There are a number of reasons why Eastern Europe has become such a popular tourist destination.
Ideally situated between the Adriatic and Black Sea, Eastern Europe boasts plenty in the way of scenic beauty. From the medieval villages of Serbia, Croatia and Hungary, to the thick Romanian forests of Transylvania, and the Black Sea beaches of Bulgaria, a holiday in these fascinating countries makes for a memorable experience.
Tour these countries today and it quickly becomes evident that the dreary days of communism have long since passed. The traditional, yet stylish capital cities of Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia and Hungary are creating quite a lot of buzz for their welcoming attitudes, as are the traditional villages dotted throughout the countryside.
One of the best ways to experience this fascinating part of Europe is on a Danube river cruise. A cruise destination itself as the stretch of Danube from Budapest to the Black Sea possesses charms all of its own. It also makes for the perfect addon to the famed Amsterdam to Budapest river cruise, which when combined, lets you cruise from the North Sea, all the way to the Black Sea, in one spectacular journey along the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers.
Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours has developed some amazing all-inclusive cruise and tour options along the Lower Danube and Danube Delta, that will immerse you in the culture of this fascinating region.
Starting in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, this classic city is virtually cut in half by the Danube River. Here, you’ll see what’s arguably one of the most famous landmarks on the journey – the Hungarian Parliament Building. With its mix of Gothic and Renaissance Revival architecture, the massive building with its dome and spires is hard to miss. The country’s largest building is as beautiful by day as it is by night.
The first stop out of Budapest is Kalocsa. Known for its embroidery and hand painted porcelain, as well as the cooking spice, paprika, Kalocsa provides a traditional look into Hungarian culture. The city is also a religious centre. The beautiful St. Mary’s Cathedral was built between 1735 and 1754 and boasts beautiful baroque style elements and a massive organ. Other popular sites in the city of spice, are the Paprika Museum and the Museum of Folk Art both of which feature paprika products and other hand-made gifts.
Entering Croatia briefly, a stop at Osijek allows time for a guided tour of the quaint city, or, if you prefer, a guided bike ride through the nearby countryside. The city tour takes in the lovely city square, with its towering Gothic church. If exploring on your own, you may want to indulge your sweet tooth with some local pancakes or pastries.
The countryside is known for its wetlands and bird life and a ride on one of Scenic’s E-bikes, an easy to use power-assist bicycle, is the perfect way to take it all in. Before leaving Osijek for Belgrade in Serbia, a traditional lunch is served in the home of a local family for a true and authentic Croatian experience.
Straddling the border with Croatia and Serbia, the Danube turns east, and into Serbia proper. After a delightful day of scenic cruising, you’ll enter one of Europe’s oldest capitals, the cosmopolitan city of Belgrade. From the river, the imposing Belgrade Fortress can be seen towering over the city on what’s known as the ‘white ridge.’ Touring the fortress, the views overlooking the city and river are just as spectacular.
Serbia is well known for its Danube river-side walking and biking trails. This is the perfect vantage point from which to tour the city, and where you can admire the Baroque architecture as exemplified by the many towers and fortresses around the city (and another great E-bike opportunity).
Popular sites on the tour include Josip Tito’s Memorial, a choir performance in the Temple Crypt, and St. Sava orthodox temple.
MORE SCENIC STORIES YOU’LL LOVE…
- Cruising Europe’s scenic rivers
- A first-time guide to river cruising
- What to expect onboard a Scenic river cruise
On the journey to Romania, the cruise passes a famous natural attraction known as the Iron Gates. A narrow gorge, this part of the river is the natural border between Serbia and Romania. The towering cliff tops and mountains form national park lands in both countries.
Bucharest is another Eastern European capital with an ancient and storied past, yet you’ll find a mix of the old and the new side by side. And while the city is enjoying an economic boom, the reminders of its communist past can still be seen.
One of the tours here is of former dictator Ceausescu’s spring villa. Responsible for the destruction of much of Bucharest’s historic past, including many of its most beautiful buildings, Ceausescu was not as compelled to live under the austere conditions he himself foisted upon his people.
The other tour option is the Village Open Air Museum. Offering a glimpse into traditional Romanian country life, the outdoor museum in King Michael Park features hundreds of peasant houses and farms.
The Byzantine attractions of Veliko Tarnovo are just a short drive away from the Danube River. Perched on cliffs overlooking the River Yantra, this historic city is a Middle Ages time capsule filled with many architectural wonders. The centre of the Second Bulgarian Empire from 1185 to 1396, its must-see landmarks include Tsarevets Fortress and the historic market place known as Samovodska Charshiya. Walking through the market is like a journey back in time with its narrow cobblestone streets.
An old Roman village once known as Durostorum, the now city of Silistra on the southern Danube offers views out to the Black Sea coast. A Roman tomb from the 4th-century and an archaeological museum provide interesting insights into the area’s ancient past. Quiet pathways along the river lead to various ruins and the Ottoman Fort of Silistra.