Although the COVID pandemic has us locked inside, it doesn’t mean you should not plan your next winter holiday because things can change for the better at any moment.
In case you’re after the next cheapest journey out there, Europe proves to be an infinite pool of possibilities once again. Winter in Europe brings various temperatures, from the coldest north to the warmest south and it spans across December, January, and February.
Generally speaking, winter months are the shoulder season in Europe. That means that accommodation and transportation rates drop significantly but you’ll also find fewer tourists around. Let’s see what are the cheapest countries you can visit in Europe in December.
Romania is by far the cheapest European country regardless of the season. Although rates may go up during the peak season they are still ridiculously affordable. In December and during the winter months, on the whole, Romania is in the shoulder season so the prices will be even lower. The Romanian currency is Lei and one lei equals $0.23.
Romania is actually quite cheap. As far as accommodation is concerned, you’ll discover that a lot of hotels and hostels offer discounts. For an upscale hotel in Bucharest or Timisoara, you can expect to pay $94 but budget options for a 3-star hotel starting at $30. The price of hostels starts around $15 a night.
Here is what you can expect in Romania when it comes to food and transportation:
|All-day tram/bus pass||$ 1.87||$ 2.81||$ 2.81|
|Tram/bus ride||$ 0.59||$ 0.59||$ 1.17|
|Budget breakfast||$ 1.87 – 2.81||$ 1.90 – 2.54||$ 1.97 – 2.45|
|Budget lunch||$ 2.81 – 5.62||$ 2.05 – 5.90||$ 2.00 – 4.63|
|Budget dinner||$ 4.22 – 7.03||$ 3.67 – 6.80||$ 4.67 – 9.34|
Weather and things to do in Romania in winter
Winters in Romania are chilly and temperatures can drop to 32°F to 28°F in no time, especially in the mountainous parts of the country.
Romania is not a huge country so you can see the most of it in a few days. However, winter means worse weather and poor road conditions so public transport can be a bit slow or it won’t be safe to drive down the roads far away from the big cities.
In any case, you have to visit the Romanian region of Transylvania for at least a couple of hours. Bran Castle, the city of Brasov, and all the other medieval towns such as Sighisoara and Sibiu offer a one-of-a-kind experience.
What if we told you Timisoara has already been designated as the European Capital of Culture for 2021? Yes, this city has some incredible cultural attractions and December is no exception. Once you bundle up, first and foremost, go sightseeing around the city, then continue with a visit to some of the best museums around and top it off with a delicious dessert in a local cafe or restaurant.
The city of Brasov looks particularly charming when sprinkled with snow. It’s great for those budget travelers who want to travel back in time and visit the nearby castles – including Dracula’s Bran Castle, Peles Castle, and Rasnov Fortress.
Read more: Most Affordable Cities in Western Europe
Poland frequently gets overlooked in favor of its more famous neighbors, such as Germany or the Czech Republic. This is actually quite unfair given the fact that Poland is a beautiful country, abundant in magnificent cities and opportunities for exploration. It is also one of the most affordable countries in Europe, particularly in December and other winter months. Polish Złoty is the currency used in this country although Poland is a member of the European Union. One Polish Złoty is $0.26.
The price of accommodation in Poland depends on where you’re staying. Warsaw is the country’s capital and it offers a wide range of accommodation options.
In big cities, such as Warsaw or Krakow, you’ll likely find youth hostels that start around $10 a night. Mid-range hotels in Warsaw start at $28 a night but a 5-star hotel can cost as much as $90. Although it might seem a bit on the pricier side, it’s still more affordable compared to the other countries in this part of Europe.
If you really want to stretch your dollar even further, opt for cities such as Wrocław or Zakopane. In Wrocław, you can find an apartment in the town’s center starting at $35 a day, mid-range hotels starting around $28 a night or a 5-star hotel at $90. Zakopane is a popular winter resort town, offering lodgings of all sorts. Bed&Breakfast in Zakopane starts around $25 while a room in a hostel starts at $10.
Here is what you can expect in Poland when it comes to food and transportation:
|All-day tram/bus pass||$ 3.96||$ 3.96||$3.40|
|Tram/bus ride||$ 0.90 – 1.16||$ 0.74 – 1.00||$0.84|
|Budget breakfast||$ 1.85 – 3.17||$ 1.58 – 3.17||$1.50 – 3.95|
|Budget lunch||$ 3.43 – 5.54||$ 2.90 – 4.49||$ 5.00 – 6.00|
|Budget dinner||$ 4.49 – 8.44$||$ 4.49 – 7.65||$ 4.08 – 6.58|
Weather and things to do in Poland in winter
Poland looks magical during the winter months but truth be told, it can get cold and snowy. Coastal areas are generally warmer during the winter, with temperatures lingering around 32 °F. Moving south and away from the sea, you’ll find the temperatures decreasing significantly and falling well below the freezing point. The average temperatures in the capital range between 23°F and 32 °F.
Winter magic in Poland is encountered in every step. In Krakow, make sure to visit the National Museum, bundle up and embark on a hike through the nearby Wolski Forest or go on a sleigh ride through the countryside. Of course, when in Krakow, you should pay respect to the victims of WWII and visit Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Warsaw offers an incredible number of fun opportunities. If you feel up for some blood-pumping activities, visit Hangar646 and choose one of 100 trampolines to jump on. Visit the Copernicus Science Centre and Polin – Museum of the History of Polish Jews, too and learn all about Poland’s history.
