5e41cc9cfbd5bc88bf497d7af95dbb25aa6126c9

Posts Tagged ‘Romania’

The Ultimate Eastern Europe Travel Guide

Airbnb
Bran CastleDanzig

Fewer travelers head east – that’s why you should.

Head East from Germany, and you’ll find that your Euros are less often accepted. English is not so widely spoken. The streets can appear grittier, with concrete apartment blocks often blocking out the sun. Poland has no Leaning Tower of Pisa, Budapest boasts no colosseum, and the rushing Danube may be less associated with romance than the sedate river Seine. But travel with your eyes open, and you’ll find just as much beauty, history, fun and adventure in the East as others do in the well trodden West.

Average wages behind the historic ‘Iron Curtain’ are still drastically low, which is rough on the locals, but can benefit the intrepid traveler: You’ll find that three course restaurant meal in Sofia, Bulgaria can cost you less than a cocktail in a Parisian bar. So pack a phrase book and dress up warm – we’re heading East!

DubrovnikGermany

Eastern Europe: An overview

The definition of Eastern Europe can be a bit contentious. I moved to Poland a few years ago and have used this country as a base on and off ever since. While the folks back in England and Australia would tend to see Poland as ‘Eastern Europe,’ here locals often insist on ‘Central Europe,’ and looking at a map, they may have a point. However for the purposes of this article, Poland makes the cut. We’re also going to look at Czechia and Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, former Yugoslavia, the Baltics and Ukraine.

To varying degrees, all the countries described fell under the influence of the Soviet Union after the second world war. While most have now transformed into Western leaning democracies, the brutal memory of communism still rings in the ears. Poland and Hungary are sliding ominously towards the far right, and Ukraine’s recent attempt to lurch Westward politically was met with Russian tanks crossing the border into Crimea. While ‘history’ may feel like a thing of the past in London and Rome, here it is still an unfolding story.

Ginger Monkey Hostel

Hungary

Eastern Europe highlights: A sample itinerary

Eastern Europe Itinerary Map

Eastern Europe Itinerary Map

Once you spend a bit of time staring at a map, you’ll realize there’s an awful LOT of Eastern Europe. Not just in the number of countries, but in the size. Ukraine alone could comfortably fit in several Western European nations. Below I’ll sketch a rough itinerary that involves heading due south right from the Baltics into Bulgaria. You can either complete this itinerary fully (as pictured above) – requiring 5-6 weeks – or just do sections of it. 

A few things to note is that while most of these countries are in both the European Union and the Schengen Visa Free Zone, there are exceptions – notably Serbia and Ukraine. So be sure to check your visa requirements before venturing out. Also, the below is one hell of a trip and designed to give you a sense of what is available, rather than a definitive prescription – you should, of course, pick and choose. If you wanna head straight to Prague to sample the famed (and cheap) Czech beer before braving the winter streets of Vilnius, then I can’t say I blame you!

The Baltics: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania

So-named because of their position on the Baltic sea, these three small nations are often overlooked by Western travelers. But they shouldn’t be. Let’s have a look at each in turn:

Estonia

Highlight: Tallinn. With a population of just 1.3 million, Estonia rapidly reinvented itself after the collapse of communism in 1989, and now is counted among one of the most technologically developed nations in the world. It offers digital citizenship to locals and expats, and is considered a digital nomad hub. If Eastern Europe in your mind is crumbling buildings and long queues for groceries, then start with Estonia to dispel those misconceptions.

Latvia

Highlight: Riga. The historic center of Riga is a Unesco world heritage site, and the beautifully preserved/restored town square is a great precursor of what you’re to expect as you explore countries like Poland and Czechia further south.

Lithuania

Highlight: Vilnius. Like Riga, the historic center of Vilnius is a Unesco World Heritage site. Once unified with Poland, Vilnius boasts a proud literary heritage and a rich Jewish history – it was once referred to as the “Jerusalem of Lithuania.”

Poland: Gdansk, Warsaw & Krakow

Warsaw, PolandWarsaw, Poland

Warsaw, Poland

One of the strongest economies to emerge from the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, Poland’s vibrant present mingles with a history that stretches back over 1000 years, through the glory days of the Poland-Lithuania commonwealth right through to the trauma suffered at the hands of the Nazis and Soviets during the 20th century. I came to this country for a week in 2015, and ended up staying on and off for three years!

Gdansk

Spend your final days with the Baltic Sea at Gdansk, formerly the predominantly German free city of Danzig. Walk along the old docks and remember the Solidarity movement that, led by Lech Walesa, resulted in the overthrow of communism first in Poland and then, arguably, across the rest of Europe. One of Poland’s most picturesque cities, a late night stroll through the old town and by the riverside will be a treasured memory.

Warsaw

The sight of unimaginable horror during the Second World War as the Soviet Tanks waited for the Nazis to eliminate all Polish resistance before sweeping in and planting the Hammer and Sickle flag over the ruined city, Warsaw’s revival is the stuff of legend. Under the shadow of the imposing Palace of Culture, the historic old town has been painstakingly restored. Visit the POLNA Jewish Museum, and experience some of the finest dining Eastern Europe has to offer among the cities many chic restaurants (Hint: Try Cafe Kafka for lunch).

Krakow

Poland’s biggest tourist draw, and for good reason. The medieval old square is haunting under the moonlight, as rows of horses and cart stand to attention, ready to take the next visitor for a ride. Outside the city you can venture deep under the earth to explore the Salt Mines, and make a painful, but necessary visit to the Auschwitz Museum.

Detour: Lviv, Ukraine

Lviv, UkraineLviv, Ukraine

Lviv, Ukraine

Take the night train from Krakow due east to experience something truly off the beaten track. Lviv is a great way to dip your toes into the gargantuan country of Ukraine, and give yourself a thrilling few days. Historically Polish and once known by the Hapsburg name, Lemberg, Lviv boasts one of the most adventurous nightlife scenes you’ll ever encounter. From a bar named Masoch (we’ll let you guess the theme) to multi story clubs, hidden restaurants accessible only with a password, rooftop bars where you sit in broken down cars, a weekend in Lviv will give you enough stories to make your friends jealous for years.

Slovakia: Zdiar, The Tatra Mountains

Hala Gasienicowa, Tatra Mountains, PolandHala Gasienicowa, Tatra Mountains, Poland

Hala Gasienicowa, Tatra Mountains, Poland

Back on the road from Poland, we cross into Slovakia. The nation’s capital, Bratislava, is a rougher, smaller version of Prague (covered below) which rewards a fun weekend. But the Tatra mountains that stretch across the Polish border offer one of Slovakia’s most intoxicating delights.

Pro tip: Hit the Polish town of Zakopane just a few clicks from the border for a taste of the local Oscypek mountain cheese, before taking a minibus to the border, walking into Slovakia, and hopping another quick bus to Zdiar, a ski resort town. Stay in the Ginger Monkey Hostel for cosy diggs and to meet fellow travelers.

Prague, Czech RepublicPrague, Czech RepublicDetour: Prague, Czechia

It’s a bit out of the way and means a slight tack westward, but Prague, the dynamic capital of Czechia (formerly the Czech Republic, formerly formerly Czechoslovakia) is worth making the trip. Climb the steep hill to Prague Castle, and see the spires and winding streets of the city at your feet. Jostle with buskers on Charles Bridge before settling into one of the cities many cavernous beer halls for a sip (or several) of the unbelievably refreshing locals brews that flow like water and cost half as much!

Hungary: Budapest

Hungary’s mighty capital is growing in stature as a major Eastern European destination, rivaling Prague and Krakow. Divided into two halves, hilly historical Buda and flat, gritty Pest, the glory of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the horrors of the Arrow Cross Fascist regime and communist oppression, and the contemporary hipster revival of the city can all be felt after just a few hours in town. Climb up to the exquisite Royal Palace, drink the night away in a ruin bar (start with the gigantic Szimpla), soothe your soul in a thermal bath, and burn your taste buds with spicy paprika filled Goulash. For more tips on activities to do in Budapest, check our other guide here.

From here to Sofia you’ll most likely have to choose one of the below routes, which, like different prongs on a fork, all forge their own path to Bulgaria.

Option #1: Serbia: Belgrade

Danzig

Dubrovnik

Step out of the European Union and into a scarier, starker version of history in Belgrade. The winding, cobbled streets are beautiful, the old ladies haggle over the price of cucumbers on the street markets, and the clubs rage until dawn. But as with much of Europe, there’s a darker side to history here. You’ll see at the ancient fortifications, in the city’s museums, and in the bullet holes still visible on some older buildings.

Option #2: Romania: Transfagarasan Highway

Transfagarasan Highway, Romania

Transfagarasan Highway, Romania

Bucharest is a rough and ready capital that will still provide plenty to distract and entertain you. But for me, Romania is a country of rolling green hills, famers on horseback, dark grey clouds and mercifully warm temperatures. Considered one of the best road trips in the world, rent a car and take it carefully over the Transafgarasan Highway for incredible views and, of course, a climb up the steep stairs to Vlad the Impaler’s vertiginous castle (Bran Castle).

Option #3: Croatia: Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Go ahead, be a tourist, give yourself a treat. Famous as the filming location for much of Game of Thrones, this seaside city will be sure to rack up the Instagram likes. Don’t want to get caught up in the tourist crowd? Croatia’s warm and picturesque Mediterranean coast can also be experienced from cities like Split, which also boast fresh seafood and, of course, cheap local beer sold in gigantic plastic bottles. Živjeli!

Bulgaria: Sofia

Sofia, BulgariaSofia, BulgariaCongratulations, you’ve traveled 2600 kilometers from Tallinn (more if you took in Prague and Lviv), and you’ve made it Bulgaria! Here you will truly feel yourself in Eastern Europe as the city’s many monuments memorializing communist horrors attest. Sofia is most notable for its clash of influences, the Cyrillic writing system and Orthodox religion from Russia – see the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – merge with an Ottoman infusion from Turkey, just over the border. It’s truly a city on the frontier. And if you choose to push on and take that overnight bus to Istanbul, then the adventure only continues.

How much does a trip to Eastern Europe cost?

The low cost of living in Eastern Europe constantly amazes me. To take a sample at random, I am writing this article from a cafe in Poznan, Poland. A large local craft beer would cost $2 USD, a latte about the same, and a delicious, high quality hot meal about $6-8. This is typical of Eastern Europe, with countries like Ukraine, Serbia and Bulgaria offering even cheaper rates. The major tourist towns like Prague and Budapest can sting you on accomodation if you don’t book in advance, and always be wary of nightclubs and ‘bars of ill repute’ where scams are known.

Traveling Eastern Europe can realistically be done for as little as $30-50 USD / day, including accomodation, food, beer, transport and attractions.

How long do you need to explore Eastern Europe?

The above itinerary – done properly – would require about 5-6 weeks, but you can of course take as long or as little as you like. Distances can be large and outdated transport infrastructure can mean uncomfortable journeys (hold tight to your wallet on the cheap but dusty overnight train from Belgrade to Budapest. When I did this journey in 2015, I paid just 10 Euro for the ticket including sleeper berth!).

Tatra Mountains, PolandTatra Mountains, Poland

Getting around

While rail passes are highly recommended for travel in Western Europe, in the East they are less necessary. Train travel – even when booked on the day – is outrageously cheap, with $20 being more than enough for almost any internal journey you’re likely to make. For international journeys, consider overnight buses and trains to save on a night’s accommodation. Book in advance if going between major cities – for example, the overnight train from Warsaw to Budapest can get expensive (100 euro +) if booked at the last minute, but if booked in advance, will be a mere fraction of this.

Getting there

Most cities listed above can easily be accessed with cheap Ryanair flights from London and across Western Europe. Check Skyscanner and select “Whole Month” to visualize the cheapest dates. If traveling from afar, cities like Berlin and Munich in Germany can make convenient hubs. I’ve also found Prague to be a surprisingly affordable final destination when flying all the way from Australia / New Zealand. If coming from Scandinavia, Gdansk in Poland can sometimes be reached for as little as 15 euro.

Where to stay

Cities like Krakow and Budapest boast a thriving youth hostel culture, ideal if you want to meet other travelers and find drinking buddies for the evening. In Budapest I give my warmest recommendation to Carpe Noctem – I practically moved in. Elsewhere, Booking.com can offer cheap short term rentals on apartments, while AirBNB is a slightly more expensive, but more comfortable option for doing the same. Although you may not even consider doing such a thing in Paris or London, don’t be afraid to be bold and check TripAdvisor for a nice hotel – I’ve found 4 or 5 star luxury for under $50 a night across Eastern Europe.

Riga

Romania

When to go

It’s no secret: Eastern Europe gets cold, with subzero temperatures not unheard of from December through to March. This has its compensations – nothing is more beautiful than a medieval town center blanketed in white snow. Christmas means Christmas markets and hot spiced wine served out of large cauldrons, but it’s also when everyone has gone home with their families. My favorite time to travel is September, when it’s still hot, but the main tourist crowds have wrapped up their summer holidays, leaving the streets clear to explore.

Food and drink

Let’s start with drink! Beer is literally cheaper than bottled water in most countries described above. Look for the local brews, but be careful – in this part of the world, beer packs a punch, and 9% alcohol volume brews are not uncommon. Vodka is available in millions of different flavors – try Zubrowka in Poland, and local fruit spirits such as the potent Sliwowica (plum spirit) are easy to find. In Hungary, try sweet and rich Tokaj wine.

Eastern European cuisine tends to be heavy – food to soak up the vodka and prepare you for a long winter. Pierogi (polish dumplings) make for a hearty meal, as does Hungary’s goulash, Prague’s many manifestations of pork, and Lithuania’s rich, dark rye bread. Look out for Milk Bars in Poland for cheap meals shoulder to shoulder with students and vagabonds. Supermarket chains like Lidl and Tesco can provide you cheap groceries basically everywhere you will go.  

What to do

Every city you visit will have a museum testifying to ancient glories and more recent horrors. Budapest boasts thermal baths, Poland has its salt mines, Slovakia has mountains and Prague – well, Prague has beer and a lot more besides, and pretty much everywhere has a fair share of castles! But the best thing to do is simply to wander, walk the cobbled streets with your eyes open, look at the people, and try and learn a few snatches of the local languages. Walking tours are available in most major cities – see Viator for what’s available in your destination.

The Thrifty Gist

  • Eastern Europe can be challenging, but it boasts a wealth of attractions and an unbelievably low cost of living, making it a dream destination for the adventurous budget traveler
  • Highlights include the Baltic countries, Poland, Lviv, The Tatras Mountains, Prague, Budapest, Romania, Belgrade, Dubrovnik and Sofia
  • Travel by overnight train or bus to save on a night’s accommodation. With the exception of a few major routes, fares are constantly low
  • Germany next door can serve as an easy hub to access Eastern Europe, but cheap flights with companies like WizzAir can get you pretty much anywhere
  • Stay in hostels to meet travelers and for a party vibe, use Booking.com and AirBNB for comfortable private accommodation, and search TripAdvisor for great deals of high quality hotels
  • December is beautiful, but cold, and with a lot of places likely to be closed. September offers warm weather, but not too many tourists
  • Drink beer, brave the local flavored vodka, and eat the hearty rich meals with a focus on meat, potatoes and bread. Yes, you’ll likely come home a few kilos heavier!
  • Eastern Europe is rich in history and has seen the conflicts of several empires. Enjoy the historic old town squares, castles, and museums, but mostly just walk the fascinating streets and listen to the stories of the people you encounter.

