The perfect picks for last-minute city breaks

Travellers from the UK are truly lucky to have a vast variety of fascinating cities within easy reach, all ready to delight culture vultures, serious foodies and eager partygoers. You don't need a big budget to plan a city break at the last minute either, as you'll find tons of free things to do, see and experience. Increase your savings by booking a holiday rental – you can choose one near your destination's top attractions and save on public transport or taxi fares, and you can cook instead of spending at restaurants and bars.

London can be a low-cost affair

You won't regret a last-minute escape to London, no matter how many times you've been. There's always something new happening in the buzzing British capital, whether it's a top-class exhibition or a pop-up rooftop bar. You'll be happy to know though that spending is optional when sightseeing. Many of London's finest museums are free, including the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. For a quick refresher on London's best-known landmarks, walk to Waterloo Bridge – you'll spot the London Eye, the Palace of Westminster and the clock tower housing Big Ben to the west, while The Shard and the dome of St Paul's Cathedral are visible on the eastern side. Away from the city centre, you can visit Richmond Park or Bushy Park for close encounters with their large deer populations.

Tallinn is a great destination for the thrifty

Estonia's capital city keeps a low profile, but it's one of the best choices for a last-minute city break in Europe. Apart from the affordable travel costs, you'll enjoy Tallinn's laid-back atmosphere and you'll get to cover much ground on a short holiday, thanks to the city's compact size. The first thing on your itinerary should be Toompea Hill, a central landmark that's steeped in local mythology. The viewing platforms here, such as Patkuli and Kohtuotsa, provide arresting views of the walled Old Town and the Baltic Sea. Tallinn has the oldest town hall throughout the Baltic and Scandinavian regions. While gazing up at this historic building, spot the dragon-shaped gargoyles and Old Thomas, the weather vane atop the Town Hall's 210-foot-high tower.

When in Rome, admire the free attractions

No one can blame you for falling back on Rome if you're at a loss for a last-minute destination. The Italian capital is a classic city break that's bursting at the seams with ancient ruins, beautiful fountains and mesmerising churches, so there's always something to come back for. Plus, the call of carbs – hello pizza, pasta and gelato – is hard to resist. Holiday lettings near Roma Termini station are convenient for getting around via buses and the Metro, as well as travelling to and from the airports. Alternatively, you can find holiday homes near major attractions that you don't have to pay to explore, like Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. If you want to enjoy peace and quiet away from the massive crowds, make your way to the sprawling Villa Borghese gardens.

Get a pocketful of Paris on the cheap

Paris is a no-brainer when it comes to last-minute city breaks beyond the border. Hop on a train from London, for instance, and you'll be in the City of Lights in just over 2 hours. The city's world-famous sights include the 13th-century Notre-Dame de Paris, the Arc de Triomphe and of course, the Eiffel Tower. Seeing this Parisian icon up close is a must, but you'll also get great views from the Trocadero gardens just across it. The gargantuan Louvre Museum, famously home to Mona Lisa, offers free admission on the first Sundays of the month from October through March, as well as on Friday nights for visitors under 26. Been there, done those? Branch out and explore varied areas like charming Montmartre, glitzy Champs-Elysees and the lively Latin Quarter.

Go on economical escapades in Krakow

If you're looking for last-minute city break deals, Krakow is one of your best bets. This city in southern Poland features awe-inspiring medieval architecture in a UNESCO-listed, remarkably well-preserved historic core. Visit Rynek Glowny, Europe's largest market square, and ogle the extravagant baroque interiors of the 13th-century St. Mary's Basilica; its Veit Stoss altarpiece is the world's largest Gothic altarpiece and one of Poland's national treasures. Then, walk up to Wawel Hill, where the Royal Castle and Cathedral proudly stand. Krakow's pre-war Jewish quarter, Kazimierz, hasn't forgotten its roots, though it's now largely a hip district with indie shops, art galleries and trendy cocktail bars.