Highlights of the Baltics. 10 Places You Need to Visit
Journeys | 02.09.2020
If the Baltics are not on your bucket list yet, then you should add them quickly. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania all offer a great mixture of cultural and natural sights, without being overrun by tourists yet. Here is a selection of 10 places worth visiting on your next trip.
Tallinn
The capital of Estonia charms thousands of visitors every year with its Old Town. Tallinn is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe.

The best place to start a visit is at Town Hall Square, the traditional market place since the middle ages. Here you can find Europe's oldest pharmacy, or try elk meat in III Draakon, a medieval-style tavern. Don't forget to climb to Toompea Hill to enjoy panoramic views of the Old Town.
Tartu
Estonia's second-largest city is home to the country's oldest university. In the 19th century, the scientist Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve calculated the exact size and shape of Earth, conducting most of his research from the Tartu Observatory. You can still visit the observatory today and look at the telescopes from back then.

Besides a well-known university, Tartu also features a cute Old Town with cobblestone streets and cafes, in which you can sample traditional and innovative Estonian food.
Saaremaa
Four hours away from Tallinn you can find Saaremaa, Estonia's biggest island. Saaremaa is famous for its windmills as well as its meteor craters. You can find nine of them on the island, with the biggest one measuring 110 metres in diameter.

Kuressaare, the island's biggest town, is home to one of Estonia's best-preserved fortresses. The Teutonic Order built the Episcopal castle back in the 14th century. Today, it houses the Saaremaa museum where visitors can learn more about the island.
Pärnu
If you want to experience the Baltic coast, you should visit Pärnu. In summer, visitors flock here to lie on the white beach or to stroll through the nearby parks.

Don't forget to take a walk through the Old Town. Pärnu is known for its colourful wooden houses. Also, go for a walk on the seawall. Legend says that if you walk here with your partner, holding hands and kissing after reaching the end, you will stay together forever.
Riga
In Riga, you can find many more museums than you could possibly visit during your trip. You will also encounter a well-preserved Old Town and neighbourhoods full of art nouveau architecture.

If you want to get an overview, take the elevator up to the top of St Peter's Church. Or dive into Latvia's past by exploring the House of Blackheads and the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.

Next to Riga, you will find the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia, which is one of the oldest outdoor museums in Europe. Here, you can see old farms and houses from all over the country, which makes it perfect for getting a glimpse of what life in Latvia used to be like.
Cēsis
It only takes two hours to get from Riga to Cēsis. This cute town charms visitors with its two castles. The Medieval castle dates back to the 13th century when the Livonian Brothers of the Sword conquered the area. On the same grounds, you can also find the oldest brewery in Northern Europe.

The New Castle stands almost next to the Medieval Castle and houses the Cēsis History and Art Museum. Come here to learn more about the region and to enjoy the view from the castle tower.
Sigulda
Sigulda is the best place in Latvia for outdoor lovers. Here, you can hike through the Gauja National Park or climb across a treetop obstacle course. Or have you always wanted to try bungee jumping? Then you'll get your chance here!

In Sigulda and the surrounding area, you can find three castles, all of which you can visit in one day. Start at Sigulda Castle and then follow the trail to Krimulda. A cable car will carry you across the valley of the Gauja river. From Krimulda, you can hike through the forest to Turaida Castle and enjoy the view over the whole valley. Make sure to stop in Gutmanis Cave where you can find instructions from visitors dating back to the 17th century.
Vilnius
In 1994, Vilnius was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. Today, visitors come to enjoy the preserved medieval buildings of the Old Town and to discover the city's many churches and museums.

In the heart of Vilnius, you can find the Republic of Užupis. This tiny republic (which is, of course, not recognized by any other country) is home to many Lithuanian artists. Explore the art galleries and make sure to also stop by the wall showcasing the Užupis constitution.

Close to Vilnius lies Trakai, famous for its island castle in the middle of the lake. The Karaites, a Turkic minority of Lithuania, live here, so this is a great place to learn more about them.
Hill of Crosses
Nobody knows how many crosses stand on the Hill of Crosses, but estimates assume that it's likely more than 100,000.

Legend says that the tradition started when a father placed a wooden cross here, praying for the recovery of his dying daughter. When he arrived home, she was perfectly well again. Ever since then, people left their crosses on the hill, hoping for their prayers to be answered.

The Soviet government bulldozed the hill multiple times. In the middle of the night, people would come back to place crosses as an act of defiance. Today, many years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the hill stands taller and bigger than ever.
Curonian Spit
You should not leave Lithuania without visiting the Baltic coast and the Curonian Spit. On this narrow spit of land, sand dunes dominate the landscape. During the past centuries, these dunes used to move and would often bury whole villages underneath them.

Besides climbing to the top of the Curonian Spit's highest dune, visitors can also discover a unique culture and picturesque villages full of blue-painted wooden houses. Plus, the Spit is perfect for outdoor activities, from long walks along the beach to kayaking and exploring the peninsula by bike.
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