After decades of political turmoil, economic hardships and massive emigration, Eastern Europe starts to wake up as a cheap alternative for its western counterparts. Most tourists visiting this part of the continent tend to prefer world heritage cities like Prague and Dubrovnik, yet here are seven surprising destinations you’ve probably never heard of in spite of having a lot to offer without the flocks of tourists flooding their streets.
Cluj-Napoca, also known in Hungarian as Kolozsvár, is the capital of the diverse region of Transylvania. The city with its historic landmarks and walkable center is very appealing for visitors who want to have a glimpse of traditional Transylvanian culture in its urban form. You should definitely visit the impressive palaces of Bánffy and Széki as well as having a stroll in Iuliu Maniu Street at the historic heart of town, but also take the opportunity to wander slightly outside the picturesque parts and walk along the Bulevardul 21 Decembrie which was built during the communist regime and has a vibrant and interesting street life including some very affordable dining options.
photography by: David Stanley
Formerly known as the German city of Memel, Klaipeda which is the third largest city in Lithuania has a rich history due to its location between many powerful nations, which ruled over the city for most of its existence and left their influence to these days.
Part of its multi-ethnic legacy can be noticed very clearly in the city’s architecture which spans from traditional German wooden buildings to full scale Soviet behemoth neighborhoods. If you want to experience a more contemporary aspect of the city which also reflects the newly independent Lithuania, you should visit Klaipėda Sculpture Park which hosts more than 100 statues created by local artists.
photography by: Jo.sau
Just a few kilometers from the German border, lies the city of Szczecin. Being a part of both Swedish and German Empires left a clear mark on the city, which best exemplified by its castles and Gothic architecture still present to these days, however, the city center was heavily damaged in World War II and later during the communist era and only recently was rebuilt according to its glory past. If you want to relax and have a laid back atmosphere it’s more than recommended to take a walk in one of the city’s beautiful and tranquil parks like Kasprowicza and Żeromskiego or alternatively have a stroll at the Wały Chrobrego promenade and enjoy stunning vista of the Oder River.
photography by: Pixabay
It may not be well known nowadays, but Plovdiv is the oldest city in Europe dating back to 6,000 BC, changing hands and names countless of times, even recently in the 20th century. This historic multi-layered character means that you can find there an Ottoman mosque side by side with a memorial for Soviet soldiers, and a Roman Theater lying next to centuries old monasteries and churches. Antiques and historical monuments are not only present in the cityscape, but also in some restaurants, which display them as artifacts at their dining space and antiques shops selling old stuff from Soviet and Ottoman eras. Apart from being an open air museum the city has a lot to offer in terms of night life and very affordable and excellent dining options.
photography by: Maguire
Formerly known as Dnipropetrovsk, the city was the industrial heart of Ukraine during the Communist rule and still holds the title to these days, hence, at first sight you may ask yourself what can travelers see and do in such heavily industrialized place? well, the truth is that the city not only gives a fascinating and authentic glimpse into industrial life during the Soviet era and later on, but also has vibrant street life and cheap and outstanding eateries to accompany it with. If you want to catch your breath, literally, there are quite a few exceptional parks along the Dnipro River which the city is named after, including some which lie on the islands dotting the river.
photography by: Adam Jones
Once the capital of the historically rich region of Moravia, Olomouc is small and relatively unknown by today’s standards, though it has the second largest preserved urban quarter in the country surpassed only by the capital, Prague. With its history dating back as far as the Roman times, the city is also home to the oldest academic institution and the local government of Moravia, making it culturally significant to the region as a whole. The undisputed landmark and symbol of city is undoubtedly the Holy Trinity Column in the main square, but it’s far from being the only must-see attraction, since the old quarter has countless beautifully preserved churches and Baroque style fountains.
photography by: Herbert Frank
Tiraspol is the capital of the self-proclaimed republic of Transnistria, which is not recognized by any UN member state. Its special circumstances making it a truly bizarre and interesting destination to visit, especially because the autonomous entity provides an authentic glimpse into the Soviet era, not only by the Communist style monumental layout of the city, but also by the constant presence of secret police forces and state owned monopole of “Sheriff”, which spans from supermarkets and gas stations to even the municipal football stadium and team. While being a bit intimidating at first, Tiraspol has very friendly people, modern restaurants and local brandy factory which sells truly exceptional liquors which can serve as a cute and tasty souvenir.
photography by: Omri Westmark