1. Sofia, Bulgaria
Bulgaria’s capital city is still a little-known gem, which makes it so special to explore. The beauty of the city doesn’t come from picture-perfect landscapes, but in the mixture of old and new. Post-war crumbling buildings sit proudly among the newly built spaces, showcasing the rich history of the country. What is most surprising about Sofia is the way it ticks all the boxes for wining and dining. The food lives up to the highest level of delicious, and the nightlife is buzzing. There are lots of pub crawl tours to jump onto to see the best of the city once the lights are out.
2. Prague, Czech Republic
A not so secret jewel in the Eastern European crown is Prague – the city of Gothic churches and baroque arches. Strolling over Charles Bridge, finding a lovely café to sit and sample some local cuisine, wandering through the Old Town Square and experiencing the laid-back cool of the city is the way to do it. If you go during the Christmas break, Prague’s Christmas market really gives its neighbouring cities a run for their money. Beer and pork knuckles for the win!
3. Budapest, Hungary
It’s a little strange that this city is most famous for communal bathing – but it’s a must-do. The Szechenyi Spa baths are a real treat for the tired traveller where massage, saunas and spa treatments melt the troubles away. The large heated outdoor pool plays it cool during the day, before turning into a boozy water park party as night falls.
4. Warsaw, Poland
The great thing about visiting a vibrant city like Warsaw is that you can experience incredible authentic foods, meet fellow travellers and receive an eye-opening history lesson all at the same time. Walk through the idyllic and famous streets of the Royal Way, the 2km stretch has plenty of stops, shops and restaurants to spend an entire day in.
5. St Petersburg, Russia
The city named for a Saint was to be the most beautiful of them all. Cue luxurious Italian and French architecture mixed with Russia’s traditional character. This city has history coming out of its ears and landmarks to tick off like the 118-foot-high monument in Uprising Square, the impressive statue of Catherine the Great in Ostrovsky Square and most importantly the breath-taking Alexandrinsky Theatre. Once your historical tour of the town is over, the city’s biggest department store – it spans an entire block – lies between Sadovaya and Dumskaya streets.
6. Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn now stands tall amongst its neighbouring European cities with its own energy and allure. It’s a blogger’s dream – bursting with colour and sites worth capturing. Stroll the Old Town, find delight in local foods and enrich yourself in the history of the churches, medieval landscapes and evidence of past nobility.
7. Brasov, Romania
Think cobblestone streets, gothic spires and medieval watchtowers – Brasov has it all. Gloomy watchtowers of the past still loom over the bohemian cafes that now line the streets of the lively part of town. You can witness the epic monuments that are the Black Church and St Nicholas’ Cathedral before feeling like you are in Hollywood when you look up at the big white block letters that spell out the city’s name at the top of Mount Tampa.
8. Belgrade, Serbia
Strolling down the Star Grad, or the Old Town, is like taking a trip through time. The grand 19th Century architecture completely at odds with the soaring skyscrapers in other parts of town. This city, Belgrade’s capital, is another special Eastern European mixture of the old and the new cohabiting wonderfully. You can’t miss the Belgrade Fortress overlooking the Sava and Danube rivers – it’s a breathtaking part of this city.
9. Moscow, Russia
It is very much the theme of Eastern European cities to be a stunning mixture of old and new, and Moscow is no exception to the rule. From gloomy, gothic fortresses to sky-high glass buildings – it’s a city of contradictions. A great example of this is the Moscow metro system where locals and tourists alike board the metro through the marble archways of the station with sparkling chandeliers overhead as the station master calls out the next departure (often in English). You can take the metro to the biggest tourist destination in the city; the Red Square.
10. Kiev, Ukraine
Droves of people make the pilgrimage to 11th Century Kiev Monastery of the Caves to see its gold domes and ancient catacombs. However, away from the religious architecture, there is a city buzzing with theatres, museums, delicious local cuisines and nightlife. A must-see.