23 Cheapest European Cities & Airports to Fly into in 2020
So many of us starting in the US or Canada will be visiting multiple cities when we tour Europe that we have the luxury of flying into several different destinations. But with the airline business changing so rapidly, how do we know which are the cheapest cities to fly into?
Not too many years ago the cheapest flights into Europe were almost always into the largest and busiest airports, which are in London, Frankfurt, Paris, and Amsterdam, but times have changed. Now those are sometimes the most expensive airports to fly into within Europe, so savvy travelers on multi-stop trips are better off starting elsewhere. The cheapest international flight destinations from the USA are largely in Latin America, but many of them are also the top cities in Europe.
How Was The Test Done?
For each city tested we found the cheapest fare starting from the 5 largest cities in the US (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Atlanta) along with Canada’s largest city (Toronto) in early August, and the cheapest fare in mid October. Then we averaged the two fares and then averaged the fares into all 6 cities into on Index number. The cheap flights to Europe from the USA are mainly from the east coast, as you’d imagine, but there are many great deals from other regions as well.
Needless to say, the rankings starting in individual cities can vary from the combined list, but generally they aren’t far apart. A bit surprisingly, only a handful of the cheapest flights were non-stops, so almost everyone will be changing planes exactly once in each direction over the Atlantic. The cheapest flights from New York to Europe are often non-stops, but from most other cities you have to change planes to get a decent fare.
How To Use The List Below
Especially since many of the cheapest cities below are remote, the obvious strategy is to keep going down the list until you come across one of the cities you intend on visiting. Hopefully you can then find a cheap flight and use that as a hub to explore other cities by rail or low-cost airlines.
Overall, the differences in fares from the top to the bottom of this list are not great enough to justify flying into one and then booking another separate round-trip to your final destination on a low-cost airline, though in some cases it might work out cheaper. The cheapest international flights from Atlanta are often strangely expensive because Delta dominates that airport to such a large degree.
- Cheapest European cities for backpackers (56 cities ranked by price)
- Cheapest European cities for 3-star travelers (56 cities ranked by price)
23 Cheapest European Cities & Airports to Fly to in 2020
(prices shown are cheapest summer/autumn – average)
City code: PAR
Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)
Orly Airport (ORY)
Charles de Gaulle Airport is another of Europe’s largest and best connected, plus the main hub of Air France. In our 2017 tests we found some very competitive flights starting from some cities (New York, Chicago, and Toronto), but more expensive from others. You might find that flying into another city and then moving on to Paris is cheaper unless you are starting from NYC or Toronto.
- New York City: $264/$200 – $232
- Chicago: $388/$366 – $377
- Los Angeles: $707/$685 – $696
- Houston: $660/$685 – $673
- Atlanta: $646/$607 – $627
- Toronto: $683/$489 – $586
- Index average: $532
City code: LON
London Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Gatwick Airport (LGW)
London Stansted Airport (STN)
Luton Airport (LTN)
London has 4 major airports (plus London City Airport for short-haul flights) and the cheapest trans-Atlantic fares could be into any one of them. Heathrow is the busiest, but Gatwick is often the cheapest by a little. Starting with our 2016 tests, London actually had some very competitive airfares for the first time in quite a few years. If you want to start your vacation in London, then this year you should be able to get a fairly cheap flight.
- New York City: $339/$293 – $316
- Chicago: $477/$471 – $474
- Los Angeles: $524/$390 – $457
- Houston: $968/$726 – $847
- Atlanta: $837/$682 – $760
- Toronto: $459/$416 – $438
- Index average: $549
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS)
Europe’s 4th busiest airport has nonstop connections to destinations around the world as the main hub of KLM. Amsterdam is a good airport for bargains once again.
- New York City: $276/$237 – $257
- Chicago: $389/$475 – $432
- Los Angeles: $642/$616 – $629
- Houston: $701/$653 – $677
- Atlanta: $689/$702 – $696
- Toronto: $648/$621 – $635
- Index average: $554
Brussels Airport (BRU)
The home of Brussels Airlines, which flies nonstop to New York-JFK, this airport is also served by most of Europe’s majors so fares are competitive.
- New York City: $433/$272 – $353
- Chicago: $482/$567 – $525
- Los Angeles: $567/$543 – $555
- Houston: $671/$680 – $676
- Atlanta: $702/$710 – $706
- Toronto: $498/$520 – $509
- Index average: $554
Zurich Airport (ZRH)
Zurich Airport is the primary hub of Swiss International Air Lines (aka SWISS), and it’s quite surprising that they offer fairly competitive fares on incoming flights, including to many destinations in Germany as well. Beware that everything else in Zurich is incredibly expensive once you are through security.
