With travel restrictions easing and holidays back on the table, many of us are desperate for some fun in the sun. But with the getaway that people desperately need comes a cost, and given the current cost of living crisis, now seems the perfect time to look for something cheap-yet-cheerful.
Whether you fancy sipping cocktails in a city square or spending your time immersed in the culture, the personal finance experts at money.co.uk have crunched the numbers to discover where in Europe you can get the full city break experience without it costing the earth.
If you want to spread the costs of your city break, remember you can apply for 0% purchase credit card to split the payments for up to 24 months.
As so many European cities regularly sit on the top of bucket lists of travel enthusiasts around the world, you’re probably not alone in struggling to choose where you want to visit first.
City breaks can come with a hefty price tag, so our personal finance experts have analysed various data points to discover which European cities you can visit on a budget. Our experts accounted for typical city break activities such as for the cost of an Airbnb for a night, a glass of wine, visiting the top-rated tourist attraction, the cheapest meal at the top-rated restaurant, and a 24-hour transport pass as part of the analysis.
The analysis reveals that Istanbul is the cheapest European city break destination, costing a minimum of just over £68. On average, a one night stay in a city that famously straddles two continents (Europe and Asia) will cost you just £51.38 for accommodation. You can see Dolmabahce Palace, which is the city’s top-rated attraction, for less than £6.50 and that even includes a guided tour. You can also opt to see the best sights from the comfort of local transportation with the reassurance that you can stay within your budget, as a 24-hour pass is just 71p.
Claiming the silver medal in the cheapest city breaks rankings is Greece’s Thessaloniki where the average cost for one night in an Airbnb is £62.25. Despite being an ancient city, which tourists can see from the ruins of Roman Emperor Galerius’ 4th-century palace, much of the city was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1917 and was rebuilt in a far more modern style. This mix of architecture makes it a place worth visiting and tourists can learn more for just £6.66 by visiting the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki. If all the Greek history is too much to take in, you can take the edge off with a glass of wine costing just £3.27.
The third cheapest city break is Germany’s capital, Berlin, where the cost of a city break starts at £87.25. An Airbnb for one night is £62.83 on average, a 24-hour bus pass is considerably more than the cities in first and second place coming in at £7.42, but it balances out as the top-rated attraction is free of charge and the cheapest main meal at its top-rated restaurant is just £4.19.
Porto and Naples complete the top five, costing £94.52 and £92.35 respectively. The country featuring the most in the top 20 list is Italy; Naples (in southern Italy) is fifth, whilst Bologna (north of the country) is eighth with a total minimum cost of just under £116.70. Florence and Milan sit outside the top 10 list claiming 13th and 14th positions, and the Italian capital, Rome, is 16th with a total cost of £140.26.
|Rank||City||Average cost Airbnb (£)||Bus Fare (£)||Top Rated Attraction (£)||White Wine (£)||Cheapest Meal (£)||Total (£)|
On the other end of the scale, the research found that Dublin comes out as the most expensive place to take a city break. It has the highest average cost for an Airbnb, coming in at nearly £252.88 a night. The Irish city also claims the crown as the most expensive European city for a glass of white wine and one of the most expensive top-rated attractions, bringing its total cost to nearly £300.
Prague is second on the list with a one-night stay costing £210 on average, bringing the total spend to £232.98. This is followed by three UK cities; Edinburgh is third with the minimum costs of visiting the Scottish city coming to a total of £229.35, Manchester is the fourth most expensive city break in Europe, and London (famed for being expensive) is sixth. The United Kingdom features on the top 12 list once more with Bristol in 12th place, where the minimum cost of a one-night getaway is over £149.74.
