we visited in Madrid, including the train station, from this location. The breakfast included was held in a cute main room and was a great start to our days. The front desk staff were also very helpful and kind. We’d highly recommend a stay here!
We hope this post helps you plan your trip to Madrid, Spain on a Budget. Be sure to visit Barcelona while in Spain as well. Anything else you’d add to our guide on visiting Madrid, Spain on a Budget? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Leave us a comment.
London is one of the most influential cities in the world and a must see. Whether you are exploring the iconic city architecture or enjoying tea time, you are sure to love your time in London. We recommend spending at least 3-4 days here, as well as taking a day trip to the countryside while in London. Despite London being one of the most expensive cities in the world, you can visit London, England on a budget. Here is our guide on visiting London, England on a budget.
Note: This post was written based on a trip taken in early April
What to do in London on a Budget
Take a Day Trip to Stonehenge, Oxford and Windsor
This outing was our favorite excursion we did while visiting London. Book a small group tour that departs from London early in the morning and returns to London in the early evening. This link has the specific Stonehenge, Oxford and Windsor Castle tour we recommend taking. Below is a breakdown of visiting each place.
Stonehenge, a ring of very large stones, is a mystical landmark located in southwest England. Although its origins are not well understood, Stonehenge is thought to be most likely an ancient burial ground.
Book a tour, such as the one we did, that allows you to go into the Inner Circle at Stonehenge. Going into the Inner Circle at Stonehenge costs a bit more than a regular tour, but it is completely worth the extra cost. It is very cool to be able to get up close to and walk around the stones before Stonehenge opens to the general public. This allows you to experience the mystical essence of Stonehenge without huge crowds.
Next stop on your tour will be Oxford University. So many famous people have attended or lectured at this school. As our tour guide said “it is just dripping with history”. Walking around the campus gives you a feeling of prestige. The town is also very quaint and picturesque. A guided city/campus tour is included in the trip we recommend and our guide was excellent.
Windsor Castle, located in the town of Windsor, is one of the English royal family’s most famous estates. The areas of the castle you are able to see are very impressive. The architecture and elegant décor makes you feel immersed in English high society. The chapel where the royal weddings occur is very cool to see in-person. Many may have seen this chapel through TV airing of royal weddings, but seeing it in-person is like walking through living history.
Attend Afternoon Tea Time
Traditional afternoon tea is an experience we’d highly recommend having in London. We went to afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason in London and really enjoyed it. Here, we got to try several different teas, tea sandwiches and sweets. Most notably, we ate the BEST scones we have ever tasted here. Tea time was not only delicious but also quite relaxing. The wait staff here are very helpful and kind as well. They will help you choose what teas and foods you may enjoy. Afternoon tea took about 2 hours, so make sure to budget enough time so that you can really enjoy and savor the experience.
Tip: Make a reservation at least two weeks prior to visiting
Visit Iconic London Architecture
Tower Bridge, Parliament, Big Ben Clocktower, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, etc. It is very neat to see the places as they all have exceedingly rich histories and are featured in many different movies/television shows.
These iconic sites are located all throughout the city. We’d recommend mapping out the location of each on Google Maps and then creating a plan to see them all throughout your stay in London. We saw a couple each day based on what was in close proximity to what else we were doing. Tours are offered at many of the locations if you want a guided and more educational experience.
Visit one of the many Public Parks in London
Did you know there are approximately 3000 public parks in London? It certainly surprised us that such a large city had so much designated green space.
We’d recommend going to Green Park, Hyde Garden and St. James Park. These are three of the largest and most centrally located public parks. All of these three parks have very pretty gardens and are a good place to walk around and relax on a nice day. Hyde park was our favorite of these three.
These parks are not a must while in London but definitely worth seeing if you have the time.
What to eat in London on a Budget
Did you know chicken tikka masala is the national dish of England? India was a British Colony for almost 200 years and during that time England learned how to really cook Indian food. We ate Indian food several times in England and were not disappointed once. There are Indian restaurants everywhere in London so we’d recommend going to one conveniently located for you.
A scone is a crumbly British pastry that you spread jam and clotted cream on. As noted above, the best scones we tasted in London were at Fortnum and Mason but there were great tasting scones throughout the city. Try as many different scones as you can while in London!
The Queens Walk, located next to the Thames River and near the London Eye, has heaps of different restaurant and food stand options. The atmosphere throughout this area is very fun here. We had some scrumptious honey cinnamon ice cream and a Mexican Sampler spread along here.
Most importantly, London is a big, diverse city with many different amazing ethnic restaurants. We’d recommend eating whatever you are feeling that day!
