Eastern Europe tours
One of the many benefits of backpacking in Eastern Europe is being able to gain an insight into the culture and history of the region, all on a tight travel budget. Eastern Europe offers beautiful cities strewn with superb cafés, restaurants, bars and cheap hostels, making it an increasingly popular destination for gap year students and other budget travelers.
Starting Out in Poland
Poland has definitely thrown off its image as a rundown communist country in recent years and, with its cosmopolitan cities and rich cultural history, it provides an excellent starting point for exploring the region.
Of the country’s intriguing metropolises, Krakow has proved a destination of choice for backpackers, thanks to the great food, nightlife and landmarks which perfectly blend the traditional with the contemporary.
Rynek Glówny, in the heart of the city, is one of the largest medieval squares in Europe. It’s the home of some of Krakow’s most iconic landmarks, including St Mary’s Basilica, the Sukiennice and the Mickiewicz Monument.
The Stare Miasto (or Old Town) is another important port of call for travelers in Krakow. Encircled by four kilometers of the Planty Park, it looks fantastic in all seasons and contains a great selection of restaurants, bars and cafés, many of which are both cheap and of great quality. A number of the best hostels in Krakow can also be found in this district.
South by Southwest to Prague
From Krakow, heading west across the Polish border leads into the Czech Republic and the capital, Prague; a riverside city that is home to almost two million. As the city is split into districts, traveling and navigating your way around Prague could not be easier. The areas are numbered from 1 to 10 and labeled on maps and street signs in this way.
In the city center, Prague 1 is a top tourist attraction and the best restaurants and bars, along with a plethora of museums and galleries are to be found here, making it one of the liveliest districts. It is also home to a good selection of Prague hostels which offer backpackers cheap and convenient accommodation for exploring the city’s charms.
Arts and Culture in Bratislava
The Slovakian capital, Bratislava, sits in the farthest western corner of the country and is a smaller city compared to Krakow or Prague, which gives it a welcoming feel and makes it easy to get around. However, its compact size doesn’t mean that it lacks in attractions or facilities; there are dozens of important sights to explore and the hostels in Bratislava are plentiful.
The city’s main square makes a picturesque setting for a good selection of eateries, whilst during the festive period a Christmas market boasting over a hundred stalls offers travelers traditional delicacies and gifts.
Bratislava also has an excellent reputation for the arts; the opera, ballet and theater performances hosted in the city are considered some of the best in Europe, with the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra a key highlight.
For those travelers who seek a socially active evening, you will find the city has much more to offer by way of entertainment, from lively bars and clubs, to authentic restaurants offering ‘bryndzove halusky’ (dumplings with cheese and bacon), a firm favorite with locals and backpackers alike.
Traveling from Slovakia into Hungary is an easy journey, heading southwest into the city of Budapest. Due to its location in central Europe, it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in this part of the continent. And with its stunning architecture and low cost of living, it’s easy to see why so many travelers are drawn to the city each year.
The city is separated into two by the River Danube, with the Széchenyi Chain Bridge linking it and providing fantastic views of the river and the cityscape. The Budapest Heroes Square, Hungarian National Museum and Museum of Fine Arts offer backpackers an excellent chance to soak up some Hungarian culture.
However, one of the biggest attractions for many visitors to the city is the renowned nightlife scene. This is not exclusive to the center of the capital though, as the best quality and value bars are scattered throughout the city away from the more touristy spots. In the hotter months, there’s a range of outdoor venues, while underground clubs help to beat the winter chill. All of the city’s nightlife, though, is easily accessible from most Budapest hostels, thanks to good public transport.
All in all, with its fantastic blend of culture, nightlife and cheap accommodation, Eastern Europe makes a perfect destination for travelers on a budget. However, there’s far more to see than the just the larger cities; the whole region is crying out to be explored by curious backpackers.