Frequently when people are searching for the perfect European holiday, they look to Paris, London, or Barcelona. Often overlooked, Eastern Europe provides just as much charm, history, and culture with much less tourism.
Eastern Europe is a large melting pot of cultures, where each country offers a mix of influences from surrounding countries. While cities such as Budapest and Prague may be on the radar of tourists, there are many hidden gems to discover.
Check out our favourite less-travelled cities in Eastern Europe. While these spots may be a bit of a secret, what isn’t a secret is how important travel insurance protection is. Whether you’re headed to Romania or Slovenia, be sure to protect yourself with a comprehensive travel insurance policy.
One of Europe’s smaller capital cities and one of the youngest capitals in the world, Bratislava is a blend of old and new. The city offers a variety of influences from counties like Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Hungary, due to Slovakia’s geographic location. When Czechoslovakia was dissolved in 1993, Bratislava took on the role of Slovakia’s new capital and has managed to fill the role quite nicely.
The city known as the “Beauty on the Danube”, has quickly become modern while also retaining its historical charm. Experience its historical side by paying a visit to Bratislava Castle, the 15th century St. Martin’s Cathedral, or Primate’s Palace. Step into the city’s future by checking out the observation deck offered by the UFO Bar & Restaurant or by walking through the Matej Krén Passage, an art installation comprised of 15,000 books and mirrors which creates an illusion of endless space.
The capital and largest city of Latvia, Riga should be on every Eastern European itinerary. The city’s architecture is a blend of Gothic spires and one of the world’s richest collections of Art Nouveau. Its historical centre proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sprinkled into the mix are beautiful green parks such as Bastejkalna Park.
Check out the 3 historical buildings known as the “Three Brothers”, which form the oldest complex of dwelling houses in the city, or tour the House of the Blackheads which dates back to the 14th century and is the temporary residence of the Latvian president. The city also offers exciting day trips to places like Sigulda with its castles and adventure sports or to the white sand beaches of Jūrmala.
Constructed by German Transylvanian Saxons in the 12th century, Sibiu has become one of Europe’s top ten most idyllic places to live. Located in Romania’s Transylvania region, Sibiu may remind you of cities like Prague or Vienna. Cure your hunger by sampling sarmale (stuffed cabbage rolls) or Muschi poiana (a mix of mushrooms and bacon-stuffed beef in a puree of vegetables and tomato sauce).
Wander the medieval streets of old town, discovering old passageways and tunnels along the way. Take in the Big Square (Piata Mare) as well as the smaller square (Pita Mica) to enjoy the city’s churches, restaurants, and historic buildings. Be sure to not miss the ASTRA open air museum for a traditional look at what traditional Romanian village life was like. The museum offers mills, colourful houses, and a relaxing hike around Dumbrava Lake.
A medieval town turned Baroque city, Vilnius is Lithuania’s capital. The city offers a combination of historical intrigue and modern cafe culture. If you love touring churches, Vilnius offers over 60 of them including the impressive Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, St. Anne's Church, and St. John’s Church. For a bit more excitement, check out the crazy and entertaining exhibits of the VILNIL Museum of Illusions. It is a wonderful interactive museum that allows some unusual and comical photo opportunities.
Take a break from the main city attractions by escaping to Bernardine Gardens. The gardens are near Gediminas Castle and offer a beautiful walk along the Vilnelė River as you take in the beautiful flowers. For a bit of history, tour the Jewish Quarter in the Old city of Vilna. Walking around the ghettos, you will discover the history of the Jewish community that was tragically wiped out during WWII.
For the perfect relaxing holiday, a trip to the spa town of Karlovy Vary is sure to not disappoint. Famous for its hot springs and warm Teplá River, the city offers countless world class spas and wellness retreats. Be pampered with a limitless variety of spa treatments such as hydrotherapy and drink the supposed curative mineral-rich water on offer.
If you find yourself tired of relaxing, make your way up to the Diana Tower lookout or simply check out the Moser Glass Museum and Factory. Head to Stara Louka for the area’s best designer shops and restaurants located along the banks of the Teplá River.
A mix of German, Mediterranean, and Slovenian culture, Ljubljana offers something for everyone. It is a very green city that comes alive during the summer months, where lovely cafes provide scenic seating along the Ljubljanica River. Cars are restricted in the city centre, allowing pedestrians and bikes to explore the attractions quite freely.
Enjoy lively summer nightlife with live music and beautiful lights in the central hub of activity known as Cankarjevo Nabrezje. Here you’ll find a wide variety of architecture styles and lovely little bridges. Witness the city’s green reputation by taking a stroll through Tivoli Park. Also be sure to pay a visit to the hard to miss Ljubljana Castle, the key landmark to the city.