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The 20 Best European Destinations To Visit In 2020 Revealed

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Colmar, France: New European Best Destination 2020

European Best Destinations

The city of Colmar, in France’s northern region of Alsace, has been voted the #1 European destination for 2020, chosen from 20 ‘must-see’  locations that made the finalists’ list of contenders for the coveted title organized by European Best Destinations (EBD).

For its 11th edition, the competition collected a record of more than 600,000 votes for the trendiest destinations in Europe, a list that will be promoted throughout the year to millions of travelers — and will be authorized to display the title “European Best Destination” in their marketing.

Colmar got the highest number of votes since the creation of the competition in 2009. (179,723 votes). The previous record was Porto in 2017 with 138,116 votes.

“Whether you look forward to a city break, a romantic getaway, a family or beach holiday, a cultural or gastronomic trip, alone or with friends, you will be spoilt for choice,” the organization promises.

Since 2009, European Best Destinations (EBD), has been promoting culture and tourism in Europe to millions of travelers, tourism professionals and the media. Working with the European Commission to promote sustainable tourism, EBD organizes some of the main tourism competitions in Europe, including Best European Christmas Markets, Best European Beaches, Most Romantic destinations and Best European Ski Resorts.

In partnership with over 300 tourism offices in Europe and the EDEN Network created by the European Commission, the European Best Destinations is, for the eighth year in a row, the most visited website dedicated to travel in Europe.

As a result of their selection, the various destinations get a significant boom of tourists — +17% in growth for Porto after its selection in 2017, + 13% for Bordeaux in 2015, + 25% for Zadar in 2016 — as well as extensive media coverage.

This is the list of the 20 trendiest European Best Destinations to visit in 2020: Athens (Greece), Berlin (Germany), Bydgoszcz (Poland), Cascais (Portugal), Colmar (France), Cork (Ireland), Héviz (Hungary), Madrid (Spain), Menorca (Spain), Namur (Belgium), Paris (France), Prague (Czech Republic), Rome (Italy), Reykjavik (Iceland), Rijeka (Croatia), Rotterdam (Netherlands), Rochefort Océan (France), Sibiu (Romania), Tbilisi (Georgia) and Vienna (Austria).

Here you can find the complete guide to plan your next vacation.

Colorful facades of timber-framed houses in Colmar, known as Petite Venise, in Alsace, France.

Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Colmar, France

First on the podium of best European destinations: a well-deserved award for Colmar, a destination known worldwide, that has it all: It’s the capital of Alsace wines and a leading wine-tourism destination. It’s also a perfect destination for romance, history buffs, foodies, music and culture lovers.

Colmar is known as the sunniest city in France, enjoying 300 sunny days a year. It is particularly magical at Christmas time. Around Colmar are the picturesque villages of Eguisheim, Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé. You can drive along the wine route and visit wineries or simply stroll among the vineyards.

Trendier than ever, Athens is a city in constant evolution

Best European Destinations

Athens, Greece

Trendier than ever, Athens is a city in constant evolution. Tradition meets modernity in museums and shops, restaurants and bars. Together with Rome, Athens is the cradle of our civilizations, an incredibly dynamic, lively, sparkling open-air museum.

With equal measures of grunge and grace, Athens effortlessly merges the past with the present. A city of paradoxes and great contrasts, in the country that first invented courtesy and generosity towards people who are far from their home, hospitality (xenia) reigns supreme.

An intellectual beacon of the ancient world with spectacular Mediterranean landscapes bathed in the famous light, Athens is a sophisticated cosmopolitan hub with many gastronomic offers, livelynightlife and a booming art scene.

An aerial picture shows the buildings of Old Tbilisi.

AFP via Getty Images

Tbilisi, Georgia

The Capital of Georgia is the ideal destination for culture, gastronomy, diversity and architecture lovers. 

