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 2021, we’ve surveyed 40 cities and shared our key findings below. You’ll also find the report’s full results later on this page.

Key findings in 2021 include:

  • Eastern European cities take nine of the best value top 10 places, with Tirana the cheapest both overall and for accommodation, meals and culture individually
  • Lisbon is the cheapest city in Western Europe and came fourth overall this year
  • Over 40% of the 40 cities reported lower prices this year
  • Seven of the cities surveyed saw price rises of 5% or less
  • Nordic capitals remain the most expensive: Oslo costs the most but Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen and Reykjavik prices are more than double those of the cheapest six cities
  • Sterling is stronger year-on-year against all currencies for cities in the barometer, gaining 9.2% on the Polish zloty and 7.6% on the euro

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:

1 (2) Tirana, Albania
2 (7) Katowice, Poland
3 (5) Vilnius, Lithuania
4 (10) Lisbon, Portugal
5 (9) Riga, Latvia
6 (6) Warsaw, Poland
7 (8) Zagreb, Croatia
8 (12) Budapest, Hungary
9 (14) Bratislava, Slovakia
10 (15) Krakow, Poland

Bracketed numbers indicate last year’s barometer position for these destinations.

Accommodation costs

Accommodation is a key factor in overall city break costs. The average cost of a three-star, two-night stay for two people has fallen in 14 of the 39 cities we also surveyed in 2020.

The biggest drops have been in Paris (down 22%) and Madrid (down 21%). But costs have risen significantly elsewhere, such as Belfast (the most expensive city surveyed, up 40%), Zagreb (up 44%), Porto and Berlin (both up by 31%). 

Lowest-priced accommodation

1 Tirana £61
2 Riga £63
3 Vilnius £72
4 Lisbon £73
5 Krakow £80
6 Katowice £80
7 Budapest £84
8 Warsaw £86
9 Tallinn £90
10 Lille £102

Highest-priced accommodation

1 Belfast £221
2 Amsterdam £198
3 Venice £197
4 Dublin £195
5 Cardiff £189
6 Helsinki £187
7 Geneva £183
8 Copenhagen £176
9 Bruges £174
10 Reykjavik £170

 

Eating out costs

The price differences for eating out range from less than £38 in Tirana to as much as £138.15 in Stockholm. All prices are based on a three-course meal for two with a bottle of house wine.

Lowest-priced meals

1 Tirana £38.00
2 Lisbon £45.67
3 Zagreb £47.75
4 Prague £49.75
5 Katowice £51.71
6 Porto £51.82
7 Vilnius £54.35
8 Warsaw £55.75
9 Barcelona £58.45
10 Rome £59.55

 

Highest-priced meals

1 Stockholm £138.15
2 Oslo £136.73
3 Copenhagen £128.00
4 Reykjavik £109.63
5 Helsinki £105.13
6 Vienna £104.15
7 Geneva £102.49
8 Antwerp £96.61
9 Dublin £87.83
10 Berlin £85.46

 

Cheaper city substitutes

If you’ve got your sights set on a specific country, substituting its more expensive cities for lower-cost alternatives may offer you a similar experience and some welcome savings too.

From instance, Paris remains one of the pricier cities on the barometer despite a 7.9% fall in prices since last year. But Lille, Toulouse and Nice all feature in the top half of the table with prices at least 20% lower than their French counterpart.  

Other interesting variations include:

  • France: Lille is 33% cheaper than Paris
  • Croatia: Zagreb is 28% cheaper than Dubrovnik
  • Italy: Rome is 26% cheaper than Venice
  • Poland: Katowice is 26% cheaper than Krakow
  • Portugal: Lisbon is 19% cheaper than Porto
  • Austria: Salzburg is 17% cheaper than Vienna
  • Spain: Madrid is 11% cheaper than Barcelona
  • Belgium: Antwerp is 11% cheaper than Bruges

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.

Always check the latest travel advice

Remember, the Covid-19 pandemic means entry requirements are likely to vary for different destinations and you may need to provide proof of a negative test for the virus or quarantine upon your arrival overseas, return to the UK or both.

Travel exclusions aren’t included in the barometer’s findings. Your travel insurance can be invalidated if you travel to a country the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against all or all but essential travel to. Check its foreign travel advice page regularly for the latest.