A travel-savvy friend, just returned from London, used the word "breathtaking" to describe the hotel rates he encountered there. His comment reminded us that hotel room costs are an important consideration when it comes to deciding which cities and countries to visit. Our friend's remarks also spurred us to do some analysis on the prices of hotel rooms in our three countries. To get a better fix on the relative cost of accommodations we have devised a simple index.

Our low-tech cost comparison method uses rates published in the Michelin Red Guides to create tables that show average prices for double rooms in three-star hotels in 11 major European cities, 30 cities in Germany, and 25 in Switzerland. Since there is no Michelin red guide for Austria, we could not include it in our index, although Vienna is listed in Michelin's Main Cities Guide, which allowed us to include it in the major cities list.

Michelin uses the outline of a building to symbolize the various hotel categories it rates. One with five roof peaks is top of the line, five-star, while double and single roof symbols usually denote three-star accommodations. Within those categories, Michelin lists properties in order of preference. For each city indexed, we chose the first six hotels with two roof peaks listed in Michelin. If there were fewer than six we used hotels with the single roof peak symbol.

Of the six selected, we tossed out the highest and lowest priced hotels and averaged the lowest double room price for the remaining four. Since the 2006 Switzerland's Red Guide is not yet available, we used the 2005 edition which shows only the highest double room price. That explains why there is a different price for Zürich in the major European cities list than in the Switzerland cities list.

Since there is usually a strong price correlation among hotel categories, these lists may be a useful guideline to the relative costs of all levels of accommodations among the cities. In other words, if the rates for leading three-star hotels in city A are 20 percent higher than in city B, it is fairly safe to conclude that city A will also have proportionally higher prices for both simpler and more luxurious accommodations.

Here are the results in price order starting with the most expensive.

Major European Cities

London $419
Prague $342
Paris $302
Zürich $278
Vienna $226
Budapest $220
Rome $213
Munich $210
Frankfurt $183
Salzburg $165
Berlin $164

Germany

Munich $210
Frankfurt $183
Berlin $164
Stuttgart $162
Freiburg $152
Nürnberg $145
Westerland (Sylt) $142
Bamberg $139
Heidelberg $137
Bonn $133
Rothenburg $128
Würzburg $128
Baden-Baden $127
Cologne $125
Rostock/Wärnemunde $124
Garmisch-Partenkirchen $124
Bremen $123
Hamburg $121
Regensburg $118
Lindau $112
Füssen $111
Augsburg $110
Trier $110
Dresden $107
Binz (Rügen) $104
Rüdesheim $103
Leipzig $102
Koblenz $101
Weimar $95
Berchtesgaden $88

Switzerland

Zürich $319
Geneva $295
Basel $269
Bern $247
Interlaken $250
Lucerne $224
Grindelwald $216
Pontresina $215
Montreux $214
Lugano $212
Schaffhausen $202
Zermatt $200
Klosters $194
St. Gallen $193
St. Moritz $188
Wengen $185
Gstaad $183
Lausanne $183
Locarno $172
Kandersteg $171
Leukerbad $171
Appenzell $158
Neuchâtel $150
Mürren $143
Sion $115

Prague $342
Budapest $220
Rome $213
Munich $210
Frankfurt $183
Salzburg $165
Berlin $164