Check our top places to see in the Baltic States, featuring the main points of interest in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Check below why and when you should visit this unique region of Europe
Are you traveling to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania? Check our list of things to do in these countries, featuring our list of the best places to see in the Baltic States.
What and Where Are the Baltic States
First of all, we should analyze what are the Baltic States, and why they have this name. The Baltic States have their name from the Baltic Sea, which is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean in Northern Europe. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are most often referred as the Baltic States, but they are not the only ones bordering the Baltic Sea.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania share a common geographic location (to the East of the Baltic Sea) and recent history. They were all part of the Soviet Union, and after (re)gaining their independence in the 90’s, increased their cooperation ties and joined the European Union. More recently, the Baltic States, often referred as Baltic Nations, adopted the Euro single currency.
Baltics and Balkans
The Baltics are often confused with the Balkans, but they have very little in common. In fact the Baltics have more differences with the Balkans than the region. While the Baltic States are located in Northern Europe, the Balkans are another name for the Balkan Peninsula, in Southern Europe.
There are no countries in the Balkans that are also part of the Baltics, and these two regions even do not share borders.
List of the Top Places to See in The Baltic States
After our brief introduction to the Baltic States, we can check our list of the top places to see in the Baltic States, featuring the main attractions in each of these locations.
1 – Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia, the Northernmost of the Baltic States. Estonia is currently also the wealthiest country in Baltic States, and Tallinn attracts a number of tourists and entrepreneurs to visit and invest in the city.
Tallinn has a number of interesting attractions, mostly located in the city’s old town and its vicinity. Check our guide on where to stay in Tallinn for more information.
Things to do in Tallinn: the capital of Estonia offers a number of attractions to all kinds of tourists year round. Some of its best attractions are located in its splendid old town, including the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the Town Hall Square and the Christmas Market in December.
2 – Riga, Latvia
Riga is the capital of Latvia and has a very central geographical location in both Latvia and the Baltic States. The city was part of the Hanseatic League and is heavily influenced the German, Russian and obviously Latvian culture.
Things to do in Riga: Riga’s old town has one of the best nightlife in Europe, with a number of bars and clubs available. While prices are on the rise since Latvia joined the European Union, going out in Latvia is still cheaper than in almost all countries in Northern Europe.
3 – Vilnius, Lithuania
Lithuania’s capital is the Southernmost in the Baltic States, and just 20 km west of the Belorussian border. It also the perfect start or ending point for a trip to the Baltic States.
Things to do in Vilnius: whether you are starting or finishing your Baltic journey in Vilnius, you will have plenty to do in the Lithuanian capital. Make sure you hike to the top of the Gediminas Tower (it’s a pretty easy one). The city is also pretty affordable, and I recommend eating some pancakes at Gusto Blynine in the old town.
4 – Tartu, Estonia
Tartu is a city in Eastern Estonia, mostly famous for its busy student life. Despite its reduced size, the city has a sizable community of expatriates, most comprised of foreign students attending courses at the University of Tartu.
Things to do in Tartu: if you are a student you will certainly love Tartu. The old town center is pretty compact and its cafes and bars are packed with students. The Science Centre also has a pretty good reputation and is worth visiting if you have more time in the city.
5 – Klaipeda, Lithuania
Klaipeda is the third biggest city in Lithuania and one of the best places to visit in the Baltic States during summer. It is a port city with good ferry connections to Germany and Sweden.
Things to do in Klaipeda: Klaipeda is a city definitely worth visiting, but it is during summer that it becomes lively and more interesting. Its old town, with German and Scandinavian architecture, are definiely worth checking. The Curonian Spit and the seaside resort town of Palanga are also great attractions near Klaipeda.
6 – Hill of Crosses, Lithuania
The Hill of Crosses in situated in Lithuania, close to the city of Siauliai. This site of pilgrimage is probably the most well known in the Baltic States, attracting a sizable amount of mostly religious tourists.
How to get to the Hill of Crosses: unless you have your own car, getting to the Hill of Crosses mostly involves getting to Šiauliai. Once in Šiauliai you can get a bus to Domantai, and walk to the Hill of Crosses. If you are traveling with a group, it might be probably worth it getting there and back by taxi.
Hill of Crosses, Lithuania. Photo by Tim Pritlove.
7 – Pärnu, Estonia
The city of Pärnu is the third biggest of Estonia, however, considering the population of Estonia, it is pretty small. Pärnu thrives during summer, when it attracts hordes of Estonian, and mostly Finnish tourists to its beaches.
How to get to the Pärnu: You can get to Pärnu from Riga or Tallinn, by bus, as most buses stop in Pärnu on the way. You can also travel to Pärnu from Tallinn by train.
8 – Trakai, Lithuania
Trakai is a small town in Lithuania, quite close to Vilnius at just 28 kilometers to the west of Vilnius. The city is more known for its most famous building, the Trakai Island Castle.
Trakai was the one of the capital cities during the Grand Duchy of Lithuania times. Today, the city is an excellent summer resort and a great option for a day trip from Vilnius.
How to get to Trakai: Getting to Trakai from Vilnius is pretty easy, and there are many buses and trains running from Vilnius daily. The trip itself is quite fast and it does not require much planning ahead to get to Trakai.
When to visit the Baltic States?
The Baltic States are located at a very high latitude. That means, there is a quite high difference in temperature and sunshine hours during each one of four seasons. On top of that, most of the Baltic State have a humid continental climate. While summers are often warm and pleasant, winters are pretty intense in all of the three Baltic nations.
Considering its climate, it’s most recommended to check the best places to see in the Baltic States from spring to autumn. Other than that, December can be a good option especially during Christmas holidays.
If you are touring the Baltic States and you have plenty of time, you might want to consider some other cities close to the top places to see in the Baltic States. Here are some of them listed below:
Helsinki: the capital of Finland is the capital of Finland and feels quite picturesque, with a very calm atmosphere even in its relatively small city centre. The capital of Finland is just a two hour ferry away from Tallinn in Estonia.
Saint Petersburg: One of the most beautiful cities in the world is also on the shores of the Baltic sea, and relativel close to Estonia and Latvia. Check our guide on the best places to stay in Saint Petersburg to find more about it.
Minsk: the capital of Belarus is pretty close to Lithuania, and can be visited by train or car from Vilnius. Belarus recently relaxed its visa policy to most Western citizens, so it is definitely a good opportunity to visit Belarus and its capital. Check our Minsk guide to learn more.
Did you liked our guide on the best places to see in the Baltic States? Have you been to the Baltics? Leave your comments or thoughts below.