The Balkans are an often overlooked corner of Europe. Although not as wealthy as Scandinavia or as iconic as Western Europe, the area is a treasure trove of history, culture and beauty. Here are six amazing, yet mostly undiscovered, European cities in the Balkans.
Sarajevo is an elegant city with a dark history. From 1992-1996 the city was besieged by the Serbian Armed Forces, utterly cut off from the world. Walking through the city today this legacy remains visible in the bullet pocked sidewalks, fields of tombstones and collapsed buildings. Even so, the city today still retains the noble and brave attitude that helped citizens to survive the war.
Dubrovnik is known as the Pearl of the Adriatic and, despite the hordes of tourists and cruise ships, it more than lives up to its reputation. Once a powerful city-state, much of Dubrovnik's Old Town was built during the middle ages. The white stone walls and orange capped buildings jutting into the sparkling sea make for amazing postcard-perfect views wherever you look.
Macedonia's capital city has a diverse history, playing a pivotal part in the Byzantine, Ottoman and Roman empires. Unfortunately much of the city was decimated by an earthquake in 1963. Upon being rebuilt Skopje is one of the most modern and exciting cities in the region. Under the Skopje 2014 Project, statues, fountains and museums are being erected all over the city.
The hot and gritty capital of Serbia is home to 1.5 million people, making it one of the biggest cities in the entire region. Once the capital of Yugoslavia, the city is still smarting from the NATO bombings of the late twentieth century, and it's common to see the ruins of bombed out office buildings even in the center of town. Even so, the city has bounced back as one of the most energetic nightlife capitals of Europe.
After being reduced to rubble during the Bosnian War, Mostar has bounced back beautifully and somehow managed to retain its old world charm. The city is the most ethnically diverse in the country — home to Bozniacs, Croats, Serbs and Yugoslavs alike.
While not as famous as Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, Plovdiv is unique in its own right. With over 6,000 years of history, it claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe. It was originally settled during the Neolithic Period, around 4000 AD. Since then it has been a pivotal city in the Greek, Roman and Ottoman Empires.
Which one of these cities tops your travel bucket list?
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Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
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