7. Krakow, Poland
Shabby-chic charm and meaningful history
Why it’s so cheap: Poland’s Communist history has kept it catching up in the capitalist market, which means today even the thriftiest bugger can still, quite literally, ball out in even its most touristed city. A slick, artsy Airbnb in Krakow’s historic Kazimierz won’t set you back more than $50 a night, taxis are affordable (and even better, meter prices are usually trustworthy), and central Old Town is conveniently walkable. Be prepared to spend nominally, but gain a lot — of pleasant experiences, yes, but also pounds, from gluttonizing on $2 pints, $2 grilled kielbasa, and entree platters bulging with meat, dough, and cabbage medleys starting for as low as $4 a pop.
Why you should go: Krakow is the ultimate hipster-historic darling, and Kazimierz, or the former Jewish district, is undoubtedly one of Europe’s coolest neighborhoods. Afternoons are for winding around synagogues and graffiti art, spotting Jewish school groups wearing kippahs, nibbling kosher delicacies, and boutique shopping. Evenings are spent on the city’s chain gang of dive bars boasting fairytale charm, from candlelit Alchemia to trashy-chic La Habana and the absinthe lair Absynt Cafe.
Krakow’s badass, but it’s also sobering as one of the main stages of the Holocaust. Painful memories are still scarred on these streets, from the Ghetto Heroes Monument, to an unsuspecting pharmacy that once secretly provided medicine to persecuted Jews, to the nearby concentration camp Auschwitz. Much of this history is wrenching to hear and think about, but you’ll know in your heart that it must never, ever be forgotten. — Barbara Woolsey, Thrillist contributor