3 Epic Eastern Europe Itineraries

Eastern Europe Itineraries

Eastern Europe really is a treasure trove for travellers.

From incredible architecture and epic nightlife, to gorgeous mountains and beautiful beaches, this diverse and delightful part of the world really does pack it all in.

That’s not to mention the fairytale castles, the quirky coffeehouses, the rattling trams and the fiery Rakija!

Ohhh it’s all to play for!

And who can forget the people! Wild, welcoming and a whole lot of fun, from the Baltics to the Balkans, the Bulgarians to the Bosnians, I doubt you’ll ever be made to feel more at home, or be invited to more parties, than you will in this part of the world!

But perhaps best of all, is the fact that the vast majority of countries here are still incredibly well-priced, making them easy on the pocket and the eye!

For Eastern Europe is a land where a first-class night train sleeper will cost you less than 40€, a night at the ballet less than 30€ and a delicious meal easily less than 10€!

So read on to discover my 3 epic Eastern European itineraries that will show you how to discover the best region in just 2 weeks…


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#1 Prague, Krakow, Budapest, Bratislava & Belgrade

Czechia, Prague, Green Spires

This 2 week Eastern Europe itinerary is all about seeing some of the most famous cities in this part of the world, those big bucket list tickers!

Covering 14 nights, this itinerary combines history and culture in a compact itinerary that will see you travelling across 5 countries – Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Serbia, so strap in for the ride!

A great chance to see the diversity in this part of the world, as well as some world-class icons and enjoy some brilliant day trips, this itinerary makes for a great intro to the region and is crammed with some of my absolute favs!

 

Prague, Czech Republic: 3 Nights

Budget Accommodation Pick – Dakura Vintage Hostel

Start your time in the incredible city of Prague.

Known as the city of a hundred spires, this Medieval gem has a UNESCO-listed centre and more historic treasures than you can shake a stick at.

Yes it’s well and truly on the tourist map and, after just a few hours here, you’ll quickly realise why!

Looking like something out of a fairytale, from Charles Bridge to Malá Strana, Hradčany (the hilltop castle) to St Nicholas and Týn Church, it’s hard not to fall in love with this city just like everyone else.

And when your feet get tired from all the cobblestone walking or museum meandering (Prague’s National Museum is a must by the way), simply retire to one of the many green parks or islands that are easily accessible and free from the crowds.

Learn more in my list of the top 21 things to do in Prague, or check out my 2 day itinerary for this city, which is perfect if you then want to spend one of your days in the Czech Republic day tripping to a great spot around the capital.

Here’s my picks of the day trip bunch…

 

Krakow, Poland: 3 Nights

Budget Accommodation Pick – Greg & Tom Hostel

From Prague, you can then hop on a cheap bus or train to Krakow, across the border in Poland, for more gorgeous Old Town action.

A small city, you can easily cover the main areas of the Old Town (Stare Miastro) and Wawel Castle, along with Kazimierz (which is the former Jewish Quarter) in a day.

Kazimierz was actually my favourite part of downtown Krakow – a historic area that has a vibrant sense of regeneration around it – so don’t miss it.

From the eerily quiet synagogues, which still stand as testimony to the tragedy of the Jewish community in Poland, through to youthful cafes, quirky bars and cool vintage shops, this is a great part of Krakow to explore on your own 2 feet.

Learn more in this list of the top 23 things to do in Krakow I wrote or this Krakow itinerary.

On your 2nd day in Krakow, I’d head out of town to check out the Wieliczka Salt Mines – a great half day trip that you will have heading underground to explore saline lakes, beautiful cave-like chambers and unique structures like the St Kinga’s Chapel.

And then, on your 3rd day in Krakow, it’s time for an emotional and harrowing experience, as you head to the former concentration camp of Auschwitz.

Visiting here will give you an utterly unforgettably real and vivid perspective on the horrific events that took place during World War II.

It sounds weird, but I really think it’s a must during your time in Krakow and highly recommended this full-day guided tour that includes return transport to and from Krakow with an English-speaking guide, as well as a tour of the memorial, museum and visits to both Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

To learn more about this day trip, or how to head here yourself using public transport, check out this full post I wrote all about it.

