October 26, 2021

The ultimate budget-friendly winter getaways

For some, the best winter getaway is putting down the wool coats and booking a sun-soaked destination on the opposite side of the globe to begin relaxing on a beach with a delicious drink.

But for some people, winter getaways are an opportunity to find fun in the cold and visit new places that are beautiful when framed by falling snow.

So for those who don't care too much about coming home with a fantastic tan (or sunburn), we've got you covered.

Whether you're taking your first-ever winter getaway or are a seasoned pro who needs a new experience, finding the best possible destination can be a bit overwhelming.

When you're looking for a great summer holiday destination, it's straightforward. A good beach, plenty of blue skies and sunshine and delicious food and drink to kick back with is all you need.

But a winter getaway is a bit more complicated.

Snowy weather can look like a dream but can also quickly become a nightmare. Wet weather and painfully cold temperatures mean your chosen destination has to have good indoor activities.

You'll also be likely to spend a lot more money on these attractions, as laying for hours on a sunbed isn't an option. So, wherever you choose, it should have a variety of affordable places to eat where you can try new cuisines and broaden your palate.

Even though there are so many other factors to take into consideration, don't be put off — you can still enjoy an ultimate winter getaway this year!

We've done the hard work for you by researching all the elements it takes to have the best winter vacation winter while being kind to your bank account.

Looking at ten European capital cities which are all renowned for being tourist hotspots in winter months, we have collected data for a number of ranking factors. That way, you can take advantage of what Europe has to offer as even more restrictions are starting to be lifted.

The factors we analyzed were:
  • Average flight cost from London Heathrow
  • Average car rental cost for one week
  • Average Cost for one adult for the most well-known attraction
  • Average overall cost of a one-week hotel stay
  • Number of 'affordable' restaurants based on TripAdvisor's 'cheap eats' option
  • The top-ranked attraction based on TripAdviso

We calculated a score from one to ten for each of these factors.

Then, compiling the scores out of ten from each factor, we got the overall score for each location. Based on a maximum possible score of 50, our rankings reveal that the number one winter getaway location is…
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Krakow, Poland — Score: 40/50
The Polish capital is used to having chillier temperatures, but the sprawling city filled with historical architecture looks even more beautiful with snow covering its many spires.

Rental cars are the cheapest at £141.56, so you can feel free to explore the area surrounding Krakow.

It's known for its rich history and world-class monuments — as well as delicious pretzels and perogies. Tuck into some of these treats at one of the 664 affordable restaurants.

And you'll have more than enough cash to spend on as much food as you wish and visit one of the many attractions, as this city has the cheapest average overall weekly hotel cost at £335.33.

In fact, the city's most well-known attraction, the Rynek Glowny, is completely free! Another great way to spend a day in this wintery city and save your pennies.
Prague, Czech Republic — Score: 37/50
To many, Prague is a quick city break option, with many taking advantage of the cheap drinks for their most recent celebrations.

But this cultural hotspot is home to so much more than that.

The city came second in our rankings, thanks to 1,207 affordable restaurants available to anyone visiting. In fact, the most well-known attraction, Prague Castle, ranks highly in affordability too, costing an average of £8.40.

If history isn't your thing, you can go ice skating, visit the iconic Charles Bridge, or tuck into the warming and rich, traditional Czech food.

If you don't fancy walking around too much, £205.25 is the average price for rental cars in Prague — which is on the more expensive side.

However, what you spend on a rental car you make up for with the overall and flight costs. At just £120.25 for the flight and an average week in a hotel costing £388.80, Prague has plenty to enjoy during winter that's easy on your wallet.
Paris, France — Score: 32/50
This iconic city has placed third in our ranking thanks to its affordable eateries, variety of tourist attractions and hotels, as well as reasonably priced flights.

Paris has 2,934 restaurants that come under the 'cheap eats' option on TripAdvisor; and Google Flights showed us that you can expect to pay around £118.88 to fly to the French capital's main airport, Charles de Gaulle.

