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Eastern Europe: Top 5 Places to Visit

By Bidvest Bank
A summer holiday in Europe is something on everyone’s bucket list, but the truth is that with the declining value of the Rand, it’s becoming less and less affordable. That’s because when most South Africans think of Europe, we think of France and Italy and Spain, which have become more expensive – even if you’re travelling on the Euro or Pound. 
As a result, we often neglect the lesser known Eastern European holiday destinations. Eastern Europe may have had a bit of a troubled history but that’s long gone now and instead you’ll find lush countryside, medieval architecture, idyllic beaches and a fun and busy social scene. Plus the absolute bonus is that it’s a lot more cost effective when travelling on the Rand.
Here are our top five picks for Eastern Europe trips to enjoy in the summer:

1. Budapest, Hungary
Ranked as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Hungary’s capital city is packed with World Heritage Sites such as the banks of the Danube and Heroes’ Square. Try out some Hungarian cuisine such as traditional goulash and then relax in one of the famous thermal baths that occur naturally there. Known as the city of spas, over 15 million gallons of water bubble each day into the city’s 118 springs and boreholes. 

2. Riga, Latvia
If you like architecture, you’re in for a treat because Riga, Latvia’s capital, has one of the biggest collections of art nouveau architecture in Europe. Coupled with a vibrant nightlife, this both modern and medieval city is perfect for those looking for a bit of a party atmosphere. If you’re visiting in Spring or Summer, be sure to take a boat tour on the Daugava River or the Riga Canal running through the city – in winter this is less of an option since both usually freeze over. 

4. Dubrovnik, Croatia
For a less commercial coastal city break, it’s worth exploring the medieval walled city of Dubrovnik. Sitting at the foot of a mountain on the edge of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik’s spectacular physical location is a large part of its attraction. But besides its beautifully preserved architecture, it also has some gorgeous beaches nearby. Spend the day on these beaches, or take a day trip to one of the unspoilt islands of Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan. Afterwards, explore the Old Town on foot before enjoying an authentic Croatian seafood meal of lifnje (squid), Crni rizot (cuttlefish risotto) or Brodet (fish stew). 

4. Bratislava, Slovakia
Bratislava sits on the River Danube just like Vienna, an hour’s train ride west. It’s less cosmopolitan than its Austrian neighbour, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It still has plenty of shops, cafes , restaurants, museums and churches to explore, while retaining its rural charm. Visit the Bratislava Castle and then meander down the pedestrian zone in the Old Town, stopping to see the sights as you go. 

5. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Located in a fertile alpine valley along the Ljubljana River, Ljubljana is a beautiful city to visit any time of year. In summer, it’s small enough to be very walkable, and its café culture and nearby university mean it’s young and vibrant. Like most European cities, there’s an Old Town which is a must see – full of bridges, Baroque architecture and churches. Don’t miss the Ljubljana Castle overlooking the city, as well as Lake Bled nearby. In summer you can try a number of watersports, while in winter, the Krvavec ski centre – one of Slovenia’s largest ski resorts – is easily accessible. 

Europe isn’t just about the West – the East has plenty to offer too, especially to those on more of a budget. If you’re interested in booking an Eastern European holiday, it’s a good idea to prepare ahead of time in terms of how you’ll access your money. The Bidvest Bank World Currency Card™ lets you buy and preload forex at a set exchange rate, so you won’t lose out if the Rand gets weaker. Find out more about it.