Related

Source

Europe Travel: The 15 Coronavirus-Safest Christmas Trips According To European Best Destinations

Bavaria
Snow Ball With Christmas Tree In It

getty

Every year around this time, the European Best Destinations (EBD) organization, which is part of the European Commission’s EDEN Network (“European Destinations of Excellence”) working to promote sustainable tourism on the continent, releases its approved list of beautiful European cities that host the best Christmas markets.

It’s no exaggeration to say that practically every European city and town carries on its own traditional end-of-the-year holiday festivities, many of which have been occurring for centuries.

Although the process and the criteria for the selection this year had to be adjusted to account for Covid-19 measures and circumstances according to each country, EBD has unveiled a carefully-chosen list of destinations where it will be possible to enjoy the magic of Christmas while still following strict health and sanitary rules.

MORE FROM FORBES18 Gorgeous Hidden Gems To Visit In Europe When Travel Bans Lift, According To European Best DestinationsBy Cecilia Rodriguez

“Find out which are the safest Christmas markets in Europe for Covid-19,” EBD announced. “Since the start of this worldwide “Covid-19” crisis, we have kept you informed of the situation day after day by following the recommendations of the World Health Organization.” 

The Safest Christmas Markets/Destinations in Europe were chosen on the basis of the following criteria: number of Covid-19 cases per million inhabitants, number of hospital beds per inhabitant, proximity of airports, establishment of sanitary measures, hygiene charts in hotels, shops, restaurants, public transport and public places, provision of hydroalcoholic gels, masks and, last but not least, circulation routes inside the Christmas markets. 

MORE FROM FORBESGlobal Travel Bans: 115 Worldwide Destinations Easing Covid Restrictions Says U.N, What To KnowBy Cecilia Rodriguez

They’re all located in destinations less affected by the coronavirus, up to 80 times fewer cases of Covid-19 and sometimes even no deaths linked to Covid-19 (such as the Madeira Islands, which tops the 2020 list). 

In the safest Christmas Markets in Europe, contactless payment methods are the norm, merchants have protective masks or visors and a signposted route stops visitors from crossing paths.

Among other recommendations, EBD advises travelers to remain vigilant and to remember the gestures, social distancing and mask if possible and necessary and to avoid traveling in case of poor health.

“People over 70, overweight or with respiratory problems should be particularly vigilant,” the organization warns.

Christmas decorations in Madeira, Portugal

Madeira, Portugal, Best and Safest European Christmas destination 2020

Photo: European Best Destinations

Madeira is the safest European destination this winter. With up to 12 times fewer cases of Covid-19 per million inhabitants than other European destinations and no deaths, the Portuguese island has been selected as the best destination for the Christmas holidays.

In addition to the “Safe and Clean” label established by the Portuguese National Tourist Office, Madeira officials have set up very rigorous health charters to welcome travelers in the best safety conditions while guaranteeing holidays for leisure, discovery and relaxation. 

They impose no quarantine on arrival for travelers that have taken the Covid-19 test before the trip (maximum 72 hours before departure). Scanning at the airport reinforces these security measures and various devices are in place, including hydroalcoholic gels and masks in crowded streets.

Everything is simply and well explained on the Madeira Safe to Discover site. Masks are compulsory in some places but not on the beaches.

Madeira’s Christmas market has been awarded the title of ‘Best Sunny Christmas Markets in Europe’ for its breathtaking tropical scenery, shiny illuminations, exotic fruits and flowers, local crafts and wines.

On several occasions, the market was previously awarded the title of “Best New Year’s Eve Destination in Europe.”

Christmas market dates:  December 1, 2020 to January 10, 2021. (Market Night is held on December 23.)  

Sanitary measures: Passengers flying to the Madeira archipelago must present a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to departure or they can perform it upon arrival. Masks are not required for beaches, sports activities or nature walks. Here is the form to be completed before travel.

Christmas market in Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn, Estonia: Best and Safest European Christmas Destination 2020

Photo: European Best Destinations

Awarded the title of Best Christmas Market in Europe in 2019, Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is second on the list of favorite destination for winter holidays in Europe, with its family atmosphere, magical illuminations, traditional and artisanal products and delicious local delicacies.

To date, Estonia has recorded 18 times fewer severe cases of Covid-19 per million inhabitants than the most affected European countries. Hospitals have never been overcrowded and the virus has done much less harm than elsewhere in Europe. More quickly than other countries, Estonia was able to resume “normal” life while applying measures of social distancing, protection (masks) and the provision of hydroalcoholic gels in public spaces.

Christmas market dates: November 15, 2020, to January 5, 2021. 

Travelling to Estonia: An updated list of countries for which entry to Estonia is subject to limitations is available at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

Latest info here.

Christmas market in Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria: Best and Safest European Christmas destination 2020

Photo: European Best Destinations

Vienna, third on the list of safest places to visit for the Christmas holidays, has also been recognized as one of the safest destinations in Europe. By reacting quickly to the pandemia and by taking a series of sanitary measures, Austria was up to 10 times less affected than other European countries. The number of serious cases of Covid-19 has remained far below the capacity of Austrian hospitals.

During the winter, Vienna has a multitude of Christmas market all around the city to suit every taste for family, food lovers, whether sustainable, vegan or terribly romantic.

From mid-November to Christmas, Vienna’s prettiest squares are transformed into magical spaces full of the Christmas atmosphere. The markets will be organized to ensure Covid-19 safety to make it possible for guests to enjoy a pleasant visit with enough space for everyone.

Christmas market dates: November 18 to December 26. 

Travelling to Austria: Entry from a country with a stable Covid-19 situation is possible without restrictions. The corresponding countries are listed in the Entry Ordinance.

 Sanitary measures: An entry and transit declaration are required. 

Luminous Christmas market in Craiova, Romania

Craiova, Romania: Best and Safest European Christmas destination 2020

Photo: European Best Destinations

Off the beaten track, the city of Craiova, Romania’s sixth-largest city and capital of the Dolj Countyin region, offers luminous Christmas markets that are both safe and authentic. If Craiova has experienced significantly fewer cases of Covid-19 than other European destinations, it’s thanks to the preventive measures put in place early by national and local authorities.

“This destination, which brings together internationally-renowned cultural institutions as well as world-renowned artistic events, was able to put its tourist offers on hold in order to be well prepared this winter and welcome you in the best conditions of health and security,” reports EBD.

Romania has more hospital beds per capita than Norway, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Christmas market dates: November, 28, 2020 to January 1, 2021.

Travelling to Romania: Entry from EU+ countries is allowed without restrictions, with the exception of Luxembourg, Malta and some regions in Spain (Aragon, Catalonia, Navarra, Community of Madrid, Balearic Islands, Basque Country).

Sanitary measures: Travelers coming from countries with an incidence rate of new cases of Covid-19 in the last 14 days less than or equal to that registered in Romania are allowed to enter without restrictions.

Citizens coming from countries with a high incidence of COVID-19 infection should self-isolate at home or quarantine for 14 days.

Latest information here.

Christmas market in Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic: Best and Safest European Christmas destination 2020

Photo: European Best Destinations

Prague, Czech Republic 

With 15 times fewer severe cases of Covid-19 per million inhabitants than the most affected countries in Europe, the Czech Republic has made it to the list of the safest destinations for this winter holiday.

Recognized as one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe, the Prague Christmas market will also be one of the safest this year. 

Strict health measures have been taken by the organizers to ensure the safety of visitors, such as signposted routes to respect social distancing, dispensers of hydroalcoholic gel, availability of masks and protective gloves for merchants, plexiglass protection and specific protocols for stalls that sell food and drink. 

Set in the heart of the city is a traditional Czech marketplace where in dozens of wooden stalls merchants offer typical Christmas goods and items such as traditional Czech blown glass balls, products made of glass pearls or straw, hand-embroidered tablecloths, wooden toys, biscuit cutters and many other traditional Czech products. Both young and adult gourmets can enjoy typical Czech Christmas biscuits, hot roasted chestnuts, gingerbread and typical Czech grilled sausages.

Christmas market dates: November 28, 2020, to January 6, 2021.  

Travelling to Czech Republic: Entry from EU+ countries is allowed without restrictions, with the exception of countries defined as “high risk” from an epidemiological point of view.

Sanitary measures: A Passenger Locator Form is mandatory for people traveling from countries that are not on the list of those with a low risk of infection

Latest information here.

Christmas in Gdansk, Poland

Gdansk, Poland: Best and Safest European Christmas destination 2020

Photo: European Best Destinations

With 13 times fewer severe cases of Covid-19 than the most affected European countries, Poland is among the safest countries in Europe.

“As a result of the pandemic, we all want to travel less and make the trips we want unforgettable by discovering exceptional places and a unique atmosphere,” says EBD. “Gdansk is the perfect mix of safety and leisure, relaxation and discovery for this winter holiday.”

Situated in the historical centre of Gdansk, the Christmas Fair is like a fairytale “thank you” to the unique atmosphere and beautiful scenery. Here you will find streets marked out only for this special time of year: Chocolate, Cinnamon, Angel or Christmas Eve Street.

Christmas market dates: November 23, 2020, to January 1, 2021. 

Travelling to Poland: Citizens of EU+ countries are allowed to enter Poland without restrictions.

Sanitary measures: A Passenger Locator Form and a Public Health Self Declaration are requested on flights.

Latest information here

Christmas market in Dresden, Germany

Dresden, Germany: Best and Safest European Christmas destination 2020

Photo: European Best Destinations

Considered one of the most beautiful and authentic Christmas markets in Germany, the Dresden Christmas market will also number among the safest in Europe this year, with Saxony, at up to 15 times fewer Covid-19 deaths than other European regions, one of the continent’s least affected by the coronavirus.

Given the pandemic, there is a particularly strong focus to make the Striezelmarkt, Germany’s oldest Christmas market, safe for everybody. 

With glittering lights, twinkling stars, the scent of gingerbread and Christmas carols, Dresden’s Striezelmarkt will boast a unique character for its 586th year. Regional specialties, such as Ore Mountain wood crafts, Lusatian blue-printed fabrics and Moravian stars, are particularly popular.

Christmas market dates: November 26 to December 24. 

Traveling to Germany: According to the Federal Ministry of Health’s Testing Obligation Ordinance, anyone having spent time in a risk area up to 14 days before their entry into Germany must either provide proof of having tested negative or get tested within 14 days of their entry into Germany. A country or an area is defined as “high-risk” when there are more than 50 new infections per 100,000 people over the last period of seven days.

Sanitary measures: No special documentation is required.

Latest information here.  

Best Christmas in Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb, Croatia: Best and Safest European Christmas destination 2020

Photo: European Best Destinations

With 13 times fewer Covid-19 deaths per million inhabitants than other European countries, Croatia appears as a safe destination for the winter holidays.

Beyond the early sanitary measures put in place by the authorities, Croatia has a rich offer of tourist apartments, private villas, boutique hotels and small accommodations.

One of Croatia’s secrets was that her capital city Zagreb has one of the best Advent scenes in Europe. The secret is out now: Against strong competition, Zagreb was voted “Best Christmas Market in Europe” by European Best Destinations online polls for three consecutive years. 

Known worldwide as one of the best Christmas markets in Europe, along with ViennaBudapest and StrasbourgZagreb will welcome travelers this year with special sanitary standards adapted to the situation — dispensers of hydroalcoholic gel throughout the markets, disinfection of rides and ice skates, masks for vendors and protective plastic for those offering food. “The market is very large throughout the city and you will find the atmosphere that suits you for a safe and relaxed holiday,” according to EBD.

Christmas market dates: November 27, 2020, to January 3, 2021. 

Sanitary measures: Masks required on public transport, taxis, shops and other commercial premises. There are currently no requirements for travelers to produce a negative Covid test or self-isolate on arrival in Croatia. Screening on arrival. 

 Travelling to Croatia: Citizens of EU+ countries are allowed to enter Croatia without restrictions. Before entering the country, all travelers must complete the Enter Croatia form.

Latest information here.  

Christmas. Baden Baden. Baden Wurttemberg. Germany

Baden Baden, Germany: Best and Safest European Christmas destination 2020

REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

With a population equivalent to Belgium but five times fewer deaths linked to Covid- 19, the Baden-Württemberg region is one of the safest destinations for winter holidays.

Renowned as one of the best Christmas markets in Germany, the Baden-Baden Christmas market is implementing a series of health measures this year to combine safety and leisure.

Situated at the entrance of Baden-Baden’s splendid parks and gardens at the “Lichtentaler Allee,” the Christmas Market draws visitors into a romantic winter fairy tale with entertaining live-music programs and small streets of festive huts, where thousands of shimmering Christmas lights create a festive atmosphere.

“We are currently working into transforming our Christmas Market 2020 into a Corona-compatible market concept,” the organizers said. 

Christmas market dates:  November 26, 2020, to January 6, 2021.

Travelling to Germany: According to the Federal Ministry of Health’s Testing Obligation Ordinance, anyone having spent time in a risk area up to 14 days before their entry into Germany, if requested by the designated health office or other authority, must either provide proof of having tested negative or get tested within 14 days of entry into Germany. A country or an area is defined as “high-risk” when there are more than 50 new infections per 100,000 people over the last period of seven days.

Sanitary measures: No special documentation is required.

Latest information here

Best Christmas 2020: Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava, Slovakia: Best and Safest European Christmas destination 2020

Photo: European Best Destinations

Slovakia, along with Hungary, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic, are destinations seen as safe, with far fewer cases of Covid-19 than elsewhere in Europe. Slovakia has so far recorded 75 times fewer deaths linked to Covid-19 per million inhabitants than the most-affected European countries. 

Thanks to these figures and stringent sanitary measures, Slovakia is seen as a safe destination for this winter.

Christmas time in Bratislava, the Capital of Slovakia on the Danube river and uniquely situated on the border of three countries, is connected with glowing streets, Christmas trees and stands full of goodies and craft products.

The Bratislava Christmas Market is located at the Main Square and Hviezdoslav Square in the city centre until December 23. In recent years, the Christmas Market has migrated to other locations of the city center as well, such as Bratislava castle.

Christmas market dates: November 23 to December 23. 

Traveling to Slovakia: Entry from EU+ countries is allowed without restrictions from countries classified as “low risk” from the epidemiological point of view.

Sanitary measures: No mandatory Travel Documentation

Latest information here.

Best Christmas 2020: Dusseldorf, Germany

Dusseldorf, Germany: Best and Safest European Christmas destination 2020

Photo: European Best Destinations

Not only is Düsseldorf’s one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Germany, but one of the safest this year. The capital of the North Rhine-Westphalia region and the second largest city in this region after Cologne has had 10 times fewer severe cases of Covid-19 per million inhabitants than other European regions.

