Top attractions... of the Baltic States
Here we introduce you to some of the top attractions in the Baltic States, including Estonia’s Unesco World Heritage Site Old Town, Tallinn, and Riga – the European Capital of Culture 2014.
Old Town, Tallinn, EstoniaThe capital of Estonia, Tallinn is a city with a well-preserved past. In fact, visiting its Unesco World Heritage Site Old Town is one of the most significant highlights of coming here.
Holding the distinction of being one of the best-preserved medieval towns in northern Europe, the Old Town dates back to the 13th century. Taking a leisurely stroll around this charming area will give you the chance to get lost in a maze of alleyways, coming across centuries-old buildings at virtually every turn. Take the time to walk up Toompea Hill, which provides a spectacular view across the Old Town - particularly if you visit the Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform, from where you can see all the way out to the modern city beyond.
Parnu, EstoniaApproximately two hours' drive from Tallinn, Parnu is another of Estonia's highlights. This seaside city combines the attractions of a coastal resort with a wealth of sites of historical interest, which gives it a distinctive charm. Boasting an 11,000-year history, Parnu proper was established in the 13th century and was an important Hanseatic city during the medieval period - a part of its culture the city takes particular pride in, even staging annual Hanseatic festivals. An excursion here can be a voyage of cultural discovery, or simply a relaxing interlude between visiting one Baltic state and another - it's up to you.
Old Riga, LatviaNamed European Capital of Culture 2014, the Latvian capital Riga is certainly worth a visit, and we think Old Riga, still ranks among the best of the city's attractions.
Located on the right bank of the Daugava, Old Riga is both the historical and geographical heart of the city. The narrow streets here date back to medieval times, when Riga was a powerful harbour. The highlight of exploring this part of the city is discovering its architecture, which evokes the past beautifully, and includes buildings such as Riga Cathedral, the White Stone Palace, and our next recommendation - the House of Blackheads.
House of Blackheads, LatviaConstructed in 1334, the House of Blackheads was designed as a meeting venue for the various social organisations in Riga. It was also used as a place of celebration, though by the 1700s its occupants had dwindled to one main group - the Blackheads' Society, for which the building is now named. This stunning site has actually been rebuilt to varying degrees several times - and was razed to the ground during World War II. In 1999, its reconstruction was completed, so happily we can still enjoy this testament to the city's Hanseatic past today.
Hill of Crosses, LithuaniaA popular pilgrimage site, the Hill of Crosses is one of Lithuania's most unique attractions. The hill is, as its name would suggest, covered in crosses - but this isn't any kind of formal monument or collection of sculptures. The crosses are placed here by pilgrims and vary considerably in terms of style and size. Used as an accompaniment to prayers, as memorials and as works of art, these crosses are a wonder to explore. Should you want to do more than look, you can actually purchase crosses from local souvenir traders.