Cultural Capitals of the Baltic States

by Jules on December 3, 2013

Made up of charming Estonia, vibrant Lithuania and cultural Latvia, the three countries that make up the Baltic States all have something unique to offer. And the real icing on the cake is combining all three capital cities of Tallinn, Vilnius and Riga within one trip!

Riga in Latvia: Capital of Culture 2014

This Baltic gem is the largest city within the region and is set to shine throughout 2014 as the European Capital of Culture. Once nicknamed the ‘Paris of the East, bustling Riga has since emerged as a must-see destination in its own right. With stunning Art Nouveau architecture, a UNESCO listed Old Quarter, sprawling parks and engaging museums, Riga boasts plenty of sights and attractions to keep even the most demanding traveller occupied.

Top 5 Sights in Riga

  • Don’t miss the Old Town, aka Vecriga, area of Riga which is brimming with charm and exquisite architecture dating from 1860 – east to see why this region gained a much-coveted UNESCO World Heritage listing!
  • This Baltic gem is lush and vibrant thanks to an impressive abundance of city parks and our recommendation is the pretty Bastejkalns Park, complete with its Bridge of Love which is smothered with padlocks from lovers who want to show the strength of their love!
  • You can’t fail to be bowled over by the architecturally stunning Art Nouveau district which actually has more Jugendstil (German Art Nouveau) examples than anywhere else in Europe. Check out Alberta Street and Elizabetes Street for the prime examples.
  • Riga has over 50 different genuinely engaging museums including the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia which is both sombre and thought-provoking, but oh-so essential to understanding the culture of Latvia.
  • Tour the exquisite 19th century Latvian National Opera house as its history is unlocked in front of your eyes.

Vilnius in Lithuania: Baroque Beauty in Abundance

Compact Vilnius is the perfect European city break destination; with the highlight undoubtedly the captivating skyline, heavily punctuated with Baroque buildings. In fact this is the largest Baroque city within Europe! This together with pretty Orthodox churches and handsome Catholic basilicas make Vilnius a UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Top 5 Sights in Vilnius

  • Something of a landmark, the mighty Vilnius Cathedral dominates the skyline at an impressive 57 meters tall.
  • Don’t miss the Upper Castle Museum within the 13th Gediminas Castle, which as well as offering interesting exhibits, also boasts the best view out over Vilnius.
  • Vilnius Old Town, aka Senamiestis, dates back to the medieval period and parts of the old defensive wall are still visible. The Old Town developed from a wooden city and today architectural examples covering Classicism, Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque are visible.
  • Vilnius was once protected by a city wall which contained nine gates – today only the Gates of Dawn remain intact. Step inside the 16th century structure for glimpse of the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
  • Pass by the Frank Zappa Memorial statue in the Taurakalnis district, which local fans installed.

Tallinn in Estonia: Modern meets Medieval

The lively city of Tallinn has been on partygoers radars for a while now, but did you know that the city also boasts quaint cobbled streets, medieval architecture and 14th century churches. And to complete the hat trick, Tallinn is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tallinn’s culture knows no bounds as the local art scene gathers pace and the eclectic cafes and boutiques are to die for.

Top 5 Things to do in Tallinn

  • Tallinn’s superbly preserved Old Town is a must-see: medieval walls shelter 14th and 15th century buildings, church spires pierce the sky and cobblestoned streets entice you to explore.
  • Atop a 170 feet tall limestone hill lies the impressive Toompea Hill Fortress which dates back to the 10th century.
  • Hang out in the central Raekoja Plats square in the beating heart of the Old City, which is lined with quaint cafes and local restaurants = perfect for a spot of people watching!
  • Don’t miss the thought-provoking Museum of Occupations which details Estonian life under both Soviet and Nazi occupation.
  • Tallinn is unique in that it’s the only one of Baltic capitals to boast several sandy beaches including the Pirita Marina and Beach which hosted the yachting leg of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games.

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