The city offers different Christmas markets to suit families, lovers and foodies.

Christmas market dates: November 23 to December 30. 

Traveling to Germany: According to the Federal Ministry of Health’s Testing Obligation Ordinance, anyone having spent time in a risk area up to 14 days before their entry into Germany, if requested by the designated health office or official, must either provide proof of having tested negative for Covid-19 or get tested within 14 days of their entry into Germany. A country or an area is defined as “high-risk” when there are more than 50 new infections per 100,000 people over the last period of seven days.

Sanitary measures: No special documentation is required.

Latest information here.

Best Christmas 2020: Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana, Slovenia: Best and Safest European Christmas destination 2020

Photo: European Best Destinations

With 12 times fewer severe cases of Covid-19 per million inhabitants than the most affected countries in Europe, Slovenia is positioned as one of the safest destinations this winter. Perfect for a break, far from stress in the middle of nature, Slovenia is the European destination most awarded by the European Commission for its commitment to sustainable tourism. 

“Treat yourself to unforgettable memories in Slovenia,” EBD recommends. “You can rent a car and discover other places in the country such as Bohinj, voted best hidden gem in Europe or Soca ValleyRadolca, awarded by the European Commission. 

 You can also treat yourself to a moment of pure relaxation and wonder as you walk through the illuminated streets of Ljubljana.”

This romantic destination, is one of the smallest European capitals and home to a Christmas market considered to be one of the most beautiful in Europe.

Christmas market dates: November 29, 2020, to January 5, 2021.

Travelling to Slovenia: Entry from EU+ countries is generally allowed without restrictions. Depending on their epidemiological situation, Slovenia divides countries in three categories (green, yellow and red). For each category, a different set of entry rules applies.

Sanitary measures: Face masks are required in indoor public spaces and public transport vehicles. Travelers from the red and yellow list must quarantine. No quarantine is required for travelers from the green list. No additional documentation is required.

Latest information here

Best Christmas 2020: Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw, Poland: Best and Safest European Christmas destination 2020

Photo: European Best Destinations

Poland is one of the European countries least affected by the coronavirus, along with Portugal and Greece. There are up to 13 times less deaths linked to Covid-19 per million inhabitants in Poland than in the most affected countries of Western Europe. No hospital has ever been overloaded and Poland has more hospital beds per inhabitant than the Netherlands or Switzerland.

Warsaw, the capital, with a historic center that has been declared a Unesco World Heritage, impresses with its resilience, respect for history and contemporary style. Its history is that of a people capable of facing any situation, of recovering and moving forward.

Facing Coronavirus, the Polish capital’s message has been: “Warsaw survived two world wars. We will get through this one too. See you very soon!” 

Warsaw will have two main, safe Christmas markets thanks to measures taken by local officials such as dispensed hydroalcoholic gel, signposted routes to ensure social distancing in the market and contactless payments.

Christmas market dates: November 29 to December 24. 

Travelling to Poland: Citizens of EU+ countries are allowed to enter Poland without restrictions.

Sanitary measures: A Passenger Locator Form and a Public Health Self Declaration are requested on flights.

Latest information here.

The streets illuminated for Christmas in Rothenburg, Germany

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, southern Germany: Best and Safest European Christmas destination 2020

DPA/AFP via Getty Images

With nearly five times fewer severe cases of Covid-19 per million inhabitants than in other parts of Europe, Bavaria is among the safest destinations in Europe. 

“Rothenburg ob der Tauber is probably the most magical destination at Christmas,” EBD writes. “The city appears to have been built to serve as the backdrop for one of Germany’s finest Christmas markets.”

With preventive measures but also many well-equipped hospitals, Germany has not experienced a critical situation during the pandemic. While measures are still in place for now, Germany is more open to travelers than many other European countries. Social distancing and wearing a mask are mandatory but not the Covid-19 test (except for travelers from countries at risk).  

Christmas market dates: November 23 to December 23. 

Traveling to Germany: According to the Federal Ministry of Health’s Testing Obligation Ordinance, anyone having spent time in a risk area up to 14 days before their entry into Germany, if requested by the designated health office or official, must either provide proof of having tested negative for Covid-19 or get tested within 14 days of their entry into Germany. A country or an area is defined as “high-risk” when there are more than 50 new infections per 100,000 people over the last period of seven days.

Sanitary measures: No special documentation is required.

Latest information here.

Best Christmas markets 2020: Graz, Austria

Graz, Austria: Best and Safest European Christmas destination 2020

Photo: European Best Destinations

Graz, Austria

Austria has remained a safe destination throughout the pandemic thanks to preventive and health measures taken early by the authorities. With up to 10 times fewer deaths per million inhabitants than the most other countries, Austria appears among the safest destination for the winter holidays in Europe.

Austria is welcoming travelers this winter with “the highest health and safety standards while doing everything to guarantee you wonderful moments for the winter holidays,” according to EBD.

 Graz, the capital of Styria and Austria’s second city, is a renaissance gem with a safe and unforgettable Christmas season. Numerous Christmas markets are located within walking distance, the oldest taking place around the Franciscan church. Close by is the Christmas market in front of City Hall with a giant Christmas tree and an old-fashioned merry-go-round for children.

The Eiserne Tor market is run exclusively by local charity organizations and the proceeds go to charity projects.

Christmas market dates: November 20 to December 24. 

Travelling to Austria: Entry from a country with a stable Covid-19 situation is possible without restrictions. The corresponding countries are listed in the Entry Ordinance.

Sanitary measures: An entry and transit declaration is required.

Latest information here.

Source

Best winter destinations in Europe

Athens

Winter comes in many guises in Europe – in the polar north there’s serious snow and sunless weeks, while you’ll find lingering sunshine in the mild Mediterranean, and cosy cafe culture and Christmas spirit in the centre.

It’s an inspiring time to visit grand cities and charming villages: with fewer queues you can fit more into your itinerary, and off-season accommodation prices make European travel wallet-friendly in November, December, January and February. Via Europe’s train network you can explore countries at your leisure, meeting locals going about their daily business away from the often-frenetic summer tourist season. Here are the 10 best winter destinations in Europe. 

Editor’s note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice.

A reindeer pictured on a farm in winter in Lapland, Rovaniemi of Finland Rovaniemi is the perfect winter wonderland destination © Roman Babakin / Shutterstock

1. Rovaniemi, Finland

Fistfuls of Christmas clichés characterise Rovaniemi, the “official” terrestrial residence of Santa Claus. Everyone’s favourite bearded man hangs out in an atmospheric Arctic Circle grotto, and it’s free to visit him (but photos are another story). Snow and reindeer add festive spirit, while the Arktikum museum gives insights into life at these latitudes.

Tip: Finnish thermometers have more numbers below 0°C than above, so pack serious winter clothing.

Christmas market at sunset in Vienna, Austria; shoppers are browsing stalls on either side of the road, while at the end is an imposing building with spires.Vienna is famous for its spectacular Christmas markets © posztos / Shutterstock

2. Christmas markets in Germany & Austria

December sees these romantic historic markets pop up all over Germany, Austria and other Central European nations. Expect cute stalls selling everything from gingerbread to sleigh bells and plenty of good cheer, toasted with a glass of warming glühwein.

Tip: Famous markets in Cologne, Vienna and Munich draw the tourist crowds, but seeking out ones in smaller towns is rewarding.

The Northern Lights are a green swirl above a snowy forest in Abisko, Sweden.You’re never guaranteed a sighting of the Northern Lights, but a visit to Abisko, Sweden gives you a decent chance © Mihai Speteanu / Shutterstock

3. Abisko, Sweden

Almost as far north as you can get in Europe on a train, Abisko in Lapland is for lovers of serious winter. The sun doesn’t rise for several weeks in December and January but that darkness makes it one of the world’s best places to view the majestic aurora borealis. Other attractions include cross-country skiing along national park trails and husky mushing.

Tip: Stop off at nearby Kiruna to see the famous Icehotel.

A close view of the fluted Doric columns of the Parthenon temple on a sunny day in Athens, Greece.Have the Parthenon and other marvels of Ancient Greece all to yourself on a winter visit to Athens © PavleMarjanovic / Shutterstock

4. Athens, Greece

It’s a real downer trying to Photoshop 500 people out of your would-be-prizewinning Parthenon photo, but during the winter in Athens it’s not an issue. All summer stresses – crowding, tourist pricing, intense heat, queues, air pollution – more or less disappear. The average temperature in Athens during the winter is around 13C (55F). It’s the best time to explore the country’s ancient heritage and get to experience local culture.

Tip: By all means do some island-hopping, but most accommodations close in winter.

The amusement park at the Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen; we see a lake in the foreground reflecting the illuminations from a Japanese-style pagoda and a rollercoaster with loops.Enjoy thrills and spectacle this Christmas with a visit to Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

5. Copenhagen, Denmark

For fairytale European winter, it’s hard to beat the home of Hans Christian Andersen. Forget the over-hyped Little Mermaid and head to the city’s cosy bars and cafes to watch snow flurrying outside. In the heart of town, the 19th-century Tivoli amusement park is a romantic, kitsch delight around Christmastime, with heartwarming illuminations and body-warming mugs of glögg.

Tip: Splash out on a meal at noma, considered by many to be the world’s best restaurant (reservations can fill quickly, so try to book several months in advance).

The best of Budapest’s thermal baths

6. Budapest, Hungary

Couples skating hand-in-hand, breath cloudy in the frosty air – there’s nowhere better for it than the Hungarian capital’s picturesque central park Városligeti Műjégpálya, with its enormous outdoor rink. Feeling chilly afterwards? Budapest is famous for its ornate thermal baths.

Tip: At night seek out a “ruin pub”– an atmospheric drinking venue artfully created in a once-abandoned building.

Skier at the summit of a mountain in Slovakia; there is cloud cover below and a chairlift rising to the right.Slovakia is the place to go this winter if you’re a skier on a tight budget © mpaniti / Shutterstock

7. Jasná, Slovakia

Slovakia offers high-quality skiing at affordable prices. Accommodation and food are reasonable too, and there’s a friendliness that’s missing from some of the snootier Alpine slopes. Jasná is the best Slovakian resort, with long descents flanked by snow-laden spruce trees, set in the ruggedly lovely Tatras Mountains.

Tip: Flights direct to Slovakia can be pricey, so don’t make this your entry point to Europe.

Part of the Alhambra complex - a Moorish-inspired fort with a graceful cloister in the foreground - reflects off the courtyard pool in Generalife Gardens, Granada, Spain.The Generalife Gardens are just one of the wonders of Granada, one of Andalucía’s – and indeed Spain’s – most fascinating cities © Yuriy Biryukov / Shutterstock

8. Andalucía, Spain

Tip: Head to the Sierra Nevada near Granada if you want snowsport action.

A snowy square of colourful houses in Sighişoara, Transylvania.Follow in the footsteps of Vlad Ţepeş, the historical Dracula, on a visit to Sighişoara, Transylvania © Matt Munro / Lonely Planet

9. Transylvania, Romania

You can’t visit Dracula’s lair on a sunny day with lambs bleating in the fields, right? Try steel-grey skies, bare trees and a smattering of snow. Braşov and Sighişoara, two hours apart by rail, are gorgeous medieval towns with various connections to Vlad Ţepeş, the historical Dracula, though it’s doubtful that he ever set foot in his so-called castle.

Tip: Bram Stoker never visited Romania, so don’t expect many parallels with the book or films.

Masked reveller dressed in red, white and black in Venice, Italy, with a row of gondolas behind them and the city skyline on the other side of the water.Venice’s Carnevale is a highlight of any European winter, but be prepared to book ahead © Oleg Znamenskiy / Shutterstock

10. Venice, Italy

Hauntingly beautiful and rather weird, Venice’s Carnevale in February is a European highlight. Elaborate costumes and spooky masks bring the canal city’s colourful history to life. Costumed dances are pricey affairs, but you can have a ball enjoying the free events with a mask bought on the street, but be prepared for epic crowding.

Tip: Book accommodation ahead. Day-tripping in and out on a train will lower costs considerably.

You might also like: 

This article was first published in December 2012 and updated in September 2020.

Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletter.

Source

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!

Like this? Related posts:

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.

Source

The best cities to visit in Eastern Europe

Balkans

contributed by Elisa of World in Paris

Brasov is a fairy-tale fortified city in the heart of Transylvania, in Romania. It is easy to walk, it has a beautiful architecture with Saxon influences and many nice cafes to stop for a caffeine break. We were lucky to find an apartment facing the main square so it was nice to see how the city wakes up.

If you want to get the most out of Brasov, we recommend doing the free city tour starting every day from the main square. It is a very entertaining tour which introduces visitors to the history of the city, some fun legends and its main sights like the black church and the white and black towers. In addition, guides are always happy to give some recommendations on good restaurants to explore the local cuisine so you are set for the day.

Brasov is also a good base for exploring other parts of Transylvania like the famous Bran castle or the mountains of Piatra Craiului.

Podgorica, Montenegro

Podgorica -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropePodgorica -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropePodgorica

contributed by Eric of Penguin and Pia

For the capital of a country, Podgorica, Montenegro doesn’t get too much credit. We think this should change! Podgorica does actually have things to do and this makes the city a place that we think is worth checking out for yourself. From traditional Balkan cuisine at restaurants like Pod Volat to visiting the museums and wandering the historic old town, the city has a rich history that is to be learned about and explored.

If you’re in Podgorica at night, the city centre is buzzing with activity. The bars, pubs, and restaurants open their patios in the warm air and let the night take its course. Whatever kind of fun you’re looking for, you’ll find it out on the town in Podgorica. Oh, and don’t forget about the things you can check out close to the city. Just a short drive away from Podgorica is the “Niagara Falls” of Montenegro – and you won’t want to miss checking out nature at its finest!

Ohrid, FYROM

Ohrid, FYROM -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeOhrid, FYROM -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeOhrid, FYROM

contributed by Kirstin of The Tinberry Travels

Lake Ohird is one of the most beautiful spots in the Balkans and sat on the water’s edge in the wonderful Ohrid City, FYROM. The biggest settlement in the region, Ohrid along with its neighbouring lake, is a UNESCO World Heritage site filled with ancient history, diverse and intricate architecture and plenty of natural beauty on top. Said to have once held 365 places of worship, one for every day of the year, the many churches or Ohrid are the city’s main drawn but there are plenty of things to do in Ohrid.

From boat trips or swimming in the beautiful clear waters to ancient amphitheatres and fortresses on the hill, Ohrid has a good variety of attractions and is fast becoming the new place to go in the Balkans. To get to Ohrid, a number of low cost airlines fly direct to the small Ohrid airport just outside the city or you can take a three hour drive from the FYROM ‘s capital of Skopje.

Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeVilnius -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeVilnius

contributed by Mary of A Mary Road

Vilnius Lithuania is not only another city in East Europe. If you are looking to explore this part of the world, Vilnius is worth a visit. It’s probably one of the cheapest places you can explore taking into account that it is the capital city. Vilnius is full of historical events and culture, the city is very open-minded and LGBTQA friendly.

