Sara Dajani finds tips for thrifty young travellers to explore Southern Europe.

BARCELONA, SPAIN

Why go?

Indulge in a relaxed lifestyle by spending summer by the seaside. This city is more than 2000 years old and is bursting with history.

Decorations for Festes de la Merce in Barcelona. Photo / Getty Images
Decorations for Festes de la Merce in Barcelona. Photo / Getty Images

Culture:

Advertisement

If you visit the city in late September, definitely don't miss out on the five-day free festival Festes de la Merce. It is a magical experience filled with dancers, music and fireworks.

Food: La Boqueria (just off La Rambla) remains popular with tourists. For better prices, go to one of the markets frequented by locals, like Mercat de la Albaceria, in Gracia Travesera. Top tip: Make your visit in the evening, shortly before closing, when the produce will be cheaper.

Transport: Get a T10 ticket, good for 10 rides on the central Metro and bus system. A bargain for $17, given that single tickets would cost $3.70.

ROME, ITALY

Why go?

The Italian capital is a wonderful city filled with extraordinary architecture and culture that will make you want to come back more than once.

Chilling with gelato in front of the Pantheon in Rome. Photo / Getty Images
Chilling with gelato in front of the Pantheon in Rome. Photo / Getty Images

Culture:

There is a wide range of free activities in Rome that will keep you busy for days.

The Pantheon and St Peter's Basilica are free to enter and will keep you gazing at their beautiful architecture for hours. Otherwise spend time wandering the city, and make a wish by throwing a (small) coin into the Trevi Fountain while you're at it.

Advertisement

Food: You can't visit Rome without eating gelato, pizza and pasta at least once. Visit Palazzo del Freddo Giovanni Fassi (gelateriafassi.com) for a massive selection
of cheap gelato.

Transport: Use the metro to travel long distances when you aren't spending time walking. A 24-hour ticket costs only $12 and allows you to have as many trips as you want.

DUBROVNIK, CROATIA

Why go?

This stunning city by the sea has caught the eye in recent years thanks to lingering shots in

Game of Thrones

.

Culture: It is filled with old architecture, churches and cathedrals to admire. Spend time people watching at Luza Square, where you'll find Sponza Palace, the Bell Tower and St Blaise.

Walking in Dubrovnik. Photo / Getty Images
Walking in Dubrovnik. Photo / Getty Images

Food:

Fish is one of the city's most popular foods, which is no surprise since the city is coastal. Visit Barba (on Boshkoviceva) for cheap and delicious seafood in burgers, sandwiches, and more.

Transport: Walking around the old town is one of the joys of the place. There's a good bus network if you want to explore further afield. The system is reasonably priced and easy to navigate.

LISBON, PORTUGAL

Why go?

Lisbon is a stunning city with colourful buildings by the water. The views are amazing and the nearby beaches are superb.

Culture: Spend the whole day exploring magical Sintra, which is only 40 minutes out of Lisbon. The beautiful castles there will make you feel you are in a Disney movie.

Food: Patisserie items and coffees are pretty reasonably priced in this city. Visit Manteigaria (on Rua do Loreto), considered one of the top bakeries in Lisbon, and grab yourself a delicious pastry.

Pastries from Manteigaria in Lisbon. Photo / Getty Images
Pastries from Manteigaria in Lisbon. Photo / Getty Images

Transport:

Day passes cost only $12.50 and allow unlimited citywide travel on buses, trams and trains.

ATHENS, GREECE

Why go?

Greece has one of the world's oldest civilisations, so explore the ancient ruins of the city and transport yourself back in time.

Culture: Go on a free walking tour (athensfreewalkingtour.com) with a local guide who will help you learn about the history of this fascinating city. Or climb Acropolis Hill where you can enjoy magical views .

Food: Every traveller must enjoy the Mediterranean food this city has to offer. Popular Atitamos restaurant serves cheaply priced kebabs, platters and seafood, which will make you love Greek food.

Transport: Public transport is fast and reliable. Download the Transport for Athens app to your phone to let you buy cheap one-way tickets for only $2.85, saving you time and money on your holiday.

Athens at sunset from on high. Photo / Getty Images
Athens at sunset from on high. Photo / Getty Images

Checklist

GETTING THERE

Emirates

flies daily from Auckland to Rome and Athens, via their hub in Dubai.