3 Charming Capitals of the Baltic States

Majestically medieval Tallinn, Chic art-nouveau Riga & flamboyantly baroque Vilnius, there’s something truly unique about each of the Baltic capitals

Tallinn – Capital of Estonia

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Tallinn Old Town

The crown jewel of tourist sites in Estonia, Tallinn’s old town is without a doubt the country’s most fascinating locality. Making your way around the old town along narrow cobbled streets easily brings you back to the 15th century, and the penchant of local businesses dressing their staff up in peasant garb only makes the experience even more immersive. Hidden medieval courtyards, looming spires and winding staircases often leads to sweeping views over the old town (see pic above). Of course, being popular comes with its downsides, with cruise ships descending daily; And things can get crowded especially during summer as the old town is very much within walking distance from the harbor. That said, with many other sights to see and activities to do around Tallinn, any visitor can easily choose to stay for the night and enjoy a even more magical Tallinn old town when the day trippers leave by 5pm

Riga – Capital of Latvia

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Blackheads House @ Old Riga

The Gothic spires that dominate Riga’s city-scape might suggest austerity, but it is the flamboyant art nouveau that forms the flesh and spirit of this vibrant city, the largest of the 3 Baltic capitals. Quiet and reserved on the outside, powerful chemistry does go on inside Riga’s hip bars, modern art centers, and in the kitchens of its cool experimental restaurants. Now with over two decades of independence, Riga is starting to reclaim its rightful title as the cosmopolitan cornerstone of the Baltic. Right in the heart of the old town is one of Riga’s most recognizable symbol, the Blackheads house. The Blackheads house was erected in 1344, and was embellished and expanded in the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries. Destroyed in World war 2, it rose from the ashes in the late 1990s in keeping with the medieval saying above its entrance that states ‘if I should fall, build me again’. A striking Gothic building, its Dutch renaissance facade is the most elaborately decorated in Riga with numerous sculptures and coats of arms of various Hanseatic cities. In its heydays it used to house single members of the merchants’ guild who were also notorious revelers of their day. Ironically, the current Blackhead house is no longer open to the public as it is the temporary office of the President of Latvia

Vilnius – Capital of Lithuania

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Vilnius Cathedral

Vilnius, the baroque beauty of the Baltic is a city of immense allure. The capital may be a long way east in the country, but it’s quintessentially continental, with Europe’s largest baroque old town at its heart. A Unesco World Heritage site, the old town’s winding cobbled streets, hidden courtyards and lavish old churches does well to retain the feel of an era gone by. Outside its core, a surrounding combination of crumbling corners and majestic hilltop views only adds to Vilnius’s already impressive charms. In short, one of the greatest pleasures when visiting Lithuania’s fascinating capital is to just wander around aimlessly , wondering what surprises lay in wait for you to discover along the old town’s back streets

* Traveled April 2016

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