Read more: Places in Europe you Must Visit in Winter
For those of you who’ve never been to Serbia, let us just say you’ll be pleasantly surprised after you experience this country firsthand. Not only are the Serbs cordial and jolly folks but the country itself, nature, landscapes and tons of opportunities for exploration, make it an incredible December budget destination. The best part is that it all comes at a very affordable price.
Serbia is still not a member of the European Union so the currency used in this country is Serbian Dinar. One Serbian Dinar equals $0.09.
Accommodation in Serbia is highly affordable although the highest rates are found in Belgrade. Belgrade is the country’s capital and it’s also the cultural epicenter, rich in history, eclectic and diverse.
Hostels in Belgrade start at $5 a night but you can also rent an entire condo for $40 a day, spend the night in a mid-range hotel for $23 or splurge at a 5-star hotel for $100 a night. Other big cities such as Novi Sad and Nis offer slightly lower accommodation rates and during the winter months, such as December or January, you can find 20% to 30% discounts.
Here is what you can expect in Serbia when it comes to food and transportation:
|All-day tram/bus pass||$ 7.12||$ 2.64||$ /|
|Tram/bus ride||$ 0.81||$ 0.62||$ 0.95|
|Budget breakfast||$ 1.85 – 4.50||$ 4.02||$ 4.76|
|Budget lunch||$ 2.81 – 5.06||$ 4.59||$ 5.71|
|Budget dinner||$ 4.49 – 8.99||$ 5.58 – 8.89||$ 5.01 – 9.02|
Weather and things to do in Serbia in winter
Winters in Serbia are cold but compared to the northern parts of Europe, they are relatively mild. In December, temperatures stay around 32°F but plunge to 28°F during the night although they can easily climb to 43°F during the day. Of course, the variations in temperatures will depend on where you’re staying. Belgrade and Nis are located in the central and southern parts of the country, respectively. That means the temperatures here will be slightly warmer than in the Northern parts, where Novi Sad is.
When it comes to activities and entertainment, you’ll have a lot on your plate in Serbia. The holiday season is in full swing which means that Christmas markets will be open and you will also find great discounts and sales in shopping centers. In Belgrade, you can go ice skating in one of the rinks dotted around the city, walk on Kalemegdan fortress covered in snow, and warm up with a cup of mulled wine in some of the best bars and ‘kafanas’.
Novi Sad and Nis also offer spectacular winter possibilities. Belgrade gets all the credit as being the most lively and tourist-centric city in Serbia. In reality, Novi sad is just as charming. You can wander around the Petrovaradin fortress overlooking the Danube and the entire city, admire the pastel-colored facades of the remnants of Austro-Hungarian architecture city is known for, or enjoy a hearty Serbian meal in some of the best restaurants around.
In Nis, you must visit the 18th-century Nis Fortress (yes, Serbia has its fair share of fortresses), enjoy a Serbian meal or ‘rakija’ in the bohemian quarter Tinkers Alley (Kazandžijsko sokače), and visit the Archaeological Hall of Nis National Museum.
This tiny country in Central Europe is actually one of the oldest countries on the continent. Characterized by vast plains, hospitable locals, and incredibly diverse social and cultural scene, Hungary landed on this list for one obvious reason – it’s extremely affordable.
Budapest, the country’s capital, is called ‘the jewel of Danube’ for a reason. With its 2 million residents and rich cultural heritage, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to museums, fun, shopping, and exploration. As the country’s capital, Budapest also offers a great number of accommodation options. Winter months are off-season in Hungary so you’ll find great rates, too.
In winter, budget hostels start around $6 in Budapest while apartments start around $25. Mid-range hotels start at $28 a night while a day in a 4-star hotel starts at $35. Other popular cities include Eger and Szeged, both hiding immense cultural and historical treasures.
In Eger, a room in a hostel starts around $19 while a night in a mid-range hotel lingers around $32. A night in a hostel in Szeged is around $20 while a night in a 4-star hotel starts at $27.
Here is what you can expect in Hungary when it comes to food and transportation:
|All-day tram/bus pass||$ 5.61||$ 18 (monthly)||$24 (monthly)|
|Tram/bus ride||$1.19 – 1.80||$ 1.10||$1.10-1.50|
|Budget breakfast||$1.19 – 1.80||$ 4.02||$2.03 – 5.10|
|Budget lunch||$ 1.79 – 2.86||$ 3.50 – 4.09||$ 4.80 – 6.80|
|Budget dinner||$ 5.00 – 9.18||$ 4.31 – 8.06||$4.07 – 9.00|
Weather and things to do in Hungary in winter
Yes, winters in Hungary are cold but there are so many things that will compensate for it. Although it’s not that cold you won’t be able to explore the country, you will need to make careful packing preparations. In winter, temperatures vary between 23°F and 32°F while nights can get particularly chilly. Winter months in the southern region where Eger and Szeged are located, tend to be milder than in the rest of the country.
Although tiny, Hungary offers spectacular opportunities for exploration and winter is no exception. It’s not the ideal time to do so but still has its perks. In Budapest, Christmas markets a sight to behold – a splash of colors and the smells of mulled wine are the highlights.
Szeged is the epicenter of nightlife, simply because it’s a university city so you can have some great partying opportunities here. Eger is known for its wonderful baroque architecture and delectable restaurants. You can also thaw your frozen toes in a Turkish bath – it won’t disappoint.
So, it’s clear there’s plenty to choose from. It’s up to you to pick the next best European destination and make your December memorable without breaking the bank.