British tourists looking for cheap holidays in Europe should book now as the falling value of the euro means families can save up to 15 per cent on flights and hotels booked in January.
Yesterday the euro fell to its lowest level against the US dollar in four years and European Central Bank president Mario Draghi said that the eurozone's recovery was "fragile and uneven".
The Daily Telegraph reports that Britons looking to take advantage of the strong pound against the euro can book a four-bedroom villa in the south of France for £83 less than last March, and four-bedroom farmhouse in eastern Spain for £158 cheaper.
A spokeswoman for ABTA told the newspaper: "This favourable exchange rate means those booking and paying in euros and stocking up on currency for imminent trips can make important savings.
"As well as being a very busy early booking period for summer holidays, January is also a key period for consumers to purchase winter holidays such as ski and city breaks on the continent – and British holidaymakers will feel the benefit of their money going further on these breaks when the pound is strong against the euro and other local currencies."
43 per cent of people are planning a city break for 2015, while 42 per cent will be taking a beach holiday, according to ABTA.
ABTA's Travel Trends 2015 Report, developed in association with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, revealed that people are planning to spend more on their holidays in 2015.
Affluent customers are breaking away from the cautious optimism that has dominated the market for the last couple of years. While this group is relatively small, it is set to drive some growth in the travel industry in 2015, with an increase in luxury and tailor-made holidays.
Cheap European cities for a winter break
British tourists to save hundreds thanks to falling value of euro
Genoa is one of Italy’s most elusive cities and has escaped the enormous price hikes of Rome, Venice and Florence, while offering the mildest winters of any other city in the country. A city of architectural and historic beauty, its key attractions are free to see. The historic centre is full of 16th and 17th century palaces. Wander the narrow, cobbled winding streets and see the ancient San Lorenzo Cathedral, ornate doorways and the Embriaci Tower. The best views in the city only cost €2 to see on the funicular from the city centre up into the hills surrounding the city. Alternatively, the Lanterna (lighthouse), which is the second tallest in the world, costs €6 to climb. Being a small city, everything is accessible on foot so travel costs are minimal. Eating out is affordable too. The small trattorias and hole in the wall focaccerias, which are mainly filled with locals, serve the most authentic and flavoursome food at cheap prices. British Airways Holidays offers a two-night stay in the five-star Melia Genova from £202 per person including return flights from Gatwick.
Named the Eurozone’s most affordable city break destination by Post Office, Lisbon also boasts mild winter weather due to its location near the sea and the air temperature in January is known to reach 17C. Just a two-hour flight from the UK, Lisbon is a great place to enjoy the festive season from now until New Year’s when the city is decorated with Christmas lights and it is cosier than ever. Until January, birdwatching enthusiasts can witness over 120,000 waders, waterfowl and other aquatic birds from northern Europe settle in Lisbon to spend a milder winter along the tranquil Mouth of the Tagus River. And if it's shopping you're into, there are malls, boutiques and quirky stores to browse. easyJet Holidays offers two-night city breaks in Lisbon at the beginning of January from £215 for return flights from Gatwick and accommodation.
Krakow offers good value any time of year, but visit during winter and you can see the Polish city covered in snow, visit the Christmas market in the main square and go ice skating in Blonia Park. Dining in Krakow is cheap, with a meal and a beer costing around £10 per person, and many attractions and events are either free or cost very little. Enjoy a coffee at Loch Camelot, marvel at the churches, such as St Mary’s Basilica and St Adalbert’s Church, and visit the impressive Wawel Royal Castle. Directline Holidays offers a three-night break at the four-star Galaxy Hotel with return flights from £139 per person. Nearby, you can discover Krakow’s fascinating Old Town, the Kazimierz Jewish District and the River Vistula - all for free!
Greece's buzzing second city Thessaloniki is just a little over three hours from London and a wonderful city to visit in winter, when the temperatures are more comfortable for sightseeing and you can savour long lunches and enjoy the bars and nightlife without feeling guilty about being inside. The cosmopolitan and cultural city, with a history spanning back 2300 years, boasts waterfront cafes, a burgeoning food scene and vibrant nightlife. Spend the winter days exploring sites, such as the White Tower, the Byzantine Walls and Kastro Castle. Don't miss a visit to the old quarter (Ano Poli) and a walk along the five-kilometre waterfront with its views of Mount Olympus. Another must-see is the Valaoritou area, which while caked in graffiti, has bags of energy and many of the city’s hippest bars and live music venues. easyJet flies from London and Manchester to Thessaloniki from £26 each way.
With flights from just £65 return from London in December, Tampere is a great short break destination for travellers wanting to soak up some traditional Nordic Christmas spirit without breaking the bank. In winter, visitors flock to the city to marvel at the Tampere Illuminations, which light up the sky thanks to some 165 light figures consisting of 23,000 led bulbs hung high above the streets. The Tampere Christmas market takes over the square in December, with traditional stalls selling typical Finnish crafts and seasonal treats. Many of Tampere's imposing red brick warehouses have been converted into quirky galleries and museums, while its café culture is not to be missed. With two universities and 40,000 plus students, it also means the entertainment, dining and nightlife is affordable. Stay at Finland's best hostel, Dream Hostel from 20€ per night. Ryanair offers flights to Tampere from Stansted from £42 return.
