From Baltic to the Balkans: 6 lovely cities to explore in Eastern Europe

From Baltic to the Balkans: 6 lovely cities to explore in Eastern Europe

    Eastern Europe has always lived a complicated history. Despite cultural, linguistic, architectural, ethnic, and even geographical differences, all these countries had something in common until very recently: they were part of the Soviet Union. With the end of the Cold War and the USSR, the iron curtain finally came down and showed the rest of the world the enchanting and fascinating place it is from the Baltic to the Balkans and more.

    With such an extensive and historically rich region, stretching from the European center to Asia, getting lost amidst all points of interest is easy enough.

    To help you build a starting point for this trip, we've put together six places that will introduce you to some of the most enchanting cities you should consider visiting - and, some of them, you probably never heard about. Enjoy and be sure to practice your Bosnian, Croatian, Czech, Polish, Bulgarian, Hungarian (you get it).

    Tallinn (Estonia)

    The capital of Estonia is situated on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland (Baltic Sea), but could also as well be in any fairy tale. With its picturesque landscapes, Tallinn is a city that emanates the romantic air of the middle ages, but that has its mind also set in the future. It is not by luck that it has the most significant number of startups per capita in the European continent (they created Skype there!). And here's a fun fact we bet you didn't know: Estonia is one of the least populated countries in the world.

    While in Tallin, don’t miss visiting Oleviste church. Considered one of the tallest buildings during the middle ages, it also provides the best view of the town.

    Practical tips when going to Tallinn

    Uber: available

    Boarding a taxi is around 2,4 USD (1.99 EUR), and it's 0,53 USD (0.43 EUR) per km.

    Cost of a regular coffee starting from 1,6 USD (1.3 EUR)

    Cost of a regular beer starting from 3,1 USD (2.5 EUR)

    SIM card: Since Tallinn alone has over 30 free hotspots with a download speed of 15Mbps, you can purchase a SIM card at the cost of €1, and an additional €3 if you want 50GB of data. It's valid for a whole week.

    Riga (Latvia)

    Riga is the largest city out of the three Baltic states. To give you an idea of what it’s like, its population is one-tenth that of the other three Baltic states combined. But that is not what matters most, because it also has the biggest and most spectacular showing of Art Nouveau architecture in the continent. But beware, they have a friendly rivalry with Estonia, so if you're going there after visiting Tallinn, that's something to consider when someone asks you if you prefer Estonia over Latvia.

    Fun fact: Latvia’s current flag design has been in use since 1280 (!).

    Many people rate Riga as the "Paris of the Baltics," and the city lives up to its reputation thanks to the blend of the art nouveau architecture with the very well preserved medieval buildings and modern ones.

    Practical tips when going to Riga

    Uber: not available

    Boarding a taxi is around 1,8 USD (1.5 EUR), and it's 0,86 USD (0.7 EUR) per km.

    Cost of a regular coffee starting from 0,74 USD (0.6 EUR)

    Cost of a regular beer starting from 3,1 USD (2.5 EUR)

    SIM card: LMT has the broadest coverage. You can pay €5.65 for a 10GB of data-only SIM card valid for seven days. The SIM card is free. It's that cheap!

    Kotor (Montenegro)

    Down south on the Balkans, you'll see Montenegro just to the side of Croatia. Unlike previous cities, this is not a capital. On the contrary, Kotor is a small port town with a few more than 13,000 inhabitants.

    Ancient Rome settled this city around 168 BC and, in present time, it became part of the World Heritage Site dubbed Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor. UNESCO also included the city in the World Heritage Site list as part of the Venetian Works of Defence between 15th and 17th centuries.

    This city is indeed paradisiacal. Bathed by the blue waters of Kotor Bay, the old town is walled and features Venetian-era buildings. On the horizon, the mountains help to form the astonishing scenery of the localities close to the Mediterranean.

    Practical tips when going to Kotor

    Uber: not available

    Boarding a taxi is around 1,20 USD (1.0 EUR), and it's 0.60 USD (0,50 EUR) per km.

    Cost of a regular coffee starting from 1,20 USD (1.0 EUR)

    Cost of a regular beer starting from 1,5 USD (1.25 EUR)

    SIM card: If you need a SIM card buy it before going to Kotor. Vodafone offers the best coverage in Montenegro with prepaid plans from 10.25 USD (8.25 EUR)!

