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Revealed: Europe’s best value cities for a bargain break

10 cheapest cities: Tirana, Katowice, Vilnius, Lisbon, Riga, Warsaw, Zagreb, Budapest, Bratislava and Krakow

  • Led by Tirana, Eastern European cities take nine of the best value top 10 places in 13th annual Post Office City Costs Barometer (

  • Lisbon is best in the West, breaking the Eastern stranglehold to take fourth place

  • Strong pound boosts UK tourists’ buying power – prices fall in over 40% of cities

  • All overseas cities surveyed are in countries on the government’s green or amber lists

Little-known Tirana, capital of Albania in the Balkans, has pulled ahead of its Eastern European rivals to rate as best for a bargain city break this autumn, according to Post Office Travel Money’s City Costs Barometer.

City breaks are the most popular overseas holiday choice with over one-in-five Britons planning one in the coming months, according to research by the UK’s largest foreign exchange provider.

It found that the best value will come from cities in Eastern Europe, which fill nine of the top 10 places in the 13th annual survey of prices. Lisbon is the only city in Western Europe to break their stranglehold and rate among the 10 cheapest places for bargain hunters.

At £132 for 12 typical city break items – including a range of drinks, an evening meal for two with wine, two nights’ three-star weekend accommodation, sightseeing and city transport, Tirana is a third the cost of the highest-priced cities in Northern Europe and far cheaper than its closest competitors.

Runner-up Katowice (Poland) is 24 per cent more expensive at £164, while prices in the third-placed Lithuanian capital Vilnius are 26 per cent higher at £166. All three are now emerging as city break destinations and can be reached directly from the UK on low-cost flights.

The top three cities outperformed more established city break favourites like Riga (£183, 5th), Warsaw (£190, 6th) and Zagreb (£209, 7th), which retain top 10 places for value. They have been joined by three new entrants: Budapest (£214, 8th), Bratislava (£217, 9th) and Krakow (£221, 10th).

Eastern European cities do not have a complete stranglehold on value. A year-on-year fall in the average cost of two nights’ accommodation from £80 to £73 has helped Lisbon climb six places up the top 10 into fourth place on the back of a 7.9 per cent fall in prices. Easily the cheapest city surveyed in Western Europe at £180 for the barometer basket, prices in the Portuguese capital are less than half those in eurozone favourites Bruges (£370), Amsterdam (£379) and Venice (£382).

With sterling riding high against European currencies, Post Office Travel Money says that Britons planning city breaks abroad this autumn will get as much as 9.2 per cent more foreign cash for their pounds than a year ago3. However, prices vary significantly across Europe with falls of up to 15 per cent year-on-year in over 40 per cent of the 40 cities but rises of over 10 per cent in nine others4.

Nick Boden

, Head of Post Office Travel Money, which accounts for one-in-four UK foreign exchange transactions, said:

Sterling is currently stronger against every European currency than a year ago, which has had a positive impact on prices abroad. However, the wide price variations we found means Britons planning city breaks would be wise to do their homework and consider the costs they will incur abroad as well as the exchange rate. Comparing costs for accommodation, food, drink and sightseeing in different cities could save them hundreds of pounds.”

The biggest drop in barometer costs has been in Ljubljana, where prices have plunged by 15 per cent to £230, taking the Slovenian capital to 13thplace, its highest ever position. There have also been big price falls in some of the longest-established city break favourites including Madrid (down 12.6 per cent to £260, 16th) and Paris (down 9.2 per cent to £340, 28th). Conversely, costs have risen almost 40 per cent in Belfast (£352, 29th) because a lack of hotel beds has pushed up prices.

Accommodation prices are a key factor in determining the overall cost of a two-night city break. Along with Belfast, hotel prices have risen significantly in a number of destinations including Zagreb (up 44 per cent), Porto and Berlin (both up by 31 per cent). However, they have fallen sharply in others, with the biggest falls in Paris (down 22 per cent) and Madrid (down 21 per cent).

Post Office Travel Money also found big differences in the price of eating out, a cost that city break holidaymakers cannot avoid.

These range from £38 for a three-course meal for two with a bottle of house wine in Tirana and £45.67 in Lisbon to as much as £138.15 in Stockholm. Although Prague (£241) has dropped down the barometer table to 14th after seeing a 15.6 per cent rise in prices, meal costs remain fourth lowest at only £49.756.

The five Nordic capitals surveyed remain the most expensive in the City Costs Barometer. Oslo (£429) is this year’s top-priced city but prices in Stockholm (£385, 36th), Copenhagen (£394, 37th), Helsinki (£394, 38th) and Reykjavik (£414, 39th) are also more than double the cost of the six best value cities in this year’s cost comparison. Closer to home, Edinburgh (£290, 21st) is the cheapest of the four UK capitals, just ahead of London (£298, 24th), where barometer prices show a 6.3 per cent fall, and Cardiff (£307, 25th).

Costs in Belfast (29th) have risen to £352 as a result of the higher cost of two nights’ accommodation.

In addition to the price variations across Europe as a whole, Post Office Travel Money found big differences of as much as 49 per cent – over £100 - in city costs within individual countries:

  • France: Prices in Paris (£339.59) are 49 per cent higher than in Lille (£228.12)

  • Croatia: Dubrovnik (£290.37) is 39 per cent more expensive than Zagreb (£208.92)

  • Italy: Venice (£382.11) is 37 per cent pricier than Rome (£279.89)

  • Poland: Krakow (£221.39) is 35 per cent more expensive than Katowice (£164.13)

  • Portugal: Prices in Porto (£223.75) are 24 per cent higher than in Lisbon (£180.36)

  • Austria: Vienna (£356.14) costs 21 per cent more than Salzburg (£295.30)

  • Spain: Barcelona (£291.83) is 12 per cent more expensive than Madrid (£259.63)

  • Belgium: Bruges (£369.50) is 12 per cent pricier than Antwerp (£328.74)

Nick Boden said: “Holidaymakers are likely to incur a wide range of costs on a city break so our advice is to budget carefully and change enough travel cash before leaving home so you have sufficient spending money to cover these. Remember there are improved exchange rates for higher value Post Office branch or online transactions.” The Post Office is the UK’s leading foreign currency provider, offering around 60 currencies for pre-order at around 7,000 Post Office branches or online at for next day branch or home delivery. 3,600 larger Post Office branches stock the leading currencies and around 7,000 offer euros over the counter without pre-order. These can also be ordered online for same day ‘click and collect’ at selected branches, next day collection at any branch or home delivery.

City ranking:

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