People don’t often think of Europe when looking for budget travel destinations. Sure, cities like London, Paris, and Amsterdam can be super expensive, for lodging as well as food. There are a handful of European cities, though, that can offer great value experiences, particularly for food and drink travelers. Here are our recommendations for the best budget destinations in Europe for Food Lovers.
How To Travel For Food In Europe
So, how do you save money when traveling to Europe for food? First, look for great flight deals to your destination by using a site like JustFly. That way you can start saving money before leaving home. But, what happens when you arrive at the destination?
What about finding the best budget destinations for foodies? We chose these specific destinations because first and foremost they have great food. But, they also each offer unique ways to experience the culture of the city through its food without breaking the bank. Here, we offer three recommendations for budget destinations in three of our favorite countries: Portugal, Spain, and Italy. Each of these cities is a great destination for food lovers without breaking the bank.
Many travelers flock to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, which is firmly on the tourist trail. Lisbon is one of our favorite cities, but it is getting more and more expensive each year. A great alternative is Porto, which can be reached by car or train from Lisbon. Or, you can fly directly into the Lisbon airport. Accommodations are less expensive in Porto as well.
As for food, there are loads of great dishes to eat in Porto. Most of these dishes are also pretty easy on the wallet, of course, seafood, in general, is more pricey. Looking for the most hearty sandwich on the planet? The word francesinha roughly translates to “little French girl,” but there is nothing little about this warm and gooey sandwich. Some say it is an homage to the French croque-monsieur, a toasted cheese and ham sandwich. The francesinha is a cheese and sauce covered sandwich filled with various types of pork and a piece of steak. The sandwich is topped with melted cheese, a tomato and beer-based sauce, and a fried egg.
Or, look for cozido, which is the perfect dish to eat in Porto especially during the cooler months. It’s a soup using potatoes and green vegetables, including kale, as a base. Sometimes it is flavored with a little Portuguese sausage. We’ve also eaten caldo verde a few times with bacalhau, with the caldo verde forming a base for the fish. Another great dish is alheira, a sausage with a base of bread so that it is super soft on the inside. Alheira sausages are normally served with potato, vegetables like cabbage, and a fried egg. No matter what dish you eat, be sure to both start and end the day in Porto with a pastel de nata, the famous Portuguese egg tart. Usually costing little more than €1, they are a steal for budget travelers to Europe.
We love traveling to Spain because of its tapas culture, but there is more to Spanish cuisine than tapas. In the north of Spain, heading into the Basque country, dining revolves around pintxos. Most travelers flock to San Sebastian for pintxos, but the city can be expensive, particularly during the high season. Instead, head a little farther south, to the edge of the Basque Country to eat pinchos in Logrono, Spain.
Logrono is one of the main cities used to explore the Rioja wine region in Spain. The Rioja region includes over 50,000 hectares of vineyards. Logrono is the capital of La Rioja and is the perfect place to explore the wine region. After a day of wine tasting, we generally don’t seek out lengthy multi-course meals in fancy restaurants. Instead, we spend the evenings on a pinchos crawl around Calle Laurel.
At its most basic, a pincho is a small bite of food that is normally served on a skewer or a stick. The word pincho comes from the Spanish pinchar, which translates to puncture. Calle Laurel is a street that runs through the center of Logrono, a few blocks south of the Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Rodonda. Although the street itself contains dozens of pinchos bars, there are also tons more on the alleyways and other streets that are parallel or perpendicular to Calle Laurel.
Most of the bars are fairly small, where people stand shoulder to shoulder eating on the weekends. On Thursdays, most bars offer Logrono pinchos deals with free or discounted pinchos, so that is also a busy time. Beers and wines generally cost between €1.50-3. Most pinchos cost between €3-5. That means that for two people to have a decent crawl, you can probably spend between €15-20 per person. This makes Logrono a perfect budget destination within Europe.
Every lover of Italian food should make a pilgrimage to Naples at least once. First, the city is a lot cheaper to visit than its neighbors to the north like Rome, Florence, and Venice. Also, the food in Naples is both legendary and reasonably priced.
Traditional Neapolitan food focuses on simplicity and using local ingredients. In Naples and the surrounding region of Campania, classic ingredients are used, like olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes. The dishes in Southern Italy also are reminiscent of the Italian dishes I grew up eating in New Jersey. Many of the Italian Americans emigrated from Naples and Sicily. This includes dishes like ragu, lasagna, calzones, and of course pizza!
Naples street food can be described in one word – fried. Whereas much of Italian dining in Italy focuses on long drawn out meals over multiple courses and wine, people in Naples take to the streets. Street food in Naples focuses on pizza and all things fried. There are all sorts of friggitorie, the name of the shop that hawks of the fried foods. Order a cuppo, a cone of mixed fried foods. Some shops will offer combos “di terra” (from the land) or “di mare” (from the sea).
Because eating in Naples is so casual, it’s also pretty cheap for Italy. This means pizza for as little as €5 and fried street food for about the same. Expect to pay between €7-9 for a plate of pasta and only €2 for a street-side Aperol Spritz.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new Food and Drink Destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.