Exploring around is very easy, you can either walk through the Old Town or hop on a bicycle (which is very affordable to rent for a day or more), to go further out. Vilnius has also a lot of park around, in Summer, you can sit by the park, watch the locals go through their daily life or simply visit a local market where fresh fruits are being sold. Going to the next city like Kaunas or to the neighbouring country is very easy too, and affordable. There are cheap flights in and out of Vilnius within Europe.

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Plovdiv, Bulgaria -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropePlovdiv, Bulgaria -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropePlovdiv, Bulgaria

contributed by Stephanie of Sofia Adventures

While Plovdiv in central Bulgaria is an Eastern European city, it does’t feel like it. It’s a beautiful, classic town full of ancient Roman architecture, gorgeous Bulgarian Revival houses, and modern street art. If you’re looking for Red Tourism, head elsewhere, because this is Bulgaria’s elegant cultural center. In fact, it’s been named as the European Capital of Culture for 2019, highlighting it’s place as one of the oldest cities in Europe.

There is eight thousand years of history in this city, but there’s also tons of great modern amenities, like fantastic restaurants and fun cafes. You can spend a weekend or a week here, because there are so many things to see and do in Plovdiv that you won’t have time get bored. After checking out the main highlights of the city (I highly recommend the city’s free walking tour), head out to see some of the beautiful monasteries in the region.

Budva, Montenegro

Budva - best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeBudva - best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeOld Town of Budva in Montenegro

contributed by Michelle of Greedy Gourmet

Located on the Adriatic Sea in Montenegro, is a beautiful town called Budva. Even though some parts of this country are still suffering from the effects of the Cold War, Budva is a thriving tourist destination. Budva is only a 25-minute taxi ride from Tivat Airport, where you can easily hail a cab outside the building or rent a car to get around.

The city is known for its beaches, nightlife and restaurants but is also rich in history.   You can spend the day at the Rustovo Monastery or head up to the Citadel to catch some amazing views. Most tourists come for the beaches and there are plenty to visit, such as Mogren Beach, Royal Beach and Kamenova Beach.

You absolutely need to eat at Casa Mia, a lovely Italian restaurant. Casa Mia has its own farm, raising their own chickens, ducks, turkeys and goats which makes them a rare, sustainable restaurant. In addition, you should check out Dukley Beach Lounge. Located right on the water, the views are enough of a reason to visit this restaurant.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeBudapest -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeBudapest

contributed by Suzanne of The Travelbunny

Budapest is the perfect European city to visit for a long weekend or city break. Full of charm, beautiful buildings, good food, coffee shops, art, history and quirk there’s a lot you can pack into a few days. The Danube runs through the centre of the city splitting it into two distinct districts; Buda and Pest. The 19th century Chain Bridge links hilly Buda’s castle district with flatter Pest. A funicular runs up Castle Hill to Old Town Buda where you’ll get fabulous views across the River Danube to the stunning Hungarian Parliament building. Fisherman’s Bastion, the 13th century Matthias Church and the famous Gellert thermal baths are all on the Buda side. Cross the Chain Bridge to explore Pest with its trendy ruin bars, ornate coffee shops, the food market and the grandeur of Heroes Square.

The city is good value for money as it’s not part of the Euro and still uses the Hungarian Forint. You can explore most of the city on foot or by using the metro which is easy to use and the oldest electrified underground railway system in Europe.

Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeKotor, Montenegro -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeKotor, Montenegro

contributed by Kamila of My Wanderlust

Even before visiting Kotor I knew I’m gonna love it there. The pictures I’ve seen online looked just amazing and the place seemed too beautiful to be true. But it really does exist and is even more spectacular that I could imagine! By now I’ve been some 5 times there and Kotor for me is the most beautiful place in Europe.

The highlight of every visit is of course the climb to the St. John castle – it is exhausting to walk over a thousand stairs to the top but the view is definitely worth it! But there are so many more things to do there! I love wandering around Kotor Old Town, especially early in the morning or late in the evening when it’s not too crowded, I love walking along Kotor Bay to Dobrota and admire the stunning views and I love visiting small village of Perast that is just the prettiest. If you decided to visit Kotor I can only suggest to do it off season as the summer might be just too busy there!

BalkansBran CastleWroclaw, Poland

Wroclaw -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeWroclaw -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeWroclaw

contributed by Jessica of Longest Bus Rides

There are so many things to do in Wroclaw, Poland that it should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Europe. The historical part of the city is completely walkable, so no need to rent a car. If anything, rent a bicycle. And, it’s very accessible to English speakers, with much of the signage translated to English. It helps that the city was European Union City of the Year in 2014.

Known as the Venice of the North, there are lots of cute bridges (approximately 130, but not all of them are cute) and 12 islands. There is even an island with gardens and historical buildings—visit the Gothic Cathedral at night to see it lit up. St. Mary Magdalene Churchhas Penitent Bridge, a gangway connecting the towers high over the city.The view is fantastic, although its original purpose is sad–

The synagogue has a free museum regarding the Jewish history in the area. On the more humorous side, keep your eyes open for all the gnomes throughout the city. They are small, and it’s always a fun surprise to find one. There’s one right by the entrance to the ancient pub underneath City Hal

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana - city to travel in Eastern EuropeLjubljana - city to travel in Eastern EuropeLjubljana

contributed by Kylie of Our Overseas Adventures

Ljublijana is the largest city in Slovenia and one of the new cool capital cities of Eastern Europe. It’s a fabulous city to visit for a few days and it has a wonderful funky vibe. The beautiful Ljubljanica river runs through the centre of the old town and wandering along the riverbanks, popping into some of the great cafes lining the route is such a great way to pass the time. The city is often compared to Prague due to its architecture designed by the world famous Jože Plečnik.

Ljublijana is famous for its bridges, with the Dragon Bridge being the most notable landmark in Ljublijana. Choose one of the four iconic dragons positioned at both ends of the bridge to snap a selfie with! Towering over the city is the 900-year-old Ljubljana Castle, a must-see with some of the best views of the city. You can take a funicular railway to reach the castle, or walk up one of the paths if you want some exercise. Afterwards, head back down into the city and pick one of the many hip bars to relax with a drink and soak in the atmosphere of this gorgeous city.

Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Veliko Tarnovo - places to visit in Eastern EuropeVeliko Tarnovo - places to visit in Eastern EuropeVeliko Tarnovo

contributed by Allison of Sofia Adventures

Veliko Tarnovo is one of the most beautiful cities in Bulgaria. As the former capital of Bulgaria, it’s chock full of history, which can be seen in the beautiful Tsaravets fortress, which used to be the seat of power hundreds of years ago. Today, Veliko Tarnovo is full of interesting monuments, delicious restaurants with gorgeous views over the Yantra River, old-fashioned houses built on a hillside, and cafés and bars where you can relax and enjoy a slower pace of life.

You shouldn’t miss Asen’s Monument, the Stambolov bridge, the fortress, the many interesting churches, and a side trip to the nearby village of Arbanasi. Be sure to eat at the original restaurant, Shtastliveca, which is now popular throughout several cities in Bulgaria. Shopska salad can’t be missed when visiting Bulgaria! Veliko Tarnovo is a great addition to Bulgaria itineraries that include larger cities like Plovdiv or Sofia, or as a side trip from Bucharest, or as its own city break!

Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb - best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeZagreb - best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeZagreb

contributed by Julianna of The Discoveries of

Zagreb was the city I never expected to fall in love with. A striking blend of centuries of history, cosmopolitan culture and a laid-back vibe – it was only ever going to end one way. What’s so special about Zagreb? The small walkable centre is packed with sights, both old and new, for your itinerary. The Neo-Gothic Cathedral dominates the skyline but surprises visitors with its modernist carvings inside. Equally enchanting is the much-talked about Museum of Broken Relationships, which is packed with the sometimes funny, sometimes sad relics of relationships that haven’t quite worked out.

Don’t miss the daily firing of the cannon in Lotrsčak Tower either – at 12pm sharp the warden fires a cannon (stuffed with paper) over the city. It’s not clear where the tradition came from, but it’s happened daily since 1877. Be warned, it is very loud! Lotrsčak Tower also happens to boast stellar views out over Zagreb, so it’s a win-win situation. Some people pass through Zagreb, seeing it as a stop on their way to the Plitvice Lakes, or as they zoom to Split and Dubrovnik further south. What a mistake – spend some time here and you’ll see that Zagreb is a small city with a lot to offer.

Sibiu, Romania

Sibiu -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeSibiu -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeSibiu city, Transylvania

contributed by Raluca of Whisper Wanderlust

Sibiu is one of the most beautiful, largest and most visited cities of Romania. It is located in Transylvania, approximately in the center of the country, making it easily accessible from any point. Being very close to the tallest and most spectacular mountains in the country, I recommend that along with Sibiu, go on a road trip on Transfagarasan, the most scenic road in the country.

Sibiu, thanks to its beauty, became the cultural capital of Europe 10 years ago when countless events took place in the city. Being the largest medieval ensemble in the country, it is a real pleasure to walk through the old center. The cobbled streets, the colorful houses that seem to have eyes on their roofs, the cheerful terraces and the architecture of the most important buildings will instantly conquer you. If you arrive in Sibiu, I recommend you to pass the Liars Bridge, admire the Council Tower, the Lutheran Evangelical cathedral or the Brukenthal Museum and go on a picnic at Dumbrava Sibiului.

Medulin, Croatia

Medulin -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeMedulin -best cities to visit in Eastern EuropeMedulin

contributed by LeAnne of Well Traveled Nebraskan

Medulin, Croatia is no longer just the sleepy fishing village it once was.  Today, you can find accommodations to fit all budgets along the incredibly stunning Istrian Coast.  Whether you are looking for a glitzy all inclusive resort to get away or to camp right along the beach, we loved Medulin’s various paces of life offered to all kinds of travelers.  There was just something about grabbing delicious grilled Croatian food right on the ocean while kicking back with some of the cheapest beer we’ve ever bought that made us fall in love with the area.

However, it was the Kemenjak National Park, just on the outskirts of town that gave us memories to last a lifetime.  Purchase a cheap snorkel set from any stand in town and then head to the park where you can swim in crystal clear waters and explore underwater caves.  For adventurous souls, join the cliff jumpers leaping from various levels of cliffs into the deep ocean below for an amazingly fun time!  And then for any history buffs, geek out at the actual dinosaur tracks, still imprinted in the rocks!

Medulin was the perfect balance of exploration with a touch of relaxation, which makes it a perfect destination for just about any type of traveler! 

Source

20 most beautiful places in Europe

Alps

(CNN) — From Norwegian islands high above the Arctic Circle to forest-covered mountains in Romania, windswept sandy beaches in Wales and icy lakes in the Balkans, Europe is a spectacularly varied place.

The old continent’s historic cities and its Mediterranean beaches draw many of its visitors, but the best destinations are sometimes its more remote corners, known mainly to locals and a few intrepid travelers. Here are 20 of Europe’s most beautiful places to inspire your travels:

Lake Inari, Finland

High above the Arctic Circle and close to Finland’s border with Russia, Lake Inari is a year-round paradise. Dark, snowy winters make it ideal for catching a glimpse of the aurora borealis.

Its tree-lined banks glow a burnt orange during autumn and in summer, you can swim in its chilly shallows. The center of local Sámi culture, it’s as remote and traditional as Finland gets.

Lofoten Islands, Norway

This Norwegian archipelago consists of seven main islands.

This Norwegian archipelago consists of seven main islands.

Shutterstock

Made up of towering peaks, deep fjords and picture perfect villages, the Lofoten Islands are renowned for their remote beauty.

Consisting of seven main islands — Austvågøy, Flakstadøy, Gimsøy, Moskenesøya, Røst, Værøy and Vestvågøy — this is a place where nature takes precedence and sea eagles soar through the skies.

Thanks to the mild waters of the gulf stream, the Norwegian archipelago is surprisingly warm in summer, when the sun never sets due to the islands’ northerly location.

Unst, Shetland Isles, Scotland

Unst is the last outpost of the United Kingdom.

Unst is the last outpost of the United Kingdom.

Shutterstock

The most northerly occupied island of the British Isles, Unst is a wild, rugged place where seas crash into the dramatic Muckle Flugga sea stacks.

The latter are a haven for gannets during breeding season, with birdwatchers also treated to the sight of scavenging bonxies, or great skuas.

Steeped in Viking history, archaeologists have discovered traditional longhouses and graveyards that showcase its Scandinavian past.

Zagori, Greece

Zagori comes from the Slavic word meaning

Zagori comes from the Slavic word meaning “beyond the mountains.”

Shutterstock

While Greece’s islands are lauded for their beauty, the mainland’s charms are easily overlooked.

But one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in Europe lies here, in the region of Zagori, Epirus.

The plunging Vikos Gorge makes for a perfect day’s hiking, while Mount Astrakas’ snow-capped peak is a sight to behold as the days close in, showing that Greece is far more than just a summer destination.

Keep an eye out for Zagori’s stone bridges, especially the three-arched Kaligeriko, close to the village of Kipi.

Yorkshire Dales, England

The Yorkshire Dales is famous for its spectacular landscapes.

The Yorkshire Dales is famous for its spectacular landscapes.

Shutterstock

The Yorkshire Dales are the England of the imagination.

Its narrow lanes lined with drystone walls cry out to cyclists seeking vertiginous adventures, while its moody hills continually attract walkers, no matter the weather.

Geological wonders such as the limestone spectacles of Malham Cove and Gordale Scar make it perhaps the most beautiful part of the British Isles.

Much of the area forms part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, perhaps best seen along the Settle to Carlisle railway, which passes over the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct.

Apuseni Mountains, Romania

Romania's Apuseni mountains form part of the western Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania.

Romania’s Apuseni mountains form part of the western Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania.

Shutterstock

Part of the Carpathian range, the Apuseni are the best kept secret in Eastern Europe.

These mountains are isolated, with ancient forests and limestone caves descending into underground rivers at every turn.

Time stands still here, with little else to do but breathe in the pine-tinged air and keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife.

Wolves prowl through the trees, with ospreys circling on thermals high above.

Loire Valley, France

Loire Valley attracts more than 3.3 million visitors per year.

Loire Valley attracts more than 3.3 million visitors per year.

Shutterstock

The Loire Valley’s opulent châteaux are what give this region of central France such grandeur.

Chateau de Chambord and Chateau de Chenonceau are the most famous, replete with classic spires, viewing towers, formal gardens and boating lakes.

Throw in a tour of its vineyards, where some of the world’s finest wines are produced, and its allure is impossible to ignore.

Picos de Europa, Spain

The Picos de Europa may not get top billing with the Pyrenees, but these mountains are every bit as enticing for serious mountaineers, hikers and those who enjoy marveling at high peaks.

Known as “Spain’s Dolomites,” the mountain range extends for about 20 kilometers inland from the northern coast of Spain.

Walkers will find an excellent network of mountain refuges, with the views at their best as the sun rises over the peaks in the early morning.

Adelboden, Switzerland

The Swiss mountain village of Adelboden in the Bernese Oberland region.

