10 of the best European cities for cheap eats on a budget

From street food, markets and restaurants to Michelin-star tasting menus, these are Europe’s most popular cities ranked by their affordability for dining out.

One of the best ways to experience a new destination and its culture is through food. From yatai stalls in Fukuoka to pastries in Paris and pierogi in Poland, every country has a unique dish or culinary experience worth sampling for yourself. If you want to explore the inspired flavour combinations around the world and expand your palate, there are a few popular European destinations where restaurants, markets and cheap eats are the most delicious.

The experts at Sail Croatia have recently completed a study comparing the average cost of eating out in different restaurant categories in 10 of the most-searched travel destinations in Europe by assessing data from 2023 Google Flights. For each destination, the study calculated prices of cheap eats, three-course meals in a mid-tier restaurant, and a tasting menu in a Michelin-star luxury restaurant for one person, and then ranked cities by affordability. These are the best European cities for cheap eats and foodies on a budget in 2024.

pastries at Borough Market
Borough Market. © Unsplash/ Bruno Martins

1. Budapest 

Hungarian cuisine has many outstanding dishes, but perhaps one of the most famous traditional meals is goulash. This beef stew with onions and vegetables is the perfect antidote to cold weather as it’s filling, heartwarming and nutritious. Fortunately, Budapest leads the ranking as the cheapest European city for food lovers at $56.04 on average. Notably, its cheap eats at $9.90 are the lowest among the top 10 cities, making it an ideal destination for budget travellers. Visit the largest of all the markets in Budapest, Central Market, or Street Food Karavan Budapest. 

Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest
Budapest. © Adobe

2. Warsaw

A trip to Poland isn’t complete without eating pierogi, small and delicious stuffed dumplings native to the country. Warsaw ranks as the second cheapest city for dining out in Europe with an average meal price of $56.42. While slightly higher than Budapest, Warsaw’s fine dining options are almost identical in price. Elektrownia Powiśle is a food hall comprised of street vendors and international stalls that will take visitors on a tour of the city’s flavour profile, while the Nocny Market is an eclectic late-night snack hangout with on-site DJs, a tattoo shop and breweries. Head to Warsaw Central Train Station for cheap eats at the Night Market, too. 

Warsaw old town
Warsaw. © Adobe

3. Barcelona 

When in Barcelona, try fideua, a Catalan pasta-based paella, or crema catalana, a creamy custard pudding with zest. One of the best European cities for cheap eats and foodies on a budget, Barcelona’s meal pricing starts from $15 to $32 for mid-tier, and fine dining options sit around $128.81. Michelin-star restaurants are less expensive in Barcelona than both Budapest and Warsaw, offering a unique selling point for travellers looking for a luxury experience on a budget. If sampling local produce and sweets is more your style, visit the food markets. La Boqueria is the largest and located just off the famous La Rambla boulevard. Mercat de Santa Caterina is an excellent place to source specialty ingredients. Mercat de Sant Antoni is mostly frequented by locals. Take a stroll along Carrer del Parlament if you’re looking for a nice restaurant. 

Park Guell in Barcelona
Barcelona. © Adobe

4. Paris

France is famous for many things, but its culinary scene is especially revered, from croissants and macarons to escargot and classic pot-au-feu – the national dish. While bistros and street food vendors are some of the best cheap eats in the City of Light, sitting at around $16, the markets are an excellent resource for those cooking at home or looking for pieces to sample. Start at the deluxe Marché des Enfants Rouges, visit Marché d’Ailgre – one of the oldest in Paris – then check out Rue Montorgueil, a pedestrian food strip with flowers, cheese, bakeries and more. Take a peek into the true Parisian gastronomy scene with a stop at Marché President-Wilson. Paris’ mid-range meals clock in at around $33, and top-tier $155.64.

