I am admittedly one of those travellers who loves to plan. Not because I like being super organised and enjoy sticking to rigid itineraries; but so that I can see and experience as much as I possibly can when I travel. It’s similar to the age-old expression of ‘biting off more that you can chew,’ but in my case, its cities and adventures. I’m sure that I am not the only one who gets super excited thinking about all the things I want to see and do as soon as I book a plane ticket. So, when I decided to spend a week road tripping around Eastern Europe, I sat down and pulled together an epic 6-stop itinerary. Check it out for some inspiration to plan your own.
STOP ONE – Prague
The starting place for the road trip is the enchanting city of Prague. With its cobblestone streets, gothic architecture and an enigmatic castle perched at the top of the town’s highest peak; Prague is reminiscent of pictures in fairy-tales. It’s split up in to two main parts separated by the Vltava River – the Old Town and the New Town. There’s so much to explore in the Prague and the best way to see it all is by walking. Start by visiting the astronomical clock in the Old Town Square, then make your way across the famous Charles Bridge to the Castle District.
The Prague Castle and its surrounding grounds is one of the city’s most popular attractions and an absolute highlight. Climb the Zizkov TV Tower for a panoramic view of the city and pop into some of Prague’s many museums and galleries to learn more about the rich Czech culture and discover incredible collections of medieval and gothic artwork.
STOP TWO – Cesky Krumlov
Head two hours South from Prague towards the boarder of Austria and you will find the gorgeous little town of Cesky Krumlov. This UNESCO world heritage city in the South Bohemia region of Czechia receives 150 times more tourists than residents every year. Framed by the winding Vltava River, visitors flock to admire the town which looks as if it is frozen in Medieval European time. Exploring the renaissance-style castle and its attached theatre, gardens and tower is not to be missed (make sure to climb the tower for the most spectacular view.)
STOP THREE – Hallstatt
The next stop is about 2 and a half hours drive into Austria and is the wonderful town of Hallstatt. Simply put, Hallstatt is one of the prettiest towns I have ever seen. It’s one of the handful of places which has truly taken my breath away. Hallstatt is known as the ‘Pearl of Austria’ and it is perched on the edge of Hallstattersee Lake, below the backdrop of rolling mountains and lush countryside. The town itself is very small, but its surrounding natural beauty is like looking into a postcard. Despite its lake of attractions, you could easily spend days hiking, boating and admiring the stunning views.
STOP FOUR – Ljubljana/Lake Bled
From Hallstat keep heading south into Slovenia. It is about a 3 hour drive to the capital, Ljubljana; but on your way, make sure to stop off at Lake Bled. Lake Bled is a place like no other. Despite occupying a very small part of the world, Lake Bled has an abundance of natural beauty and spectacular scenery. Surrounded by an emerald-green lake, sits the tiny island of Bled with a picturesque church and bell-tower marooned in the centre. Take time to stroll the path that stretches the length of the lake to take in the remarkable landscape and hike up to Bled Castle for a panoramic view.
The drive from Lake Bled to Ljubljana is less than an hour. Ljubljana is often overlooked as a popular destination, but this lively city is definitely worth exploring. As it shares its boarders with Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, it is a real melting pot of cultures, cuisines and customs. Ljubljana is also a major university city so it has a cool, hipster vibe with great nightlife and an amazing art scene. When you’re not busy exploring the many galleries, bars and restaurants, must visit attractions include the Ljubljana Castle, Central Market, strolling through its many gardens and a walk over Triple Bridge to meander through the charming streets of the Old Town and admire the beautiful Baroque-style buildings.
STOP FIVE – Budapest
The drive from Ljubljana to Budapest is about 4 hours, so stop off on the way at one of the cute towns along Lake Balaton. There is so much to see and do in Budapest, from admiring the incredible architecture to indulging in delicious Hungarian cuisine. Split up into two areas by the Danube River – “Buda” and “Pest” – the city is easy to navigate by foot.
Start by visiting the Parliament Building, then marvel St. Stephen’s Basilica, before crossing the Szechenyi Chain Bridge to explore the Buda Castle. The best views of the city can be seen from Fisherman’s Bastion or by taking a leisurely boat cruise along the river. Finish up by visiting a traditional Hungarian bath-house before feasting on Goulash and local beer.
STOP SIX – VIENNA
The last stop on the Eastern European Road Trip is Vienna. It’s about 2 and a half hours drive from Budapest and the perfect place to end the epic journey. The Austrian capital is full of countless museums, churches, art galleries and theatres. It’s also one of the major cultural capitals of the world, being home to the likes of Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss, so a trip to the State Theatre is well worth the ticket.
Be sure not to miss the stunning Imperial Palace, Parliament Buildings, City Hall and St. Peter’s Church. There is a whole quarter dedicated to museums and do not leave without sampling some traditional Austrian food – especially Wiener schnitzel and apple strudel.
Those are my 6 Must-See’s What do you think deserves a place on this itinerary?