As you probably know very well by now I’m a huge enthusiast of Central Europe. I believe it’s the most beautiful area ever, rich in culture, with a fascinating history and diverse architecture. And still so undiscovered! Every time I travel around I fall in love over and over again. And so I asked fellow travel bloggers what are the most beautiful towns in Central Europe they have visited. Some places might surprise you as they surprised me, I know that now my bucket list got so much longer! So, without further ado, here is a list of most beautiful towns in Central Europe!
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Kitzbühel, Austria by Paula from Contented Traveller
Kitzbühel is a small medieval town. It has 8,000 inhabitants and sits in an area of about 58 sq. km; Kitzbühel combines all of the advantages of a small town, characterized by its idyllic position in the heart of the Kitzbühel Alps. Kitzbuhel is located just 95 km from Innsbruck and 125 km from Munich and is an easy to reach destination. Kitzbühel is one of Austria’s best known winter sports resorts, situated between the mountains Hahnenkamm and Kitzbühler Horn. This downhill race, The Hahnenkamm is counted as one of the toughest downhill competitions in the World Cup. Each summer Kitzbühel also hosts an ATP tennis tournament on clay, the Austrian Open. Kitzbuhel’s population swells to some 50,000 people during the Hahnenkamm ski race are on and the town celebrates in a big way. This popularity continues through the ski season, as Kitzbuhel is a very popular ski destination. The town is fiercely Tyrolean. Kitzbuhel is a picture postcard perfect town. Horse drawn carts go through the streets, there are beautifully coloured houses and it is a religious town, which can be seen all around in the murals on the walls.
Belarus may not be located strictly in Central Europe, but it is still very interesting and unknown country between Poland, Ukraine and Russia. One on the most amazing small towns, placed in UNESCO World Heritage List, is Nesvizh (bl: Нясвіж). Architectural, Residential and Cultural Complex of the Radziwill Family will shock everyone who does not believe that Belarus has absolutely fantastic sights. Also the Corpus Christi Church at Nesvizh is not only one of the earliest Jesuit churches in the world, but also one of the first baroque buildings in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, influencing the later architecture of Belarus, Poland and Lithuania. So, do not wait. Get the visa and come to Belarus!
If you lived in the Middle Ages I bet you would chose to be Bohemian. So would I! It’s all because this amazing anthill created around this silver mines in Kutná Hora, one of the biggest cities back then. Although the city is nothing like that anymore still you can feel its medieval soul strolling through the small alleys of the old town. You can admire the city in the shadow of Sainta Barba’s Church from the ground like simple tourist or you can just become a medieval miner wandering in the undeground corridors. It’s up to you. And if you’re brave enough and you’re not afraid of death there’s one more thing waiting for you in the city. Probably the creepiest thing in the whole world – Sedlec Ossuary full of sulls and bones. You will enjoy, I’m sure.
It’s hard to choose a prettiest town when so many in Croatia could claim the designation, but on any list, Korçula would be a front runner. On the island of the same name, Korçula is the birthplace of explorer, Marco Polo. Conquered by Venice in the 12th century, Korçula has also been ruled by Illyrians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Slavs. On the short list for future nomination as a UNESCO world heritage site, Korçula’s Old City allowed no building outside its historic walls until the 18th century, and was accessible only by wooden drawbridge until 1863. Today, its narrow streets are still arranged in a stepped herringbones which protect against sea winds while allowing cooling air to flow around magnificent landmarks such as the Cathedral of St. Mark, a Franciscan monastery with Venetian Gothic cloister, civic buildings and palaces of merchant nobles from the 15th and 16th centuries. Nowadays a lively restaurant scene, quaint accommodations and great opportunities to play all kinds of ways in the pristine water attract visitors from around the world to this hideaway on the Dalmatian coast.
Melnik in Bulgaria is known as the smallest city in this country. Has something about 200 citizens, but in summer is sometimes a little bit crowded „thanks to” the tourists. But there are some more things from which Melnik is known. The first one is strain wines called Melnik (probably the oldest in Europe). The second one are Melnik Pyramids – amazing rock formations, which have orange colour and pyramid shape. If you are active you can go for a trekking to Rozen, where Rozen Monastir is. During the walk, you will have the opportunity to see the pyramids a little bit closer. In Melnik you can spent nice time in the restaurants which offer traditional Bulgarian food and of course Melnik wine (which you can also buy in the restaurants or shops).
