The most interesting cities in Europe to visit

Prague, Czech Republic

Why it's so cheap: The secret is out on Prague, so prices have been slowly increasing along with the crowds of tourists. But despite its popularity, it still won’t break your budget. For just $40 a night you can rent an Airbnb near the Old Town center. The city is small so you don’t have to worry about paying for transportation; you can see basically everything on foot -- unless you’ve had a little too much beer, which I won’t fault you for because it bangs out some of the best drafts in Europe for under $2.

Why you should go: Walk through the early morning fog on the Charles Bridge (emphasis on early morning, before the hordes arrive) and you’ll feel like you’re the star of your own spy movie. Prague is almost ineffably stunning, with winding cobblestone alleys, ornate Gothic and Baroque churches, and a fascinating mix of medieval and Communist history (the Museum of Communism, comically located next to a McDonald’s, is an absolute must). It has the largest castle complex in the world, replete with torture chambers, as well as some of the oldest pubs and beer halls in all of Europe. Wandering off the tourist track will reward you here. Explore Malá Strana and take in the full glorious view of the city from the top of Petřín Hill. Make sure you order some late-night smažený sýr (breaded fried cheese) off a food cart. If you’re looking for a unique and admittedly creepy place to have a pint, visit Bunkr Parukarka and drink inside a nuclear fallout shelter. Kafka would’ve bugged out for it. -- Katie Lockhart, Thrillist contributor

Brussels, Belgium

Why it's so cheap: Home to the European Commission headquarters, Brussels buzzes with purposeful business travellers during the week. Yet on the weekends, when the briefcase-toting contingent vanishes -- and other tourists are more keen to gawk at the medieval treasures in oppressively crowded nearby Bruges -- the Belgian capital acquires a more inviting, artsy vibe. Hotel prices tend to drop considerably, too, meaning you can shack up in the bright, modern, aptly named Pantone Hotel in the swarms-with-creative types Saint-Gilles quarter for $99 a night.

Brussels is an especially good value when it’s paired with other Euro metropolises. Brussels South Charleroi Airport (easily accessed via a $19 one-way bus ride from Brussels-Midi station) is the hub for low-cost carriers making short-haul flights.

Why you should go: Brussels often gets pegged as one of Europe’s blander cities, but the reputation is undeserved. Just stand in the middle of cobblestoned Grand Place and try not to be seduced by the melange of Gothic architecture and gilded statues surrounding you. Then, escape the hordes hell-bent on seeing the anti-climactic Manneken Pis sculpture, and head to Le Pantin. Located in a multi-cultural stretch of Ixelles, this timeless spot with the brick-fronted bar is where to knock back a $4 St. Bernardus Tripel or two before devouring a cone of bronzed fries at nearby Frit Flagey.

Heaps of museums keep the culture-curious sated in Brussels, and one of the best is the Musical Instruments Museum. Bonus: the roving, yellow Pascalino truck hovers close by, dispensing glorious, golden, Liège-style waffles (that’s the superior kind that flaunts arbitrary clusters of sugar in some of its grooves, by the way).

To savor Brussels’ most famous export, skip the glitzy city-center chains and visit the Frederic Blondeel Chocolate Factory & Shop in Koekelberg. It’s big on industrial charm, and for $13 you can snag a two-layered box of some 20 from-scratch bonbons. -- Alia Akkam

Krakow, Poland

Why it's so cheap: Poland's Communist history has kept it catching up in the capitalist market, which means today even the thriftiest bugger can still, quite literally, ball out in even its most touristed city. A slick, artsy Airbnb in Krakow's historic Kazimierz won't set you back more than $50 a night, taxis are affordable (and even better, meter prices are usually trustworthy), and central Old Town is conveniently walkable. Be prepared to spend nominally, but gain a lot -- of pleasant experiences, yes, but also pounds, from gluttonizing on $2 pints, $2 grilled kielbasa, and entree platters bulging with meat, dough, and cabbage medleys starting for as low as $4 a pop.

