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Head to the Baltic or Balkans for a bargain Christmas Market break

News   •   Nov 16, 2019 00:01 GMT

Riga is cheapest of 13 European cities surveyed for a Christmas Markets break (www.postoffice.co.uk/christmasmarkets) for the third year running

Runner-up Zagreb has narrowly beaten Tallinn, where prices are down 13 per cent

Lille is best value in Western Europe, thanks to a 17 per cent year-on-year price fall

Post Office research found that two-night breaks cost less this year in seven of 10 cities surveyed in 2018: biggest falls of over 20 per cent are in Scandinavian cities

Christmas gift items cost less in six of the European cities surveyed than in London

The low cost of package trips, meals, drinks and festive fare has again made Riga the bargain choice for a European Christmas shopping trip in the annual Post Office Travel Money Christmas Markets Barometer¹. Published in the week when the first Advent markets open across Europe, Latvia’s capital has taken top spot in the survey of 13 European cities for the third consecutive year and is 36 per cent cheaper than Vienna, the most expensive city.

Riga’s barometer total of £497 – calculated by combining the cost for two people of a flight inclusive B&B accommodation package with airport transfers, two evening meals with wine, coffee, festive drinks and snacks at the Christmas Market – is 1.1 per cent cheaper than a year ago. Its winning score was the result of ready availability of low cost hotel accommodation and flights because the city was ranked only sixth cheapest for meals and drinks. Prague (£613) was cheapest on the ground but the higher cost of a two-night flight and accommodation package meant that it has fallen from second to fifth place.

Nick Boden, Head of Post Office Travel Money, which accounts for one-in-four UK currency transactions, said: “Our research found that Prague was one of only three cities where package prices have risen2. Big falls of over 25 per cent in many other cities suggest there is more flight and hotel availability this year, resulting in strong competition for business and lower prices. This makes it a great time for holidaymakers to plan bargain Christmas Markets trips.”

This year’s runner-up Zagreb, capital of Croatia, is another bargain option for UK shoppers with a barometer total of £523 for a two night Christmas Markets break for two people. Post Office Travel Money included the city in this year’s survey for the first time because it has been rated the best European Christmas Market for the past three years3.

Completing an Eastern European 1-2-3, Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, took third place with a barometer total of £531, which is 13 per cent lower than last year. It means that two Baltic State capitals – Riga and Tallinn - feature in the best value top three cities.

In Western Europe, Lille emerges as best value in the Post Office poll. With a total barometer cost of £576 for two people, it is also closest to the UK with a 90 minute train journey from London. Barometer prices have plummeted by 17 per cent since last winter, mainly because the cost of a Eurostar train and hotel package has fallen significantly.

  • Despite reports of its volatility, sterling is not the negative factor that might have been expected for UK visitors to European cities because it is worth more than a year ago against all seven currencies for the cities featured. Also, competitive local pricing means that the overall cost of a two-night break is lower than a year ago in seven of the 10 cities4 that were also surveyed a year ago (Zagreb, Krakow and Strasbourg are new to the poll this year).
  • The biggest barometer falls were seen in Scandinavian cities. Prices were down 21 per cent in Stockholm (£624) and 26.3 per cent in Copenhagen (£656). Competitive package prices were the key factor in these falls. Price rises were minimal: 2.1 per cent in Berlin (£648), 2.9 per cent in Munich (£725) and 3.3 per cent in Prague (£613).
  • Nick Boden said: “The price differences revealed by our latest research show how important it is for people planning trips to check prices and allow for all the costs they may incur before choosing a city. Holiday homework before booking could save them hundreds of pounds, especially if they plan to go shopping for presents when they take a Christmas Markets break.”
  • Post Office Travel Money surveyed shop prices for 10 Christmas gift items in the 13 cities and compared these with the cost in London5. It found that UK visitors can snap up money-saving bargains ranging from designer fashions to beauty products, gift chocolates and high-tech items in most cities.
  • Six cities scored totals that were lower than in London, with the biggest savings to be made in the two French cities surveyed. The overall cost of the 10 items was 6.3 per cent lower in Strasbourg and 5.4 per cent less in Lille than in London. Prices were also lower in Prague – by 4.7 per cent – and in Munich – by 3.2 per cent - than in London, while they were marginally lower in both Vienna and Berlin.
  • Post Office included the cost of a gift box of Lindt chocolates for the first time and found that prices for this item were lower in Copenhagen, Krakow, Prague and Riga than in London. A 200gm Lindor box retailed at £4.99 in London but could cost as little as £3.05 in Copenhagen.
  • Savvy shoppers can also make savings of up to 18 per cent on a Clinique lipstick - £17.50 in Riga compared with £21.50 in London and can shave as much as 55 per cent off a 50ml bottle of Calvin Klein CK One fragrance in Vienna (£13.20 compared with £29.50 in London).
  • Shoppers looking for tech bargains can save up to 27 per cent on an Apple iPad Mini in Lille (£328 vs £399 in London) or 12 per cent on a GoPro Hero 7 (silver) in Strasbourg (£175.75 vs £199.99 in London).
  • However, the Post Office found that UK visitors can expect to pay over 24 per cent more for the gift basket of items in Copenhagen and Krakow than in London. It also found that not a single item was cheaper in Budapest than in London with the result that shoppers would pay nearly 14 per cent extra if they purchased all 10 items.
  • Nick Boden advises city break holidaymakers to think carefully at the till to avoid wiping out their savings: “Shoppers should think twice before using a credit or debit card to pay for gifts as they run the risk of paying extra non-sterling transaction charges without realising it. They can avoid this by loading spending money onto a Post Office Travel Money Card, which is accepted at millions of retail outlets and does not incur these transaction charges.”

