Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia make up what is referred to as the Baltic States. Albeit small in size and population, the capital cities of each – Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn – have a lot to offer visitors.
Affordable, safe, walkable, and beautifully preserved- the Old Towns are some of the most stunning in Europe- it’s no surprised the Baltics secured their spot as one of my favourite places in Europe.
Never heard of the Baltics? They’re ex-Soviet former Nazi occupied countries that sit on the coast of the Baltic Sea. All are similar in history, but unique in culture and traditions.
I visited all three capital cities as part of separate weekend city breaks in March (Riga), May (Vilnius) and Tallinn (September), but you could see all three on a week long trip and travel by plane (quickest) or train/bus in between.
Riga, a brill mix of the old and the new.
Riga had been on my travel radar since 2016, when Lonely Planet named it one of the best places to travel. It was one of those European cities that wasn’t high priority on my list, but when I saw a £40 return flight, and found a £24 a night Airbnb studio in the heart of the city’s Old Town, I knew it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
Cobblestone streets, pastel buildings, narrow alleyways- it’s serious heart eyes. Riga has almost 800 buildings in the art nouveau architecture style- more than any other city in Europe. I didn’t have an agenda as I wandered Riga, choosing streets to walk down at leisure.
After a great first trip to the Baltic region (a weekend in Riga), I was intrigued by Vilinus, which I heard was comparable to Riga in feel, but even more affordable.
My first day in Vilnius, I wandered side streets all over town and couldn’t believe how beautiful it was- so many pastel homes, endless baroque architecture and churches on every corner.
Wandering the city left me eager to know more about the Vilnius’ history, so I decided to do a free walking tour on my second day.
Did you know there’s a self-proclaimed independent state inside of Vilnius? Outside of Old Town and across the river, you’ll find the Republic of Uzupis. A micro-nation, Uzupis has its own constitution (see it for yourself on Paupio street), a national anthem, flags and will even stamp your passport.
No doubt Lithuania is one of Europe’s best kept secrets. It’s a cute, quirky capital with friendly locals and great food that had me wishing I could stay longer than 36 hours.
After visiting the other Baltic countries on low cost return fares and hearing Tallinn’s Old Town was even better preserved, I knew I had to fit in a visit.
Albeit I wasn’t there long, Tallinn didn’t need more than a day to capture my heart. A charming Old Town, beautiful red roofs, picture-perfect cobbled streets- it’s like stepping back in time to the medieval age.
I was surprised by how much I loved Tallinn. It’s becoming a very popular destination, but it didn’t feel crowded- and I was there on a Sunday where there was a city marathon.
Most people say you need 2-3 days in Tallinn. If I had an extra day or two, I would have gotten out of the city, exploring the Estonian countryside or perhaps one of the idyllic islands.
Intrigued, but need more inspiration? If you’re not excited and starting to plan a trip after looking at these photos, we have very different travel interests 😉
Have you ever been to the Baltic States? Which place was your favourite?