Most and Least Expensive European Cities
Traveling to Europe? Some cities offer great value. Others, not so much.
Want to travel to Europe without cashing in your 401(k)?
your plan includes London, beware: in 2010, the average
hotel rate was $209, up 11 percent from 2009. Compare that to Athens, where that rate was just $97,
down 18 percent. Kind of makes the Parthenon look better than ever, no?
It turns out that the weak sisters on the fringes of Western
Europe are shaping up to offer even greater value for American travelers this
spring and summer than at any time since the recent recession began. Like
Athens, Dublin has been battered by
sovereign debt crises, and hotel prices have dropped there as well. The shaky
economies of Portugal, Spain, and Italy are also resulting in lower travel
costs in some cities.
Americans might expect to find improved value even in those European
cities where travel prices have held firm or risen slightly, like Berlin and Vienna. The euro declined
against the dollar by 13 percent from January 2008 to January 2011, and if that
trend continues, you’ll get even more purchasing power in the 17 nations that
use the euro. In fact, the relative strength of the dollar may even be enough
to offset higher hotel rates in such expensive cities as Amsterdam (up 6 percent in
2010 versus 2009) and Paris (up 4 percent).
The carbuncle on that otherwise pretty portrait is non-euro
London. In fact, London is one of the few Western European countries for which
the State Department has raised its per-diem limits—up 11 percent, to $503 a
day for hotel, meals, and incidentals. Expect no bargains along the Thames this
Still, the sunny travel outlook prevails more often than not. In Athens,
a two-mile cab ride costs only $3.63, a beer at a café costs as little as $2.74,
and the average hotel price in January was a mere $97, down a whopping 18
percent from a year earlier. What’s more, in December 2010 the government
reduced its value added tax on hotel stays from 11 percent to 6.5 percent to
The poor economy in the former Celtic Tiger holds another bright
spot for tourists. For the best value, consider flying into Ireland’s Shannon
Airport and enjoying the good values in the west. Dublin is more expensive (a
two-mile cab ride will cost you around $11), but even there hotel prices have
So if you haven’t considered Western Europe as a vacation
destination in the past several years, 2011 just might be the year you’ll want
to return. But be sure you know which cities are good values—and which ones
could still put a big hurt on your wallet.