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Lisbon named as Europe's most budget-friendly city break for 2023

There are some surprising shifts in the affordability of certain European cities this year

Despite the cost of living crisis impacting most UK households and inflation hovering at unprecedented highs, a recent ABTA study showed that Brits aren’t letting circumstances dampen their wanderlust. In the survey, 61 per cent of British residents said they planned to take a holiday overseas in the next 12 months – down on the 70 per cent reported in 2019, but still a considerable proportion all things considered.

Thankfully, there’s one foolproof way to work out which destinations won’t break the bank – the annual Post Office City Costs Barometer.

Since its inception, the release has been a go-to for holidaymakers keen to determine which destinations offer the best value for money. However, this year's results see some surprise shifts on the leaderboard.

The barometer calculates the average cost for a weekend stay in 35 of the most popular European cities based on a two-night weekend stay in a three-star hotel. The prices include a visit to a top heritage tourist attraction, a museum and a gallery, a sightseeing bus tour, and a public transport travel card valid for the duration of the stay.

Food and drink costs included in the sums range from a regular cup of filter coffee to a three-course evening meal for two people, including house wine.

So, where’s the cheap European city break stealing the spotlight this summer? It’s the sunny Portuguese capital, Lisbon.

Chiado quarter in LisbonGetty Images

The Post Office’s research shows that prices rose by just two per cent on average from last year – a much smaller rise than in other, similarly popular cities.

The city narrowly beats Lithuanian capital Vilnius, partly due to cheaper accommodation costs. A three-course meal in the City of Seven Hills costs just £39.01 while entering a top art gallery sets travellers back by a super-reasonable £4.52. There’s lots of change left over from sightseeing to splash on a glass of medium wine or beer as well – a 330ml bottle of beer in a traditional café or bar costs just £2.26, the lowest out of any of the other cities in the top 10.

Affordability will be a significant draw, but there’s much to discover as the Portuguese capital hots up. Hyatt Regency Lisbon joined an already stellar line-up of hotel options when it opened its doors earlier this year, offering 204 stylish rooms and destination dining spots, including grand café-style Viseversa. Hotel Das Amoreiras is the low-key luxury hideout of the moment, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World that houses an intimate garden for sunny, peaceful moments.

Elsewhere, delicious new restaurants and quirky bars are attracting foodies from across the country and beyond – think small plates at Rosetta's, creative cocktails late into the night at UNI, or a seasonal feast at Senhor Uva.

The Portuguese capital has taken the top spot for the first time, in a barometer that usually sees Eastern European cities outside of the Eurozone take the top spots. However, heading east is cost-effective – Vilnius is the second most affordable city, Krakow takes third place, and Riga is fifth.

Elsewhere in the top 10 are Athens (fourth), while Porto, Zagreb, Budapest, Warsaw and Lille claim places five to 10. The Slovakian city of Bratislava just misses out on a place in the top 10, although a weekend there needn’t break the bank at £333.51.

It’ll come as no surprise to £7-pint-paying Londoners that the British capital is among the most expensive places to visit. The city ranks at number 28 between Geneva and Belfast, and average costs include £73.80 for a three-course meal and £30.40 for a 48-hour travel card.

Amsterdam took the title of Europe’s most expensive city at £727.07, while the opulence of Paris and the culture of Venice are among some of the other European cities that require a little more planning – and saving – before visiting.

Starting with the cheapest, the top 10 European cities for overall value in 2023 are:

  1. Lisbon, Portugal
  2. Vilnius, Lithuania
  3. Krakow, Poland
  4. Athens, Greece
  5. Riga, Latvia
  6. Porto, Portugal
  7. Zagreb, Croatia
  8. Budapest, Hungary
  9. Warsaw, Poland
  10. Lille, France