Planning the perfect Eastern Europe itinerary when you only have a finite number of days or weeks to play around with can be a head-spinning and frustrating undertaking. It’s only until you sit down and pull out a map (or, more realistically, open up Google Maps) that you realise how vast this region of the continent is and how much there really is to see.
Eastern Europe encompasses so many sub-regions and countries that mapping out the ideal itinerary for 2 weeks in Eastern Europe can seem baffling and overwhelming. Do you want to head to the Central European favourites like Budapest or Prague? Do you venture up north and explore the charms of the Baltic states? Or do you head southeast and devote your time to one country like Romania or Bulgaria?
There are so many questions that pop up when travellers are trying to plan the perfect East Europe itinerary that it can be confusing to be able to figure out the perfect route. While there are a myriad of resources available out there for where to go in Western Europe, the eastern part of the continent still remains fairly “off the beaten path” and less visited.
So if you’re in the process of planning an Eastern Europe travel itinerary and are a bit stuck on what the optimal route is for you, then look no further.
Which countries are in Eastern Europe?
Before I jump headfirst into the ultimate itinerary for Eastern Europe, we need to discuss what exactly Eastern Europe is. For those who haven’t travelled extensively around the region, it may not seem like the term “Eastern Europe” is even that loaded, however, you will soon learn that it is not so much a term that defines a region and can be far more political and cultural than meets the eyes.
Many people will jump to thinking that the term “Eastern Europe” refers to the Warsaw Pact countries or the countries that were under Communist rule from WWII up until the early 1990s. This typically includes the countries in former Yugoslavia and anything east of Germany or Austria (excluding Greece).
Where things can get complicated is that many residents of certain countries don’t like to be referred to as Eastern European. For instance, the countries of Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia often would prefer to be referred to as Central Europe.
And the countries of Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, North Macedonia and Bulgaria are best referred to as the Balkans. And Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania? They’re the Baltics.
So which countries are actually in Eastern Europe? It’s still complicated, however, you’re generally safe to assume that countries like Romania, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and Russia are all Eastern Europe.
I would also go so far as to consider the countries of Georgia, Armenia and even Azerbaijan all the way in the South Caucasus as a part of Eastern Europe. I say this because, although geographically they may rest in what is technically Asia, culturally they are deeply European.
So, as you can see, Eastern Europe is generally quite a vague term that encompasses a number of vastly different regions and nations. However, it is also one of our absolute favourite regions to travel in the entire world and visiting anywhere in this vast corner of Europe is sure to spark your wanderlust.
How to get around Eastern Europe
Now that we’ve determined the complex region that defines Eastern Europe, we need to discuss what the best way to get around it is. And, much like defining the region, there isn’t one set answer to that which applies to the entirety of Eastern Europe.
Depending on which area of Eastern Europe you intend to travel to, the best way to get around will vary. However, what’s good is that, especially if you only plan to visit major cities, it’s very easy to get around most areas relying only on the train or bus. Just what form of public transit will depend on where you are.
If you plan to do the classic “Eastern Europe” itinerary (ie Central Europe) and hit top cities like Budapest, Prague, or Krakow, then you can easily get around while relying on the train. Train connections in Central Europe are frequent, reliable and relatively affordable — especially if booked in advance through platforms like Omio. You can click here to view schedules.
It can be popular to plan to use night trains to save on accommodation or time in transit, but keep in mind that these can book out quite early in high seasons and they can be quite expensive, depending on where you’d like to go.
If you want to save some money, you will find that the bus is a cheaper option and offers just as many routes. Companies like FlixBus offer numerous routes between cities at affordable price and buses are generally fairly comfortable and reliable. There are also overnight bus routes, but this is quite a tiring and uncomfortable way to travel.
If you happen to be travelling in the Balkans or Baltics, you are going to have to forget about any visions you had about taking the train. Rail routes are few and far between and where they may exist, they will be painfully slow, exceptionally outdated, and rather uncomfortable. The vast majority of the Balkans and Baltics aren’t actually converted on a rail network, anyhow, so your best bet is going to be taking the bus if you’re relying on public transit.
