The Green Travel Index

The  Green Travel  Index:

How to take an eco-friendly trip this year

With travel resuming to near-normal, summer 2022 is set to become the year that sustainable, ‘green’ travel becomes mainstream.

In the past 12 months, Google searches for ‘eco-friendly travel’ have increased 57% in the UK.

With this in mind, we’ve analysed several data sources and undertaken research to put together ‘The Green Travel Index’, a guide for those wanting to join the sustainable travel revolution.

Staying closer to home and on the same continent is the first step to reducing your carbon footprint, so UK holidaymakers can make an impact by keeping their holiday plans within Europe.

holiday destinations collage main image

Our data-led study reveals:

Eco-friendly

The 15 most eco-friendly European city breaks you can take from the UK

View the data for eco-friendly breaks

Small Footprint

The flights to Europe with the smallest carbon footprint

View the data for flights with the smallest carbon footprint

Green accommodation

European capital destinations with the highest percentage of ‘green’ accommodation

View the data for green accommondation

Vegan friendly

The most vegan-friendly European capital cities

View the data for vegan friendly cities

Most green space

The European capital cities with the most green space to enjoy

View the data for cities with the most green space

Without flying

The most sought after European cities to travel to without flying

View the data for travelling without flying

Green Travel Index:

The 15 most eco-friendly European city breaks to take this year

For some, it’s not always practical to travel by boat or train on holiday, but there are other ways to ensure your summer trip is as eco-conscious as possible. That includes considering not just the carbon footprint of your flight, but also where you stay and the opportunities to be sustainable while you’re there.

We’ve revealed the most eco-friendly European city breaks to take if you are flying there. To do this, we have used a seedlist of European countries, ranking the capital cities on their:

  • Flight carbon footprint - the carbon emissions on a return London flight
  • Green accommodation options - percentage of ‘green’ hotels available to book on TripAdvisor in the city
  • Public transport - whether the city has a metro system
  • Vegan-friendly options - the number of vegan-friendly restaurants on TripAdvisor
  • Green space - the amount of green space to enjoy when you’re on holiday

Each place was scored accordingly and the metrics were designed to analyse how eco-friendly your getaway could be.

The data analysis revealed the top 15 capital city breaks in Europe for a ‘green’ holiday:

Ranking City Total score Green accommodation Flight carbon footprint Public transport Vegan-friendly Green space
1 Bern 71.0 17.8 35.0 0.0 0.5 17.7
2 Luxembourg 70.9 17.3 36.0 0.0 0.4 17.1
3 Paris 67.6 11.9 40.0 5.0 7.2 3.5
4 Monaco 67.4 23.3 31.0 0.0 0.2 13.0
5 Amsterdam 66.0 12.1 38.0 5.0 4.1 6.7
6 Brussles 64.3 11.8 40.0 5.0 1.6 5.8
7 Oslo 64.1 17.2 28.0 5.0 1.0 12.9
8 Copenhagen 63.7 17.3 32.0 5.0 1.6 7.8
9 Stockholm 61.9 21.7 22.0 5.0 2.1 11.1
10 Berlin 60.7 9.6 33.0 5.0 5.7 7.4
11 Dublin 60.5 12.1 37.0 0.0 2.8 8.6
12 Andorra la Vella 55.3 6.1 31.0 0.0 0.3 17.9
13 Vaduz 53.9 0.0 34.0 0.0 0.1 19.9
14 Helsinki 53.2 25.0 11.0 5.0 1.1 11.1
15 Vienna 52.3 12.1 27.0 5.0 3.1 5.1

Top City

Bern is the top city for Brits looking to take an eco-friendly trip

The data reveals that Bern has topped ‘The Green Travel Index’, and is crowned the most eco-friendly European capital city break you can take this year.

Bern performs well for its flight carbon footprint from London, and nearly 10% of its accommodation options on TripAdvisor are green.

Tranquil yet chic, Bern boasts a historical old town that has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Urban river swimming is a popular pastime there, and Switzerland’s capital is also close by to the breathtaking town of Thun.

Luxembourg and Paris follow closely behind in the rankings, making it easy to take an eco-friendly trip there too. The flights from London boast some of the lowest carbon emissions, there’s a good range of ‘green’, sustainable accommodation in each, alongside hassle-free public transport in Paris or lots of green space in Luxembourg.

