Affordable Europe

Certainly few would argue that in today’s economic climate, just about everyone is due for a little belt tightening. But that doesn’t mean your clients will have to squeeze their way out of a European vacation this year.

Indeed, the countries of the Central Europe Experience—a marketing organization of six European countries, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia—have put together itineraries for $100 per day. Here are a few choice options in some of the world’s most compelling cities.

czech republic First stop, Prague in the Czech Republic—one of the most beautiful cities in Europe—where your clients can stay in the centrally located three-star Hotel Cloister Inn for just $75 per night with free wireless Internet in Prague’s Old Town. A part of a monastery complex dating from medieval times, the property was once also used by the secret police—talk about local color. When it’s time for dinner, send them to the family restaurant Cerny Kohout, where they’ll enjoy a Czech-inspired, 3-course menu for about $12.50.

They can also take a free walking tour, complete with guide. The Right Bank Tour focuses on sights to the right of the Vltava River. It starts in the Old Town Square and astronomical clock, and hits the “Powder Tower,” Wenceslas Square, Franciscan Garden, National Museum, and Jewish Ghetto. Along the way, your guide will discuss communism, the “Velvet revolution,” and Franz Kafka, among other subjects. Or, for just $10, send clients on a ghost tour of Prague where they’ll be taken to “mysterious” locations around the city. The tour includes ghost stories about the Golem, beheaded aristocrats and alchemists. The tour ends with a free beer in a pub.

For clients more interested in culture than ghost tours, Prague is famous for its world-class music scene, with concerts, operas, and ballets performed throughout the year, and clients can get balcony seats for as little as $5 at the National Theater, the Estates Theater and the Prague State Opera. Or, tell them about The National Museum in Wenceslas Square with free entry every first Monday of the month; the National Gallery offers free entry to its permanent exhibitions every first Wednesday of the month from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m.

slovakia In Slovakia, clients visiting Bratislava can enjoy a nice two-star accommodation stay at the Hotel Orlan for about $54—including city tax—situated on a quiet street in the Ruzinov quarter, some 15 minutes from the city center by car or public transport. During the day, clients can explore the city’s historic center for free on the City Curiosities Tour, which includes various stops at very curious statues and sites throughout the city, including the narrowest house.

For lunch, suggest Traja Musketieri, for a delicious mushroom cream soup in a bread loaf and a glass of Slovak wine for about $8. Later on, they can tour Devin Castle, a national cultural monument since 1961 and now a museum.

For a traditional and inexpensive dinner, tell clients about the Presburg restaurant, where they’ll enjoy pork sirloin with cream sauce, steamed dumplings and cranberries, followed by traditional Bratislavan walnut rolls—all for about $24.

hungary In Budapest, recommend a downtown stay at the three-star Hotel SISSI where $35 pp will get them a decent room and breakfast, all within walking distance to the city’s main shopping and entertainment areas. Sightseeing is fun and inexpensive on the Hop On Hop Off bus at any of its nine stops or the main terminal on Erzsebet Ter. The Budapest Card, which costs $13, is valid for 48 hours and vacationers can freely hop on and off at main sights. The double-decker bus completes a 2-hour loop and sightseeing highlights are commented on in 12 languages.

Around lunch time, send clients to the city’s Grand Market Hall, where in addition to a colorful display of the country’s staples like peppers of myriad colors, meats, pickles and fresh bakery products, clients can also shop for souvenirs. Here, too, is the Fakanal restaurant on the gallery that serves only local dishes made with the ingredients showcased in the market. The meals are both authentic and filling. Try the thick and tasty potato stew, with a roast pork chop for as little as $4.35.

Still another must-see are the Gellert Baths, one of the most beautiful and elegant baths in Budapest, built between 1912 and 1918 in Art Nouveau style. The Gellert Baths complex includes thermal baths, which are small pools drawing their water from Gellert Hill’s mineral hot springs with both an indoor swimming pool and a large outdoor pool with artificial waves every hour and a sunning terrace in the summer. Full admission to both swimming pools including cabin rental is approximately $15 (with the Budapest Card). Recommend they top off the experience with a half-hour massage from about $17.