Magnificent Haussmannian buildings mingle with structures dating from the Middle Ages. You can enjoy neo-classical, Soviet and extremely modern buildings — at the same time. “Be sure to climb to the top of Tbilisi and admire the Kartlis Deda statue, the protector of the city. This site offers an exceptional panorama of the Georgian capital, the Peace Bridge, the Metekhi Church, the thermal baths, the new theatre and the Mtatsminda Amusement Park for young and old,” EBD recommends.

Austria, Vienna, Graben, Street Scene.

LightRocket via Getty Images

Vienna, Austria

Along with ParisRomeBruges and Prague, it’s one of the European capitals of love. As one of the safest destinations in Europe, Vienna is also an ideal destination for families.

Vienna offers history with a capital H, gastronomy, wine, organic and local markets — as well as incredible architecture.

“Climb aboard one of the most beautiful big wheels in Europe and whistle Strauss’ Blue Danube,” advises EDB. “You can also make your marriage proposal or treat yourself to a guided tour of the Schönbrunn Palace and learn how to cook the famous ‘Strudel’.”

Cascais, Portugal.

Corbis via Getty Images

Cascais, Portugal

Cascais is one of the most beautiful and prestigious coastal destinations in Europe.

Located on the Lisbon Coast, Cascais is perfectly situated just two steps away from the capital city and other must-see locations such as Sintra (UNESCO Heritage Site), Ericeira (World Surfing Reserve) and Mafra (the Portuguese Versailles).

With its year-round mild climate, Cascais is known as the ‘Portuguese Riviera.’ “From pure leisure to business, golf, sun, sea and water sports, it simply has it all and offers a new definition of the concepts of eco- and activity based tourism,” according to EBD.

A street in Sibiu, Romania

European Best Destinations 2020

Sibiu (Transylvania), Romania

Which other destination can offer Bruges or Parisian-level culture and gastronomy, be as instagrammable as Prague or Santorini, as romantic as Rome or Venice? Look no further than Sibiu (in Transylvania).

There’s poetry and beauty on every street corner and eyes on every roof. This rich city, one of the most visited in Romania, represents 800 years of history in an unspoilt setting yet remains one of the most modern and dynamic cities in Europe.

A gastronomic tourism destination – the only city in Romania to be awarded three Michelin stars — Sibiu is a destination for history buffs, outdoor activities fans, photographers and hikers. 

A street in Namur.

European Best Destinations

Namur, Belgium

For foodies, instagrammers and those who love shopping, cocooning, culture, nature walks, evenings with friends or romantic city breaks, Namur is a must-visit.

A charming city with the Belgian surrealism of Brussels and the romanticism of Budapest or Bruges.

Among the most interesting destinations in Belgium, Namur is not just about relaxation and pampering. It also offers outdoor sports, paddling, hiking and other activities for young and old. “During your stay, do not forget to climb to the top of the Citadel and treat yourself to a romantic cruise on the Meuse,” recommends EBD. If you have some time left, don’t miss neighboring Dinant, where the river Meuse also flows. Both towns share the moniker “daughters of the Meuse.”

Rijeka, Croatia

European Best Destinations 2020

Rijeka, Croatia

One of the most fashionable cities in Europe, it’s at the top of the wish-list of travelers who have already toured major cities and are looking for something different.

Croatia’s third-largest city, it also was declared ‘European Capital of Culture’ in 2020. Rijeka is a destination for discerning travelers who don’t want to choose between beach and city, culture and nature, tradition and modernity. It has it all.

“Do not miss the Rijeka Carnival, one of the most beautiful in Europe,” EBD insists. Art lovers shouldn’t miss a visit to the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Hévíz, Hungary

European Best Destinations

 Hévíz, Hungary

Relaxation and wellbeing are key words for travelers to Hévíz, a name that means “hot water” in Hungarian. The city has the world’s largest natural thermal lake surrounded by lush forests.

Located near Budapest and Vienna, Hévíz has been welcoming spa visitors since the 18th century. It’s probably the only spa destination where you can swim among white, pink and purple lilies, relax with thermal mud massages on a floating pavilion on the lake, row a canoe in the steamy warm water of the stream or have a winter swim in the 24°C thermal lake while large snowflakes fall around you.

