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City Costs Barometer: the best value city breaks

For the first time in 16 years of our reports, Lisbon is not only the cheapest city in the Eurozone but also beats its Eastern European counterparts on value too.

That’s according to our latest comparison of city costs on the continent, which found costs are up in all destinations we surveyed – for hotel stays most of all.

a city view of lisbon

Image courtesy of Visit Lisbon

The essential city cost snapshot

Every year, Post Office Travel Money compares the costs of short breaks in cities across Europe for UK holidaymakers – overall and for specific items like accommodation, meals and cultural attractions. 

Our annual City Costs Barometer helps you see upfront which destinations are the best value or most expensive before planning your trip, including how prices have changed in the past year. 

In 2023, we’ve compared 12 typical tourist costs in 35 European cities UK holidaymakers named as their top choice to visit. We’ve shared the key findings below and you can download the full City Costs Barometer for the full comparisons.

Key findings in 2023 include:

  • Lisbon in Portugal has emerged as the best value European city, with prices only 2% up on last year’s levels – a far smaller increase than for most of the cities surveyed
  • It narrowly beat Vilnius (just 25p more expensive) into second place, with accommodation costs higher in the Lithuanian capital
  • Lisbon has outperformed all Eastern European cities that have traditionally dominated the top places in the barometer  
  • Athens drops from 1st to 4th place, joining Lisbon, Porto (6th) and Lille (10th) as four Western European cities breaking the stranglehold of Eastern cities in the top 10
  • That said, there are still six Eastern European cities – Vilnius, Krakow, Riga, Zagreb, Budapest and Warsaw – in the best-value top 10
  • Amsterdam and Venice are again rated the priciest in Europe for a city break, particularly due to high accommodation costs 
  • Paris, Barcelona, London, Rome, Edinburgh, Madrid, Dublin and Berlin are also among the most expensive cities in Europe

Top 10 for best overall value

The overall cost of a city break was calculated based on 12 typical items for such a trip. These included a range of drinks, an evening meal for two with a bottle house wine, two nights’ three-star weekend accommodation, sightseeing and city transport. Here’s where came out best for value:

Position City Barometer costs total
1 Lisbon, Portugal £224.76
2 Vilnius, Lithuania  £225.01
3 Krakow, Poland £250.91
4 Athens, Greece £262.22
5 Riga, Latvia £284.99
6 Porto, Portugal  £325.30    
7 Zagreb, Croatia £329.72
8 Budapest, Hungary


9 Warsaw, Poland £330.95
10 Lille, France £332.11

Accommodation costs

Our research found accommodation prices have risen significantly in the majority of the 35 cities surveyed. The increased cost of hotel stays is well over 50% in 27 of them, while only Lisbon and Vienna show rises of less than 20%, with their accommodation up 5.2% and 18.9% respectively.

Lowest-priced accommodation

1. Lisbon, Portugal £121
2. Athens, Greece £128
3. Vilnius, Lithuania £128
4. Krakow, Poland £130
5. Riga, Latvia £147

Highest-priced accommodation

1. Amsterdam, The Netherlands £525
2. Venice, Italy £480
3. Dublin, Republic of Ireland £448
4. Florence, Italy £402
5. Belfast, Northern Ireland £392

Eating out costs

We can’t avoid eating out on a city break, but what will a three-course meal for two with a bottle of house wine cost you in different destinations? The price differences for eating out range from less than £39 in Lisbon to as much as £150.55 in Copenhagen. On a positive note, the cost of eating out has fallen in half of the cities surveyed). All prices are based on a three-course meal for two with a bottle of house wine.

Lowest-priced meals

1. Lisbon, Portugal £39.01
2. Athens, Greece £40.64
3. Porto, Portugal £52.38
4. Vilnius, Lithuania £52.86
5. Zagreb, Croatia £56.99

Highest-priced meals

1. Copenhagen, Denmark £150.55
2. Helsinki, Finland £120.11
3. Vienna, Austria £118.13
4. Geneva, Switzerland £116.02
5. Nice, France £99.34


Cultural costs

As with other commodities our barometer compares, the cost of visits to heritage sites, museums, galleries and other cultural attractions varies dramatically. Dublin offers the best value because visits to its leading museum and gallery are free. By contrast, culture is now most costly in Dubrovnik, where visits to a museum, gallery and heritage site cost £63.22.

Lowest-priced culture

1. Dublin, Republic of Ireland £7.22
2. Zagreb, Croatia £11.74
3. Lille, France £14.45
4. Cardiff, Wales £14.50
5. Vilnius, Lithuania  £15.80

Highest-priced culture

1. Dubrovnik, Croatia £63.22
2. Vienna, Austria £57.71
3. Amsterdam, The Netherlands £52.83
4. Florence, Italy £49.68
5. Barcelona, Spain £47.86

Our guide to planning a European city break on a budget offers further tips on how to make savings when you go.

Travel money: buy before your fly

Wherever you're travelling, you’re likely to get a better rate on your travel money if you buy before you get to the airport. With Post Office, you can quickly and easily buy currency online or in participating branches. Choose Click and Collect or next-day delivery. Or take your holiday cash on a handy, secure, prepaid travel money card. Check the exchange rate for your destination to get the most out of your travel money.

Don't forget your travel insurance

You might think having a Ghic or valid Ehic card for your travels in Europe is enough protection, but it only provides limited cover. It's important to also take out travel insurance for those who need it, covering the duration or your trip and any activities you'll be doing. Read more about the dangers of travelling without insurance

Always check the latest travel advice

If you’re planning a trip, make sure you check the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) foreign travel advice page regularly for the latest guidance about your destination. Travelling against official advice risks invalidating your travel insurance.  


Read the full Post Office Travel Money City Costs Barometer 2023

How the survey’s compiled

The Post Office City Costs Barometer 2023 is based on early May exchange rates. Prices were supplied by tourist offices of participating cities/countries, except for Amsterdam, Barcelona, Dublin, Florence, Lille, London, Madrid, Nice, Paris, Rome and Venice (researched online).

The items surveyed were two nights’ three-star B&B accommodation, a three-course meal for two with a bottle of house wine, cup of coffee, bottle of beer, Coca Cola, glass of wine, return airport transfers, 48-hour travel card, sightseeing bus tour, top heritage attraction, top museum and top art gallery.

Two night accommodation prices were sourced from and and based on an average of the 10 cheapest available three-star city centre accommodations for two adults sharing a double/twin ensuite room between 2-4 June 2023.

A full breakdown of barometer costs can be found in the download link. Prices quoted above are rounded up or down to the nearest pound.

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