While it’s hard to escape the crowds in West Europe, many countries in what was formally known as Eastern Europe are often overlooked as a travel destination. Although it’s an incredibly interesting part of Europe and I personally believe Eastern Europe has a lot to offer visitors and it’s also home to some of the most beautiful countries in the world. From the gorgeous sandy beaches of Bulgaria to the baroque architecture of historic Dubrovnik, here are my choices for 20 of the best and most beautiful countries to visit in Eastern Europe…
1. Montenegro – a beautiful underrated gem in Eastern Europe
There is no other place so tiny and filled with so many naturally beautiful areas like Montenegro. Called “the hidden pearl of the Mediterranean” it’s easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Eastern Europe. Montenegro is divided into three regions – the coastal region in the west which has the beautiful Riviera (Ulcinj and Budva), the central region with astonishing parks and the high mountainous area.
The first ecological state in the world, Montenegro has the second largest canyon (Tara), the most beautiful beach of the old continent in 1905-The Slavic Beach and “the mosaic-beach” of Becic. It is also home to the biggest bird reservation in Europe and many other gorgeous and unique spots. Blessed with a wild beauty, the state that gained its independence on 3 June 2006 has become a highly regarded travel destination.
Don’t leave without visiting the truly incredible city of Kotor (pictured above) located Dalmatian coast which is home to such spectacular scenery and architecture it’s been classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the wonderful old town and then take the steps up towards the Castle of San Giovani for stunning views of the bay.
The stunning city of Kotor, Montenegro in 4k…
Hotels and Self-Catered Vacation Rentals in Montenegro
2. Czech Republic – one of the best and most popular places to visit in Eastern Europe
The Czech Republic sits in the heart of Europe and it’s a stunning place adorned with culture, history, and legends. It also has one of the most beautiful and romantic capitals in Europe. Prague is a popular destination for city breaks and boasts some of the best beer and most beautiful women in the world.
Further afield the entire Czech Republic is sprinkled by castles, from Hluboka Castle – the first Gothic Castle in the world (1250), to Cesky Sternberk Castle – the best-preserved Bohemian Palace. The imposing Mikulov Castle is a fine example of Baroque architecture and the Svihov Castle has a distinctive Renaissance feel.
You’ll also find great mountain areas, coquette villages, a hectic history and one of the richest cultures on the continent. The intriguing Republic of Czech is undeniably the most attractive country in Eastern Europe and in my view one of the most elegant.
Hotels and Self-Catered Vacation Rentals in Czech Republic
3. Latvia – a stunning underrated country in Eastern Europe with a truly beautiful capital
Latvia is truly a beautiful underrated gem and one of my favourite countries to visit in Eastern Europe. The locals are populated with half Russians and half native Latvians and the Latvians are very welcoming and friendly and often have a unique view on life even in spite of the very tough times they’ve been through in the past (check out the very moving Occupation Museum in Riga to find out more). Nature and nature-centered and holistic rituals are also extremely important to their way of life which will also be very evident on your visit.
Latvia is also a pristinely beautiful place with many untouched forests and countryside. When visiting don’t miss their stunning capital Riga which is also known as the ‘Pearl of the Baltics,’ Liepaja the funky and intriguing port city blessed with a wide sandy beach and the dark tourist attraction Karosta Prison.
Hotels and Self-Catered Vacation Rentals in Latvia
4. Croatia – easily one of the most beautiful countries in Eastern Europe
Croatia is a lovely country in South-East Europe. It has a thousand years of history and mixed cultures, diverse landscapes, and a stunning coastline. It is home to 1185 islands and a fairytale mainland, making it a perfect holiday destination and the best-preserved citadel in the world.
If you visit I would recommend you visit the National Park Brijuni Islands, the beautiful Plitvice Lakes National Park in Lika and the birthplace of Marco Polo – Korcula Island. Of course, you’ll need to visit Dubrovnik with its beautiful baroque architecture and sea of red roofs. It’s often described as a jewel shining in the Adriatic Sea from the 6th century, protected by walls and by nature.
Split (the second-largest city in Croatia) has a unique charm. It’s a place where you can find cozy terraces built on ruins and where you can relax between history and legends while drinking your coffee at the Diocletian Palace. Zagreb, the capital of Croatia is a beautiful and cultural city filled with open-minded and welcoming people.