Why you should go: As the country is fond of saying, “If you want to see the history of Poland” go to Krakow. It’s true. From walks through former communist neighborhood Nowa Huta (fascinating), to tours of Former concentration camp Auschwitz (haunting, but a necessary stop to understand this atrocious chapter in history) to an old town untouched by bombings during World War II (enchanting), the historical index runs deep.

Get lost in the Kazimierz area. This Jewish district is home to the city’s bulk of street art, independent galleries, and cafes. After you’ve found yourself at the bottom of an ice cream cone or kebab from one of the area’s many vendors, use your newfound energy to charge the hill and visit Wawel Cathedral, a landmark that many believe contains actual dragon bones. (Who needs Game of Thrones?) This fun fairytale fact is commemorated with a fire-breathing dragon sculpture at the banks of the of the Vistula river.

Scaling to greater heights more your bag? Krakow is a daytrip away from the Pieniny Mountains, where in addition to river rafting in traditional Polish wood boats, you can scale the intimidating (but surprisingly manageable) Sokolica Peak, where breathtaking views of both Poland and Slovokia await. -- Laura Studarus

Athens, Greece

Why it's so cheap: Greece is a financial hot mess at the moment, teetering on the brink of Grexit and stumbling over debt repayments. For you, that means a heck of a deal on a badass summer holiday. In Athens, you'll find all the typical tourist-gouging around the Acropolis and surrounding area, but put some distance between yourself and the Parthenon and you'll be treated with some very reasonable prices. You'll find that you can eat very well in the Greek capital on a budget, save for splurging on a seafood dinner or two. Some of the cuisine's best are cheap, simple pleasures made on the fly -- there's souvlaki, pastries such as spanakopita and tiropita, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and everyone's favorite foamy coffee, frappé.

Why you should go: Athens' ancient history will lead you to believe it's old-fashioned, but it's actually gloriously dualistic, with modern industrial venues and hipstery vintage-cloaked cafes. It's actually home to Europe's most creative, happening bar scenes at the moment, with the kitschy haunts of neighborhoods Exarcheia and funky Psiri, which was a very rough area up until the '90s. Besides legendary bars such as The Clumsies and Brettos, one of Europe's oldest bars with its own distillery making liqueurs, there are underground jazz bars and, of course, traditional taverns. Along with all the shopping at the flea market Monastiraki and upscale Kifisia, you'll likely be boozed- and browsed-out before even hitting the islands. -- Barbara Woolsey, Thrillist contributor

Glasgow, Scotland

Why it’s so cheap: From the East Coast you can fly to Glasgow for under $500 -- it’s also just a train ride away from London, Edinburgh, or pretty much any major UK city. (The Virgin rail from London leaves every 40 minutes, takes less than five hours and can be had for less than $40.) Hotels -- including major US standard bearers like Hilton -- can be snatched up for under $100 a night, and an all-day subway pass is about $3. You’re going to need to that, by the way.

Why you should go: The largest city in Scotland is often overlooked for its capital sister to the east. And while Edinburgh boasts gorgeous castles and hilly historical charm, Glasgow’s got grit, baby. Glasgow’s industrial core drips with authenticity; there’s no mistaking its independent ruggedness. But she’s a cosmopolitan place, too, with far more to offer than haggis and Scotch whisky (you should try both, though, and stick with multifarious options of the latter throughout your stay).

Glasgow has great museums, parks, churches, blah blah: If you’re hunting for a truly unique experience, do what droves of idiot collegiate American students abroad have done for years: The Glasgow Subway is a loop. Hop on and, then, hop off at each station, heading to the first pub you spy. Once there, have a drink, chat up the locals, and repeat. There are 15 stations (and, therefore, drinks) in the “sub crawl” and, from experience, a couple of them are in dodgy areas. So, be careful but, ya know, go nuts and see the city -- if through blurry lenses by the end of the affair. -- Colin St. John, Thrillist contributor