Visiting Eastern Europe in winter might not be the first plan on your mind, but please read on! I am pretty sure that by the time you have finished this article, you have at least thought about booking those tickets for your Eastern Europe travel adventure!
When I read articles on best Eastern European cities to visit, I can almost always in advance guess which cities it will cover. I’m pretty certain there will be Prague and Budapest. If it’s a bit more in-depth, it might include Bucharest and Krakow. Oh, if it’s really spot-on, it will mention that Warsaw is the new Berlin and will recommend you to check it out. But come on, I’m sure my reader knows all these places, so I will not bore you with them. Instead, here are some fresh Eastern Europe winter destinations for you to try.
I come from Eastern Europe myself, I have married an Eastern European man and gave birth to two Eastern European children. I have also crossed the region back and forth so many times that I’ve lost count. I’ve spent a bigger chunk of my life figuring out which are the best places to travel in Eastern Europe.
Taking all this into account, I believe you can trust me being quite an authority on the subject – and let me tell you this: it is really one of the best destinations you can think of! Pretty cheap, pretty undiscovered and well – extremely pretty! And winter season can definitely be the best time of year to visit Eastern Europe.
Oh, before I give you the list of those secret gems, can I ask you one last favour? Could you please let me know in the comments, which of then you have heard before, and which were completely new for you? I thank you!
Ok, let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
- 1 Curonian Spit, Lithuania
- 2 Lviv, Ukraine
- 3 Heviz, Hungary
- 4 Strbske Pleso, Slovakia
- 5 Zakopane, Poland
- 6 Sigulda, Latvia
- 7 Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, Belarus
- 8 Transylvania, Romania
- 9 Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
- 10 Tartu, Estonia
What are the best places to visit in Eastern Europe in winter?
Curonian Spit, Lithuania
I might be biased, but Curonian Spit is the best place on Earth come any season, full stop. This thin piece of sand dunes and pine forests in the Baltic sea is probably as close as it comes to my own personal version of a cold Baltic paradise. It is even better in winter, as there are very few people you have to share it with, so when choosing among some Eastern Europe holiday destinations, please do consider this place.
There are four small towns on Curonian Spit, but your best bet in winter will be choosing Nida, as it has the best access to grocery shopping and biggest selection of cafes, hotels and restaurants offseason.
Before coming, make sure you check out the opening times of hotels and restaurants, as many places which were open during summer will be closed now. But when you have found a place to stay, you will be rewarded with amazing hikes, probably frozen lagoon, cosy evenings by a fireplace, stormy Baltic sea. Walk along the shore to collect some amber (a local sport) and visit a sauna to warm yourself afterwards.
Accommodation in Nida, Lithuania:
Hurry up to go to Lviv – this real gem of Eastern Europe is getting discovered by tourists faster than you are reading this text. Lviv belongs to my favourite type of towns – an almost-border town, meaning it is this great mix of many cultures and vibes. It definitely is one of the best places in Eastern Europe in winter.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of an old town is beautiful and walkable, so you can see it in one day or several if you make frequent stops for beer and coffee (my way of exploring). And Lviv is so cheap compared to many other European destinations, that you will be tempted to stop very often. Get some souvenirs at the Market Square, check out the fountains, climb up all the way to the High Castle Hill to see the city from above.
Speaking of coffee, make sure you visit Lviv Coffee Mining Manufacture and get yourself a flaming coffee. An experience to remember. Another thing Lviv is famous for is its artisanal chocolate, so get some to pair with the coffee and a box for the road.
Accommodation in Lviv:
Of course, thermal spas are nice in winter, but how about a whole thermal lake? This is definitely an experience taking it to a new level. Heviz in Hungary is a spa town with a hot spring lake, where you can take a winter swim.
The lake itself is warm, but after a while, your head will get cold, so you can continue to relax and stay warm in the healing water inside of the Spa building despite bad weather. The Spa has several indoor pools and jacuzzis. The town of Heviz is a cute little touristy town with many souvenir shops and cafes.
There is also an option of visiting Heviz together with Lake Balaton as a day trip from Budapest.
Accommodation in Heviz, Hungary:
Budget: I would actually recommend getting an AirBnB in Heviz. To make it even cheaper, get your 25 euro off here.
Enjoy: To really relax, try Bonvital Hotel Hévíz Adults Only. Check out prices, availability and amazing interior here.
Strbske Pleso, Slovakia
Are you thinking where to go to Eastern Europe for skiing? High Tatras in Slovakia is the answer.
The first mountains I have ever seen at the age of 13 were here. It took my breath away, stole my heart and made me fluent in pronouncing the name of this town, which is rather a big achievement. Strbske Pleso is a small ski town in High Tatra mountains near a beautiful glacial lake by the same name.
