Going to Europe doesn’t have to break the bank. Aggressive fares from budget airlines headquartered in Scandinavia, as well as low pricing from Star Alliance member Turkish Airlines, have made travel to the continent much more affordable. The cheapest European city to fly to will depend on a host of factors at any given time; one is your departure airport from the U.S. – New York (JFK, LaGuardia, Newark), Washington Dulles, Boston, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, and Chicago O’Hare generally offer the best prices, so it may be worthwhile for west coasters to book a flight to one of these hubs independently for the haul across The Pond.
Top 20 Cheapest European Cities to Fly to
• Reykjavik, Iceland – Reykjavík-Keflavík Airport (KEF)
The Scoop: Thanks to aggressive pricing from Iceland’s own IcelandAir and WOW Airlines, Reykjavik is the most affordable European city to fly into from the eastern United States. WOW flies out of Boston and Baltimore to Reykjavik and connects to major European cities such as Copenhagen, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, and London Gatwick, while IcelandAir flies out of 13 U.S. airports and connects to 26 cities in Europe. Far from being just a stopover on the way to the continent, visitors to Iceland will be awed by the fantastic natural scenery, including glaciers, waterfalls, and tundra, as well as hot springs, whale watching, and many other fantastic outdoor activities.
• Stockholm, Sweden – Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN)
The Scoop: Stockholm is the cheapest city to fly into Europe continentwise, which may be surprising given Scandinavia’s reputation for high prices. Visitors will find a plethora of museums, historical buildings, and royal palaces in Stockholm proper, while venturing further afoot finds fantastic cross country skiing and skating in the winter, as well as the indigenous Sami people in the far north of the country. The major Scandinavian capitals of Oslo, Helsinki, and Copenhagen are also just a stone’s throw away by airplane or ferry after you book your cheap flight into Stockholm.
• Moscow, Russia – Domodedovo International Airport (DME) or Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO)
The Scoop: Moscow is now an extremely affordable destination thanks to Turkish Airlines and the recent currency woes of the ruble. It takes some work to secure your visa for Russia – try going through a visa processing agency – but then you’ll be on your way to marvel at the Red Square, Kremlin, and the famous Bolshoi Theater. Moscow is also the railway hub of the nation, with St. Petersburg being a few hours away, or if you’ve got the time, adventure into China, Mongolia, or Siberia via the Trans-Siberian Railway.
• Copenhagen, Denmark – Copenhagen International Airport (CPH)
The Scoop: Another beneficiary of low fares from WOW Airlines as well as low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle, Denmark is known for Legos, Vikings, and Krongborg Castle(home of Hamlet). Copenhagen itself is easily navigable by public transportation as well as bicycle and boat, and can also serve as a jumping-off point for the other Scandinavian capitals once you check out some cheap flights into Copenhagen (just don’t mention local rival Sweden).
• Istanbul, Turkey – Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IST)
The Scoop: Fast growing and now one of the top five busiest airports in all of Europe, Istanbul is home to Turkish Airlines, which has seen growth anywhere from 4-6x in the past decade. In addition to serving as a connection hub for U.S. air travellers visiting Europe, the Middle East, or Asia, Istanbul in its own right is famous for the Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque, as well as being the seat of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires and the bridge between Europe and Asia.
• Ponta Delgada, Portugal – Cheapest Airlines: SATA International
The Scoop: Ponta Delgada in the Portuguese Azores made the list because of one reason: nonstop flights out of Boston on SATA International Airlines for less than $500. Connections can be made onward to destinations in Portugal, the UK, and a few other European countries. Otherwise, enjoy this slice of Atlantic island life with hiking, watersports, and local seafood and be the envy of your travel friends who have probably never thought to come here.
• St. Petersburg, Russia – Pulkovo International Airport (LED)
The Scoop: St. Petersburg makes the list courtesy of aggressive fares from SwissAir via Zurich. Known as the “Venice of the North” and the Home of the Tsars, the city boasts an entire historic center, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that is a must-visit for those with even a passing interest in Russian history. Aside from Moscow, travel to other nearby Baltic and central European states can be made easily by rail.
• Oslo, Norway – Gardermoen International Airport (OSL)
The Scoop: Homegrown Norwegian Air Shuttle has experienced enormous growth in recent years and has enjoyed a host of awards, including low-cost carrier of the year in 2014 from Skytrax. The airline offers extensive connections across Scandinavia and flights out of New York JFK, Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, and Oakland in the United States. Attractions include visiting the country’s numerous scenic fjords, or perhaps taking a trip up to far-flung Svalbard in search of polar bears and walruses. Book your cheap flight into Oslo and you, too, can host your own Nordic adventure!
