5 Undiscovered Gems in Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe is emerging as the hot new travel destination with adventurous travellers looking to escape the tourist crowds. As it becomes more popular, the usual highlights like Prague, Budapest and Krakow are now so touristy that you can eat at McDonalds or Hard Rock Cafe.

Where can you escape to if you don’t want to run into coaches full of tourists? We list five of the best gems in Eastern Europe that are largely tourist free so you can discover the real Eastern Europe.

1. Český Krumlov, Czech Republic

If you’re sick of fighting the crowds to watch the Astro Clock in Prague, take a trip to Český Krumlov. Three hours south of Prague by bus, the crowds drop off considerably and you’ll be transported into a town straight out of a fairy tale.

Cesky Krumlov

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World Heritage listed, this small town is split in two by a river and rapids that snake through the centre of town.

If you’re feeling adventurous you can join a rafting or kayak trip and cruise along the river in style. If history is more your thing, the town is dominated by the Český Krumlov State Castle which sits on a hill overlooking the town.

If you’re feeling lazy, grab a drink and a bite to eat at one of the restaurants that overlooks the rapids and cheer on each time a rafting group goes through the rapid slide.

How to Get There:

It’s three hours by bus and the best company to use is Student Agency. For about 10 Euros you’ll get a nice modern coach with free WiFi.

Where to Stay:

If you’re up for a party, check out Hostel 99. If you’re looking for a quieter but still cheap stay I personally can recommend Krumlov House – a smaller hostel with a social vibe.

Zdiar, Slovakia

This is a real undiscovered gem and sits in some of the most gorgeous landscapes of Eastern Europe. Nestled on the border of Slovakia and Poland in the High Tatras mountains, Zdiar is a small village where you can escape back to nature whilst enjoying uninterrupted views of the Slovakian alps.

Zdiar

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There isn’t much to do here apart from taking day hikes into the mountains but you’ll find yourself wanting to spend weeks here with it’s calm serenity and clean mountain air. It’s also possible to hike from the Slovakian side to the Polish side of the mountain

When you get worn out from hiking, check out the village and there are day trips to one of the most amazing castles in Eastern Europe, Spiš Castle, a World Heritage site.

How to Get There:

Zdiar is accessible from the Polish town of Poprad and from the Slovakian side from the capital Bratislava. Buses are frequent but timetables are irregular so check closer to your departure.

Where to Stay:

There is only one place that is worth mentioning but it is one of the best hostels in Eastern Europe; the Ginger Monkey Hostel. Walk out to postcard perfect views every morning and be greeted by Wally Dogster, perhaps the most famous hostel dog in the world.

Sighișoara, Romania

Brasov to the south may be the home of Bram Dracula’s Castle but nothing screams Transylvania more than the small town of Sighișoara in the centre of Romania.

Sighisoara

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The town centre is a fort that sits on top of a hill and traces back to Roman days. It’s history in more modern times including it’s use by the King of Hungary to protect the Kingdom from his enemies.

For travellers it’s a chance to explore a unique, World Heritage listed site without the crowds. Wander the city centre, go up the top of the bell tower and if you’re brave enough – check out the creepy graveyard that could be straight out of a Hollywood horror movie.

How to Get There:

Trains run from Brasov and take about 2 hours. You can choose to take a relatively modern train for under 20 euros or for a truly Romanian feeling, jump on the local “Gypsy train” where you’ll see locals hop on and off the Soviet style train with everything from livestock to bags of potatoes. The local trains run often and cost practically nothing.

Where to Stay:

There are a few hostels in town but from my own personal experience, you can normally find a guesthouse or B&B for the same price or less and enjoy the comforts of a private room. Ask in the centre of town or at the train station.

Wrocław, Poland

The biggest place on this list, Wroclaw is in the south west of Poland and whilst being unknown to most English-speaking tourists, it’s a popular place with German tourists.

Wroclaw

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Pronounced “VRAHTS-wahv” it’s a scaled down version of Krakow whilst keeping all the charm. Hang out in the Central Square and people watch as you enjoy a beer or coffee in the city’s excellent cafe culture.

For history lovers, check out the 360° panorama painting at Panorama Racławicka which depicts the battle between Russian and Polish troops during the Kosciuszko Insurrection. Housed in a round building, this is one to see even if you typically avoid art galleries.

For those that love the outdoors, rent a bike and ride along the beautiful riverbank. If you want a challenge, try and spot all the town gnomes and dwarves. These small figurines are all over town in the most random places.

How to Get There:

Buses run regularly from both Prague and Krakow. Student Agency is the preferred and most comfortable option if you are travelling from Prague. PolskiBus is the best option if you are coming from within Poland.

Klaipėda, Lithuania

A small city located on the coast of western Lithuania, this picturesque place is the gateway to get to the World Heritage listed Curonian Spit that links Lithuania with the Russian territory of Kaliningrad.

Klaipeda

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If you want to explore nature, take the short ferry ride from the city to the Curonian Spit and hire a bike. You can explore the entire length of the Spit within a day and you’ll be taken from wooded forests to wind blown sand dunes. You can choose to spend the night in Nida, a small town on the Spit that is more fishermans village than actual town.

In Klaipėda itself there are markets on the weekend in summer time and a happening bar and cafe scene around the harbour. You can also do a day trip to an old Soviet missile base!

How to Get There:

The best way to reach Klaipėda is by train run by Lit Rail and takes about 6 hours. Trains leave multiple times per day so check scheduled departures closer to your trip.

Where to Stay:

There are two hostels in town. The newest hostel is Hostel Kubu and features clean dorm and private rooms on the main street of town. The other hostel is Klaipėda Hostel which is closer to the bus/train station and supermarkets.

What’s your Eastern Europe Hidden Gem?

We’ve shared five of our favourites. Now it’s upto you. Comment below with your favourite town, village or city in Eastern Europe!