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Revealed: The best value-for-money city breaks in Europe

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The cost of living has us gripping our purses more tightly these days but when it comes time for a getaway, some destinations are more budget-friendly than others. Lisbon tops the list.

Post Office Travel Money has put out its annual city-costs barometer, measuring the price of lodging, meals and museums in 35 cities across Europe. 

The cost for typical holiday needs and activities was higher for all of the destinations, particularly when it came to lodgings, but the Portuguese capital offered the best deal, according to the survey, at £224.76 for a basket of 12 items including an evening meal for two, a weekend room for two nights in three-star accommodation, sightseeing and city transport.

Taking the lead

Lisbon’s prices rose 2% from last year, just edging past Vilnius in Lithuania at £225.01 with more-expensive hotels.

Lisbon knocked Athens from the top spot, pushing the Greek capital into fourth place, behind Krakow in Poland. The rest of the best-value top 10 were Riga, Latvia; Porto, Portugal; Zagreb, Croatia; Budapest, Hungary; Warsaw, Poland; and Lille, France.

Denting the wallet

If you’re planning to head to Amsterdam or Venice, expect to pay a premium: they were the priciest in Europe for a city break, thanks mostly to the high cost of hotels. Also on the pack-your-pounds list are Paris, Barcelona, London, Rome, Edinburgh, Madrid, Dublin and Berlin.

Hotel prices were a bit of a shocker, rising more than 50% since last year in 27 of the cities surveyed. In Lisbon they rose 5.2% and in Vienna, 18.9%.

Splashing out on a three-course meal for two with a bottle of house wine cost less than £39 in Lisbon but as much as £150.55 in Copenhagen. (The price has fallen in half of the cities surveyed). 

‘Art’ of the deal

To get a culture fix, Dublin offers the best deal because so many of its museums and galleries are free. In Dubrovnik, however, you can pay £63.22 to visit a museum, gallery and a heritage site.

The prices are based on early-May exchange rates, supplied by tourist offices of some cities and researched online for others. Lodging prices came from Hotels.com and Booking.com for an average of the 10 least-expensive three-star city-centre accommodations for two adults on the weekend of 2-4 June.

The basket of 12 items also included a cup of coffee, a bottle of beer, a cola, a glass of wine, return airport transfers, a 48-hour travel card, a sightseeing bus tour, a top heritage attraction, a top museum and a leading art gallery.

Other ways to save

The prices do not include getting to those cities from the UK. Although these prices focus on a weekend, flying on a Friday is usually more expensive than flying on a Tuesday. You might also avoid the crowds.

Or book early and consider going by train. Hit a local supermarket and head to a park for a picnic. Pack light and walk some of the shorter distances instead of relying on taxis.