The Ultimate Central European Bucket List Tour

When people think of the ultimate European vacation, visiting cities like Paris, London, and Rome often come to mind. However, I’m here to provide you with five new European bucket list ideas.

Budapest, Vienna, Graz, Ljubljana, and Zagreb are all under-appreciated destinations in Europe, and traveling from city to city is a breeze. Because of this, you can easily plan a multi-city tour around Central Europe to explore some of these hidden gems all in one go.

Zagreb, Croatia

The first stop on your European bucket list tour is Zagreb, Croatia. 

Unlike cities like Dubrovnik or Split, Croatia’s capital receives far fewer visitors even though it is conveniently located, packed full of exciting things to do, and traditional Croatian food to eat.

Things to do in Zagreb 

  • Visit St. Mark’s Church. This stunning building is the oldest architectural monument in Zagreb.
St. Mark’s Cathedral, Zagreb Croatia
  • Shop at the Dolac Market, a farmer’s market with fresh produce and local wares. 
  • Wander around the square and head to Lotrščak Tower at noon to watch the cannon go off. 
  • Visit the Museum of Broken Relationships, which is devoted to failed love and all its quirky mementos.
  • Stroll through the 350-meter long Grič Tunnel, originally built during WWII to serve as a bomb shelter.
  • Enjoy the wide streets and grand townhomes in the heart of Lower Town. 
  • Check out the Museum of Illusions. It’s designed to make you see the world a little differently. 
  • Take the world’s shortest funicular ride. This 64-second trip will take you 66 meters from Lower Town into Upper Town. 
  • Wander the incredible grounds of Mirogoj Cemetery—there is a large mix of people from all religions buried here.
Mirogoj Cemetary in Zagreb Croatia

Where to next on your European bucket list tour?

So many options.

Go from Zagreb to Split by bus for about $20 per person (4 hours). 

Alternatively, you take the $30 Zagreb to Vienna bus (5.5 hours) 

Budapest is another recommended European bucket list spot. The bus from Zagreb to Budapest costs about $20 per person (4.5 hours). 

Budapest, Hungary

Buda Lovin Pest sign

The capital of Hungary is packed full of fascinating history, authentic cultural experiences, and plenty of exciting things to do.

The city is divided into Buda and Pest, split by the Danube river. The Pest side is more fun, with plenty of bars and restaurants. Buda is more residential but has several big tourist attractions. It’s very easy to cross from Buda into Pest and vice versa, though, so check out both sides of the city! 

Things to do in Budapest

  • Roam the charming medieval streets of Budapest’s Old Town in Buda
  • Walk over the mesmerizing Chain Bridge 
European bucket list itinerary stop Budapest.
  • Take a Danube river cruise. 
  • Learn about Budapest’s and Hungary’s history of Communism at the House of Terror Museum. 
  • Visit a thermal bath. Three of the best baths are Rudas Bath and Lukacs Bath in Pest and Széchenyi Thermal Bath on the Buda side. 
  • Looking for more unusual things to do in Europe? Grab a drink in one of Budapest’s ruin bars. 
Inside Szimpla Kert a Ruin Bar in Budapest.

Where’s the next stop on your European Bucketlist Tour?

Once you’ve had your fill of Hungary, head to Vienna. It will take you three hours or less to get there.

Vienna, Austria

European bucket list stop: Church in Vienna, Austria

To get from Budapest to Vienna, you can take the train or a bus which takes 2.5 to 3 hours respectively. 

Things to do in Vienna

No matter how you choose to get to Vienna, you’ll be glad you’re in this Central European bucket list city because it’s packed full of amazing things to see and do. 

