10 amazing Eastern European cities you probably haven't heard of but must visit

This article was originally published on the global travel search engine Skyscanner.

If Prague is a bit passe, then how about trying out an unsung eastern European city? We've got ten you may not have heard of, but really should visit. It all started with Prague and Budapest opening their doors to international tourists as the Iron Curtain was finally torn open across Eastern Europe.

In recent years travel writers and adventurous city breakers have been on the look out for 'new' cities to explore and the good news is that we have uncovered ten intriguing destinations for you to check out.

We're not going to be trite enough to dub these cities the 'New Prague', but whether you know where they are or not, we reckon they are ideal for a weekend city break or an even longer holiday.

1. Zamosc, Poland

Way out in eastern Poland, close to the Ukrainian border, lies one of the most unlikely architectural centres in Europe. The sleepy city of Zamosc boasts a lavishly ornate Italian Renaissance square - the city was built by architect and Padua native, Bernando Mornado, who based many of his designs on Italian ideals of what the perfect city should be like, which probably explains why Zamosc looks like it's been flown straight across from Florence.

A visit here and you'll spend most of your time in and around the fabulous main square and the similarly stunning UNESCO World Heritage listed old town, studying the detailed and colourful buildings.

If you want to learn more about Zamosc's more recent history then check out the city's rotunda, an execution ground during a period of German occupation in World War II.

2. Loket, Czech Republic

Cradled in a bend of the Ohee River, Loket is a picturesque town that makes for the perfect day trip from Prague - it's about four hours by train from the famous 'lads lads lads' location, is just as pretty and has none of the rowdy crowds of stumbling stags.

Complete with a 14th century castle, city gate tower (40p (S$0.85) entrance fee) and a bookbinding museum, we're not saying you'll get the same party atmosphere, but it's worth stopping by for a cuppa - the city is famous for its porcelain, which you can buy as an authentic Czech souvenir to impress the mother-in-law with when she comes round for tea.

3. Ljubljana, Slovenia

The bijou Slovenian capital is like a greatest hits of European architecture: baroque beauties sitting beside gorgeous medieval architectural gems, while lavish Art Nouveau flourishes and 'retro' socialist-era chic grace the façades of the buildings that crowd the city centre.

Indeed, the Slovenian architect credited with much of what you'll see in Ljubljana, Joze Plecnik, went on to work in Prague, so perhaps you could argue that this city was the original Prague.

Forget the chicken and egg dilemma, there's no doubting that this is a gorgeous city break destination with a vibrant student community and lively riverside cafe culture - connoisseurs of cake need to check out Cajunica Gallus on the banks of the Ljubljanica River, for iced fruit teas and slabs of devilishly decadent chocolate cake.

4. Osijek, Croatia

Forget Croatia's glittering array of famous coastal cities and delve deep inland across the Pannonian Plain. Here Osijek awaits on the Drava River, where you'll find a fine sweep of fin-de-siecle architecture to enjoy, as well as Europe's first ever tram system.

The recently revamped Tvrda fortress complex is worth exploring, but for a lazy afternoon take to the riverside walkways and stroll along the banks, stopping by cute cafes and hidden bars for a sample of local Osjecko beer and the tasty paprika laden fish soup, fis paprikas - one of the best spots in this part of town is the no-frills friendly Restoran Kompa, where you'll find great value Croatian classics with views overlooking the river.

5. Klaipeda, Lithuania

Not even Lithuania's second city (that honour goes to Kaunas), this Baltic port is a trim and tidy place with a charming, compact historic centre, blessed with a sprinkling of museums, revamped streets and plenty of venues for enjoying the hearty local food and ales.

For a fun and completely free afternoon with the kids, take them on an I-spy style mission, spotting the small sculptures of animals, dragons, chimney sweeps and ghouls which are dotted around the city's old town.

If you're planning a trip during the summer then this pint-sized pick has a few beaches for you to choose from, the most popular being Smiltynė, a UNESCO World Heritage listed stretch of sand.

Fancy spreading your wings? Take ferry across to the wildly beautiful Neringa and the Curonian Spit, a massive island that offers some of the most spectacular sand dunes in Europe.