• Dublin, Ireland – Dublin Airport (DUB)
The Scoop: Dublin is one of the only cities that made the list by virtue of major carriers Air Canada and United. Find cheap airfare to Dublin and enjoy the world-famous nightlife and pub culture, make your way to Cork to kiss the famous Blarney Stone, or hop on a ferry to the UK across the Irish Sea.
• Berlin, Germany – Berlin Schönefeld Airport (SXF)
The Scoop: The former East German capital is the cheapest destination to fly into the country, whereupon you can visit remnants of the Berlin Wall and the Brandenburg Gate, as well as a dizzying array of museums. Rail connections to nearby Prague, Nuremberg, and Hamburg allow you continue your exploration of diverse European culture.
• Amsterdam, Netherlands – Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS)
The Scoop: Land of tulips and windmills, Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most progressive cities and home to canal cruises, historic buildings, and festivals every month of the year. Find a cheap flight to Amsterdam and major cities in nearby Belgium, France, and Germany will be only a few hours ride by train.
• London, UK – London Heathrow International Airport (LHR), London Gatwick Airport (LGW)
The Scoop: London Heathrow is the busiest airport in all of Europe, and is also one of the most affordable with connections via WOW and IcelandAir for cheap flights into London. Needing no introduction, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and the Thames River greet visitors with sophisticated British charm, while London’s multiple airports connect with virtually any destination you can think of in Europe.
• Frankfurt, Germany – Frankfurt Airport (FRA)
Comments: The airline hub in Germany, Frankfurt offers connections throughout Germany and the rest of Europe, as well as Africa and the Middle East. While Frankfurt itself serves more of a city for business as opposed to tourists, the gothic cathedral of Cologne and the charming towns of the Rhine River are only a short train ride away and are worth a visit thanks to cheap airfare to Frankfurt.
• Limerick, Ireland – Shannon Airport (SNN)
The Scoop: The Shannon region is located in Ireland’s mid-west, with Limerick as the regional capital. Sights of interest for travelers include various castles, caves, and outdoor activities, with Cork and Dublin easily accessible nearby after flying in with cheap airfare into Shannon. Connections to other major European cities are also available by air due to the presence of budget airline king RyanAir.
• Paris, France – Charles de Gaulle International Airport (CDG)
The Scoop: WOW and Turkish Airlines lead the way for cheap flights to Paris, bringing starry-eyes visitors to the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, Champs-Élysées, and more. Charles de Gaulle Airport is Europe’s second busiest, offering connections to practically any destination in Europe you can think of.
• Venice, Italy – Venice Marco Polo International Airport (VCE)
Comment: The Venice of, well, Venice. Needing no introduction and the quintessential romantic European city, hop aboard a vaporetta water taxi to explore St. Mark’s Square and onion domed Basilica, as well as neighboring islands of Murano and Burano. Connections to Milan, Florence, Rome, and the Lake Como region are all easily made by train after landing a cheap flight into Venice.
• Madrid, Spain – Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD)
The Scoop: Picasso, Plaza Mayor, and paella greet visitors to Spain’s vibrant capital city of 3 million plus inhabitants when you book a cheap flight to Madrid. When you’re done ogling the Palacio Real or the real-life Egyptian temple Templo de Debod, captivating Spanish cities of Barcelona, Seville, Granada, and more are all easily accessed by bus or rail from Madrid.
• Brussels, Belgium – Brussels International Airport (BRU)
The Scoop: Brussels is the headquarters of the EU and NATO, and like other major European metropolises, has a fabulous palace and an array of interesting museums to explore. The Belgian cities of Antwerp and Bruges boast eclectic architecture and are but an hour away by train.
• Helsinki, Finland – Helsinki Airport (HEL)
The Scoop: Perhaps shadowed by Swedish IKEA and Danish Legos, Finland nevertheless boasts the same high quality of life and remarkable open spaces as its Scandinavian neighbors. Helsinki itself is home to the Suomenlinna sea fortress, churches, museums, and numerous islands around the capital city. For connections by sea, hop on a ferry to neighboring Estonia, Stockholm, or St. Petersburg.
• Barcelona, Spain – Barcelona–El Prat Airport (BCN)
Comments: Famous for Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia Basilica and the 1992 Summer Olympics, Barcelona is also a few hours away from Madrid and Valencia, as well as the tourist-friendly Balearic Islands in the Mediterrenean.
Traveling away from peak seasons and during the week, as opposed to weekends, will help you find the lowest fares to your European dream destination. Once you reach the continent, connections to major cities by rail, bus, or budget airline are plentiful, with the only limit being your time and imagination. Time to pack up those euros and head out! Bon voyage!