  • Wander around the city and marvel at the impressive architecture. 
  • See a show at the Vienna Opera House as well. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Europe and is actually relatively affordable. 
  • Learn about Vienna’s history at the Schönbrunn and Hofburg Palaces. 
  • Do a free walking tour of the city. It’s free but tip your guide between €5-10.
  • Enjoy a unique cultural experience at a Viennese coffee house. Coffee houses in Vienna have their own traditions dating back to 1683. 
  • Take in the street art scene at Street Art Passage.
  • Go museum hopping—check out the Belvedere, the Kunthistoriche Museum, the Leopold Museum, and The Albertina.

What’s the next stop on the European bucket list tour? 

Stick around Austria a little longer and head from Vienna to Graz. In under three hours, you’ll be able to get to one of the best hidden gems in Europe.

Graz, Austria

Graz clock tower: A stop on your European bucket list

Getting to Graz is simple and easy. You can head from Vienna to Graz by bus, train, or even transfer. 

The bus will take about two hours and 15 minutes and costs $12 per person. This is the most affordable option.

Things to do in Graz

Graz is a charming city in southeastern Austria known for its creative scene and because the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yet, it’s still one of the best non-touristy places to visit in Europe.

  • Walk around and enjoy the city. It’s UNESCO for a reason.  
  • Grab a coffee and people-watch in Hauptplatz, the main square.
  • Visit to the Styrian Armory (Landeszeughaus). It’s one of the world’s best-preserved collections. 
  • Take in the views of the Old Town up the Schlossberg. 
  • Visit Landhaus, a beautiful Renaissance building and home to the provincial parliament.
  • See the impressive building housing the Mausoleum of Ferdinand II, the vicious ruler who led the Austrian empire in Europe’s bloodiest conflict, the 30 Years’ War.

The last stop on the European bucket list tour

After spending a few days in Graz, get ready to leave Austria and head into Slovenia. You can go from Graz to Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, in three hours or less. 

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana, pronounced lyoo-blyah-nuh, is a fantastic next stop on your Central European tour. From Graz, you can easily traverse the 220 km (~137 miles) by train, bus, or transfer.

The fastest way to travel from Graz is by bus. The journey will take two hours and 45 minutes and cost $12 per person.  

Things to do in Ljubljana

  • Wander around the medieval Old Town 
  • Visit the Ljubljana Castle with its fascinating history. 
  • Enjoy Ljubljana’s incredible food scene. Ljubljananjam Food Walks walking tour is every foodie’s dream.  
  • Ljubljana is called the “City of Dragons.” So stroll the town and hunt for hidden dragon statues. 
  • Take a lovely day trip to the fairytale spot of Lake Bled. This is the town you’ve seen photos of with the church located in the middle of the lake.  

Time for more? Or gotta go home?

If you have more time, there are plenty of other European bucket list places to explore in the region.

If you’re flying back home from Zagreb. There are plenty of options to get you from Ljubljana to Zagreb and the ride will only take two and a half hours or less! 

This is just scratching the surface. If you want more Central Europe info, read our European Backpacking Routes blog. Just be sure you leave yourself enough time to see it all!


Do you need a new visa to enter each of these countries?

You may need a visa, depending on your country of origin. However, holders of a Uniform Schengen visa can travel to all 26 member countries of the Schengen Area.

You will need a separate visa (if required) to enter Croatia. There are plans for Croatia to join the Schengen Area in June 2022, so be sure to check for the most up-to-date information regarding this status. It is always best to review the rules and requirements before traveling. 

What is the Schengen Area?

The Schengen Area is essentially an agreement between 26 European countries to abolish their international borders to allow less restricted movement between the countries. At the moment, Croatia is the only country listed above that is not a member of the Schengen area, although it plans to join soon.

What currencies are used in Austria, Croatia, Hungary, and Slovenia?

Austria, Hungary, and Slovenia use the Euro as their main currency.

However, Croatia will not adopt the Euro as their official currency until January 2023, so you will need to pay for the majority of goods in Croatian Kuna. You may find that some businesses do accept Euros in Zagreb, Split, and Dubrovnik. Still, you can easily withdraw Kuna from local ATMs or exchange your currency at money changers for a reasonable fee.

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