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20 Best Cities In Eastern Europe For A Memorable Vacation

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While the general go-to for a city break in Europe is to set your sights on Western Europe, many picturesque cities in Eastern Europe deserve way more attention than they get.

Are you looking for an all-out party weekend at the ruin bars of Budapest or a relaxing stay on the beautiful beaches of Split? Do you find yourself itching to delve into sights of ranging historical significance and intrigue, like the remnants of World War II in Poland?

Whatever your style of travel or trip expectations, you are guaranteed to find a city or two in Eastern Europe that has it. To provide some travel inspiration, listed below are 20 excellent choices, from super popular options to those slightly off the beaten track.

Best Cities In Eastern Europe

1. Budapest, Hungary

Aerial view of Budapest, Hungary
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

After a restless history, Budapest is today a popular tourist destination in Central Europe. It’s a superb option for those traveling on a budget. The city’s nightlife is legendary, with cheap nights out in its many unique ruin bars.

Popular for its thermal baths, visiting a spa in Budapest is a great way to relax and unwind. Budapest is brimming with significant time-honored landmarks like Buda Castle or the former Jewish district. Opting for a personalized tour is a great way to explore its highlights.

See Related: Prague vs. Budapest: What is Best to Visit?

2. Prague, Czech Republic

Charles Bridge from Prague Castle
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Cobblestone streets meander through Prague, one of the most visited cities in Eastern Europe. This is an excellent city for those looking for a thriving nightlife, with one of the best nightlife scenes in Europe.

However, there are plenty of great things to do in Prague during the day, and the city is incredibly family-friendly. Prague Castle was my personal highlight. It’s huge and provides unbeatable views of the city.

Another popular spot is the Prague Astronomical Clock. Built-in the 14th Century, the Prague Orloj is the oldest working astronomical clock in the world!

See Related: Best Tours in Prague: Exploring History and Culture

3. Tallinn, Estonia

Aerial view of Tallinn, Estonia
Scanrail / AdobeStock

The capital of Estonia, Tallinn, is one of Europe’s greenest cities, and it makes for a wonderful blend of historical culture with luxurious modern influences.

This compact city is well-suited as a short weekend visit for those who want to enjoy historical gems with modern luxuries. It’s also a fun city to tour with younger kids and babies.

If you want to tick a UNESCO World Heritage Site off your list, make for Tallinn’s Old Town, one of the best-preserved Medieval towns in Europe. Viru Gate has welcomed people into the city center since the 14th Century.

4. Kraków, Poland

Old city center view in Krakow
rh2010 / Adobe Stock

The former capital of Poland, Kraków, is a stunning city. Its old town was the very first UNESCO Heritage site in the world. Kraków is a compact city, so it’s easy to see its highlights on foot. Its market square should be a top priority when visiting.

Always buzzing with activity, the square features the historic Sukiennice Cloth Hall, once a hub for oriental trade, where local tradespeople still sell handicrafts today. An unforeseen highlight of my time in Krakow was a day trip to the 13th-century Wieliczka Salt Mine. This site features incredibly unique constructions made almost entirely from salt!

See Related: Warsaw vs Krakow

5. Warsaw, Poland

Sunset view in Warsaw royal castle
Mike Mareen / Adobe Stock

Warsaw is a rapidly developing city that provides a vibrant and cheap night out for travelers wanting a fun city break. It also has a diverse and rich history, providing a great visit for keen history enthusiasts.

Warsaw is often called the Phoenix City and has repeatedly emerged from turbulent times. For example, Nazi troops destroyed about 85% of the city’s old town and created the largest Jewish Ghetto in Europe during World War II.

But the city has some incredible figures to have emerged from its ranks, adding to the cultural diversity you can enjoy on a visit. For one, the highly successful composer Chopin has roots in Warsaw, and the city has many opportunities to appreciate his works.

6. Wrocław, Poland

Aerial view of Wroclaw, Poland
Piotr Mitelski / AdobeStock

Wrocław is Poland’s fourth largest city and a little less tourist-trodden than the more popular Warsaw or Kraków. With over 20 universities in the area, it’s a vibrant city with regular events and festivals.

The city is also brilliant for foodies as it is home to one of Europe’s oldest restaurants, Piwnica Świdnicka, established in 1273. Going gnome hunting is a great activity for the whole family in Wrocław. Hundreds of these little guys are dotted around the city. You can buy maps in local stores to help you track down gnomes while exploring Wrocław.