In the Baltics, there is a wonderful bus company called Lux Express that is arguably going to be the nicest bus that you will ever encounter. They are comfortable, have wifi and entertainment systems and serve most major routes throughout the Baltics and even into Poland and Russia. You can book bus tickets for the Baltics here.
In the Balkans, FlixBus operates in some countries, but there are far more bus companies available and finding out the schedules can be tricky depending on where you are. Your best bet is to check out the bus timetables at the station when you arrive so you have an idea because information on the internet may be incomplete or incorrect.
If you don’t want to rely on public transit, then you can always rent a car when travelling in Eastern Europe. This will allow you to have more flexibility with your itinerary and not be at the mercy of erratic timetables and long bus or train journeys. If you plan on just visiting EU countries, then you won’t have any trouble with crossing borders or visiting multiple countries.
However, if you’re visiting a number of Balkan countries, please make sure to double-check that the rental company will allow you to cross borders and that the car is provided with the adequate insurance in order to do this. The rental company should handle this and it isn’t the consumer’s responsibility, but do make sure that you are properly equipped before starting your Eastern Europe travel itinerary.
We also suggest taking out an excess insurance policy with iCarHireInsurance to ensure that you will be 100% covered should any damage happen to your vehicle without having to pay the extortionate prices for the excess insurance offered by most rental companies.
Finally, it’s worth making sure you have travel insurance for your Eastern Europe trip. If you’re travelling on a budget and are only after travel medical insurance it’s worth checking out SafetyWing’s nomad insurance.
How long to spend in Eastern Europe
So how many days or weeks should you dedicate to your itinerary through Eastern Europe ? With the region encompassing so many countries and sub-regions, it can feel like there is never enough time to see everything and deciding the ideal trip length can seem incredibly overwhelming.
The first thing that you need to understand is that it is impossible to see everything in a limited period of time and if you try to cram in too much, you are going to spend the vast majority of your time in transit between cities and destinations rather than actually enjoying and exploring the destination itself.
We always encourage slow travel and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to take numerous weeks off in order to travel to Eastern Europe, it just means that you should absolutely spend a bit longer in each destination that you visit. So, if you only have time for a one-week Eastern Europe itinerary, then we would suggest limiting your trip to just two cities.
If you want to see a good portion of the region you’ve decided to visit while still not taking a tonne of time off work or away from home, then we think that planning a 2-week Eastern Europe itinerary is the ideal amount of time to get a good taste for whichever region you plan to visit and to really experience some diverse and dynamic destinations.
Obviously, if you have longer and are looking to spend 3 weeks in Eastern Europe, then you can very much find a multitude of ways that you could fill your time.
3 weeks really is optimal to begin to dig deeper and get a bit off the beaten path and to see some cities and town away from the major capitals. This will give you a broader idea of the general culture of whichever country or region you are visiting and help you gain a better understanding of the area.
There are always options if you have longer than 2 or 3 weeks in Eastern Europe as there are a myriad of regions and countries that you could visit. You also could take the opportunity to base yourself for a longer period of time in a particular city and explore more of the surrounding area via day trips and even venture off the beaten tourist path in the city itself.
The possibilities are endless in Eastern Europe no matter how long you’re able to spend, just make sure that you can do each destination justice by spending enough time there.
The Ultimate 2-Week Eastern Europe Itinerary
For the purposes of this article, all of these itineraries are meant to be for about 2 weeks. If you’re looking for a one-week or 10-day Eastern Europe itinerary, then just take away one or two destinations mentioned as they interest you. Again, it’s best to keep in mind that it is impossible to pack everything in just a short time period.
Second, as mentioned earlier, there are lots of different regions that encompass greater Eastern Europe and we’ve put together itineraries for each of these. If you want more detail once you’ve decided where it is that you want to in Eastern Europe, we have dedicated, detailed itineraries for everything from Central Europe, the Balkans, the Baltics, and even the Caucasus if you are feeling intrepid.
