The Grand Tour, aka traveling all across Europe in one go, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, yet it also requires a budget that may make you rethink ever going on vacation again. Don’t fret: there’s a smarter way to get across the Atlantic. American tourists to Europe are abundant in the summer, but toward the end of the season and into the fall, airline fares to certain, less popular cities decline dramatically.
We worked with travel-booking app Hopper and our own Best in Travel data to compile a list of under-the-radar European hotspots that come at a bargain toward the end of summer. “Late summer and early fall are some of the best times to go to Europe. Peak summer travel season will have passed so it will be less crowded and prices are 22% cheaper,” Hopper’s chief data scientist Patrick Surry says. “You can also save a lot of money by taking advantage of transportation within Europe.”
Skip London, Paris and Rome and fly to one of these five cities instead — the average costs are under $700 for round-trip flights and are based on departures from New York City. Expect to add a bit more to the costs if you’re traveling from the west.
Travel to Scandinavia and its surrounding area, particularly Iceland, has been booming among Americans. Avoid the sticker shock of some other spots in favor of Helsinki, the tranquil capital of Finland. In addition to the highly educated population that’s largely fluent in English, Helsinki offers culture and sights going back centuries, like the Suomenlinna sea fortress. And the beautifully designed urban area doesn’t sacrifice any modern comforts.
Explore Viking history in this former fishing settlement that’s now a bustling Nordic city. There are remains of a castle dating back a millennium along with a quaint urban area overrun with canals. The waterfront Nyhavn district with its colorful architecture is particularly idyllic.
Norway’s central hub, Oslo is rife with global economic activity. The 1,000-year-old capital makes it easy to get around on public transportation and take in attractions including the Vigeland Sculpture Park and the Viking Ship Museum. Park activities, boating, and über-contemporary architecture shouldn’t be overlooked, either.
The biggest city in the Nordic countries, Stockholm comprises 14 islands that have been populated since the Stone Age. The home of the Nobel Prize prides itself on being welcoming to outsiders. Get around on the numerous bridges connecting neighborhoods to visit the historic sights of Old Town and even, yes, a museum dedicated to ABBA.
Everyone knows about Dublin, of course, but it’s a wonder why more people stateside aren’t breathlessly raving about it. Irish people embrace Americans with open arms, and they know how to have fun, whether it’s crafting the perfect whiskey and beer or chatting up strangers and singing along to local bands at one of the seemingly infinite pubs. Dublin is an easy flight from the East Coast, and once there, the small island is easy to traverse, from the fascinating ancient tomb Newgrange to seaside Cork.
Methodology: To calculate the average cost for a week for two, MONEY took pricing data on round-trip flight prices provided by Hopper and Kayak, as well as the average cost of a six-night hotel stay, with prices largely from Hotels.com, along with Booking.com, Hipmunk, and Trip by Skyscanner. We also calculated what travelers should expect to spend on meals, beverages, and local transport, with pricing from Numbeo.