Most beautiful buildings in Eastern Europe! Eastern Europe is rising swiftly as the destination of choice for holidaymakers, backpackers and world travellers alike. With a culturally and geographically diverse group of countries, an extensive history through political movements and wars, this beautiful part of the world is now safe, easy and relatively inexpensive to visit.
As Winston Churchill once said “The Balkans produce more history than they can consume” – and they produced more breathtaking architecture than you could consume in one trip. But if you want to know the must-see sights on each stop, look no further than Olympic Lift’s compilation of Eastern Europe’s most beautiful buildings…
Spiš castle in Slovakia, Beautiful buildings in Eastern Europe by Julius
Most beautiful buildings in Eastern Europe
1. Belgrade, Serbia – Belgrade Fortress
The Belgrade Fortress, destroyed and rebuilt time and again over 16 centuries, now stands as a symbol of a city that survives and thrives. The settlement site is believed to date back to the Neolithic Period.
Built on a cliff top overlooking the two great rivers (Danube and Sava) it guarded the border between the Roman Empire and the barbarian lands. The current layout was built in the 18th Century although many of the buildings that stood inside its walls have perished in the battles of Belgrade’s history.
Visit the stunning Kalemegdan park – the once-battleground that the Turks renamed with the words “kale”, which means city, fortress and “megdan”, the Turkish word for field.
Belgrade Fortress, Serbia, Beautiful buildings in Eastern Europe by Erwan Martin
2. Bratislava, Slovakia – Primate’s Palace
Sitting pretty in pink, the Primatial Palace is a neoclassical building and one of the most popular sights in the Old Town. Completed in 1781, the former seat of the archbishop of Esztergom is the seat of the Mayor of Bratislava today.
It houses the famous “Hall of Mirrors” where many important agreements were signed through the course of the country’s history, most notably the treaty of the Peace of Pressburg signed by Napoleon and Franz I after the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805.
Primatial Palace, Bratislava, Slovakia, Beautiful buildings in Eastern Europe by Julius
3. Bucharest, Romania – Bucharest National History Museum
The beautifully named “Muzeul Național de Istorie a României” or National History Museum of Romania is an impressive building dating back to 1892 when it was commissioned as a central building for the National Post service. The architect was sent to tour various postal facilities across Europe for inspiration, with the final design influenced heavily by the postal facility in Geneva.
It remained the National Post building until 1970 when the National Museum opened on the site. During restoration work in 2012, a late medieval archeological site was discovered underneath the 60-room museum. On the first level (underground) you can also see the Lapidarium, a copy of Emperor Traian’s column in Rome, arguably one of the best copies ever made.
Bucharest National History Museum, Romania, Beautiful buildings in Eastern Europe by Jorge Láscar
4. Budapest, Hungary – Parliament Buildings
The Hungarian Parliament building’s name translates literally as “The House of the Nation.” It houses the National Assembly of Hungary and is one of the oldest legislative buildings in all of Europe.
Construction of the Gothic Revival style building involved an estimated 100,000 people, 40 million bricks, half a million precious stones and 40 kg of gold. The building was completed to mark the country’s independence from Austria. The architectural design was chosen via a design competition.
Parliament Building, Budapest, Hungary, Beautiful buildings in Eastern Europe by Moyan Brenn
5. Istanbul, Turkey – Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque in Istanbul gets its name from the 20,000 blue tiles that line its high ceilings. With its cascading domes and six minarets, the “Sultanahmet Mosque” has dominated the skyline since the 17th Century when the then-19-year old Sultan Ahmet I wanted to build a place of worship to rival the Hagia Sophia, which sits opposite the Blue Mosque on Istanbul’s main square.
The design caused quite a scandal at the time as most mosques had only two or perhaps four minarets. The Blue Mosque’s six marinets would match the Haram Mosque in Mecca (the holiest in the world). The Sultan solved the problem by sending his architect to Mecca to add a seventh.
Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey, Beautiful buildings in Eastern Europe by Moyan Brenn
6. Krakow, Poland – Cloth Hall
The Cloth Hall, and its surrounding buildings in Krakow’s Market Square such as the Town Hall Tower and Draper’s Hall, are cumulatively considered one of the most impressive architectural sites in Europe. The building dates back to the Renaissance period and is the central feature of the Old Town; a UNESCO World Heritage Site, although it underwent a restoration post-fire in the mid 16th Century.
Once a major centre of international trade, traveling merchants would meet there to do business and barter. The name ‘Sukiennice’ refers specifically to the trade of textiles and fabrics.
Cloth Hall, Krakow, Poland, Beautiful buildings in Eastern Europe by Jorge Láscar
7. Predjama, Slovenia – Predjama Castle
Built in the 12th Century at the entrance to a cave above the village of Predjama, this Renaissance Castle is undoubtedly one of the most romantic and impressive in Europe. The name (Predjamski grad) literally means “the castle in front of the cave”.
Originally the residence of the “Slovenian Robin Hood” Knight Esram who survived a year-long siege using hidden tunnels, it was later acquired and expanded by the Luegg noble family, also known as the Knights of Adelsberg. At the end of World War II it was nationalized by the Yugoslav Communist authorities and turned into a museum. Rumours that the castle are haunted have been told for years and no one likes to be there after dark.
Predjama Castle, Slovenia, Beautiful buildings in Eastern Europe by Shadowgate
8. Split, Croatia – Diocletian’s Palace
Found in Croatia’s second largest city, Split, Diocletian’s Palace was built by the Roman Emperor of the same name for his retirement in the Fourth Century AD. The Palace then spent several hundred years lying empty until the 7th century when nearby townspeople fled there to escape invading barbarians. Since then, and to the present day, the Roman ruins have been occupied with a mixture of homes and businesses.