- New York City: $454/$451 – $453
- Chicago: $438/$638- $538
- Los Angeles: $633/$547 – $590
- Houston: $703/$676 – $690
- Atlanta: $761/$774 – $768
- Toronto: $524/$540 – $532
- Index average: $595
Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD)
This is Spain’s busiest airport and Europe’s 4th busiest, but being home to Iberia Airline doesn’t mean it’ll always have cheap non-stop trans-Atlantic flights.
- New York City: $398/$257 – $328
- Chicago: $477/$458 – $468
- Los Angeles: $622/$570 – $596
- Houston: $650/$622 – $636
- Atlanta: $886/$809 – $848
- Toronto: $779/$659 – $719
- Index average: $599
Oslo Airport, Gardermoen (OSL)
The good news for anyone flying from the US or Canada to Norway is that flights into Oslo are strangely cheap from major North American cities. The bad news, of course, is that certain things (food and drinks) once you are there are quite expensive.
- New York City: $823/$387 – $605
- Chicago: $592/$566 – $579
- Los Angeles: $438/$472 – $455
- Houston: $630/$814 – $722
- Atlanta: $600/$509- $555
- Toronto: $775/$597 – $686
- Index average: $600
Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS)
The city of Lisbon is quite a good travel bargain once you get there, but the inbound flights are now fairly expensive, unless you are starting in Toronto.
- New York City: $413/$439 – $426
- Chicago: $523/$497 – $510
- Los Angeles: $550/$541 – $546
- Houston: $801/$791 – $796
- Atlanta: $969/$1009 – $989
- Toronto: $386/$451 – $419
- Index average: $614
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague Václav Havel Airport (PRG)
Prague Airport is the hub of Czech Airlines, but few if any of the cheapest trans-Atlantic flights are on the national carrier. In 2013 when we ran the numbers this airport was in the top half of this list, but as of 2017 it’s one of the most expensive incoming airports in Europe.
- New York City: $449/$401 – $425
- Chicago: $462/$556 – $509
- Los Angeles: $555/$602 – $579
- Houston: $754/$836 – $795
- Atlanta: $900/$784 – $842
- Toronto: $603/$510 – $557
- Index average: $618
Copenhagen Airport (CPH)
Scandinavian Airlines (also known as SAS) operates the largest of its three hubs in Copenhagen, and that leads to surprisingly low airfares, especially on its non-stop flights from New York, Chicago, and Toronto.
- New York City: $468/$352 – $410
- Chicago: $453/$470 – $462
- Los Angeles: $629/$507 – $568
- Houston: $794/$831 – $813
- Atlanta: $764/$904 – $834
- Toronto: $649/$679 – $664
- Index average: $625
City code: MIL
Malpensa Airport (MXP)
Linate Airport (LIN)
The smaller of the two main hubs of Alitalia, Milan’s is now usually cheaper than flying into Rome, but if you aren’t planning on visiting Milan then flying into Rome is probably still better. Strangely, Alitalia itself never seems to have the best fares. In 2015 the city appears to have become more affordable for incoming flights, but mostly because Emirates is crossing the Atlantic with cheap fares from some cities.
- New York City: $482/$324 – $403
- Chicago: $556/$571 – $564
- Los Angeles: $621/$574 – $598
- Houston: $865/$871 – $868
- Atlanta: $794/$781 – $788
- Toronto: $557/$560 – $559
- Index average: $630
Barcelona–El Prat Airport
A bit smaller and quieter than Madrid, the Barcelona Airport has a few trans-Atlantic flights of its own. It is served by all of Europe’s major airlines, and this year it’s basically the same price as flights into Madrid.
- New York City: $245/$225 – $235
- Chicago: $375/$373 – $374
- Los Angeles: $421/$389 – $405
- Houston: $788/$803 – $796
- Atlanta: $1354/$1478 – $1416
- Toronto: $603/$587 – $595
- Index average: $637
Dublin Airport (DUB)
Shannon Airport (SNN)
Dublin and Shannon airports are on opposite sides of Ireland, and both are busy hubs of Aer Lingus, which offers cheap flights including those that then go onto other continental destinations. Both are similar in airfare price (with Dublin usually being just a bit cheaper) so they are combined here. Basically, if you want to start your Ireland visit in Dublin, fly into Dublin, and if you want to start your visit elsewhere, fly into Shannon.
