When people think of European vacations, most picture sipping espresso outside Parisian cafes, rolling out spaghetti in Italian restaurants, or shouting ‘Prost’ and clinking their glasses, filled to the brim with German beer. The Eastern part of Europe, however, is perfect for those looking to relax on scenic beaches, explore historic castles and museums, and gain a different view of Europe. Easily travel through Eastern Europe via car, that way you have the freedom to explore the deepest parts of this region. Start planning your road trip across Eastern Europe and be sure these stops make it onto your itinerary.
- Czech Republic
Check it out, or should I say Czech it out? This country is located at the center of Europe and is continuing to grow in popularity as a tourist destination. The country’s capital, Prague, is decorated with ornate buildings which have preserved history over centuries. Stroll through Old Town Square and watch the street performers and people milling about. Surrounded by religious memorials and gothic churches, the square is the perfect place to admire the architecture of Prague. Make your way across the Charles Bridge, which has stood strong across the Vltava River since the 14th century. A visit to the Prague Castle will make you feel as if you’ve been transported to a medieval fairytale. The awe-inspiring castle looks luminous in the evening. The castle has been home to Czech leaders for years, and is now the residency of the country’s current president.
Travel slightly Southeast and enter Budapest, Hungary. From Prague, your estimated driving time is approximately five hours. Begin your sight-seeing by overlooking the city of Budapest from atop Buda Castle. The castle is located on the west side of the Danube River and originated as a royal palace. Located within the castle are the Budapest History Museum, National Gallery and the National Library, making it a great place to learn more about Hungary while gazing out over the capital. Hungary is known for its unique thermal baths, which arose from the Roman influence on the country. Many thermal baths are still operating today and their original designs remain. While in Budapest, splash through the Gellért Baths at the Gellért Hotel. If you need the beach to accompany your water play, make your way to Lake Balaton. The natural lake stretches for 50 miles and is the largest lake in central Europe. The lake is popular for vacationers, so arrive early to claim your prime beach spot.
Next on your road trip itinerary is Slovakia, which is just shy of four hours from Hungary. Slovakia is known for its array of castles like many countries in Europe. The capital of the country, Bratislava, borders on Hungary and Austria, so it is a great central spot between countries. While in Bratislava, you will want to hit some of the main sights, like the Cathedral of St. Martin. This cathedral was originally constructed in 1221 in the Romanesque style, but has since been revamped. At one point, the cathedral was built to be part of the city of Bratislava, but has since been reconstructed and is now one of the largest and oldest churches in the city. The cathedral is located in Old Town Bratislava, a pedestrian only area filled with quaint shops and restaurants. Old Town is also home to many historic and government buildings, as well as serene churches. Make sure to walk uphill to the Bratislava Castle, one of the capital’s main landmarks, which looks over the town.
Pack up the car and head on to Poland. Bring some treats for your ride since this stretch will be longer with roughly seven hours to drive, but it will be worth it. As you enter Southern Poland, make your way to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. This is definitely a hotspot for tourists, but will be well worth your time as this is one of the most unique sights you will visit. The salt mine spans a total of 1,072 feet into the ground. Explore the four chapels which have been carved out of the rock salt and see the salt sculptures created by various artists. After learning about the history of the salt mine, take a step back to a darker time in history. Although it is a more somber sight, you can’t visit Poland without stepping foot in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Being on the ground where millions of people lost their lives during WWII will expand your knowledge about that significant time in history.
Last on your road trip list is Lithuania – roughly seven hours from Poland. Lithuania has its fair share of unique attractions and landmarks, so you will not be let down as your trip comes to a close. First is the Palanga Amber Museum where you will find 28,000 pieces of amber. Amber has been a popular trade item along the Baltic Sea coast and the amber industry was a big market in Palanga. In addition to the museum, there is a botanical garden on site which features rose varietals, a greenhouse, and multiple architectural pieces. In the northern half of Lithuania lies the Hill of Crosses, the site of a pilgrimage, adorned with over 100,000 crosses. The reason behind the pilgrimage remains unknown, but the Hill of Crosses has served as a peaceful site amongst darkness for many Lithuanians.
Does the road trip adventure have to end? At least now you can say you’ve taken the road less travelled through Eastern Europe!
About the author: Jason Goetz
Jayson is a writer from Phoenix, Arizona that is passionate about traveling on a budget. Being a broke writer, Jayson soon learned that if he wants to travel he needs to find the best deals. He loves sharing his experiences and tips in hopes of helping people travel the world.