Bern Switzerland

Green Travel Index:

The 10 flights to Europe with the smallest carbon footprint - Paris takes the crown

Flights produce huge amounts of greenhouse gases and are one of the biggest contributors to global warming. In fact, according to IATA (International Air Transport Association), aviation contributes to about 2% of the world's global carbon emissions.

Paris France

Here we reveal the European flights you can take with the lowest carbon emissions:

City Flight carbon footprint from LDN (tonnes of CO2e)
1 Paris 0.1
2 Brussels 0.1
3 Amsterdam 0.11
4 Dublin 0.14
5 Luxembourg 0.15
6 Bern 0.23
7 Vaduz 0.25
8 Berlin 0.28
9 Copenhagen 0.29
10 Prague 0.31
Flight map to top 10 cities

Destinations that are closer to home, naturally have a smaller carbon footprint, therefore, the top 4 flights you can take with the lowest carbon footprint are to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Dublin.

Green Travel Index:

The 10 European capitals with the highest ratio of eco-friendly, green hotels for a sustainable stay

Sustainable tourism doesn’t end with shorter flights, where you stay on your trip should also be a huge factor if you’re planning an eco-friendly trip. According to UNWTO, hotels and accommodation account for 2% of the 5% global CO2 emitted by the tourism sector.

A green hotel is typically defined as environmentally sustainable accommodation that has made eco-friendly improvements in order to minimise its impact on our environment.

Helsinki Finland

Analysing TripAdvisor data, we have revealed the percentage of ‘Green’ accommodation options on TripAdvisor in each European capital city:

Helsinki

13.44%

Monaco

12.50%

Stockholm

11.65%

Bern

9.59%

Luxembourg

9.32%

Copenhagen

9.29%

Oslo

9.27%

Amsterdam

6.53%

Vienna

6.52%

Dublin

6.50%

Percentage of 'Green' properties on TripAdvisor

Helsinki is crowned the European capital city with the most sustainable hotels to choose from, with 13.44% of the TripAdvisor accommodation options listed as ‘green’.

Monaco and Stockholm also perform well, coming in second and third with 12.5% and 11.65% of stay options listed as ‘green’.

Green Travel Index:

The 10 most vegan-friendly European capital cities - with Rome topping the rankings

If you’re already a vegan, or are aiming to have the most eco-conscious holiday possible this year, we’ve used TripAdvisor to show the cities with the most vegan food options.

Rome Italy

The top European cities on TripAdvisor with the most vegan-friendly restaurants to dine in on your trip:

City Number of vegan-friendly restaurants on TripAdvisor
1 Rome 2,351
2 Paris 1,693
3 Madrid 1,369
4 Berlin 1,346
5 Amsterdam 962
6 Moscow 837
7 Vienna 727
8 Lisbon 681
9 Dublin 663
10 Budapest 593

The ‘eternal city’ of Rome tops the vegan-friendly city list by a significant amount, with over 2,300 restaurants listed on TripAdvisor that have vegan options.

Paris and Madrid also have a huge range of vegan restaurants options to choose from, 1,693 and 1,369 respectively.

Green Travel Index:

The 10 European capital cities with the most green space to enjoy - Sarajevo crowned the best

Sarajevo
Vaduz
Ljubljana

We’ve revealed the cities you can visit that have the most green space to enjoy while you’re there instead:

City Green space
1 Sarajevo 0.6778
2 Vaduz 0.6738
3 Ljubljana 0.6114
4 Andorra la Vella 0.6074
5 Bern 0.5996
6 Luxembourg 0.5801
7 Vilnius 0.5137
8 Tallinn 0.459
9 Monaco 0.4395
10 Oslo 0.4356
Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital, ranks the highest for green space. One of the most popular things to enjoy in Sarajevo’s green space is the abandoned bobsleigh track at the top of Mount Trebević. The hike takes around 1.5 hours but it’s well worth it.

Vaduz in Liechtenstein and Ljubljana in Slovenia, follow in second and third place for their green space.

Green Travel Index:

The 12 most sought after European cities to travel to without flying

In the past 12 months, searches for “UK to Europe by train” have increased a huge 188% year-on-year.

According to our research, taking the Eurostar train from London to Paris instead of flying there, can save up to 92% in carbon emissions per passenger. Travelling by train is not only a more eco-friendly way to go abroad, but it’s also sometimes faster when you include airport waiting times.