This destination is ideal for families and lovers of outdoor sports (kayaking, golf, cycling, hiking) as well as gourmets.

Bydgoszcz, Poland

European Best Destinations

Bydgoszcz, Poland

One of the trendiest destinations in 2020 for those who like to think outside the box and want an unforgettable urban break.

The city has an incredible cathedral, considered one of the most beautiful Gothic churches in Europe with its unexpected explosion of colors inside. EBD recommends that you take “a walk along the photogenic Brda River or relax on the Mill Island or go paddling.”

Looking for another place to blow up your Instagram account? Visit the Museum of Soap and History of Dirt, which attracts visitors from all over the world.

Bydgoszcz offers trendy and traditional bars and restaurant as well as affordable hotels.

Cork, Ireland

European Best Destinations 2020

Cork, Ireland

A colorful, jazzy, sporty, culinarily innovative and traditional destination. In one word, Cork is very…Irish. 

More than merely a common city break, this is a holiday by the sea, hiking or biking with the children, great restaurants, wellness retreats, kayaking, windsurfing. The point: Cork has it all, from dramatic natural landscapes and mountains to river valleys and coastlines.

Cork city and county offer visitors history, heritage and landmarks, artisan food and drink and a strong cultural, musical and artistic vibe.

Rochefort Océan, France

European Best Destinations 2020

Rochefort Océan, France

The most family-friendly of the 2020 selections, Rochefort Océan, located in Charente-Maritim, is a favorite sustainable-tourism destination in Europe and has been selected and rewarded by the European Commission for its commitment to the environment.

On the French west coast, Rochefort Ocean combines history and heritage, nature and scenery. “Go bird watching, have a cruise around Fort Boyard, visit the former naval rope-making unit, enjoy the thermal baths,” invites EBD. “Or what about lazing or sunbathing in the typical and historical French seaside resort of Fouras? Or fishing or sailing or windsurfing in Port des Barques?”

With a 25 kilometer-long coastline and five beaches, Rochefort Océan is a dream destination for seaside holidays. On the other side of the estuary, the oyster farming Port-des-Barques is ideal for a walk to Ile Madame, the smallest of the four Charente Maritime islands.

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The Best of Eastern Europe: Top 10 Cities to Visit

Barcelona

Backpacking in Europe is a rite of passage for most students and travellers. But it’s such a vast place that many end up hopping between the most famous cities (London, Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Rome – sound familiar?) and never delve beneath the surface into what this continent, particularly the Eastern fringes, really has to offer.

If you’re looking for something that’s a little different and – a big bonus for the budget traveller- much more cost-effective, then backpacking in Eastern Europe is the thing to do.

When you think of Eastern Europe, a long troubled history of war and hard-line Communist regimes may well be what spring to mind. What you’ll find, however, is a lush countryside of idyllic coastlines and picturesque mountains and unique architecture, a thrilling art scene and buzzing nightlife. Backpacking Eastern Europe is now a firm favourite on the backpacker itinerary.

In fact, some of the best cities in Eastern Europe such as Prague and Krakow are no longer quite the bargain they once were. But on the flip side, this means that things such as transport, accommodation (don’t forget to check out HostelBookers Awards for Excellence 2013 to find the best hostels in Europe) and entertainment have all improved in recent years and are totally geared up for backpackers.

Getting Around in Eastern Europe

First things first, getting there. Plenty of budget airlines service the capital cities in Eastern Europe. After the flight, you can explore the best of Eastern Europe by train. If you intend to travel extensively, check out our suggested InterRail itineraries in South East Europe then buy InterRail or Eurail passes for your trip. Alternatively, if you only intend to make a few journeys, just pay as you go on the regional trains. For more information on getting the best deal on rail travel, read our handy guide to InterRailing.

Here’s our pick of the 10 best places to visit in Eastern Europe – from waterfalls and monasteries to floating techno clubs and cobbled streets, there’s a whole host of amazing discoveries to be made. Recommended hostels in Eastern Europe are priced per person, per night (€pppn).