The city's biggest attraction is, of course, the Eiffel Tower. An iconic symbol of the City of Love, it costs an average of £22.22 for visitors looking to travel to the top. That's the second-most expensive attraction out of all those analyzed — but well worth it.

If you want to be able to drive around, a rental car will cost you an average of £184.90— a relatively middle-of-the-road cost compared to other destinations.

If you're thinking of visiting this beautiful city to celebrate this winter in style, you're sure to have a wonderful time. But save up your pennies, as the weekly hotel cost could set you back £746.67 — the second most expensive location on our list.
Brussels, Belgium — Score: 32/50
Brussels is another city that is transformed into a winter wonderland in the later months of the year and an amazing place to live out your Christmas fantasies.

You can expect a cheap flight too; our research showed that it's actually the cheapest location on our list to fly to with flights averaging around £88.50.

615 affordable eateries are on offer here too, serving up all sorts of delicacies from sweet Belgian waffles to the traditional savory mussels cooked or steamed with onions and celery and served with fries.

The Grand Palace has free entry, and there's still plenty to do with the Art Deco taverns, Flemish art, Gothic cathedrals making perfect photo backdrops.

You'll need a slightly larger budget for Brussels though, with rental cars costing tourists an average of £214.84 and an overall average weekly hotel cost of £556.87.
Budapest, Hungary — Score: 31/50
Architectural history, musical influences, and a happy vibe throughout make Budapest, Hungary's most popular city, a go-to travel destination. And in winter, its beauty is only magnified.

Our ranking shows that it's most definitely worth a visit too! With 815 restaurants serving up affordable delicacies such as goulash, fisherman's soup, and deep-fried bread — perfect for warming you up.

The Hungarian Parliament Building is the most well-known attraction and costs £15.23 to visit, making for a great day out.

The flights and overall cost shouldn't be too much of a stretch for your bank account either, with a flight costing £126.50 to Budapest Airport. Put aside around £566 too for your accommodation budget, as our findings showed this is the average weekly hotel cost.

But, if you're wanting to cruise along Hungarian roads in your own vehicle, you'll need to put £177.54 aside for a rental car.
Berlin, Germany — Score: 31/50
The ultimate winter feeling is fully investing in Christmas festivities — and Berlin is possibly the perfect place to do just that.

But, if you're wanting a magical winter getaway, be prepared for it to cost you a pretty penny. The average cost of a flight to Berlin Brandenburg Airport is £127.88, whilst the average week will set you back £449.90.

Once you're there though, it's worth it! The city is host to German Christmas markets where bratwurst and beer are in good supply — perfect for warming up after a long winter's day.

If you're not into bratwurst, Berlin is home to 1,511 cheap places to eat, the second most number of 'affordable' restaurants on our list. Also, the Reichstag is the most well-known tourist hotspot, and it's totally free!

However, for those who prefer to rent a car, be warned that it will be an expensive affair. If you're wanting to budget, put at least £260.24 away, as this is the average cost of a car rental in Berlin.
Amsterdam, Netherlands — Score: 30/50
Amsterdam is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and it definitely doesn't lose its charm during the winter months.

If you're dreaming of ice skating over frozen canals and warming up in a traditional pub (or a cafe) during the evening, Amsterdam is just a £90.75 flight away — the second cheapest flight out of all the destinations.

However, if you fancy driving around yourself, you may want to put aside the savings from the cheap flights, as rental cars here cost an average of £236.28.

But once you're out of the car, you can try out one of the 755 affordable restaurants Amsterdam has to offer.

The Rijksmuseum is the most well-known tourist hotspot you can indulge in whilst in Amsterdam too — perfect for providing refuge on a particularly cold, wintery day. It's the Dutch national museum, is dedicated to arts and history within the city, and will set you back £17.03.

Whilst this city is an amazing place to discover new cultures, see beautiful sights, and indulge in some delicious treats, you may need to save up. A week's hotel stay in Amsterdam costs an average of £530.67, making it the third-most-expensive location in our rankings.
Tallinn, Estonia — Score: 28/50
Tallinn in Estonia is truly a throwback in time, offering snow-capped medieval architecture to marvel at throughout your winter stay.

