Let’s face it, Eastern Europe is a hot tourist destination. Sure, it is not as popular and busy as Western Europe, but this actually makes it the perfect travel destination if you’re not a fan of crowds of people and want a different kind of European tour.
But which Eastern European countries should you go to?
Everyone is talking about Moscow, Prague, Budapest and Saint Petersburg when they travel Europe, but I’m here to tell you about the best European cities to visit in the East! They are just as worthy of your time whilst still remaining relatively untouched.
So, without further ado, let’s jump right in to the 7 best cities in Eastern Europe to visit now before they get too popular!
First on our Eastern European cities to visit is Riga in Latvia! Riga is a travel destination in Eastern Europe that is often overlooked when touring Eastern Europe. But it shouldn’t be – the city is gorgeous. And lovers of Gothic architecture will particularly appreciate this Latvian city.
On the bank of the Daugava river, you will find the Riga Castle. It was first founded in the 14th century, and rebuilt several times after that. Today, the castle is actually the official residence of the president of Latvia, but also home to multiple museums. Unfortunately it is not open to public because it is the presidential residence, so you can’t check it out from the inside.
But I can recommend a better building to explore from the inside – the KGB Museum. Definitely go in for a guided tour, as you will be able to get inside the cells and interrogation rooms in the heart of the building. It’s not really a tour for the faint of heart, since it does put emphasis on the cruel and harsh reality of what was happening to Latvians under the Soviet regime. But nonetheless, it is still a remarkably interesting, educational and thought-provoking museum.
You should also check out the Cat House. It’s a much more lighthearted experience, since we’re talking about a building that has two huge statues of cats on top of it. It’s something that every cat person will want to check out, and the building actually has an interesting backstory.
There are two versions of the legend – one says that the building was commissioned by a wealthy businessmen, who was refused membership to the Great Guild. So, he wanted two angry looking cats with arched backs on the turrets, with their tails facing the Great Guild building. The other version of the legend has it that his feud was with the Riga City Council, and that the tails are facing the Riga Town Hall.
If you’re ever in Lithuania, you must visit Trakai. The city is less than 30 kilometers away from the country’s capital, so getting there should be fairly easy.
Trakai is a lake resort and a historic city. There are actually about 200 lakes in the area, but the largest one is Lake Galvė, with 21 islands. One of those islands houses the Trakai Island Castle – the most popular tourist attraction in the area. It dates back to the 14th century, and it is actually the only island castle in entire Eastern Europe.
There is a bridge that takes you to the castle from the tourist information centre, so it’s fairly easy to reach. But if you’re in the mood for an adventure, you could always rent a paddle boat and make your way to the castle. Additionally, the castle is actually part of the Trakai Historical National Park – the smallest national park in Lithuania, but still the only historical national park in Europe.
Another awesome Trakai experience is the Chocolate Sculptures Museum. Yes, it is literally a museum that features sculptures made from chocolate, most of which are actually life sized. It’s a unique and mouth watering experience, and it should definitely be on your bucket list.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a small country with a barely existent coastline, and so it is often overlooked by travellers. But Sarajevo, the capital city, is definitely a hot travel destination.
There’s plenty to love about the Olympic city; for one thing, its proximity to the mountains makes it a great spot for people who want to ski or snowboard during the day, and go out and party in the evening.
If you’re a foodie, you’ll love the city. Go for a walk through the Old Town, and you’ll see a ćevabdžinica every five feet. These are small restaurants where you can try one of the country’s specialties: small kebabs that are grilled and wrapped in flatbread. We recommend ordering them with lots of chopped onion and a side of kaymak, for an authentic experience.
Every Summer the city is the host of the Sarajevo Film Festival. It is the largest festival in Southeast Europe, and it’s the one thing that people are actually talking about. The city comes alive for a week, and it is actually the busiest week of the year for Sarajevo. You have a unique opportunity to attend movie premieres alongside international celebrities. Some of the most famous names to ever be guests of the festival include Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Brangelina, Benicio Del Toro and many others.
Related Reading: 5 Awesome Things to do in Mostar Bosnia
The capital city of Serbia is also the largest and most populated city in the country. But people don’t talk about it as much as they talk about Novi Sad – the city that hosts the Exit Festival each year.
Belgrade is a concrete jungle, and in the Summer, it is literally one of the hottest European cities to visit. Consider yourself warned – the temperatures get so high in the Summer that you can often see locals jumping in one of the many fountains in the city, just to cool down. Others will go to Ada Ciganlija, which is a beach in the middle of the city. It is off the shore of Lake Sava – this is actually a river, but it was artificially turned into a lake. And yes, you can swim there too!
