Europe’s unsung cities are giving popular city break destinations a run their money!

Internet search volumes reveal appetite for city breaks off the tourist track, where you can save up to 44% on better-known cities without compromising on culture

Post Office analysis reveals prices in Porto are a third less than in Lisbon, Valencia costs 35% less than Barcelona and Belgrade is 12% cheaper than Krakow

Adventurous Britons set on discovering Europe’s ‘unsung’ cities will be ‘quids in’ compared with holidaymakers who stick to tried and tested capitals like Paris, Barcelona and Venice, according to a new study by Post Office Travel Money. With two-in-five holidaymakers taking an overseas city break this year1, research into internet search volumes for the Post Office Unsung Cities League not only suggests a growing appetite for cities off the well-beaten tourist track, but also finds them far cheaper than more established options.

To compile the Unsung Cities League, Post Office Travel Money surveyed costs for the 10 cities that scored the highest number of internet searches in 2017. These were: Antwerp, Belgrade, Bratislava, Bucharest, Hamburg, Ljubljana, Porto, Toulouse, Valencia and Verona2. It found prices cheapest in Serbia’s capital Belgrade3, which had the eighth highest number of searches out of 30 Google city keywords. Belgrade’s barometer total was also lower than in any of the 36 cities surveyed for the most recent City Costs Barometer (March 2018).

At £149 for 12 tourist items – including a range of drinks, an evening meal for two with wine, two nights’ three-star weekend accommodation in October, sightseeing and city transport – Belgrade was almost 12 per cent cheaper than Krakow, which was previously best value in the City Costs Barometer. The same items cost £169 in Krakow (based on current exchange rates and accommodation for 5-7 October).


City Comparisons             Unsung City                        Established City                                £ difference       % difference

Belgrade vs Krakow        Belgrade – £148.70             Krakow – £169.21                            £20.51                   12.1

Bucharest vs Budapest  Bucharest – £174.94           Budapest – £228.60                        £53.66                   23.5

Porto vs Lisbon                 Porto – £183.74                  Lisbon – £274.96                              £91.22                   33.2

Bratislava vs Vienna        Bratislava – £202.56          Vienna  – £362.26                            £159.70                 44.1

Ljubljana vs Dubrovnik  Ljubljana – £216.94             Dubrovnik -£279.07                       £62.13                   22.3

Toulouse vs Paris             Toulouse – £246.45           Paris – £398.83                                 £152.38                 38.2

Valencia vs Barcelona     Valencia – £245.54            Barcelona – £378.93                       £133.39                 35.2


The same pattern of lower pricing for lesser-known cities was a common feature among all those surveyed for the Unsung Cities League. At £175, the barometer basket in Romanian capital Bucharest – runner up to Belgrade – cost over 23 per cent less than in Budapest (£229) in neighbouring  Hungary. The higher cost of accommodation in Budapest helped to make a city previously rated high 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, proved to be cheaper than two fast-emerging Eastern European capitals, Bratislava, Slovakia (£203) and Ljubljana, Slovenia (£217). Third-placed in the Unsung Cities League, Porto’s prices (£184) were also a third lower than in Lisbon (£275) and eight per cent less than in Athens (£200), making it the cheapest city in Western Europe.

However, Slovakian capital Bratislava (£203) looks a bargain buy compared with costs in Vienna (£362) in neighbouring  Austria. The price gap between Europe’s two closest capital cities is over £159 or 44 per cent.

Based on the new research Belgrade (1st), Bucharest (4th), Porto (7th) and Bratislava (9th) rate among Europe’s best value top 10 when their barometer totals are compared with prices for the 36 cities featured in the March 2018 Post Office City Costs Barometer4.

Four other cities surveyed for the Unsung Cities League were also markedly less expensive than better-known city break destinations in the same country. Toulouse (£246) in south-west France was 38 per cent cheaper than Paris (£399). The 12 tourist staples cost £246 in Valencia, 35 per cent less than in Barcelona (£379) further up the Spanish coast. In Antwerp (£253) visitors to Belgium can expect to pay nearly 30 per cent less than in Bruges (£358). And in Italy, prices in Verona (£294) are 36 per cent lower than in Venice (£460).

The only city surveyed where prices were similar to those of its more popular ‘big brother’ was Hamburg. At £308, prices in Hamburg were only 1.2 per cent 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.”