Best Eastern European city breaks
Eastern Europe is filled with a bunch of excellent cities that combine historic monuments with modern attractions and unique heritage.
And while they might not all technically be in eastern Europe, here's our list of the best cities to break in, from Poland all the way to Bulgaria.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is the stunning capital of the Czech Republic, or Czechia as it's also known. It's a city break classic with iconic Gothic spires, tons of history, and plenty to keep you busy for a few days, whatever time of year you visit.
For main attractions head to Charles Bridge, the oldest bridge on the Vltava River, which has lasted so long thanks to the raw eggs mixed into the mortar when it was built – at least according to legend. It's often filled with visitors there to see the many intricate statues, as well as the artists and musicians that appear every day.
You should definitely visit the Old Town Square too, if just to see the fascinating astronomical clock. Dating from medieval times, it's the oldest working clock in the world and, in addition to telling the time, tracks the position of the sun and moon, and the signs of the zodiac. There are also a number of carved figures, including the 12 apostles and a skeleton representing death, that animate every hour on the hour – don't miss the show!
The second oldest city in Poland is ideal if you're a big fan of history, architecture, nature, or all of the above. It's home to one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a number of nature reserves, and a wealth of different building styles dating from the 7th century.
The best way to take all this in is to start at the UNESCO-protected Old Town, from where Poland was governed until the capital was moved to Warsaw in 1596. It features the largest medieval market square in Europe and is home to plenty of historic attractions, including the brick Gothic St Mary's Basilica and Wawel Castle, which blends together medieval, Renaissance and baroque architectural styles.
There are five nature reserves in and around Krakow including the fascinating Polish Jurassic Highland, known for its rugged limestone cliffs as well as remnants of prehistoric human settlements. So if nature and history are your bag, Krakow might just be the city break for you.
Want to find out more about Budapest? Take a look at our travel guide:
Another city break staple, Hungary's capital city has an iconic skyline instantly recognisable from its parliament building which overlooks the Danube River. Popular again for its unique and historic buildings, like the curvy Fisherman's Bastion and the baroque Buda Castle.
A big plus for visiting Budapest is its handy location on the Danube, which lends itself wonderfully to exploring this part of Europe from the river. The Danube, the second longest river in Europe, links together a number of iconic European cities including Bratislava, Vienna and Belgrade and is a popular end or start point for river cruises.
Why not follow up your stay in Budapest with a trip along the river for another stay in an equally magical city?
You might not have heard of it, but Plovdiv was the European Capital of Culture in 2019, and it's been incredibly popular with bookers since 2019. It dates from ancient times and was built on seven hills, as so many great cities tend to be.
It's worth visiting for that reason alone, plus you can admire the old town which is built across three of Plovdiv's seven hills. It features some gorgeous churches and synagogues as well as an ancient Roman stadium dating from the reign of Emperor Hadrian.
If you want to combine your city break with a ski trip then Plovdiv is an ideal option. The Koprivki ski resort is about 25km away so it's perfect for a day trip, with easy access by car or bus. If you want something a bit more advanced, head to Byala Cherkva, 40km from Plovdiv, which is better suited for intermediate and advanced skiers.
This charming little Romanian city lies at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains in the historic region of Western Moldavia. It's pretty far off the tourist trail but that doesn't mean it's not worth visiting. It's had a steady increase in visitors over the past few years and is slowly becoming more popular.
It has a nice untouched authenticity to it, allowing you to get a real feel of daily Romanian life as you explore. It's also well-placed for exploring the mountainous wilderness of the region. You might even end up in the resort town of Targu Ogna which is known for its charming churches. There's also a spa here, where you can spend a day relaxing among the mountain peaks – just keep an eye out for brown bears as Romania is one of the last remaining places where you can find them in the wild.
Pronounced zuh-chin, this delightful Polish city lies on the banks of the River Oder in the historic region of Pomerania – which makes up the north-west corner of Poland and the north-east corner of Germany. It's also where the dog breed comes from.
Throughout its turbulent history, the city has been a part of Germany, Denmark and Sweden, but it's now firmly within Poland. It has a great mix of red brick buildings, including the vast cathedral, and the beautiful Ducal Castle, where the Dukes of Pomerania ruled in times past.
One of the nice things about Szczecin is that you can do a day trip there from Berlin, or vice versa, if you want to do two cities in one.