Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia.
We knew very little of these three Baltic nations until we passed through as part of our 50 days European campervan trip. A first-time visit for us both, our time in Eastern Europe was far too fleeting and came with many pleasant surprises.
We first travelled through Lithuania where we were sad to have to leave so soon and wished we could linger longer. Our first stop was in the spa town of Druskininkai where we allowed ourselves to be pampered, lulled for some extra minutes in the hot water and spent a glorious night in a hotel bed. Next, we visited the capital city, Vilnius, which surprised us in more ways than one. Here, we discovered a delightful Old Town, Vilnius’ burgeoning specialty coffee scene and cold pink soup (trust us – it tastes better than it sounds!). A mere 24 hours in Vilnius felt slightly rushed so consider an extra day or two to enjoy the sights slowly.
We drove onwards to Riga, Latvia. A smaller Old Town is fringed with grungy, yet hip outskirts and a dark war history that lingers to the present day. Unfortunately, we only had one day to explore Riga. We knocked back craft beers and sampled some black balsam (we’re unlikely to repeat the latter experience!) but not before hitting the pavement in search of the famous Art Nouveau style buildings. The elaborate decoration had us conjuring images of wealthy residents inside high ceiling apartments with glorious natural light illuminating fabulous pieces of art.
From Riga, we continued north, making our way to Estonia, where we arrived in the fairytale town of Tallinn. Of the three nations, Tallinn’s Old Town is arguably the prettiest. Narrow cobblestone corridors showcase coveted cafes and boutique hotels. The city is quite compact meaning you can rather comfortably see the sights of Tallinn in one day. The morning can be spent exploring the grandeur of Kadriorg Art Museum, the former palace erected by Tsar Peter the Great. In the afternoon, make your way to the hip neighbourhood of Telliskivi, where the next generation of bright minds are undoubtedly creating the next mobile app to go viral. When you need to catch your breath, make sure it’s at one of the specialty coffee shops in Tallinn.
Although these countries still bear scars from their torrid war past, the previously suppressed identity of these Baltic states are now coming into the limelight. One can feel the thrum of innovation and the promise of a bright future ahead. Come see for yourself.
Top Experiences in The Baltics
1. Eat a cardamon bun from RØST Bakery
You don’t need to be in official Scandinavia to munch on these delectable treats. The scrolls from this spot are top notch!
2. Take a trip to Finland
You can hop on board a ferry in Tallinn, Estonia and be in Helsinki, Finland three hours later. Passenger ferries and car ferries available.
3. Explore Kadriorg Art Museum
The Baroque Palace built for the Russian rulers is now an art museum.
4. Admire art nouveau architecture in Riga
Make sure to look up. Intricate ornate details adorn select buildings and invite you to wonder of the characters who are lucky to live inside.
5. Learn of Eastern Europe's war history
The atrocities of World War II reached the Baltic states too. Museums recount the stories of the communities and souls who perished.
6. Drink traditional balsam
If you knock back more than one tipple, we’ll be seriously impressed!
7. Stand at the geological centre of Europe
Journey to the centre of Europe where you’ll find little there other than some flagpoles and a plaque. But at least you can claim to have done so!
8. Book a pamper session in Druskininkai
Long days traversing across the continent are warmly welcomed by saunas, spa treatments and all types of pampering that will make all the aches disappear.
9. Visit the Hill of Crosses
Eerie, odd, strange yet solemn. A pilgrimage site now made famous by Instagram, it’s a wondrous place that might give you a mild case of the heebie jeebies.
10. Drink specialty coffee in Vilnius
Don’t choose Starbucks. Walk those extra blocks because the coffee will be worth it. We promise.
Before You Go To The Baltics...
War history enthusiasts, spa addicts and art nouveau admirers, get ready. We can guarantee that you will fall head over heels in love with The Baltics. Throw in some incredible forestry in Lithuania, a bit of black balsam in Latvia and medieval touches in Estonia and you’re in for a wonderful time. Here is some more info to help you plan your trip.
Planning Your Trip To The Baltics
What is the official language of The Baltics? What is the currency in The Baltics? What is the best way to travel around The Baltics? Here’s a quick snapshot to help plan your trip to the Baltics.
Latvian, Lithuania and Estonian
Trains, buses, private vehicle
Lithuania operates on 220V and frequency 50Hz. Latvia and Estonia operate on 230V and frequency 50Hz. For all three countries, plug types C and F.
Best Time To Go To The Baltics
Truthfully, every season is a wonderful time to visit the Baltics. Coastal areas tend to be cooler, with mild to average temperatures while inland, you are likely to experience continental climates.
July – August. Prime holiday time for the locals, the long sunny days are warm and perfect for swimming in forest lakes or escaping to the seaside.
April – June (Spring), September – October (Autumn). Lush countryside goes into full bloom come springtime whilst Autumn is optimal for hiking.
November – March. If the cold is more your jam, try to plan your visit in time for the Christmas markets to drink mulled wine under twinkly lights.
Sound Like A Local
Here are some basic local phrases that will be useful to you when you travel through The Baltics.
Latvia – sveiki
Lithuania – sveiki
Estonia – tere
Latvia – ardievas
Lithuania – atsisveikina
Estonia – hüvasti
Latvia – lūdzu
Lithuania – prašau
Estonia – palun
Latvia – paldies
Lithuania – ačiū
Estonia – aitäh
YES / NO
Latvia – Jā / Nē
Lithuania – taip / ne
Estonia – jah / ei
ONE, TWO, THREE
Latvia – viens, divi, trīs
Lithuania – vienas du trys
Estonia – üks kaks kolm