- New York City: $456/$290 – $373
- Chicago: $561/$438 – $500
- Los Angeles: $715/$500 – $608
- Houston: $928/$880 – $904
- Atlanta: $1068/$1186 – $1127
- Toronto: $469/$418 – $444
- Index average: $659
City code: STO
Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN)
Stockholm Bromma Airport (BMA)
Scandinavian Airlines operates its second busiest hub out of Arlanda Airport so fares there are usually cheapest, but Bromma Airport is closer to the city center and its fares are usually only a bit higher.
- New York City: $561/$364 – $463
- Chicago: $418/$422 – $420
- Los Angeles: $648/$553 – $601
- Houston: $1247/$1038 – $1143
- Atlanta: $761/$829 – $795
- Toronto: $826/$622 – $724
- Index average: $691
Munich Airport (MUC)
Munich’s airport is busier than the one in Berlin, so it’s actually Germany’s #2 for flights. Fares tend to be a bit more expensive than the other German airports as well, but it can still make the most sense if Munich is part of your itinerary.
- New York City: $592/$444 – $518
- Chicago: $433/$521 – $477
- Los Angeles: $631/$583 – $607
- Houston: $586/$703 – $645
- Atlanta: $1056/$1198 – $1127
- Toronto: $899/$914 – $907
- Index average: $714
Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD)
The cheapest fares into Budapest are often those that change planes in Moscow or Helsinki, but SWISS isn’t much more expensive for a change in Zurich and much less elapsed time.
- New York City: $408/$551 – $480
- Chicago: $601/$584- $593
- Los Angeles: $635/$626 – $631
- Houston: $827/$843 – $835
- Atlanta: $912/$878 – $895
- Toronto: $860/$857 – $859
- Index average: $716
City code: ROM
Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport (FCO)
Italy’s largest airport and the home of Alitalia isn’t known for cheap trans-Atlantic flights, though it’s still a good choice for anyone starting in Rome and heading north on a larger tour of Europe.
- New York City: $270/$219- $245
- Chicago: $573/$543 – $558
- Los Angeles: $952/$1395 – $1174
- Houston: $824/$703 – $764
- Atlanta: $1181/$1184 – $1183
- Toronto: $607/$582 – $595
- Index average: $753
Athens International Airport (ATH)
This airport is naturally the hub of both Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air, and prices for hotels have come down a bit, but incoming flights are rarely bargains. If you will be touring Greece along with some other European countries, it’s probably better to first land somewhere else and hop over to Greece later in the trip.
- New York City: $526/$456 – $491
- Chicago: $736/$757 – $747
- Los Angeles: $717/$770- $744
- Houston: $1081/$1000 – $1041
- Atlanta: $809/$849- $829
- Toronto: $677/$760 – $719
- Index average: $762
City code: MOW
Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO)
Domodedovo International Airport (DME)
Russia’s national airline – Aeroflot – was recently one of the cheapest in Europe, but once again it’s quite expensive to fly to Moscow, although changing planes in Moscow for another destination can still be a bargain at times.
- New York City: $937/$495 – $716
- Chicago: $804/$598 – $701
- Los Angeles: $679/$577 – $628
- Houston: $1198/$867- $1033
- Atlanta: $1121/$850 – $986
- Toronto: $851/$530 – $691
- Index average: $793
Warsaw Chopin Airport (WAW)
Warsaw is home to LOT Polish Airlines, but that one is rarely cheapest for trans-Atlantic flights. This used to be one of the cheaper cities to fly into Europe through, but as of 2016 it has moved to near the bottom of our cheap list.
- New York City: $581/$537- $559
- Chicago: $986/$893 – $940
- Los Angeles: $956/$605 – $781
- Houston: $726/$728 – $727
- Atlanta: $717/$1504 – $1111
- Toronto: $789/$530 – $660
- Index average: $796
Frankfurt Airport (FRA)
Frankfurt Airport is the 3rd busiest in all of Europe, making it easily the busiest in Germany, and it’s also home to Lufthansa which covers the world. And these days its trans-Atlantic flights are trending a bit pricier than those to Berlin, though the city itself isn’t much of a tourist hub so think twice before flying here.
