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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.

Looking for an all-out party weekend at the ruin bars of Budapest or a relaxing stay on the beautiful beaches of Split? Find yourself itching to delve into sights of ranging historical significance and intrigue like 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, today, Budapest stands as a popular tourist destination in Central Europe. It’s a superb option for those traveling on a budget. The city nightlife is legendary, with cheap nights out in its many unique ruin bars.

Popular for its thermal baths, visiting a spa while in Budapest is a great way to relax and unwind. Otherwise, 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 one of the most visited cities in Eastern Europe, Prague. This is an excellent city for those looking for a thriving nightlife, with one of the best nightlife scenes in all of Europe.

There are, however, 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 unbeaten 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 if you have 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 been welcoming 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. In fact, 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, local tradespeople still sell handicrafts there to this day.

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: What’s the Difference?

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 buffs.

Warsaw is often referred to as the Phoenix City, repeatedly emerging 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, Chopin, the highly successful composer, has roots in Warsaw, and there are many opportunities in the city 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.

A great activity for the whole family in Wrocław is to go gnome hunting. 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 began in the Gdańsk Shipyard in 1980 that 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 an ideal spot for those visiting Europe in summer who want to escape the crowds and take it slow.

Bratislava is a city that embraces a slower pace of life. It’s great for wandering around and 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 Historical 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 wanting to benefit from 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 keep any history enthusiast happy.

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 beautiful architecture with a gothic personality is your cup of tea, you’ll love Rīga.

Benefiting visitors with an artistic eye, Rīga is considered the Art Nouveau Capital of Europe, with around one-third of its gorgeous architecture following the style.

Cutting through the city is the Daugava River. While the river has had a long-standing responsibility as a key transport corridor for trade, it also provides many opportunities for tourists to enjoy this 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 for when the sun’s shining.

A top spot to visit while in Bucharest is the Therme Bucuresti. It’s Europe’s largest wellness center and 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.

Fall into fantastical imagination at the famous Bran Castle on a day tour from the city. Also known as Dracula’s Castle, it’s the main selling point to visiting Brașov.

Or, people-watch at Piata Sfatului, tour the Black Church, or stroll 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 with a keen interest in history will enjoy a tour of the historical city to enjoy what could be described as an open-air museum of impressively preserved architecture.

See Related: Best 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 visit the Plitvice Lakes National Park. 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 that is 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, only an hour’s ferry ride away. But stay within Split to enjoy the UNESCO World Heritage site, Diocletian’s Palace, or admire Venetian-era architecture at Pjaca Square.

For the best view you’ll get of Split, take a walk up Marjan Hill. The quickest way to reach the top is to opt for the direct Marjan Hill walking route, which 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, considered an up-and-coming tourist city in Eastern Europe, it’s for those travelers who want to get in before the crowds start to flock.

Not far from the city are waterfalls, caves, and monasteries boasting a long-standing history to explore. 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! | Best Budget Destinations

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, my mind travels to the crystal clear waters of Lake Bled. Fortunately, this idyllic spot can be enjoyed as 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 to visit in Eastern Europe worth a mention 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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