So, without further ado, these are what we believe to be the best 2-week Eastern Europe itineraries that are sure to whet your appetite and make you fall in love with this incredible region.
Central Europe Routes
Central Europe is what most people are looking for when they think to plan an itinerary for Eastern Europe. Filled with some of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe and packed with interesting culture and fascinating history, Central Europe is sure to delight all those who venture there.
Classic Central Europe Route
This two-week itinerary will take you past some of the most popular and beautiful places to visit in Central. This route starts in Budapest and ends in Prague, but you can easily reverse it if it makes the most sense to you.
Budapest – The capital of Hungary is an excellent place to start any trip to Eastern Europe. It is something of the gateway to Eastern Europe and a great jumping-off point to visiting Central Europe, the Balkans, or Romania. Budapest is one of the most beautiful and dynamic cities in all of Europe and you’re sure to fall in love with it instantly. Plan to spend about 4-5 days in Budapest to really do the city justice before moving onto your next destination.
Vienna – Though not technically Eastern Europe, Vienna is an essential addition to an itinerary of this sort. Austria’s grand capital is a lovely place to explore for about 3-4 days and it is highly recommended that you take a day trip to the nearby capital of Slovakia, Bratislava.
Brno/Olomouc – Spend 2 days exploring one of Czech’s other cities and while Olomouc is a personal favourite of ours, Brno is a more direct stop and also offers another great perspective of the Czech Republic beyond the capital city.
Prague – No 2-week Eastern Europe itinerary of this sort would be complete without including the Czech Republic’s inimitable capital of Prague. The city is very popular, however, there are lots of places to visit within it that are off the beaten path. Plan to spend about 3-4 days in the city itself and then give yourself more time to go on a day trip or two.
Have More Time? If you have a bit more time to dedicate to this itinerary, please consider exploring more the Czech Republic. There is so much to see in this incredible country beyond Prague and very few international visitors tend to dig deeper and explore the country.
If you want to get out in nature, then head to the Jeseniky Mountains or Bohemian Switzerland National Park, or if you want to experience some more Czech cities, it can be worth it to head to Brno or even industrial Ostrava.
Alternative Central Europe Route
If you’re still after a Central European route but want to visit more countries, consider spending a bit of time in Poland rather than Czechia.
Budapest – Again, start your itinerary in Budapest and plan to spend 4 days exploring this incredibly beautiful city. There is so much to see and do in Budapest that you’re sure not to be bored.
Vienna – From Budapest, head onto Vienna for 3 days and make sure to do a day trip to Bratislava in order to see another amazing Central European city.
Prague – Plan to spend at least 3 nights and two full days exploring Prague, taking in the city’s top sites and learning about its vast and complex history. Also, Prague has some of the best beer in the world at some incredibly affordable prices!
Wroclaw – From Prague, head over to spend a day in the charming city of Wroclaw, Poland. This lesser-visited city is dotted with interesting sites to see and full of endearing quirks — including a myriad of little dwarf statues that can be spotted throughout the city!
Krakow – End your itinerary in Poland’s second-largest city of Krakow. This city is filled with history, both heartbreaking and fascinating, and it is worth taking the time to explore that along with it’s beautiful Old Town. It is also possible to take a day trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mine or to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp Museum. You could even take a day trip to the Tatra Mountains, if that suits your fancy.
Have More Time? If you have more time to devote to this itinerary, consider exploring more of Poland, including heading to the capital of Warsaw or to some smaller cities like Poznan or Gdansk, where you may find fewer crowds than in cities like Krakow. You could also combine this itinerary easily with a route through the Baltic countries if you have around 4-5 weeks to play around with.
The Baltics are one of Europe’s most underrated regions but also happen to contain some of the most charming spots in all of Eastern Europe. Filled with fairy-tale-like cities, incredible cuisine and fascinating history, this is how you should spend two weeks in the Baltics.
Classic Baltic Route
If you’re interested in dipping your toe into the Baltic countries and just want to get a feel, then this two-week route through the capitals is a great option for you.