The Swiss mountain village of Adelboden in the Bernese Oberland region.

Shutterstock

Although Adelboden isn’t the famous valley in Switzerland, it possesses a local charm that many never get to experience.

The head of the valley is home to some of the best ice climbing in the Alps, while those less keen on vertigo-inducing pursuits can strap on snow shoes and explore pine forests and frozen streams.

At night, the skies above the quiet pistes fill with stars.

Henne Strand, West Jutland, Denmark

Henne Strand is a sandy haven for vacationing Danes.

Henne Strand is a sandy haven for vacationing Danes.

Shutterstock

Backed by rolling dunes, Henne Strand sits on the west coast of Jutland.

Often windswept, it’s a summer haven for holidaying Danes, with miles of sand, ensuring every visitor has plenty of space to spread out and catch some rays.

Nearby Filso, a restored lake, is a haven for birds, with observation towers helping amateur ornithologists catch a glimpse of rare gull-billed terns, herons and cranes.

Bavarian Forest National Park, Germany

Bavarian Forest National Park -- the largest national park in Germany.

Bavarian Forest National Park — the largest national park in Germany.

Shutterstock

Germany’s first national park, the Bavarian Forest demands exploration and rewards those who take to its myriad paths in search of adventure.

There are 186 miles of hiking trails and 124 miles of bike routes that connect with Sumava National Park, just across the border in the Czech Republic. Rachelsee, deep in the forest’s heart, surrounded by pines and standing over 1,000 meters above sea level, is a mirror lake that makes for superb photos.

Rumor has it, Rachelsee was named after the devil’s grandmother.

Hoge Veluwe National Park, Netherlands

Hoge Veluwe National Park covers more than 5,400 hectares of forest, moors and sand dunes.

Hoge Veluwe National Park covers more than 5,400 hectares of forest, moors and sand dunes.

Shutterstock

With its undulating sand dunes, heathland and woods, Hoge Veluwe National Park is a wildlife haven.

First established in 1909 as a private park, it gained national park status in the 1930s.

Today, it’s known for its roaming populations of roe deer, wild sheep and wild boar, as well as the woodpeckers and nightjars that swoop through its skies.

Union Hall, Ireland

Peaceful fishing village Union Hall in Ireland's County Cork.

Peaceful fishing village Union Hall in Ireland’s County Cork.

Shutterstock

Positioned deep in Glandore Harbor in the west of County Cork, the fishing village of Union Hall is quintessentially Irish.

Its lush surrounding hills offer sweeping views across the water, with hardy souls able to take a dip in one of the beaches close to the village.

The area is surrounded by the ruins of medieval castles and ancient forts, with Drombeg Stone Circle, which is thought to date back over 3,000 years, located close by.

Barmouth, Wales

barmouth InspiredImages Pixabay

Barmouth is situated on the River Mawddacch estuary in Cardigan Bay.

InspiredImages/Pixabay

Looking out across Cardigan Bay, with the southern Snowdonian mountains looming behind, Barmouth is a traditional Welsh gem.

Best reached on train via the 699-meter-long wooden viaduct, which dates to 1867, the vast beach here is wonderful year-round.

While it gets busy in summer, as autumn arrives and the winds whip up, Barmouth makes for the perfect, blustery British day out.

It’s possible to hire kayaks or stand-up paddleboards when the water is calm.

Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Lake Bohinj -- the largest permanent lake in Slovenia.

Lake Bohinj — the largest permanent lake in Slovenia.

Shutterstock

Lake Bohinj is often disregarded in favor of the more popular Lake Bled.

But Slovenia’s largest lake, set within the majestic Triglav National Park, is arguably just as spectacular.

Visitors can hire a bike or walk along the trails running around the lake to the impressive Savica waterfall or charming village Stara Fuzina.

Meanwhile, mountaineers have the option to strike out for the summit of Triglav if the weather is good.

Susak, Croatia

Mediterranean town and amazing green landscape, Island of Susak, Croatia,; Shutterstock ID 86132260; Job: -

Mediterranean town and amazing green landscape, Island of Susak, Croatia,; Shutterstock ID 86132260; Job: –

Shutterstock

Situated on the northern Adriatic coast of Croatia, Susak offers a blissful alternative to the busier islands of Hvar and Vis.

Blessed with sandy beaches and shallow waters, it’s perfect for lounging and doing very little besides.

The fact that Susak is hard to reach, and lacks any roads to speak of, makes it an ideal destination for escaping the rigors of daily life.

Hortobagy National Park, Hungary

Hortobagy National Park is largest continuous natural grassland in Europe.

Hortobagy National Park is largest continuous natural grassland in Europe.

Shutterstock

UNESCO-protected since 1999, Hungary’s first national park sits on the Great Plain, covering a massive 800 square kilometers.

Famous for its Nine Hole Bridge, the park is home to water buffalo, cranes and great bustards.

Stargazing here is particularly good due to its low human population and lack of light pollution, with the area designated an International Dark Sky Park.

Białowieża National Park, Poland

Białowieża National Park is Europe's last remaining primaeval forest.

Białowieża National Park is Europe’s last remaining primaeval forest.

Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images

Covering the central section of the Białowieża Forest, it’s no exaggeration to say this Polish national park is one of the most important in Europe.

It protects the last temperate primeval forest on the continent.

Bordering Belarus, it has the largest population of European bison in the world, not to mention verdant woods that give a rare insight into how Europe would have looked millennia ago.

Jurkalne Seashore Bluffs, Latvia

The picturesque Jurkalne Seashore Bluffs are based on the western coast of Latvia.

The picturesque Jurkalne Seashore Bluffs are based on the western coast of Latvia.

Shutterstock

Known for its paragliding and windsurfing, Latvia’s Jurkalne Seashore Bluffs make for an excellent alternative seaside escape. The cliffs are wild and fast eroding, with a few meters disappearing into the Baltic Sea each year.

Untroubled by large numbers of tourists, its beaches offer great sunset views. The bluffs are best enjoyed during the summer.

Lake Vattern, Sweden

Lake Vattern is the second largest body of water in the country.

Lake Vattern is the second largest body of water in the country.

Shutterstock

Measuring just under 84 miles in length, Sweden’s Lake Vattern is the archetypal Scandinavian lake.

The best way to explore Europe’s sixth largest lake is by driving along its banks. The beautiful wooden church at Habo, the pretty town of Hjo and Tiveden National Park, on the lake’s northern shore, are among its stand out sights.

In summer, be sure to take out an SUP or go for a dip in its refreshing water.

Source

33 Safe Summer Vacations You Can Still Take During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Airbnb

Summer vacations look much different in the coronavirus crisis. Many countries are closed off to Americans due to the high rates of COVID-19 in the United States, and many states require quarantines. If you still want to take a trip—we get it. You’ve been in the house for months, the weather’s good and you want a break before getting back into gear for work and school.

While many are opting for staycations or destinations within driving distance, if you still plan on flying, know the risks. Cabin air isn’t as much of a concern as just being in close proximity to other people, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, especially in security lines and terminals. “Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes,” the CDC advises. “However, social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and sitting within 6 feet of others, sometimes for hours, may increase your risk of getting COVID-19. Also consider how you get to and from the airport, as public transportation and ridesharing can increase your chances of being exposed to the virus.”

That said, it’s super important to not only be safe, but to follow local, state and national protocols and mandates wherever you travel. The following are relatively safe vacations during coronavirus that you can take, but remember: If you’re cavalier about masks, hand washing or social distancing, lockdowns will last a lot longer, and no vacation is worth anyone’s health or life.

Safe Vacations During Coronavirus

1. Staycations!

Staycations will always be an option! Explore your own town like a tourist, or camp out in your backyard.

Related: Airline Face Mask Rules

2. Camping

Going camping is generally safe if you’re socially distanced from anyone not in your household. To be safe, wear masks while hiking and traversing trails, as well as in any common areas you may share with other campers at your site.

3. Renting an Airbnb

Staying in an Airbnb while social distancing is a safe choice, but you may want to take extra precautions: Consider bringing your own silverware, bedding and linens, and bring some disinfectant sprays or wipes to sanitize and disinfect surfaces before settling in and getting comfortable.

Related: 90 Best Staycation Ideas

4. Hit the Beach

The beach is generally a safe option for a summer vacation if and only if you maintain social distancing and avoid crowded areas. You may want to exercise extra caution in areas like boardwalks, restrooms and eateries.

5. Renting an RV

Traveling in an RV allows you to have lodging and wheel at the same time, so you don’t have to worry about staying in a hotel or other lodging arrangements you may not be comfortable with amid the pandemic. Like renting an Airbnb though, you’ll want to disinfect surfaces and bring your own linens and utensils.

Related: Why Millennials Are Embracing RV Travel

6. Local Parks

Your neighborhood parks are likely underused and underrated gems: Many have lakes for swimming, playgrounds for kids (if open—bring hand sanitizer!) and plenty of grass for playing and picnicking.

7. State Parks

If you’re within driving distance of a state park, enjoy the scenery!

Related: 125 Ideas to Keep Kids Entertained During the Coronavirus Crisis

8. Stay at a Hotel in a Remote Place

Social distance at a hotel. Check around to examine cleaning procedures and what amenities are available and avoid certain hotspots, like hotel bars. If it’s just a change of scenery you want (without having to do a ton of laundry), this may be just the ticket for you.

9. Find an Uncrowded Outdoor Pool

As long as they aren’t crowded, outdoor pools may be a safe option due to their use of chlorine in the water—something the beach doesn’t have. Be sure to bring your own towels, sunscreen, goggles, pool toys, flotation devices and anything else you may need.

10. Go on a Social Distancing Road Trip

Pack everyone in the car (if you already live with them, that is) and hit the road together. As long as you’re maintaining a safe social distance from others, feel free to take photos in front of any tourist landmarks you find, but keep masks on as long as you’re outside the car—and try to limit rest stop use (and when you do make a pit stop, make sure no one touches anything more than absolutely necessary).

11. See Loved Ones Safely

If you take a trip to visit family and friends, you all need to use proper precautions. Quarantine for two weeks beforehand, and try to stay six feet from one another and wear masks when you can’t. Wash your hands and disinfect surfaces frequently and if anyone in your party or your pals’ is high risk, do not go.

12. Dine Outside in a New Place

Have dinner at an outdoor restaurant. Bonus points if it’s foreign cuisine you’ve never tried before!

13. Rent a Boat

If you’re traveling with just family and your immediate household (which are all the people you should be traveling with!), a small boat (think a fishing charter) is a good option. Be careful to keep a safe distance from other boaters and to disinfect surfaces of the boat just like you would anywhere else on land. Also do not tie boats together to socialize, as this can increase the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

14. Consider a Houseboat

Eliminate the need for separate lodging (and having to traverse through a lobby or communal areas).

15. Go Backpacking

Think of it this way: The less you pack, the less you have to disinfect. Bonus? Outdoor areas are likely to be less crowded than ever this summer.

16. Try Rafting

Combine your camping with some adventures on the water. Don’t forget not just to disinfect everything, but to wear a life jacket!

17. Consider Cabins

Instead of staying at a big hotel with a bustling lobby and breakfast buffet if you go away, try a cabin or smaller lodge where you can be alone (or with significantly fewer people around).

18. If You Must Go Somewhere Far Away, Try All-Inclusive Resorts

If you insist on really going away for a summer vacation amid the COVID-19 crisis, all-inclusive resorts are an option to feel safe: You don’t have to travel elsewhere once you arrive at your destination. Still, be sure to wear a mask and practice proper social distancing, disinfecting and safety precautions, and check ahead of time to find out if your desired amenities will be available.

19. Swap Houses With a Friend

If you have friends or family who live within driving distance and whose space you’ve always coveted, consider a weekend- or week-long house swap. Like traveling to an Airbnb, bring your own linens and utensils (and like traveling anywhere else, toiletries, etc.) and enjoy a fresh set of walls, grass and a new neighborhood to explore. Of course, be sure you’ve all properly social distanced and haven’t been exposed to the virus before any of you packs up for the other’s home.

20. Greece

Greece has been largely less impacted by the coronavirus pandemic than some of its neighbors and its hospitals reportedly haven’t been overloaded. Corfu and Preveza offer spectacular beaches and plenty of private villas, as well as hospital access in case of emergencies during your trip.

Related: 50 Summer Date Ideas

21. Georgia (in Europe)

Batumi, Georgia, offers vineyards, beaches and a ton of other tourist attractions, while Tbilisi offers stunning architecture. The country’s COVID-19 rates are extremely low compared to other Western countries.

22. Croatia

Croatia, especially Cavtat, offers plenty of private lodging for tourists who want to stay safe but still get stamps on their passports. Zagreb, Croatia, offers stunning outdoor views, parks, culture and architecture.

23. Portugal

Portugal, especially the Madeira Islands and the Azores, offer beautiful beaches and have been sheltered from COVID-19 infections.

24. Romania

Romania, especially Transylvania, implemented serious precautions for COVID-19, including cleaning and sanitizing public transportation every four hours and holding special hours for retailers, resulting in a seriously low infection rate. The country offers a lot of historical charm to explore and is considered one of Europe’s safest destinations.

25. Trip to Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos requires negative COVID-19 tests within five days of travel, in addition to requiring tourists to have insurance covering medical evacuations.

Parade Daily

Celebrity interviews, recipes and health tips delivered to your inbox.

26. Serbia

Serbia requires masks indoors as well as outdoors when social distancing isn’t possible, and has a fantastic wine country area.

27. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have pretty stringent entry requirements for tourists: Visitors must fill out a pre-arrival form and everyone on their flight must test negative for COVID-19. Visitors are quarantined until all negative tests have come in.

28.  Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia has more than a dozen COVID-19 regulations for hotels, and visitors must get a negative COVID-19 test within a week of their arrival on the island.

29. Jamaica

All visitors to Jamaica must undergo a COVID-19 test upon arrival, and the island nation also has requirements for businesses and hotels, including that all lodgings have a designated coronavirus safety point person.

30. French Polynesia

If you visit the 118 French Polynesian islands, you’ll be required to test negative for coronavirus before even flying out, and you’ll have to have a travel insurance policy. Four days after arrival, you’ll have a self-sample test.

Related: The Happiest Place on Earth Is Reopening! What to Know Before You Return to Disney World During Coronavirus

31. Bermuda

The Bermudan Tourism Authority requires visitors to have a negative COVID-19 test within less than seven days before arriving, and they’ll also be tested at the airport and quarantined at their hotel or lodging until results come in upon their arrival.

32. Aruba

Travelers from the U.S. all have to fill out a self-declaration health form and test negative for COVID-19 before arriving in Aruba. Visitors specifically from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota. Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming are required to upload a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their arrival.

33. Belize

If you travel to Belize, you must upload a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before your departure to the country or agree to a test upon arrival; visitors will also have a temperature check at the airport and have luggage sanitized. Guests are also required to wear masks while traveling through Belize.

Looking for romance on vacation? Here are ways to find love during coronavirus, even if you never leave your apartment.

Source

The 20 Best Places To Visit In Europe On A Budget

Belgrade
author photo

Europe presents an irresistible challenge to the budget traveller. A potent mix of culture, landscape and history on the one hand and a cash-gobbling monster on the other, sticking to your daily allowance can prove tricky.