Where to Stay in London on a Budget
We’d recommend staying near the London Eye as it is quite centrally located and we were able to walk to all the iconic spots (without having to hassle with using public transportation) in London.
Premier Inn London
We stayed at the Premier Inn London County Hall. This was a big hotel but the location was great and the price was reasonable. It was right along the river too, which made a great running path in the morning.
Killarney is a quaint and charming town in County Kerry on the southwest shore of Ireland. Killarney is a great base to see the beautiful Irish countryside and tour the iconic Ring of Kerry. We’d recommend at least 3 days here to allow you to do an excursion or two from Killarney. Even though Ireland is one of the more expensive countries to visit, you can visit Killarney, Ireland on a reasonable budget. Here is our guide for visiting Killarney, Ireland on a budget.
Note: This post is written based on a trip taken in early July
What to do in Killarney on a Budget
Ring of Kerry Day Tour
The Ring of Kerry is a scenic driving route along the Iveragh Peninsula of southwest Ireland that takes you along the scenic seaside, coastal villages and Killarney National Park. The views on this route exemplify the picturesque and green Ireland you have always imagined.
We recommend taking a guided tour of the Ring of Kerry to see as much as possible and learn some history along the way. We booked a tour that also included hiking up to Bray Head, a popular hill offering scenic coastal views.
The Gap of Dunloe is a narrow pass that separates two mountain ranges (the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range and the Purple mountain range). The hike through the Gap of Dunloe is about 7 miles.
We took a “tour” where we were picked up in the city center of Killarney and then dropped off to hike the Gap of Dunloe at our own pace. Then, we were picked up by a small boat at the end our hike and given a ride on the Gearhameen River. The boat then dropped us off at Ross Castle where we were picked up by a van and returned to the city center of Killarney.
The day we completed this hike, it POURED. The pictures do not do justice to how wet we got from the rain. Despite the pouring rain, this was a beautiful hike and the unrelenting rain made the experience more memorable. The boat ride on the Gearhameen River was very pretty as well and our boat driver, a local Irishman, was quite entertaining. It is certainly an experience we will never forget!
Tip: Bring quality rain gear for any hiking you do in Ireland. More likely than not, it is going to rain at some point during your hike (Ireland is so green because it rains ALL the time). We were not appropriately prepared for this rainy hike (and were quite cold during it) but we have since invested in better waterproof hiking gear. We use and recommend the high quality products below. You will get years of use of of each of these items and they are well worth the investment.
The food here was delicious. They have daily specials and we recommend getting one of those. We enjoyed lamb and a seafood special as our main dishes. We particularly loved the dessert, chocolate caramel brownie, we got here too.
Both lamb and seafood are local specialties and extremely fresh. We ordered both daily at various restaurants. Before we visited Ireland, we were told by numerous people the food was not that good but we disagree. We did not have one bad meal the whole time we were there!
This Lord of the Rings themed bar is one-of-a-kind. If you are a Lord of the Rings fan, stop here for a drink. You can get the signature cocktail ‘Hobbit-Juice’.
Where to stay in Killarney on a Budget
Stay somewhere in Killarney that is close enough to the main drag so that you can walk everywhere
Old Weir Lodge
We stayed at the Old Weir Lodge and would recommend it. Our stay included a generous and traditional made-to-order Irish breakfast that we enjoyed each morning. The lodge and rooms were quaint and cozy as well.
We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Killarney on a budget. Make sure to check our Dublin while in Ireland as well. Anything you’d add to our guide on visiting Killarney, Ireland on a budget? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Please leave us a comment!
There is just something invigorating and intoxicating (and it’s not just the beer) about the atmosphere in Dublin. From the abundant amount of live Irish music and dancing at the pubs to the friendly people you’ll meet on the street, Dublin certainly has its unique charm. We’d recommend 1-2 days here to get a feel for the ambiance. Also, although Ireland is rated as one of the most expensive countries to visit, Dublin can be explored on a budget. Here is our guide on visiting Dublin, Ireland on a budget.
Note: This post is written based on a trip taken in early July
What to do in Dublin on a Budget
Go Pub Hopping
Wander through the city center, going from pub to pub, and get lost listening to the live music at each bar. Make sure to go to the iconic Temple Bar with its daily live music and large whiskey collection for an entertaining time.
Guinness Storehouse Tour
This stop is a self guided tour that will teach you about the history and brewing process of the famous Irish stout, Guinness.
The Guinness Storehouse is designed to look like a pint of Guinness and is seven stories tall
At the end of the tour, on the seventh floor, you can enjoy a pint of Guinness Beer at the gravity bar that has 360 views of Dublin. If you are a sucker for a good view like us, this is really the best part!