We’ve analysed the monthly Google search volumes for ‘UK to ‘European capital city destination’ by train’, for example, ‘UK to Madrid by train’. From this, we’ve determined the top 12 most sought after European capital destinations to get to by train, and revealed if that’s actually possible.

Paris and Amsterdam are the most popular destinations Brits would rather travel to by train than plane, but other more surprising locations appeared in the top 12 that are further afield, including Athens, Budapest and Copenhagen.

The cities Brits want to visit most by train instead of plane:

Paris

2 hours | 16 mins

Can you get there by train?

Yes, it’s a really simple Eurostar train from London St Pancras to Paris, and the fastest trains take just just 2 hours 16 mins.

Amsterdam

4 hours

Can you get there by train?

Yes, you can get there by Eurostar directly from London and it’s just over 4 hours.

Berlin

10 hours

Can you get there by train?

Yes, but with an overnight stay usually. You can take the Eurostar to Paris, a train to Barcelona. Then the next day, travel to Madrid.

Rome

15 hours

Can you get there by train?

Yes, you can travel from London to Rome via train. Take the Eurostar to Paris and then a high-speed TGV to Turin or Milan. The next day you can then travel onto Rome.

Vienna

13 hours

Can you get there by train?

Yes, you can get the train from London to Vienna in around 13 hours on the fastest services, but with at least 1 change.

Copenhagen

2 days | 1 night

Can you get there by train?

Yes, but with an overnight stay. You can take the Eurostar or other trains from London to either Brussels, Cologne or Hamburg, then the next day travel to Copenhagen.

Madrid

2 days | 1 night

Can you get there by train?

Yes, you can travel from London to Rome via train. Take the Eurostar to Paris and then a high-speed TGV to Turin or Milan. The next day you can then travel onto Rome.

Brussels

2 hours

Can you get there by train?

Yes, you can take a direct Eurostar from London to Brussels in less than 2 hours.

Prague

14 hours | 30 mins

Can you get there by train?

Yes, you can take a Eurostar train from London to Brussels, then to Prague from there.

Athens

3 days | 2 nights

Can you get there by train?

You can’t get to Athens entirely by train, but you can complete the journey ‘flight-free’ in 48 hours. You can take a Eurostar from London to Paris, then a train from Paris to Milan. The next day you can travel from there to Bari via train, and then a ferry from Bari to Patras in Greece. It’s then a bus or train to Athens.

Budapest

16 hours

Can you get there by train?

Yes, in less than 24 hours. You can take the Eurostar to Brussels, then an overnight sleeper train to Vienna and an onward train to Budapest.

Lisbon

3 days | 2 nights

Can you get there by train?

Yes, but this can take 3 days and 2 nights. You can travel from London to Paris on the Eurostar, then another train to Barcelona, and from there, a train to Madrid. You can then take further trains from Madrid to Lisbon.

Green Travel Index:

5 sunny beach destinations you can reach without flying & how to get there instead

While you can minimise your carbon footprint with the lowest emission flights to Europe, going completely flight-free takes your environmentally-friendly holiday to an extra ‘green’ level. And, avoiding flights doesn’t mean avoiding the beaches.

Here are the surprising, beautiful beach destinations you probably didn’t realise you could reach without flying:

St Tropez, Nice and Monte Carlo, France

St Tropez, Nice and Monte Carlo, France

These stunning and stylish beach destinations can easily be reached by train. Take the Eurostar to Lille, followed by the high-speed TGV to St Raphaël, where you can easily reach French Riviera resorts.

Rimini, Italy

Rimini, Italy

Italy’s Rimini resort is a sun-seekers paradise with a sprinkling of history and culture, and you don’t need to fly there. Take the Eurostar to Paris and then you’re connected to Europe’s vast train network. After Paris, change in Porta Susa, then onwards to Rimini.

M'diq, Morocco

M'diq, Morocco

Morocco’s stunning desert sands and epic mountain ranges can be reached without boarding a plane. Take the Eurostar from London to Paris, then the TGV train to Barcelona. Once there, you can board a high-speed AVE to Algeciras. Then you’ll need to take the FRS ferry to Tangier town where it’s simple to get to lots of Morocco's resorts by train or private transfer.

