21 Best Things to Do in Eastern Europe

21 Best Things to Do in Eastern Europe

So many countries, such a small a part of the world, so much to do there, so little time!

Yup, if you’re anything like me, this is exactly how you’ll feel about your travels in Eastern Europe.

For some reason, it seems we all try to cram more into our adventures here than anywhere else.

Perhaps it’s because transport links are quick, borders are easy, cities are close together and countries are easily crossed in a day?

But whatever the reason, there’s little doubt you’ll be planning to jampack your Eastern Europe itinerary just like I did.

And if that’s the case, then look no further than this perfect highlight list – 21 amazingly things to do in Eastern Europe.


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#1 Marvel at Kyevo-Pecherska Lavra in Kyiv

Ukraine, Kiev, Pechersk Lavra Twilight

First up on my list of the 21 most amazing things to do in Eastern Europe, is to head to Kyevo-Pecherska Lavra in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.

Obviously this is not the best option to go for at the minute (given the horrific events unfurling there), but I’m leaving this on the list in the hope that peace and safety return to Ukraine soon.

The holiest site for Orthodox Christians in the Slavic countries of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, any visit to Kyevo-Pecherska Lavra will be accompanied by hundreds of pilgrims, who seem to outnumber the tourists.

This gives an amazing feel to the whole place, which is spectacular enough anyway with its gold-domed roofs, hilltop setting and river views.

I’d suggest visiting this spot at sunset when the crowds are much thinner, you can then experience the evening mass and the golden light of the fading day illuminating the monastery like something out of a fairytale.

And best of all, it’s free to enter!

For more things to do in Kyiv, check out this list.

 

#2 Visit Prague’s Fairytale Old Town

Czech Republic, Prague, Charles Bridge

There’s no question that the first item on your Prague itinerary needs to be exploring this glorious city’s famous Old Town – Staré Mesto.

Start in the famous central square here and take in the amazing Astronomical Clock as it chimes every hour.

Then stare at the facades of the amazing St Nicholas and Týn Church, before strolling the cobbled backstreets and side alleys here, getting lost in a maze of history and snapping to your heart’s content!

All this is free and won’t cost you a penny!

Afterwards, the historic St Wenceslas Statue is also worth a stroll to spot, along with the great Prague National Museum.

 

#3 Walk the Walls of Dubrovnik

Croatia, Dubrovnik, Sunset Sky

Walking the walls of Dubrovnik in Croatia is basically a rite of passage in this city!

While Dubrovnik isn’t cheap to visit, there’s definitely ways to see it on a budget – check out my post about exactly how here – and limiting what you spend money on is certainly one way to do it.

That said, you should definitely splurge on walking the walls and my top tip is to avoid going in the day time – the walls are literally packed with cruise tourists at this time.

Hit them up after 5:30pm however, to walk there at sunset, and you’re not only likely to get some amazing views and colours, but half the number of people too!

It’s also worth pointing out that with your walls ticket, you then get free entry to Fort Lovrijenac.

As it’s free, why not head over here to make your budget in Dubrovnik go even further!

 

#4 Hike in Slovakia

With the beautiful Tatra Mountains within its borders, Slovakia is the perfect place to go hiking in Eastern Europe – and an amazing way to get out into the countryside and see a different side of this wonderful part of the globe.

With great peaks that soar up to 2500m above sea level and views to die for, there’s no question that strapping on walking shoes and heading out to hike in Slovakia is one of the best things to do in Eastern Europe, especially if you’re looking to get off the beaten track a bit.

 

#5 Visit the Kazimierz District in Krakow

Poland, Krakow, Townhouses

The Kazimierz suburb was by far my favourite part of Krakow – a historic area that now has a vibrant and poignant sense of regeneration around it and is a must-see on your  city itinerary in my opinion.

From the eerily quiet synagogues, which still stand as testimony to the tragedy of the Jewish community that used to live here, through to youthful cafes, bars and vintage shops, this is a great part of Krakow to explore via your own 2 feet making it easily of the most best places to visit in Eastern Europe.

Don’t miss the Old Synagogue here, or the area around Szeroka street either, both of which are particularly poignant.

 

#6 Snap the Views of Bulgaria’s Veliko Tarnovo

Bulgaria, Veliko Taranovo, View

The town of Veliko Tarnovo is one of Bulgaria’s prettiest places set, as it is, on the side of a sharp valley and crowned by an impressive fortress.

A wonderfully historic town, wandering the old streets here, window shopping in the old boutiques, stopping for a coffee and soaking in the mega chilled vibes is delightful enough, but the insane views offered across the town really up the anti!

See if you can find the hidden walkway that hangs slightly over the edge of the town for the best views of them all – it’s def one of my fav in the whole of Eastern Europe!

 

#7 Stay in one of Belgrade’s Floating Hostels

Serbia, Belgrade, Arka Barka 3

Another of the absolute must-do things in Eastern Europe, especially if you’re travelling on a budget, is stay in a floating hostel in Belgrade.

Right on the river, and with the ruined castle of Kalemegdan clearly insight, there’s an incredible barge hostel, that is certainly one of the most unique and fun places I’ve stayed in any city ever!