Warsaw – Poland’s capital is one of the easiest places to begin this route. Plan to spend about 2 days exploring this historic city while taking in its refurbished Old Town and visiting some of the great museums.
Vilnius – The capital of Lithuania has been subjected to some great marketing campaigns, however, it still doesn’t get nearly the amount of visitors that it deserves. Home to one of Europe’s largest old towns, a great cafe culture, and its own “independent republic,” plan to spend about 3 days in Vilnius to get the most out of the city and maybe take a day trip.
Riga – Next, head up to Latvia’s cosmopolitan capital of Riga. There is so much that Riga has to offer, but it is a real joy for architecture geeks — boasting one of the best collections of Art Nouveau architecture in Europe. Riga also has a lovely Old Town, great restaurants, and an incredible Central Market. Plan to spend 2-3 days in Riga to get the most out of the city.
Tallinn – The Estonian capital may well be the most beautiful city in the entirety of Europe (move over Paris or Seville!) however, very few visitors give it the time it deserves. The medieval old town packs a significant amount of charm, but there is so much more to see in Tallinn that it’s worth spending at least 3 or 4 days to really do Estonia’s capital justice.
Alternative Baltics Route
If you are looking for an itinerary for Eastern Europe through the Baltics that allows you to really dig deep into the region, then this route commencing in Vilnius and ending in Tallinn is a great option for you.
Vilnius – Start your trip in Lithuania’s capital and plan to spend 2-3 days here exploring the top sites, going for a day trip, and enjoying the laid-back nature before moving on.
Kaunas – Lithuania’s second-largest city can be seen in about one full day, but it is still very much worth exploring. Kaunas boasts a lovely old town, one of Europe’s longest pedestrian streets, fantastic street art, fascinating museums, and an imposing medieval castle making it a can’t-miss stop in Lithuania.
Riga – Now it’s time to visit Latvia’s beautiful capital city. Take the time to enjoy its cosmopolitan energy, enjoy the cuisine, and maybe take a day trip to the seaside town of Jurmala located just outside of the city.
Tartu – Estonia’s second-largest city is far too often ignored by visitors to the Baltic, but it really shouldn’t. There are lots of things to do in Tartu that can easily occupy one or two full days including exploring the old town, visiting museums, enjoying its art scene, and indulging in some of the city’s fantastic restaurants.
Tallinn – End your itinerary in Tallinn, trying to spend at least three days enjoying this incredible city. Tallinn is so cool and dynamic and has so many layers that you are sure to be charmed and itching to explore more.
Have More Time? If you have more time to dedicate to the Baltics, there are so many more places that you could visit. Consider heading to the coast of Lithuania and exploring the city of Klaipeda and the beautiful Curonian Spit. Or, head to the seaside town of Liepaja, Latvia and take in its laid-back charms.
Alternatively, you could head to the Estonian seaside in cities like Parnu or Haapsalu or, even more offbeat, head to some of its countless islands – like peaceful Saaremaa. And though it’s definitely not Eastern Europe, many people like to continue onto Finland and the Nordics from Tallinn.
Southeastern Europe Route
If you would rather head southeast when planning your Eastern Europe travel itinerary, then these are the routes for you. Heading into the Balkans is a great choice if you want to experience a number of different cultures and learn about a different history than you would in other areas of Eastern Europe
Central Balkans Route
This itinerary begins in Budapest and takes you through some south-central European capitals.
Budapest – There are few cities better to commence an Eastern European route in than Budapest. For this 2-week itinerary, plan to spend 4-5 days in the Hungarian capital.
Belgrade – Belgrade is a gritty, lively, energetic and dynamic city that is just so cool it is sure to take you by surprise. Known for its incredible nightlife, Belgrade is also packed with history, culture and interesting things to do that you could easily occupy yourself for the recommended 3 days in Serbia’s capital.
Zagreb – Croatia’s oft-overlooked capital is normally put on the back burner for those more eager to head to the country’s coast, however, it is worth spending a day or two exploring. There are also numerous great day trip opportunities — please try to get to Plitvice Lakes, it’s breathtakingly beautiful — from Zagreb, as well.
