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10 European countries to fly to for less than the train to Cork

Whether you’re looking for a city break to Brussels, a snowy adventure in Norway or a week in the sun on the Spanish riviera, we have found the best flight deals for you.

Did you know you can now fly from Dublin to ten European countries for less than the train to Cork? That’s cheaper than €89* euros return (at the ticket office), in case you’re not quite up-to-speed with the outrageous price of train travel in Ireland. Online bargains are available if you book early enough, but you’ll still be able to find even cheaper return flights to a handful of the following countries. Read on for the best insider tips, including the cheapest way to get to and from the airport, the best budget restaurants off the beaten track and how to ‘drink like a local’ wherever you go.

1. Belgium

Mont des Arts Garden, Brussels

The first stop on our whirlwind tour of Europe is beautiful Belgium. It’s a city known for its generous portions of delicious food, and its even larger servings of world-class beer. Flights from Dublin to Brussels start at just €26 return* in January 2019. That means you’ll have plenty of cash leftover to start working your way through the never ending list of Belgian beers, all 1,000 of them!

With a flight time of just 1 hour 40 minutes, you can be sitting outside a café in Brussels, stuffing your face with Belgian waffles, in less time than it takes the train to get from Dublin to Cork. Flying into Brussels Charleroi airport, you have two main options. You can either hop on a bus to Brussels city centre. Or you can take an express coach all the way down to picturesque Bruges for just €5 each way. Be sure to book online for the cheapest offers, as buying tickets direct at the airport is a lot more expensive.

If you choose Brussels, then be sure to check out La Grand Place. The main city square is surrounded by opulent guildhalls and an array of touristy restaurants. Get your photograph, but don’t even think about sitting down here. Instead, walk down any of the nearby side streets, where you can find small cafés. Our favourite is the family-owned Maison Dandoy, a biscuiterie that serves the most delicious waffles covered in ice-cream or Nutella for just a few euros.

For more tips on budget trips to Brussels, read our local’s guide for cheap eats and cool hangouts

If Bruges is your final destination, be sure to pay a visit to the Chocolate Museum. You can watch the expert chocolatiers at work putting Mr. Wonka to shame, crafting some of the finest chocolate in the world.

2. Norway

Norwegian House

In search of a tall, Nordic beauty, or interested in hitting the ski slopes? Why not jump on a flight to Oslo and check out the home of the Vikings for €58 return*? It’s time to pack your cotton socks and winter jacket for some fun in the snow!

Be sure to check out the Holmenkollbakken ski jump, where the 1952 Winter Olympics were hosted. It is now home to the world’s oldest Ski Museum (open daily from 10am-4pm, admission €14). Oslo is also a great destination for history buffs. Famous sights include the 700-year old Akershus Castle and Fortress, the Viking Ship Museum, the Natural History Museum and a Polar Exploration ship named Fram, famed for being the strongest wooden ship ever built.

Looking to stay like a king and splurge a little on accommodation? You should think about checking in to The Grand Hotel Oslo. The 150-year old award-winning luxury hotel has played host to a long line of celebrities and heads of state. Be prepared to empty your bank account though, as room-only will set you back €200 per night. For a cheaper and perhaps more exciting option, the Oslo Hostel Central offers budget dormitory accommodation and arranges an array of activities each day for guests. It was also awarded ‘Best Hostel in Norway’ recently, so they must be doing something right.

For more information on what to see and do in Oslo, here’s our handy guide to the Norwegian capital.

3. France

The Louvre Pyramid, Paris

Dreaming of a weekend in Paris? Or perhaps the sunshine of Nice is calling? Anything to help you recover from the washout that is the ‘Irish Summer’! You’ll find flights to nine French cities for under €60 return* in 2019. The only thing left for you to decide is what variety of French wine you wish to drink, while indulging in some tasty jambon et fromage crêpes.

If long walks along the Seine, panoramic views of the city from the top of the Eiffel Tower and a (window) shopping spree down the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées sounds like your cup of tea, then flights to Paris Beauvais are what you need. Beauvais airport is admittedly a little outside of Paris, but there are regular shuttle buses throughout the day (€29 return* online).