6. Tartu, Estonia

While crews of gaggling hens and party animals continue to trump for Estonia's capital Tallinn, the student city of Tartu enjoys a more laid-back pace of living, untrammelled by too many tourists inland.

Tartu is considered by Estonians to be the country's intellectual and cultural hub, being the oldest city in Estonia, dating back to 1030.

The old town's preserved historic buildings are very much still in use by the university, while students enjoy the great value cafes, bars and restaurants in the area. Vein ja Vine is a popular choice with tourists and Tartu's locals looking for sophisticated wines and delicious Italian antipasti, with bottles of red or white starting at 12 euro (S$19).

There are plenty of outdoors spaces to explore too, including the university's own botanic garden, Barclay Park and Toome Hill - which is also owned by the uni after it was given to them by Emperor Paul I - so pack some comfy stomping shoes and pray for sunshine (the weather in Estonia is driest in April).

7. Kotor, Montenegro

The, er, 'New Croatia' a.k.a. Montenegro, is really starting to leave its mark on the tourist map of Europe, instantly drawing comparisons with Dubrovnik up the road: both are fortified cities set between mountain and sea whose historic centres are awash with churches and cobbles.

The easiest way to get here is to fly in to Tivat airport, a mere 8km away, and arrange an airport transfer or hire a car.

The city and surrounding Bay of Kotor more than deserve their place on UNESCO's World Heritage list. But be warned, it's easy to get lost wandering around this medieval city, purposefully built like a maze to bewilder invading forces and protect it from attack.

Top tip: look out for the city's main landmarks, like St. Tryphon's Cathedral and St. Nicolas Church.

8. Brno, Czech Republic

This isn't another attack on Prague (it really is a lovely city) but the Czech Republic's second city, Brno, has plenty to recommend it too.

The large student community keeps the nightlife kicking, the cobbles buzz with bustling groups of folk looking for a good time - this, combined with Brno's baroque and medieval buildings, makes it easy to compare this city with its more famous neighbour.

But Brno is a lot cheaper, and you'll often be able to get a round in for three people for 1 pound! Most of the main attractions are in and around Freedom Square, such as Špilberk Castle (open 10am-5pm October to April, 9am-6pm the rest of the year) the former family home of the Moravian royals and the Holy Roman Empire.

9. Torun, Poland

If you love Time Team-esque trips to medieval cities, laden with churches that lie on swirling rivers, then Torun is right up your cobbled street.

The nearest airport is in Bydgoszcz (50km away) so we recommend you bag a cheap flight and hire a car, it's the most economical way to arrive in the heart of this historic city - plus having your own set of wheels means you can explore the surrounding area, including Chelmza (15km) and its beautiful lake beach sunbathing spots.

Back in the city, it's full of red brick beauties, and none is more imposing that the towering Church of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist - the spot where astronomer, and Toruń's most famous son, Nicolaus Copernicus was christened in the 15th century and home to Europe's largest medieval church bells.

Ramble through the UNESCO listed old quarter and stop by a very unusual museum dedicated entirely to gingerbread. Roll up your sleeves or put the kids to work, preparing your very own crumbly batch to take home.

10. Bratislava, Slovakia

After the 'Velvet Divorce' (otherwise known as the dissolution of Czechoslovakia) Bratislava took on an unlikely role as the capital of a new country, Slovakia.

Let's just say it was a bit slow to grow into the role, but these days the old town has been overhauled with one eye on the city's the future and the other wistfully glancing at Prague in the hope that they can attract as many visitors one day - and we see no reason why not!

Prices have risen a little from the ridiculously cheap days (circa early 2000s) but you can still get a decent pint for about 90p. Another plus point is that, whilst you've got clean modern complexes full of independent businesses on one side of the city, some of the suburbs remain largely untouched and planners haven't completely eradicated the city's Soviet-era architecture, charm or spirit.

Hang out with all the bright young things in Bratislava's main shopping centre on the banks of the Danube River, Eurova, or chill on the promenade outside.

From here you can admire the new Slovak National Theatre and the nearby Warehouse no.7, a renovated industrial warehouse that is now and auditorium and a building which clearly shows just how the city is transitioning.

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