Welcome to Eastern Europe
From soaring mountains to golden sands, Eastern Europe reveals a tapestry of quaint and contemporary cultures – always with enough rough edges to keep you intrigued.
Eastern Europe is a warehouse of culture, whether your preference is fine arts or folk singing. Cities such as Prague, St Petersburg and Budapest are effortlessly elegant, housing remarkable art collections in palatial surrounds. Some locations are akin to open-air museums, like Kraków's Rynek Główny (Main Market Sq), Moscow’s vast Red Square and the art-nouveau architecture across Riga. For every age-old powerhouse of classical music and opera, you’ll also discover a plucky up-and-comer, building a reputation for avant-garde nightlife (Belgrade) or gritty galleries (Cluj-Napoca).
Sandy beaches, windswept plains, rugged mountain ranges – Eastern Europe has it all, and it’s anything but predictable. Glide down the Danube River, bob across Macedonia’s Lake Ohrid, or splash around in Hungary’s Lake Balaton. Gulp down fresh air and solitude in Albania’s Accursed Mountains, Transylvania’s crisscrossing ranges, or the High Tatras, which rumble along the Poland–Slovakia border. Test the whitewater in Slovenia’s Triglav National Park, or explore canyons and caverns in Montenegro or Bosnia & Hercegovina. You can be exhilarated, or lulled into contentment, within the space of a couple of days exploring Eastern Europe's great outdoors.
History lives and breathes in Eastern Europe. Gaze at St Basil's Cathedral on Moscow's Red Square, a legacy of Ivan the Terrible's brutal reign; cross the bridge where Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo; feel the echo of the Romanian Revolution on Bucharest's Revolution Square or more recent tragic events on Kyiv's Maydan Nezalezhnosti. Stroll even further back in time through the remains of Diocletian's Palace in Split, Croatia; or through Sofia and Plovdiv in Bulgaria, where ancient ruins continue to be unearthed beneath modern buildings and metro systems.
Folklore & Festivals
A living heritage of folklore and festivals sets Eastern Europe apart. This is the heartland of Orthodox Christianity: the religion's rites permeate many aspects of cultural life, particularly in Russia and Ukraine. Roman Catholic, Muslim and Jewish communities add their own influences, while whiffs of pagan tradition can be felt in the Baltics. Baltica Folklore Festivals, Slovakia's Východná and Bulgaria’s Rose Festival are captivating events, full of insight into age-old Europe. Traditional wood-carvers still hunch over work benches in Slovakia, while glass icons continue to be painted in Romania, allowing travellers to take home a piece of Eastern European craftsmanship.