1. Ljubljana, Slovenia
CroatiaEstonia

Ljubljana is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in Eastern Europe. Nestled in an alpine valley and straddling the Ljubljanica River, it is a picture-perfect and very walkable city. The cobbled streets are filled with bicycles, laid-back students (who make up a quarter of the city’s population) and the cafe culture pleasantly spills out onto the pavements in warmer months.

It’s the outdoorsy atmosphere of the Old Town you should be soaking up here, with less emphasis placed on large attractions, although Ljubljana does boast some great galleries and museums. There is a grand mix of bridges, Baroque townhouses and churches in Prešernov trg, but even the modern government complex on the left bank around Kongresni trg compliments the historical cityscape.

To name just a few of the favourite sights, climb to the pretty hilltop Ljubljana Castle, catch a concert at the open-air theatre of Križanke, cross Dragon Bridge and, if you visit in winter, it’s a 30-minute car journey to a Ljubljana ski centre, Krvavec. A trip to the magnificent Lake Bled or Lake Bohinj with the fairy tale castle is also a must. Here you can try a number of water sports, hiking and biking.

Where to stay… Although there are a number of good hostels in Ljubljana, head to Hostel Celica – nothing beats the novelty of sleeping in a converted prison cell for the night. If you are looking for Lake Bled hostels, then the brand new Bled Backpackers Hostel organises adventure sports, bike rental and has an onsite bar.

2. Mostar, Bosnia
HitchcockHungary

On the front line of the Croatian-Bosnian conflict during the Balkan War, Mostar was badly damaged by the fighting. Its famous bridge, from which young men on the cusp of manhood would traditionally dive, was completely destroyed and the town’s residents were unable to cross the river thereby splitting up many families.

Today, however, the Stari Most bridge is back to its former glory – using old photographs, an exact replica of the bridge has been rebuilt. A great time to visit is during the annual diving competition held in July, you can see some of the divers below.

The beauty of Mostar lies in the turquoise river, elegant minarets and shiny white stone but with reminders of the city’s brutal past visible in the bullet hole-laden walls and bombed out buildings nestled among the shops and cafes. Don’t miss the lush nearby Kravice waterfalls for glorious swimming opportunities. You will need a car, or ask your hostel to organise a trip.

Where to stay… Thanks to its fascinating history, there are plenty of Mostar hostels in the city centre. Hostel Majdas is our top-rated property providing shared rooms, but if you prefer to go private, try Guest House “Taso”.

3. Zadar, Croatia
CroatiaLary Hostel

The city’s historic old town is the big draw with glowing white flagstones and the Riva – a picturesque waterfront promenade. In the evening, people gather at the promontory to watch the sunset – which Hitchcock famously claimed to be the most beautiful in the world. To add to the magic, Nikola Basic’s Sea Organ (click to listen!) provides a soundtrack to the setting of the sun. The art installation is operated by the tides which flow in and out of a series of tunnels underfoot to create an eclectic and poetic drone. You will catch people crouching with their ear to the ground in awe of the music.

Cocktails are best enjoyed at the Bedouin-style Garden Grow bar, opened by UB40 drummer James Brown. Once you’ve tasted the city’s heady nightlife, Zadar itself doesn’t need more than a few days. When you’ve had your fill, check out the popular Soundwave Festival or explore the northern Zadar archipelago for a spot of island hopping in Croatia to Pag, Ugljan or Dugi for idyllic beaches.

Where to stay… If you are looking for budget accommodation in Zadar you might want to make the most of the beautiful city by staying in Old Town which has both shared and private rooms from €16pppn and organises excursions. On Pag, Big Yellow House is a great place to meet and party with fellow travellers. It is minutes from Zrce beach, Page nightlife hotspots and offers rooms from €18pppn including breakfast.

4. Belgrade, Serbia
left bankLjubljana Castle

This city is something of an up-and-coming destination, which today means you need to look beyond the city’s rather ugly housing blocks and cast your eyes to the heart of Belgrade – to the leafy squares and ancient churches – to see its true beauty. They are a reminder of this region’s diverse culture and religious history. There is, in fact, something of Paris’s Montmartre in Belgrade’s pretty Skadarska area too.

