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The Queen raises interest in Eastern Europe

27th October 2008 Print

If it’s good enough for Her Majesty – it’s good enough for us. The Queen, along with the Duke of Edinburgh, has just embarked on a tour of Slovakia and Slovenia, a duo of Republics that frequently cause confusion amongst the untraveled (George Bush famously got the two mixed up), but are becoming increasingly popular destinations with British tourists.

Data from flight search engine Skyscanner ( shows that interest in Eastern European countries is rising rapidly with summer 2008 flight searches to the top ten Eastern capitals up by 41% compared to summer 2007.

The top ten Eastern European capital city flight searches from the UK according to

Summer 2008

1. Prague (Czech Republic)
2. Warsaw (Poland)
3. Budapest (Hungary)
4. Sofia (Bulgaria)
5. Bucharest (Romania)
6. Bratislava (Slovakia)
7. Riga (Latvia)
8. Zagreb (Croatia)
9. Kiev (Ukraine)
10. Tallinn (Estonia)

Barry Smith, Skyscanner co-founder and Director of Business Development, commented on the rise of the East:

“Once ignored as a holiday destination by the majority of Brits, Skyscanner data shows that Central and Eastern European nations are now attracting much more interest from UK travellers. Why? They offer everything that Western Europe does: good food, beautiful natural scenery, skiing, beaches, excellent night life etc, but they also have an exotic appeal and they’re better value for money.”

Her Majesty the Queen plans to visit Bratislava in Slovakia, which ranked #6 and Ljubljana in Slovenia which narrowly missed out on the top ten, however, it’s expected that the Queen’s visit will raise the profile of this beautiful medieval city, leading to more visits from Brits.

All Eastern European destinations have saw a big increase in flight searches this summer. The top three most popular remain unchanged with Prague in the Czech Republic still ranking number one and Warsaw (Poland) and Budapest (Hungary) closely following.

Bulgaria’s (Sofia) saw the biggest rise in interest, moving up three places; Zagreb (Croatia) moved up two places, and Ukraine’s Kiev was a brand new entry into the top ten.

Vilnius (Lithuania) dropped out of the top ten completely, while Bucharest (Romania), Bratislava (Slovakia), Riga (Latvia) and Tallinn (Estonia) all fell one place. Belgrade (Serbia) and Sarajevo (Bosnia) placed just outside the top ten, despite seeing dramatic rises in flight searches.

Eastern Promise: Why East is Best

Prague – its popularity with stag and hen parties is one reason why the city consistently ranks so highly, but beyond boozy Brits, Prague offers impressive architecture, a good choice of classical music, theatre and art, plus plenty of fine wining and dining.

Warsaw – Polish workers living in the UK and visiting home is likely to be one of the reasons why flight searches to Warsaw are so high. Of course, there’s also the extremely attractive old town complete with cobbled streets, traditional Polish restaurants, market traders, street artists, fast paced night life and great beer too.

Budapest – renowned as one of Europe’s most beautiful capitals, the Hungarian capital is awash with ornate coffeehouses lined with twisty old streets. Get yourself into hot water in one of the city’s decadent thermal bath houses before hitting the town. Be warned, Hungarians drink hard and party late, so bring your dancing shoes.

Sofia – Bulgaria’s capital is one of the more exciting cities to visit; you’ll find all the charming architecture, museums, art galleries and old fashioned pubs, but there’s also an edgy modern side with clubs pumping out their brand of Balkan-techno, and shady mafia types cruising the streets in black Mercedes.

Bucharest – Romania’s capital boasts long, tree lined boulevards and is reputed for the high life. With a buzzing cultural scene (37 museums, 22 theatres, 18 art galleries, numerous jazz venues and trendy night clubs) there’s no shortage of action after dark – and the prices are attractively low too.

Bratislava – another favourite with UK pre-wed parties, Slovakia’s capital is referred to as ‘The Little Big City’ which denotes its compact size, youth and rapid growth. Despite being founded on the banks of the Danube, visitors remark on its Mediterranean charm, describing it as ‘a seaside city without the sea.’

Riga – the largest and most cosmopolitan of the Baltic capitals, the city grew rich on the honey, amber and timber trading and is now flourishing again after 50 years of communist rule. The gigantic market housed in a former zeppelin hangar is a must and don’t leave the Latvia without trying ‘Balzams’, the famous black herbal elixir.

Zagreb – Croatia is a very popular beach destination during the summer months with its hundreds of islands and azure seas. Zagreb itself is a historic capital blessed with museum and galleries set in cobbled streets lit by gas lamps, not to mention high fashion, high-end culture and a buzzing café society.

Kiev – perhaps an unexpected favourite, the Ukrainian capital is a bizarre mixture of modern/wealthy and old/poor. Black 4x4s zoom past carrying Gucci-clad models, whilst elderly Babushkas beg for change. An eye-opening city well worth a look if you want a cultural adventure with your city break.

Tallinn – this Baltic city has done very nicely for itself since Estonia gained independence and is famed for its high-tech superiority, having declared web access a basic human right and out ranking many Western European countries in mobile phone use. An endearingly shabby, yet amazingly pretty city, visit it now, before it becomes too popular.

Visit Skyscanner to find more cheap flights to destinations around the world.