My first experience with Eastern Europe was working on a campaign to help promote Bucharest, Romania as a tourist destination and I ended up heading to the country under completely serendipitous circumstances. I was sitting in the common area of Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv, Israel when I met a couple of Romanian people who told me about a tourism campaign they were launching in the coming months. I wasn’t really sure where I was heading next so when they extended an invitation for me to work with them, I thought: “Why not?”
Like many people, I didn’t really know what to expect and had plenty of preconceived notions about Eastern Europe. Little did I know I was about to discover an underappreciated gem of the world. Let me just say I was pretty blown away by Romania in a lot of ways both good and bad…but mostly good. The country is incredible and I am definitely visiting again in the future. I met a lot of people who travel throughout Eastern Europe while I was in Romania and they made it very clear that this region of the world is totally worth visiting and I couldn’t agree more.
* Is Romania gay-friendly? Read all about my experience!
Eastern Europe: A Geographical Conundrum
I was warned ahead of time that if I categorized certain countries as Eastern Europe, some people might take offense. So let’s be clear, my categorization of Eastern Europe is not based on any political factors. It’s simply how I’ve decided to classify the region so I can present you with some awesome information about some awesome countries. For the sake of this article, Eastern Europe includes the Baltics, East Central Europe, Southeastern Europe, and Eastern Europe. Countries included in Eastern Europe, according to this article, include Russia, Czech Republic, Poland, Croatia, Slovakia, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Slovenia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Of course, some of these countries could be considered more Central Europe or whatnot and I acknowledge that here. However, for expedient’s sake, I’ve chosen to not delve into the various details which forces relevance to this topic and ignites so many people’s passions. Cultural traits and common history has forced many of these country’s to identify as anything but Eastern European. The one thing most the countries have in common is that they were all behind the Iron Curtain. I totally understand why many of these countries prefer not to be classified as Eastern European. The authoritarian regime of the past has caused these countries much pain and they’d prefer to move on from it all. Eastern Europe is often associated with authoritarianism which is an ideology that repressed their national identities. However, I feel there is no shame in being Eastern European. This region of Europe possesses an incredible history, breathtaking natural wonders, and a plethora of unique cultures. Therefore, I choose to celebrate the region as a whole!
Blogger Picks for Eastern Europe
Now, that we’ve gotten those details out of the way, I asked 15 professional travel influencers to give me their pick for the best place to visit in Eastern Europe. So check out there picks below and start planning your next adventure…in Eastern Europe!
Mindi & Daryl, of 2foodtrippers, tells us why you need to eat your way through Ljubljana!
Although we expected Slovenia’s fairy tale capital city to be a charming place to visit, we had little expectations about Ljubljana’s food and people. As it turns out, Ljubljana is just as charming as we expected with winding cobblestone streets and striking architecture designed by Jošef Plečnik. However, the food and people exceeded our expectations. The city’s food excited us at every turn from the bustling Central Market to the city’s many excellent restaurants, though the Ljubljana residents impressed us the most with their warmth and welcoming hospitality.
Check out this great list of restaurant recommendations in Ljubljana!
Nathan, of Foodie Flashpacker, makes the case for adding Bucharest to your Eastern Europe tour!
Bucharest is one of my favorite cities in all of Eastern Europe. Not only is the city gorgeous but there’s always something to do. Many of the locals (especially the younger ones) speak English so meeting new friends is easy. The locals are friendly and very proud of their country- many of my best suggestions have come from casual conversations I’ve had in coffee shops or wine bars. The city is well connected by budget airlines so it makes sense to use Bucharest as a base to explore the surrounding countries. Romania is also famously affordable, another reason to consider it as a base. I happen to love the local food but if you grow tired of it you can find nearly every type of food you’re craving, as Bucharest in an international city. Bucharest restaurants range from simple neighborhood joints to high end restaurants offering insane tasting menus. For all these reasons and so many more, Bucharest is one of my favorite cities and I think if you visit it will soon be one of yours also!