The real draw of Belgrade, however, is its hedonistic nightlife. During the summer, clubs open up along the Danube River on barges and some 3-storey boats. The city comes alive with the blast of techno rhythms and ravers waving glow sticks at open-air events, although most music tastes are catered for in some club or other, if that’s not your thing.

Where to stay… If you are looking for a hostel in Belgrade then Hostelche Hostel is a firm backpacker favourite offering great interior design. It’s a few minutes from the river and prices start at €14pppn.

5. Kiev, Ukraine
RomaniaSlovenia

Unfortunately, the Ukraine has found itself embroiled in another all-too-familiar political crisis, an unhappy symptom of its positioning between Russia and Europe. It’s sad, especially for such a beautiful country with such wonderful people. Still, during better times, Kiev is an affordable and lovable choice for backpackers.

In the markets near Independence Square you can pick up original Soviet era paraphernalia – think red-star adorned fur hats – and stuff yourself silly on dumplings all for a handful of coins. It’s worth climbing the bell tower of Kiev’s oldest church, St Sofia Cathedral for views across the rooftops and gilded domes.

To acquaint yourself with darker days, the Chernobyl Museum documents the fatal nuclear event, while the Pecherska Lavra is a monastery complete with catacombs holding centuries’ old mummified monks. Check out our list of cheap things to do in Kiev for more advice and you can check out the nightlife in Kiev too.

Although it is an amazing city, we don’t recommend visiting while there is still trouble in the region. Hopefully there will be a quick and peaceful resolution to the current tensions and you’ll soon be able to see for yourself everything that Ukraine has to offer.

Where to stay… Nowadays Kiev has a great selection budget accommodation and hostels to rival their nearby neighbours. Whether you want something quiet and quaint or a little livelier, you’ll find something to suit your tastes.

6. Tallinn, Estonia
left bankStari Most bridge

Winner of the European Capital of Culture award in 2011, Tallinn has put itself well and truly on the map with a lengthy list of annual art events, a music week, a rooftop cinema, along with activities like harbour kayaking tours. It boasts a pleasant muddle of cobbled streets and impressive medieval fortifications in the form of city walls. The students of Tallinn University really keep the place ticking, especially in the cavernous cellar bars – try the millimallikas. Have a read of our Tallinn guide for more things to do and highlights in 2011.

Where to stay… Of all the Tallinn hostels the hottest parties can be found at Tallinn Backpackers with organised pub crawls and alternative tours of the city. Beds from €17pppn.

7. Suceava, Romania
left bankTom Junior Hostel

Once the capital of Moldovia (an ancient European principality), Suceava is an intriguing place that’s undergone recent regeneration. It lies quite a way off the usual backpacking trail in Europe (as does much of Romania, beyond Bucharest and the Dracula tours) but it’s worth the trek for the seven painted churches of Northern Moldovia located nearby. These unique and beautifully preserved monasteries are adorned with frescoes and are masterpieces of Byzantine art.

To really see the city in full swing, you should time your trip to coincide with the lively Moldavian Furrier Fair in mid-August or for Suceava Days, a giant street party held in late June. The area will be difficult to explore during the hard winters, but it’s hard to pass up the opportunity of a sleigh ride eh?!

Where to stay… There are only a couple of hostels in Suceava and they’re a little way out, but for a good time, check out the Lary Hostel. It’s a lively place with its own bar and nightclub, and it’s a not-too-taxing 15 mins bus ride away from the centre.

8. Krakow, Poland

Krakow in Poland

Krakow in Poland

The best-known city on this list, Krakow has become a firm favourite on the InterRail scene and it’s definitely earned its place on your Eastern Europe itinerary. Highlights include the wonderful architecture from Gothic to Renaissance (amazingly well intact after WWII), the atmospheric Jewish quarter of Kazimieriz, the regal Wawel Castle and excellent nightlife – the Old Town boasts more bars per square metre than anywhere else in the world.

