Plan a Weekend Escape! 5 New Europe Break Ideas…

Kelvingrove at night

Today’s guest poster is Sean O’Meara from Watch my Wallet

Whatever you want to achieve from your travel plans this year there’s a place to do it cheaply and in style. Boutique festivals, free trams, cheap whiskey, blanket wi-fi and a 160th birthday party await in Europe’s most wallet-friendly destinations…

1. For Live Music Lovers –  Tisno

Tucked away on the Dalmatian Coast, Tisno is for the most part a peaceful idyll, ideal for hiking and with some of the most beautiful forested beaches in the world.

But for a few weeks in the summer, this little fishing village comes alive to the sound of music. Electric Elephant, Stop Making Sense, The Garden and Soundwave festivals are all located here. Soundwave is the pick of a great bunch, on in late July (this year 19th -22nd) after relocating here from further up the coast.

Manchester's riot jazz at soundwave

Cited by its organisers as the festival for “people who say please and thank you,” Soundwave always boasts a carefully curated bill of established and under-the-radar artists. Bonobo are confirmed for 2013, but expect a left-of-centre household name to appear too; De La Soul, Little Dragon and DJ Yoda have all made recent main stage appearances.

As far as festivals go, this one offers incredible value for money. Super early bird tickets for 2013 were £65 for three nights without camping, but sold out quickly. There are still some £85 early birds left, but once they’re gone, you’ll still only need to shell out £119. Coupled with the cheap local food, beer, accommodation and flights (sub £120 return to Zadar from most places if booked early) this is certainly a festival you can do on a budget.

Recommended; Head up to Jezera, a small village in the hills above Tisno and sample some local fig schnapps.

2. For Freelancers who Want to Keep Working – Tallinn

Tallinn is famous for being the most connected city in Europe. Skype has offices here and it’s rare to be out of range of free Wi-Fi. It’s the ideal place to go if you’re looking to combine a bit of freelancing or studying with a trip away. No more worrying about dongles and data charges.

Velijo Haamer is the man responsible for Tallinn’s blanket coverage of free wifi. Impressed at being able to get online in New York’s Bryant Park, he resolved to make Estonia Europe’s biggest free WI-FI hotspot.

He charges local business a fee for installing and maintenance and the businesses work the cost of providing Wi-Fi into their food and drink, but it’s still cheap to eat and dine. If you’re after a working break or want to try being location-independent, Tallinn is the place to go.tallinn at night

Recommended; KGB Museum. The Viru Hotel was where all foreign dignitaries were hosted during the Cold War. It is also where the KGB eavesdropped on them. The top floor of the Viru is now a museum, housing an impressive collection of instruments, equipment and there’s also a tour, which adds dark detail to local sights. Maybe don’t use the free Wi-Fi here.

Hostels in Tallinn start from €7pppn @ The Monk’s Bunk

Need more travel advice? Check out Thrifty Tallinn: How to Shop, Eat & Drink for Cheap

3. For People Who Love Birthdays  – Amsterdam

2013 is a year of anniversaries for the city and there’s a lot going on to reflect this. It’s the 160th anniversary of Van Gogh’s birthday, the canal network turns 400 years old and the Artis Royal Zoo is 175. Meanwhile, the iconic Rijksmuseum National Museum of Netherlands Art and History re-opens after a 10-year renovation project. April 13th is the big day!

cyclists in the 'Dam

It’s not typically regarded as cheap, but you can get a lot of Amsterdam for your money if you invest in an IAmsterdam card. For an initial outlay of  €60.00 for 72 hours ( €50 for 48 hours or  €40 for 24 hours) you get unlimited free use of the tram system, free entry to over 30 museums, including the Rembrandt museum, Van Gogh Museum, Diamond Museum – for a fascinating if grim history of Holland’s colonial past – FOAM Amsterdam for cutting edge photography by local artists; plus cheap bike hire and discount entry to other attractions, such as House of Bols, where you can discover the origin of the world’s first ever liquor.

The best way to see Amsterdam is by bike, but if you’re feeling lazy get a rickshaw tour for around €20.

RecommendedVan Kerkwijk; understated and a bit scruffy, no reservations, no menu (our waiter just asked us what we fancied), no wine glasses but exceptional food and a unique atmosphere. Expect to pay around €15 for a main. Get the tomato, red pepper and truffle soup to start.

Hostels in Amsterdam start from €8pppn @ Hostelle

Thirsty? See Amsterdam Bars: 4 Fab & Frugal Places to Drink

4. For Fans of Art and Architecture – Glasgow

Sprawling, friendly, glamorous and gritty, Glasgow might be one of Europe’s most overlooked destinations. The city was selected this month (Jan 2013) to host the 2015 Turner Prize – it delivers culture and kitchen sink realism in equal doses.

Do your drinking in and around the West End and make a point of visiting the award-winning Grosvenor Cinema cafe and the Ubiquitous Chip, where you’ll find a selection of very reasonably priced single malts.

All galleries are free. Check out the School of Art, the Kelvingrove Museum’s Dali collection, the Lighthouse and GOMA for a healthy mix of up-and-coming, historical and contemporary exhibits. Tweet the latter to find out when they’re doing their next behind-the-scenes tour and get a look at the exhibits as they’re being put together while enjoying a few free glasses of wine and some homemade empire biscuits.

Glasgow city free church

Stroll around the city centre and marvel at the architecture; the city has a distinctive combination of 19th Century and early 20th Century “Glasgow style” buildings. Design enthusiasts will want to check out the Charles Rennie Mackintosh exhibit at the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian.

Getting around is super cheap. The city has an endearingly uncomplicated underground system dubbed by locals “the clockwork orange” due to its reliability and colour of the trains. A day’s unlimited travel will set you back £3.80.

Recommended: Go for a beer in the Clutha Bar on Stockwell Street. When in a city that likes a drink as much as Glasgow, you’ll have your pick of great places to go, but this friendly drinking-man’s pub is great for live music and characterises the rugged charm that Glasgow is famous for.

Hostels in Glasgow start from €10.87pppn @ The St Enoch Hotel

Get more tips with 10 Things to Do in Glasgow

5. For People who Love Ancient History (and partying) – Istanbul

Istanbul is a city energized by its position straddling Europe and Asia. It’s an enormous place with a history of welcoming visitors. The Galata Tower area epitomises this sense of hospitality best, it’s a lively and culturally diverse district, well stocked with great value, Bohemian places to eat. Visit the Blue mosque, Hagia Sophia and Basilica cistern (don’t miss this!). These are all must-sees and are handily located close together.

Another must see is Topkapi Palace, the seat of the Ottoman Empire for three centuries. Epic stuff for anyone with an interest in history, although parts like the harem cost extra and can be ridiculously busy at high season.

Blue Mosque Istanbul

Haggling at the grand bazaar and spice markets is great fun, even if only for a few gifts. The atmosphere at Istanbul’s bazaars is a lot more chilled than in your typical Moroccan souk. Spend a moment to sit and drink tea in one of the cafes to soak it up.

Make a point of visiting Nevizade Sokak, the main street in Beyoğlu – you’ll find great food, clubs and bars. This is the best area for a night out. Istiklal caddesi is the bustling main promenade, go here for traditional Turkish ice cream and then take an evening stroll. For a bit of relaxation, hop on a ferry to one of the Prince Islands for a tranquil respite from Istanbul’s characteristic hustle. There’s no traffic, only horse drawn carriages, great to escape the city, although weekends at high season are far from restful.

Hostels in Istanbul start from €7pppn @ Cordial House Hostel

We’ve more Istanbul ideas in 10 Things to Do in Istanbul

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