 

Bratislava, Slovakia: 2 Nights

Budget Accommodation Pick – Urban Elephants Hostel

The tiny, but very cute, capital of Slovakia is an easy stop on your way from Krakow south and is worth at least a couple of days of your time, especially if you want a bit more of a relaxed pace and fewer crowds.

Wandering the compact centre on foot is easy – don’t miss the climb up to the castle! – before hanging out in the lovely local cafes, or heading off for a spot of wine tasting.

Check out my list of the top things to do in Bratislava for more ideas.

If you really want to cram this itinerary to the max, then you can also day trip to Vienna from Bratislava.

Check out this top-rated river cruise tour for more info.

 

Budapest, Hungary: 3 Nights

Budget Accommodation Pick – Maverick Urban Lodge

Back on the main route, it’s time to wave goodbye to Slovakia and hit up the 4th country on this Eastern European itinerary.

The show-stopping city of Budapest is next – an absolute favourite among travellers.

Not only is it jam-packed with history, but the public baths and ruin bars here make it one of the most fun cities too.

Spend one day seeing the main bucket-list attractions in the city, which are mostly located on the Buda side of the river, before donating the rest of your time to the parks, ruin pubs, quirky cafes and amazing baths of Pest.

Learn more in this list I wrote about the best 21 things to do in the city or follow this 3 day itinerary for the perfect guide to the Hungarian capital.

 

Belgrade, Serbia: 3 Nights

Budget Accommodation Pick – El Diablo Hostel

Finish up your 2 week Eastern Europe itinerary with a slight surprise of a city, but one that you won’t regret visiting.

Belgrade is a wild place to party, but also an amazing city to explore and sightsee in as well.

My favourite parts were down by the river, where cool cafes and restaurants nudge shoulders with cycle tracks and green parks.

The wonderful island playground of Ada Ciganlija can’t be missed either, especially in the summer!

Learn more in my guide about the 13 best things to do in Belgrade here.

 

#2 Romania & Bulgaria

Bulgaria, Sofia, Hipster Quarter

This second Eastern Europe itinerary makes for a perfect travel adventure in 2 of the region’s most dynamic countries – Romania and Bulgaria.

Situated close together, there’s isn’t as much travel time involved in this itinerary, and you’ll get out into nature more, including some beach and mountain days – woo hoo!

Great as a standalone itinerary, these 2 weeks can also be added onto the first itinerary above (it’s easy to get from Belgrade to Bucharest) to make an epic 4 week journey across the region.

 

Bucharest, Romania: 2 Nights

Mid-Range Accommodation Pick – LeBlanc ApartHotel

Start your time on this Eastern Europe itinerary in the Romanian capital of Bucharest.

My advice is to avoid the Old Town here – it’s completely overrated and not even that old!

Instead, spend your time exploring the nearby suburbs which are filled with independent bookstores, ruin pubs, cool cafes, green parks, crazy statues and some fun street art.

Learn more about what to do in Bucharest with my list of the top 15 things to do in the city.

 

Brasov, Romania: 2 Nights

Budget Accommodation Pick – Kismet Dao Hostel

Continue your time in Romania by heading to the beautiful mountain area of Transylvania.

A great place to start here is in the city of Brasov, which is easy to access from the capital.

No time in this city is complete without taking the cable car above the Hollywood-style sign (and enjoying the view!) before heading out to see some of the famous castles nearby.

Both Peles and Bran Castle are well-worth seeing, just do be prepared for the crowds!

Bran Castle is supposed to have inspired Bram Stoker’s iconic novel Dracula, while there’s no doubt Peles Castle is one of the prettiest in the whole of the country and should not be missed.

This top-rated day trip will allow you to see both castles in a day, as well as the Transylvanian Alps and the Bucegi Mountains.

Otherwise, check out this list of the best things to do in Brasov if you’d rather concentrate on exploring this city.

 

Sibiu, Romania: 2 Nights

Budget Accommodation Pick – PanGeea Hostel

From Brasov, it’s then time to head into Romania’s countryside to take in more of the stunning mountain scenery and fairytale castles of Transylvania.