Similarly to Prague, Krakow is cashing in on its newly-found tourist appeal so expect higher prices than the rest of Eastern Europe. Winter or summer? It’s a tough call because Christmas in Krakow is a picturesque affair with glittering markets and a beautiful frosting of snow on the buildings, but as part of a greater Eastern Europe itinerary, the sights are more enjoyable to explore in warmer months.

Where to stay… You are spoilt for choice when it comes to hostels. Some of the best hostels in Europe can be found here. It’s a tough call but Greg & Tom Junior Hostel has spacious dorms, Polish themed nights and a free breakfast included in your room rate from €14pppn.

9. Kotor, Montenegro
left bankHitchcock

Like Romania, Montenegro is often sadly ignored by backpackers in Europe. But with such spectacular vistas in Europe’s deepest fjord, Kotor is not easily forgotten! The friendly people and cheap local wine, mean you really can’t go far wrong here so take a leap of faith and trust us on this one! The idyllic Bay of Kotor and its impressive ancient port town is Montenegro at its best. With its strong Venetian influences (the Republic conquered this area long ago) and unique river canyon from the Adriatic, it’s little wonder that Kotor has been named a cultural and natural World Heritage Centre. The summer carnival always proves to be a big draw, with thousands partying on the streets every year.

Where to stay… Reaching a balmy 28 degrees in summer, hostels in Kotor soon fill up so book your accommodation in advance. Small, comfortable and central, Montenegro Hostel Kotor is the ideal cheap stay equipped with air-conditioning and an onsite restaurant.

10. Budapest, Hungary
HungaryKrakow

Separated by the Danube River, the Buda Hills lie to the west while the relatively flat Pest is on the east bank. Architecture buffs can start salivating at the promise of glorious Baroque, Neoclassical, and Art Nouveau examples across the city. The particularly decadent Turkish-era thermal baths are also worth a look and a try.

Budapest galleries and museums will fill the days, but the city is equally thrilling at night, especially in the summer when kertek – purpose-built entertainment gardens – draw night owls to party until the early hours. There’s also the 7 day long Sziget Festival in August, suitable for lovers of all kinds of music, so long as they possess the stamina.

Although this list of European hotspots is in no particular order, consider leaving Budapest until last to give your bones a well-earned rest in one of the many beautiful Budapest bathhouses. Read about 5 Cultural Things to do in Budapest.

Where to stay… Choosing hostels in Budapest is a doddle and another charm to this city. Basically, there are a lot of them and they’re all pretty fabulous. Home Plus Hostel get wonderful reviews from previous guests and offers both shared and private rooms from €13pppn.

Do you have a favourite place or a hidden gem in Eastern Europe to share with us? Are you planning a backpacking trip this summer? Let us know your plans, or a review your latest experience and share your tips with other travellers below!

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Thanks to Yadis – ArtRosino, jrover, anjči, Björn Söderqvist, dobrych, leafar., chrn, superbez, jsouthorn, scottmliddell and bortescristian for the images off Flickr. Please note, all images were free to use under the Creative Commons license at time of publication.

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25 Places in Eastern Europe You Must See at Least Once in Your Life

Alps

The Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest | © Bergadder/ Pixabay

The Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest | © Bergadder/ Pixabay

For travellers looking to explore past Paris, Barcelona, and London, Eastern Europe offers stylish capital cities with world-class museums, breathtaking natural beauty, and well-preserved architectural gems dating back to medieval times. Whether it’s your first time travelling to Eastern Europe or your 50th, here are Culture Trip’s suggestions for the 25 places you must see at least once in your life.

Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland

Natural Feature

Wieliczka Salt Mine, The Chapel of St. Kinga, Cracow, Poland UNESCO. Image shot 2016. Exact date unknown.

