June – Yerevan, Armenia
Splish-splash in the fountains of Republic Square
Give in to the minibus chaos to criss-cross your way through the city – for 100 Dram, and a loudly shouted “stop!” you’ll be dropped off at the Yerevan’s prized monuments. The pedestrian Northern Avenue takes you from the opera to the fountains at Republic Square. Imposing Soviet era buildings by day, elegant backdrop to a light and water show at night, the Republic Square is inevitably a must-see.
Enjoy the long summer nights in the pink city, as it’s called due to the pinkish stones of the buildings, at the café terraces, while snacking on lamehjun (Armenian-style pizza). Rebuilt to hide the scars of wars and natural disasters, most of Yerevan’s current attire is only a century old. Yerevan’s oldest heritage lies along the outskirts of the city where the Hrazdan River and deep gorge create a natural border.
Recommended Yerevan hotel: My Hotel Yerevan (rates start at 35,731 Dram [£61] per room for 2 adults and 2 children, per night)
August – Lviv, Ukraine
Learn about Lviv’s legends hidden around every corner of the Old Town
Wrapped in the warm breeze of a Ukrainian summer, explore the streets of Lviv as they lead you to the heart of the city. It’s here at Rynok Square that you’ll find people cooling off by the four fountains adorned with figures of Greek and Roman mythology. Only a few steps away, the wings of the Chapel of the Boim Family shelter coffee shop terraces – make sure to go to Світ кави (Coffee World) for its varieties of coffee and cosy interior.
Folklore and legends hide around each street – the Lviv Opera is said to have cost its architect his life when he was so ashamed the structure sunk by half a metre on inauguration day. Carried by the sounds of street performances, float through the city centre and up to Lviv Castle hill for a view over the city’s rooftops.
Recommended Lviv hotel: George Hotel Lviv (rates start at ₴690 [£21] per room for 2 adults and 2 children, per night)
September – Pristina, Kosovo
Bird’s eye view of the National Library of Kosovo and its controversial design
Spared from tourism, rich in tradition, and focused on writing their history as a recognised state, Kosovo and its capital, Pristina, challenge you to an open-minded visit far from preconceptions. First and foremost, partake in locals’ favourite hobby – enjoying a good cup of coffee. Grab a macchiato at the bookshop Dit’ e Nat’ before going to the neighbourhood north of the city centre, lined with mosques and the old clock tower, remnant of the Ottoman Empire rule.
In front of the Palace of Youth and Sports, the “Newborn” typographic sculpture unveiled after Kosovo’s independence from Serbia in 2008 is painted each year in representation of current events. From Grand Hotel Prishtina’s rooftop bar, 13 Rooftop, catch a view over the city’s National Library – once housing refugees of the Yugoslav wars, or serving as control centre for the Serbian Army. The structure of domes and metal, a blend of Byzantine and Islamic architecture, is food for thought as locals argue the style is an attempt to reconcile Serbians and Albanians by injecting style references from both cultures.
Recommended Pristina hotel: Hostel The White Tree (rates start at €52 [£46] per 4-bed dorm, per night)
December – Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Sebeilj fountain, a landmark in Baščaršija, Sarajevo’s historical Ottoman city centre
Hosts of the Winter Olympics in 1984, Sarajevo knows how to do winter. If snow has started falling in December, skiiers can catch the slopes on Mount Jahorina and rent equipment at an affordable price.
On sunny winter days, sit at a terrace in Baščaršija, Sarajevo’s historical Ottoman city centre. Reminders of the Siege of Sarajevo in 1992 are inevitable as you visit the rest of the city – learn and experience a bit about the recent war by visiting the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum built around the tunnel that served as a vital artery in supplying occupied Sarajevo with food and medical care.
Those looking for a day hiking through amid Bosnia’s natural landscape should head to Lukomir, a remote village on the Bjelasnica Mountain. Stone houses roofed in wooden tile are homes to a small community specialised in sheep-herding, wool sock kitting, and wood carving. If you come during the summer months, sustainable tours can be organised with Green Visions to spend time with local families, chatting around home-made burek (savoury pastry).
Recommended Sarajevo hotel: Telal Hotel Sarajevo (rates start at 126 KM [£58] per room, per night)