With European city breaks on the rise, Jennifer Morris reports on where clients can make a saving this year
Britons set on exploring lesser-known cities could save a tidy sum compared with those visiting well-trodden hubs such as Paris, Barcelona and Venice.
A study of internet search volumes by Post Office Travel Money – for the Post Office Unsung Cities League report – found that two in five holidaymakers will take an overseas city break this year. It found a growing appetite for cities off the beaten tourist track, and that these destinations tend to be much cheaper than more popular options.
Costs, based on prices for 12 items including drinks, an evening meal for two with
wine and three-star weekend accommodation, were surveyed for the 10 cities that scored the highest number of internet searches in 2017: Antwerp, Belgrade, Bratislava, Bucharest, Hamburg, Ljubljana, Porto, Toulouse, Valencia and Verona.
Prices were cheapest in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, which had the eighth highest number of searches out of 30 Google city keywords. Its barometer total was also lower than any of the 36 cities surveyed for the Post Office’s most recent City Costs Barometer (March 2018).
At £149 for the 12 tourist items, Belgrade was more than 12% cheaper than Krakow, which was previously best value in the barometer. The same items cost £169 in Krakow. The same pattern of lower pricing for lesser-known cities was apparent in the Unsung Cities League.
At £175, the barometer basket in Romanian capital Bucharest – runner up to Belgrade – cost 23% less than in Budapest (£229) in neighbouring Hungary. The higher cost of accommodation in Budapest helped to make the city – previously rated highly in the best value top 10 – almost £54 more expensive than Bucharest.
A surprising result of the Post Office research was that Porto, Portugal’s second city, was cheaper than two fast-emerging eastern European capitals: Bratislava, Slovakia (£203) and Ljubljana, Slovenia (£217).
It came third in the unsung list. Porto’s prices (£184) were also a third lower than in Lisbon (£275) and 8% less than in Athens (£200), making it the cheapest city in Western Europe.
Slovakian capital Bratislava (£203) was significantly cheaper than Vienna (£362), in neighbouring Austria – two cities just 50 miles apart. Belgrade, Bucharest, Porto and Bratislava rated among Europe’s best-value top 10 when their barometer totals were compared with prices for the 36 cities featured in the March City Costs Barometer.
Four other destinations surveyed for the Unsung Cities League were also markedly less expensive than better-known city breaks in the same country. Toulouse (£246) was 38% cheaper than Paris (£399). The 12 tourist staples cost £246 in Valencia, 35% less than in Barcelona (£379) and visitors to Antwerp (£253) can expect to pay nearly 30% less than in Bruges (£358).
Prices in Verona (£294) were 36% lower than in Venice (£460). The only city surveyed where prices were similar to those of its more popular counterpart was Hamburg. At £308, prices there were only 1.2% cheaper than in Berlin (£311).
Andrew Brown, spokesperson for Post Office Travel Money, said: “City breaks are continuing to prove more popular than any other holiday sector, but don’t get caught out.
“Our research reveals just how dramatically prices vary across Europe, so holidaymakers need to be careful to do their homework before booking and budget accordingly.
“As Europe’s lesser-known capitals and second cities start to invest in tourism, now is the time to consider switching to a city that is likely to be cheaper than long-established favourites.
“In Eastern Europe, there are several historic capitals – led by Belgrade, Bucharest and Bratislava – that can rival Krakow, Prague and Budapest on both price and sights.
“In the west, Porto is a great alternative to Lisbon while cities like Valencia, Verona and Toulouse are cheaper options than city-break favourites like Barcelona, Venice and Paris.”