Travel. Eastern Europe.
The hidden gems of the continent.
I grew up not far from the westernmost point of continental Europe, in my home country of Portugal. However, as soon as I first set foot in Eastern Europe, I felt magically attracted to this side of the continent.
Since then, I have backpacked here for several months and visited most countries in the region. I discovered lively cities and gorgeous nature, amazing places that often don’t make it to traveler’s bucket lists. But, hopefully, you will put some of them on yours. I promised you, you won’t regret it.
1. Budapest, Hungary
The coolest city in the whole of Europe. So awesome that I visited twice and then moved here.
2. Lake Balaton, Hungary
It’s the biggest lake in Central/Eastern Europe: if you go all around it, you will travel for more than 200 km! Always with amazing views and beaches to enjoy along the way.
3. Kotor, Montenegro
It’s pure beauty: a massive water body surrounded by mountains, and an old town straight out of a fairy tale. It won’t be too long before Kotor gets into everybody’s travel bucket lists, so go there while it’s quiet!
4. Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
This park is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List and a mandatory destination for anyone who enjoys spending time in nature. More than 50 peaks above 2,000 meters, alpine meadows and forests, glacial lakes, and breathtaking canyons, including the Tara River, the deepest gorge in Europe.
5. Shkodra, Albania
Shkodra is a lake shared by Albania and Montenegro. On the Albania side, there is a town with the same name, with a unique feeling and spectacular views. Try climbing up the castle hill or biking along the lake for breathtaking scenery.
6. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
One of the most magical places I have ever been to in my life. Green and blue all around, for hours on end. Do you see what I am talking about?
7. Zagreb, Croatia
Croatia’s hype is all about the beaches. The country has a long coast and some of the most idyllic beaches on the continent, as well as some great islands. But most people flock to the shore and ignore the capital, missing out on a city that offers plenty of history, interesting museums, delicious food, and fun nightlife.
8. Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Mostar is like a phoenix who remerged from the ashes after being violently destroyed in the war, just over 20 years ago. Now, it’s just beautiful! While visiting it, take a trip to Kravice Waterfalls just 40 km away.
9. Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
The capital of Bosnia has a special atmosphere and some of the kindest people I met in my travels. And before you ask it: yes, it’s absolutely safe.
10. Belgrade, Serbia
With 1.7 million people, Belgrade is a big city, with a history that is engraved on its streets, walls, and people. It’s a great place to explore if you want to discover more about the past of the Balkans and, especially, of the former country of Yugoslavia. There are plenty of activities to do and the city has one of the best nightlives in Europe.
11. Tara Mountain, Serbia
The Tara National Park, in Western Serbia, offers some of the most beautiful nature scenes I have ever seen. Like the one in this picture:
The next 3 locations are in Slovenia, which is not exactly in Eastern Europe but, it’s so close — geographically and historically, having been part of Yugoslavia — that I will include them on this list.
12. Lake Bled, Slovenia
Absolutely stunning! A lake of beautiful colors, with a small island in the middle. You can spend a whole day here sunbathing, rowing on the lake, or climbing up to the castle on the shore, for some fantastic views.
13. Triglav National Park
When visiting Bled, dare to venture into the Triglav National Park, just next to it. Driving is the best way to explore this region, with regular stops at different spots to take in the beauty of the place.
14. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Probably the most lovely capital in Europe. Cute, green, beautiful! You can read my full travel guide to Ljubljana here.
15. Seven Rila Lakes, Bulgaria
A group of 7 glacial lakes, each named after its most distinguishing feature, the Rila Lakes are the perfect spot for a day trip in the heart of beautiful nature.
16. Brasov, Romania
A small town in the heart of Transylvania, Brasov is a great starting point to explore the whole region. The town itself is cute and lovely, with buildings that seem to have eyes on the roof, watching over you.
17. Krakow, Poland
I went there with a friend who kept describing it as a “soul city” — I think she was right. A cute town with a great vibe and lots to do. You can watch my Krakow travel guide here.
18. Tallinn, Estonia
The Estonian capital is a super interesting place, combining tradition and innovation unlike anywhere else. On one hand, Estonia is one of the most digitally advanced nations in the world. On the other, walking in the old town of Tallinn makes you feel you are still in the medieval ages. Try visiting during the summer, to experience the midnight sun.
19. Riga, Latvia
Walking in the old town of Riga is a beautiful experience. The architecture is impressive, the streets feel alive, and the atmosphere is just lovely. Opening up to the Baltic sea, the Latvian capital is certainly a must-visit in this corner of Europe. You can watch my Riga travel guide here.
20. Nida — Klaipeda, Lithuania
The strip of land that connects Nida and Klaipeda is one of the most beautiful bike rides you can have in Eastern Europe. The 50 km bike lane takes you through green sceneries, always along the Baltic Sea. You can watch me bike this region here.
This is a list of the 20 places I love the most in Eastern Europe, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t other places equally or even more interesting. I haven’t even been to every country: Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Kosovo, and North Macedonia are still uncharted territory for me. For now, at least.