Wieliczka Salt Mine, The Chapel of St. Kinga | © Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo

Just outside of Krakow, you can discover the “underground salt cathedral of Poland” in the Wieliczka Salt Mines. The salt mine is over 287 km long and is included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. More than 1.2 million visitors per year take guided tours to see the highlights of the mines; including the life-size sculptures made from salt and the underground lakes.

Hungarian Parliament Building, Hungary

Architectural Landmark, Building

Cathedral Square

The Hungarian Parliament Building, also known as the Parliament of Budapest, is the largest building in Hungary, and one of the largest Parliament buildings in the world. The symmetrical facade of the exterior is designed in the Gothic Revival style, but the inside is just as impressive. Book your tour in advance to avoid waiting in long lines.

Slovakia’s Low and High Tatras offer the best hiking and skiing in the country. Numerous mountain lodges provide respite to hikers in the summer and skiers in the winter. The scenic views are breathtaking, and the prices for accommodation and food are a fraction of what you would find in the Alps or Dolomites.

Croatia

Slovakia’s High Tatras | © qimono/Pixabay

Bran Castle, Romania

Archaeological site, Building, Museum, Historical Landmark

A view of the scary Bran Castle, Brasov County, Romania

Bran Castle, Brasov County, Romania | © Marco Taliani de Marchio / Alamy Stock Photo

Near Brasov, Romania, lies the legendary lair of Count Dracula. While you (probably) won’t find a blood-sucking vampire taking up residence in Bran Castle, you will enjoy learning about the history of Dracula and the Transylvania region on your tour of this intriguing historical monument.

After exploring the castle ruins in Eger, Hungary, take a bus a short distance away to the Valley of the Beautiful Women. While finding beautiful women here is certainly likely, what you’ll also find is many wine cellars, offering regional red and white wines by the glass and bottle. Taste-test as many as you like, and leave some room in your suitcase; at 3 to 15 Euros for most bottles, you’ll want to carry home more than just one.

Historical Landmark Bran Castle

Eger, Hungary | © AlwaysWanderlust/Pixabay

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Park

Boardwalk through the waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia.

You can walk on water at Plitvice Lakes National Park | © Jennifer Barrow / Alamy Stock Photo

Just south of Zagreb, Plitvice Lakes national park is one of the most popular outdoor destinations in Croatia. Spend a day walking along the wooden boardwalks over the pristine blue lakes and admiring the cascading waterfalls.

Possibly the most picturesque town in the Czech Republic; certainly worth the train or bus trip from Prague. First, take a walking tour of this small, quaint town, and then find a seat at one of the many outstanding local breweries.

Hungary

Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic. | © peter86ba/Pixabay

Modern cafés and restaurants with budget-friendly prices line the picturesque and pedestrian-only Timisoara city centre. Consider taking a bike tour to learn more about the history of this Romanian treasure, which will shine as the European Capital of Culture in 2021.

Market Square

Timisoara, Romania | © Panoramas/Flickr

The “Hungarian Sea” is packed with Hungarians on holiday during the summer months of July and August. Join them at a relaxing lake resort, or at one of the large festivals which takes place by the lake each summer, such as the legendary Balaton Sound or the eclectic Samsara yoga and trance music festival.

In south-central Slovakia, this historic UNESCO World Heritage town used to make money from mining. Today, visitors can still take a tour of the old mine shafts, and admire the 16th-century churches, Renaissance palaces, and regal medieval castle in the well-preserved town centre.

Museum of Genocide Victims

Banska Stiavnica, Slovakia | © JanosKoromDr./Flickr

Lake Skadar National Park, Albania/Montenegro

Park

On the border between Albania and Montenegro, you can find the largest lake in southern Europe. The pristine freshwater lake offers visitors beautiful panoramas, relaxing shores, and plenty of opportunities for scenic hiking, cycling, and kayaking.

The Czech Republic’s second largest city offers Baroque churches, world-class museums, a gorgeous Christmas market, and a a more local feel than Prague. Sip a coffee at one of the many trendy hipster cafés taking the city by storm, then walk up the hill to tour the medieval Špilberk Castle which stands guard over the city.