If anybody would ask me where I’d like to spend a romantic weekend in Europe, I would certainly choose the small and enchanting town of Cesky Krumlov, in Czech Republic. In this little town, surrounded by the wavy countryside of South Bohemia and grown in a protective bend of the Vltava River, you drown in an ancient atmosphere and every street, corner or building is drenched with history and culture. On its paved paths, climbing between the facades of the buildings towards the imposing castle that dominates the city, you have the impression of being catapulted into another time, when around every corner you could meet damsels and knights. Cesky Krumlov is the perfect destination for those who choose to spend a romantic weekend amongst charming hotels nestled on the banks of the Vltava and excellent restaurants, to sample local cuisine accompanied by the murmur of the river, placid, flowing alongside.
There are places in the world which we can visit even every year. One of them is a small city called Omiś, located 21 km from Split in Croatia by the river Cetina. When I was in Omiś for my very first time, I was amazed that the city seems to be just fixed to the high mountains and also surrounded by the sea. Just a perfect mix of views! What’s more, in the past Omiś was the capital city for pirates, so you can easily find old fortifications like Fortress Mirabella. But Omiś is not only about history or great views, for me it’s also famous for serving the biggest pizza I’ve ever seen in Croatia! That’s definitelly the dish you have to try in this city. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed while visiting Omiś and would like to visit this city over and over again! :)
With 170.000 inhabitants, Prizren is the second largest city in Kosovo, but it retains a delightful village feel: walk through the little alleys in the Old Town, and you’ll feel transported back in time thanks to the Ottoman-era buildings. Life, here, flows slowly. One of the best things to do is to sit down at a café and order a macchiato or a cappuccino: they say Kosovo is the best place for coffee outside of Italy, and even an italian like me agree!
At sunset time make sure not to miss the view from the top of the Fortress: the glimpse over the city is well worth the hike, I assure you. If possible, try and visit Prizren in August, when the DokuFest (an internationally renowned documentary festival) takes place: the town gets lively, and you can watch some beautiful movies while relaxing by the river.
Nestled in a little valley in the Alps lives a small and magical town named Heiligenblut. The drive there is far removed from the motorways that sprawl across Europe, weaving back and forth through stunning mountain views. The quaint little town itself rests at the base of the Grossglockner, the highest mountain in the Eastern Alps. This gem’s population hovers around 1,000 people, and though it certainly attracts travelers from around the world, it is by no means a crowded tourist town. One is left in awe wandering down the streets, surrounded by tall snow covered peaks, and the beautiful Gothic era church. Feeling thirsty? Head over to the Mühle, a converted watermill, which was transported fully intact from elsewhere in Austria. This tiny wooden pub is a great place to meet new friends, partially due to its size – you’re going to need to get close! With friendly locals, cool shops, and nature at your doorstep, Heiligenblut is a great place to explore.
Once a thriving mining community part of the copper and ore industry in Slovakia, Spania Dolina now stands mostly as a monument to this productive past. Visitors who plan sufficient time can hike a trail from village to village through a network of old mining towns, most of which began operations back in medieval times. The centerpiece of Spania Dolina, looking down onto the town, is the church of Conversion of the Lord. While it’s no easy task to seek the spirit here, as it takes 160 steps in a covered stairway to reach it, a reward of peace, beauty and history is worth it. Strolling past the simple mining homes in the lush, forested landscape, a visit here reminds you that men labored arduously throughout the centuries to produce materials which were the backbone of the local economy and supported the surrounding cities of grander splendors and luxuries.
The small mountain town of Banska Stiavnica, Slovakia is one of Europe’s most beautiful small towns…and also one of its most historic. Here, engineers changed the mining industry forever through the use of explosives for the first time. The mines beneath the town (which can be visited on a tour) produced a vast wealth, which went to enriching the village. The riches built a world-class technical university, a lush mountain garden with oddities like giant redwood sequoia trees, a castle fortification that rivals any in Europe, and churches with ornate altars. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the little village of Banska Stiavnica is a wonder to visit!