Arkabarka Hostel is a gorgeous house boat that boasts beautiful private and dorm rooms, all with unique hand-painted walls, days beds and delightful views.

Its quiet setting makes it super peaceful and its communal area, where free breakfast is served, gives the most delightful river views.

Sun yourself or catch a breeze from the wooden deck in summer, or snuggle up in the free sauna during winter; either way, the top location, free bike hire and excellent wifi in this hostel make it a top pick for your visit to Belgrade.

 

#8 Wander in Wonder in St Petersburg

Prepared to be bowled away by the splendour and grandeur of St Petersburg -­ from its architecture to its museums, galleries and stately palaces – there’s more history here than you can shake a stick at!

Most people I know who have visited St Petersburg didn’t expect to love this city just as much as they did, so get ready to be amazed by the jewel in Russia’s tourist crown once it’s safe to visit again.

 

#9 Catch a Festival in Ostrava, Czech Republic

Czechia, Ostrava, Bolt Tower View

And now it’s time to head off the beaten track to Ostrava in the Czech Republic.

This undersold city is definitely up and coming with a pumping cultural scene, youthful vibrancy, great café culture and authentic feeling.

There’s also a large (and growing) amount of festivals that take place here – with my pick being the Colours Festival that takes place annually in July.

And because this place isn’t yet visited by hordes of tourists, it’s an amazingly cheap city to experience too!

 

#10 Take a Scenic Train Ride in Romania

Romania, Sighisoara, Citadel

Honestly, there’s few greater pleasures than on a train ride through Romania’s countryside  – especially if it’s across or into the Transylvania mountain region.

Trains in Romania are insanely cheap and this makes hopping on board one and spending hours staring at the stunning scenery whizzing past, absolutely one of the best things to do in Eastern Europe

Top rides include the 3-5hr journey (depending which train you get) from Bucharest to Brasov and the 2 hour train from Brasov to Sighisoara, where you can stunning views for a fraction of what it should cost!

 

#11 Caffeinate in Lviv, Ukraine

Ukraine, Lviv, Coffee

Over in the west of Ukraine, is the charming city of Lviv  – the coffee capital of this country.

Actually believed to be the birthplace of the roasting and brewing of the stuff in the Austro-Hungarian Empire; much like Vienna, Lviv is filled with coffeehouses and frequenting at least a few of them is a must in this city and Eastern Europe in general.

You can see also see a statue of the guy who introduced coffee to the Austro-Hungarians care of his connections with the Ottomans in Lviv, as well as visit an underground cellar to “mine coffee” in this city.

Yes apparently when this coffee house was built, a wall in the cellar was knocked through and tons of coffee beans poured out!

Now you can visit this cellar, which sits just off the main square, to enjoy a flambé cappuccino, before watching the roasting and grinding processes too.

Definitely one of the best things to do in Eastern Europe, this entry proves just how quirky Lviv is!

 

#12 Cycle the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro

Montenegro, Kotor, Cycling

Montenegro really is a star in the Eastern Europe travel sky and one of my favourite things I did here was cycle round the Bay of Kotor.

Yes the whole way round!

It actually is much shorter than it looks and easily doable in a day – including swimming, sunbathing, coffee, lunch and ice cream stops along the way!

Heading out of the city of Kotor in a clockwise direction is the easiest way round to make the loop when it comes to ascents, and don’t forget you can hop across the small channel on the ferry with your bike too if you want an easier option.

Bikes can easily be rented just outside the East Gate of the Old Town – 15€ for 24hrs – and then you’re off cycling to your heart’s content!

 

#13 Discover the Old Bobsleigh Track in Sarajevo

Bosnia, Sarajevo, Cable Car

It’s probably one of the quirkiest things I got up to in Eastern Europe and it sounds like a bit of a strange attraction, but visiting the old Bobsleigh Track situated in some parkland in the hills above Sarajevo is definitely one of the most amazing things to do in Eastern Europe.

If you’re on a super tight budget, the multi-hour hike up here is the way to go (just set out early in summer before it gets too hot).

Otherwise, if you can stretch to a few dollars, the cable car ride from the streets of Sarajevo up the hill provides insanely gorgeous panoramic views and is a lot of fun.

Once at the top, you can walk the now empty and overgrown Bobsleigh track.

Originally built for the 1984 Winter Olympics, which took place in Sarajevo, it’s a stark reminder of how this city was just before the post-Yugoslavia conflict.

 

#14 Stumble Through Archaeological Ruins in Albania’s Butrint

Down in the south of Albania, the Butrint ruins are an amazing spectacle, especially as they were still being excavated when I visited!

An important archaeological site and the finest set of ruins in this country, strolling around here still costs a fraction of what it should do and is absolutely one of the best things to do in Eastern Europe if you’re interested in history.

 

#15 Bathe in Budapest

Hungary, Budapest, Baths

One of the most amazing experiences I had in Eastern Europe, was the WHOLE day I spent at Szechenyi Baths in Budapest, which date back to 1913.

