Lisbon revealed as best-value location for a European city break


In an annual travel survey which analysed typical tourist costs in 35 European cities, Lisbon has emerged as the best-value location for a city break on the continent – beating traditional budget-friendly eastern European destinations.

The Post Office Travel Money City Costs Barometer found the Portuguese capital won the top spot ahead of runner-up Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital. Two other past winners – Krakow (third) and Athens (fourth) – complete the top four cities.

The barometer’s ranking is produced by an analysis of 12 typical tourist costs, including an evening meal for two with wine, drinks, two nights’ three-star accommodation, sightseeing and city transport.

It is the second time in the survey’s history that a city in western Europe has beaten an eastern European city to first place.

At £225, Lisbon’s barometer cost was just 2% higher than last summer. Two nights in a three-star hotel averaged £121, only 5.2% up on 2022, compared with rises of over 30% in every other city surveyed. As a result, prices in the Portuguese capital were less than one-third of those in Venice (£687) and Amsterdam (£727), Europe’s most expensive cities.

Vilnius (£226), rated top city by the Post Office in 2019 and 2020, was a close runner-up to Lisbon – just 25p more expensive for the barometer items. Two other past winners – Krakow (£251) and Athens (£262) – were also singled out for good value.

The research found that British tourists can also bag a city break bargain by choosing Riga (£285), Zagreb (£330), Budapest (£331) or Warsaw (£331) in eastern Europe, or Portugal’s second city Porto (£325) or Lille (£332) in western Europe.

Vilnius in Lithuania
Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, was the second best-value European location according to the survey. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

However, the cost comparison found that the weaker pound and surging hotel prices mean tourists will need to choose their destinations carefully or face paying up to 76% more than last year.

Laura Plunkett, head of travel money at the Post Office, said: “The increased price of accommodation could add hundreds of pounds to the overall cost of a holiday, so travellers need to budget carefully for this.

“We also advise checking costs for meals, drinks and sightseeing before booking, as these are items that most city-break tourists will incur. As this year’s barometer shows, there are wide variations in costs between cities and people who are prepared to swap destination can make their pounds stretch much further by choosing a cheaper capital like Lisbon or Vilnius.”

Closer to home, Cardiff (£387) rates as best value of the four UK capitals, more than 27% cheaper than Edinburgh (£535). London and Belfast both rated among the 10 most expensive cities in the survey. At £561, London has seen a big price rise, mostly because the cost of two nights’ accommodation has trebled to an average of £361 since it was last surveyed in 2021. The same applies for Belfast (£562), where accommodation has risen from £221 to £392, although its barometer total is 6% cheaper than Dublin, across the border.

However, Dublin is still a good option for a cultural break, emerging from this year’s survey as the city with the lowest price tag for cultural sightseeing. This is because entry to its leading museums and galleries is free, while the charge for its top heritage attraction, Kilmainham Gaol, is just £7. By comparison, entry to Dubrovnik’s star attractions costs almost nine times as much, at £63.22.

Separate research from last year’s Post Office Holiday Money Report, which surveyed most (but not all) countries in Europe to compare the prices of meals, drinks and other essentials, found that Turkey and Bulgaria offered the best value overall, with Portugal’s Algarve in third place.

The Post Office City Costs Barometer 2023 is based on early May exchange rates. Some prices were supplied by tourist offices and others were collated via online research. The two-night accommodation prices were sourced from and and based on an average of the 10 cheapest available three-star city centre accommodation for two adults sharing a double/twin en suite room between 2-4 June 2023.

A Lisbon city break – on a budget

Street in Lisbon’s old town with yellow tram and Lisbon Cathedral in the background. Lisbon, Portugal
An elétricos (tram) in Lisbon with the city’s cathedral in the background. Photograph: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Lisbon is a walker’s paradise. Get to know the city of seven hills with a free (tip-based) walking tour of the old neighbourhoods (options include a street art tour listed on The best way to see old Lisbon is to take one of the beautiful yellow elétricos (trams) that crisscross the city (€1.65 for a single journey, or €6.40 for a one-day travel card; the number 28 is the most well-known tram). A Lisboa Card (€20.90 for 24 hours) is also a great option, as it offers free travel everywhere and free entry to 35 museums, including the National Tile Museum.

I feel the city is best enjoyed from one of its miradouros (viewpoints), and favourites are Miradouro de Santa Luzia, with its patterned tiles and shade under grapevines and bougainvillea, and Miradouro da Graça, for sunset views with a glass of white port and tonic. To get a different view take the workers’ ferry from Cais do Sodré on a blue-sky day to Cacilhas, then walk along the bank to Ponto Final , a waterfront restaurant. The city has dozens of churches worth visiting – from small tiled chapels to the lavish ivory and gold of Igreja de São Roque – and they are all free.

Other (free) fun things include wandering to Feira da Ladra, Lisbon’s ancient flea market, on a Saturday morning. Or explore LX Factory – one of many cool places that have popped up in recent years along the Tagus River with its markets, bookstores, exhibitions, shops and gigs.

The Pastéis de Belém bakery – home to Lisbon’s greatest delicacy – is a mandatory pitstop and close to the 16th-century Jerónimos monastery. For lunch, try Zé da Mouraria for traditional reasonably priced old-school Portuguese food. Time Out Market Lisboa can be busy but is where to find the best of the city’s gastronomy, with its 26 small restaurants and eight bars under one huge roof.

If you’re adventurous and want to listen to Fado, Portugal’s painfully mournful music, then take in the free live shows at Povo, a restaurant-bar that revives the concept of tasca and has young, talented fadistas playing and singing each evening. For a budget overnight stay, try the new Chalet d’Ávila Guest House (rooms from €64) or the recently renovated Varandas de Lisboa (rooms from €76.50) in downtown.
Paulo Anunciacao

Best-value cities
1. Lisbon £224.76
2. Vilnius £225.01
3. Krakow £250.91
4. Athens £262.22
5. Riga £284.99
6. Porto £325.30
7. Zagreb £329.72
8. Budapest £330.53
9. Warsaw £330.95
10. Lille £332.11

Most expensive cities
1. Amsterdam £727.07
2. Venice £687.06
3. Paris £604.49
4. Dublin £600.99
5. Copenhagen £587.08
6. Florence £580.29
7. Belfast £561.55
8. London £560.70
9. Geneva £552.80
10. Berlin £552.70

Lowest-priced accommodation
1. Lisbon £121
2. Athens £128
3. Vilnius £128
4. Krakow £130
5. Riga £147

Most expensive accommodation
1. Amsterdam £525
2. Venice £480
3. Dublin £448
4. Florence £402
5. Belfast £392

Lowest-priced meals
1. Lisbon £39.01
2. Athens £40.64
3. Porto £52.38
4. Vilnius £52.86
5. Zagreb £56.99

Most expensive meals
1. Copenhagen £150.55
2. Helsinki £120,11
3. Vienna £118.13
4. Geneva £116.02
5. Nice £99.34