This really does provides a great contrast to simply city hopping around Eastern Europe and you’ll likely be amazed to see just how rural life in this area still is, as horse-drawn carts and flower-filled fields dominate the landscape.

With some extra time up your sleeve, the gorgeous town of Sighisoara in Romania is also worth a stop. Although the public transport in this part of the world is not the most regular, it is one of my fav places to visit in Romania.

 

Veliko Taranovo, Bulgaria: 2 Nights

Budget Accommodation Pick – Hostel Mostel, Veliko

From Sibiu, I then suggest you head back down to Bucharest and make the 2 hour journey across the border to your next country of Bulgaria.

Easiest to reach, once you’re across the Danube, is the town of Veliko Taranovo, which also happens to be one of my favourites!

Perched on the edge of a valley, wander the small streets here and take in the epic views of this small historic spot.

The next day, head out on the famous UFO tour run by Hostel Mostel. As weird as it sounds, you won’t regret it!

 

Plovdiv, Bulgaria: 2 Nights

Budget Accommodation Pick – Hostel Old Plovdiv

I loved Plovdiv so much, even if I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

Named the European Capital of Culture in 2019, this awesome historic city is the country’s second-largest metropolis, but with its chilled vibe, quaint streets, funky cafes, cool bars, and cobbled charm, it feels a million miles away.

Pretty as punch, top-level trendy and beautifully off the beaten track, Plovdiv is the perfect place to spend a few days after the beach!

Discover the highlights in this guide I wrote all about the city.

 

Sozopol, Bulgaria: 2 Nights

Budget Accommodation Pick – Offshore Camping

After all the city action, it’s time to head to the coast and relax!

Isn’t that what holidays are about after all?

Thankfully, Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast provides the perfect opportunity, but my advice is to steer clear of the resort-filled areas, such as Varna, and instead head south towards the small city of Sozopol.

The beach just north of here provides a bit of an alternative, young, fun vibe and with cheap camping right behind the dunes, you can’t go wrong.

Probably one just for the summer, if you have more time you may want to extend here!

 

Sofia, Bulgaria: 2 Nights

Budget Accommodation Pick – Hostel Mostel, Sofia

And finally, it’s time to end your stay in Bulgaria and this 2 week Eastern Europe itinerary in the wonderful capital of Sofia.

The company 365 offers an awesome free walking tour here (I think it was the best I took in the whole of the region), which leads you to discover Roman ruins, thermal waters and hidden poems across the landscape of shifting empires and influences Sofia has seen.

Learn more in my list of the top 10 things to do in Sofia.

And, with another day in this city, why not enjoy one of the great day trips that are easy to access from Sofia too?

My top picks are to Rila Monastery, the Seven Lakes and Belogradchik Rocks and Fortress.

Or, if you’re feeling really keen, why not head across to Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, for a day and tick another country off your list?!

 

#3 The Balkans

Bosnia, Sarajevo, Bridge 1

And finally, we come to the third epic itinerary for Eastern Europe and perhaps my favourite of them all.. not that I have favourites of course!

But it’s hard (or I’d go as far as impossible) not to fall in love with the Balkans.

Filled with a gorgeous coastline, some of the best prices in the region, tons of beautiful towns, stunning national parks and slightly more off the beaten track spots, the chequered history of this region only adds to its uniqueness.

Another top 14 day adventure plan, this itinerary again functions either as a standalone map for your next holiday, or can be tagged onto one of the above itineraries (or both) for one heck of a grande vacance!

Covering 4 countries, it’s not one for the faint-hearted, but will certainly have you falling in love with this area like me!

 

Sarajevo, Bosnia: 2 Nights

Mid-Range Accommodation Pick Apartment with Amazing Sarajevo View

Kicking off this epic Balkan itinerary in Eastern Europe, we first head to Bosnia’s capital – Sarajevo.

Catching a bus here from Belgrade or Sofia involves a long bus ride – bookable using FlixBus – but is possible if you want to tag the Balkans onto either of the first 2 itineraries in this article.