For skiers, Strabsle Pleso has a Park Snow with over 7 km of ski routes, equipped with chairlifts and ski lifts. For the simple mortals, it has affordable chalets, restaurants, spas and of course absolutely free of charge views and hiking trails.
Accommodation in Strbske Pleso:
As beautiful as it is underrated, Zakopane is one of my favourite regions in Poland. Located in the mountains of Southern Poland, it has a very distinct atmosphere from the rest of the country and can be a great location for your Eastern Europe holidays.
The majority of people coming to Zakopane in winter do so to ski, as it is the main ski resort in Poland and one of the best in the region. However, even if you don’t ski, it is definitely worth visiting.
Take road trips or hike around the hills and woods, admire beautiful views. Dine in local restaurants, where you can enjoy great food for a fraction of the price compared to the ski resorts in Western Europe. Make sure you taste the local salted sheep mild cheese called oscypek, which you can enjoy both raw and grilled. And to warm up after the snowy hikes, warm in the thermal spas.
If you are short on time, there is also an option of visiting Zakopane on a day trip from Krakow.
Accommodation in Zakopane:
Budget: In Gold Hotel you’ll find comfy rooms, hot tub and sauna for a very decent price.
Enjoy: You will not even want to leave Rezydencja Nosalowy Dwór with its restaurants, fitness centre and swimming pools. Check out the prices and availability here.
Do you know this annoying habit of calling things something which they essentially are not? Like Stochholm becomes Venice of the North and Tarte flambe – pizza of Alsace? So Sigulda is Switzerland of Latvia. Be geographically smart, and expect nothing like Switzerland. Latvia (and all of the Baltics) is essentially a flat region, but this is probably the hilliest you can get.
But the place doesn’t have to have mountains to be amazing. In Sigulda you have an ancient castle, great nature with hills, forests and views to take walks in. You also have a number of restaurants to taste local hearty food, which might seem too heavy for summer, but is perfect after a long hike in the snow.
You can easily reach Sigulda from Riga by car or by bus. There is also an option to take a guided day trip.
Accommodation in Sigulda, Latvia:
Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, Belarus
Belovezhskaya Pushcha is a National Park in Belarus. Did you know you don’t need to go to Lapland to see Santa? He actually lives in Belarus and goes by the name of Father Frost. To get there, you need to look for a village called Kamieniuki.
If you don’t speak Russian, it might be easiest to take a guided tour from Minsk or to come straight to Kamieniuki and take a bus tour around the national park. There are generally two types of tours: exploring the park and visiting Father Frost. The latter one is fun not only for kids but also for adults. You will get a taste for what a traditional New Year celebration is in Belarus and Russia – with a huge Christmas tree, fireplace dancing, calling Father Frost and of course presents.
Remember that you most likely will need a visa to go to Belarus, but the process of obtaining it is rather straightforward.
Accommodation near Belovezhskaya Pushcha, Belarus:
The prices in Belarus are still very good, so just enjoy any one of those options – all are great value for money.
Folvark Gvozd – prices and availability.
Hotel Complex Kamenyuky – prices and availability.
One of the greatest places I have visited and where I would really like to come back in winter. Transylvania is home to many castles (one of them the famous Bran Castle of Lord Dracula), picturesque small towns such as Sighisoara and Sibiu and winding roads – in other words, a region perfect for a relaxed unhurried road trip.
Plan an itinerary with many stops, castle visits, cosy hotel stays, walks in the hills and stops along the road to take pictures and admire the views.
Accommodation in Transylvania, Romania:
Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
As day trips from Prague go, Cesky Krumlov is now the hip instagrammable destination. But all times classics don’t get old, so you will not make a mistake of choosing Karlovy Vary. This luxurious resort of Czech Republic is a great alternative to Baden Baden. It is even better during the winter when it is much less crowded by the tourists.
While in Karlovy Vary, visit Dvorak Park and the Colonnade. Karlovy Vary is a part of the Bohemia region, famous for its crystal. You will find Moser Museum and Glassworks Factory, where you can learn more about this trade and see some finest examples.
Karlovy Vary is a spa town for a reason – it has over 300 hot springs all around the town. You can either enjoy them by visiting a spa or simply drinking from one of many city fountains using a special porcelain cup (sold around the city). The rich taste of sulphur will attack your tastebuds, but close your eyes, grit your teeth and remember that you are getting healthier with each sip!
You can go to Karlovy Vary for a day trip from Prague, but if you have more time, it is a great idea to spend a few days there.
Accommodation in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic:
Similarly to Paris, Tartu, Estonia is always a good idea, but I would especially recommend it in winter. It is a very cute university town with a medieval old town, numerous cosy cafes and bars.
Speaking of bars, this is a place where I have tasted a beer milkshake for the first and probably the last time in my life – an unusual combination of two great things together tasting much less disgusting than it might seem from the beginning.
Accommodation in Tartu, Estonia:
Have I convinced you that winter is the best time to visit Eastern Europe?