Holidaymakers planning trips to the European Christmas Markets can purchase euro on demand at over 9,000 Post Office branches, while the other European currencies featured in the Post Office Travel Money report are available over the counter at more than 1,600 branches. Euros can also be ordered online at postoffice.co.uk for same day collection at selected branches, for next day collection at any branch or home delivery.

Ends

Prices quoted are rounded up or down to the nearest pound.

For more information, please contact:

Joanne Leahy Post Office Press Office 07791 894469

Joanne.Leahy@postoffice.co.uk

Christine Ball CBPR 01798 874177 / 07976 285997 cball@cballpr.co.uk

Notes to Editors:

  • [1] Details of prices and cities surveyed for the 2019 Post Office European Christmas Markets Barometer can be found in the accompanying barometer tables. European Christmas Market dates and locations are:

1.Berlin, Germany: 25 November-29 December, Gendarmenmarkt

2.Budapest, Hungary: 22 November-1 January, Vörösmarty Square

3.Copenhagen, Denmark: 16 November-22 December, Tivoli Gardens

4.Krakow, Poland: 29 November-26 December, Rynek Square

5.Lille, France: 22 November-30 December, Place Rihour

6.Munich, Germany: 27 November-24 December, Marienplatz

7.Prague, Czech Republic: 30 November-5 January, Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square

8.Riga, Latvia: 30 November-6January, Dome Square

9.Stockholm, Sweden: 22 November–23 December, Old Town

10.Strasbourg, France: 22 November-30 December, Cathedral Square

11.Tallinn, Estonia: 15 November-7 January, Town Hall Square

12.Vienna, Austria: 15 November-26 December, City Hall

13.Zagreb, Croatia: 30 November-7 January, Zrinjevac Square

  • 2 Post Office research found that package prices had fallen in Prague, Berlin and Munich

3 Zagreb has been voted Europe’s best Advent Market in a public vote organised by European Best Destinations for the past three years.

4 Barometer price falls:

Copenhagen -26.3%

Stockholm -21.1%

Lille -17.0%

Budapest -14.8%

Tallinn -13.0%

Vienna -3.7%

Riga -1.1%

5 Post Office Travel Money compared the price of 10 items in shops in London with those in European cities (except Tallinn, where some prices were not available). These items were: Levi’s 501 men’s Original Fit Jeans (stonewash), Lindt Lindor milk chocolate truffles (200gm) with substitute in Riga where not available, UGG Classic Short Boots, Ralph Lauren Oxford slim fit shirt, Clinique Dramatically Different Lipstick, Apple iPad Mini (64GB Wi-Fi), Apple Watch series 5 (with sports band) 40MM GPS, GoPro Hero 7 Silver, Marc Jacobs ‘Daisy’ Eau de Toilette (50ml) and Calvin Klein CK One (50ml). Prices were lower in six of the cities than in London, with Strasbourg and Lille offering the cheapest deals:

City Total for 10 items % more/less than London
London £1,418.98
Strasbourg £1,328.88 -6.3%
Lille £1,342.85 -5.4%
Prague £1,352.66 -4.7%
Munich £1,373.13 -3.2%
Vienna £1,413.69 -0.4%
Berlin £1,417.91 -0.1%
Riga £1,429.54 +0.7%
Stockholm £1,544.13 +8.8%
Zagreb £1,563.54 +10.2%
Budapest £1,614.76 +13.8%
Copenhagen £1,763.80 +24.3%
Krakow £1,771.03 +24.8%