For the last eight years the accolade of cheapest European city to take a bargain break has been given to those in Eastern Europe. Not any more. According to the Post Office’s annual city costs barometer they now have a rival.
10 best value cities: Paphos, Vilnius, Riga, Warsaw, Budapest, Krakow, Lisbon, Prague, Athens and Palma.
Paphos named the best value city in Europe
The sunny seaside city of Paphos in Cyprus has taken the top spot narrowly beating the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius making it the cheapest of 36 European cities surveyed.
At £138 for 12 typical city break costs – including an evening meal for two with wine, drinks, two nights’ weekend accommodation, sightseeing and city transport – Paphos is one of four ‘sunshine’ cities in Western Europe to rival Eastern capitals as the best choices for bargain hunters.
Lisbon retains its position as Western Europe’s cheapest capital city
Lower accommodation costs have helped Palma (£196) leap up to 10th from 18th place a year ago and make it the only city of the 36 surveyed to show a price fall (five per cent). Lisbon (£162, 7th), Western Europe’s cheapest capital city, and Athens (£191, 9th) have both retained their top 10 places for the third year running.
Andrew Brown of Post Office Travel Money said:
This is the first time since we started surveying tourist costs in European cities eight years ago that we have seen so many Western capitals provide the low prices usually associated with Prague, Budapest and other Eastern European cities.
City breaks have emerged as the most popular type of holiday for UK tourists in the past three years and, with ongoing uncertainty about sterling, there is good reason for people planning trips to do their homework carefully and check where the pound will give them more for their money. This year the sunshine cities that have made it into our top 10 look great value, with the promise of a sunny climate as well as low prices.
Vilnius is the cheapest Eastern European city
Close on the heels of Paphos at just under £140 for the 12 city break staples, runner-up Vilnius is the cheapest of the six Eastern European cities with places in the best value top 10. Neighbouring Riga (£150) has overtaken Warsaw (£154, 4th), last year’s top city, and Budapest (£157, 5th) to move into third place. This is because local euro prices have fallen by five per cent in the Latvian capital while accommodation – £54 for two nights – is cheaper than in any other city surveyed.
By comparison, prices in the third Baltic capital, Tallinn (£209), have risen 27 per cent year-on-year, making the overall cost for UK visitors 50 per cent higher than in Vilnius.
Prices are rising but only marginally
But, while the survey found price rises in 33 of the 34 cities also surveyed last year, these have been contained to 10 per cent or less in over a third of those cities (excluding accommodation, which has risen more sharply). This is because the cost of tourist items in local currency has risen only marginally and in several cases has fallen by up to five per cent, meaning that the only extra cost to UK visitors comes because of the fall in sterling.
Besides Riga, the biggest local fall has been in 11th-placed Strasbourg (£201) where the cost of meals, drinks, transport and sightseeing is down four per cent on 2016 levels. As a result, Strasbourg is the cheapest of four French cities surveyed. Although Paris (£296) is almost £100 more expensive, here too Post Office Travel Money found evidence of local price cuts (-1 per cent). Lille (£213, 14th) and Nice (£219, 15th) also rate among the better value cities.
Although Amsterdam is another of the cities where local prices have dropped marginally over the past year, the high cost of accommodation (£262 for two nights) has made it the most expensive of 21 Eurozone cities surveyed. At £421, the City Costs Barometer total in this perennial city break favourite is 42 per cent higher than in Paris, its main competitor.
Aarhus is the best bet for trips to Scandinavia
Even pricier are Stockholm (£457) and Reykjavik (£552), the most expensive cities surveyed and highest-priced of six Nordic cities. Aarhus, joint European City of Culture with Paphos n 2017, is the best bet for UK holidaymakers planning trips to Scandinavia. At £316, Denmark’s second city is 43 per cent cheaper than Reykjavik.
Andrew Brown said:
It is important for holidaymakers considering a city break to budget carefully for items like meals, drinks and sightseeing as these are costs that most tourists cannot avoid. Change enough cash before leaving home to cover likely costs – and remember there are better exchange rates for higher value Post Office branch or online transactions.
City Cost Comparisons At A Glance
This year’s report found that accommodation prices have risen steeply in many of the cities surveyed, with costs varying from £54 to £262 for a two night weekend stay for two in April. For the second year running the lowest-priced accommodation is in Riga (£54), while a £100 year-on-year rise to £262 for two-nights has made Amsterdam almost five times more expensive. Other cities offering cheap accommodation include Paphos (£62), Lisbon (£66), Vilnius (£67) and Budapest (£68).
Most city break holidaymakers will eat restaurant meals during their stay so it is worth checking how costs compare between cities before booking. This year Post Office Travel Money found that five cities offer three-course evening meals for two with a bottle of wine for under £40. Warsaw is cheapest at £32.24, while Paphos (£33.64), Budapest (£34.80), Prague (£35.63) and Athens (£38.95) are also inexpensive. However visitors to Stockholm could pay £137.40; while eating out in Oslo or Reykjavik will set diners back around £140.
Lisbon is by far the cheapest of the 36 cities surveyed for drinks. At just £5.67 for a coffee, Coca-Cola, beer and glass of wine, the Portuguese capital is over a pound cheaper than its closest competitors: Prague (£6.68), Krakow (£6.87) and Vilnius (£6.90). By contrast the same four items are priced at over £25 in Oslo and Reykjavik – mainly as a result of the high cost of alcoholic drinks in both these cities.
Return transfers between airports/train stations and city centres costs less than £2 in Vilnius (£1.17) and Warsaw (£1.89) but as much as £22.13 in Bruges and £23.97 in Reykjavik. Transfers are free in Geneva for those staying in city hotels – as is a 48-hour travel card. Two day travel cards can significantly cut the cost of getting around a city and those in Warsaw (£5.16), Krakow (£5.16) and Tallinn (£5.31) are cheapest. By comparison, the Venice travel card (£53.12) costs 10 times as much. Dubrovnik (£7.47) offers best value for a sightseeing bus tour but this will set visitors to Geneva (£40.25) back over five times as much.
Visits to their three leading cultural attractions cost under £10 in Vilnius (£4.25), Paphos (£.6.64), Palma (£7.97), Riga (£8.86) and Dublin (£9.74). All of these cities, barring Riga, offer entry to one or more of their top attractions free of charge. At the other end of the spectrum, culture vultures will have to pay over £40 to visit the top three attractions in Amsterdam (£44.70), Reykjavik (£42.99), Dubrovnik (£43.69) and Barcelona (£43.37). In Aarhus, which is joint European Capital of Culture with Paphos, entry to three attractions costs £41.85 – over six times more than in the Cypriot city.