3. Zagreb, Croatia
The capital of Croatia, this charming city with cobblestone streets and outdoor cafes is teaming with parks, museums and shops. I had gone there after a couple of days in the beautiful, relatively close Austrian city of Graz, and while it would be an exaggeration to say the two cities are at the same level, I did not find much of a drop-off in terms of living standards once I got to Zagreb.
2. Tallinn, Estonia
Of the three Baltic capitals (along with Vilnius and Riga), Tallinn was hands down my favorite. The prices are cheap, the atmosphere is unmatched, and at the same time the breeze kept the temperatures comfortable during my August visit. The medieval old city contains narrow, windy streets that make it fun to explore. I had dinner at Olde Hansa, a 15th century restaurant where I drank mead and ate some huge pork thingy where you hold the bone like a handle, probably the way King Henry VIII would have eaten it or something.
1. Brest, Belarus
At first glance it might seem weird that any city in Belarus would make this list. After all, there is no country in the world – not even Russia itself – that feels more Stalinist than this small former-Soviet country. But Brest is really unexpectedly nice. It feels welcoming and you’ll find all of the coffee shops, parks, and pedestrian streets that make all of those other European cities so appealing. Plus Belarus as a country rarely sees foreign tourists, so it would be something of a novelty both to you and the locals who stumble across you.