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20 best places to visit in Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe

Dear weary travellers, craving the warmer months, tired of swarms blocking the sunny views and epic monuments – travel to Eastern Europe is for you! The Eastern side of the continent is home to many roads less travelled by, and it’s along these roads that you’ll be able to find total bliss (though not many people have figured this out yet). 

Gorgeous landscapes? Check. Rich history? Check. Unique and fabled architecture? Check. Overall fairytale vibes? Check! Eastern Europe has exactly everything that Western Europe has, and it’s about time it was given its moment to shine. So, for anyone who is after balmy summers or twinkling winters, these are the best places to visit in Eastern Europe.

1. Prague, Czech Republic

Starting off with an Eastern European sweetheart, Prague is fast becoming one of the most sought after destinations, no matter the time of year. This is partly due to the fantastic and rich history that the capital city covets, the sights like the iconic Charles Bridge and Old Town Square, as well as the affordable drinks. We’re talking pints of beer for 1€.

But Prague is about so much more than that – it’s a beautiful city with some unique architecture like the Astronomical Clock at the Old Town Hall which will have you staring in awe day in and day out.

Prague, Czech republic

Image source:Contiki

2. Budapest, Hungary

Another capital city, Budapest is known in Hungary and all over the world for its spas, so this is the perfect city to rest tired bones after an extended trip – one like the Best of Balkans, perhaps? Enjoy the thermal hot springs as well as the regal atmosphere that this city offers like the larger than life parliament building that sparkles gold over the Danube. It’s one of the best places to visit in Eastern Europe for a reason!

3. Tallinn, Estonia

Okay, maybe those first two entries seemed obvious to you, so now we’re stepping into some places that may be unfamiliar to non-Europeans. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, feels like a place straight out of a storybook with the terracotta tiled roofs, the cobblestoned streets, and the stand out Alexander Nevsky Cathedral with five black onion domes. 

Stroll past many quaint coffee shops, galleries, and traditional restaurants as you make your way to the waterfront. Set right alongside the Baltic Sea, Tallinn is blessed with the fresh sea breeze, and on a good day if the weather is clear you may even be able to glimpse part of Finland! If Tallinn and Estonia take your fancy, hit it up with us on our Best of Baltics tour.

4. Plovdiv, Bulgaria

This ancient city, built around seven sprawling hills is a hidden gem to be sure, and definitely one of the best places to visit in Eastern Europe if you want to get off the beaten track. Colourfully painted houses set this city ablaze and really invite you in. You’ll be walking up and down slopes as you wind around the streets, so be sure to pack some comfy shoes, but Plovdiv is so worth the effort!

The Roman Empire stretched as far as Bulgaria, so it follows that one of this city’s main attractions is the Ancient Theatre of Philippopolis which hosted plays at the time and hosts operas and concerts today. If you can make it here in time to catch a show you’ll be filled with some of the most amazing memories for life. Many other remnants of the Roman Empire can be found here, including mosaics and coins, so this is a trip for the history fans. 

5. Split, Croatia

Dubrovnik is often spoken of when the topic of best European cities pops up, and for good reason – it’s a dream. But Split is just as awesome as Dubrovnik and offers much the same with fewer people around. From beaches with turquoise water to market stalls selling handmade souvenirs, and impressively preserved Roman Palaces (we’re not lying), you’ll be awed by this Croatian city.

But if you really can’t choose between Dubrovnik or Split, or even Hvar and Makarska, then why not do them all on our sunny Croatia Island Sail trip?

Split, Croatia

Image source:Contiki

6. Ljubljana, Slovenia

With many ornate bridges crossing the Ljubljanica river, and complete with a castle at the top of a hill, Ljubljana is a literal fairytale. It feels pulled out of a story about knights, dragons, and princesses, and I guess this makes sense seeing as the flag atop Ljubljana Castle is adorned with a green dragon! Slovenia in general is so dreamy – Lake Bled is a must see destination – and it also has an amazing wine culture that you can take full advantage of at the many wine festivals in the capital city. 