The most popular and largest Baths in Budapest (and there’s a few to choose from FYI), allow yourself plenty of time here to swim and relax in the various heated pools, as well as enjoy the saunas, steam rooms and thermal waters here.

Basic entry to Szechenyi Baths is 32€ – however it’s well worth it for unlimited day access.

You can book your visit to the Baths online in advance, or just turn up and pay on arrival.

If you’re not booking ahead then I suggest getting here early in the morning to ensure you get a sunbed space and locker or make it an evening thing and enjoy lounging in the thermal waters as the sun goes down and the crowds dissipate.

Open from 06:00 until 22:00, this is one part of your Budapest itinerary that can’t be missed!

 

#16 Pay Your Respects at Auschwitz

Poland, Auschwitz, Quarters

There’s no doubt visiting Auschwitz is an unnerving, emotional and intense experience.

I’m not going to go too much into how you will / might / should feel or what I felt visiting there either.

I’m simply going to say I think it is important to go and witness the horrors of the past to ensure the stories are not forgotten.

 

#17 Relax in Macedonia’s Ohrid

With its picturesque lake, popular beaches, gorgeous Old Town, Medieval castle and restored churches, Macedonia’s Ohrid is the perfect place to put your bag down for a couple of days and relax.

There’s tons of activities from walking to fishing that you can enjoy around town, but with its gorgeous setting and chilled vibe, this is also the ideal spot to relax in Eastern Europe – you are on holiday after all!

 

#18 Scale the Clock Tower in Romania’s Sighisoara

Romania, Sighisoara, Clock Tower

A visit to the charming Transylvanian town of Sighisoara is absolutely one of the things in Eastern Europe you can’t miss here, not least because its cobbled street Medieval charm feels like something out of a storybook!

Climb up the hill to get to the historic centre, dump your bags at the brilliantly located Burg Hostel and spend an afternoon strolling the streets here and snapping to your heart’s content.

With gorgeous views across the New Town below, the river and the rolling hillsides around, you also can’t miss wandering up to the Citadel (free) and climbing the steps to the top of the Clock Tower to grab perhaps the best view in Transylvania there is.

Without question, Sighisoara is on my list of the top places to visit in Romania.

 

#19 Soak Up the Sunset in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv

Bulgaria, Plovdiv, Lookout

When it comes to amazing things to do in Eastern Europe, I can’t not mention one of the most amazing sunsets I have seen…EVER!

And that was care of Plovdiv in Bulgaria.

Offering an amazing lookout point at the top of this ancient city, this fantastic vantage spot, scattered with a few Roman ruins (you know how it is!), boasts the perfect promontory from which to watch the sun go down over this town and the stunning surrounding countryside.

Marvellous!

 

#20 Get Out on a Day Trip from Mostar

Bosnia, Mostar, River

A real beauty, I’ve got to say that day tripping out of Mostar was perhaps even more enjoyable than the charming city itself.

One heck of an epic adventure, you simply can’t miss Moran’s Tour when you come to this city, which is a wonderfully personal, eye-opening, fact-filled, fun and gorgeous day around the landscape of Hercegovina.

In fact, I’m even going to say it was my favourite day trip during my whole travels in Eastern Europe – quite the accolade I know!

We visited the towns of Blagaj, Pocitelj and Kravice Waterfalls, as well as an amazing hidden bunker, and there’s no question this is one of the top reasons I enjoyed Mostar so much.

Just go to Hostel Miran in the city to book your spot at least a day in advance.

 

#21 Journey to Minsk

Having just recently opened its doors more freely to tourists – via a new, free visa on airport arrival – one of the most unique things to do in Eastern Europe is go to Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

The last undiscovered frontier of this part of the world, a Soviet time capsule, Minsk is as surprising as it is quirky and exciting.

Even if the politics leave a lot to be desired, this one still makes it onto my bucket list.

 

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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, Budapest 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.

 

The Best Hostels in Eastern Europe

Das Nest in Budapest, Hungary

Hostel Old Plovdiv in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Dakura Vintage Hostel in Prague, Czech Republic

Hostel Mostel in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Arkabarka Hostel in Belgrade, Serbia

 

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Top 21 Things to Do in Eastern Europe

 

And there you have it, my highlight list of the 21 amazing things to do in Eastern Europe – it’s sure to keep you going for a while!

Don’t forget to reach out and let me know when you’re planning to travel this region and if you’ve got any burning questions about making your trip…

 

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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 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Patricia says:

    Nice try, but how is that possible for Dubrovnik to be considered as a part of Eastern Europe…? Wikipedia: ‘Dubrovnik is a city on the Adriatic Sea in southern Croatia. It is one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Mediterranean Sea, ‘ That seems to be an important misunderstanding.

    • Steph says:

      Thanks for the input Patricia. I think that if Croatia is considered Eastern Europe, then whether a city is in the north of the south or the country is irrelevant. The Mediterranean or the Adriatic doesn’t have any bearing on this either as I see it – you mention Dubrovnik is located on both?! I think the fact that Croatia used to be part of Yugoslavia is more the determining factor here. But interesting to hear other ideas on this.

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