Corfu, Greece

Corfu, Greece

With cloudless blue skies and mouth watering food, the good news is you can still visit Corfu, flight-free. Take a train from London to Bari, then board a Superfast Ferry from there to Corfu.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

The perfect mix of beach holiday and city break, visit Barcelona without getting on a plane. Take the Eurostar from London to Paris, then the TGV Duplex from Paris to Barcelona.

Green Travel Index:

7 tips for a green, sustainable summer holiday

Use eco-friendly sunscreen

Suncream gets washed off in the sea, and some chemicals that are commonly found in some sun cream can actually be harmful to marine life, including the chemical formulas, oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Try to use alternative sunscreens that don’t include these chemicals, for example, Tropic Skincare Great Barrier Sun Lotion. This is free from oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene, and has been awarded the acclaimed Protected Land + Sea certification.

Limit the carbon emissions on your transport

Aeroplane travel is widely regarded as one of the fastest growing global warming contributors, therefore choosing a destination you can get to by train or car is the easiest way to cut your holiday carbon footprint.

If that’s not possible, and you do need to take a flight, you can do a number of things to limit your environmental impact:

  • Use Skyscanner to find the greenest flight to your desired destination - this is highlighted with a leaf motif and the carbon emissions saved.
  • Fly economy - flying business and first class leaves a much larger carbon footprint.
  • Fly direct where you can - taking off uses the most fuel.
  • Pay extra to offset the carbon emissions of your flight.

Create zero waste on the beach

Every year, tonnes of rubbish is found in the sea, so leave nothing behind on the beach. Cigarette butts, while small, can pollute vast amounts of water and take years to biodegrade.

Don’t take food in lightweight plastic wrappers or bags as these can easily blow away in the wind. Instead decant food into heavier containers.

Choose carbon-neutral watersports

Watersports are a firm holiday favourite - but some are better for the environment than others. Opt for more eco-friendly choices such as snorkelling, surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking and kite surfing. Motor watersports not only disturb marine life and cause noise pollution, but they also add to your carbon footprint.

Stay away from sand dunes

Sand dunes are natural barriers to prevent erosion and provide a home for lots of wildlife. Walking, running and playing in the sand dunes can damage the plants that keep it together and functional.

Shop locally

Where you can, try to avoid spending in the big corporate hotels and chains. Seek out independent, locally owned shops for your food and drink.

Try not to buy imported goods and opt for the locally sourced produce instead. Consider choosing farm-to-table restaurants and shopping at farmer’s markets.

Choose sustainable accommodation options

Stay in places that are eco-conscious and implement green practices, such as saving water and energy.

There are plenty of sites offering eco-friendly search functions. For example, Select Green Hotels, who ‘offer sustainable hotels with natural materials, vintage furniture, organic food and renewable energy just to name a few’. TripAdvisor also allows you to filter by ‘Green’ hotels.

Top City

Bern is the most environmentally friendly trip to take this year

If you’re flying away this summer, our data study reveals that heading to Bern is the best eco-friendly choice.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that going ‘jet-zero’ and avoiding getting on a plane is by far the most ‘green’ option. If you have the luxury of time, there are even plenty of beach destinations you can get to completely flight-free, including Greece and Morocco.

Bern, Switzerland

Methodology

To establish ‘The Green Travel Index’ study, we used a seedlist of all European countries from Worldometers, but removed San Marino and Holy See as there was not sufficient data for all of the index factors.

We then analysed the capital cities of each of these countries on the following five factors, giving a score for each factor, before combining this to give an overall ‘green’ holiday score:

  • Flight carbon footprint - the carbon emissions on a return London flight
  • Green accommodation options - percentage of ‘green’ hotels available to book on TripAdvisor in the city
  • Public transport - whether the city has a metro system
  • Vegan-friendly options - the number of vegan-friendly restaurants on TripAdvisor
  • Green space - the amount of green space to enjoy when you’re on holiday

A total of 41 cities were analysed and a full list of sources used in the data can be found below.

For ‘The 12 most sought after European cities to travel to without flying’ analysis, we used the same seeding list of European countries on Worldometers. We then compiled monthly Google search volumes for ‘UK to ‘European capital city destination’ by train’, for example, ‘UK to Madrid by train’. From this, we ranked where UK residents want to visit by train the most.