Plitvice Lakes

Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, Brno | © RomanBoed/Flickr

Hungary’s major university city in the east has been welcoming more and more tourists thanks to budget airlines such as Wizz Air. You can find great coffee at Volt Egyszer café and a variety of Hungarian beers, wines, and spirits at Roncs bar, a ruin pub in the city centre. Go to the top of the Nagytemplom church for a lovely view of the city.

Nagytemplom, Debrecen, Kossuth tér 1, 4026 Hungary, +36 52 614 160

Roncsbar, Debrecen, Csapó u. 27, 4024 Hungary, +36 52 688 050

Visiting the villages in the Maramures region of northwestern Romania feels like stepping back in time. Visitors can admire the unique wooden churches and carved wooden gates. Several guided tours offer travellers the opportunity to learn about the architecture, folk traditions, and culture of this off-the-beaten-path destination.

Romania

Wooden architecture in the Maramures region, Romania. | © uveX/Pixabay

Slovakia offers so many natural paradises for hikers, but what is really special about Slovak Paradise national park is the ladders, wooden walkways, chains, and canyons you can navigate as you hike through one of the most beautiful nature areas in Eastern Europe.

Lviv’s Old Town’s buildings are most famous for their intriguing fusion of Eastern European architectural styles with Italian and German influences. The Old Town has been included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1998, including the High Castle, several stunning churches, and the bustling Market Square.

southern Europe

Lviv’s Old Town | © SofiLayla/Pixabay

This tiny town in Transylvania is famous as the site of Vlad the Impaler’s childhood home. Vlad the Impaler later became the inspiration for the world famous Count Dracula, so Dracula fans flock here to see where he grew up. Sighisoara might have a dark spot in its past, but is now a perfectly pretty pastel town within old medieval walls on a small hill; dotted with lovely cafés, restaurants, and boutique hotels.

Lithuania’s capital city is famous for its Baroque architecture and the medieval Old Town. The city is also host to several interesting museums, including the sobering, but must-visit Museum of Genocide Victims.

Vilnius Cathedral

Cathedral Square and Vilnius Cathedral | © Mantas Volungevicius/Flickr

Croatia’s capital is home to a delightful street packed with fabulous cafés and restaurants serving food and drink at all hours of the day and night. In the morning, enjoy a coffee at Sjedi 5. In the evenings, relax over a locally brewed beer at Pivnica Mali Medo pub. Stroll around and admire the old buildings full of history which now serve as the primary meeting places for residents of Zagreb and tourists alike.

The Skull Tower of Nis, Serbia

Building

The Skull Tower in Nis

The Skull Tower in Nis | © amanderson2/Flickr

In the southern part of Serbia, this tower made from skulls was built following the Battle of Cegar in 1809, during the First Serbian Uprising. Originally, 952 human skulls of the rebels in the battle adorned the tower, but today only 54 remain.

Auschwitz, Poland

Memorial, Museum

A watchtower in concentration camp Auschwitz Birkenau Polen, March 12, 2019

A watchtower, Auschwitz Birkenau | © Annebel van den heuvel / Alamy Stock Photo

You can visit Auschwitz, arguably the most well-known of the Nazi death camps, as a day trip from Krakow in Poland. Although a sombre attraction, Auschwitz is a must-visit for anyone who believes that we should learn from the past and who wants to pay respects to some of the millions of people who were murdered under Nazi rule.

Ljubljana might be a capital city, but it doesn’t feel like one. The fairytale capital of Slovenia is presided over by its medieval castle on a hill, and the winding river, which cuts through the city centre, is perfect for taking a SUP Tour to learn all about the history of this magical place.

Brasov County

Kayak or SUP to see Ljubljana from the water. | © traveldudes/Flickr

In the northern part of Hungary and southern part of Slovakia, you will find one of the most underrated wine regions in Europe – Tokaj. Although Tokaj wines are well-known in Eastern Europe, they are not frequently exported to the west. Head there now to visit the gorgeous vineyards and sample Tokaj’s best before the crowds.

These recommendations were updated on January 31, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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