Check out the Bucharest restaurant’s Nathan suggests!
Allison,of Eternal Arrival, explains why Tallinn is one of her favorite cities in Eastern Europe.
Tallinn is one of my favorite cities in Eastern Europe. It has one of the oldest and best preserved medieval Old Towns in all of Europe, with portions of the original wall still in excellent condition. Tallinn has a lot of great vantage points as well, especially on Toompea Hill, where you can take picture-perfect photos over the entire Old Town. There are lots of interesting museums, such as the KGB Museum, which is a museum inside the Viru Hotel which used to be a headquarters of the secret police. But Tallinn is more than just its Old Town and communist past, with a thriving hipster scene in the Kalamaja district. Shop at local small businesses in Telliskivi Creative City, admire the street art, or eat your way through Kalamaja. The food scene in Tallinn is really inventive and modern, with a focus on combining seasonal produce, new techniques, and traditional recipes. And you can’t miss freshly baked Estonian black bread!
Check out these things to do in Tallinn!
Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Lynne, of Well Caffeinated Traveler, explains why you need to visit Mostar!
The city of Mostar is most famous for its iconic Stari Most, or Old Bridge, an Ottoman-era, arched bridge that straddles the turquoise waters of the Neretva River. Sadly, during the 1990s conflict, most of the town and its Old Bridge were destroyed. However, with the help of a UNESCO-appointed, multi-national committee, much of the city was reconstructed and the newly rebuilt bridge is now a symbol of reconciliation and international co-operation.
As you head into town, remains of crumbling buildings and empty, bullet-ridden storefronts serve as a reminder of the recent conflict. However, once you cross into the Old Bridge area, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported into a completely different world. The somber mood of the cities’ outskirts quickly shifts into a vibrant and colorful maze of lively shops and market stalls. Incredible scents tantalize you from nearby restaurants and laughter streams out of packed cafes. If you’re lucky, you might even see a few of the brave locals who dive off the bridge for a couple of Euros. Don’t miss a visit to the Old Bridge Museum, which explores the long history of the famous bridge. Or climb the narrow staircase up to the minaret of the Koski Mehmed-Pasha Mosque for panoramic views of the city.
Hannah and Adam, of Getting Stamped, let us know why they love Krakow!
Our favorite city in Eastern Europe is Krakow, Poland. On our first trip to Europe we hit the main tourist cities but ended up falling in love with Krakow the most. There is something about Eastern Europe that just isn’t there in Western Europe. Krakow has a quite the history, culture, food, and gorgeous buildings. You can spend hours walking around visiting all the Krakow attractions, there is even a free walking tour that meets in the main square. We suggest spending a day learning about the history and visiting Schindler’s Factory which does a great job telling the story of Krakow’s history from 1939 to 1945. Before or after Schindler’s Factory give yourself a few hours to soak in everything at Auschwitz concentration camp, note this will be a tough emotional day. After a day exploring we highly suggest heading to Pod Wawelem restaurant right off the main square, it’s amazing authentic Polish food huge portions and cheap prices.
Check out their awesome list of attractions you shouldn’t miss in Krakow!
Michael, of MSCGerber.com, tells us why he loves sofia!
Sofia has one of the most impressive pieces of architecture in its city center: The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which is just a dream location if you’re a photographer. What impressed me the most was the culture diversity in Sofia: In walking distance you can find a Church, a Mosque, and a Synagogue. In my opinion this is a symbol of Bulgaria’s religious tolerance.
Furthermore, Sofia is an ideal place for everybody that loves to eat tasty food for a fair price. The selection of great food is almost endless and the prices are truly amazing compared to other European countries. Overall Sofia is a city you can’t miss when traveling in Eastern Europe.
Check out Michael’s tips for Sofia here!
Laura, of Wander With Laura, explains why Budapest should be added to your itinerary!