- Check out our post on the most beautiful places to visit in Croatia
Hotels and Self-Catered Vacation Rentals in Croatia
5. Turkey – an eternally popular place to holiday in the Eastern part of Europe
Turkey offers much more than just cheap package holidays. It’s a treasure of a country overflowing with history, great food, and rich culture, all of these being displayed over amazing backgrounds. Spread above two continents, Turkey is a colorful mix of philosophies and traditions. With 5000 miles of coastline laid along three different seas, the country connects Europe with Asia, borrowing their traditions and mixing them together.
One of the most beautiful places in Turkey is the Cappadocia region (see above), where the moonscape hills seem to be unreal like a wonder of nature. Istanbul is a memorable city where the East meets the West. It’s famous for its amazing mosques, the Grand Bazaar, rich culture, and stunning architecture.
In such a diverse country there is something for everyone, from beautiful beaches to the archeological sites of Anatolia, from the lively holiday favourite Bodrum to Ephesus which was once the trade centre of the ancient world. When at Ephesus make sure you see the remains of The Temple of Artemis which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
- Check out our post on 20 of the most beautiful places to visit in Turkey
- Hotels and Self-Catered Vacation Rentals in Turkey
6. Russia – a still secretive but extraordinary place to visit in Eastern Europe
The largest country in the world is also home to some very beautiful scenery. Notable areas are the oldest mountains -Urals and the deeper lake-Baikal. Land of the titans of literature, Russia is a country that gave birth to so many artists covering all culture’s fields, Russia holds the most important collections of art, fabulous museums, treasured monuments spread all over the Russian territory. It also has some of the finest examples of religious architecture in the world.
It may be still quite a secretive and insular place but it has an extraordinary culture and architecture which could be down to the fact it spans eleven time zones across two continents – Europe and Asia.
- Also check out our 20 Of The Most Beautiful Places To Visit In Russia
- Hotels and Self-Catered Vacation Rentals in Russia
7. Romania – home to stunning cities and beautiful natural landscapes
This beautiful Eastern European country is an underrated gem. Romania is a country crossed by the Carpathian Mountains and bordered by the Black Sea. It’s also one of the most beautiful countries in Eastern Europe. The most beautiful part of Romania is undeniably the center where Transylvania resides surrounded by mountains. Also known as the home of Dracula, it’s an amazing place and where you can easily see how it would have inspired Bram Stoker to create the most famous vampire of all time.
Other interesting places to visit in this lovely country are, Sibiu which is the European Capital of Culture, Sighisoara– the best-preserved inhabited citadel, and Brasov which is the cosmopolitan city in the foothills. Bucovina is a very special place where time has stopped. Here you’ll find the most beautiful monasteries in Europe.
Romanian seaside destinations have also evolved in the last few years probably mostly because of the famous beach parties which take place every summer. Well-known DJs play here drawing in crowds from all over the globe.
8. Slovenia – home to beautiful countryside and one of Europe’s most scenic lakes
Easily one of the most stunning countries in former Eastern Europe, Slovenia has a population of around two million people. The beautiful Eastern European country has stunning landscapes where entire hills are covered with vineyards and many hectares are covered with thick ancient forest. With the Julian Alps in the north, the country is a great winter destination but it also makes an excellent budget holiday destination. The Slovenian coast is a slice of unspoilt Mediterranean, full of colourful Italian-style fishing villages, olive groves, and clean, transparent water.
Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia and the largest city in the country, still retains a Roman touch besides many architectural styles that can be found here. UNESCO chose this city to be the 2011 World Book Capital and Maribor will be the European Capital of Culture in 2012.
Some of Slovenia’s most beautiful places to visit include the Rogaska Slatina which is a magical territory known for its thermal water and its relaxing surrounding and Bled, a stylish mountain resort. Portoroz is the most popular seaside destination and the Postojna cave is an outstanding 20km cave and one of the most amazing sights of natural beauty. Although arguably Slovenia is fast becoming famous for being home to one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe – Lake Bled (pictured above) is one of the most picturesque spots to visit in the whole continent.
9. Estonia – a popular city break destination in Eastern Europe
Estonia has many beautiful areas and is an increasingly popular tourist destination. Tallinn (the capital) is especially very popular for weekend breaks. It has a special and fun charm with lovely cobbled streets and pretty buildings. The capital is also bounded by 35c defense towers, with an amazing Town Hall. It’s a gothic beauty that amazed the historians who have labelled it as an exceptional construction, comparing it with Palazzo Vechio in Florence.
Estonia countryside is also a paradise for bird watchers. It actually held a record in 1999 for the highest number of bird species seen in a single day (189). With a very interesting traditional culture and exciting architecture, Estonia is a beautiful country and a great travel destination.
