When it comes to travel, we’ve all got our dream cities. Whether it’s Paris, Tokyo or New York calling you from across the water, each place is renowned for its cultural sights and local flavors and, thanks to years’ worth of collective experience, you know that a trip to any one of the world’s travel centers is guaranteed to be unforgettable. There are other places across the globe, however, which have been going overlooked for years now, falling short of the vacation radar. Perhaps less well known or explored than other places, these cities have just as much to offer as their more popular counterparts, arguably showing a more authentic side of local life. If you want to tap into the very best of these adventure-rich cities, then you might do well in turning your attention to eastern Europe.
For so long the underdog of the European cultural scene, the region’s eastern nations have been making a name for themselves in recent years, building up a cultural and artistic following. As well as having some of the most beautiful and ancient cities around the world, these smaller cities work well as “go-between” towns, linking to neighboring regions and countries in all things art, food and leisure. While there are a huge number of smaller cities to be explored, these eastern cities really top the tally and whether it’s history, cuisine or nature that you’re on the hunt for, you’re bound to stumble across something worth exploring.
Once Poland’s capital city, Kraków is bursting to the seams with cultural activity and foodie spots and now, it is fast becoming a travel destination for adventurers across the world. Intertwined with the events of WWII and the Cold War, Kraków is a city as founded on its recent past as its near future and across the city, it’s possible to stumble from one time zone to another. Despite the difficult events that rocked their country, Polish people are as proud a nation as they come, showcasing their rich culture in a number of diverse museum experiences. While taking a trip to the nearby Auschwitz camp and museum might seem like a long journey from the center, doing so is an essential part of really experiencing Kraków and understanding how it has reformed itself. Elsewhere in the city, you can try popping into a Milk Bar for an authentic dining experience, strolling around the cobbled streets of the Jewish quarter and exploring its old town, which even has its own Medieval moat.
It’s not hard to see why Dubrovnik is more commonly known as the Pearl of the Adriatic. Located on Croatia’s glittering coast, the ancient city is the crown jewel of the country, highlighting all of the region’s proudest cultural and architectural feats. While there are plenty of stunning vistas to feast your eyes on, few areas of the city are quite as beautiful as the old town, which is fit to bursting with winding cobbled streets and medieval architecture. If you really want to take it all in, you can take a stroll atop the old city wall, which boasts some of the best panoramic sights of the place. Once you’ve finished walking, try resting your feet on a local cable car, which takes in sights of the entire town from the top of the nearby Mt. Srd.
Walk into Slovenia’s capital city, Ljubljana, and you might believe that you have stumbled into a fairytale. Balancing bustling riverside streets, quaint pedestrian bridges and a even hilltop castle, the tiny city is a real treasure trove of hidden sights. In the summer months, the streets come alive with local performances and free events which last well into the night. If you want to get your bearings, you can try heading to Presernov Trg, a square in the city center in which motor traffic is heavily restricted. While you can try strolling along the winding paths, you would be equally well suited in hiring a bike and exploring Ljubljana’s riverway. Daytrippers from the city often set their sights on the nearby Lake Bled which, surrounded by mountains and fir trees, is one of the most beautiful spots in the world.
Eastern Europe is filled with hidden gems and cultural delights that are just waiting to be found. While a number of cities are starting to gain international attention, many of them still draw in local crowds only. If you’re looking for your next adventure, head east.