Sighişoara was the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler (the inspiration for Dracula) but it’s now more famous for its quaint cafes and colourful houses than its ties to one of history’s most infamous rulers. The historical centre of Sighişoara sits on a hill above the rest of the town and features a unique and colourful church at its heart. The cobblestone streets of the old town are some of the prettiest in Europe, and when you’ve finished walking down every one of them (the old town is pretty small) you can take a rest in the picturesque square. We visited Sighişoara on a day trip from Brașov, one of Transylvania’s most popular towns, but I’d recommend spending a night or two there if you can.
Normally, when you say ‚Slovenia’, people think of Ljubljana, or maybe the mountains wonderland of bled and Bohinj – indeed beautiful, but overrun with tourists. On the other hand, in Jezersko there’s hardly a soul. This secluded valley is less than an hour away from Ljubljana, close to the border with Austria. The name ‚Jezersko’ means lakeland, as there used to be a huge glacial lake, that disappeared after an earthquake in the 14th century. In the 1960s, some Jezersko locals created a heart-shaped artificial lake, to honour the memory of their great lake. Adventure lovers should definitely add Jezersko to their list – there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, climbing, via ferrata, mountain biking and horse riding. A great hike takes you to the Ceska Koca mountain hut, built by Czech tourists in 1900. If you’re not into adventure, you can learn about beekeeping, or take a walk with Matej the herbalist and learn the secrets of plants.
A charming town fit for a fairy tale, Bled is truly magical. The highlight of this town is the majestic Lake Bled and the small island in the middle. A boat trip to the island shows you the small church, a popular choice for weddings. Lake Bled is a truly stunning sight in every season. On a clear day, the snow-capped mountains of the Julian Alps can be seen in the background. Another attraction, overlooking the town of Bled, is the medieval castle on top of a hill above the lake It’s a long way up but offers impressive views of Lake Bled and the rest of the town.
Ten years from now, Kotor will be one of those places your grandparents cruise to, but for now it feels like a quickly unravelling secret: a place where you can still get lost in the marbled alleys or evoke the spirit of ancient traders while exploring centuries-old fortifications. While the red-tile roofs and churches don’t hurt Montenegro’s beauty, it’s really the setting that will take your breath away: tucked in the bottom corner of a blue-green bay off the Adriatic, and surrounded by misty limestone mountains, it’s one of those places that evokes involuntary oohs and aahs, forcing your jaw to drop with the slightest of glances.
The most charming Austrian village is Hallstatt. It is located in the Salzkammergut region, which from the point of view of history was a very important center of salt extraction. Nowadays it is one of the most popular tourist destinations. In 1997 Hallstatt was registered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The most famous building is a small neo-Gothic church with a slender tower that we see on all the postcards and photographs of the area. A small area of the town makes it home built close on each other, and some can only be reached from the lake. Approx. 500 meters up above the village is salt mine which can be reached by foot or part of the route to beat a cable railway. Entrance on foot lasts an hour. On top is a beautiful view of the countryside. One of the attractions of this mine is the wooden slide and everyone has to pull on it. Little village of Hallstatt is beautiful and worth seeing, as well as the salt mine. In 2012, China’s Guangdong Province completed the construction copy of the entire town of Hallstatt. This has led to some kind of controversy among local people in Austria.
Jajce located off the beaten track, in central Bosnia and Herzegovina offers more than a tourist might expect at the very first encounter. Once an important residence of medieval Bosnian kings, today it boasts of thick walls and castle ruins hoovering over the city as an evidence of the past powerful position. Nearby, the dark and mysterious catacombs are available for paying a short visit whenever the tourist finds the local responsible for opening the crates. Going down the cobbled streets the modern part of the city emerges with buildings still having war scars. Only the Pliva river managed to retain its character over ages forming an impressing 21 meters high waterfall right in the city centre being the most distinguishing mark of Jajce.
Located in southern Hungary, close to the Croatian border, Pécs is famous for its large Turkish ruins and ceramics. It is a city of art and multicultural history, and nowhere better can this be seen than in the city’s diversity in architecture. It’s this diversity that makes Pécs such a beautiful city. From beautiful mosques to tall cathedrals to intricately designed hotels, everywhere you go there is something to admire. Not to mention, every street is a colourful array of buildings which makes wandering the streets such a delight. Of them all, Király utca stands out with its many baroque building as well as a former monastery, the Art Nouveau Palatinus Hotel, and the Pécs’ National Theater.