Randomly discovering a Ljubljana wine festival brought a day of dancing and laughter

Randomly discovering a Ljubljana wine festival brought a day of dancing and laughter

Charlie Fabre
by Charlie Fabre Mar 01, 2024

7. Sofia, Bulgaria

If you’re a fan of architecture through the ages, then the capital of Bulgaria is probably the best place to visit in Eastern Europe for you. Sofia is teeming with history that stems from Greek, Roman, Ottoman, and Soviet occupation, giving the overall city a stylish patchwork look. Be sure to visit Boyana Church, the National Theatre, Saint George Rotunda Church, the Rila Monastery, and the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky. The latter, a gorgeous and ornate building, is best viewed from the North that way you get the view of the Vitosha Mountains behind, creating one hell of an impressive picture.

More than its architecture, though, Sofia is full of delicious eats (we’d recommend a foodie walking tour!) and you should 100% make a stop at the Central Market hall to try some local bites. You could also take a walking tour which covers the area’s history of Communism, head to some of the parks for some live performances, or even make a purchase from the small Klek Shops!

8. Rovinj, Croatia

Croatia is well-established as a true beauty of the Adriatic Sea, and Rovinj is proof of that! Pastel and vibrant, this fishing port is a must-see. You’ve got a beautiful mix of everything here: water fonts that are practically begging for you to take a dip in, cobblestone streets that lead up verdant hills, and pebble beaches for you to relax on and count the blessings that brought you here. A trip to Rovinj is like a trip to the French Riviera, but so much cheaper!

9. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Filled with mediaeval architecture (including perhaps one of the most iconic bridges in the world), Mostar is a quiet and peaceful city. You can stroll through the streets and visit shops and market stalls selling many local goods from unique souvenirs to delish local treats. 

Museums and mountains, Mostar really is a place for the knowledge-inclined traveller who wants to get a taste of nature at the same time. The aquamarine river that runs through the city really sets the ‘go with the flow’ vibe of this city which easily marks it as one of the best places to visit in Eastern Europe.

Mostar bridge, Bosnia

Image source:Contiki

10. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Let’s stay in Bosnia a little longer and discover Sarajevo. This is the country’s capital and it’s surrounded by Alps, making the views from the town square absolutely incredible. Here you can visit many many museums that are dedicated to the country’s history and culture, and you can also pick up some beautiful antiques, including delicately crafted mosaic lanterns! The markets here are something else…. Before departing Bosnia, you need to make sure you try some mouth-watering local burek!

Get a taste for Mostar and Sarajevo on our Balkans Discovery trip.

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11. Sinaia, Romania

A truly gorgeous destination, Sinaia’s most popular attractions have to be Peles Castle and Castelil Pelisor – two white castles topped with charcoal roofs and rich wooden beams. These locations feel intensely regal, and this vibe extends to the rest of the city. And this makes sense given the fact this Romanian town was a royal residence in the 17th century…

Today it’s a beautiful ski town perfect for those in the mood for a European Winter of twinkling snow, cosy hot-chocolate-selling markets, and epic slopes. Sinaia is also the best place to visit in Eastern Europe for fine-art fans. Peles Castle hosts many of Gustav Klimt’s works, and the George Enescu Memorial House pays homage to this great Romanian musician. 

12. Tbilishi, Georgia

Having lived through both Persian and Russian rule, the architecture is diverse and Tbilisi, the capital city, is probably one of the most particular European cities.

Something that you must see in Tbilisi (and that you also can’t really miss even if you tried), is the Kartlis Deda, also known as ‘Mother of Georgia’. It’s a metallic statue of a woman which looms over Sololaki hill and serves as a monument to the entire city and country. The sulphur baths and Narikala fort are also popular tourist attractions in the area.

Check our Tbilisi and so much more on our Best of Georgia trip. 

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by James Glaholm Oct 17, 2022

13. Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw is one of the biggest cities on this list, and it stands as the capital of Poland, a really gorgeous country that often flies under the radar. Warsaw has been named one of the cheapest capital cities in Europe, so if that doesn’t entice you then maybe the blend of old and new will. You can walk through a canopy of skyscrapers one minute as you soak in the city vibes, and then you can stroll past brick buildings and impressive monuments like the Royal Castle the next. 

Warsaw is also close to war memorials like sobering Auschwitz and Treblinka concentration camps, and the Jewish Ghetto so you can get a World War II education. 

Visit Warsaw and other European gems on our London to Warsaw Vistas.

