Five East European Capitals for a City Break
Updated: Oct 9, 2019
Europe has some great capital cities and most of them very familiar and often visited. This post’s intention is to highlight, for want of a better phrase, some of those lesser known, lesser visited smaller cities located to the east of the continent. We have detailed five cities spread around Eastern Europe for you to consider. These locations provide an excellent opportunity to enjoy great value for money discount holidays. This is in no way an in depth scrutiny of each destination, more like a whistle-stop tour providing the basic information which we believe would be of use to first time visitors. The idea being to whet your appetite and if anything takes your fancy you can research further and maybe visit for a short break holiday. Without further ado, these are our picks.
Minsk is the capital and largest city of Belarus, but relatively small in comparison to other European capitals; especially those in the west. Its population is just short of one million and its distance from the UK is approximately 1165 miles. The climate is typical central continent with hot summers (average temperature 79C) and long cold winters (below freezing for a lot of the time with plenty of snow). The city’s main attractions are predominately Museums and Monuments with its Soviet past being one of the main themes. Central Minsk is considered to be very safe for Tourists. Eating can be extremely cheap and not just the fast food options, restaurants also offer good value for money. A three course meal at a comfortable restaurant can cost as little as £12.00 per head and you can expect to pay about £6.00 for a bottle of red table wine. Local beers cost less than a pound, although you will pay more for imported brands. Spirits are also considered inexpensive; in particular Vodka (Belarusian Vodka is regarded as one of the best in the world). Obviously prices will vary and some places will charge more. Minsk has a reputation for an excellent nightlife scene with many pubs, bars, café’s, clubs and quite a few casinos. Unfortunately there is a small drawback for Tourists in that these venues are scattered throughout the city and there are no real specific concentrated nightlife districts as such. A bit of research shall be required. The good news is, taxi fares are very cheap. A decent 3 Star Hotel relatively close to the city centre can cost under £100 per room for three nights (this price is based upon a per night basis ie. not part of a package deal). This alone qualifies Minsk as candidate for a cheap weekend away. With regard to flights we found the cheapest direct return ticket for a Friday/Monday in mid-October coming out at less than £270.00pp. Flight time to Minsk is less than three hours. With just a bit more research we feel sure you’ll find cheaper, especially if you don’t mind a stop; although this obviously takes longer and eats into your holiday. If you’re planning a midweek break then the savings should be significantly more. Again with minimal research, for three night weekend packages in mid-October the cheapest we found came out at £308.00. For a three night short holiday mid-week we found several under £250.00
Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria. Situated in the western part of the country with a population of approximately one and a quarter million. Its distance from the UK being just over 1250 miles. The climate is very much central continent with hot summers and long cold winters with a great deal of snowfall. Sofia is deemed to be a relatively safe city for visitors. Places to visit include St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral, Serdica Amphitheatre, Central Mineral Baths and Vitosha Boulevard (Sofia’s primary shopping street). Eating Out is inexpensive and the restaurants in general have superb reputations. You are likely to be charged just under £20.00 per person for a three course meal. Beer and Wine are also very cheap and not so very long ago considered to be the cheapest in Europe. Local beer is less than a pound a pint and a good bottle of wine is less than a fiver. If it has now lost its cheapest title, it surely must still be on the medals podium. Virtually the cost of everything in Sofia is inexpensive including taxis and where there is a charge, attractions and places of interest; an ideal destination for a bargain break. Sofia is a fun loving city with plenty of bars open all hours but the real action begins when the clubs open around midnight. The city is a party animal’s dream as there are an abundance of venues. It is worth noting that all public transport in Sofia stops at midnight, however as mentioned above taxis are very cheap and plentiful. Although in general a safe city, as a precaution visitors are advised not to walk any significant distances after dark. The weekend and weekday room rates for a decent hotel can be as little as £15.00pp (mid-October prices). Many weekend return flights in October flying direct (time: just over 3 hours) were priced at around £140.00. No apparent savings on the weekend prices were to be found on weekdays. There were many weekend Flight and Hotel three night packages available, with the bulk costing from between £230.00 to £280.00pp; although we did find one as low as £176.00pp. Prices for a three night mid-week mini break again showed very little difference in cost; in fact they showed slightly higher prices in general. Overall an excellent choice for a bargain break.
