Budapest, Berlin, Prague, Krakow & Bratislava – these are some of the most popular places to visit in Central Europe.
And for good reason. These cities have a fantastic mix of history, culture, bustling nightlife and amazing restaurants that draw in thousands of tourists every month. However, more and more travellers in Europe are looking to get off the beaten path and explore places in Central Europe that aren’t on the main tourist trail. Luckily, there are no shortage of alternative places to visit in Central Europe that will certainly offer a unique experience to those found in the capital cities.
1. Instead of Budapest… visit Pécs
There is arguably no better city in Europe for backpackers than Budapest, however, if you want to experience a different side of Hungary, it’s worth exploring Pécs – Hungary’s undiscovered gem. Pécs is a student town, located a three-hour train ride from Budapest and offers travelers an opportunity to experience a side of Hungarian culture that can sometimes feel missing in the thriving metropolis of Budapest. There are more than enough things to do in Pécs to keep you occupied for a few days including exploring the Old Town, hiking to the nearby TV Tower, enjoying an affordable set menu lunch and relaxing in one of the many student cafes and bars. Pécs is simply a fantastic city to travel to and experience a side of Hungary that you won’t get if you only visit Budapest.
2. Instead of Prague…visit Olomouc
Prague is one of the most popular places to visit in Central Europe with a large number of weekend-trippers, stag dos, tour groups and backpackers visiting the city every year. This means that Prague has lost some of its charm and it can be difficult to get an authentic Czech experience when visiting the capital city. Luckily, nearly Olomouc offers travelers an opportunity to see a beautiful historical Old Town with a fraction of the tourists that exist in Prague. I first visited Olomouc in 2010 and whilst there were a few more tourists there on my most recent trip, it’s still far from being overrun. Olomouc is a great city to visit with no agenda as you’ll undoubtedly whittle a few hours away in the open squares or Turkish tea houses as well as enjoying the cheap local and international food available.
3. Instead of Krakow…visit Wroclaw
There are pros and cons of visiting Krakow, however, it’s booming popularity means that it’s certainly not a representation of the rest of Poland. Nearby, the student city of Wroclaw offers travelers a more relaxed atmosphere enabling you to soak in Polish culture without the hoards of tourists. There are plenty of cool things to do in Wroclaw including going hunting for dwarf statues, gazing at street art, enjoying the local cuisine and relaxing in the beautiful Old Town or one of the city’s many parks. Wroclaw has one of the youngest populations in Poland which means this is a thriving city with always something going on!
4. Instead of Bratislava…visit Ždiar
Despite having made two visits to Bratislava, it’s a city that I’ve never clicked with. It doesn’t have as much to do as other Central European capitals so rather than spending time in another city, I suggest getting out into nature and visiting the mountain town of Ždiar. Ždiar is located on the Slovak side of the Tatra Mountains which is more affordable than the corresponding Polish side of the mountains. It’s a great town to base yourself in if you want to go hiking in the summer or skiing in the winter as there are plenty of hiking and ski trails nearby! In the evenings, make sure to indulge in some of the hearty and delicious local food!
5. Instead of Berlin…visit Dresden
I would never tell people not to visit Berlin. Despite being such a popular city, it’s undoubtedly one of my favourite places to visit in Central Europe as there are so many cool things to do in Berlin! However, if you want to experience a different alternative scene in Germany, it’s certainly worth traveling to nearby Dresden. There are two sides to visiting Dresden – one is exploring the Old Town that was completely rebuilt after being destroyed in WWII and the other is exploring the alternative area of Neustadt. Neustadt is filled with hipster cafes and bars, cool street art and large open spaces perfect for people watching. It’s an area that is quickly beginning to rival Berlin’s alternative suburbs making now a fantastic time to visit!
If you’re traveling to Central Europe, make the effort to get away from the popular cities and you will undoubtedly experience some fantastic off the beaten path towns that are completely different to the larger cities in the region!
What’re your favourite alternative places to visit in Central Europe? Add a comment below!