Cieszyn, situated by the Olza River dividing it into two cities in two different countries, is a special place not only because of its location. The influences of various cultures and nationalities which inhabited this area called Cieszyn Silesia (Śląsk Cieszyński) are visible at every turn. Let you discover this city, by starting your walk in front of the Jesus Church (Kościół Jezusowy) – a Lutheran Church, one of the largest and most important Protestant churches in Poland. Then walk down the Stalmacha street, until you reach the Peace Park (Park Pokoju) by the Museum of Cieszyn Silesia, that is one of the oldest museums in Central Europe. Just a few steps from the park, you will find a beautiful Market Square (Rynek). Sit down in one of the Cafés by the Rynek and try Brackie beer that is produced in Cieszyn brewery. Walking down the Głęboka street, you find yourself at the foot of The Castle Hill (Wzgórze Zamkowe) – the oldest settlement place in Cieszyn, where you will find The Piast’s Tower, Rotunda, Hunting Lodge, Oranger and the Tower of the Last Defence. Climb The Piast’s Tower and admire the breathtaking view of Beskidy mountains. Once down the hill, go across the border with Czech Republic. Have a walk by the Olza river until you reach Adam Sikora park, also known as Sikorak. Enjoy there the Czech beer, food and outgoing atmosphere that will give you the desire for further exploration of these multicultural cities.
Třeboň is one of the most beautiful small towns in the Czech Republic. Třeboň is located just 30 kilometers from the Austrian border, in South Bohemian Region. Located only three hours by train from Prague, so it’s a great option for a short city break. There are only nine thousand inhabitants, but Třeboň is a popular tourist destination. The beautiful, well preserved architecture, a huge park next to the castle, cobbled streets, ponds and lakes, as well as bike paths attract not only the Czechs, but also Austrians. This beautiful town will give you an insight in the history and culture of the region. Walking around the town, among small colorful houses, you can feel like in a fairy tale!
The enchanting little town of Bol is located on Brač Island on Croatia’s Dalmation coast. You can find plenty of family fun, secret couples hideaways or activities to work up a sweat in Bol. Your island getaway should start with a stroll along the promenade beginning at the port and meandering all the way to one of Croatia’s most famous beaches – Zlatni Rat Beach. Wandering along with your local made ice-cream in one hand and your camera in the other is a must. Be sure to head to the Gothic-Renaissance church, of Our Lady of Grace. Built in the 15th century, it houses a renaissance painting of Madonna and Child with Saints, painted by famed Jacopo Tintoretto. Bol is a particularly great place for families. With protected beaches and a friendly and welcoming attitude among locals.
When I was a kid, I used to visit Bardejov at least once per year. I couldn’t wait to get off the train, run via a small stone bridge, pass through the ancient moat and get to the main cobblestone square where I was goofing around with my sister until we entered the Church of Saint Egidius and climbed up to see the beautiful square and the nearby Carpathian mountains from above. I loved visiting Bardejov spa where we would get some mineral water and fresh hot waffles that we usually ate on a bench or on our way to the open air folk museum in the spa area. The good news is: not so much changed in Bardejov since my childhood. Go see yourself.
Sombor (Ravangrad – it’s an unofficial Serbian name of this town) is a medium, Austro-Hungarian town in Serbia near the borders: Serbia – Croatia and Serbia – Hungary. It’s one of the most beautiful towns in Central Europe. It reminds me of another similar town: Subotica (60 km from Sombor).The first historical record about this town is from 1340. From the 16th century until 1918 (and during World War II, 1941 – 1944), it was a part of Hungary. Since 1944 Sombor has been in Serbia.The main attractions in Sombor are: the 19th century Austro-Hungarian tenements in the town center, an Orthodox Monastery (1928 – 1933) and a Carmelite Catholic monastery (1904). Apart from this – Balkans food (cevapi) in local bars (center) and friendly people. ;)I think Sombor is one of the most beautiful Serbian towns (as well as Subotica).