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia and is located in the north of the country on the Gulf of Finland coast. It has and population of just over 425000 and is approximately 1100 miles from the UK. Temperatures in the summer are mild to warm, whilst in the winter the climate can become quite severe with snowfall commonplace. Estonia as a whole has a bit of a reputation for erratic and changeable weather (sound familiar!). Tallinn is considered to be a very safe city for visitors (but again due care is advisable). The most popular places to visit include the Medieval Town Wall (a fortress), Town Hall Square, St Catherine’s Passage and Estonian History Museum’s Guildhall to name but just a few. Food and drink is as you’d expect cheap by West European comparison with a three course meal in a standard restaurant costing around £25 per person. Local beer comes out at around £1.35 a 0.5 litre bottle, with imported slightly dearer. A bottle of decent wine can you set you back about £7.00 in a restaurant. Vodka (the most popular drink) and other spirits average out at about £2 per measure in bars and restaurants. Tourism in Tallinn has quite rapidly increased in recent years with a reputation for history and culture and the Old Town is included in the Unesco World Heritage list. In contrast it has also laid claim to being the party capital of Northern Europe. The Old Town district is also home to many clubs and bars which attract both locals and tourists alike; the city is a very popular destination for stag parties due to its reputation as a great place for a cheap break. For the night owls, be aware that public transport ceases at midnight, but taxis are plentiful and quite cheap. If you’re planning a weekend getaway then standard rooms in decent hotels can cost as little as £20.00 per person with weekday prices being pretty much the same. We found quite a few Apartment options that appeared good value for money. Weekend air fares start from around £140.00; we had difficulty in finding direct flights with the majority having one changeover stop either on the outward or return journey. This obviously made the flight duration difficult to gauge as the range we found was 2hr 40min up-to 13hr; so beware if you book your own flights. Midweek flights came out cheaper starting at around £120.00 but again non-stop appeared few and far between. On three night weekend package deals we were quoted anything between £235.00 and £320.00; again no real improvement on price for a midweek break.
Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia a country which although is deemed to be in Europe, can also claim, from a physical geographical point of view, to be in Asia. With a population of about 1.1 million it is 2200 miles from the UK making it the furthest destination on this list. Tbilisi, along with the rest of Georgia enjoys a sub-tropical climate with mild winters and long hot summers. Georgia has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe, so Tbilisi is considered to be safe for tourists. It has a fascinating and diverse history which is reflected in its architecture. Amongst its many places of interest are Narikala Fortress, Peace Bridge, Tsminda Sameba Cathedral and Clock Tower. It is very cheap to eat out with a good three course meal costing less than £15.00. A pint of local brew costs less than a pound and wine as little as £3.00 per bottle. A local favourite Red wine called Saperavi costs as little as £2.00. The nightlife in the city is vibrant and varied with many clubs (midnight opening) and bars. You’ll not only find them around the Old Town but also spread over other areas of the city. With regard to public transport (which includes a small tube network), fares are very cheap and the service stops at midnight. In keeping with the other cities on this list, taxis are also very affordable. Accommodation is very cheap with a per night weekend rate of less than £20.00 per person for a reasonably good hotel. For a weekday you’re looking at about £15.00 per person for the same standard of rooms. For flights we again had difficulty in finding non-stop flights, which is not really surprising. Return weekend fares ranged from between £300.00 to £400.00 with only a small reduction in the price for weekday airfares. It would appear that three night package deals are by far the best option (although it should be noted that our research was not extensive) as the prices came out approximately the same as just booking a return flight; this both weekends and weekdays; a great value discount holiday.
Riga is the capital city of Latvia. Located on the Baltic Sea it is home to over 630,000 inhabitants. Its air distance from the UK is around 1050 miles. Weather wise Riga enjoys mild summers, cold winters with snowfall and sub-zero temperatures. Crime rates in general are very low, so for tourists this would be considered a safe city. Riga is very much considered to be a cultural city and as such boasts many museums, galleries and concert venues. Mainly due to its Art Nouveau architecture the Old Town district has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some highlights of a visit would be to visit Nativity Cathedral, Latvian National Theatre, Vērmanes Garden and Livu Square (lively district with bars restaurants and street entertainment). A three course meal in a mid- range restaurant is likely to cost just under £20.00 per head, however a pint of local beer will see you pay approximately £3.00 and a small imported beer about £2.00. Wine will start at around £6.50 for a reasonably good bottle. Alcohol prices in Riga are probably the most expensive on our list, however they still remain cheap by comparison to most Western European prices. The aforementioned Livu Square and Old Town is home to many entertainment venues, but other areas also offer some great nightlife. The city has some unusual and diverse clubs as well as mainstream. Some of the pubs and bars close before midnight, even at the weekend, but along with the clubs quite a few remain open until the last customer decides to call it day and leave. To spend the night in a reasonable hotel on the weekend will cost you anywhere between £15.00 per person to £30.00 per person. On weekdays there doesn’t appear to be much of a change to the prices. Return weekend flights ranged from £160.00 per person to £250.00 person and as you’d expect direct flights were few and far between; where these could be found the flight time was quoted as 2hrs 40mins. The mid-week price range ran from £160.00 per person to £180.00 per person and there were more direct flight options available.
Hopefully we have provided you with some food for thought if you are considering something a little different and venturing further afield for a cheap city break. The five cities appear to welcome everyone and try to cater for young, old, groups, couples and those travelling alone. For more research visit our City Break Page for current deals or our Partner Page for Hotel/Travel Deal Finders for more options. Alternatively go to our Homepage for access to specific current deals for all categories of Short Breaks and Holidays. As stated above our research into prices was very basic and the amount of Deal Finders we used was minimal. October was used as our sample month and FYI we searched Booking.com, ebookers, Travelsupermarket and TripAdvisor to obtain the above quoted prices. We feel sure you will be able to find better deals - Good Hunting!