While most people are heading to popular destinations in Western Europe like Italy and Portugal for their summer holidays, there are stunning destinations further east without the crowds. In Eastern Europe, there are plenty of countries with gorgeous landscapes, dreamy beaches, and delicious cuisines. The best part is these countries are much less popular among tourists, so prices remain affordable in comparison to Western Europe.
Bulgaria is an extremely underrated summer destination. Nestled in Eastern Europe between Turkey, Romania, and Serbia, Bulgaria has diverse landscapes and friendly locals. Most travelers will start their trip in the capital city of Sofia, where they can partake in a free walking tour and sample the local delicacies like Banitsa and Shopska Salata. Then, they can rent a car and drive into the mountains to stay at the Rila Monastery and experience the tranquility of Bulgaria’s nature. Bulgaria also has beautiful beaches on the Black Sea and lots of fantastic hiking trails to explore.
Albania is not officially an Eastern European country by the United Nations standards, but it is one of the best places in Europe to visit during the summer months that is yet to be discovered by tourists. The beautiful capital of Tirana is lively, affordable, and rich in historical architecture. After a few days in the capital, travelers can visit the picturesque city of Berat on the Osum River and swim on the beaches in Himarë. The best hike in the country is known to be Valbona to Theth, a scenic day trek through the mountains.
Romania is a vast country by European standards, and it has lots of experiences to offer travelers for a fraction of the price of Western Europe. The capital city Bucharest boasts beautiful architecture, cobbled streets, and lots of bars and restaurants to choose from. The forested area of Transylvania is one of the top places to visit in the country. This is where travelers will find the historical monument Bran Castle, better known as Dracula’s Castle.
The Czech Republic is a destination full of incredible architecture and history. The capital city Prague is well trodden on the European backpacking route, but it still offers low prices for accommodation and food. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and travelers can enjoy free walking tours, making it easy to keep costs down. Spend time in the city square, shop at the local markets, or photograph the picturesque and colorful baroque buildings.
Located further east than bustling travel hubs like Paris or Amsterdam, the capital of Hungary is a must-visit summer destination when exploring Europe. Budapest is a lively city with the Danube River running through it, creating two distinct sides, Buda and Pest. They are connected by a 19th Century bridge allowing travelers to explore both sides easily within a few short days. The historic Buda Castle and Széchenyi Thermal Baths are two of the top attractions to enjoy in this European gem.
Poland might not be the first destination that comes to mind when planning a European summer holiday, but this Eastern European nation is full of historic cities with complex pasts. Two of the best cities to spend time in while visiting Poland are Kraków and Warsaw. Warsaw’s old town was destroyed during World War II but has been meticulously rebuilt to reflect the once original architecture. In Kraków, there is plenty to do in the way of the nightlife, plus this is the jumping-off point for a tour of Auschwitz, which is an important stop on any trip to Poland.
Slovakia is a small Eastern European nation that flies under the radar despite its many beautiful castles and cathedrals. Slovakia is landlocked between Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, and Austria, making it an ideal place to spend a few days while inter railing through various cities in Central and Eastern Europe. Slovakia has well-preserved, impressive castles, such as Bratislava Castle and Devin Castle, that travelers can explore to learn more about the country’s history. Slovakia also has lots of incredible nature in national parks like Slovak Paradise National Park and Low Tatras National Park.
Moldova is a former member of the Soviet Union and is an Eastern European country that gets little attention but has much to offer travelers. Moldova is located between Ukraine and Romania; the capital city is Chișinău which features Soviet-era architecture and a beautiful neoclassical Nativity Cathedral. Travelers can learn more about Moldova by visiting the National Museum of History before venturing out into the country’s rocky hills or sprawling vineyards.
Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, is a southeastern European city with lots of beautiful buildings and delicious dining options. The most important landmark in the city is the fortress called Beogradska Tvrđava. Belgrade is often referred to as “the city that never sleeps” and is the perfect destination for staying out all night at lively parties. Float on various over-water clubs on the river in the city or head to the Bohemian street of Skadarlija for a good time.
Lithuania is one of Europe’s three Baltic countries, located on the east coast of the Baltic Sea. It’s got all the perks of traveling Eastern Europe, including affordable prices, beautiful baroque architecture, and a well-preserved old town in the capital of Vilnius. The medieval old town has romantic cobbled streets and offers a chance to wander freely and appreciate the impressive design of Vilnius Cathedral and St. Anne’s Church. Take a day trip to Trakai Island Castle on Lake Galvė for a chance to explore the natural beauty of Lithuania’s countryside.