Outside of the top five is Zurich in fifth place, Amsterdam in seventh, Copenhagen in eighth, Oslo in ninth, and Seville - where city breaks start at £153.25 - is 11th on the most expensive city break list.
|Rank||City||Average Airbnb (£)||Bus Fare (£)||Top Rated Attraction (£)||White Wine (£)||Cheapest Meal (£)||Total (£)|
|2||Prague, Czech Republic||210||4.15||8.58||4.62||5.63||232.98|
|3||Edinburgh, United Kingdom||190||4.5||18||5.25||11.6||229.35|
|4||Manchester, United Kingdom||164||4.2||25||4.25||11||208.45|
|6||London, United Kingdom||145||5.2||29.9||5.7||8.32||194.12|
|12||Bristol, United Kingdom||111||5.3||19.5||3.99||9.95||149.74|
As accommodation is often the most costly part of a city break, the financial experts at money.co.uk also analysed the average cost of a one-night stay at an Airbnb in each European city. This revealed that Istanbul is the cheapest place to rest your head, costing £51.38 on average, followed by Thessaloniki and then Berlin.
Vienna is the fourth cheapest city to stay in an Airbnb with an average nightly cost of just under £69.54, beating Spain’s Valencia by just one penny making it the fifth cheapest on the list.
|Rank||City||Average Cost For One-Night Stay (£)|
On the other end of the scale, we have the cities with the most expensive Airbnbs. The research found that Dublin has the highest average cost, coming in at £252.88 per night. This could be due to the demand of people wanting to visit such a beautiful city, but it could also be a knock-on effect of the rising cost of rent, as *The Irish Times reported that the average rent in Dublin is now at €2,000 a month.
Prague is second on the list with a one-night stay costing £210 on average, followed by three UK cities; Edinburgh’s average Airbnb cost is £190 a night making it the third most expensive in Europe, Manchester is fourth, and London (famed for being expensive) is fifth. The United Kingdom features on the top 15 list once more with Bristol in 13th place, where the average cost of a one-night getaway is £111.
|Rank||City||Average Cost For One-Night Stay (£)|
|2||Prague, Czech Republic||£210.00|
|3||Edinburgh, United Kingdom||£190.00|
|4||Manchester, United Kingdom||£164.00|
|5||London, United Kingdom||£145.00|
Two Portuguese cities take the top spots for having the most Airbnb listings per 100,000 people in the city. Porto is the city with the most Airbnbs per 100,000 residents in the city, with a population of just under 250,000 and with 10,748 listings, which means there are over 4,300 Airbnbs for every 100,000 people. Lisbon is second on the list with 3,578 Airbnbs listings for every 100,000 people in the city.
The third city on the list is Florence, the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, where you will find 2,940 Airbnbs per 100,000 people. Considering the city has a population of just under 350,000, it’s estimated that 16 million tourists flock to see its many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture every single year.
Following Florence is Paris, which has a population of over 2.1 million and the research reveals that the French capital has 2,303 Airbnbs per 100,000 residents (meaning there are 49,255 listings in total). The fifth European city on the list with a high ratio of Airbnbs to residents is Athens in Greece, where there are 1,457 listings for every 100,000 people.
Also boasting over 1,000 listings per 100,000 residents is Milan which ranks in sixth position, Edinburgh in seventh, Geneva in eighth, and Rome in ninth; whilst Barcelona rounds off the top 10 list with 968 Airbnbs on offer per 100,000 people thanks to its population of 1.62 million.
|Rank||City||Population||No. Airbnbs||No. Airbnbs per 100,000 people|
|7||Edinburgh, United Kingdom||£464,990.00||6,114||1,315|
|12||London, United Kingdom||7,556,900||66,641||882|
|13||Manchester, United Kingdom||395,515||3,447||872|
If you are really looking for an unforgettable experience, Airbnb gives you the opportunity to search for ‘unique’ types of accommodation ranging from cosy tree houses decorated with fairy lights to sprawling castles complete with shining armour (knights not guaranteed). The research reveals that it is Amsterdam offering guests the highest number of these one-of-a-kind stays with 9.4% of its 5,597 listings being considered as ‘unique.’ From analysing the listings it is clear that lots of them are floating homes or canal boats, giving tourists the chance to take in the stunning scenery of the canals that Amsterdam is so famous for.
Bristol, located in the southwest of the United Kingdom, is second on the list with nearly 5.6% of all of its 1,631 Airbnb’s being unique. Amongst the most interesting are tiny houses that are fueled purely by the sun and wind, cosy shepherd huts with a log burning fires and a woodland yurt that sits just a five-minute drive from the city centre.
