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Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

Eastern European countries are often overlooked in favor of popular Western European destinations, but they really shouldn't be. With rich history, gorgeous architecture and a variety of cultures, Eastern Europe offers a wealth of destinations to explore – and at a much lower price point. U.S. News considered attractions, amenities and more to determine the best places to visit in Eastern Europe. Don't forget to vote below for your favorite locations to help influence next year's list.


Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

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    #1 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    From Prague Castle across the famous Charles Bridge to the Old Town Square, the Czech capital offers history and architecture that rivals any European city. Visit top sights like St. Vitus Cathedral and the Prague Astronomical Clock, then wander through the Jewish Quarter to see the historic synagogues and the oldest surviving Jewish cemetery of its kind. Prague is also about 60 miles northwest of Pilsen, the birthplace of pilsner-style beer, so you'll find pints in bars on every corner.

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    #2 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    The magic of Budapest lies in is its stunning historical architecture. You'll find fairy-tale-like structures, such as the neo-Gothic Fisherman's Bastion, the medieval Buda Castle, the neo-Renaissance St. Stephen's Basilica and the second-largest synagogue in the world, the Moorish Revival Dohány Street Synagogue. Plus, the "City of Spas" sits on top of 118 thermal springs and features several thermal baths, including the Széchenyi Baths and the Gellért Baths, making it an excellent destination for a relaxing vacation. Another bonus: Prices for flights and lodging are a fraction of what you'll pay to visit cities like Rome and Paris.

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    #3 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    With its sparkling blue water and ancient sights and streets, the seaside Croatian city of Split mixes stunning scenery with old-world charm. Visitors can stroll up and down Old Town's cobblestone streets, passing by fourth-century sights like the Cathedral of St. Domnius and Diocletian's Palace as they go. The palace, which was originally built to be the Roman emperor Diocletian's retirement home, is now one of the liveliest places in the city, with restaurants, bars and shops.

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    #4 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    Estonia's capital city might not fit your typical idea of a vacation destination, but dig a little deeper and you'll be delighted by the beautiful Russian Orthodox architecture found at St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the pink Toompea Castle (where parliament meets) and the regal Kadriorg Palace, which houses the Kadriorg Art Museum. Other can't-miss sights include the lower Old Town area and Lahemaa National Park. Before leaving, make sure you try some of the delicious chocolates made by Kalev, the largest and oldest confectionary in Estonia.

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    #5 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    Many of Bucharest's tourist attractions offer insight into the city's communist history, including the Palace of Parliament, which features 1,100 rooms and is billed as the second-largest administrative building in the world. Visit the Romanian Peasant Museum and the open-air Village Museum to gain insight into the history of the Romanian people. Then, explore the charming Old Town area and enjoy Bucharest's impressive gastronomic offerings, which include a mix of traditional hearty dishes and modern international staples.

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    #6 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    This coastal Croatian city has gained popularity with travelers in recent years thanks to its picturesque location on the Adriatic Sea, its UNESCO-sanctioned Old City and its seafood-centric cuisine. For amazing photo ops, take a cable car up to Mount Srd for a bird's-eye view of the city and the nearby island of Lokrum. "Game of Thrones" fans will likely recognize many of Dubrovnik's sights, as much of the show was filmed here.

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    Lake Balaton

    #7 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    At Hungary's Lake Balaton, one of Europe's largest lakes, visitors can have just as much fun on land as they can in the water. In summer, the lake's warm temperatures and shallow water make it a great place for swimming and sailing, while in winter, the lake's frozen surface gets thick enough for ice skating. A bike ride around the lake is also a must, as is exploring the lake's surrounding towns. When travelers are ready to unwind after a long day, they can visit one of Lake Balaton's vineyards to sip a refreshing glass of white wine.

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    #8 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    Montenegro is less than 3,400,000 acres (or slightly smaller than the size of Connecticut), but what this destination lacks in size it more than makes up for in charm. Medieval towns, magnificent mountains, breathtaking beaches and charismatic locals await you in this Balkan country. Wander past the stone churches and romantic squares in Kotor, or view some of Montenegro's natural wonders, such as the startlingly blue Mediterranean waters surrounding Sveti Stefan and Tara Canyon, the second-deepest canyon in the world.

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    #9 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    A true fishing port, as well as a popular summer retreat, Rovinj is located on the western coast of the Istria peninsula in the Adriatic Sea. The town and its 14 surrounding islands, including the popular St. Catherine and Red islands, are scattered with picturesque sandy and pebbly beaches throughout. But with Rovinj's small size and big appeal, it can get crowded (and quickly) during peak travel season in late spring and summer, so you'll want to finalize your vacation plans at least a few months in advance.

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    #10 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    This Lithuanian city wows with its Baroque architecture, but it doesn't stay stuck in the past. The Old Town offers an interesting mix of the old and the new, with cobblestone streets that lead to boutiques and trendy restaurants. Be sure to take in the beautiful architecture of the Gates of Dawn shrine and the Church of St. Anne, and for panoramic city vistas, take a ride to the revolving observation platform at the top of the Vilnius Television Tower.

