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Time to ditch the overcrowded city centres and discover the Central European countryside

Summer is here and the tourist season is in full swing in many European city centers. If you’re planning to visit Prague, Budapest, Krakow or one of the other popular Central European destinations, you might quickly find yourself being fed up and tired of weaving through narrow and crowded streets.

If that’s the case, and if you’re getting claustrophobic during your visit, don’t fret, as fresh and open air is just around the corner! There are plenty of highly attractive and affordable options to experience the great outdoors and enjoy the scenery with an abundance of space between you and the next person. No need to plan for a rental car, all the destinations listed in this article are easily accessible through public transport!

Central Europe offers beautiful landscapes and hiking paths when you’re sick of the restless nature and bustling tempo of the main cities. Whether it be just a small break or a longer getaway, don’t hesitate to go out into the wild: not only is it good for your sanity, but it will also give you a chance to experience some of Central Europe’s best destinations that cities, however beautiful and charming they are, just can’t match.

Zakopane, Poland

Only an hour south of Krakow by bus or train, you’ll come across a small city called Zakopane. Located in the northern Tatras mountain chain, Zakopane has plenty to offer for those who enjoy hiking and skiing, as well as those of you who simply want a breath of fresh air and relax.

Zakopane
Lake Morskie Oko, Zakopane, Poland / Source: Emily’s Guide to Krakow

Lake Balaton aka ‘The Hungarian Sea’, Hungary

Landlocked Hungary, unfortunately, has little to no mountains, unlike their Central European neighbors, but still harbors beautiful nature reserves and lakes. Only an hour west from Budapest by train, you’ll arrive in Siófok. This village of 25,000 souls is one of the many villages surrounding Lake Balaton, one of Hungary’s most popular outdoors and summer destinations. Depending on your fancy, you may choose to relax by the water or hike around the lake up to the Balaton Uplands, the highest peak in the surrounding area. Many local Hungarians will tell you that Lake Balaton is one of the most beautiful sites and is a must-see for tourists wanting to see more of Hungary outside of Budapest.

Lake Balaton (1)
Lake Balaton, Hungary

Krkonoše Mountains, Czech Republic

Flixbus and others offer daily departures from Prague to Harrachov, a small village that leads access to the Krkonoše mountains in northern Czech Republic. Traveling through the Krkonoše Mountains is made particularly easy by cyclo-buses which allow for tourists to bring their bikes to the many sites within the mountain range. Don’t own a bicycle? Don’t worry, there are plenty of rental places with fair rates in Harrachov.

Besides biking and spending some quality time in the mountains, there are many environmental museums and centers for information about the area and its necessary protection. Because you wouldn’t be in Czech Republic without having a cheap amazing beer at your disposal, Novosad & Son in Harrachov sells amazing ‘pivo’ from its own microbrewery and gives you the opportunity to view their functioning glass-works factory, one of the oldest still in operation in Czechia.

Krkonose
Krkonoše Mountains, Czech Republic / Source: Prague Stay

Poprad and the High Tatras, Slovakia

 A few hours northeast from Bratislava stands the village of Poprad, which leads the way to the High Tatras. Buses to Poprad are available multiple times daily from Bratislava, as well as from Presov and Kosice, the two main cities in Slovakia’s east, and other cities across the border such as Krakow and Budapest.

The transport around the villages which lie in the Tatras is well planned and gives visitors the opportunity to explore many different parts of the Tatras, one of the most breathtaking mountain ranges in the region and a great idea for a weekend getaway. While skiing is the most popular attraction to the Tatras, there are amazing hiking paths for both summer and winter season, as well as spas and relaxation centres.

High Tatras
High Tatras, Slovakia / Source: Time for Slovakia

Mikulov, South Moravian Region, Czech Republic

An hour north of Vienna and 30 minutes south of Brno lies Mikulov, a small yet charming border town on the Czech and Austrian border. Whether it be wine tasting, walking through castles or hiking, Mikulov is small but mighty. Many come to hike up the the Svatý kopeček u Mikulova, in English called the Holy Hill by Mikulov. Besides many amazing views from the hill, it is home to Gods Tomb, an imitation of the final resting place of Jesus located in present day Jerusalem.

Mikulov
Mikulov, Czech Republic / Source: Wine of Czech

Museum-Memorial Palmiry, Poland

This forest an hour east of Warsaw has tons of walking paths waiting to be explored. The Palmiry area also stands as a place of great historical importance since WWII, as it was a place of refuge for those fleeing from Warsaw and is the site of a mass grave of almost 2,000 Poles and Jews.

This memorable and explorable forest is easily accessible by Warsaw’s metro, and a bus runs frequently all week. It is a perfect day trip from Warsaw for those wanting to explore outside the city limits for both beautiful landscapes and historical purpose.

Palmiry

Don’t force yourself to stay in those crowded city centers and treat yourself to the calm, spacious and rural landscapes that lie just beyond the city limits. You may be surprised of what the Central European countryside has to offer.

Written by Lorna Radtke

Born in Chicago, Lorna Radtke is a student of international relations and European politics at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, and previously also lived in Austria. Her desire to dive into European politics began during her secondary education years in the United States, her home country. Eager to pursue her interest in media and journalism by researching intriguing topics and writing original articles, she joined the team of Kafkadesk contributors in April 2019. Feel free to browse through Lorna’s articles right here!

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