The Paris skyline with Eiffel Tower
Paris. © Adobe

5. Rome 

Sitting comfortably in the middle, neither too expensive nor exceptionally cheap, the average price of a meal in Rome runs in at $71.84, cheap eats at $16, and fine dining around $161. Pasta, gelato and pizza reign supreme in Rome, but foodies on a budget must try maritozzo, a lightly sugared pastry. Explore the urban zone of San Lorenzo, a popular area in Rome where cheap eats, drinks and stays can be found, or shop up a storm at the markets. Trionfale is the largest and closest to Vatican City and Campo dei Fiori is the oldest in the city. Testaccio is one of the trendiest food markets with stands, restaurants and produce stalls. Don’t miss Mercato Centrale near Rome Termini station, a food court open 365 days a year until midnight.

Old archeological ruins in Rome
Rome. © Adobe

6. Madrid

Madrid’s mid-range meals are cheaper than Rome’s, but fine dining here is more expensive, making it a middle-of-the-road option for foodies on a budget with an average meal price of $74.33. Mercado de San Miguel Market is a century-old market that has transformed into a gastronomic heaven with high-quality produce, sweets, food vendors and more. Visitors can find an upscale selection and entertainment at Platea, a theatre-turned-market. Shop for groceries and picnic supplies before eating at a cute restaurant at Mercado San Anton. Do not leave Madrid without eating churros, cocido madrileño (a chickpea-based stew), calamari rolls and patatas bravas. 

Madrid. © Adobe

7. Amsterdam

Poffertjes – tiny pancakes – may be one of the most well-known traditional Dutch Foods, but there are so many more to try. Stroopwafel, Gouda cheese and Oliebollen (Dutch fruit doughnuts) are all must-dos while in the city. Find them at markets and food halls such as the famous Albert Cuyp Market, the organic Noorder Markt, the award-winning Dapper Markt, the stalls of Ten Katemarkt and the cool indoor food market, Foodhallen. With mid-range meals pricing up similarly to Rome, Amsterdam’s meals range from $17.05 for cheap eats and up to $179 for fine dining. Foodies on a budget can expect to pay around $80 for a restaurant meal. 

Amsterdam canals
Amsterdam. © Adobe

8. Dublin

Along with London and Stockholm, Dublin is an expensive city in which to dine out. The average meal price at a decent restaurant will set travellers back around $90.90, while fine dining in this city is usually $203.95 per person. Cheap eats ring up at $22, so it’s best to keep street food and markets top of mind when visiting Dublin. Ireland’s national dish is Irish stew, perfect for warming up in winter. Soda bread is a delightfully versatile food that can be made sweet or savoury and served with a spread of butter. Visit Moore Street markets, the Irish Village markets or the Dún Laoghaire CoCo Market on Sundays to sample local fare. 

The main street in Dublin
Dublin. © Adobe

9. Stockholm

Cheap eats start at an agreeable $12.83 in Stockholm, sit at a friendly $37.95 for a nice restaurant then jump to $225.34 for fine dining experiences. Östermalms Saluhall is a high-end gourmet food market in Stockholm with Swedish delicacies, seafood, cured meats, produce and restaurants. Hötorgshallen Saluhall is another popular food hall and a great place to explore if you’re a food lover. On your travels, be sure to sample national dishes such as Swedish potato dumplings, kålpudding – a cabbage pudding – and falu sausage. 

Stockholm Old Town
Stockholm. © Adobe

10. London 

London rounds off as the most expensive city for dining, with an average meal price of $103.65 and cheap eats costing around $25.65. While fish ‘n’ chips or a full English breakfast are considered essential (and affordable!) experiences when visiting the English capital, an afternoon high tea at London institutions such as The Langham or The Ritz is the option of choice for those seeking an upper-class culinary experience without the fine dining price tag, which sits at $233.99. Looking for something even more affordable? Pick up street food, snacks and essentials at the Borough Market, Seven Dials Market, Maltby Street Market or Market Hall Victoria. The food section at Camden Market is pocket-friendly, too. 

A red bus driving past Westminster Abbey
London. © Adobe

Study Reveals: Best cities for budget foodies in 2023/2024

Sail Croatia data
Sail Croatia data

*Information provided by Sail Croatia in US dollars, with conversion correct at time of print

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