The best value autumn and winter city breaks for 2019/2020

October 26, 2019

Whether you’re after a food-filled weekend away or a museum-hopping adventure, we’ve crunched the numbers reveal the best value city breaks across Europe.

“What’s ‘best value’”, you ask? Well, because a great package deal doesn’t always reflect prices on the ground, we’ve based our ranking on the median price of a package holiday, a three-course meal at a mid-tier restaurant and a pint of a domestic beer.

With that in mind, here’s where to go for an affordable culture fix before summer rolls around again.

1. Vilnius, Lithuania

Visit Vilnius and you’ll be marvelling at UNESCO-protected architecture one minute, then gaping at provocative street art the next. But it’s not as jarring as it sounds; old and new merge beautifully in the Lithuanian capital.

It’s small compared to other city break favourites but that’s what makes it perfect for a weekend away. Contemporary boutiques line the streets of the old town, with quaint coffee shops and bars finding their way into every other shopfront.

Enjoy traditional Lithuanian fare paired with folk tunes at Grey or use the savings from your package deal to splash out at fine dining joints Amandus and D’eco

2. Bucharest, Romania

Though the Art Nouveau buildings that once gave Bucharest the nickname ‘Little Paris’ have mostly given way to austere communist-era structures, the Romanian capital still retains its charm. Between great concrete slabs, you’ll find ornate Orthodox churches, 20th-century residences and a pervasive sense of Berlin-esque cool.

Look in on quirky museums such as the Romanian Kitsch Museum and the Museum of the Senses and enjoy jaw-droppingly cheap nights out – we’re talking pints under £2 and three course meals under £15.

3. Hamburg, Germany

It’s lucky package holidays to Hamburg are easy on the wallet because Germany’s second-largest city is packed with cultural must-dos well worth the splurge.

With over 40 theatres, museums that touch on everything from fine art to maritime history, music venues ranging from tiny pubs to the towering Elbphilharmonie and street festivals galore, you won’t get bored here.

Culture cravers will enjoy hopping between the big five galleries in the so-called Museum Mile or, hop your way between swish bars and craft breweries (there’s plenty around) for something more laidback.

4. Belfast, Northern Ireland

The beauty of Belfast – aside from an enthralling history scribbled across its streets – lies in its location: with flight times from other UK destinations around the hour mark, you’ll be touching down before you can finish the latest blockbuster film.

With a few extra hours to play with then, you’ll have plenty of time to fit in a history book-amount of sights. The Titanic Belfast, the Ulster Museum, Crumlin Road Gaol and Falls Road and Shankill Road (the dividing roads of the republican and loyalist communities) are essential starting points.

For a longer trip, consider a combo Giant’s Causeway and Game of Thrones setting Dark Hedges tour. It’s breath-taking stuff.

5. Turin, Italy

Set against an impressive alpine backdrop with Paris-esque streets, swanky Turin doesn’t scream cheap on the surface. However, Italy’s first capital – generally overlooked by city breakers – makes for a fairly affordable escape.

Where in the rest of Italy you might head to a trattoria for a home-cooked and affordable meal, in the Piedmont region, you’ll want to seek out a piola (plural: piole). A name unique to the region, these hole-in-the-wall establishments hawk hearty Piedmontese fare (think truffle-flecked mains, creamy risottos and lots of gorgonzola) and local vini – the only thing you need for an Italian weekend away.

6. Barcelona, Spain

Credit: Tyler Hendy | Unsplash

With fantastical architecture, world-renowned art museums, mouth-watering eats and a beach to boot, it’s no wonder Barcelona keeps us Brits coming back. And while you might avoid the beach come wintertime, there’s still plenty going on, albeit at a slower pace.

For the cheapest break, look to hotels just out of the city centre and focus your eating efforts on restaurants in the El Poble-sec and El Raval neighbourhoods. Three-course meals frequently come in under £20 and you can pick up a pint for around £2.80 – score!

7. Berlin, Germany

Berlin is surprisingly cheap to visit year-round for a capital city, but autumn and winter breaks are particularly wallet-friendly. Just as well some of the best things to do are indoors, then.

Party people will be spoilt for choice in uber-cool Berlin; there’s bars, pubs and clubs catering to every taste, even if you’re after a 3pm boogie.

Of course, there’s a laidback side to the city too, and you can brush up on your modern history at a number of museums (the DDR museum is a must) or eat your way through the smorgasbord of international cuisines that top TripAdvisor’s ‘best restaurants list’.

8. Milan, Italy

Milan might have fashion down pat but the northern Italian city isn’t all brand names and high streets. Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper lives here, and getting in for a peek is much easier when summer crowds have abated. Lines for the famous Duomo are generally shorter, too.

When you’re done travelling through the past, Milan can also catapult you into the now; much of its skyline has been signed by renowned 20th-century architects and modern design festivals are held in the city throughout the year.

For affordable, authentic dinners, seek out places offering saffron risotto or cotoletta (veal).

The 20 best value autumn and winter city breaks for 2019/2020

Best value cities

Two-night package holiday per person

3 course meal per person***

Pint of beer***

TOTAL: beer, meal and two-night package holiday per person

1. Vilnius





2. Bucharest





3. Hamburg





4. Belfast





5. Turin





6. Barcelona*





7. Berlin





8. Milan*





9. Madrid*





10. Sofia





11. Lyon





12. Budapest





13. Brussels





14. Valencia





15. Bologna





16. Krakow





17. Tallinn





18. Oslo





19. Cologne





20. Prague





* Popular cities like Milan, Madrid and Barcelona tend to have a lot of accommodation outside of the city centre. So, although these cities rank in the top ten for value, be aware that you may be quite far out if you pick a lower-priced package.

*** Cost of living data taken from August 2019.

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