10. Macedonia – an up and coming Eastern European gem
This is another very beautiful but very underrated gem. When visiting certain parts of Macedonia, such as Skopje, you will notice a unique mix of modern and ancient architecture. This part of Eastern Europe has done an amazing job of preserving the old while embracing the new. The best place to see this contrast is on the Skopje Stone Bridge. This structure links the old part of the city to the new.
For those seeking a bit more adventure, Canyon Matka is just 17 km away and is full of caves to explore and beautiful, seemingly untouched nature to take in. Kayak on Matka Lake and Treska Lake and enjoy taking pictures of over 70 species of butterflies. Also make sure you pay a visit to Lake Ohrid (pictured above), and the stunning historic town of Ohrid. It’s one of the most seductive destinations in Eastern Europe and easily one of the most photogenic.
11. Ukraine – a large Eastern European country with an intriguing culture and history
Ukraine is the second-largest country on the European continent. A good place to start is the Western Ukraine city Lviv. It’s a cultural municipality with a rich history and a beautiful combination of architectural styles. With an impressive historical center, Lviv is a great destination for tourists all over the world, especially history and culture fans.
Beautiful Kiev the stunning and elegant capital and the largest city in Ukraine is a really beautiful place enlightened by its marvelous golden domes, covered by elegant parks and filled with some great restaurants. The rest of Ukraine is rich in natural resources and beautiful landscapes like Crimea, the Carpathians, the Danube Delta, and the animated Odessa. Thanks to its temperate climate, diverse landforms and its geographical position, Ukraine is a perfect and very affordable travel destination for both winter and summer.
Check out our team’s visit to Chernobyl in Ukraine…
12. Bulgaria – the increasingly popular holiday destination in Eastern Europe
There are many beautiful places to visit in Bulgaria. This was a country that spent a lot of time in anonymity but in recent years, it has become a popular tourist destination. Bulgaria is filled with sandy beaches on the Black Sea coast, ski mountain resorts, solid forests, intriguing architecture, great food, and lively nightlife.
Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, is one of the oldest cities in Europe and an important cultural center. The most popular destinations in the country are; Sunny Beach – the largest beach resort with more than 800 hotels along the Black Sea Coast and Varna the lively summer destination, famous for its nightlife. Rousse is known as “The small Vienna,” Pamporovo is a modern ski resort and Bansko is the best destination for winter holidays.
13. Hungary – a lively capital, stunning architecture, thermal spas, and beautiful countryside
Among the top most beautiful places in Eastern Europe is Hungary and it’s also one of the most popular places to visit, especially beautiful Budapest. This area is famous for its remarkable architecture and visitors enjoy visiting towns filled with architectural wonders such as Szeged and Pécs – here beautiful Art Nouveau buildings are everywhere to enjoy.
Hungary is also the place if you want to fill up on hearty Eastern European cuisine, so definitely don’t leave without trying their Goulash. For those looking to visit Budapest make sure you pay a visit to the famous thermal baths at least once and also add a cruise on the River Danube and a visit to a cool “Ruin Pub” to your list.
14. Poland – picturesque cities and pristine scenic countryside
Poland has certainly had some rocky times in the past, but today is known as being a safe and beautiful country. It’s also an increasingly much-loved destination with visitor’s lapping up the beauty of the stunning historic cities of Krakow and Gdańsk and the intriguing and dynamic city of Warsaw. Also, don’t forget their truly stunning mostly unspoiled countryside and their coastline too. Polish beaches are both safe and beautiful and make a great base for a family holiday or a weekend away with friends.
When you visit Poland, you will be in the 8th largest economy in the EU and slap bang in the middle of central Europe (although it was once technically classed as Eastern Europe). Poland is an intriguing, fun, and friendly country to visit and offers everything you could want in a travel destination from towering mountain ranges to an impressive coastline and vast beautiful lakes and forests.
15. Georgia – diverse landscapes, cities and culture
Formally part of the Soviet Union, Georgia is now a proud and beautiful country and when visiting Georgia, I think you’ll be quite taken with their awe-inspiring and pristine landscapes. The Caucasian Mountain Range runs through this illustrious part of Eastern Europe and its unique landscapes are also dotted with ancient watchtowers proving that war was, at one time, a very real problem in this area.
While staying in Georgia, you must check out its capital Tbilisi. This small city is one of the few remaining cliff-side cities accessible to tourists but is home to a stunning cobblestoned Old Town combined with exceptional dining, and many modern conveniences you would expect from a travel destination. Other country highlights include it’s wonderful Black Sea beaches, Vardzia, a vast 12th-century cave monastery, and the ancient wine-growing region of Kakheti.
