Kotor, Montenegro

 

Kotor is one of the most remarkable cities along the Adriatic Coast.  Built into the mountains this spectacular historical town   The city is completely enclosed within the old city walls that date back to the 13th and 14th century.  Be sure to spend some time exploring the old town and make your way up to the old fortress ruins in Kotor.  It is amazing to see how well the old walls and indeed the fortress have withstood the test of time.

 

Make sure you keep an eye open for the famous ‘Cats of Kotor’, spread throughout the city, lazing in the sun or enjoying the attention of affectionate tourists.

 

 

 

 

Brasov, Romania

 

Nestled amongst the Transylvanian mountains – Brasov is a beautiful town of mystery and legend.  This Romanian city sits in the heart of vampire country.  Home to Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) this town has become popular with tourists wanting to explore the vampire legends and secrets within.  Bran Castle, the inspiration for the famous vampire book is one our south, and whilst touristic, certainly worth a visit for those making the journey.

 

The city itself has plenty to do, start by exploring the old fortifications that surround the city, start by exploring the Piata Sfatului, the main town square – a centre of public trials and executions during the middle ages.  The Black Church and Black and White Towers are worth exploring in the old town.

 

However, that’s not the only thing that people come for, there is a wonderful natural beauty that surrounds this city (and ski slopes in the winter).  Atop the mountain is an ‘homage’ to

 

 

Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

 

A war-torn history has given Mostar a special feel

 

The city of two halves – the Christian

This city has a spectacular beauty seeded from a violent and war torn past.  It is also one of the most visited cities in the Balkans, and home to a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It is a city in harmony, after years of conflict.  Full of markets, mosques café’s and other beautiful historic buildings.

 

Mostar is perhaps best known for ‘Stari Most’ – its famous bridge that connects both halves of the city.  During the summer (and occasionally the shoulders as well) look out the Mostari – the protectors of the city – who will frequently jump off the 23m high point over the water.  If you are even feeling game enough they will show you the special way to jump to avoid injury.

 

Also, don’t go through the city without climbing to the top of the Koskin-Mehmed, the mosque that offers a beautiful view over the ancient city.

 

 

Zagreb, Croatia

 

Arguable, Croatia is the most popular country amongst tourists in the Balkans, and is frequented by people from all over the world for Yacht Week or Sail Croatia experiences.  There are still cool things to do in Zagreb, wandering through the city, the Uptown, and Dolac Market.   Zagreb Eye offers a wonderful view of the city, with a bar atop for a relaxing drink.

 

Zagreb is also home to perhaps one of the more peculiar museums in the world.  The Museum of Broken Relationships is an interesting look at the relationships of different couples from around the world.  The nightlife is cool in Zagreb, but I strongly recommend staying at Swanky Mint – a cool bar, and a wonderful hostel.

 

 

Split, Croatia

 

Split is a special city in Europe, popular with tourists, particularly those embarking on sail weeks down the Croatian coastline.  Split has everything from the beautiful Bačvice beach to the remarkable old town and the incredible Diocletian’s palace.  Take your time exploring this spectacular city and taking in the beauty of the old town.  As you explore the palace, be sure to climb the St Domnius Cathedral and take in the view from this 7th century marvel!

 

There are plenty of beaches, be sure to check them out – although if you are looking to relax there is a spectacular view of the ocean from the main square.  Although a little pricey, there are worse ways to see the day out.    Another thing I love about Split is the nightlife.  There are plenty of bars full of fellow travelers, locals and genuinely cool people who will help you party in style!

 

Ljubljana, Slovenia

 

Slovenia is very much off the beaten path, especially in the capital.  Although the occasional tour bus may stop by you have the place to yourself.  As you wander around the city you are taken by the beauty of this city.  Sitting on the river it’s no surprise the town is full of bridges –the Dragons Bridge and Triple Bridge are must sees.  Be sure to ask a local about the dragon killed by Jason (from Jason and the Argonauts), a local myth – or urban legend?

 

For something a little different try staying in Hostel Celica – set up in an old prison and really taps into the cultural feel to the city.  There is street art a plenty in the city and open to those willing to explore.  Be sure to head up to the old fortress that is perched over the city as the view does not disappoint.  The other thing that is absolutely recommended is to get outside of the city – go and see Lake Bled or some of the other natural beauty this undiscovered country has to offer.

 

 

Varna, Bulgaria

 

Varna is a little-known town that sits in the Black Sea and holds a special place in my heart.  While the city is not known for its history, there are several things about this city that make it a perfect place for a relaxing beach getaway, a weekend of wild partying or a stop on the way through a trip exploring a path less travelled in the Balkans.

 

The beaches are glorious, and for those who are looking for a relaxing day in the sun, there is a spectacular café that is a great place to enjoy cheap beers and lunch with a view.  If it is nightlife in Varna that you are looking for, then look no further than Golden Sands, from chilled outdoor bars, to foam parties and UV parties, there is no shortage of excitement for those seeking a party thrill.

 

I also want to make special mention to one of the best places I have stayed in Europe – X Hostel Varna.  Located outside the main city Chris has been able to achieve something special and you can read my review here.

 

 

Hvar

 

Hvar made my list because it is an amazing place to party in Croatia.  Although not just a place to let a little loose – Hvar is also a beautiful city overseen by a fortress that dates back to pirate times.

 

It is at night when this beautiful city comes to life.  With a grand array of bars scattered throughout the town, and the harbor you can find anything from Helmet Shots, flaming drinks and jaeger trains to get your night started.  After 11 make your way to the far end of the dock and board the boat for Carpe Diem – the famous Croatian nightclub.  Perhaps with the world’s only ‘MIP Room’ frequented by the likes of Prince Harry and Beyoncé.  A brilliant spot to party the night away – I rate this as one of the best escapes to party the night away by the beach in Europe!

 

Belgrade, Serbia

 

 

 

Belgrade is one of my favourite cities in the Balkans.  There are so many things to see and do and a culture that makes it a truly unique place to visit and see!  A city with recent history of conflict has banded together to create a truly unique culture within the city.

 

Be sure to visit the Nikola Tesla museum, arguable on of the greatest adventurers of all time.  A museum dedicated to his life is an interesting learning experience, tours are offered on the hour (English every second hour).  Also, be sure to wander through the old fortress – and the hidden city that lies beneath.  If you have a chance and enough time to venture to the outskirts of the town, be sure to check out Zemun, the old town of Belgrade.  Home to some of the ‘best-preserved’ architecture in the world, it is certainly worth a second look.

 

If you are there during summer be sure to check out the riverboats that are a popular night spot amongst the locals.  Indeed, if you are lucky you can find yourself one of the few non-Serbian speakers inside, and that is an authentic experience, unaltered for tourists.

 

Lake Bled, Slovenia

 

Imagine a crystal blue lake surrounded by stunning mountains and for the cherry on top a picturesque church sitting in the centre of the lake.  Lake Bled is like something out of a fairy tale and when you visit it becomes clear why it is so popular with tourists, especially during summer.  75 minutes from the capital it is well worth the trip and packed full of outdoors adventures to enjoy the glorious Slovenian sun!

 

Bike riding to hiking and boating to picnicking there are plenty of way to enjoy the peaceful surrounds.  It isn’t so far around the lake, so be sure to make the hour long walk and take in the beauty of the lake.  For the castle fans, there in Bled Castle that sits atop the hill and is worth the hike up for the adventurous.

 

A secluded (but popular) spot in Slovenia is one not to be missed.

 

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