Continue reading to find out more about…

But learn to zone out the “Spend! Spend! Spend!” siren song of its myriad restaurants, bars and shops and you’ll find that this compact little continent is simply the world’s greatest labyrinth.

Taken from the latest edition of The Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget, these are the cheapest places to travel on the continent this year.

Bran Castle

Related tailor-made travel itineraries for Spain

1. The Albanian coast

Looking for Mediterranean sun and sand, but your budget doesn’t quite stretch to Capri or the Côte d’Azur? Simply head further east and you’ll find sun-drenched beaches untouched by modern development. Albania is one of the cheapest countries in Europe, and as yet under explored by the tourist hordes. On its southern Ionian coast, steep grey mountains frame azure seas and golden sands.

Saranda – almost in touching distance of Corfu – is a handy entry point from Greece, from where you can aim for the beaches of Ksamil and nearby islands. Cheap seafood, warm seas and a smattering of isolated Greek ruins and Ottoman towns: the perfect recipe for a classic European sojourn.

Where to stay

Best for being on the beach: Vila E Bardhe

Best for great views of the harbour: Hotel Real Sarande

What to do

From Saranda: Visit the archaeological park of Butrint on a private tour

From Durrës: Wine tasting and history tour in Berat

Rough costs:

  • Daily budget: Basic €25, occasional treat €40
  • Drink: Bottle of red wine €6
  • Food: Qoftë (minced meat rissoles) €2, seafood €5
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €10/€30
  • Travel: Bus: Tirana–Saranda €8; train: Tirana–Shkodra €1.50

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

2. Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Though the scars of Sarajevo’s past as a city under siege are still evident – in the remnants of mortar shell explosions, filled with red resin to form “Sarajevo Roses” and in the museums documenting the horrors of Sniper Alley – – today’s city buzzes with life. If you don’t want to miss any of the key historic sites, book ahead and join a guided tour.

One of the most welcoming capitals in Europe, its central district of Baščaršija is a delight to wander through, browsing in the Ottoman-era bazaar or lingering over a Bosnian coffee, while the after-hours scene is quirky and cool, with tucked-away drinking holes and an ever-evolving club scene.

Where to stay

Best hostel for city location: Hostel Franz Ferdinand

Best for location to tourist attractions: Hotel Europe

What to do

Best for first time visitors: A guided walking tour in Sarajevo

Best for getting out of the city: A day tour to Jajce and Travnik

Rough costs

  • Daily budget: Basic €25, occasional treat €40
  • Drink: Bosnian coffee €0.50–1
  • Food: Cevapcici (meat rissoles) €2–4
  • Hostel/budget: €12/€25
  • Travel: Bus: Sarajevo–Bihać €25; train: Sarajevo–Mostar €5

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

3. Bansko, Bulgaria

Hitting the slopes without breaking the bank can be a challenge – not least as the main Alpine resorts are located in some of the most expensive countries in Europe. However, eastern Europe has a few intriguing ski destinations, including Bulgaria’s Bansko on the Pirin mountain range.

The country’s main ski resort, with good beginner and intermediate runs, is reached via a scenic – but very slow – narrow-gauge railway. The town itself has considerable charm beyond the tourist development, with numerous traditional old pubs hidden down its cobbled alleyways.

Where to stay

Best for guest house experience: Zigen House

Best for great location: Kap House Hotel

What to do

Best for the adventurers: Rafting on the Kresna Gorge

Best to get to know the culture: Experience local traditions, dishes, crafts, and stories

Rough costs

  • Daily budget: Basic €25, occasional treat €40
  • Drink: Beer (0.5l) €1
  • Food: Shopska salad €3
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €10/€20
  • Travel: Train: Sofia–Plovdiv €4; bus: €7

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

4. Czechia (Czech Republic)

Though ever-popular Prague is not quite the dirt-cheap city break destination it once was, you’ll still find Czechia (Czech Republic) to be a good-value country for independent travel. The country that invented Pilsner is justifiably famous for producing some of the best beers – at pretty good prices.

In Prague, the choice of watering holes ranges from traditional beer halls and monastery taverns to a new generation of microbreweries. Continue the Czech beer trail with a visit to the Pilsner Urquell brewery in Plzeň, before striking out to the country’s lesser-known spots, such as charming Olomouc, a pint-sized Prague without the tourists. If you’re heading to Prague, where you’re based can make all the difference to your experience, so make the right start with our guide to the best places to stay in the city.

Where to stay

Best location for hostel: Safestay Prague

Best for shopping and city centre: K+K Hotel Central

What to do

Best for history buffs: Small group tour to the Prague Castle

Best for a magical evening: Dinner cruise on Open-Top Glass Boat

Rough costs

  • Daily budget: Basic €40, occasional treat €50
  • Drink: Pilsner Urquell €1.50
  • Food: Pork and dumplings €5
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €15/€40
  • Travel: Train: Prague–Karlovy Vary €12; bus: €6

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

continued below

Related articles from the blog

5. Estonia’s Baltic coast

Known for the popular city break destination of Tallinn, small and beautiful Estonia also provides swathes of wilderness, with beautiful stretches of coastline, a scattering of islands and forested national parks along its long Baltic coastline. An hour from Tallinn, 725-square-kilometre Lahemaa National Park is best explored by bike. You can cycle its coastal paths, discover rugged coves, windswept beaches and fishing villages and even sleep on hay bales at a farm.

Venture further west, and the summertime resort of Pärnu has fantastic beaches, while the island of Saaremaa offers soft-carpeted pine forest countryside and very affordable spas.

Where to stay

Best for boutique hotel in Tallinn:The Three Sisters Boutique Hotel

Best for boutique spa in Saaremaa: Grand Rose SPA Hotel

What to do

Best for historical, Soviet heritage: Day tour from Tallinn to Naissaar, also known as Women’s Island

Best for urban exploration: The Industrial Stalker Bike Tour in Kalamaja District

Rough costs

  • Daily budget: Basic €50, occasional treat €70
  • Drink: Le Coq beer €2.50
  • Food: Blood sausage and sauerkraut €5
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €22/€45
  • Travel: Bus: Tallinn–Saaremaa €15; Tartu–Tallinn €11
  • Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

6. Leipzig, Germany

Berlin is an anomaly – it’s one of the few capitals where the cost of living is lower than the national average, a legacy of the country’s former divide, which still means former East Germany is notably cheaper than western centres like Frankfurt and Munich. But as prices gradually rise in gentrifying Berlin, there are other eastern cities to venture to, including buzzing Leipzig.

The city that kick-started the 1989 protests that led to the country’s reunification has long had a fierce, independent spirit. Over the past few years, it’s also developed quite a reputation for its thriving artist enclaves and offbeat nightlife. Its culture scene is in constant flux, with old industrial buildings, such as former cotton mill the Spinnerei, converted into cutting-edge spaces.

Where to stay

Best for city location: IntercityHotel Leipzig

Best for little luxury: Pentahotel Leipzig

What to do

Best for family exploration: 3h canoe tour through the city

Best for first-time visitors: Hop-on Hop-off bus tour including walking tour

Rough costs

  • Daily: Budget Basic €55, occasional treat €70
  • Drink: Beer (half-litre) €2.90
  • Food: Schnitzel €8
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €25/€35
  • Travel: Munich–Berlin: train €55–142; bus €22

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

7. London, England

London and budget aren’t words that usually go together. However, with the pound currently reaching historic lows, now is a good time to visit. But it’s not just a currency thing – London has more free world-class attractions than any other European city. The British Museum, home to enough treasures to satisfy the most curious of history hunters; vast Tate Modern, with stupendous views from its terrace and ever-changing art collections; the Natural History Museum with its magnificent dinosaurs; and beautiful Victoria & Albert Museum – all free, all of the time.

And don’t forget the open spaces: spend a day tramping across Hampstead Heath, another meandering along the South Bank or perusing East End markets and you’ll get more of a sense of city life than if you’re stuck in a queue at an overpriced attraction. For food, opt for the popular street-food markets and your budget will stretch further – you might even have enough left for an overpriced pint.

Where to stay

Best for being in the centre of London: The Z Hotel Piccadilly

Best for location to Southbank: Park Plaza London Waterloo

What to do

Best for stunning views: The London Eye (make sure to book your ticket ahead of time to skip-the-lines)

Best for the adventurers: Climb the O2 Arena

Rough costs

continued below

Related Rough Guides travel guides

In-depth, easy-to-use travel guides filled with expert advice.

  • Daily budget: Basic €60, occasional treat €85
  • Drink: Lager €5
  • Food: Fish and chips €11
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €27/€80–100
  • Travel: Train: London–Brighton €25–35; bus: London–Manchester €10–40

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

8. The Peloponnese, Greece

Think of budget travel in Greece, and the image is still one of island-hopping, sleeping on the deck of a ferry or camping on the beach. However, the slow pace of island travel and the popularity of the main resorts all adds to the cost.

Instead, consider the many-fingered peninsula of Greece. It has some fine beaches – less developed than those on the main islands – and it is home to the ancient sights of Epidaurus and Olympia. Medieval villages, spectacular rack-railway journeys and appealing Byzantine towns all await those who explore beyond the package holiday destinations.

Where to stay

Best for beaches in Finikounta:Hotel Golden Sun

Best for location in Nafplion: Pension Eleni

What to do

Best for day tours from Athens: Nafplio and Ancient Epidaurus

Best for explorers: Self-guided virtual reality tour of Olympia

Rough costs

  • Daily budget: Basic €30, occasional treat €40
  • Drink: Ouzo €3
  • Food: Souvláki (shish kebab) €3
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €20/€30
  • Travel: Bus: Athens–Delphi €16; ferry: Athens–Crete €40

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

9. Budapest, Hungary

Straddling the Danube, the twin enclaves of Buda and Pest together make one of the most beguiling capitals in Europe, and their main pleasures won’t break the bank.

Spend the day lounging by the pools in the spa, taking the occasional dip, cooling off under the fountains, and watching the old men play chess at the waterside tables. Come evening, the “ruin-bars” of District VII beckon – idiosyncratic bars tucked away in the neighbourhood’s courtyards. The tipple of choice is the cheap local white or rosé drunk long as a spritzer, perfect in the baking heat of summer.

Where to stay

Best for location to city centre: Arcadia Hotel Budapest

Best for a little luxury: Hotel Palazzo Zichy Budapest

What to do

Best to relax: Skip the lines and relax a full day at the Széchenyi Spa

Best for wine connoisseurs: Taste 7 Hungarian wines from boutique wineries

Rough costs

  • Daily budget: Basic €40, occasional treat €60
  • Drink: Beer (large) €2–2.50
  • Food: Goulash €3–4
  • Hostel/pension: €15–30
  • Travel: Train: Budapest–Eger €8.50

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

10. Palermo, Sicily, Italy

Any grand tour of Europe includes a string of beautiful Italian cities: refined Florence, alluring Rome and glamorous Venice. While there’s no doubting their charms, they are well and truly on the tourist trail, which pushes up prices, particularly in high season.

Escape from the mainland to Sicily and you’ll find in its capital Palermo a city both redolent of the Italy of yesteryear and – if you ask a Sicilian – a country apart. Undoubtedly run down in places, the city unfolds many surprises, from churches covered in exquisite mosaics to cluttered neighbourhood markets, where you can snack on local street foods, like arancini (rice balls) and panelle (chick pea fritters), as you wander.

Where to stay

Best for popular attractions: Hotel Palazzo Brunaccini

Best hostel for location to the city: Balarm Hostel

What to do

Best for foodies: 3h street food and history walking tour

Best for day trips: Explore Western Sicily with Segesta, Erice and Salt Pans

Rough costs

  • Daily budget: Basic €35, occasional treat €50
  • Drink: Wine €2.50/glass
  • Food: Local pasta dish €5–8; pizza slice €2
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €15–30/€45–60
  • Travel: Train: Rome–Naples €20; bus: €12

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

11. Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

Vast, deep, Lake Ohrid is the jewel of North Macedonia. The quiet streets of its namesake town reveal frescoed medieval churches, a Roman amphitheatre and a fortress worth climbing for the views. But as you explore the old town, the clear lake waters draw you back time and time again, inviting you to swim, dive or take to the waters by boat.

If you are tempted landwards it might be to hike in the nearby Galičica National Park. With cheap private rooms to rent and several waterside camping spots, the area is perfect for travellers on a budget to kick back and relax.

Where to stay

Best for a cosy guest house: Villa & Winery Mal Sveti Kliment

Best for views of Lake Ohrid: Villa Kale

What to do

Best for those with limited time: Day tour from Skopje to Ohrid

Best for history buffs: Private half-day city tour

Rough costs

  • Daily budget: Basic €25, occasional treat €35
  • Drink: Wine from €2.50 per bottle
  • Food: Tavče gravče (bean casserole) €1.50
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €10/€25
  • Travel: Bus: Skopje–Ohrid €7; train: Skopje–Bitola €4

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

12. Kotor, Montenegro

The beautiful walled town of Kotor sits at the end of a fjord-like bay, ringed by dramatic peaks. Just follow your nose in the Old Town. Getting lost in the labyrinth of streets is half the fun, discovering summertime cafés that spill out on the squares before clambering along the old fortress walls.

For a view over the whole gorgeous scene, hike up to St Ivan’s castle, overlooking the town. Kotor’s annual highlight is August’s exuberant Boka Nights festival, when the whole town celebrates as a lavish display of decorated boats parade in the bay and fireworks fill the sky.

Where to stay

Best for boutique hotel: Boutique Hotel Astoria

Best for location to the city centre: Palazzo Drusko Deluxe Rooms

What to do

Best to get away from the crowds: 2.5h Kayak Tour in the Bay of Kotor

Best for a day trip: Boat Tour to the Blue Cave & Our Lady of the Rocks

Rough costs

  • Daily budget: Basic €30, occasional treat €50
  • Drink: Nikšičko Tamno beer €1 (bottle from shop)
  • Food: Sarma €2.50–4
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €20/€50
  • Travel: Bus: Budva–Kotor €3; train: Podgorica–Virpazar €1

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

13. Gdánsk, Poland

Part beautiful Hanseatic city, part gritty port town and part Baltic riviera, the northern Polish city of Gdánsk offers a winning combination of coastal appeal. Though the core of this picturesque, colourful city, with its narrow merchant houses, looks ancient, it’s actually a postwar reconstruction – but the history is genuine.

The shipyard crane dates back to the 15th century, and the city was the birthplace of the Solidarity anti-communist movement. Come summer, the action moves to the hip, coastal resort of Sopot, with its golden sand beach, lively party scene and attractive pier (the longest in Europe).