16. Moldova – wonderful forests, rocky hills, and miles of vineyards
This is another former Soviet republic country which has now gained its own independence. In Moldova, you will see plenty of cultural influences from a range of different cultures. As it was once a part of Romania, as well as the Soviet Union, the vast majority of the city still depicts both entities. However, Moldova has become a hub for change and embracing modern amenities.
Trailblazers and adventure hunters tend to gravitate to Moldova primarily due to its remote location. However, once they arrive, they are greeted with some of the best hospitality in this part of Europe and a genuinely warm welcome, I love this country even in spite of it supposedly being one of the unhappiest countries in the world!
The stunning unspoiled landscapes, its many vineyards, and beautiful architecture definitely helped of course. Make sure you include a visit to its intriguing capital Chisinau (which is filled with a mix of Soviet-style architecture and neoclassical landmarks), Tipova Monastery and its famous wine regions Nistreana, known for its fantastic red wine and Codru which is blessed with some of the world’s largest wine cellars.
17. Lithuania – seamlessly blends the old and the new
Visitors to Lithuania often find themselves in the middle of Vilnius, the capital city. This large and beautiful historic city is home to a unique blend of cobblestone streets, ancient churches, and young professionals embracing the enjoyment of working in up and coming companies. Trendy bars and cafes dot the capital and somehow blend seamlessly with Lithuania’s old-world feel.
Although the capital city is not the only destination I’d recommend visiting in Lithuania. Other fantastic places to explore include the Gediminas Castle Tower, The Hill of Crosses, and the Ruins of Memel Castle also take time to explore the natural pristine landscapes such as the famous Curonian Spit a very long sand-dune spit that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea coast. The beaches are also long, wide and sandy and unspoilt, the forests are thick and dense and the pubs offer a traditional welcome and often medieval-style mead – wonderful!
18. Belarus – a mix of elegant architecture, Soviet-era buildings, and trendy hotspots
Belarus has not always been a must-see area of Eastern Europe, political dissent was once very much alive and well in this part of Europe but has since died down. Today, Belarus embraces incoming visitors with open arms and it’s actually becoming quite a trendy but still yet mostly undiscovered European destination. The most populated city and the country’s capital – Minsk – is mostly where it’s all at. This wonderful city is home to an eclectic combination of elegant historic architecture, Soviet-era buildings, and fashionable and trendy hotspots.
The other the top things to see in Belarus includes Mir Castle with its impeccably preserved architecture, Nyasvizh, another amazing example of immense castle preservation, and Brest with its notable and epically depicted WWII memorials. There is much to see and do in Belarus and the locals are happy to help you along your way. Belarus is increasingly becoming a fun and progressive area to visit in Eastern Europe.
19. Bosnia – truly beautiful natural scenery which is drawing increasingly more visitors
Sadly this is another country with a very troubled past and the scars from the infamous civil war of the 1990s can still be seen in Bosnia. But today but this area of Eastern Europe has seen a resurgence of new life come into the country mostly via tourism and the never give up attitude of locals.
Visitors to Bosnia can enjoy walking amongst the ruins of ancient buildings and villages and marveling at the beautiful waterfalls, mountains, vast lakes, and other natural landscapes in all their craggy glory. Winter visitors will also have the chance to enjoy amazing skiing without the high prices of other ski destinations, so Bosnia is not just very beautiful but will offer a bargain trip as well.
Don’t leave without paying at least one visit to the national capital Sarajevo which is home to a well preserved old quarter, and important landmarks such as the 16th-century Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque and the Ottoman-era Latin Bridge (where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated which started World War I).
20. Slovakia – a beautiful place to visit in Eastern Europe which is perfect for outdoor adventures
Although this among the smallest destinations in what was formally known as Eastern Europe, Slovakia – a landlocked country located right in the heart of Europe – is perfectly formed and offers everything a traveler could want in one neat package. The unique atmosphere within the country is felt through the hospitality of locals, but also can be seen in its bustling streets and traditional folk culture.
Historical monuments, majestic castles, stunning architecture, and national treasures have been perfectly preserved so future generations can enjoy the remarkable culture of this country. Visitors can hike, try water sports, or enjoy the truly stunning natural scenery of this unique and remarkably beautiful land. Whether you want the excitement of the big city (try Bratislava for its splendid old town and traditional pubs) or are looking for a more outdoor-focused trip, Slovakia definitely offers it all!
Written by travel writer Miruna Corneanu. She is a freelance writer living in Romania. Her interests include travel writing, fashion writing, creative writing, and poetry.