We’re all familiar with the popular destination spots such as Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and Berlin… but what about the lesser-known cities and sights in Central Europe? There are many beautiful “hidden” gems outside of the touristy areas worth visiting. So step off the beaten path and discover all that Central Europe has to offer.
It’s been over 200 years since Mozart walked the streets of this Austrian city, but TripAdvisor still deems him as “Salzburg’s favorite son”. The beautiful, well-preserved city of Salzburg offers a number of churches, architecture, and a rich history. Visit the Fortress Hohensalzburg, a majestic castle in Old Town, or the magnificent Hellbrunn castle for a taste of the city’s rich past. Salzburg is also the setting for the famous “Sound of Music” film. Take a “Sound of Music” tour to see how alive the hills really are. Let the city work its charm on you to leave you with an unforgettable memory as you absorb its incredible skyline, ever-present music, and thousand-year-old history.
When people think of famous German cities, their minds often spring to Munich or Berlin. But don’t rule out the smaller city of Dresden! Nicknamed “The Jewel Box” due to its Baroque and Rococo grandeur, Dresden is arguably Germany’s prettiest city. It offers a plethora of culture and artistic history. Although most of Dresden was destroyed during WW11, today the rebuilt city stands as a tribute to peace and reconciliation. Many important historical buildings have been rebuilt, including the Semper Opera House and the Zwinger Palace. Modern day Dresden is a paradise for architecture buffs that want to marvel at the assortment of architecture on display. So don’t miss out on visiting this historically rich gem. The city that rose like a phoenix from the ashes deserves to be commemorated.
3. Český Krumlov
Český Krumlov is a small fairytale city in the Czech Republic. It’s known as a “pocket-sized” Prague. Lacking neither the sights nor the splendor of its sister city, Český Krumlov is a breath of fresh air. While Prague is a charming large city, Český Krumlov is a charming small town. Climb the State Castle of Český Krumlov for an out-of-this-world panoramic view. The facades of painted houses, traditional artisan shops, taverns, and restaurants simply reeking of centuries past to form a delightful labyrinth where you can lose yourself completely.
A metropolis in West Bohemia, the city of Pilsen is rich in history and tradition. It was also deemed the European Capital of Culture in 2015. Home to the famous Pilsner Urquell beer, the Pilsner Brewery is a can’t-miss experience. It’s a grittier more down-to-earth city (though a friendly one), and has much more to offer than just its world famous brewery. There’s a fascinating memorial dedicated to the controversial American General George Patton who, not quite single-handedly, liberated the town in 1945. It’s also home to the Gothic St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral, with its spire being the highest in the Czech Republic. And don’t forget to check out the Great Synagogue, the second largest synagogue in Europe. Discover all that Pilsen has to offer while walking down the uncongested streets and enjoying a glass of ice-cold Pilsner.
Sweeten your travels with a stop in Győr! This treasure-trove is the richest town in terms of historical buildings outside the capital city of Budapest. Győr, Hungary has won a European award for the protection of its historic heritage, notably the reconstruction of its Baroque center. Visit Győr’s charming Old Town and climb the Bishop’s Tower for a lovely panoramic view of the city. Churches, palaces, museums, characteristic corner-balconies, and narrow lanes are all charmingly vivid reminders of the town’s long and varied history.
6. Sankt Wolfgang
Hugging the beautiful Wolfgangsee Lake and enclosed by the majestic Alps, this compact market town in Central Austria is the perfect place to unwind. Although its streets can become rather congested with visitors during the day, things begin to loosen up in the evening, making it the ideal time to roam around. A stroll along the tranquil, forested lakeshore admiring the mountains and the crystal clear water is a highly recommended tonic. Sankt Wolfagang also features a destination spa and ski resort in the winter.
The Moritzburg Castle is a can’t-miss hidden gem of Germany. The Baroque castle has been home to many European aristocrats and gentry, including the famous Alexander the Strong, future King of Poland. Despite its close proximity to Dresden, the area surrounding the Moritzburg Castle is serene and tranquil. Inside, the castle rooms have been restored and decorated in styles popular to the 18th century, making it easy to imagine what it would have been like in Alexander’s time. Guided tours are offered twice a day. Alternatively, visitors can explore the castle on their own using an audio guide.
The city of Lublin is often referred to as “the city of inspiration” due to its upbeat atmosphere and the various inspirational ideas born there. Although it attracts lesser tourists than Krakow or Warsaw, it’s not a city to be bypassed. Its Old Town is charming, if not a bit deteriorated. A highlight of the Old Town is the medieval Lublin Castle; one of the oldest and best preserved Royal residencies. The castle now houses the Lublin Museum, which mainly features art and weaponry. The city offers many other attractions as well, including an ample nightlife and many restaurants and cafes.
9. Oravsky Hrad
Built in the 13th century, Oravsky Hrad was built on a steep cliff overlooking the town. It has been reconstructed into the Renaissance and Neo-Gothic styles. The castle consists of lower, central, and upper castles with palaces, towers, and fortifications. There are three entrance gates connected by a tunnel, with a dungeon underneath. It also features many exhibitions and short performances for a truly unique experience.
10. Lake Bled
Surrounded by picturesque mountains, Lake Bled is truly something out of a fairytale. This glacial lake was naturally formed from the waters released by the melting Bohinj glacier. The striking emerald-green lake has been ranked many times as one of the top 10 most beautiful lakes in the world. A 17th-century baroque church sits on a small, enchanted island in the middle of the lake, giving it a truly magnificent view. A pleasant 6-kilometer walk around the lake is recommended for a splendid look into this picture-perfect destination.
These are only a few of the many hidden gems that can be found in Central Europe. Which places mentioned have you been to and which are on your bucket list? What other can’t-miss stops have we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
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