15 of the most romantic towns in central Europe
With its pastoral landscapes, dramatic mountain peaks and spectacular coastal views, Central Europe has no shortage of picturesque scenery and destinations.
It’s also home to a host of secluded towns that are perfect for those keen to immerse themselves in travel romance and adventure — whether it’s wandering through wonderful narrow streets or gazing at historic vistas.
Here are 15 of the most romantic small towns in Central Europe.
Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
Located in the southern section of the country, this picture-perfect town is worth a trip for anyone visiting the Czech Republic.
With the impressive Český Krumlov Castle dominating its labyrinth of red rooftops, the medieval gem is home to a magnificent Old Town featuring Renaissance and baroque architecture.
Egon Schiele Art Centrum, a museum and gallery dedicated to Austrian painter Egon Schiele, who once lived in the town, is also a top attraction.
Just outside the crowded streets of its Old Town, lies enchanting coffee shop, Kafírna Na Starém Plešivci, which serves great caffeinated drinks and amazing homemade desserts.
Kafírna Na Starém Plešivci, Plešivecká 130, 381 01 Český Krumlov, Czech Republic; +420 723 741 092
Poland’s Baltic coast is a stretch of splendid greenery and beautiful seaside towns, with Sopot being one of the most charming.
With an all-year-round festive atmosphere, this little town in Eastern Pomerania serves as a haven for those seeking romance by the sea.
There are Art Nouveau buildings to explore, as well as the famous Crooked House (or Krzywy Domek), which has a nightclub on its top floor.
Nearby Orłowo, home to Molo Sopotskie — the longest wooden pier in Europe, is a great place for a day trip.
When it comes to accommodation, Tawerna Rybaki is the ultimate choice, with incredible sea views and a top-notch seafood restaurant.
Tawerna Rybaki, Aleja Wojska Polskiego 26, 81-701 Sopot, Poland; +48 501 741 875
Kutná Hora, Czech Republic
It’s hard to find a central European small town packed with more sights than the ancient silver mining town of Kutná Hora.
One of its must-sees is an impressive Sedlec Ossuary made from more than 50,000 human bones (although not exactly a romantic attraction).
The UNESCO-protected Old Town is also filled with delights like the St. Barbara’s Church, with its Gothic architecture, as well as picturesque streets.
Don’t miss a chance to try trademark dishes like Svíčková, beef sirloin in a cream sauce served with knedlíky (bread dumplings) as well as Vepřo-knedlo-zelo, made from pork, dumplings and cabbage.
Located in the center of Kutná Hora, Cafe 21 is a great coffee shop stop thanks to its stylish design, welcoming attitude, great coffee and tasty cakes.
Cafe 21, Komenského nám. 40/21, Vnitřní Město, 284 01, Kutná Hora, Czech Republic; +420 607 858 845
Filled with art galleries and workshops, Szentendre is one of the most romantic places in Hungary.
Nestled next to the mighty Danube, this little gem of a town is a great destination for both relaxation and inspiration.
With riverside tours, colorful streets and museums showcasing local artists, there’s plenty of activity here.
For those keen on romantic train rides, the journey from Budapest to Esztergom, along the picturesque banks of Danube, is highly recommended.
Once you’re there, Esztergom, a former medieval capital of Hungary, holds a grandiose Basilica that’s also the country’s biggest church.
Far less vibrant and touristy than its mountain resort counterpart Zakopane, Krynica-Zdrój remains one of the most scenic of Poland’s small towns.
Known for its healing springs, Krynica is perfect for travelers looking for an atmospheric escape.
There are miles of walking paths here, with the magnificent Beskid Mountains as a backdrop, as well as a selection of rustic restaurants and elegant cafés.
For the best view of the remote mountain range, visitors can take a gondola lift up Jaworzyna Krynicka mountain.
At the top, Karczma u Golca restaurant offers fantastic traditional Polish cuisine and amazing views of the surrounding nature.
Karczma u Golca, Szczyt Jaworzyny Krynickiej, Krynica-Zdrój, Poland; +48 601 945 826
Mikulov, Czech Republic
Home to a spectacular Renaissance castle and endless vineyards, Mikulov is an amazing central European weekend destination.
Set near the border with Austria, the oldest record of this quaint town dates back to 1173.
Visitors can discover all the secrets of local winemaking at viticultural exposition in the Regional Museum, featuring a Chateau Cellar with a giant wine cask dating from 1643.
Family Winery Mikulov, a modern apartment situated just above the museum, gives guests the opportunity to go on a romantic wine tasting date without actually leaving their accommodation.
Regional Museum, Zámek 1/4, 692 01 Mikulov, Czech Republic; +420 519 309 019
Family Winery Mikulov, Vídeňská 237/5, 692 01 Mikulov, Czech Republic; +420 777 922 600
Kazimierz Dolny, Poland
Situated on the bank of Vistula river, Kazimierz Dolny may well be Poland’s best kept secret.
Those who stay in the accommodation available on the hills above the city are rewarded with long river walks, as well as incredible Polish dishes and superb old town views.
The town is also full of great coffee and tea shops.
For the latter, check out Galeria U Dziwisza, which provides the best tea experience around, in a warm historic setting that screams romance.
