If you have a “been there, done that” attitude toward Western Europe, are looking for a deep dive into Communist and World War II history or simply want to say you went somewhere none of your other friends have ventured, look no further than Highlights of Eastern Europe.
This trip takes you through four very distinct cultures, starting in Budapest. This capital city is the epitome of East meets West, where the effects of Communism can still be felt throughout (no really, there is a huge monument of a literal Iron Curtain in the city center). You can cruise the Danube by night and see all of the major buildings lit up. With its Ruin Bars, hip Jewish Quarter and bountiful history, Budapest has that gritty, badass attitude that makes you feel both a little out of your comfort zone, but in awe of how cool this city is at the same time.
Next, put your pinkies up and take a curtsy for Vienna. Just about as polar opposite from Budapest as you can get, Vienna is home to classical music, the 443 year old Spanish Riding School for Lipizzan horses, and museums galore. Even if you aren’t Mozart’s biggest fan, you can still channel your inner “Sound of Music” post up with a bottle of wine outside of the Vienna State Opera House and watch a live (free) performance on a huge projection screen.
Once you’ve had your fill of classical music and schnitzel, wash it down with an acclaimed Pilsner beer in Prague. Known for its endless nightlife, hearty food, and impressive medley of Nouveau, Gothic and Baroque architecture Prague is the definition a triple threat. Walk the Charles Bridge a check out the artisan made crafts, jewelry and artwork before popping into a beer hall or two.
Finally, hit Poland and experience both Krakow and Warsaw. Krakow, now a bustling city full of young people, tasty local street food, and an interesting live music scene, it is also rich with World War II history. Krakow is just a short drive away from the most infamous Nazi concentration camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau. Though visiting these sites can be heavy for some, it is an unforgettable experience. Warsaw, also hosts a plethora of WWII history, but this capital city has been almost entirely rebuilt after the war. Its wide streets and modern city center make you feel like, “ya, I could pick up and live here tomorrow,” but the second you hit the Old Town Square it’s like being transported back in time. As the sun sets on the colorful buildings over the outdoor cafes, it’s impossible to not have a “WOW” moment.
Overall, if you’re looking for a bit of adventure into the unknown and more meat and potato dishes than you ever thought possible be sure to check out the Highlights of Eastern Europe.