Hungary’s capital city is completely stunning, there’s no other way to describe it. With a unique blend of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, Budapest is an incredibly picturesque place to visit. The city of two halves is divided by the river Danube into ‘Buda’ and ‘Pest’, each side with their own charms and linked by a number of beautiful bridges, including the famous Chain Link bridge. In hilly Buda, you’ll find amazing views back across the river (it’s well worth a trip to watch Pest light up at sunset), monuments such as Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church and the picturesque Gellert thermal baths. If you’re looking to relax in the outdoor pools, you’ll want to head over to the Széchenyi Baths in Pest where older men still play chess while reclining in the warm waters. Pest is also home to much of the city’s war-era history, including the famous ‘Shoes on the Danube’ memorial and several excellent museums. At night, you’ll want to be exploring Pest’s ruin bars or checking out the mix of restaurants in Gozsdu Udvar. All in all, Budapest’s unique charm makes it the perfect city for a lively break.
Check out her awesome piece about the castles of Budapest!
Prague, Czech Republic
Claire, of Tales of a Backpacker, let’s us know why you should visit Prague!
I adored Prague. As Prague suffered very little damage in the two World Wars, beautiful architecture fills the streets everywhere you look. The Charles Bridge is a classic photo opportunity and is understandably a popular spot all through the day. Get up for an early morning start and you will be rewarded with some peace and quiet for your photos. Czech food is hearty and delicious, and let’s not forget the famous Czech beer, cider and wine which are all begging to be sampled. For the best views of the city, head up the Old Town Hall, or take a walk to the castle (the largest castle complex in Europe), or Letna Park for views of the whole city and the bridges that cross the Vltava Rivera and connect the city with the castle. Prague is a great city for families, a romantic break, or a weekend with friends, and although it is popular during the spring and summer with bachelor parties, visit Prague in winter and autumn for cheaper accommodation, and stunning views of the city in the morning mist, or crisp white snow.
Go during the off season. Check out this article on why you should visit Prague in winter!
Bilyana, of Owl Over the World, explains why Plovdiv is a great city to explore!
I love Vilnius because the city rocks!…literally, but also has a more refined side. Strolling down Gediminas Avenue before dinner we heard a blast of loud heavy metal music followed by the sweet sounds of a violin. We’d stumbled upon a public concert by a band that plays classical music melodies with a headbanging twist. This encounter really sums up the spirit of Vilnius. The city is a mecca of art and culture. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s easy to understand why. Elegant public buildings and soaring church spires line the streets of Lithuania’s capital city. Literatu Garve is a fascinating ode to Lithuanian literature featuring creative and unique pieces of art embedded into the walls along a narrow street. Edgy street art and crumbling communist-era architecture mix in to give Lithuania’s capital city a raw vibe. Leave your tight jeans at home when visiting Vilnius. Lithuanian cuisine features rich comfort foods including potato pancakes, meat and cheese pies (kibinai), and the zeppelin, a starchy potato based dumpling that is as big as it sounds. Of course, Lithuanian food all washes down really well with an artisanal local craft beer.
Want to visit Vilnius, here are some fun things you will want to try during your trip to the city!
Cameron and Natasha, of the World Pursuit, takes us off the beaten path to Hvar!
Hvar is a Croatian island that is every bit as beautiful as it sounds. Situated just a ferry ride away from Split, Hvar offers tourists and locals alike a complete paradise and a welcoming atmosphere. This getaway in the Mediterranean is well known for hosting celebrities, but beyond that it’s a place for honeymooners, spring breakers, and families. Here there is a rich and proud heritage, fantastic seafood, and beautiful ocean views. Some of my favorite things to do here is hike along abandoned villages, sunbath near the turquoise coves, go four wheeling along dirt roads, party in Hvar Town and of course eat all the seafood I can get my hands on. We visited in the spring and it was wonderful. The weather is perfect and the crowds and prices are low!
Catch some sun and adventure in Hvar with their travel guide!
Bert, of Survive Travel, gives us the dish on why he loves Makarska!
St. Petersburg, Russia
So, what do you think?
Let’s take a trip to Eastern Europe!
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