These are the Best Spots for your North & East Europe Itinerary
We are getting ready for the biggest celebration in film excellence. The buzz always gets the world excited to see who is going to win the most coveted entertainment prize. Well, our Travel Oscars are of similar clout, giving travellers inspiration to plan their next trip to a spot they just may not have considered. As we continue our spotlight aligning with the 90th Academy Awards, here are the nominees for the best cities and hot spots to add to your North & East Europe Itinerary.
Nominated by Sarah and Nigel of A Social Nomad, Facebook
Tbilisi, capital of Georgia, is the result of a stunning combination of influences – conquerors over the centuries have left their mark, while today’s Georgians deliver as genial hosts. Tbilisi deserves the Academy Awards of travel for many reasons.
Should it be the humanitarian award as her 2003 revolutionaries stormed Parliament holding nothing more than roses? Or perhaps the award for best visual effects – as here you’ll a city dressed in the architecture of Islam with glorious panoramas from the 5th century Narikala Fortress high above the old town.
Conceivably, though, it’s the big one, the best picture award – because Tbilisi has everything, the cuisines of Persia, Russia and China, Georgia’s oldest church alongside stunning modern architecture and the birthplace of wine. Around every corner is another photogenic building, view or winding alleyway begging to be explored. Then there’s hearty Georgian food with the spice of the Silk Road and a whole neighbourhood of hot baths and saunas. What brings it all together, though, is the warmth of the welcome from the Georgian people.
Book a Tour: Tbilisi Highlights Half Day Walking Tour
When telling people I was going to Tirana, Albania, the response was, “Why?” Why visit a country that for many years was known as the black hole of Europe due to the closed borders of a communist regime?
But today’s Albania, a democratic country for 25 years, is working tirelessly to open itself to the world and welcome visitors with open arms, modernization with respect to retained history, and visible lessons from its oppressive past resulting in an astounding transformation.
Next to the massive new beige stone library facing the recently completed largest public square in Europe, speakers from the tower of the ancient mosque that Tirana was built around chant solemn prayers. Twisted skyscrapers shadow Ottoman architecture. Cold gray stone is splashed with bright colours.
But the most astounding of all is the bunker transformation; from communist fear and control to education and hope. The museum in city center is a transformed bunker that created controversy over whether the tyranny of the bunkers should be remembered. In compromise and honor of such mixed emotions, the museum stands and includes deliberate damage to the bunker. Another offers somewhat eerie tours that demonstrate the many effects of communism. Albania has over 70,000 bunkers, some buried in overgrowth, some converted to storage like the farmer’s wine cellar we visited, some now flanked by beach umbrellas instead of soldiers.
Tirana, if it won an Academy Award, would not only treasure it but would show it off to the world as it’s now showing off the beauty, strength, and hope of its emerging country.
Book a Tour: Tirana: 2-Hour Guided Evening Walking Tour
St Petersburg, Russia
If you ask me what St Petersburg in Russia is famous for, I would immediately say that it is its monumental palaces that make the city so well-known and appealing. After all, St Petersburg was the capital of the Russian Empire and the emperors definitely knew a bit about good and comfortable living. And it was a way to show how rich and powerful they were.
There are many palaces in St Petersburg itself and in its suburbs, and it is really hard to choose which one is the most magnificent. The Peterhof Palace, the Winter Palace (part of the Hermitage) and the Catherine’s Palace are the most famous ones. In many aspects they are very similar to each other, and there is an explanation to that: the palaces were built in the Baroque style, which implies lavishness and extravagance. And they are lavish, luxurious and extravagant. Just look at the gilded walls, windows draped with heavy silk, expensive porcelain, furniture of noble timber, marble columns. Don’t forget to look up: the ceilings amaze me with their paintings and intricate details. And some of these paintings use the 3D technology!
While many palaces are similar inside, their exteriors are different. Each palace has its own colour: red, pink, yellow, orange, green, blue. Some of them have columns outside, others boast onion-shaped domes or simple lines. It is fascinating to see how similar and different at the same time these palaces are.
It is hard to imagine that these masterpieces suffered during the World War II. The palaces outside St Petersburg were levelled to the ground, and I admire the skill of those people who managed to bring back their former splendor.
Book a Tour: St Petersburg: St. Isaac’s Colonnade Entry Ticket
My nomination for best destination in the world is the Estonian capital of Tallinn. The modern world seems so depressing these days, almost like a film without a happy ending. A great Oscar winning film leaves you with a feeling of hope and joy. Tallinn is a city that is full of hope and inspiration for the future. Part of the Baltic region of Northern Europe, Estonia only regained its independence from the USSR in 1991. In the short period since then it has emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
The people of this amazing city are wonderfully friendly and seem to be on a mission to make every visitor not only feel welcome but to leave with the same feeling of hope for the future that they have. There are so many things to see and do in Tallinn, the locals just can’t wait to show you what the city has to offer. The old town is small and compact, making it perfect for getting lost in. You can marvel in parts of the city’s Russian past by climbing the TV Tower or visiting the Linnahall and the Seaplane Harbour, you can even take a day trip to the Finnish capital of Helsinki and meet the second friendliest people in Europe.
The city of Tallinn is a truly inspirational place to visit. It will captivate you with its charm and the wonderful Estonians will fill your heart with joy. Happiness awaits in a far flung corner of North Europe.
Book a Tour: Tallinn: 2-Hour Old Town Walking Tour
Reasons I nominate the destination: Exceptional food, Spa’s, friendly locals and lots of things to do and a romantic spot for couples
Budapest is where romance lingers in the air. The banks of the Danube are the perfect spot to sit and chat or do nothing as you enjoy the sunset with someone you love. Budapest, however, isn’t a spot perfect only for couples. It’s versatile.
There’s a vast variety of food. Food that’s delicious and will make you come back for more.
You could head off on a solo adventure and never run out of things to do. Attractions here aren’t just for couples but for everybody including hen-do’s and stag parties!
You can relax in one of the many spas the city is famous for or even have ‘sparties’ with your group!
Be it fisherman’s bastion, or Buda castle; there are lots of spots to enjoy panoramic views of the city and enjoy beautiful sunrises and sunsets that envelope the city in vibrant colors.
Food is full of flavor, and the liberal use of paprika in many dishes ensures it is spicy but not hot!
The architecture in the city won’t disappoint, and the locals are friendly and happy to help if needed. A short weekend getaway or a honeymoon, Budapest is a destination that will cater to all needs and make you fall in love with it instantly!
Book a Tour: Budapest: 2-Hour Danube Cruise with Live Music
I nominate Minsk for Best Destination because it’s still such an unknown city. When Belarus opened up to tourists with their five-day free visa last year, we just had to go. Announcing our intention to visit Minsk, our friends asked, “Where is that?” Upon arrival, we found that it still had an old world, Soviet, feel to the city. The sights were primarily focused on the heroes of their wars. Surprisingly, though, most of the captions were in English. We were also pleasantly surprised at the thriving café and restaurant scene.
The local food was pretty amazing, especially the borscht and the potato pancakes. We had plenty of choices of places to eat in clean, friendly restaurants all within walking distance of the center. If you are looking to go someplace a little different, a virtual step back in time, Minsk is definitely the destination for you.
Book a Tour: Minsk 3-Hour City Tour
So there you have our round-up of the best spots to add to your North & East Europe itinerary. Which would you nominate for this prestigious award for best travel spot for this region of the world?
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Fill My Passport collaborated with other travel writers on this post. All opinions are our own and none was influenced by Fill My Passport.