The Belgrade Fortress is one spot in the city you must visit while you’re there. It is the oldest part of the town, and it consists of a park, a fortress and medieval walls. The park at the top of the hill overlooks the more urban areas of Belgrade, and the view is just stunning. You can also see tanks, open-air exhibitions, and buy food and souvenirs from street vendors throughout the park.
Another popular area is Skadarlija – Belgrade’s bohemian quarter. This part of the city is in the Old Town, and it’s made up from narrow cobbled streets that are dimly lit for a romantic and authentic ambiance. We recommend a night time dinner in one of the restaurants here, especially for couples!
We’re taking you to the Czech Republic, but not to Prague! Instead, we think you should check out Český Krumlov – a town in the West Bohemian region of the country that makes a great day trip from Prague.
The State Castle and Chateau are the hottest attractions in the town. The castle is on the UNESCO World Heritage Monuments list, and it’s a pretty unique sight. It is a huge castle, with numerous tourist attractions inside it. There’s a large bridge, a rococo garden, a 17th century theatre, a bear moat and lots of other spectacles.
Another popular spot in the city is the Egon Schiele Art Centrum. It is an art gallery/museum located in a 16th century brewery – how very Czech of it. The gallery is dedicated to Egon Schiele, and features a permanent exhibition of his works. But the museum also features annual exhibitions, which include works by 20th century artists like Dali, Picasso and Klimt.
If you’re in the mood for something unique, we suggest going to the Graphite mine in Český Krumlov. The mine was opened in 1975, and now it is open to public. A tour of a graphite mine is definitely something worth experiencing, which not a lot of people are talking about. If you’re looking for unusual tours in Eastern Europe, put this on your list.
Why not consider visiting the Beskydy Mountains too? They’re great in Winter!
We think this is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It looks like something from a postcard, with the narrow, colorful seaside buildings. It is a port city on the Baltic Sea, so expect to see a lot of boats, especially around the pier.
The Church of St. Mary is one of the most beautiful buildings in the entire city. The Gothic roman basilica has a tall bell tower, which provides a mesmerizing panoramic overview of the city. The interior of the church is light, and just as beautiful as its exterior. Also, you have to climb a lot of stairs to get to the top of the bell tower, so you’re in for a good workout when you come here.
The Long Market is another charming part of the city. And one that you can’t really miss, if you plan to go out for dinner. It is a public square with lots of restaurants, souvenir shops and a stunning fountain – pretty much it’s the best area for tourists. It’s very close to Neptune’s Fountain – a 17th century statue of the Greek god of sea.
Another interesting spot to check out in Gdansk is The Museum of Second World War. The exterior of the building alone is an interesting sight – it is slanted, with brick sides and fully glass front. The exhibits in the museum are devoted to World War II, and they focus on the position of Poland in the war, as well as the experience of the Polish people.
OK – we know this is not a city but we couldn’t resist getting them in here on our places to visit in Europe. The Tatra Mountains are the natural border between Poland and Slovakia. The larger part of them is in Slovakia, so we’ll focus on that area here.
Skiing and snowboarding are the obvious pastimes, if you’re a fan of winter sports. But if you’re not, there’s still lots of things to do in the Tatra Mountains. There’s the Tatra National Park – one of the nine national parks in Slovakia. There you have the rare opportunity to see the Tatra Chamois – a subspecies of the chamois, which lives only in the Tatra mountains.
Obviously, the Tatras are a great destination for the avid hiker. There are many hiking trails in the mountains, and most of them take you to a lake. The best hiking trails are not too easy, so we don’t recommend them to beginners.
You should also check out the Belianska Cave. It is the largest stalactite case open to the public in the Tatras, and definitely an experience worth having. It is most famous for unique rocky shapes and rich occurrences of calcite fills. Apart from the stone waterfalls and pagoda stalagmites, the cave is also the home of seven different bat species.
And if none of this is to your taste and you just want to have a blast, hit the Tatralandia water park. It’s open all year round, it has lots of pool and slides, and even a Caribbean experience, with a glass roof that gives you the illusion of actually being at the seaside – unless it’s snowing outside!
Need a little help for your trip? These quick answers should do just the job!
If you’re in a hurry and don’t have much time in Eastern Europe, you can easily fly. Yet bus and train travel in Europe is a fantastic way to get around on the ground too.
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Related reading: The Ultimate Backpacking Packing List
Are you feeling compelled to visit the above when you travel Eastern Europe? Do you have other suggestions to add to this list? Do you have any questions about the above for your Eastern Europe itinerary? Comment below and we’ll say hello back.
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