See Related: What to Expect Living in Poland: Key Tips to Follow

7. Gdańsk, Poland

Gdańsk, Poland sunset view
Jurand / AdobeStock

Gdańsk is a city in the far north of Poland along the Baltic Sea. Often overlooked, Gdańsk is a destination for history buffs with both a rich maritime and geo-political history. A famous strike in the Gdańsk Shipyard in 1980 sparked the end of the 80s communist regime.

You can visit sites like the shipyard for a meander into a significant part of the area’s past. Due to its maritime positioning, Gdańsk is also a great spot to take to the waters. Activities like kayaking and sunset yacht cruising are available to add a little variety to any visit.

8. Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava, Slovakia Aerial View
TTstudio / AdobeStock

Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and is substantially less crowded than neighboring Vienna. This city is ideal for summer visitors to Europe who want to escape the crowds and take it slow.

Bratislava embraces a slower pace of life. It’s great for wandering around, enjoying quieter streets and authentic local experiences.

Indulge yourself on a visit to Bratislava by savoring the local delicacies on a food tour. Or take things further afield on many available day trips like to the fairy-tale castle, Bojnice Castle.

See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in Slovakia

9. Sofia, Bulgaria

Aerial view of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria
Lukas / AdobeStock

Sofia is the second oldest city in Europe and the capital of Bulgaria. Steeped in thousands of years of history, Sofia is great for tourists who want to enjoy a host of activities and points of interest.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is the biggest Orthodox Cathedral in any Balkan country. Otherwise, the Sofia History Museum houses over 650,000 artifacts to satisfy any history enthusiast.

You can also enjoy winter sports at a fraction of the cost of Western alternatives. The Vitosha Ski Resort is under an hour’s drive away from Sofia.

See Related: The Ultimate Ski Trip Packing List

10. Rīga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia at twilight
vkphotos / Adobe Stock

Another great city to visit in Eastern Europe is Rīga, the capital of Latvia. If you like beautiful architecture with a gothic personality, you’ll love Rīga. Rīga is considered the Art Nouveau Capital of Europe, benefiting visitors with an artistic eye. Around one-third of its gorgeous architecture follows the style.

The Daugava River cuts through the city. While it has long been a key transport corridor for trade, it also provides many opportunities for tourists to enjoy the city from the water.

See Related: Cheap Places to Visit in Europe

11. Bucharest, Romania

Historic architectures in Bucharest, Romania
Saru Robert / Unsplash

The capital of Romania, Bucharest, is another city you should visit in Eastern Europe. With its thriving food scene, one of Europe’s fastest internet connections, and a one-year digital nomad visa available, it’s a perfect spot for digital nomads.

Best known for being a super safe European capital to visit in Eastern Europe, Bucharest boasts budget-friendly bars and bountiful open park space when the sun’s shining. A top spot to visit while in Bucharest is the Therme Bucuresti. Europe’s largest wellness center provides a relaxing rest from a busy travel itinerary.

See Related: Best Digital Nomad Destinations in the World

12. Brașov, Romania

Aerial view of Belvedere Brașov, Romania
Cryo / AdobeStock

Brașov is popular due to its natural beauty, peaceful streets, and mix of baroque architecture and Renaissance style. Because of this, those looking for an authentic Romanian experience with fewer crowds will love Brașov.

On a day tour from the city, you can fall into a fantastical imagination at the famous Bran Castle. Also known as Dracula’s Castle, it’s the main selling point for visiting Brașov.

Or, people-watch at Piata Sfatului, tour the Black Church or wander the historic streets and eat your fill of sweet kurtoskalacs (yummy split cakes) from many street vendors.

See Related: Real, Magical Castles in Fairytales to Visit

13. Sibiu, Romania

Sibiu, Romania
SCStock / AdobeStock

The small city of Sibiu, Romania, features impressively preserved medieval buildings in appealing pastel colors. Sibiu has an old-world charm with a thriving cultural scene.

A unique feature of Sibiu is that many of its historical buildings have eyes. Due to the mix of German and Hungarian influence in its architecture, windows built into roofs take on a quirky appearance of eyes watching you from above.

Those interested in history will enjoy a historic city tour, which could be described as an open-air museum of impressively preserved architecture.