If you wait until December, you can check out one of Europe’s most incredible Christmas Markets, which takes place next to the Notre-Dame Cathedral. For the best fondue in Paris, also book a table at the Pain Vin Fromages in the Marais district. With a choice of seven different fondue dishes, including a unique Indian fondue and a further six traditional raclette options… your taste buds will surely thank you!

Find out where all the local haunts are with our city guide to Paris.

4. The UK

A taxi to Dublin airport could cost you more than a flight to London, Bristol, or Glasgow this winter. Better head to bonnie Glasgow and take part in the legendary Clockwork Orange Pub Crawl. The popular ‘subway pub crawl’ involves stopping off at local Glaswegian bars along the circle line subway route, such as The Laurieston Bar. It’s a bar you’d probably walk straight past without the expert advice from the tour leaders and primary shot-givers.

If you’re a football fan, why not make your way to Liverpool and book a stadium tour at the legendary Anfield stadium? The guides’ passion for football and the history of this great sport will leave you overflowing with pride, whether you’re a fan of The Mighty Reds or not. Looking for five minutes of fame? Cross your fingers that you’ll bump into your favourite footie star at one of the city’s many lively nightspots. Try Circo or the exclusive Newz Bar, where many Corrie and X Factor stars are known to hang out.

The Banks of the Thames

Alternatively, hop on a flight to London Luton for just €23 for the ultimate UK tourist trip. Spend a weekend visiting Buckingham Palace, the Big Ben and, of course, not forgetting a spin around The London Eye. If you want to see the city on a budget, you could join one of the many free walking tours. Or hire a bike from Santander Cycle Hire from just €2.20 for 24 hours.

You’ve seen the sights and worked up an appetite cycling around the city – it’s time for dinner. Here are the best places to grab some grub in the capital.

5. Switzerland

Flights from Dublin to Basel, one of the most picturesque cities in Europe, are just €34 return this winter. That should be enough for you to book a trip right now! If you need persuading further, here are just a handful of reasons to visit the home of one of Europe’s best winter carnivals and Switzerland‘s biggest Christmas market.

Basel, which sits prettily on the river Rhine, has an incredible mixture of old and new. The city also lies on the border of both France and Germany, so you can easily visit three countries (Switzerland, France and Germany) in one weekend. The old town transports you back to the 12th century with its cobbled streets, gothic spires and the 700-year old gate tower, one of the last remaining remnants of the town’s old city walls. The city is also a cultural hotspot. It’s home to many museums and theatres, including the Museum of Fine Arts, which is the world’s oldest art collection accessible to the public.

Save your cash for cocktails with these 20 totally free things to do on your European city break – including free chocolate in Zurich.

6. The Netherlands

Houses along the canal, Amsterdam

Amsterdam; a city where cycling is the main method of transport. Where they have parties, dinners and hotels on boats. And where coffee shops aren’t really coffee shops. It’s a city where one of the main tourist attractions, The Heineken Experience, involves a beer bottling demonstration and lots of free beer, while the other, the Van Gogh Museum, involves viewing paintings by a creative genius who chopped off his own ear. There’s certainly never a dull moment in the Dam. Spend days exploring the city’s other famous museums, such as the Ann Frank House and the Rembrandt Museum.

Or, you could sleep every day for a week having experienced the city’s infamous nightlife, where the music rages on until the wee hours of Saturday and Sunday morning. If you’re looking for the best clubbing in Amsterdam, head to Escape (between €7-€16 depending on the night).

Insider tip: in Amsterdam, it’s expected that you should tip club bouncers at the end of the night, even if it’s just €1-€2.

Rest your weary head after a hard night’s partying in one of these arty hotels.