For a warm winter city break, head for Malta's capital Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage City filled with grand architecture and history. Temperatures are rarely below 15C and the city offers a relaxed atmosphere you won't find in the summer months. Explore the city's cobbled streets and sun dappled squares without the crowds, as well as the baroque cathedrals, fantastic shopping and café culture. If you are visiting around Christmas time, you can check out the Maltese Christmas pantomime, and the Christmas carol processions that take over the streets. For breathtaking views of the Grand Harbour, head for the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Malta Direct offers three-night stays in Valletta for £81 per adult at Osborne Hotel.
Hungary's capital city offers excellent value, stunning views and hot thermal waters to keep you warm on a winter break. Some of the top free things to do include a walk across Chain Bridge, a tour of the Parliament Building and a visit to St Stephen’s Basilica, the largest church in Budapest. Whether you like to spend time inside or outdoors, there are winter festivals, coffee houses and Christmas markets to enjoy in the affordable city. Recent research by Post Office found that a two-night city break for a couple, including accommodation, sightseeing and local transport fares costs just £117. Norwegian offers one-way flights from Gatwick to Budapest from £29.90.
Balearic capital Palma makes for an ideal winter city break in the sun (and on a budget). The vibrant capital in Mallorca has a mild climate with over 300 sunny days a year and new laws in place mean shops can now open seven days a week and outdoor terrazas can stay open 12 months of the year. Events take place all year round and include tapas fair TaPalma, which takes place from 4 to 6 December in restaurants around the capital allowing visitors to enjoy tapas and a drink for around €2.50. Visitors in February can witness the streets come alive with games and processions of decorated floats for the carnival. Winter is also the ideal time of year to explore Palma's best indoor attractions. The Palma Pass is available for 48 and 72 hours, allowing you to save up to 50 per cent on entry to museums and cultural sites across the city as well as on public transport. Fly to Palma with Ryanair from just £52 return from Stansted.
Dubrovnik gets extremely crowded in the summer months but during winter the Croatian city sees fewer tourists, cheaper accommodation and more relaxation. Sit in a charming café in Stradun, learn about the history and heritage in the museums and galleries, and savour the local cuisine at the heated restaurants and taverns. December is a delightful time to visit, when the Dubrovnik Christmas Fair takes over Sponza Palace offering lights, music and tastes of Dubrovnik. The open-air New Year’s Party offers spectacular entertainment, live music and fireworks by the city bell tower, and on New Year's Day, a concert in Stradun fills the street with classical and operatic music. Visit in February to don a mask for the four-day Dubrovnik Carnival. Enjoy sporchi macaroni, a local dish prepared by masked cooks, and witness the streets come alive with costumed parades and Harlequin-inspired masked balls. British Airways offers flights to Dubrovnik from £62 one-way throughout December, January and February.
Perfect if you're a spontaneous traveller, Lithuania's capital can be booked at the last minute for a cheap city break during the winter season. Once in Vilnius, hit the museums, relax in the warm restaurants and stop at the bars to sample the Lithuanian beer and heat your toes. Winter in Vilnius is generally cold and dark, but it is also the most magical time of year when the Christmas tree lights up Cathedral Square and New Year's Eve is as lively as you wish. Those who like to get out and about should hike to the Hill of Three Crosses or sled down the slopes of Vingis Park, while the UNESCO-protected Old Town is the largest in Europe, boasting the 14th-century Cathedral of Vilnius, impressive Roman architecture and the stunning Vilnius University. Wizz Air offers winter flights to Vilnius from Doncaster Sheffield and Luton from as little as £16.99 each way.
British tourists to save hundreds thanks to falling value of euro
Riga, the capital of Latvia is the 2014 European Capital of Culture. The pulsating city is home to Europe's largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings.
Surrounded by the breathtaking hills and fjords of Norway, the brightly colored timber houses of Bergen surround the boat-filled Vågen Harbour at its center.
After hosting two Winter Olympics, Innsbruck has become one of the largest ski resorts in the Alps. Summer or winter, the city enjoys the natural backdrop of the snow-capped Nordkette Alps, made especially beautiful with the medievalAltstadt, or Old Town, in the foreground.
Dubrovnik is one of Europe's most beautiful and majestic walled cities. The city's 14th century ramparts hug the Mediterranean coast, and within the walls is a sea of reddish orange-tiled roofs, bleached by more than 250 days of sunshine annually.
In Chester, Roman walls surround a charming collection of Tudor and Victorian buildings and a delightful shopping district filled with half-timbered shops reminiscent of a Grimm tale.
Prague, gives Paris a run for its money when it comes to beauty and romance. Centuries-old stone bridges spanning the slow Vltava River, cobbled lanes and busy public squares, all in the shadows of Romanesque, Gothic and Art Nouveau spires make Prague one of Europe's most popular capitals.
Straddling the Danube River in Hungary, Budapest is dotted with grand palaces, baroque monuments and Gothic cathedrals, a few Art Nouveau and neoclassical structures thrown in for good measure. Visitors come from all over Europe and the world to soak in the city's 123 thermal springs, many housed within exquisite works of architectural art.
The natural beauty of the Greek Islands reaches its crescendo on the island of Santorini, thanks in part to the quintessentially Greek blue and white color palate of the buildings and churches that cascade down the outside of a volcanic caldera toward the azure waters of the Aegean Sea. If the beauty of the city itself weren't enough, the beaches here are postcard-perfect. The village of Oia, Santorini is famous for its sunsets.
The beauty of Venice is both timeless and world renowned. This former European trade port -- built entirely on the water -- appears almost dreamlike with its pastel buildings, stone palaces and gondola-filled canals.
As one of the world's best preserved medieval cities, Bruges is brimming with cobbled lanes, ancient canals, baroque and Gothic buildings and monuments.