Budapest. Although it has shown up on more tourist radars in recent years, it’s still a great value, and it is truly one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. It’s breathtaking to view the Hungarian Parliament Building on the Pest side of the city from the Fisherman’s Bastion on the Buda side or to glimpse the Chain Bridge at night with the tower of Matthias Church in the background. The sights don’t even seem real sometimes. Take a walking tour through District 8, the Palace District where the wealthy once lived and where there are still many cultural highlights. I’d also recommend the Széchenyi Baths for the quintessential Budapest spa experience.
Split in Croatia ticked all the boxes for me, great history with the city built within Diocletian’s Palace so roman ruins everywhere. The Riva to enjoy a drink and the sunshine, Marjan Park with walking trails and beautiful coastline. Just a wonderful place to visit and explore.
There are SO many beautiful and affordable locations around the world. One might be Oaxaca, Mexico with all it has to offer including Monte Alban ruins and Mezcal!
Mazatlan, Mexico is the most beautiful city at the best price. We stayed there nearly two months. It has miles of beaches along a malecon, or seafront walkway. Its downtown is refurbished and vibrant. Mazatlan is more of a “working” city instead of a tourist resort attraction, so its prices can be really low.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa is one of the world’s most beautiful cities — and one of my favorites! The landscape is stunning, with scenic bays, white sand beaches, and picturesque mountains. Plus there is so much to see and do! Cape Town continues to be an affordable destination (not counting the ticket to fly there!) because of the favorable exchange rate between the South African Rand (ZAR) and the US Dollar.
When in Cape Town, be sure to visit the V&A Waterfront, walk through the colorful Bo-Kaap neighborhood (with its bright pastel painted houses), and ride the cable car to the top of Table Mountain for spectacular views. Another must-do is visit fascinating Robben Island. During South Africa’s apartheid, the island housed political prisoners, including Nelson Mandala, who spent 18 years there. It’s powerful to see his small cell and the lime quarry where he did hard labor. Plus, the 30-minute ferry ride to the island affords gorgeous views back at Cape Town and Table Mountain.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
I have always wanted to visit Vietnam and a couple of years ago I won an airline ticket from Turkish Airlines to fly anywhere in the world. I chose Ho Chi Minh City because it was a bucket list destination and affordable. I only had a few days to spend there but my four hotel nights, airport transfers, and four activities (sightseeing and culinary tours) cost less than $500. The people are beautiful and welcoming, the architecture is intriguing and getting out to the Mekong Delta is gorgeous.
While Chicago can be expensive, I watch for hotel deals or stay in an Airbnb in an outer neighborhood. For me, I’m able to drive to Kenosha, Wisconsin, hop on the Metra and be in the center of Chicago for cheap. No driving stress and no parking costs. There are lots of free and cheap things to do in Chicago. A walk to Millennium Park, a visit to a museum, even people watching is free! I absolutely love the vibe of Chicago.
Hmmmmm. Beautiful AND affordable is very different than what I would say for each separately. I’m going to say Gdansk, Poland, because of the architecture, affordability, location on the river, history of the place where World War II started, and proximity to the Polish Riviera. Gdansk’s Old Town is different than most of the old towns in Europe which are mostly Austro-Hungarian style. Gdansk was decimated by bombs during and after WWII, but when they rebuilt, they went back to a prior Mannerist style, instead of the more Germanic Austro-Hungarian style. Being a feisty person myself, I can’t help but love that nose-thumbing!
Hydra island, Greece
Hydra island, Greece. No motorized vehicles allowed (aside from the garbage truck) transport is on foot, by donkey or pack horse. The city wraps around a bay. Spring and fall are beautiful seasons and prices are surprisingly affordable in those shoulder seasons.
Krakow, Poland and Prague, Czech Republic
Krakow, Poland and Prague, Czech Republic have got to be the most beautiful places that I have been to lately. Krakow’s old market square and Prague’s St. Charles Bridge are just some of the key sights to see.
Istanbul is one of our favorite cities, and it’s surprisingly affordable for such a large city. April is the perfect time to visit. Turkey is the home of the tulip, and Istanbul hosts a month-long tulip festival in April. The parks and streets are full of tulips. The weather is good, and it is before peak tourist season — making it less crowded and more affordable.
The famous tourist sites, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Grand Bazaar, and Hagia Sophia are musts for first time visitors. After that, just wander the streets and around every corner awaits a new discovery! Oh, and did we mention the food! We could still be there eating!