The historic old town is known for its beautifully preserved medieval architecture, alongside the slightly more obscure Struve Geodetic Arc. For (free) photo opportunities, you can visit the well-known Alexander Nevsky Cathedral too.

The flights to here are some of the most expensive though at £163.88, and if you don't want to walk along the medieval streets, a rental car will set you back a cool £192.55.

Tallinn is home to the least amount of affordable eateries open for trying out the local delicacies.

Of course, the trip is worth it though, as this doesn't mean that Tallinn doesn't have great 'cheap eats' locations. It's a smaller city in comparison to the other locations, so there are fewer choices in restaurants, but we still found 208 cheaper options to choose from.

But, if you do find somewhere within your budget, get ready to indulge in some locally sourced seasonal meals that utilize ingredients from the sea, forest, and farm.

If you're sold on your next winter getaway destination being Tallinn, take £376, as this is what an average week costs in the Estonian capital.
Copenhagen, Denmark — Score: 20/50
Copenhagen may be next to last in our rankings, but that doesn't mean you should rule it out.

It is the priciest location out of all the winter getaways we analyzed, but as it has so much to offer, it's only fair!

The average weekly hotel cost in Copenhagen is £806.67, and flights will set you back £188.50. These numbers are the highest compared to all the other destinations; however, the iconic Tivoli Gardens are on the cheaper side to visit at £15.45.

Copenhagen has plenty more to see too, as well as 476 affordable restaurants.

What it lacks in affordability though, the Danish capital makes up for with car rental prices. £152.63 is the average cost, the second cheapest out of all the destinations.

So, if eating out in the city center is a bit costly, grab yourself some wheels and travel to one within your budget. Then you can tuck into some traditional crispy pork with parsley sauce and potatoes — perfect for warming you up!
Vienna, Austria — Score: 18/50
Your winter getaway in Vienna will not disappoint, but similar to the rest of the cities with lower scores, it could cost you more than the higher-ranking destinations.

We found the city to be setting people back an average weekly hotel cost of £579.40, and car rentals here are the most expensive at £303.24.

So, if you still want to experience everything Vienna is known and loved for, you might need to save up or cut back.

Once you've booked your £122, on average, flight, you'll have 638 affordable restaurants to discover.

To truly appreciate Vienna's excellent reputation for being clean and green, take a walk around the grounds of Schonbrunn Palace for £24.26.

There you have it, the top budget destinations for your next winter getaway with all you need to make the best decision for yourself.

Whether you're on your way to see the Eiffel Tower, chowing down on bratwurst, or scoping out some medieval architecture. You'll have a winter to remember in any of these destinations - and your bank account will thank you for it too!
Methodology
We collected data for a number of ranking factors to find out the best winter getaway destination now that even more restrictions are starting to be lifted.

We looked at 10 European capital cities, all renowned for being tourist hotspots in the winter months. We collected the data based on the premise that the reader would be going away for a week and used the 22nd-28th of November 2021 for any data that required dates.

We used Google Flights and recorded the top 10 round-trip prices from London Heathrow to the destination's nearest airport. We used Expedia to record the price of the top 15 recommended hotels in each city (not including ads) to create an average price.

We looked at DiscoverCars data and recorded the average price for a rental car from each company available in the city to create an overall average.

We found the most popular tourist attraction by looking at TripAdvisor's top ranked in each city, and then recording the price of one adult ticket for admission.

TripAdvisor was used to find the number of affordable restaurants. This was achieved by using TripAdvisor's 'cheap eats' filter option.

Aleksandrs Buraks

Head of Growth at DiscoverCars.com
Aleksandrs has over 10 years of experience in marketing with a focus on creating stellar content that provides topical insights using data. Having taken five road trips across Europe and one in the U.S., he is passionate about traveling by car. His favorite countries to visit are Denmark and Thailand. You can find him on Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter.