30 Photos to Inspire Visiting the Baltic Countries

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

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.

VILNIUS

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.

TALLINN

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 😉

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Have you ever been to the Baltic countries? Which place was your favourite? 

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Wandering Tallinn’s Medieval Fairytale Streets

Tallinn, a medieval Old Town surrounded by 13-century walls and oozing charm at every turn.

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After loving city breaks in the other Baltic countries on low cost return fares (Riga and Vilnius) , I knew I had to make my way to Tallinn.

Luckily enough, checking off my remaining Scandi countries (Finland, The Faroe Islands) is relatively high priority for me, so looking at a long weekend in Helsinki and realising I could ferry over to Tallinn for a day seemed too good to be true.

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In early September, I flew into Helsinki on a Saturday morning and booked a ferry to Tallinn for that evening. Looking back, I would have stayed in Helsinki all three nights, and instead done the first ferry out/last ferry back on Sunday- would have made luggage storage and a few logistics easier. I was worried about not having enough time in Tallinn, and wanted to start Sunday explorations as early as I could, but as it turned out- I was so exhausted from the day prior, I slept in. And, I needn’t have worried, Tallinn’s Old Town is compact and walkable- easy to see in one day.

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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.

Old Town is so well-preserved, it’s been granted UNESCO World Heritage Status.

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If you’re short on time like I was, I’d recommend starting in upper town, and seeing the city from a few lookouts.

Don’t miss: the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (so stunning, I’m now inspired to plan a visit to Russia), and three viewing platforms: Toompea Hill (there’s a cute cafe here to have morning coffee from); Patkuli Vaateplatvorm; Kohtuotsa.

I spent a little over an hour in upper town before wandering down to the town below.

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Stop in town square and St. Catherine’s Passage (a lane of local stores and restaurants). I didn’t have much of a to-do list per se, instead, I planned on wandering at leisure and turning down streets when I felt like it. Turned out to be a great plan. I saw just about all of Old Town, and discovered a few gems to have coffee and eat along the way.

  • Eat:
    • Must Puudel: Incredible vegetarian food – we had the tomato hummus, local cheese board and vegetarian ramen. Everything was great, and we appreciated the menu’s focus on healthy eats
    • Von Krahli Aed: Very good Eastern European, focus on ingredients and sustainability. We tried a few of the small plates, along with a few Estonian drinks- a pear cider and apple lemonade with rhubarb
    • Vegan Restoran V: Known for their excellent vegan dishes- we didn’t eat here, but did stop to look at the menu
    • Pierre Chocolaterie: Stop in if you fancy a sweet treat
  • Coffee:
    • The Living Room Cafe: Beautiful coffee shop, perfect place to start a morning in Tallinn
    • Epic Coffee: Down an adorable lane, I was intrigued to stop here to try a Pumpkin latte- autumn in a cup 🙂
    • Maiasmokk: Tallinn’s oldest cafe, not much has changed decor wise here in centuries
  • Drink:
    • Parrot Minibar: Great cocktails and a fun food concept- everything is meant to be eaten in 1-2 bites, so plates are small and flavours are intense (in a really good way)
    • Sigmund Freud Bar: Another good cocktail spot in Tallinn, more of a speakeasy feel
    • Sazerac Bar: Come here, order a sazerac, relax after a long day of exploring the city

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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.

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Have you ever been to the Baltic countries? Which one is your favourite? 

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