Galeria u Dziwisza, Krakowska 6, 24-120 Kazimierz Dolny, Poland
The Tokaj region is the pride of Hungary when it comes to winemaking, with labels known all around the world.
Its most famous is Tokaji Aszú, the world’s oldest botrytized wine (made from grapes affected by a beneficial mold).
Visitors can explore the numerous underground wine vaults here, as well as take in the town’s wonderful historic architecture.
Set in a reconstructed 19th century mansion, Castle Hotel Grof Degenfeld is one of Tokaj’s most luxurious hotel options, boasting 20 double rooms and a suite, as well as underground wine cellars.
Castle Hotel Grof Degenfeld, Terézia kert 9, 3915, Tarcal, Hungary; +36 47 580 405
Mariánské Lázně, Czech Republic
Previously visited by the likes of Franz Joseph I Emperor of Austria and composer Frédéric Chopin, Mariánské Lázně is a spa town aimed at those who want to get away from the bustle of the big city life.
Quieter than Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně, formerly known as Marienbad, is surrounded by green forests and natural healing springs — with 40 springs positioned inside the town.
There are also several notable historic buildings in the area, including the stunning spa colonnade, which was built in neo-baroque style back in 1889.
Set in the center of a park, Villa Sant Georg Hotel Garni is one of Mariánské Lázně’s most impressive hotels and a great base when it comes to experiencing the best this town has to offer.
Villa Sant Georg Hotel Garni, Anglická 358/4, 353 01 Mariánské Lázně, Czech Republic; +420 603 244 914
Apart from being one of the most picturesque cities in Hungary, Eger is famous for its locally produced red wines, most notably the Egri Bikavér, and its thermal baths.
But the city most revered attraction is its medieval fortress, where the Turkish army was defeated by a small Hungarian force in the 16th century.
The Ottoman empire persisted nonetheless and the most northern minaret left from its European rule is on display in the Old Town.
There are plenty of eateries to choose from here, but Macok Bisztró és Borbár, which features a well crafted food selection and plenty of local wines, is one of the standouts.
Macok Bisztró és Borbár, Dózsa György tér, régi, Tinódi Sebestyén tér 4, 3300, Eger, Hungary; +36 36 516 180
This beautiful Slovakian city is defined by an enormous fortress, making it an ideal destination for history lovers.
Trenčín Castle is a stunning feat of medieval engineering that instantly takes your breath away.
The Old Town is equally fascinating, boasting a charming main square and narrow streets leading to the fortress.
Underneath this impressive structure lies the unique Hotel Elizabeth, set in an elegant Art Nouveau building with a 2,000-year-old Roman inscription on its wall.
Hotel Elizabeth, Gen. M. R. Štefánika 2, 911 01 Trenčín, Slovakia; +421 326 506 111
Telč, Czech Republic
UNESCO-protected Telč is great town pick for anyone who’s a fan of bright, vibrant colors.
Adorned by rows of arcaded Baroque houses, its historic main square is among the most scenic places in the Czech Republic, as well as an amazing spot to contemplate while sipping coffee or tea.
Be sure to check out the imposing Renaissance chateau on the edge of the Old Town.
Just a short drive from Telč, Třebíč is another wonderful UNESCO-protected small town boasting one of the best-preserved Jewish quarters in Europe.
Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia
Set among green hills, this harming UNESCO-protected town is based in the center of Slovakia.
Once a mining community, Banská Štiavnica is now a delightful destination with a perfectly-preserved medieval Old Town.
Visitors can explore the Tajchy, old mining water reservoirs that have been transformed into recreational areas, as well as the open-air mining museum.
Meanwhile Divná Pani Caffé offers some of the best coffee in Banska Stiavnica in a beautiful, historic interior.
Divná Pani Caffé, A. Kmeťa 120/8, 969 01 Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia; +421 456 790 94
This small town on the banks of Vistula River, the longest and largest river in Poland, has all the ingredients for an idyllic romantic getaway.
Its Old Town is stunning, with a mosaic of historic houses as well as well-preserved medieval gates and an ancient castle, automatically adding to its allure.
There are also plenty of parks and green areas to enjoy, as well as the Vistula embankment, perfect for picnics.
Add stars of Polish cuisine like pierogi (filled dumplings) and żurek (sauerkraut soup) — on offer at many restaurants — and you have the perfect setting.
As for hotels, former aristocratic manor house Dwór Dwikozy, situated outside the city, is a top choice.
Dwór Dwikozy, Spółdzielcza 12, 27-620 Dwikozy, Sandomierz, Poland; +48 15 834 44 36
With beautiful scenery that can be enjoyed throughout the entire year, Lake Balaton is a much loved Hungarian leisure destination, and Balatonfüred is the ideal place to stay while exploring it.
This spa town has a laid-back atmosphere and a variety of activities, including hiking around the hilly Balaton banks, experiencing amazing Hungarian cuisine in local étterems, hitting the water on a rented yacht or just gallivanting next to the calm lake.
There’s also the nearby Benedictine monastery Tihany Abbey, which is an interesting place to explore, offering the finest views over the water.
Pavlo Fedykovych is a creator of svitforyou.com, a travel blog about Central Europe and Ukraine. He’s also a freelance contributing writer for Lonely Planet. He tweets at @de_weg_