Maybe you've just watched a movie set in an exotic location. Maybe your son’s made a new friend from another country, or your sister’s decided to get herself a Rosetta Stone and learn a new language. Whatever the reason, sometimes, a weekend at the beach just doesn't seem enough. The call of the foreign, the exotic, the so-very-different-from-here is so deep, it demands to be heard. Some of the destinations listed here may constantly pop up on 'best-of' lists, but they’re all in cities that are surprisingly inexpensive.

Explore Riga and other budget family holiday destinations in Latvia

Latvia has it all – beaches, architecture, medieval fortresses and woodlands. Finding a holiday rental in the capital Riga is the first step to launching your family adventure in this Baltic country. Apartments in the UNESCO heritage old town are easy to find, some with rooftop terraces and others situated in one of Riga’s signature art nouveau buildings, which are a treat to spot and photograph. From here, you can wander around the cobbled squares and stop for a drink or a meal at a cafe, or check out one of Riga’s central markets for fresh produce and meats. There’s plenty to see if you roam the countryside as well. You can wander through the dense greenery of the forests that cover almost half the country, or spend a day digging sandcastles on the beach in Jurmala.

Let the beauty of Budapest entice you and your family

With centuries of history dating back to its founding as a Celtic settlement before becoming the Roman city of Aquincum, Budapest is a cheap holiday destination that will entrance and educate. Be prepared for a huge city – the Paris of the East – divided into eastern and western parts by the Danube. Strolling along the riverbanks will give you fantastic views of the neo-Gothic Hungarian Parliament House and the more than 800-year-old Buda Castle. Beyond the city, the family might enjoy a soak in Lake Heviz, the world’s largest thermal lake, or visit the 300-cave complex at Aggtelek National Park.

Enjoy a culture-rich cheap family trip in Prague

One of Europe’s culture capitals, Prague is a destination that combines architecture, art, food and history under one sprawling skyline. Its photogenic streets have made it a draw for Hollywood and Bollywood film productions, and a holiday rental here will put you in the centre of action. The Gothic Powder Tower and Gehry’s Dancing House are some of the buildings you may have seen pop up in countless Instagram feeds. Prague Castle, the 14th-century Charles Bridge and Old Town Square are all popular attractions in this great family holiday destination.

Step back in time on your family holiday in Lisbon

One of Europe’s oldest capitals, Lisbon will offer you countless sightseeing, dining and entertainment options. From sightseeing at the Sao Jorge Castle to dancing the night away at a nightclub converted from a dock warehouse in the Alcantara district, there’s something for every age group in your family party. The Moorish quarter showcases another fascinating aspect of Portuguese history, while the old Alfama district is where you can head to listen to the city’s traditional Fado music.

Take a wander in Dubrovnik that won't break the bank

A visit to this ancient walled city and UNESCO heritage site is like travelling to Europe’s dim and distant past. Set above the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik has recovered from earthquakes and wars and managed to preserve its stunning layers of baroque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture. A highlight is a walk atop the city walls that will give you sweeping views over the sea and the city. Your family might enjoy strolling the Stradun, the main shopping street of the old town. Be prepared for quite a lot of walking and climbing, as the streets can be steep, sometimes with stairs built into them. You can even walk all the way up to the fortress and large cross on a hilltop above the city, but if you're not up for the 90-minute climb, you can opt for a cable car ride instead.