Where to stay

Best for location to the city centre: PURO Gdansk Stare Miasto

Best for great views and location to the city: Hotel Mercure Gdansk Stare Miasto

What to do

Best for nightlife: Pub Crawl with free drinks

Best for first-time visitors: Electric Scooter guided tour of the Old Town

Rough costs

  • Daily budget: Basic €50, occasional treat €70
  • Drink: Vodka (50ml shot) €1
  • Food: Żurek soup €2–3
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €12/€35
  • Travel: Train: Warsaw–Kraków €33; bus: €15

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

14. Porto, Portugal

Portugal’s second city, appealingly set on the banks of the river Duoro, is a place for people-watching and wandering. The riverside district of Portugal is crammed with no-frills good, local restaurants – pick somewhere a street or so back from the waterfront and you’ll be spoilt with local dishes and wines at excellent prices. With the city set on either side of the river, check our guide to the best places to stay in Porto to find accommodation on the side that suits you best.

Other highlights include the vast Portugal park, with a superb art museum set within. However, it is port that the city is famous for. Vinologia is a great bar for an introduction to the varieties of fortified wine, and you can visit the port lodges across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia, where for a few euros you can sample their wares. Make the most of your time in Porto and book ahead to explore some of the unknown wine cellars in the city.

Where to stay

Best for walks along the waterfront: 1872 River House

Best for value with style: InPatio Guest House

What to do

Best for day tours: Small group tour to the Douro Valley, Wine Tasting and a River Cruise

Best for iconic views: Torre dos Clérigos (skip-the-line tickets)

Rough costs

  • Daily budget: Basic €45, occasional treat €65
  • Drink: Bottle of vinho verde in shop €3.50
  • Food: Grilled sardines €8
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €20/€45
  • Travel: Train: Lisbon–Faro €22.20; bus: Porto–Lisbon €20

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

15. Transylvania, Romania

Think Transylvania, and you’ll probably think Dracula and his castle – and you can certainly go in search of Dracula, aka Vlad the Impaler, connections here (if you are interested in finding Dracula, book your tour here). As Vlad’s birthplace, the attractive town of Sighisoara has the best claim to fame, and it also has a suitably imposing citadel.

But the region is not all fortifications and fangs – make time to venture out into the wilds of the Carpathian mountains, where you can track the Transylvanian wolf, along with bears, red deer and lynx in the Piatra Craiului National Park.

Where to stay

Best for visiting Vlad the Impaler: Pensiune Casa Richter

Best for visiting Piatra Craiului National Park: Pensiunea Hora cu Brazi

What to do

Best for explorers: Medieval City Exploration Game and Tour in Sighisoara

Best for those travelling in high season: Fast track tickets to Bran Castle (Dracula’s castle – Romania’s number one attraction)

Rough costs

  • Daily budget: Basic €25, occasional treat €40
  • Drink: Beer €1.80; bottle of Romanian wine €5
  • Food: Tochitura moldoveneasca (Moldavian stew) €2
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €10/€30
  • Travel: Bus: Bucharest–Braşov €10; train: €10

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

16. Novi Sad, Serbia

Fancy a summer music festival, but Glastonbury is beyond your budget? Serbia’s now famous EXIT Festival held in July might be just the ticket, and it’s less than half the price of Glastonbury. The line-up is always eclectic, with past acts including David Guetta and Ziggy Marley.

A trip here is about more than the music, however, with a setting that leaves other festivals in the shade. The Petrovaradin fortress stands majestically above the lively city of Novi Sad, a couple of hours from Belgrade. Stages and festival spaces fill every corner of the fortress, and you can spend your days lounging on the river beaches on the banks of the Danube.

If you don’t have the time to stay longer, consider taking a day tour from Belgrade to explore Novi Sad and taste the local wines in Sremski Karlovci.

Where to stay

Best for rooftop views of the city: Hotel Fortress Leopold I Novi Sad

Best hostel for city location: Downtown Hostel Novi Sad

Rough costs

  • Daily budget: Basic €25, occasional treat €40
  • Drink: Beer (0.5l) €1
  • Food: Pljeskavica (hamburger) €1–2
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €12/€35
  • Travel: Bus: Belgrade–Novi Sad €6; train: Belgrade–Niš €7

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

17. The High Tatras, Slovakia

Slovakia’s pride and joy, the Tatras mountain range is a magnificent series of peaks – culminating in the pyramid-shaped Gerlach at 2,655m. Start at one of the village resorts like Nový Smokovec or Ždiar, then make for the mountains, where you can rest your weary heads at cheap hikers’ chalets.

This is serious mountain terrain, so be prepared and heed local advice. The mountains are also an inviting playground for climbers and cavers, and you’ll find mountain-bike paths, tubing and rafting, plus a full winter season of skiing and snowboarding.

Where to stay

Best for location to popular attractions: Penzion Reitmayer

Best for families: Apartmanovy Dom TatraTravel Smokovec

Rough costs

  • Daily budget: Basic €35, occasional treat €45
  • Drink: Beer €1.70
  • Food: Gnocchi with bacon €4
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €15/€30
  • Travel: Bratislava–Košice (train) €19

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

18. Northwest Slovenia

Sandwiched between Italy, Austria and Croatia, compact Slovenia, with its charming capital Ljubljana, easy travel, developing wine industry and pocket of coastline, is an appealing destination on any journey through Europe. For the adventure-minded, or for those who just want to camp in a beautiful lakeside setting, the northwest region is perfect.

Nestled below the stunning Julian Alps are the very different twin lakes of Bled and Bohinj. From here you can carry on to the Soča Valley, right by the Italian border, for hiking, kayaking and rafting adventures.

Where to stay

Best guest house for views of Lake Bled: Guest House Mlino

Best for lake views: Grand Hotel Toplice

What to do

Best for adventurers: 3h Rafting Experience

Best for wine experiences: Taste 7 top Slovenian wines in a 100-year old wine cellar in Bled

Rough costs

  • Daily budget: Basic €45, occasional treat €65
  • Drink: Pivo (beer) €2.50 for half a litre
  • Food: Pizza €5–7
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €18/€60
  • Travel: Train: Ljubljana–Maribor €9; bus: Ljubljana–Bled €7

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

19. Andalucía, Spain

The southernmost province of Spain, Andalucía is perennially popular, particularly its showpiece cities of Seville, Granada and Córdoba, with their exquisite monuments highlighting the area’s Moorish past. Even here prices are competitive compared with Madrid and Barcelona.

You only need to head a little further afield, to the underrated city of Málaga with its Picasso connection and burgeoning art scene, or the atmospheric ancient port city of Cádiz, and you’ll enjoy that alluring southern Spanish vibe for budget-friendly prices. Cheap tapas (the tradition of free tapas originates in Granada) means you can sample Iberian flavours for a couple of euros a plate, and to continue your budget adventure, simply hop on the ferry to Morocco, tantalisingly close by.

Where to stay

Best guest house location to city centre: El Riad Andaluz

Best for style on a budget: Villa Lorena Malaga

What to do

Best for exploring arts: Guided tour through the Picasso Museum

Best for short hikes: Caminito del Rey – 3h guided hike

Rough costs

  • Daily budget: Basic €65; occasional treat €85
  • Drink: €1.70–2.50 per caña (small beer)
  • Food: Menú del día €10–12
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €16/€35–80
  • Travel: Madrid–Barcelona: bus €32–43; train €60–125

Buy the guide >

Bran Castle

20. Lviv, Ukraine

Situated in the west of this vast country, within easy travelling distance of Central European cities such as Kraków and Budapest, Lviv is the city to head for if you want a taste of Ukraine.

It revels in a mixture of Central European influences: Habsburg and Polish, Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian, with its architecture and magnificent churches reflecting this eclecticism. Ukraine regularly features on the list of cheapest destinations in Europe, and with a growing supply of backpacker hostels, appealing coffee houses and quirky bars, this is an extremely budget-friendly city with a refined edge.

Where to stay

Best for location to the city centre: Lviv Central Jam Hotel

Best for style on a budget: Taurus Hotel

What to do

Best for first time visitors: Lviv Old Town Walking Tour

Best for foodies with an interest in history: Communist-style Food and Bar Tour

Rough costs

  • Daily budget: Basic €40, occasional treat €60
  • Drink: Horilka (vodka; 50ml shot) €1
  • Food: Ukrainian borshch €0.80
  • Hostel/budget hotel: €8/€30
  • Travel: Train: Kyiv–Odesa €10; bus: €18

Buy the guide >

Top image © Patteran/Shutterstock

This feature contains affiliate links; all recommendations are editorially independent.

Top image: Malaga, Spain, Old Town Skyline © S Pavone / Shutterstock

Planning on your own? Prepare for your trip

Use Rough Guides’ trusted partners for great rates

Find even more inspiration here

Source

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.

Source

Summer In Europe: The 20 Safest Places For Travel And Tourism Post-Coronavirus, According To European Best Destinations

alpha
City of Tbilisi, Best European Destination

#1: Tbilisi

Photo: Boris Stroujko, European Safest Destinations

With countries around Europe reducing coronavirus restrictions, opening borders and creating new ways to ensure safe travel for visitors, summer holidays to Europe are becoming a realistic possibility for relief-seeking travelers.

Along with creative concepts such as ‘air bridges,’ ‘travel bubbles’ and ‘holiday corridors’ between countries that have officially come out of the coronavirus crisis (and do not require quarantine for visitors), governments, international institutions and specialized tourism organizations are surging with new initiatives and protocols first to permit the resumption of cross-border vacation travel and then, in a few weeks, of international travel in time for the peak summer season.

Summer holidays to Europe could be back on next month via “air bridges,” reports The Sun.

MORE FROM FORBESEurope Summer Travel? The 10 Safest, Longest, Socially-Distancing European Beaches To Visit Post-LockdownBy Cecilia Rodriguez

“Many European countries are opening their borders and flights and hotels are also reopening now,” explains the European Best Destinations Organization (EBD) which falls under the European Commission’s EDEN Network (“European Destinations of Excellence”), working to promote sustainable tourism on the continent.

To help travelers who “after weeks of confinement want to travel to Europe but do not know where to travel and what safety measures are being taken in countries and regions,” EBD has unveiled a list of 20 destinations least affected by Covid-19 (defined as up to 600 times fewer Covid-19 cases).

These destinations benefit from proximity to hospitals and have a higher number of hospital beds per inhabitant than the majority of European countries, have implemented very specific protocols concerning hygiene in accommodations, restaurants and shops, and imposed measures such as the changing of air conditioning filters between each traveller stay, availability of masks and social distancing.

Before traveling to any of the beautiful places that made it to the list, EBD recommends:

  • Remain vigilant and do not forget the barrier gestures, social distancing, wearing masks when possible and necessary;
  • Avoid traveling if your health is poor;
  • People over 70, those overweight or who have respiratory problems should be particularly vigilant;
  • It is travelers’ responsibility to protect their most fragile loved ones and residents of host countries.

Modern Bridge in Tbilisi, Georgia

#1: Tbilisi

Photo: Vyaseleva Elena, European Best Destinations

Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia, one of the world’s least affected by coronavirus countries. Georgia reacted very quickly with measures that kept the epidemic at an extremely low level. There are up to 260 times fewer cases of Covid-19 in Georgia than in the most-affected European countries. 

The country is reopening its borders on July 1 and implementing health measures to protect travelers and its citizens for a safe and relaxing holiday.

Tbilisi is an open-minded destination, mixing past, present and future, culture and leisure. More trendy than ever, the city is an ideal destination for culture, gastronomy, diversity and architecture. “Wow” effect is guaranteed.

Magnificent Haussmannian buildings mingle with architecture dating from the Middle Ages, neo-classical, Soviet and extremely modern.  

Georgia has more hospital beds per thousand inhabitants than Sweden and Denmark, and Tbilisi is up to five times safer (criminality rate) than Paris or London.

The city has a large offer of tourist apartments, much sought after by travelers now, as well as small, boutique hotels and guesthouses.

“Need an additional argument? A stay in a 5-star hotel or in a private villa in Tbilisi will cost you up to four times less than in the same hotel of the same group in another European capital,” informs EBD.

Blue sea in Corfu, Greece

#2: Corfu

Photo: Marcin Krzyzak, European Best Destinations

2. Corfu, Greece

“This paradisiacal Greek island is a perfect destination to recharge your batteries after this stressful period,” writes EBD.

Greece is one of the European countries least affected by coronavirus (up to 50 times fewer people infected than in the most affected European countries). The Greek healthcare system has never been overloaded during this health crisis. Moreover, the country has more hospital beds per capita than many European countries.

Corfu combines relaxation, sun and nature.

Reopening to travelers on July 1.

Blue sea panoramic, Cavtat, Croatia

#3: Cavtat

European Best Destinations

Popular with celebrities, families, lovers and fans of gastronomy, culture, nature and water sports, Cavtat is the destination.

Croatia is among the European countries least affected by coronavirus with up to 20 times fewer infected people per million inhabitants than in other European countries.

Croatia is also one of the European countries with the highest number of hospital beds per inhabitant. The hospital in Dubrovnik is a 20-minute drive from Cavtat while the airport is only 10 minutes away.

 Cavtat has a large selection of private villas, tourist apartments and small family hotels (selected as travelers’ favorites this summer). In addition, Croatia has implemented hygienic and sanitary measures in larger hotels.

Reopening to travelers on July 1. No quarantine requested. 

Azores Islands, Portugal

#4: Azores Islands, Portugal

Photo: RavenEye, European Best Destinations

If Portugal was less affected by coronavirus, the Azores Islands — like Portugal’s Algarve region — were even further spared.

The Azores, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is an archipelago of nine islands showing off nature in its purest state and one of the largest whale sanctuaries.

“A perfect destination if you need to reconnect with nature,” writes EBD. “If you like hiking, flora and fauna, dolphin- and whale-watching, tasting local products, living real experiences, the Azores are perfect for a holiday.”

The Azores have an ample offer of  private villas, tourist apartments and small family hotels.  

Reopening to travelers on July 1. No quarantine requested. 

The pier in Preveza, Greece

#5: Preveza

European Best Destinations

Sun, countless beaches (including one of the longest in Europe), Mediterranean cuisine, a yacht-filled marina, Preveza appears fifth on the list of Europe’s safest vacation spots.

Situated at the mouth of the Ambracian Gulf, with the Ionian Sea at the other side, Preveza is “an island on the mainland” in Epiruswill, northwestern Greece.

Greece is one of the European countries least affected by coronavirus (up to 50 times fewer infected people than in the most affected European countries). Sanitary measures were taken early to welcome travelers to Preveza (four meters between beach umbrellas, air conditioning filters changed between each stay in hotel rooms that are constantly disinfected).

Preveza is surrounded by three hospitals (one of them at a university) and is located just 10 minutes by car from Aktion Airport. Greece has more hospital beds per capita than the United Kingdom or Canada.

Reopening to travelers from July 1. No quarantine requested. 

Flowers in a beach in Alentejo, Portugal

#6: The Alentejo

Photo: Vitaly Fedotov, European Best Destinations

Portugal has been relatively spared from coronavirus with up to 40 times fewer people infected than anywhere else in Europe. Some regions such as the Alentejo have been almost ‘Covid-19 free’ so far with only one death linked to coronavirus.

The Alentejo, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in southern Portugal and 1 1/2 hours by car from Lisbon, attracts travelers in search of simplicity in an unspoiled nature.