Warsaw, Poland

Image source:Contiki

14. Bratislava, Slovakia

Another Danube stunner is Bratislava, and it’s literally called ‘the Beauty of the Danube’, so, we’re not just saying things to try to get you to book a trip… If you want a river cruise during the day or night, then the Slovakian capital is the perfect getaway. There are many attractions like the powder blue Church of St. Elizabeth and the Bratislava Castle which stands solemn and tall over the city. But what’s most quirky about Bratislava is the curious bronze statues that dot the city… We would recommend taking a walking tour and spotting as many as you can.

If you want to hit up the Slovakian capital, you can do so on our Road to Croatia trip.

15. Istanbul, Türkiye

Iconic and magical, it’s no doubt Istanbul features on this list of best places to visit in Eastern Europe, and if it’s not already on your bucket list it should be! Gorgeous weather is only one of Tükiye’s staples. Turkish delight is amazing for one, as well as the truly impressive Hagia Sophia, complete with a soaring 6th century dome. We promise you’ve never seen a mosque like this before (apart from maybe the neighbouring Blue Mosque…). You’ll also find remnants of the Roman Empire and Egyptian reign such as an open-air hippodrome and ornamented obelisks. 

But if it’s not buildings you’re after, then head to the Grand Bazaar where you can find all sorts of beautifully handcrafted local goods to bring home as souvenirs, or you could visit the Topkapi Palace Museum for some vivid gardens. You can visit these and so much more on our Turkish Delights trip. 

Istanbul, Turkey

Image source:Contiki

16. Bucharest, Romania

If you’re looking for the biggest parliament building you’ve ever seen, then boy have we got a city for you. There are many things to do in Bucharest, namely stopping by and gawking at the absolutely enormous Palace of Parliament which has over 1000 rooms! It’s actually pretty insane how big this building is. The nightlife in this Romanian city is also out of this world, so you can spend plenty of nights singing and dancing with newly made friends.

Bucharest is home to the biggest, but it’s also home to the smallest, and we’d recommend making a quick stop at the overgrown monastery of Stavropoleos, which is a really tiny orthodox church with a really serene atmosphere. 

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17. Transylvania, Romania

Transylvania is a blast from the past. It brings to you many mediaeval towns, gothic castles and fortresses, as well as vast and mesmerising mountains and landscapes. The most famous of Transylvania’s attractions is of course Bran Castle, AKA Dracula’s castle. 

Perched on a sheer white cliff and surrounded by lush forests and sloping mountains, it’s very easy to imagine a solitary vampire making this a home. But Bran Castle also feels like a place out of Game of Thronesor The Witcher, so whatever your favourite form of fantasy is you’ll find something to admire here. 

Dracula's Castle, Romania

Image source:Contiki

18. Minsk, Belarus

Some people may recognise this as the place Phoebe’s boyfriend David (from Friends) had to travel to for his research project. Others, who don’t base their whole lives on pop-culture references like me, will know Minsk as the capital of Belarus that it is. Glorious in the summer, sparkly in the winter, you really can’t go wrong with a trip to Minsk. And, it’s so underrated, that you’ll have all the impressive monuments for yourself.

Imagine walking past the amusingly-shaped National Library on empty streets, or reading on a bench by the pristine and quiet Church of Saints Simon and Helena. You can have both peace and excitement in Minsk, so you should travel there ASAP!

19. Vienna, Austria

Some would refer to Vienna as the European capital of all things elegant, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Vienna has an incredibly regal vibe – like the whole place is made from the finest china! Famous for its dressage school and opera houses, as well as being the home of Mozart and Beethoven, this is the Eastern European destination for those that adore art and culture. It’s also home to one of the prettiest libraries in the world, seriously, so bookworms unite!

It’s a must see and a favourite for a reason, so hurry up and book your place on our Eastern Europe Road Trip to experience the most of this gorgeous city. 

Vienna, Austria

Image source:Contiki

20. Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

And finally, back where we started, the last (but of course not least) of the best places to visit in Eastern Europe is Karlovy Vary, a spa town in the Czech Republic which is reminiscent of Amsterdam, Budapest, and Copenhagen. With a river running through it, you can walk by following the flow, and it’ll take you past plenty of warm coloured houses and columned walkways. 

You of course have to indulge in the many thermal spas, which is what makes Karlovy Vary so famous and special, and also visit the many Colonnades which have beautiful exteriors and unique things inside. 

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