Tip: Make sure you book ahead as tour times tend to sell out a couple weeks in advance
Visit Iconic Dublin Sites
Trinity College, Grafton Street (Pedestrian Street), Dublin Castle, St. Patrick Cathedral, and more.
If you stay in the city center, you will be able to walk to all of these. We’d recommend mapping out the location of each on Google Maps and then creating a plan to see them all throughout your stay. We saw a couple everytime we went out to do something else.
Tip: If you are looking for a good (and free) workout, on the main campus at Trinity college, there is a short (approximately ¾ of a mile) running path with HITT stations along it. After discovering this path while exploring the college the day prior, we went up to the college the next morning and made several laps on the trail for a great morning workout. See How to Stay in Shape While Traveling.
Irish Music/Dance Show
Seeing a traditional Irish music and dance show was one of the highlights of our time in Dublin. We saw the Celtic Nights show and would recommend it. The show was a fun and energetic performance that included a lot of different traditional Irish music as well as Irish dancing and a three-course dinner. Neither of us remember the food being particularly spectacular but we do remember that the performances made the experience worth the cost.
We ate at several of these pubs, getting something different each time (fish and chips, smoked salmon, sandwiches). The food at most places was simple but good and the atmosphere was always fun. We’d recommend eating at pubs with live music as this is what we remember more than the food in Dublin.
Where to Stay in Dublin on a Budget
Stay in the city center and near the river Liffey (river that runs through the center of Dublin) to make navigation easy.
We stayed at the Arlington Hotel right off of O’Connell Bridge in the city center. From here, you are able to walk to all the main attractions. This is a large hotel but the rooms were nice, the location was perfect and it was budget friendly. We also enjoyed the Celtic Nights Performance here–a live show filled with traditional Irish Music and Irish dancing discussed above.
We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Dublin, Ireland on a Budget. Make sure to check out Killarney while in Ireland as well. Anything you’d add to our guide on visiting Ireland on a budget? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Please leave us a comment!
We immediately fell in love with Santorini, Greece. This Greek Island is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. The views, weather, food and people are unmatched. We’d recommend spending at least 3 or 4 days in Santorini to really soak up the beauty. Santorini, Greece can be a very pricey place to explore; however, if done correctly and without sacrificing any quality to your trip, you can visit Santorini on a budget. Here is our guide on visiting Santorini, Greece on a budget.
Note: This post is written based on a trip taken in late June
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means that, at no cost to you, we may get a small commission if your purchase through these links. This helps us keep providing travel resources for you!
What to do in Santorini, Greece on a Budget
Rent a Motorized Scooter to Explore the Island
We rode our motorized scooter all over the island and it was one of the most exhilarating things we’ve ever done! Everyone deserves to ride along the Santorini coastline on a motorized scooter at least once in their life. We would highly recommend it!
If you are looking for something a bit more stable, they also have ATVs that you can rent. Beware that roads are narrow with steep drops to the sea but there is a good public bus system on the island if a motorized scooter or ATV is not your cup of tea. We would not recommend renting a car as it is cumbersome and expensive.
Take a Day Cruise to Some of the Smaller Islands
We explored 3 smaller islands off the coastline of Santorini on a large sailboat. On this cruise, we went to Nea Kameni (uninhabited, volcano), Palea Kameni (uninhabited, hot springs) and Thirasia (inhabited). We particularly liked hiking up to the sparsely populated town of Manolas on Thirasia. The last stop on the cruise was in Oia to watch the sunset. This outing was a full day excursion, 10 hours, and reasonably priced.
We booked this tour through our hotel so our day cruise tour started in Kamari. We were picked up by bus and then taken to a port near Fira. From there, we then boarded a large sailboat to start our trip.
This hike is a great way to see the island as you parallel the water while passing by many different small communities and some of the uninhabited areas of volcanic remains. The views from this hike are unparalleled in beauty.
“Hike” is a loose term for this paved walking path between Fira to Oia that we would rate as easy to moderate. The hike took us about 2 hours but we walk pretty fast and most websites recommend budgeting 3-4 hours for this walk. It is mostly in the full sun so be prepared with water and sun protection.
Fira is known for its beautiful Caldera (white houses with blue roofs) and water views while Oia is known for its stunning Caldera and sunset views. Make sure you explore both towns while in Santorini! This side of the island is the “classic” Santorini you see in movies like Mama Mia and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
We were staying on the other side of the island in Kamari (location of a black sand beach). We traveled by riding our motorized scooter from Kamari to Fira in the morning. We then explored Fira for the rest of the morning. After lunch, we hiked to Oia in the early afternoon, explored Fira in the later afternoon and then returned to Fira by bus before riding our motorized scooter back to Kamari.