- New York City: $718/$422 – $570
- Chicago: $435/$556 – $496
- Los Angeles: $660/$616 – $638
- Houston: $1400/$1610 – $1505
- Atlanta: $1696/$1811 – $1754
- Toronto: $380/$410 – $395
- Index average: $893
Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IST)
In spite of the greater distance, Istanbul once offered surprisingly cheap fares, but those bargains seem to be gone in 2017 for the most part. There is another airport in the Asian suburbs (SAW) but its cheap flights tend to be from nearby.
- New York City: $900/$606 – $753
- Chicago: $940/$737 – $839
- Los Angeles: $1031/$623 – $827
- Houston: $1750/$745 – $1248
- Atlanta: $1275/$747 – $1011
- Toronto: $1103/$697 – $900
- Index average: $930
City code: BER
Berlin Tegel Airport (TXL)
Berlin Schönefeld Airport (SXF)
Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER)
With the rise of Air Berlin and greater popularity of the city itself, it’s now a bit cheaper in fares than flying into Frankfurt, which is particularly helpful due to Frankfurt not really being a tourist city. Tegel Airport is usually cheapest for trans-Atlantic flights, and in 2017 or 2018 or 2019, Brandenburg Airport will open to replace both of the current two.
- New York City: $479/$405 – $442
- Chicago: $457/$487 – $472
- Los Angeles: $802/$628 – $715
- Houston: $2998/$3847 – $3423
- Atlanta: $595/$666 – $631
- Toronto: $789/$592- $691
- Index average: $1062
NOTE: This post was originally published in May, 2013 with 2013 data. It’s been totally updated in in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and most recently in April 2020 with current fare data.
Madrid Barajas Airport is actually 6th busiest in Europe now. Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Schiphol, Ataturk, Madrid…
This is so informative! Thank you. Dreaming of a Slovenia trip in October from Kansas City.
We aspiring family of 4 appreciate the effort
I’m traveling to Budapest in August for a wedding, but I’m from Miami! I was hoping I’d find some useful information about flying out from MIA to a cheaper European airport, but nothing! I do find it hard to believe that MIA isn’t on this list, especially since I flew out of MIA to Florence,IT in 2011 for MUCH cheaper price than an NYC flight.
Anyway, help would be great though! I’m looking to fly in & out of different cities (I love trains, so I’m very open to those budget cuts).
Roger, thank you for the research. I realize it is a lot of work but I would have to agree with some other commenters about including Atlanta (possibly knock out Houston). Great work. Your articles are very informative.
Your timing is good here because I’m updating this list for 2014 today and I will add Atlanta (and keep Houston). I know it’s an incredibly busy airport, but I believe Atlanta is mainly a place to change planes for most people, so the fares starting from there don’t mean much. Still, it will be interesting to see, so I’ll run the numbers and update all of it by the end of the day today. -Roger
I may have missed it in the article but are these round trip fares?
Also, are you considering adding Seattle as a starting point on your next update?
Yes, they are round-trip fares. Sorry for not making it clear. And I don’t think I will be adding Seattle as a starting point for the next update, unfortunately. The research for each city takes a long time, and the results for each starting city are fairly similar anyway. Actual prices vary by the hour, so this list is mainly just to get some ideas of cheap cities to consider if you are visiting more than one or two. Thanks for the feedback. -Roger
how did you not include or consider atlanta?
I decided to go with the 4 largest cities in the US and Canada, and Atlanta isn’t even in the top 10, so relatively few people start their trip there. Also, Atlanta is notorious for having very little competition and high prices. -Roger
Atlanta may not be in the top ten for city size but it is Delta’s headquarters (biggest airline in the world) and the largest and busiest airport in the world. also, they have had some of the best deals I have come across, certainly not the best, but also not the worst. I travel a lot out of ATL to Europe and was hoping to find the best places to fly in to from here. Thank you for the research though! Much more than I’ve done 🙂
Davey, I must recommend you fly out of Charlotte rather than ATL- the price difference can be staggering. You’ll have connecting flights rather than direct flights, but as delta has no competition in atl they charge whatever they please, so it’s worth it financially.
Hi, just writing to say thank you for the list. I know that it will come in handy.
I’m travelling from South Africa to Spain. I intend going to barcelona in the middle of my stay so would like to arrive and depart from 2 different cities. What would you suggest?
I was surprised to see that Zurich did not make your list. I’ve flown three years in a row (during winter) exclusively into Zurich because I’ve found the best fare. Granted its an incredibly expensive city but we usually just spend one day there and then hop on the train to our next destination.
You are right about Zurich, which I noticed after I made this list. I’m going to add it when I revise it soon. -Roger