Two Italian cities occupy third and fourth place, of Bologna’s listings 4.75% offer a unique experience, whilst 3.92% of Naples does. Geneva is fifth with 3.52% of the 2,157 Airbnb listings having a quirky edge, with castles, treehouses and private yachts being amongst the most impressive.
Stockholm is sixth on the top 10 list, whilst Italy makes yet another appearance in seventh with 1.17% of Rome’s 24,627 Airbnb offerings being unique, followed by Thessaloniki in eighth. Belgium’s Antwerp is ninth and Valencia is Spain completes the top 10 cities with the most unique Airbnb listings.
|Rank||City||# of Airbnbs||# Unique Stays||% of Unique Stays|
|2||Bristol, United Kingdom||£1,631.00||91||5.58%|
If you have already opened up Airbnb in another tab and you’re thinking of booking your next European city break, remember that you can spread the costs of your trip with a 0% purchase credit card.
A city break is a short holiday often spread over two to five days. This type of vacation can be to visit any city, big or small, from the likes of London and Rome to New York City.
To go on a city break holiday requires simply visiting a city anywhere in the world. You can visit popular culture-driven locations like Rome or Paris, or you can go for a more unique city break experience in Dubai, famed for being a city in the desert. Other popular destinations include New York City, Marrakesh, San Francisco, and Barcelona.
City breaks often require a wardrobe that caters to all weather. It’s important to pack anything that is comfortable to stay in for prolonged periods of time, as you’re often out for most of the day exploring the surroundings. With all of the exploring also means a lot of time on your feet, so comfy shoes are also an essential. In case of rain, it’s wise to pack a waterproof layer that you carry with you throughout the day, just in case.
Airbnb (which literally means Air bed and breakfast) is an online service that gives homeowners the chance to rent out their spaces to those on holiday. The platform gives people the choice to choose from accommodation that is shared with other people or if they want to stay in the entire place by themselves. Different hosts charge different prices based on the quality of the accommodation, the location, and the facilities included; so you can input your budget to ensure you only see results that you can afford.
By going onto Airbnb you can simply put in where you want to visit and the dates you are looking to travel and you will be taken to a page full of results. You can filter this in many ways, including by budget, the type of accommodation, if you want it to be dog-friendly or by the location itself. You then select the Airbnb listing you want to book and it will take you to a breakdown of costs, including the total costs per night and the total costs including the service fee and cleaning charge.
Once you have made your booking you can then message the owner to discuss your arrival time and ask any questions you might have. They will usually reach out to you via the messaging feature to tell you check-in times and to inform you how to access the key to the apartment, if there is parking etc.
Our experts analysed costs that make up a typical city break from various data sources, including:
- The average costs of an Airbnb (one night): insideairbnb.com
- Transport (based on a day bus pass, sourced from local transport websites)
- Top tourist attraction costs: tripadvisor.co.uk
- Cost of white wine: Using the top-rated restaurant on tripadvisor.co.uk for each city and sourcing prices from their menu
- Cost of main meal: Using the top-rated restaurant on trip.advisor.co.uk for each city and sourcing the cheapest cost of a main meal
By totalling the costs for each city, we then ranked them from lowest to highest to reveal the cheapest city break destination.
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Data correct April 2022.
Airbnb data: http://insideairbnb.com/
City population: https://worldpopulationreview.com/continents/cities/europe
*The Irish Times. Dublin is the most expensive place to live in the eurozone due to high rents: https://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/dublin-most-expensive-place-to-live-in-euro-zone-due-to-high-rents-1.4273703#:~:text=Cost%20of%20living%20survey%20places,top%20in%20the%20euro%20area&text=However%2C%20in%20terms%20of%20the,a%20month%20in%20the%20capital
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James is our senior personal finance editor and has spent the past 15 years writing and editing personal finance news. He has previously written for ReachPLC, was money editor of Mirror Online and Yahoo Finance UK, and has recently been quoted in City AM, Liverpool Echo and Daily Record as well as featured on national radio shows TalkRadio and the BBC.