Go to the Open-Air Movie Theater in Kamari
This open-air venue was a unique and relaxing way to spend an evening in Santorini. The theater was cute and they had both recent releases playing some nights in addition to classics on other nights, such as Mama Mia. We watched a recent release and enjoyed being able to relax while watching a movie outside in the beautiful Santorini weather.
What/Where to Eat in Santorini, Greece on a Budget
What’s that you say? No party ever started with a salad…except in Santorini. Ok, maybe we made that one up but Greek salads are no joke and SO delicious. All the ingredients–cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, feta–are so fresh. Six years later and we still crave these on a regular basis. While we were in Greece, we ordered one at every meal to split (in addition to other food) and we highly recommend doing the same. The Greeks do salad right!
Phyllo Dough with honey and nuts–there’s really nothing to not like about this dessert. Make sure to try this during your time in Greece and Santorini!
Mom & Pop Restaurants
In Santorini, there are many different mom and pop restaurants. We’d encourage you to eat at places off the main drag (without any pictures on the menu) to give you a more authentic Santorini experience.
Our favorite family restaurant was Koralli in Kamari near our accommodations. The food and service were so good, we ate there 3 times. Don’t fix something if it isn’t broke!
Most people would instinctively stay in Fira or Oia because they are the “classic” picture of Santorini with the Caldera views but both of these areas are so popular that they are pretty crowded at all hours of the day. Kamari, known for its black sand beaches, feels more quaint and relaxing. You also won’t have to pay an arm and a leg to stay in Kamari by comparison to Fira and Oia. Fira and Oia are both only a short bus ride or motorized scooter ride away from Kamari too.
Hotel Acropole Sunrise
We stayed at Hotel Acropole Sunrise, a quaint hotel in Kamari, that we booked through Airbnb. The accommodations were simple but nice and the hotel had a pretty sunrise view. The breakfast included with our stay consisted of a variety of fresh baked goods and yogurt. Our host at the hotel was great and extremely helpful too. He picked us up from the airport (for a small fee), making our transfer to our hotel seamless, and also took time to orient us to the island when we arrived. It definitely was a huge bonus to have a kind, friendly and helpful host to help plan your time in Santorini!
We hope this post helps you plan your trip to Santorini on a Budget. Be sure to check out Athens when you are in Greece too. We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Anything you’d add to our guide on visiting Santorini on a budget? Please leave us a comment!
Athens is the main travel hub in Greece and you will likely have to layover here if you are going to one of the Greek Islands. We’d highly recommend taking advantage of this and spending a day or two in Athens itself before continuing onto the Greek Islands. The unparalleled history of the Acropolis makes Athens worthy of at least a short visit. And do not worry about breaking the bank in here. Overall, visiting Athens is quite budget friendly. Here is our guide on visiting Athens, Greece on a budget.
Note: This post is written based on a trip taken in late June
What to do in Athens on a Budget
Explore the Acropolis
The Acropolis is a grouping of famous buildings from Ancient Greece, most notably the Parthenon, nestled on an outcrop above the city of Athens. It is really stunning to see the Acropolis from afar but even more inspiring seeing each building up close. This location is really the main attraction in Athens and a huge part of history that you should not miss out on seeing.
Tip: Get here right when it opens around 8am to avoid crowds and lines. It tends to get VERY busy by 10am.We arrived at 8am and had a nice experiences without absurd crowds.
Visit the Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum offers you more history on the Acropolis than what you get while exploring the actual Acropolis. Here you not only learn about the history of the Acropolis, but you get great views of the actual Acropolis from all floors in the museum. We both enjoyed the museum despite Natalie not typically being a museum person.
Go to the National Gardens
Pretty gardens in the middle of the city that are relaxing and fun to explore. If you are short on time in Athens, this is not a must but nice to do if you have an hour or two to spend.
What to eat in Athens
Traditional Greek Gyros are delicious. Traditional Greek Gyros are made with either seasoned pork or lamb typically with Tzatziki, tomatoes, onions, feta, oregano and wrapped in fresh baked pita bread. You can find these at many local food stands and restaurants. We recommend going where is most convenient.
The Marble House Pension in Athens, Greece offers quaint and simple accommodations. Our room had a cute balcony with colorful flowers. The location was great, less than 15 minutes walking to the Acropolis. It is close enough to the hustle and bustle but far enough away that it is quiet and relaxing. It was also very budget friendly.