    Berat (Albania)

    Berat is located in the south of Albania, surrounded by mountains and hills. It is the ninth most populous city in the country, but what stands out more is that it's known as the "city of a thousand windows." And, oh my, it's dazzling! For sure one of Albania's most beautiful highlights.

    Here, dozens of Ottoman houses stack like stars up Mount Tomorri. Tomorri is a mountain that reaches an elevation of 2,417 meters (7,930) above sea level.

    Thanks to its panoramic view, hundreds of locals take to the main street to walk, talk, grab a coffee and toast to the sunset. Beyond the castle wall, there is the Kalasa neighborhood, the place you should go if you want to contemplate one of the best sunset views you'll ever have.

    Practical tips when going to Berat

    Uber: not available

    Boarding a taxi is around 2.34 USD (1,96 EUR), and it's 1.40 USD (1,17 EUR) per km.

    Cost of a regular coffee starting from 1,90 USD (1.6 EUR)

    Cost of a regular beer starting from 2,7 USD (2.25 EUR)

    Istria (Croatia)

    If you're planning a trip to the Balkans, chances are you don't want to miss Croatia. In addition to the exuberant nature, unforgettable beaches, active nightlife and a well-preserved classical architecture (Dubrovnik has become a cinematographic location for the Game of Thrones series, for example), Istria is a must-see. And also a "must-eat," since this place is the home of tasty olive oil, truffles (white and black), and wine. There you'll find a lot of restaurants ready to serve you food with fresh local ingredients.

    Istria is close to Italy, and it lives up to this proximity. Be sure to try the homemade pasta - the pljukanci or fuži - with cream sauce, truffle, and the local wild asparagus. And when you combine the delicious food with the beautiful landscapes of the city, BOOM, it is heaven on Earth.

    Practical tips when going to Istria

    Uber: available

    Cost of a regular coffee starting from 1,28 USD (1.07 EUR)

    Cost of a regular beer starting from 1,9 USD (1.6 EUR)

    Boarding a taxi is around 2,57 USD (2.15 EUR), and it's 1,00 USD (0.80 EUR) per km.

    SIM card: T-Hrvatski Telekom (or just THT) is probably the best service provider in Croatia. The daily plan costs 2,40 USD (2.00 EUR) per day.

    Plovdiv (Bulgaria)

    Back to the big cities, Plovdiv is the second-largest city in Bulgaria. It's home to almost 700,000 people in the greater metropolitan area. This lovely city began as a Thracian settlement and was subsequently invaded by the Persians, Greeks, Celts, Romans, Bulgars, Huns, Turks, Rus people, Crusaders, Slavs and Goths (hope we didn't forget anyone). Crazy, right?

    Like most big cities in Europe, Plovdiv is a mixture of old and new in its architecture, traditions and tourist attractions. Thanks to all those occupations and invasions, you'll be able to find The Old Town Thracian and Greek remains alongside the Roman ones. Nature gorgeously surrounds this city so, once in Plovdiv, you'll be able to visit places like the peak of Musala. It sits in the Rila National Park, which extends through 200,000 acres of forest, high pastures, and mountains. And to make it even better, it has a network of walking trails so you can take a hike and visit the Rila Monastery, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Practical tips when going to Plovdiv

    Uber: not available

    Boarding a taxi is around 0,47 USD (0.39 EUR), and it's 1,02 USD (0.85 EUR) per km.

    Cost of a regular coffee starting from 1,37 USD (1.14 EUR)

    Cost of a regular beer starting from 1,44 USD (1.2 EUR)

    SIM card: Telenor has the best 4G coverage in Bulgaria. For 6 USD (5 EUR) you get a 3GB data and for 18 USD (15 EUR) a 12GB data. Both are valid for 14 days.

    Eastern Europe is far more extensive than this list, of course. It's so big that you should probably split it into many trips through its subregions: the Baltics, Balkans, East Central Europe, Eastern and so on. That's why we listed some places that might otherwise go unnoticed.

    If you're planning to travel, don't forget to check what's posted here in Fashion Potluck! For example, for visiting the Island of Krk, in Croatia, you could learn from @marcellasmind post "10 Mistakes Tourists Make - the Island Of Krk".

    Hope you have an incredible and life-changing trip! ;-)


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