Best European Cities for Free Attractions

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Europe on a shoestring budget: The best budget-friendly city breaks

Travel, like anything else, requires a carefully thought out budget. Thankfully, Europe’s capitals and cultural meccas are packed with options for the budget-minded traveller. From affordable accommodation to inexpensive meals to discounts on transport, Europe is the perfect destination for savvy travellers.

Omio is here to make travel simple and affordable. That’s why we have put together this ranking of Europe’s most budget-friendly cities. This study analysed 38 of Europe’s top destinations, ranking them in terms of free amenities and activities. So, put away your wallet and let’s get going!

Free ride: Europe’s cities ranked in terms of freebies

City Attractions Score
1 London 275 100.00
2 Paris 283 92.11
3 Berlin 543 72.47
4 Madrid 85 66.75
5 Amsterdam 407 64.97
6 Milan 324 63.93
7 Barcelona 117 55.43
8 Lisbon 188 53.17
9 Rome 224 51.32
10 Krakow 409 46.38

Here you’ll find the full-ranking list as well as a list of events for September.

We’ve used several factors to determine the rankings—free attractions, tours, events, Wi-Fi, accommodation and even whether the tap water is drinkable.

London and Paris top the list, naturally. London has the most free events, but Paris boasts the highest number of hosts offering free accommodation. Madrid ranks first for free tours. The Spanish capital offers a range of walking tours that guide visitors through the square of Puerta del Sol, the oasis of El Retiro Park and the museums of the Golden Triangle of Art.

How the ranking works

The European cities included in the study were those that had the highest number of arrivals in the MasterCard 2016 and Euromonitor 2017 reports.

Ranking factors

  1. Free Attractions: the number of free attractions in each city all year round. Source: TripAdvisor
  2. Free Events: the number of free culture and business events in each city. Source Eventbrite
  3. Free Water: the cities with drinkable tap water (with 1 indicating ‘yes’ and 0 indicating ‘no’). Source: multiple
  4. Free Tours: the number of free tours available in each city. Source: Freetour.com
  5. Free Wi-Fi: the number of free Wi-Fi hotspots available in each city. Source: Wiman
  6. Free Accommodation: the number of hosts offering free lodging in each city. Source: Couchsurfing
  7. Full methodology can be found here.

Scoring

  • Factors were weighted equally
  • Each factor was standardised and scored using a scale of 0-1
  • An average score was calculated for each city
  • The final scores were standardised from 0 - 100, with 0 being the lowest score, and 100 the highest

The Top Three City Breaks for Free Activities


In 2001, the United Kingdom abolished admission fees to all national museums. Check out “Late at the Natural History Museum” for free entry to world-renowned exhibitions, talks and events after dark.


Paris is home to many opulent churches that visitors can enter at no cost. The Sacre-Coeur, a Roman Catholic Church adorned with the largest mosaic in France, is just one example.


Street art reveals Berlin’s historical struggle with power and resistance. Book a free Alternative Berlin Tour to find out more about the intersection of art and politics in the German capital.

Ready to go? Get there with Omio.

Which European Cities have the Best Transport Options?

We researched and compared travel times from the airport, coach station and main train station to the city centre in 35 European cities, from Stockholm to Berlin to Edinburgh to Marseille.

Here are the top three best connected European cities in terms of transport:

City Country Average Travel Time
Amsterdam The Netherlands 6 Min.
Zurich Switzerland 7 Min.
Manchester UK 11 Min.

Check out these Best Connected Cities and find out how other European cities ranked.

Omio analysed a total of 35 cities from 12 European countries to create this “Best Connected City” ranking. For each country, we picked three cities with the highest number of overnight stays. Google Maps was used on 28th June 2018 at 16:00 GMT +1 to pinpoint the location of the city centre, as well as the total time it takes when departing from the airport, bus or train station. If several routes were available, then the fastest route was chosen when travelling either with public transportation or by foot (excluding taxis). To compare the cities and rank them properly, we calculated the value of the time taken to travel to the city centre from the respective airports, train stations, and bus stations.

 

City Breaks Across Europe

With over 2,000 city break destinations to choose from you might think: where do I even start? At Omio, our goal is to make travel easier and we wanted to help undecided travellers find the best destinations. We decided to team up with HomeToGo to combine the most important elements of a city break to create the ultimate guide. Each city has been ranked on the following criteria: day activities, nightlife, accommodation, food and drink, and transport.

We identified the 10 best in the above five categories which you can find below. The best combination of these deciding factors resulted in the overall best city break destination of 2017 being awarded to Barcelona.


Top Cities for Attractions and Activities

City breaks are the perfect time to get cultured. Are sightseeing and museum hopping at the top of your list? Then look no further. This study researched which city break destination offered the most activities from tours to attractions and shopping opportunities. Scoring full points, London grabs the top spot as the best mini-break destination. Whether you want to indulge in cultural attractions or take part in some shopping, London is the mini-break for you. Paris comes in at a close second because the city has slightly fewer attractions. However, there is no lack of activities in the City of Light. Paris’ architecturally beautiful shopping galleries such as Galeries Lafayette, famous art galleries and world-famous landmarks ensure no tourist is ever bored when visiting the city.

Top Cities for Nightlife

LAn ice-cold cocktail on the beach is a must for many groups embarking on their summer jaunts, when local nightlife is a pretty vital ingredient to holiday fun. By looking into the various forms of evening entertainment available and local beer prices, Omio was able to list Europe’s liveliest beach cities and Barcelona, Spain took the crown for nocturnal hedonism. Get inspired for your next fun-filled beach holiday by scrolling through our top six European destinations with beaches for nightlife below.

Top Cities for Food and Drink

The majority of us like to spoil ourselves with glorious dishes when we’re on holiday. With so many cuisines across Europe to choose from, picking the best short city break destination for food and drink can be tough. We calculated the average cost and quality of a meal in each city break destination. Barcelona and Madrid, Spain's two largest cities, top our list as the best city break destination for food and drinks. What does that tell us about city breakers? That fresh tapas and sweet sangria are favoured among tourists.

Sources

The criteria used to weigh and classify cities in each country are as follows in order of importance: Nightlife: Based on the approximate number of bars/clubs, their closing time and the average beer price. All the information was gathered from the Omio Beer Price Index, TripAdvisor, ResidentAdvisor, TimeOut, The Culture Trip, Numbeo, Telegraph and tourism board websites.

Day Activities: Includes the approximate amount of activities and clothing shops along with the average shopping price, taking into consideration the average price between one pair of jeans and one summer dress in a chain store, based on Tripadvisor and Numbeo data.

Food and Drinks: Average price between a meal in an inexpensive restaurant and a meal in a mid-range restaurant. This is along with the average price of a coke and the approximate number of restaurants per city based on Tripadvisor and Numbeo data.

Accommodation: The average price of accommodation based on the price per person and per night and the approximate amount of accommodations per city based on Hometogo data. The prices of vacation rentals for max. 6 people were calculated on a basis of more than 800,000 bookings made via HomeToGo metasearch engine between October 2015 and September 2016.

Public Transport: Based on the average price of public transport including one-way ticket and the taxi rate, including the starting price and one kilometer ride, taken from Numbeo data.

Total score: The final calculation includes other factors such as the Climate Index, Pollution Index, Safety Index, Purchasing Power Index, Health Care Index, Cost of Living Index, property price to income ratio, and Traffic and Commute Time Index based on Numbeo data. Along with these elements, a deduction of the overall score has been applied to those countries where a visa is required. These factors have been integrated in the final calculation but are not displayed in the ranking table.

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