To book accommodations, we had to email the staff our credit card information which made us a bit leery, but we have now done this for numerous European accommodations. Knock on wood, have not had any issues
We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to visit Athens on a budget. If you are in Greece, make sure to pop over to the Greek Islands, especially Santorini (see Santorini Guide), for mind-blowing island views.
Anything you’d add to our guide on visiting Athens, Greece on a budget? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Please leave us a comment!
Rome, Italy is truly magical city. The food, history and culture here is captivating. You can have very rich experiences in Rome without having to be rich and sticking to a budget. We’d recommend spending at least 3 or 4 days in Rome and using this city as a stepping stone to visit some smaller cities in Italy. Here is our guide on visiting Rome, Italy on a budget.
Note: This post is written based on a trip taken in June
What to do in Rome on a Budget
Take a Food Tour
This is by far our #1 Rome recommendation, especially for any food lover. We took the Eating Italy: Trastevere for Foodies food tour. Eating Europe is the company that puts on this food tour and they offer food tours in several countries.
There are tons of different food tours to choose from in Rome with this company, but we recommend Eating Italy: Trastevere for Foodies. In our opinion, this tour is the best bang for your buck and our guide did a fantastic job. We learned not only history about food but history about the city.
We sampled food–some of the most delicious food we have ever tasted–from about 10 different mom/pop shops and restaurants. We likely would have never had walked into these places on our own. All the stops on the food tour were tucked away from the main drag and the staff only spoke Italian each. We even sampled some fresh food at a local outdoor market. This tour also took us off the main tourist path and showed us a more quaint side of Rome in the Trastevere neighborhood. This food tour was definitely an authentic and untourist Italian experience!
The Vatican is the exclusive city-state that is the headquarters for the Catholic Church. This city is very impressive to see in real life. The many ancient Roman sculptures and Renaissance paintings, most famously Michelangeo’s ceiling painting, it houses are truly astounding.
If you are going during peak time, try to book tickets to enter ASAP to avoid any stress about being able to go on a tour that works for your itinerary We’d recommend taking one of the guided tours to make your experience more enriching. We booked a tour that worked for our itinerary through Viator.
Tip: Dress conservatively to avoid being turned away from entering.
Tour the Colosseum and Roman Ruins
You can’t go to Rome and not see the Roman ruins. The Colosseum and other Roman Ruins are exceedingly impressive. To think they were built so long ago but stand so strong to this day is almost unbelievable.
We’d recommend again seeing the Colosseum with a guide as well to enhance your experience by not only going into the Colosseum but to learn more about the ruins and history that helped shape Western Civilization. We booked a tour that worked for our itinerary through Viator.
Go here to see it and throw a coin in. Legend has it that one coin means you will return to Rome. Two coins into the fountain, you will return and fall in love. Three coins implies you will return, fall in love and marry. The coins in the fountain do go to charities so regardless of your fate you can contribute to a good cause. You really do not have to budget a large amount of time for this attraction.
Forewarning: there are HEAPS of tourists and people taking pictures during any normal waking hours. If we were to go back, we would probably take an early morning run to see this while most other tourists were still asleep.
What to eat in Rome on a Budget
This is a “duh” recommendation but could not go without talking about the greatness of real Italian pizza. Fresh Italian pizza is simply unmatched. We always say it is hard to mess up pizza, but it is hard to find pizza anywhere else in the world as delicious as the pizza in Italy.
Truly the best dessert (at least in our family). Make it your goal to try as many different gelato spots as possible. We ate gelato almost twice a day everyday when we were in Italy. And the best part is that we lost weight on this Europe trip so we have coined this the “Gelato diet.” When in Rome!
Local Meats & Cheeses
We tried most of these on our Food tour and it was really fun to sample different meat and cheeses from various local shops.
Tip: Bread brought to the table is not free. It is only a small charge but do not be surprised when you are charged for it at the end of your meal despite not asking for it. It is like this in most European Countries but Italy is the first country we became aware of it. You can ask them to not give you the bread basket if you really don’t want it but it typically only costs 1-3 Euros.
Where to Stay in Rome on a Budget
This hotel is centrally located as it is west of the main city center and east of Vatican city. We were able to walk everywhere we wanted within 10-40 minutes. The rooms were simple (we booked private bath) but nice and we did not spend much time there. We mainly spent our time exploring the city, so it was perfect location for quick access to many places. And, as always, budget friendly.
We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Rome, Italy on a budget. If you are in Rome, make sure to pop over to Cinque Terre for some of the most impressive coastal views (see Cinque Terre, Italy Quick Guide post) and Venice to see the classic Italian river canals (see Venice, Italy Quick Guide).
We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Anything you’d add to our guide on visiting Rome, Italy on a budget? Please leave us a comment!