Ljubljana – End this 2-week itinerary for Eastern Europe in Slovenia’s capital of Ljubljana. This beautiful city is so incredibly charming that it is a strong contender for the most beautiful city in Eastern Europe (Tallinn has some competition). Plan to spend 2 or 3 days in Ljubljana, giving yourself longer if you’re interested in going for a day trip to Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj, lovely Maribor or even the seaside village of Piran.
Classic Balkans Route
If you’re after a more classic Balkans route for your trip to Eastern Europe but only have two weeks to do it in, then plan to begin your trip in Belgrade. The central Balkans are fairly off the beaten path compared to the rest of the places on this list, however, they pack so much that it’s worth exploring.
Belgrade – Begin your trip in Belgrade, Serbia taking in all of the eclectic sites the city has to offer, experiencing its inimitable energy and learning about its vast and complex history – there are tons of walking tours here where you can learn all about this city. 3-4 days in Belgrade should be sufficient, but one can always spend more.
Sarajevo – Next, head to Bosnia & Herzegovina’s incredible capital of Sarajevo. One of the most fascinating cities to visit in this part of the world, Sarajevo has an absolutely heartbreak history that is very much worth learning about in a number of the city’s excellent museums. Take the time to learn about its not-so-modern history, as well, enjoy the historic city centre, and take its east-meets-west vibes at this cultural crossroads. You need about 2-3 days in Sarajevo to really do the city justice.
Mostar – From Sarajevo, head south to the beautiful city of Mostar. Far too often visited only as a day trip, Mostar is best experienced over two days to really learn about this city and its complex history.
Kotor – To round out this two-week itinerary, head to the Montenegrin port city of Kotor. This city is quite popular amongst tourists — especially as a cruise ship port — but it’s definitely worth spending 2-3 full days here to get to know the city and take some day trips to the surrounding area.
Have More Time? If you have more time to spend in the Balkans, your opportunities really are endless — one could easily spend months on end in this region alone and still feel as if they’ve only scratched the surface. From Kotor, one could easily head into Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and onto Greece, if you want to stay further south.
Alternatively, you could continue on east into Bulgaria, which deserves at least a week or two to explore on its own. Planning a Bulgaria itinerary on top of this Eastern European route is a fantastic idea.
If you end up in Bulgaria and have a lot of time to play around with, then it would also make sense to head into Romania. Again, Romania is a massive country and visitor could easily dedicate two full weeks solely to this country – take time to see sites like Bran Castle, explore the vibrant capital of Bucharest and wander through the towns and cities in Transylvania.
Booking Accommodation in Eastern Europe
Once you’ve figured out your itinerary and where you want to go in Eastern Europe, the next step is booking accommodation. Luckily, there are so many options out there to book the best places to stay that cater to all tastes and budgets.
If you’re planning on backpacking in Eastern Europe, are on a tight budget, or are just looking for some great social opportunities, then hostels are going to be your best bet. We like to search for and book hostels online through Hostelworld, which is excellent to find the best hostels and keep all of your bookings in place. Click here to browse hostels in Eastern Europe
If you’re looking for a broad array of accommodation options at great prices, then you can’t go wrong with Booking.com. This is our platform of choice when we are booking traditional hotels and B&Bs and even, sometimes, whole apartments! Click here to browse accommodation on Booking.com
And finally, if you’re looking for a private apartment rental or would like to save some money while staying in a private room in a local’s home, we recommend booking your stay through Airbnb. There are countless properties available on the platform all over Eastern Europe that will ensure you have a unique and authentic place to rest your head.
There are countless options when planning the ultimate Eastern Europe itinerary and it can seem overwhelming when confronted with all of them to figure out where to go. However, this region has so much to offer that no matter where in it you end up visit, you’re sure to have an incredible time!
Are you planning an Eastern Europe travel itinerary? Have you travelled in Eastern Europe? Let us know in the comments!