See Related: Countries In Europe To Visit

14. Dubrovnik, Croatia

An aerial view of the walled-in town of Dubrovnik, Croatia
Brittney Liu / ViaTravelers

On the southern coast of the Adriatic Sea is the walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. The old city of this “Pearl of the Adriatic” is still protected by old city walls, from which Dubrovnik derives much pride.

Fallen prey to overtourism, it’s not a peaceful retreat. Explore the city in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the cruise ship bombardment, or visit in winter for fewer crowds and more agreeable weather.

A particular niche of travelers that might enjoy visiting Croatia’s capital would be fans looking to visit filming locations of the globally popular series Game of Thrones. But there are also opportunities to go cave exploring or even ziplining for an adrenaline boost!

15. Zadar, Croatia

Three boats lined up in the port of Zadar, Croatia
Brittney Liu / ViaTravelers

Another city to visit in Eastern Europe is Zadar, Croatia. Once a busy naval center on the Adriatic, in modern times, Zadar is great for outdoor adventures. Consider a day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park by booking a tour with Viator.

Try to get in as early as possible before maneuvering around other tourists later in the day. Otherwise, visit Greeting to the Sun, an installation that lights up and represents the solar system as the sun sets. Or visit the unique sea organ designed to whistle and sigh from the movement of the waves.

16. Split, Croatia

Aerial View of Split Old Town
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Split is Croatia’s second-largest city and an especially perfect Eastern European city for solo travelers. It has plenty to keep you busy from day excursions, boat parties, and other diverse activities.

A notable day trip option is Hvar, which is only an hour’s ferry ride away. But stay within Split to enjoy the UNESCO World Heritage site of Diocletian’s Palace or admire Venetian-era architecture at Pjaca Square.

For the best view of Split, take a walk up Marjan Hill. The direct Marjan Hill walking route is the quickest way to the top and should take around 30 minutes.

See Related: Things to Do in Hvar, Croatia

17. Belgrade, Serbia

Aerial view of Saint Sava, orthodox church in Belgrade, Serbia
astrosystem / AdobeStock

Belgrade is one of the oldest cities to visit in Eastern Europe and is the capital city of the landlocked country Serbia.

Belgrade is a treasure trove of archeological significance. Moreover, it is considered an up-and-coming tourist city in Eastern Europe, so it’s for travelers who want to get in before the crowds start to flock.

Waterfalls, caves, and monasteries boasting a long-standing history to explore are not far from the city. Otherwise, sample local dishes in its trendy restaurants and take the time to savor its servings of local wine.

See Related: Cheap Places to Travel This Year!

18. Vilnius, Lithuania

Aerial view of Vilnius, Lithuania
Top Lithuania / AdobeStock

Another city to visit in Eastern Europe is 700-year-old Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Its medieval old town features Baroque buildings and charming cobbled streets.

Any culture vulture looking to stretch their pennies in an affordable city will love the numerous free opportunities to attend high-tier plays, opera singing recitals, or artistic exhibitions.

To get the best view of Vilnius, head over to the Hill of Three Crosses. Originally built in memory of three martyred monks from the 14th Century, the view that waits for you at the top is worth the hike!

See Related: Ways to Find Cheap Flights to Europe

19. Ljubljana, Slovenia

Slovenian capital Ljubljana aerial view
kasto / AdobeStock

When I think of Slovenia, I think of the crystal clear waters of Lake Bled. Fortunately, this idyllic spot is a day trip from the country’s capital, Ljubljana.

Ljubljana is a charming city in Eastern Europe with a small-town feel and is a leading destination for sustainable tourism. The city center has been traffic-free since 2008, and green spaces are protected and well-maintained.

Ljubljana promotes tourism year-round to avoid disproportionate tourist seasons. Because of this, it’s a brilliant place to visit any time of year for those wanting a peaceful city vacation in Eastern Europe.

See Related: Most Beautiful Fairy Tale Towns Around the World

20. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

View of the Bascarsija historic district in Sarajevo - Bosnia and Herzegovina
bepsy / Shutterstock.com

The final city worth visiting in Eastern Europe is Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  War wounds from the civil war of 1992 to 1995 scar the city, such as the craters left by shelling now dubbed ‘Sarajevo Roses.’

Any traveler looking for a city vacation with notable recent history to delve into will not regret a visit to Sarajevo. Stay within the city grounds and learn how the Sarajevo Tunnel was the saving grace for the city during the civil war of the 90s.

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