Ah, Europe, the old world. You can’t talk about it without getting romantic. The guards are polite, inmates are friendly and…huh? You mean most tourists don’t get jailed for drunk and disorderly behaviour? Damn it, my whole life has been a lie. Well in that case, you probably want to know the best vacation spots or something. Well I’m an expert, as revealed by my best seller: European Prisons I Have Known.
We have visitors. Get 500 people and maybe we can open that front door.
1. Bruges, Belgium
The most underrated travel destination in Europe. Bruges is called the Venice of the North, and apart from charming eccentricity, it’s also affordable. We’re talking inexpensive food, speciality brewed beers, and scenery that’ll blow your mind. Best part? Bruges is small for a European city, so you can get around on foot.
Hotels range from slummy one stars to places like the Novotel Brugge Centrum. If you’re on a budget, try the Etap Hotel at Brugge Centrum station. Prices hover at around $120 – $140 a night, depending on the season.
Deep water? Hah, in Singapore we only consider this “ponding”.
Bruges is famous for:
The Basilica of the Holy Blood
Apart from having a name more hardcore than half the WWE line-up, this church is a classic example of Gothic architecture. You know, spires, pointy stained glass windows, freaking Dracula and The Monk…it’s all here.
Oh yes, and this church houses a vial that contains the blood of Christ. Well, supposedly anyways. So if you’re a Dan Brown fan (i.e. not smart enough to read Umberto Eco), drop by for a look. It’s free.
Guess what this museum’s about. If you said “Chocolate”, I say “No kidding Sherlock”. The museum has a live exhibition on chocolate making, and you get free samples. Remember to just take one piece. And then pass that one piece to the crowd and finish the tray. Admission is about $15
Either the Basilica of the Holy Blood, or the most challenging “Where’s Waldo” EVER.
The Freit Museum
Like the Choco-Story Museum, except about fries. You think I’m joking but I’m not. Eddy Van Belle is dead serious that the French fry doesn’t come from France, and his museum takes three floors to illustrate the point. Also, a live cooking exhibition by a master chef (guess what he prepares). Visit for about $15.
The source of half the Simpsons jokes in Belgium. Also, the staff will assure you (possibly with fists) that they’ve heard every possible pun with the word “groaning”. A museum of visual art, ranging from the Renaissance to the previous century. Take note: Works by Ilya Repin. Ticket price is about $20, depending on whether you want an audio guide.
2. Lisbon, Portugal
Someday, my name will be mentioned in the same line as Eca de Quieros and Jose Saramago. As in “Unlike the great Portugese writers Eca de Quieros and Jose Saramago…”
And you know why? Because I haven’t got the inspiring backdrop of Lisbon. Great architecture, easy climate, and affordable cafes. What more can a young writer, Honeymooning couple, or drunk finance blogger ask for?
The final resting place of many Assassin’s Creed addicts.
Affordable hotels are as cheap as $120 – $250 a night. Try the Se Guesthouse, right in the Alfama district. Compared to more London or Paris, Lisbon is more laid back. But it’s got just as much to offer:
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga
Most of the paintings here you would have seen on postcards. Hieronymous Bosch’s Temptations of St. Anthony and Albrecht Durer’s St. Jerome are here, along with works by Velasquez.
Entrance is around $10, but it’s free on Sundays.
The Alfama district has more Fado clubs than there are cooked frogs in France. Since Fado music is the soul of Portugal, and the clubs are awesome fun, you don’t want to miss out.
Entrance is typically free, though some clubs have a cover charge of about $15 – $25. Drinks are cheap; $50 can see you through the night.
Also, the Lisbon Cathedral is here, as is the monastery of Sao Vicente de Flora. Some of the buildings (like the cathedral) started construction in the 12th century, so these are amongst the oldest buildings in Europe. Free admission all around.
Needs a distortion pedal.
This is a statue of Christ the King, which stands on a cliff 133 meters above sea level. The public observation deck has a panoramic view of Lisbon and the Tagus River. Also, check out the bar and library located in the adjoining building. Going to the deck costs around $10.
Prague is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most vibrant cities in Europe. Picture an electric blend of nightclub action and old cathedrals; the place defines Gothic-Punk. This is a city for the young, the adventurous, and the budget conscious.
Try out the boatels, which are fairly cheap. In case you didn’t get it, that’s “boat” + “hotel”. These floating hotels cost from $120 – $250 a night, and tend to be well located.
The last place you can walk around with a broadsword and blend right in.
Then you can look up:
Which has been in use since 1120. In case you have trouble visualizing 890+ years of history, let’s just say “vampire hunter” was still a legitimate profession. Apart from mind blowing photo ops, the monastery has a Renaissance era library and a small gallery of paintings.
Oh, and free admission.
Imagine a fusion of XTC laced nightclub with the Louvre, and you have DOX. As of 2012, DOX is to contemporary art what The Electric Circus was to Punk. Forget the touristy Old Town district and head here first. Exhibits are refreshed fast and often.
Admission is around $11, with variances for children or tourist cards.
Cross Club’s layout. Because architecture is just an option.
The Cross Club is becoming the centre of Europe’s Industrial Music scene. Even if you’re not into that, this is one of the most happening clubs in Europe…and it’s affordable. Beer is absurdly cheap, and you’ll meet party-goers from around the world. Seriously, in about 40 years, you’ll want to tell your grandkids “I was at Cross Club”.
At their prices, $70 will take your though the night, smashed. And keep you in hangover till next noon.
For more on budget vacationing, remember to follow us on Facebook!
Got favourite budget spots in Europe? Comment and let us know!
Get more Personal Finance tips and tricks on www.MoneySmart.sg
More From MoneySmart