Here are 10 of the most affordable...
The Greek capital should be numero uno on your list this year. According to a recent study by the Post Office, which added up costs including accommodation and meals, it’s the best-value European city break around.
It also happens to be one of the most dynamic: besides ancient history galore (the famed Acropolis is just the beginning; there are free sights like Hadrian’s Gate, too), you have trendy ’hoods such as pretty Koukaki and artsy Kypseli. And a clutch of stylish new hotels, such as Mona, set in a 1950s textile factory.
Cheap must-do: It doesn’t cost a penny to wander the narrow, cobbled streets of Plaka, a 3,000-year-old district at the foot of the Acropolis.
This Italian region shares plenty in common with its famed neighbour, Tuscany: rolling hills, pin-straight pines, terracotta-hued villages.
But not pricing. Holidays in unsung Marche are comparatively inexpensive, with chic hotels coming in at under £100 a night, bargainous bowlfuls of maccheroncini di campofilone pasta, and under-appreciated wine regions producing zingy white Verdicchio wine.
There’s the dramatic Adriatic coast, too, where days are all about B&B: beaches and brodetto (seafood stew).
Where to stay: If you didn’t think a former convent could be cool, you haven’t stayed at boutiquey Palazzo dei Mercanti (From £60; palazzodeimercanti.it), in the charming travertine town of Ascoli Piceno.
Cheap must-do: Unesco-listed Urbino is a walled 15th-century town that’s among the most impressive in all of Italy, with its sandstone edifices and Renaissance art. And it’s free to visit.
This sultry Spanish city has everything you want in an Iberian city break, including moody tapas bars, opulent Moorish architecture, and streets lined with orange trees. The sunshine is reliable (even through much of winter), the flamenco bars are sizzling, and — great news for you — the holiday living is cheap. Snag a jamón-stuffed sandwich and glass of sherry in the Mercado de Triana for around £10.
Want a day out on a beach for a snip? Powdery Matalascañas is just a £7 bus ride away.
Where to stay: With room-only rates from less than £90 a night, Hotel Casa de Colón (hotelcasadecolon.com) combines good looks and a central location by the cathedral.
Cheap must-do: Rambling Plaza de España feels like a free alfresco art museum, with its elaborate frescoes themed after Spanish regions. Keep your eyes peeled for flamenco dancers performing under the archways, too.
Turquoise Coast, Turkey
It’s called the Turquoise Coast for good reason. The waters that lap the southern fringe of Turkey glitter in a kaleidoscope of blues.
But, while the vistas along its 1,000km of seafront might be Caribbean-esque, the prices are wallet-friendly; four-night packages including flights and B&B accommodation can be had from many tour operators for less than £300pp. Snag a deal and then strike out from the resort centres to explore sleepy parts of the region, taking gulet boat cruises, visiting ruins at Kekova, or discovering scenic coves.
Where to stay: In a 200-year-old Ottoman mansion with wood-beamed ceilings, Hotel Villa Turka (hotelvillaturka.com) in Alanya has epic views over the blue, and double rooms for under £50 a night.
Cheap must-do: It will cost you just 50p to enter 11th-century Marmaris Castle, and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic vistas of the harbour from its stone watchtowers.
Douro Valley, Portugal
Who needs pricey museums and galleries when you have free-to-see scenery like this? The steep vineyard terraces of Portugal’s Unesco-listed Douro Valley provide such spectacular viewing, you don’t need other entertainment.
Though the rustic inland region does also come with excellent, affordable wines (plummy red blends can be just a few euros), meaty stews, and cruises along the snaking Douro River, costing just about £9 per hour. Trains run into the region from gateway city Porto, so you don’t need to pay for a hire car, either.
Where to stay: The Vintage House Hotel (From £156; vintagehousehotel.com) oozes old-world glamour in the heart of Pinhão, right on the banks of the Douro River.
Cheap must-do: Spend an afternoon walking old railway route Linha do Corgo, now a gentle trail carved through the schist vineyard terraces.
Nordic countries have a reputation for being spendy, but Sweden’s west coast port city delivers heaps of Scandi style at a relative steal.
The compact size means you can largely get around on foot or by cheap tram, whether you’re off to window-shop in Artilleriet, wander through the many parks or visit free museums (try the Museum of World Culture).
The wine and seafood scene is first-class, and it’s cheap compared to London — a multi-course menu at Michelin-starred Koka costs from £59pp.
Where to stay: Choose your dates carefully and you can snag a room at fun and funky Italian-themed Hotel Bellora (hotelbellora.se) for as little as £67, including breakfast and access to its boxing gym.
Cheap must-do: Gothenburg is home to nearly 20 idyllic islands, with clapboard wooden houses, beaches, and coastline, with rainbow gneiss rock. They’re day-trippable from the city centre for just a £3 bus ride.
Sunny Beach, Bulgaria
Want a family-friendly stretch of golden sand that won’t leave you bankrupt? Bulgaria might not be your first thought, but affordable Black Sea resort Sunny Beach has the scenery, and the activities — from boat cruises to go-karting, watersports to football pitches. It was even named top for value in the Post Office’s 2022 Family Holiday Report.
Escape beyond the core of the 18km resort stretch of Blue Flag sand and you can discover other local beaches like Arkutino, or the ancient city of Nessebar.
Where to stay: Bang on the beach, in a quieter corner of the resort, Helena Sands (From £66; royalpalacehelenasands.com) has family rooms and an onsite spa.
Cheap must-do: Hit the lounger with a book — after all, you’re here for sun, sea, and R&R.
Despite crowds flocking to its jewel-like islands each summer, Croatia still shows good value in its northerly reaches. Underrated Istria, a lush, hilly peninsula, has a coastline studded in colourful old towns, like Rovinj and Pula, with their bobbing boats and petite pebbly beaches.
The interior is all undulating green hills, family-owned vineyards, knobbly olive groves, and medieval towns. Truffles are a local specialty, shaved over everything from pasta to risotto at a fraction of what you’ll pay in nearby Italy.
Where to stay: Sleek design and a solid wellness offering make resort Hotel Lone (From £129; maistra.com/properties/hotel-lone) stand out from the pack in coastal Rovinj.
Cheap must-do: Entrance to Pula’s Roman amphitheatre costs just about half the price (£8) of Rome’s colosseum, but packs in similar gladiator history.
Loire Valley, France
Opulent chateaux, regal gardens, trendy natural wines — you might think that a holiday in the Loire Valley would be expensive, but there’s brilliant value to be had across its 280km ramble.
There are good train connections from Paris to key hubs, such as Tours and Amboise, so you don’t necessarily need a hire car, and e-bikes can be hired to whisk you from town to town. Eats in the half-timbered city of Tours are especially thrifty; wines at cool bar Tutu start from £3.50 a glass.
Where to stay: Recently opened on the manicured grounds of a historic chateau in Chaumont-sur-Loire, Le Bois des Chambres (From £126; leboisdeschambres.fr) has fabulous art and an ambitious onsite restaurant.
Cheap must-do: You’ll get the Loire Valley holy trinity at Château de Valmer: a landscaped garden, chateau, and tastings of award-winning Vouvray wines with entry from just £8.
For your money, you will get fourth-century ruins (the Tombs of the Kings), chilled-out cafés serving sugar-dusted chewy loukoumia sweets, and access to some of the country’s best (if not necessarily secret) beaches, like Petra tou Romiou (Aphrodite’s Rock).
Where to stay: You’ll often find the best deals on Airbnb; in low season, villas sleeping six can go for just around £100 a night. For a hotel bargain, try Leonardo Plaza Cypria Maris Beach (leonardo-hotels.com), where rooms sleeping up to three people can cost around £100, all-inclusive.
Cheap must-do: Hike your way through the dramatic rock formations of the Avakas Gorge; after a morning working up a sweat, you’ll really feel like you’ve earned that beach time.