7. Germany

Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge, Germany

You’ve probably heard that German’s love their beer. They host the most famous beer festival in the world, Oktoberfest, and they pull some of the best pints crafted in local German breweries. But rather than make a bee-line for Berlin, flights to the German city of Cologne cost less than a month’s gym membership. So skip out on the exercise regime and discover Germany on your own two feet. Germany’s fourth largest city, Cologne is a surprisingly popular travel destination. The city’s ancient cathedral is the country’s most-visited tourist attraction, and it’s not difficult to see why. Dating back to 1248, this gothic church dominates the Cologne skyline with its famous twin spires.

For an alternative look at the city, head to the cool neighbourhood of Ehrenfeld, home to many unique murals created by street artists from all over the world. You can also find urban art tours and open air exhibitions, as well as a great selection of boutiques, cafés and restaurants frequented by locals. Finally, do what over 15 million other tourists have done in the past. Take the Cologne cable car across the river Rhine for a panoramic view of the city. The cable car was the first in Europe to cross a river and it’s by far the most scenic method of transport to get from one side of the city to the other.

For more tips on what to see and do in Cologne, check this article out.

8. Denmark

Copenhagen Canal

Thank the flight gods, but we’ve recently been graced with cheap flight deals from Dublin to Copenhagen. Denmark’s capital city is the perfect destination for anyone looking for a quick, stress-free escape. The city is amazingly compact, making it almost impossible to get lost.

Although Copenhagen is known for being an expensive destination, there are many ways to avoid breaking the bank. Consider signing up for a Free Walking Tour of the old city on your first day. This will help you get your bearings and allow you to wander the city freely for the rest of your stay. The two-hour grand tour takes you down the small cobbled streets of medieval Copenhagen and includes the famous Marble Church, Amalienborg Palace and Nyhavn. In the colourful harbour front you can spend a few minutes (or hours) sipping on an ice cold Danish beer.

If you’re on a tight budget, but still want to experience Danish nightlife, make the most of happy hour in Copenhagen. Only visit bars that offer drinks specials, such as these ten gems.

Get more advice on how to save your kroner with our guide to Copenhagen on a budget.

9. Spain

Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain

It’s never too late to grab your swimsuit, dig out your beach towel, dust down your shades and head to sunnier shores. While there may not be year-round sunshine, you’ll certainly find warmer weather there, even in autumn, with highs of 26°C. With return flights to Madrid, Santander and beautiful Barcelona for €43-€70* in October, you can’t go wrong with a little autumnal sunshine.

If the beach is calling, Barcelona offers some great city beaches, accessible by public transport, as well as nightlife to keep you entertained well after sunset. The Macarena Club, despite its cheesy name, is one of the best clubs in town for underground beats and techno music. Save some daylight hours for visiting the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo and the old Gothic quarter, with their unusual architecture and unique character. If you’re in Spain for the tapas, sign up for a Food Lovers Tour. You’ll be brought to the best local eateries in town, where you can indulge in the best Spanish food and wine.

Whet your appetite with our guide to some of the best traditional tapas you must try.

10. Italy

Milan Cathedral and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

If you fancy fine dining on Mediterranean delicacies and working your way through a five-star Italian wine list, then you need to visit Milan. The city is home to the aperitivo, a tradition of being treated to free aperitifs (small side dishes) with your drink. To fully immerse yourself in Italian culture, and to save yourself the price of a full meal, go on an Apertivo Crawl. It stops at all the city’s most famous aperitivo bars and munching your way through endless free side orders.

Besides having the best food in the world, Italy is also known for its super chic shopping boutiques. Book a cheap flight for just €44 return* in 2019 and you can save your precious cents for that handbag you’ve always dreamed of. Don’t miss out on Milan’s famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a shopping centre housed in a glass-covered 19th-century arcade. Before heading back to Dublin go visit The Last Supper, possibly the most instantly recognisable painting on the planet. It hangs on the wall of the Santa Maria delle Grazie, a small church in the heart of Milan.

Check out our glorious photo selection of 10 of the most beautiful off-the-beaten-track beaches in Europe. Or discover 19 road trips that should be on your bucket list.

Article written by Janet Newenham for Skyscanner.

*Updated January 2019. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

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