Despite the extensive journey, once you arrive in Sarajevo, it probably won’t take you long to fall in love with this hilly and charming city!

Don’t miss the free walking tours, great museums and bustling marketplace here and, if you have any time left, heading out of town to explore the Old Winter Olympic Bobsleigh Track comes highly recommended – trust me, it’s way better than it sounds!

Get the full lowdown in my list of the best things to do in Sarajevo.

 

Mostar, Bosnia: 2 Nights

Budget Accommodation Pick – Musala Hostel

And next, it’s on to the second largest city in this country (and the capital of the Herzegovina region), Mostar.

Catching the train here from Sarajevo makes for a stunning journey – not least due to its gorgeous mountain scenery and low price tag! – and then prepare to be bowled over by Mostar itself – here’s the reasons I loved it so much.

Take at least 1 day to explore the UNESCO-listed Stari Most Bridge and quaint Old Town here, before embarking on an epic day trip that takes in soviet bunkers and waterfall swimming.

Sasha at the great Musala Hostel can help you arrange it.

 

Dubrovnik, Croatia: 2 Nights

Budget Accommodation Pick – Angelina Hostel

There’s no denying the delight of Dubrovnik and, with only a small bus journey west from Mostar needed to get here, it made sense to include it in this Eastern Europe itinerary.

That said, it is crazy expensive here, so limiting your time in this Croatian city to just 2 nights makes sense for the budget too!

Spend your time exploring the city and coastline and splurge on walking the walls at sunset when the day trippers have gone home and the light is best!

Don’t miss the hidden Buza Bar where you can swim, sunbathe and cliff jump into the dazzling waters below either.

Learn more in my guide to visiting Dubrovnik for less here.

 

Kotor, Montenegro: 2 Nights

Budget Accommodation Pick – Pupa’s Hostel

After Dubrovnik, it’s then time to hop, skip and jump across yet another border to the famous historic town of Kotor in Montenegro.

Another easy bus ride, once you get here don’t miss a hike up to the historic fort or a chance to cycle around the inlet and discover smaller villages such as Perast.

Then, of course, there’s always the chance to just lie in the sun, swim in the water and take in the amazing colours of the landscape – what a place!

 

Durmitor National Park: 2 Nights

The UNESCO-listed Durmitor National park in Montenegro is a beautiful area of mountains that you definitely shouldn’t miss during your time in this country.

Its highest peak, Bobotov Kuk, is a lofty 2,523m tall and the stunning Tara River Canyon, where you can enjoy rafting adventures, is another must-see – it’s the largest and deepest canyon in Europe don’t y’know!

You can admire the glittering glacial lake, impressive pine forests and fresh springs here too, and trips can easily be arranged from Kotor if you don’t want to navigate public transport.

 

Tirana, Albania: 2 Nights

Mid-Range Accommodation Pick Vila Jasmine

And now we make it to our final country on this Eastern Europe itinerary – the marvel that is Albania.

The cheapest coutnry in the region (and that’s saying something), it’s easiest to start your time in the capital Tirana, which has the best international bus connections.

City tours, cooking classes and cafe-hopping are big on the menu here and you can also day trip to the historical site of Berat or hike up Gamti Mountain and then enjoy Bovilla’s wonderful lake views from the top, if you wish.

 

Saranda, Albania: 2 Nights

Mid-Range Accommodation Pick – Sky Apartments

And finally, it’s time to enjoy the beach!

Lap up Albania’s premier coastal resort of Saranda, as you snooze under the sun to the sound of those gentle Adriatic waves.

What better end to your Eastern Europe adventure can you imagine?

 

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Eastern Europe Mini Travel Guide

Czechia, Countryside, View

When to Visit Eastern Europe?

No question in my mind that you should definitely visit Eastern Europe during either the summer or festive seasons.

In summer you will get the most from the country’s lovely coastal as well as mountainous parts because, let’s face it, nature is exponentially more beautiful when the sun shines!

In the winter, you’ll get Christmas markets galore (especially in Prague and Krakow), as well as the opportunity to ski in Romania and Bulgaria.

