After having written about my trips to the underrated Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, I figured it was long overdue to finally lay out why I love them so much. While they’re essentially ignored by most travel sites, I want to give them their day in the spotlight.
For starters, they’re home to incredibly friendly people. Literally, the moment I exited the airports/bus stations and really stepped into the sprawl of the cities, I felt like I belonged. In my experience, it takes a few hours to get adjusted to your current destination, but I never felt like that was the case here. Americans tend to get a bad rap abroad for, among other things, not knowing some of the local language (and shouting in English), so I made it a point to try to and learn the admittedly complex languages. When the inevitable language breakdowns happened, the locals cheerfully switched into English to accommodate one struggling tourist. And that leads me to say that I’m eternally thankful for the emphasis put on learning at least one or two foreign languages in school; take notes, America. The vibes you get are very relaxed as well, which frankly are the best types of vibes. Case in point: when embarking on the excellent free walking tours, our guides were funny and super informative, with a hint of self-deprecation. Honestly, the humble, down-to-earth nature of the Baltic countries makes everything feel so much more genuine.
Yes, I only got to visit the capital cities of Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius, and if anything it makes me eager to return to explore more in the three countries, but the juxtaposition of their rich historical past combined with the chic new aspects made me instantly feel at home. Tallinn captured my imagination, Riga’s ambience surrounded me in sunny joy, and Vilnius was nothing short of cozy. I know I sound like I’m rambling here, but the point stands-they were cities I felt I could get lost in and find magic. Even if you did get lost, you could navigate your way around, as the capitals were incredibly easy to get around: both Riga and Vilnius’ centers/ surrounding areas took about 20 minutes to get around on foot, Tallinn 30. Seriously, each of the three were aesthetically pleasing, and I’m sure it’s an architect’s dream to successfully intersperse new buildings without marginalizing the historical ones. In particular, I loved downtown Tallinn, partially because it was so nice to stroll around, but because it didn’t feel overwhelming. I mean, I live in Moscow, and you would never forget that it’s the capital of Russia, but Tallinn? You occasionally had to reassure yourself it’s the main city of Estonia. Vilnius also felt that way, if not for the fact that you literally could stroll up to the unassuming parliament building. Riga, to some extent, felt that way, but I concede I didn’t fully explore it to the extent I would have liked; to this day, it’s one of my biggest regrets, and I feel like it’s a kick to the nuts to see so many fantastic Instagram pics of the city I neglected to traverse. There were plenty of unique neighborhoods to traverse, and naturally each of these cities demonstrated this. (Cough cough Uzupis cough cough.) Between cobble stoned streets to hilltop views, you’ll absolutely be immersed in highly picturesque sights. Man, I miss them!
The culture is also something you shouldn’t sleep on. Arguably one of the lasting images of these three countries is how they literally sung their way to freedom from the Soviet Union. So, entertainment is definitely something they do well! I was actually surprised by seeing how vibrant their culture is; I say this in a non-patronizing way, as you really don’t hear much about the countries, hence the general lack of advanced knowledge. When strolling through each of the three cities, you can see plenty of bars and social gatherings, attesting to new breath of fresh air. It just seems like there’s always something to do, and for tourists, it’s fantastic to participate in. There’s a sense of nature as well, given the significant amount of forest, so nature lovers will rejoice. Outdoors activities were readily available, so if you like to break a sweat or get out of the city, you’re in luck! Having a diverse stable of things to do definitely adds more bang for the buck!
If this post helped sway you to visit them, or at the very least research them more, then my work is done. Again, the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are gems, and I cannot recommend them enough!