It is hard to imagine that the lower tier was once covered in water but the Emperor originally constructed the Palace so he could enter it from the deck of his ship. The ceiling-high windows on the ground floor were to prepare for any rises in sea levels. In actual fact the sea level receded and a city emerged around it.
Diocletian’s Palace, Split, Croatia, Beautiful buildings in Eastern Europe by sailn1
9. Orheiul Vechi, Moldova – Monastery
The Orheiul Vechi (Old Orhei meaning “fortification”) in Trebujeni is an open-air archaeological site complex. Isolated from the outer world, the site was the perfect choice for the monasticism of early Christianity. Up to 13 monks at a time lived here for decades, sleeping on pure bedrock. The
building itself isn’t impressive until viewed as it hangs over the towering limestone cliffs.
In total, the cliff contains six complexes of interlocking caves, most of which are accessible only by experienced rock climbers. The site is difficult to get to for modern tourists but combining the vestiges of many ancient civilisations, including Palaeolithic and Iron Age, the journey is considered worth it.
Orheiul Vechi, Moldova, Beautiful buildings in Eastern Europe by Cornel Morozan
10. Prague, Czech Republic – Dancing House
For more modern architectural tastes, the Nationale-Nederlanden building or “Dancing House” in Czech Republic’s capital city should be on every photographer’s list. Nicknamed “Fred and Ginger” by its American architect Gehry, the “deconstructive” style building was met with controversy on its completion in 1992, because of its jarring seat among the Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings for which Prague is famous.
It also sits on a plot of significant land; that of a former house destroyed by the US bombing in 1945. This may explain why the American Astaire and Rogers nickname never really took off.
Dancing House, Prague, Czech Republic, Beautiful buildings in Eastern Europe by Julius
11. Prahova, Romania – Peles Castle
The Neo-Renaissance castle situated in the Romanian town of Sinaia (named after Sinai in Egypt), 135 kilometres from Bucharest, is much more spectacular than the more heavily touristed “Bran Castle” (marketed as the former home of Dracula-muse Vlad the Impaler).
King Carol I – under whom Romania gained its independence – commissioned the chalet-style building in 1872. Featuring 170 rooms, each decorated to a different world cultural theme from French to Turkish to Moorish, and more) it also hosts one of the finest collections of art in Eastern Europe.
Peles Castle, Romania, Beautiful buildings in Eastern Europe by Remus Pereni
12. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina – National Library
First opened in 1862, this stately neb-moorish building was once Sarajevo’s City Hall, a site marked by violence over the course of two 20th Century wars. Destroyed alongside almost two million books by Serb shell bombing in 1992, “Vijecnica” as it is known there, was restored to its former glory and reopened to the public in 2014 to mark the centenary of the First World War.
A fitting tribute given the war was triggered by the shooting of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand shortly after he left a reception held in the building in June 1914.
National Library, Sarajevo, BiH by Aktron / Wikimedia Commons
13. Skopje, Republic of Macedonia – Triumphal Arch
“Porta Macadonia” is a Triumphal Arch which has stood on the Pella Square of Skopje since construction finished in 2012. Costing €4.4 million to build, the project was dedicated to two decades of Macedonian independence.
It was built with interior rooms – including a souvenir shop – and elevators and stairs providing public access to the roof, intended as a wedding venue. It caused controversy with European neighbours Greece who protested at the Greek content on the marble motifs, including that of Alexander the Great. Alexander’s origin remains contested by both countries to this day.
Triumphal arch “Porta Macedonia” in Skopje, Macedonia by Rašo
14. Sofia, Bulgaria – National Theatre
The Ivan Vazov is Bulgaria’s National Theatre situated in the heart of the Bulgarian capital city Sofia. The Neoclassical building was designed by famous Viennese theatre architects Hermann Helmer and Ferdinand Fellner and opened in 1907.
The 40 metre high façade supported by six white marble columns depicts Apollo and the Muses. It was damaged extensively in a fire in 1923 and restored, then again in 1943-44 the theatre was damaged during the bombing of Sofia in World War II and restored again. It stands as one of the country’s most ornate and architecturally significant buildings in the country to this day.
National Theatre, Sofia, Bulgaria by Ann Wuyts
15. Tallinn, Estonia – Tallinn Town Hall
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tallinn Town Hall stands as the only surviving Gothic Town Hall in Northern Europe and the oldest to be found in the Baltic region. It has stood central to the marketplace for over seven centuries.
The site features some of the rarest examples of medieval woodcarving art such as its Gothic style carved benches benches featuring the story of Tristan and Isolde and Samson’s fight with the lion. The spire of the tower was destroyed by flames in a Soviet air raid in 1944 and so restoration work followed after the war.
Tallinn Town Hall, Estonia by Nathan lund / Public domain
16. Vilnius, Lithuania – Vilnius Cathedral
The Cathedral of Vilnius, the main Roman Catholic Cathedral in Lithuania, is largely considered one of the most impressive architectural examples of Classicism in the world. Many of Lithuania’s most famous dead are buried in the crypts and catacombs of the Sovereigns’ Mausoleum.
Sitting proudly like an Athenian Temple in Eastern Europe, the cathedral’s original temple dates back to between the 13th or 15th century. The clock of the belfry is the oldest and most important clock in the capital and was installed in this tower in 1672.
Vilnius Cathedral Lithuania by Bernt Rostad