Just beware that the seasons in this region are quite extreme, so summer days in August can reach well into the high thirties and winters can often be below freezing – pack accordingly!

 

How to Get There & Around

Getting to most parts of Eastern Europe is easy by plane, especially if you’re arriving into a major city like Prague, Bucharest or Dubrovnik.

Check Skyscanner for the best prices.

Otherwise, bus and trains are also plentiful. I travelled overland in this region a lot as a solo female and always found it safe and easy.

I booked all my train and coach travel across Eastern Europe using Trainline and FlixBus – I like the way they compare multiple journeys and allow me to book in advance in English!

In general, you’ll find trains are more prolific in the north of Eastern Europe (in countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary), while in the Balkans, almost all overland travel is operated exclusively by bus.

 

4 Key Packing Items for Eastern Europe

#1 Mirrorless Camera – You will be pretty much snapping non-stop during your time in Eastern Europe and will need a good camera to do this gorgeous region justice. I highly recommend the Sony A6000, which I use for all my travels and love, not least because it’s light, compact and robust!

#2 Walking Shoes – There will be a lot of walking in Eastern Europe, it’s as simple as that! Make sure your feet are comfortable therefore with a pair of New Balance Trainers. Perfect for stylish city strolling as much as monastery mounting, I love mine!

#3 Filter Water Bottle – All that sightseeing is thirsty work, so make sure you have a filter water bottle that allows you to drink the tap water safely wherever you are in the world. 

#4 Day pack – And to carry your water bottle, camera and snacks, you’re going to need a decent backpack that will help you balance the weight as you walk and sightsee. In my opinion, you can’t go past the Bobby Anti Theft Backpack, which is also perfect for helping you avoid pickpockets too.

Learn more in this complete packing list for Eastern Europe.

 

Best Travel Insurance for Eastern Europe

I wouldn’t dream of travelling anywhere these days without proper coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads which I’ve used during my time across Eastern Europe and the world.

World Nomads are actually one of the few companies that will insure you for a huge range of outdoor activities as standard – essential for a region like this.

Alternatively, if you’re a digital nomad or remote worker looking for travel insurance, then look no further than Safetywing’s great Nomad Insurance policies. These guys will cover you at some seriously great prices!

 

How to Save when you Spend in Eastern Europe

When it comes to paying for things in Eastern Europe, you want to ensure you’re not being charged overseas transaction fees or getting poor exchange rates, which is why I always take my Wise Card with me wherever I travel.

The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates, no markups and no sneaky transaction fees, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold!

Get yours here.

 

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3 Epic Eastern Europe Itineraries

So there you have it, 3 epic itineraries for your Eastern European adventure.

Which one are you going to pick?

Or have you travelled this part of the world already?

If so, what were your favourite stops and have I missed any out?

Do let me know in the comments box below…

 

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About the Author

About the Author: Creator of Big World Small Pockets, Stephanie Parker is a budget travel addict! Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Stephanie backpacks the world collecting tips, advice and stories, to share with a smile .

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There Are 6 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Patricio Perez says:

    Hi Sthepanie,
    first of all thanks for your post about this itinerary. I´m planning to make a trip like this in august, and actually I´m using a lot this post, but I have some questions about the transport between countries, in particular From Belgrade to Timisoara and also between the towns you metion in Romania. How did you move between towns in Romania ?

    • Steph says:

      Hi Patricio, excited to hear you’re heading to Eastern Europe this summer and great question re. the transport. In Romania, I mostly used trains to travel between towns. From Timisoara to Belgrade I used a minibus shuttle service as there is no public transport making this border crossing. Hope that helps. Best 🙂

  2. Three itineraries in one write-up. Very useful. have been to Eastern Europe. It is very beautiful and you have covered it well

  3. Holly Brouker says:

    Hello, I’d like to travel in October- Nov. Is there anything you would change due to this time of year?

    • Steph says:

      Hi Holly, just be aware at this time of year it will start getting cold – so pack accordingly (warm layers and a coat etc) and avoid any coastal areas as they won’t be as fun! Happy travels, Steph 🙂

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