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    #11 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    You might be surprised to learn that of all of the destinations in Europe, the capital of Slovenia is often considered one of the greenest cities in Europe. But once you get an eyeful of its expansive green spaces and car-free city center, it's easy to see why. Stroll through the charming Old Town, snap photos of sights like Ljubljana Castle and grab a bite at a one of the many picturesque cafes that line the Ljubljanica river.

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    #12 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    While the destination's architecture may not be as grand as other cities on this list, Minsk offers a more contemporary take on Eastern Europe. This Belarusian city is packed with chic eateries, lively nightclubs and modern art galleries. Plus, tree-filled Gorky Park, the oldest park in the city, offers fun for all ages thanks to  its rides, ice skating rink and planetarium. For a look into Minsk's past, visit Independence Square, where you'll find the former KGB headquarters, the Lenin Monument and the neo-Romanesque Church of Saints Simon and Helena.

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    #13 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    Eastern Europe isn't only home to grand cities with magnificent architecture. Destinations like Latvia's Jurmala, the largest resort area in the Baltics, are ideal for a relaxing getaway. Jurmala's white sand beach stretches for miles along the coast. Visitors can also cool off at Livu Akvaparks, the largest indoor water park in Latvia and one of the largest in Northern Europe. Away from the water, Jomas Street – Jurmala's main pedestrian thoroughfare – is a terrific place to take a leisurely stroll and grab a souvenir or bite to eat.

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    #14 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    Located in central Latvia on the gulf with the same name, Riga offers colorful, art nouveau architecture and a pedestrian-friendly old town. For a unique take on local history, head to the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia, where you'll find 118 historical buildings that reflect Latvian culture through the ages. Also save time for savoring authentic Latvian fare at a restaurant or Riga Central Market, the largest market in Europe.

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    #15 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    With its seemingly untouched countryside and highly regarded wine region, the landlocked Moldova is a hidden gem in Eastern Europe. Travelers should experience the stretch of country that surrounds Orheiul Vechi, a cliff-side complex on the Raut River that dates back thousands of years and is home to monasteries, baths and more. Wine lovers will want to check out Stefan Voda, known for its delectable red varietals, and Codru, where you'll find impressively large cellars.

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    #16 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    Bulgaria's capital and largest city makes an excellent vacation spot for travelers looking for a laid-back, affordable Eastern European trip. As one of Europe's oldest cities, Sofia has a rich history and culture, which visitors can learn about at the National History Museum, the Sofia History Museum and the Museum of Socialist Art. Another can't-miss attraction is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of Bulgaria's most famous (and eye-catching) landmarks. After sightseeing and museum hopping, vacationers can make their way to Borisova Gradina park to relax.

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    #17 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    Bratislava is often called "the Beauty on the Danube" – and it's easy to see why. The Slovakian capital, which stretches across both sides of the river, is full of stunning architectural sights, including the art nouveau Blue Church, the Baroque Bratislava Castle and the Gothic St. Martin's Cathedral. What's more, Bratislava features all kinds of quirky bronze statues (think: a man in a manhole and Napoleon Bonaparte hunched over a bench) scattered throughout the city. When the sun goes down, head to a bar, pub or club to get a taste of the city's superb nightlife scene.

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    #18 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    Another European city known for its rich history, Kyiv features beautiful architecture and a picturesque setting on the Dnieper River. The Ukrainian capital boasts several must-see gold-accented buildings, such as the brightly colored St. Andrew's Church, St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery and St. Sophia's Cathedral. Kyiv's Comfort Town is also packed with rainbow-colored, Instagram-worthy structures. When you're not admiring the city's amazing sights, venture to Khreschatyk to shop, sip cocktails or listen to live music.

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    Karlovy Vary

    #19 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    Less than 80 miles northwest of Prague, Karlovy Vary appeals to anyone looking for a rejuvenating vacation. The Czech Republic's famous spa town has no shortage of incredible wellness facilities that offer treatments lasting at least a week. When you're not busy relaxing, take some time to explore and see local sights like the Church of St. Mary Magdalene and the Mill Colonnade. You'll likely come across a few thermal springs while walking around. If so, take a drink from one of these springs; they're said to have healing properties.

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    #20 in Best Places to Visit in Eastern Europe

    While you won't find any vampires here, a trip to Transylvania will make you feel like you've stepped inside a fairy tale. Sitting in the shadow of the Carpathian Mountains, this Romanian region is best known for its dramatic scenery and medieval fortresses, churches and castles, including Bran Castle, Bram Stoker's inspiration for Count Dracula's home. Transylvania is also where you'll find some of Romania's most charming cities, such as Brasov and Sibiu. If you need a break from the area's rich history, check out the Turda Salt Mine, an underground amusement park built within a former salt mine.

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