With inflation and the cost of living on the rise, we wanted to find out which European city is the cheapest, all-in, for a four-day city break (excluding flights or rail).
Which city has the cheapest food? The cheapest average hotel per night? And where can your hard-earned vacation money go the furthest?
Sourcing the data
First, we needed to know which city breaks are the most popular.
We checked to see which destinations have the busiest airports, the most flights booked, and headed to Google Trends to see which locations are coming up in popularity. We also included some notoriously expensive and cheap destinations we know of through lived experience – places like Paris and Budapest – at each end of the scale. Now, we needed to find out how expensive these cities are for a four-day trip. And that was going to take some digging.
First, we looked for the biggest cost; accommodation. At Motel One, our prices are an excellent balance of affordability, high service standards and design – but to make things fair, we researched the average costs of a hotel per night, across the spectrum of budget and luxury. We used Trivago’s hotel price index, which tracks hotel pricing throughout the year – and got an average pricing for 12 of our cities.Filling in the gaps in this required some deeper digging and calculation. Statista offered minimum and maximum values for some destinations, while Booking.com and SkyScanner have hotel pricing averages buried deep in metadata or hard-to-find pages, which we dug out to add to our list.
We also needed to know what these cities offer visitors – and luckily, we had some prior experience from our work on our Europe’s Most Walkable Cities data collection. We used Google Maps and Tripadvisor to find free things to do, plus the top attraction in each city and its price.
What about food, drinks, coffees – and getting around?
Well, the mighty resource that is The Savvy Backpacker has so much information on these areas. It was not perfectly set out for our needs – so, we normalised and cleaned it up, filling in the gaps with information from budgetyourtrip.com, hikersbay.com and cost of living websites. We also got public and airport transport information from tourism board websites and local transport authorities, as well as ground transfer companies where no other options were available.And bike hire prices were either obtained from city bike initiatives, rental apps, or local hire companies. Around 60 data sources were used – all of which are available on request.
To put it all together, currencies were all converted to EUR using Google or XE.com. We then developed a formula for finding the cheapest four-day city break – by combining four nights in a hotel plus two meals per day, a coffee, a beer, going to the top attraction once, hiring a bike for a day – plus an additional €15 per day for souvenirs or an extra-special meal at some point.