“Don’t miss a visit to Evora, share a wine tasting (they are among the most famous ones in Europe) and treat yourself to a road trip along the coast from Comporta to Odeceixe,” advises EBD.

Reopening to travelers on July 1. No quarantine requested. 

Pier Panoramic in Batumi, Georgia

#7: Batumi

Photo: Grisha Bruev, European Best Destinations

7. Batumi, Adjara, Georgia

Georgia is by far one of the countries least affected by coronavirus. The country reacted very quickly with measures that kept the epidemic at an extremely low level. There are up to 260 times fewer cases of Covid-19 in Georgia than in the most-affected European countries.

Batumi, located on the coast of the Black Sea, at the foot of the Caucasus in southwestern Georgia, is the capital of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara and the second-largest city in the country.

Nicknamed “Las Vegas of the Black Sea,” Batumi, according to EBD “is a splendid mix of beautiful scenery, vibrant culture and legendary hospitality. This beautiful city invites you to experience the contrast of historic ancient sites as well as its modern lifestyle.”

Not only one of the safest destinations in Europe for coronavirus, Batumi is one of the most secure, with a crime rate up to five times lower than most European capitals.

“The Adjara region has breathtaking diversity: the sea with long beaches, high mountains, cultural monuments, monasteries, arch bridges, beautiful lakes and authentic villages. Here, you will taste local wines and undiscovered cuisine, feel the power of ecotourism, become a guest of open-hearted hosts. Their mountains, that stand close to the sky will make you feel in harmony with nature.

Batumi is also perfect in autumn: Temperatures in September and October are very pleasant.” 

Batumi has more than 30 hospitals, including university hospitals, which have not been overcrowded since the start of the health crisis.

Reopening to travelersfrom July 1. No quarantine requested.

Panoramic view of Zagreb, Croatia

#8: Zagreb, Croatia

European Best Destinations

Zagreb is among the favorite places to visit on EBD’s lists: a “travelers’ favorite destination” in Croatia, a “must-see destination for a city break,” the starting point for a road trip in Croatia, “a romantic destination” throughout the year, and a destination recognized for its Christmas market.

With a rich history dating from Roman times, it is the capital and the largest city in the country, located in the northwest along the Sava river, at the foot of the southern slopes of Medvednica Mountain. 

Croatia has been rather spared from coronavirus, with up to 20 times fewer infected people than in any other European country. Well-equipped in healthcare, it also has more hospital beds per inhabitant than most European countries.

“Come enjoy its thousands of terraces in summer, read the newspaper or watch a football match (the Croats are passionate about football), visit its many beautiful parks, architectural wonders and historical monuments. It’s very Instagrammable, too,” says EBD.

Reopening to travelers on July 1. No quarantine requested. 

The blue sea and a beach in The Algarve, Portugal

#9: The Algarve

European Best Destinations

Portugal is one of the countries least affected by coronavirus, with up to 40 times fewer infected people than the other European countries. Some regions have been almost entirely spared, including the Algarve and the Alentejo for example, and some of the most popular destinations for travelers, such as Lagos, have not recorded any coronavirus deaths.

The Algarve is the southernmost region of continental Portugal and particularly appreciated by families. Sandy long stretches of beaches framed by golden cliffs, small coves sheltered by the rocks, the ocean in every shade of blue and mostly calm and warm.

In the mountains, people maintain traditions they love to share and towns and cities each have their own special charm: Silves preserves traces of its Arab past; Lagos from the time of the discoveries; Tavira is a showcase for traditional architecture; and Faro, the gateway to the region, has a beautiful historic center.

Unlike other tourist destinations in Europe, 60% of Algarve tourist accommodations consist of private villas with swimming pools, apartments, guesthouses or small hotels. A “Safe and Clean” label to give travelers a guarantee of sanitary and cleanliness standards has been instituted by tourist officials for larger Portuguese hotels.

Portuguese officials reacted quickly and the country’s large clothing industry was able to produce masks early and even export them abroad. “With its hundreds of kilometers of beaches, Portugal is a perfect destination for the summer,” advises EBD.

Reopening to travellers July 1. No quarantine requested. 

Colorful street in Sibiu, Romania

#10: Sibiu, Romania

Photo: Balate Dorin, European Best Destinations

10. Sibiu, Romania

Sibiu is a beautiful, historical city in Transylvania, northwest of Bucharest, the capital of Romania.

Straddling the Cibin River and nicknamed The City with Eyes, Sibiu is a well-known tourist destination for both domestic and foreign visitors.

Known for its culture, history, gastronomy, diverse architecture (including its iconic houses with eyes that gave the city its nickname) and its natural wonders,  the city has become a coveted tourist destination.

In 2004, the historical center became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2007, it was designated the European Capital of Culture. A year later, it was ranked “Europe’s 8th-most idyllic place to live” by Forbes. In 2019, it was named the European Region of Gastronomy. And in 2020, it was designated “Europe’s sixth-best tourist destination” by EBD.

Sibiu has developed many green spaces in the city but also soft mobility, leisure spaces and parks, and is regarded as one of the Europe’s destinations with the best quality of life.

Along with other regions including Portugal’s Azores Islands, Sibiu follows strict policies to fight global warming and to protect the environment.

It’s also committed to sustainable tourism development based on respect for nature and human beings.

There were 15 times fewer Covid-19 cases in Romania than in the most affected European countries. Some destinations like Sibiu County have had no deaths linked to the pandemic.

Romania has more available hospital beds per inhabitant than Belgium, Switzerland or the Netherlands.

Reopening to travelers July 1.

Panoramic view in coastal Kotor, Montenegrp

#11: Kotor, Montenegro

European Best Destinations

11. Kotor, Montenegro

Secluded in the Gulf of Kotor, this coastal town in Montenegro is defined by EBD as “one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe for travelers in love, for foodies, for nature lovers and a haven of peace for nature, trekking, walking or cycling.”

The old Mediterranean port of Kotor is surrounded by fortifications built during the Venetian period in what’s considered one of the most indented parts of the Adriatic Sea. Some have called it the southernmost fjord in Europe, but it’s a submerged river canyon.

Together with the nearly overhanging limestone cliffs of Orjen and Lovćen, Kotor and its surrounding area form an impressive landscape.

Kotor has seen a recent increase in tourists attracted by the natural environment of the Gulf and by the old town. Kotor is part of the World Heritage Site dubbed the Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor and the fortified city is included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list as part of Venetian Works of Defense between the 15th and 17th centuries.

While there have been very few cases of coronavirus in Montenegro (60 times fewer than in the most-affected countries), Kotor has remained a green zone during the crisis with no case of coronavirus detected.

Montenegro has more available hospital beds per capita than Norway, Ireland and Canada.

Reopening to travelers July 1. No quarantine requested.  

Panoramic view of Rijeka, coastal city in Croatia

#12: Rijeka, Croatia

European Best Destinations

12. Rijeka, Croatia

The principal seaport and the third-largest city in Croatia after Zagreb and Split, it’s located in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County on Kvarner Bay, an inlet of the Adriatic Sea.

Historically, because of its strategic position and deep-water port, the city was fiercely contested, especially among Italy, Hungary and Croatia, changing hands many times over the centuries.

Selected as the European capital of culture and named among the Best European Destinations 2020 by EBD, Rijeka is a perfect destination for a safe European trip. It likely will be one of the top destinations this summer. “Croatians love the coffee terraces and the many beaches with crystal clear waters around Rijeka.”

Croatia has been spared the worst of the coronavirus, with up to 20 times fewer infected people than in any other European country. Well-equipped in healthcare, it also has more hospital beds per inhabitant than most European countries.

Reopening to travelers July 1. No quarantine requested. 

Colorful Plaza in Warsaw, Poland

#13: Warsaw

Photo: Roman Babakin, European Best Destinations

13. Warsaw, Poland

“Warsaw is one of the most incredible cities in Europe,” writes EBD.

Its history is that of a people capable of facing any situation, of recovering and moving forward. Facing coronavirus, the Polish message has always been very clear: “Warsaw survived two world wars. We will get through this one, too. See you very soon !” 

The capital and largest city of Poland, Warsaw is an alpha-global city, a major international tourist destination, a significant cultural, political and economic hub with a historical Old Town designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“Warsaw is very rich and human, as are many Polish cities; its people show great respect for traditions but also for the youth, with trendy cafes and bars, open-air concerts in summer, ephemeral shops, incredible museums, an old town renovated after the Second World War and many places to discover for lovers of classical music and Chopin, in particular,” reads EBD’s recommendation.

Poland is one of the European countries least affected by coronavirus, along with Portugal and Greece. There are up to 20 times less contamination than in the most-affected countries of Western Europe. No hospital has ever been overwhelmed and Poland has more hospital beds per inhabitant than the Netherlands or Switzerland.

Reopening to travelers July 1. No quarantine requested. 

Panoramic view of Viena, Austria

#14: Vienna

European Best Destinations

14. Vienna, Austria

Vienna is visited by history buffs, lovers and families looking for a safe and peaceful destination throughout the year.

“Vienna is often selected for this reason, which is not only a feeling but a reality: The rate of criminal offenses is three times lower in this capital than in any other European capitals,” according to EBD.

With many parks and environmentally-friendly means of transport, Vienna is one of the cities with the best quality of life in Europe. It’s a good compromise for city breakers and nature lovers.

Austria has been less affected than other European countries, with up to 10 times fewer infected people. 

You’d rather take your time and not hurry to book your holiday right now? No problem. Discover Vienna at Christmas: Its Christmas markets are ranked among the best Christmas markets in Europe.

Reopening to travelers from July 1. Before that date, a health certificate is required on entry, stating that the traveller is not infected.

Beautiful scene of lake and mountains in Bohini, Slovenia

#15: Bohinj, Slovenia

Photo: Tomas Kodydek, European Best Destinations

15. Bohinj, Slovenia

Recognized by the European Commission as one of the best sustainable tourism destinations in EuropeBohinj is a haven of peace for lovers of nature, outdoor sports, trekking, local products, crafts and real experiences.

Located in a basin in the Julian Alps in the Upper Carniola region of northwestern  Slovenia, it’s known as one of the “green paradises of Europe” and the green lung of Slovenia (a highly nature-oriented country).

Slovenia has been little affected by coronavirus (10 times less contaminated than the most-affected countries) and it has more hospital beds per inhabitant than the majority of European countries. 

Bohinj is only 40 minutes from Ljubljana’s airport and hospitals.

Reopening to travelers July 1. No quarantine requested. 

Panoramic View of Malta

#16: Malta

European Best Destinations

Tourism on the island of Malta represents 15% of the nation’s gross domestic product.

In addition to the turquoise water of the Mediterranean Sea, Malta has a rich history and culture heritage.

“Discover the treasures and riches of one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe,” EBD writes. “Lay your beach towel on Riviera Bay Beach or on one of the many other beaches in Malta. If you really want to distance yourself from the crowd this summer you can also book your stay in Gozo. The island is smaller than the main island and ideal for nature lovers, hikers or scuba divers.”

 There have been up to 55 times fewer cases of coronavirus in Malta than in the most-affected European countries. Malta has more hospital beds per resident than Finland, Ireland or the United Kingdom and its hospitals haven’t been overcrowded and can accommodate travelers, if necessary. 

Hotels reopen on June 1, while the tourist season restarts on July 1st.

Panoramic view of Gdansk, Poland

#17: Gdansk, Poland

European Best Destinations

Poland is one of the most fashionable European countries and Gdansk, located on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay on the Baltic Sea, is one its tourist pearls. This coastal city also bears the pretty nickname of “Pearl of the Baltic.”

With its 1,000-year-old historic district, the city is a rare beauty. Once you know this, all you have to do is ask yourself: “’Is it worth a city break?’ The answer is ‘yes!’” writes EBD.

Poland was 20 times less affected than other European countries, and has more hospital beds per inhabitant than the majority. Moreover, sanitary measures have been implemented to welcome travelers in hotels, restaurants and shops.

You can also visit Gdansk during the winter holidays: The Gdansk Christmas Market is ranked among the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe.

Reopening to travelers July 1. No quarantine requested. 

Panoramic View of Vilnius, Lithuania

#18: Vilnius, Lithuania

European Best Destinatios

18. Vilnius, Lithuania

Located in southeastern Lithuania, Vilnius is the capital and the largest city in the country. The architecture of its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Before World War II, Vilnius was one of the largest Jewish centers in Europe, which led to its nickname as “the Jerusalem of Lithuania.”  

Vilnius is a perfect destination for families, lovers or solo travelers, according to EBD, which has found it to be “twice as safe as most European capitals.”

“Vilnius has many faces: It’s labyrinthine old town, its sleek business district, its elegant center, its many open squares and parks, its historic suburbs – all of which blend together in harmonious sense of unity – it just feels right whichever way you look at it.”

The renowned Old Town is nestled in a picturesque valley between the Vilnia and Neris rivers, next to the fort, which was guarded by Vilnius castle in the past.

Not daring to travel yet? Think about Vilnius at Christmas. Its Christmas market is one of the most beautiful in Europe and its Christmas tree is ranked first place of the most beautiful Christmas trees in Europe.

With 20 times fewer people infected by coronavirus than in the most-affected European countries, Lithuania also has a high average of hospital beds per inhabitant. (Only Germany and Austria do better in Europe).

Reopening to travelers July 1. No quarantine requested. 

Colorful houses in Riga, Latvia

#19: Riga, capital of Latvia

Photo: Ross Helen, European Best Destinations

19. Riga, Latvia

The biggest metropolis in the Baltic, Riga blends timeless tradition and cutting-edge modernity. “A Nordic blonde with a fiery heart,” Riga has 800-years of turbulent history, from German knights to Swedish kings and Soviet commissars, who have left their footprints in the cultural heritage of the city.

Today, Latvia’s capital is an exciting European metropolis at the crossroads of eastern and northern Europe.

“With the Daugava River and the Gulf of Riga, the city has always lived in close cooperation with nature,” explains EBD. “Riga has many public parks, forests, squares, lakes, city canals, hills, islands and beaches.”

With 50 times fewer infected people than in some European countries, Latvia is one of the destinations least affected by this pandemic. Their hospitals have not been overwhelmed due to the coronavirus.

Reopening to travelers July 1. No quarantine requested. 

Brown bear and cubs among flowers in Wild Taiga

#20: Wild Taiga

Photo: Sergey Uryadnikov, European Best Destinations

The ultimate escape: In the heart of Finland’s eastern Kainuu nature reserve, Wild Taiga with its woods, untouched land, clear lakes and rapids is an invitation to authentic natural experiences and a rare opportunity to hike in unspoiled nature, watch and photograph wild life and enjoy cultural activities.

Wild Taiga, awarded the “EDEN” label by the European Commission, is the perfect destination for sustainable tourism. “There‘s so much to do: walking, canoeing, swimming in a lake, watching birds, flowers, but also bears in their natural environment. Wild Taiga is the best gift you can treat yourself and your children,” writes EBD.

With 15 times fewer Covid-19 cases than in some European countries, Finland is one of the destinations least affected by this pandemic.

Reopening to travelers July 1. No quarantine requested.

Source