A four-day adventure through the Baltic states brought us to Riga, Latvia; Tallinn, Estonia; and Helsinki, Finland, by plane, bus and ferry!
Want to see the Baltic countries but are limited on time? We journeyed through Riga, Tallinn and Helsinki over the course of four days. It was rushed but doable, and we got a lovely sample of what each place has to offer!
Our journey began in Latvia. We flew to Riga via airBaltic from Frankfurt and spent two nights in the Old Town at Wellton Centrum Hotel, allowing us an evening and one full day to explore.
We kicked off our day in Riga with a free walking tour of the Old Town. The meeting point was right around the corner from the House of the Blackheads, so we stopped there on the way for some pictures before anyone else was around.
This building is stunning, but our tour guide, Caspar, told us tourists shouldn’t be fooled into thinking it’s an old building by the “ANNO 1334 / RENOV. ANNO 1999” letters. None of the old building remains; it was completely demolished during World War II and the replica was built in 1996-1999. He joked, “You might as well take a picture with me — I am older than that building.” Haha! It’s still my favorite building in Riga.
The tour, just shy of two hours long, was a great introduction to Riga!
Following the tour, we ate lunch at Lido (Alus sēta), a popular restaurant chain in Latvia. The food was served buffet-line style and everything we loaded onto our plates was delicious!
We continued to wander the old town and take in more sights, such as the Three Brothers, the Freedom Monument, the Latvian National Opera House and the view from the top of St. Peter’s Church. It was all very walkable!
Eventually we succumbed to the cold and sought out a warm spot for a couple drinks. We stumbled upon the Rockabilly House in Livu Square and scored the coolest seat in the bar. This place had a good selection of beer and the tastiest garlic rye bread you can imagine!
Following afternoon drinks at Rockabilly House, it was time for dinner. We headed to our dinner reservation at Rozengrāls, a large underground cellar with medieval vibes and great food!
We departed Riga at 7 a.m. on the Lux Express bus and arrived in Tallinn at 11:25 a.m. We booked ‘Lounge’ tickets for a more comfortable ride. These seats are wide and comfortable with extendable leg rests, tables and television screens at each seat. Free water, coffee and a snack is provided for the ride. After taking a decent nap and watching a movie, we arrived in Tallinn in no time!
Tallinn exceeded all expectations. As one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe, Tallinn’s Old Town transports visitors back in time with its city walls, tall towers (26 of them!), cobblestone streets, and restaurants and storefronts playing into the part.
After dropping our luggage at the Merchants House Hotel, we immediately set out to explore the city. There’s not a lot of daylight to work with in the Baltics during winter time, and we were already halfway through the day.
Our first stop was the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which certainly can’t be missed. The juxtaposition of this beautiful Russian architecture in the midst of Tallinn’s medieval walls left me speechless.
From Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, we went up to the Patkuli viewing platform for views over Tallinn, followed by Kohtuotsa viewing platform with the Instagram-famous “THE TIMES WE HAD” wall.
After the viewing platform, we wandered back in the direction of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral to the Danish King’s Garden. This is a cool spot to hang out — it offers views over Tallinn’s red rooftops, spooky statues of faceless monks and a long stretch of the city’s wall. You can enter the Maiden’s Tower and walk along the wall for a cost.
When 2 p.m. came around, it was time to return to our hotel to complete check-in and grab a quick bite to eat at Beer House, conveniently located right across the street. It’s a fun place — certainly reminded us of a German biergarten!
After lunch, we set back out to explore. With no specific goals in mind, we wandered on foot for the next couple hours and came across beautiful sights at every turn.
Be sure to check out Viru Gate, the old entrance to the city, and take the opportunity to walk along the city walls. There are a few different spots to do this; we entered at Hellemann Tower and paid €3 to walk along a short stretch.
We enjoyed dinner at Olde Hansa, a (you guessed it!) medieval restaurant in the center of old town. Delicious food and a fun time! We got a table without a reservation on the third floor, but I recommend reserving a table on the ground floor — it’s beautifully decorated and a band was playing medieval instruments.
The following morning we departed Tallinn on a two-hour ferry ride to Helsinki via the Tallink Star. It was a smooth, efficient way to travel!
Shortly after our arrival in Helsinki, it began raining hard for the remainder of the afternoon. We braved the rain for about an hour, scootering around and taking in a few sights, but eventually became too drenched and cold to carry on. We spent the rest of the afternoon in cozy cafes and bars, and enjoyed dinner at Sushibar + Wine.
It was too bad we couldn’t see more of Helsinki due to the weather — I wanted to explore the maritime fortress Suomenlinna — but our visit to Helsinki wasn’t a waste. We got to see what Helsinki has to offer for our next visit, and we had an excellent stay at Hotel St. George Helsinki (booked with Marriott Bonvoy points!) which had the nicest cocktail lounge, a relaxing thermal spa, and the most enjoyable breakfast restaurant.
When the rain cleared up that evening, we took the opportunity to walk around and enjoy the Christmas lights.
We flew back to Frankfurt from Helsinki the following morning, and thus ended our adventure through the Baltic states. More time in each place definitely would have been appreciated, but it was so nice to get a taste of each city.
These Baltic beauties deserve a spot on your bucket list!