At first glance it’s a small, not standing out town on the Krakow-Czestochowa Jura . A population less than 5,000 people. So why go there ? What makes you spending there the whole day in a very active way? Maybe the largest local market held every Wednesday and Saturday at the historic , nineteenth and twentieth -century barns ? Or the trail of Jewish culture ( once the Jews constituted 60% of the inhabitants of the town ) with a monumental Jewish cemetery , which survived more than 1 100 tombstones ? Or the popular Sanctuary of Our Lady Leśniowska Patrons of Families ? Or the recently opened Museum of ancient crafts in an authentic old mill ? Or other attractions for children – candy manufacture or handicraft workshops ? And at the end of the off-road drive an old car, so-called . swab ? And all this near the picturesque ruins of castles from the times of King Kazimierz the Great , so called . Nests . Any reason is good to come to Zarki . So much recommend !
Little I knew when I visited Mostar last Spring that it had so much to offer apart from its iconic bridge. On top of from being a Unesco World Heritage site and having one of the most picturesque old towns ever as pictured here, I fell for its warm locals and nightlife in the new part of town. Not to mention its stunning surroundings, where mountains seem to have brought from the Alps and rivers look like they are coming out of glaciers, with that particular white-turquoise color you only get to see in brochures. Of course, I will be back soon. Can’t wait to experience this region in a different season!
Ohrid (Macedonia) is in the heart of the Balkans, it’s a magical city and a special place, especially for us! The town itself and the people who live there inspired us to make a video we named: Lazy Holidays, which has become very popular. Ohrid is a beautiful, historic town with a rich heritage, situated on the great Lake Ohrid and was put on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. There is a huge collection of medieval icons for example! Ohrid has 365 old churches (that’s what we read, but honestly we didn’t have time to check them all out)! At the same time, the city itself is still calm and friendly and although it is one of the best holiday destinations in the Balkans it hasn’t been destroyed by massive amounts of tourism. In the summer there’s lots of stuff happening – you should visit Ohrid during Ohridsko Leto (Ohrid Summer Festival), which was recognized as the best tourism event in Macedonia 2013.
Żywiec. The first thing that comes to you mind is probably a brand of one of the most popular beer in Poland. And… Yes, you’re right! Żywiec Brewery, established by in 1856 by Archduke Albrecht Fryderyk Habsburg, is one of the first and the most renowned in the whole country. Nowadays, the interactive museum of the brewery is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the whole region. But in my town you can find more footprints of Habsburg Family, for example the Old Castle and the New Palace that are situated in Żywiec Park (which is the oldest one in Poland created in an English style). There’s also an amazing baroque Cathedral Church, cozy Saint Cross Church and right next to it… A small craft brewery. In the end, look at the location: little valley in Beskidy Mountains, close to the Żywiec Lake with the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen. Do you still think that Żywiec is not interesting and beautiful? Well, try to come here and drink two more beers!
Imagine a town whose narrow, cobbled streets wind up and down between houses made of stones. This town seems a bit ghostly. Once you leave the main street where locals and tourists meet up for dinner, you might occasionally meet only a stray cat or a mysterious, elderly lady clad in black. It’s Gjirokastër – a UNESCO town, called by Albanians “the town of thousand steps”. Just go there, and you’ll quickly guess why. It’s also a birthplace of the famous dictator, Enver Hoxa, who isolated Albania from the rest of the world for almost 40 years. Gjirokastër’s location couldn’t be more beautiful. Visit the castle towering above the town to see the oneiric panorama of the new town at the foot of the mountains. If you’re into history and museums, go to Zekate House (the oldest Ottoman house from 1812) and the Ethnographic Museum. The highlight recommended by tourist guides is the Ottoman bazaar in the historic heart of the town. However, if like me, you enjoy getting lost among narrow, stone alleys, just close the guidebook and let the surreal Gjirokastër lead your way.
It’s really hard to overpraise this little gem of the South Moravian Region. If you’re interested in architecture, visit Mikulov castle, climb the Holy Hill or walk through one of the oldest and biggest Jewish cemeteries in Moravia. If you’re into nature and sports, enjoy bicycle trips through the endless, lush vineyards that surround the city and – together with its limestone rock formations – give the whole area a unique Mediterranean-esque vibe. Oh yes, and there is wine as well. The region is famous for its delicious white wines and you will have a myriad of opportunities to taste them or learn about the history of winemaking. There’s a wine museum in the castle and wine tasting events throughout the city, but it’s even better to meet some locals – every house has its own, private wine cellar. Fascinating history, picturesque surroundings and sweet, sweet hangovers. Mikulov has it all.
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