Comprised of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the Baltics are so named thanks to their position along the Baltic Sea coast. Taking up a tiny corner of Eastern Europe, they may be small in size, but certainly not when it comes to attractions. Each nation brings a unique offering, with its own language, culture and sights. So if you’re looking to explore this remarkable region, here’s a closer look at the must-see destinations in the Baltics.
The capital city of Lithuania, Vilnius is most widely celebrated for its architecture. Boasting a UNESCO-listed Old Town with an enticing mix of baroque, gothic and renaissance works, all set along a compact grid of cobblestone streets.
Views of the skyline are equally as impressive and can be obtained either by an easy walk to Gedimina’s Castle or following the trail to the Hill of Three Crosses. From either location, you’ll be gazing out over a cityscape of ochre-red roofs studded with pretty church spires.
If you’re after some sightseeing, Vilnius offers the grand Cathedral of St Stanislav and St Vladislav in its main square, as well as the Gates of Dawn – a popular pilgrimage site. Alternatively, seek out a little coffee shop and enjoy the city’s thriving cafe culture. As a top budget destination, a visit to Vilnius won’t break the bank.
Hill of Crosses, Lithuania
Located just outside the city of Siauliai, the Hill of Crosses offers a different experience to Vilnius’s trio of monuments. Consisting of more than 100,000 crucifixes and other religious icons covering a low hill, this is one of Lithuania’s most revered, and most mysterious, sites.
Although its exact origins remain unknown, the hill’s first mention in writing dates back to 1850. During the Soviet era, the site was all but destroyed by the government in an attempt to wipe out religion. Yet under the cover of darkness, locals took the risk of fines and imprisonment to come and replace the crosses.
Nowadays, the number of crosses continues to multiply. Visitors and pilgrims from far and wide come to plant their own and experience the uniqueness of this place.
Rundale Palace, Latvia
Situated in southern Latvia amongst the Zemgale Plains, you’ll find the magnificent Rundale Palace. Built in the 18th century for the Duke of Courland, this architectural marvel was designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli – the architect behind St Petersburg’s Winter Palace.
Of the palace’s 138 rooms, around 40 are open to the public. These include the White Hall and the Great Gallery, with guided tours available in five languages.
A visit wouldn’t be complete without a stroll around the palace’s formal gardens. Inspired by those of Versailles, the French-style park features a beautiful rose garden and fountains.
The largest of the Baltic capitals, Riga has survived over 800 years of turbulent history to become the cosmopolitan city it is today. Similarly to Vilnius, it’s famed for the architecture of its old town, with Gothic church spires mixing with some of the world’s finest examples of Art Nouveau.
Riga also boasts one of the largest markets in Europe. With the enormous Central Market offering up Latvian products such as cheese, smoked meat and fish, black bread and honey, as well as plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Just outside the city is the beautiful white sand beach of Jurmala. And a day trip to this seaside resort offers the perfect break from city sightseeing.
An exciting blend of old and new, Estonia’s capital boasts a fairy-tale like Old Town enclosed by medieval walls. Inside, a collection of cobbled streets, historic churches and noble merchants houses create one of Eastern Europe’s most photogenic cityscapes.
Museums and galleries add to the action, with many offering an insight into the country’s more grisly soviet history. By night, the Old Town is also the centre of Tallinn’s nightlife and draws both locals and tourists alike to its mix of bars and clubs.
Yet just a stone’s throw from this historic hub, you’ll find the glimmering skyscrapers of the city’s business district. Such modern developments that have fortunately had little impact on Tallinn’s medieval charms.
If you’re feeling inspired to travel to the Baltics, why not take a look at our range of Eastern Europe tours?