Stats: Europe’s Cheapest Cities for Shoulder Season Travel

Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich // Photo by RossHelen/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

As summer winds down, better airfare and hotel rates start becoming available for travel to Europe. Even better is that the warm weather continues well into September.

Here are some of Europe’s cheapest cities (according to to Airfarewatchdog) from mid-August through September, which also offer a favorable combination of lower fares and smaller crowds.

Zurich

Nonstop fares to Zurich are inexpensive from Northeastern cities, with fares from JFK currently going for $441 roundtrip on Swiss, Delta and United, for travel in September. From Washington, D.C., connecting fares to Zurich are available for travel over the week of Labor Day for $458 on American, and drop lower still for travel later in the season.

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Meals and accommodation may not be as low as elsewhere in Europe, but deals are there. A search on Hotelwatchdog for the first week of September turns up several rooms for well under $200 per night.

Paris

A visit to the City of Light in September or October will greatly reduce the number of bodies you'll have to elbow to get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa—or many of Paris’ other top sites.

Fares to Paris have dropped by quite a bit in recent years—even from the West Coast, where fares can often dip below $400 roundtrip on WOW Air, connecting via Reykjavik. Nonstop options aren’t much more, with Norwegian, Air Tahiti Nui and XL Airways regularly offering sales along this route. For late August/early September, Oakland to Paris was recently available for $375 nonstop on Norwegian.

Reykjavik

Iceland has long been a stopping point for U.S. budget travelers headed to Europe, but over the last 10 years has emerged as a destination in its own right.

From much of the U.S., a flight to Reykjavik is often cheaper or at least on par with a transcontinental flight. WOW Air’s one-way sale fares often dip below $100, with the return flight priced higher but not by much. Icelandair also now offers pared down economy light fares to better compete with WOW.

London

Despite the Air Passenger Duty, tickets to London airports are still much lower than they were a decade ago. Currently, you'll find the lowest available fares to London are with Primera Air and Norwegian Air. Norwegian flies nonstop to Gatwick from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Orlando and, most recently, Tampa. Primera offers flights to London Stansted from Boston, Newark and Washington, D.C.

As of this week, a roundtrip flight from Newark to Stansted is going for $362 nonstop on Primera, for travel in mid-September.

Budapest

Budapest's hometown airline Wizz Air might not have U.S. expansion on its to-do list, but there are plenty of other cheap ways to reach the city. LOT Polish Airlines frequently includes Budapest in its sales; if LOT doesn't fly from your home city, try pricing out flights to European airports serviced by Wizz Air and book from there. Norwegian Air also offers connecting service to Budapest.

Fares to Budapest may not be as lowe as other cities on this list, but your dollar will go much farther once there. From Chicago, fares across OneWorld carriers are hovering around $650 for mid-September dates.

Elsewhere in Europe

If you have your eyes on a particular city but find fares are just too high, Airfarewatchdog says consider flying into nearby city happens to cost the least, and arrange a second inexpensive flight or train trip within Europe.

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