Highlights of the Baltics
The upper part of the Tallinn's fortified city, Toompea, has the best view over Tallinn. Not only that, the remnants of the castle, numerous stately embassies, and 2 historic churches, make Toompea one of the best spots to spend an afternoon. Make sure to stop at Alexander Nevsky Cathedral as its gold-painted interior is amazing.
Cathedral Square, Lithuania
The heart of Vilnius, Cathedral Square is the perfect starting point for any tour through the city. You have the Grand Duke's Palace, the main Vilnius Cathedral, the start of Gediminas Avenue and the "miracle spot." At the main entrance to the Cathedral is a small square where you can wish for a miracle. This was also one of the anchor points for the Baltic Chain, the 3 million-member human chain reaching 600 KMs away to Tallinn. To read more click here.
Peles Castle, Sinaia, Romania
Guilds are essentially the precursor to modern-day unions. By joining together, members had more power to control their businesses. Riga is located just upriver from the coast of the Baltic Sea and it has a long history closely tied to the maritime industries. For many centuries, the ship merchants were part of a major guild and they built a guild building to match! The Blackheads Guild building that you see today just off of the historic central square, is a recreation of the original as it was destroyed by the Germans in WWII. The massive building has some of the most intricate exterior brickwork you will ever see!
Tallinn City Hall, Estonia
Tallinn is full of history. From Tommpea to the lower town and its city walls, it's hard to be more than a few meters away from a historic building in the city center. No other buildings have the same presence and importance as the city hall. Started in the 1440s the city hall has slowly been added to resulting in it being the largest town hall in northern Europe. The numerous gargoyles, unique architecture, and the beautiful square that surrounds it make it a perfect spot to stop when roaming around the city! The square also hosts the major Estonian Christmas Market.
Hill of Crosses, Lithuania
Halfway between Riga and Vilnius is one of the most unique hills you will ever come by. While the hill itself is small and unimpressive, for almost 200 years people have been coming to the hill to place a memorial cross for those who have passed away. Even though it was destroyed several times under Soviet occupation, there are still hundreds of thousands of crosses spread across the hill. Visit and place your own if you wish.
Did you know :
The art of "cross-crafting" has been inducted into the UNESCO Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity due to its importance to Lithuanian culture.
Home to one of the last populations of the Kaimer peoples, as well as Eastern Europe's only island castle, Trakai is the perfect day trip from Vilnius. Originally from Turkey and Crimea but Jewish in their religion, the Kaimers were relocated across the former Lithuanian Duchy. Once a major population centre, the population has decreased in Trakai though you still can see dozens of their colourful and symbolic houses, the Karim- an Eastern European Synagogue, and try Kiubete, a meat-filled pastry that is just delicious. Also, check out the island castle with its dual-wall system and interior moat.
It came as a surprise to find out that Europe's largest open market is located in Riga, a city of less than a million. Built inside a series of German Zeppelin hangers from WWI the amazing market has some 3,000 stalls selling everything from meats and cheeses to honey and vegetables and even toys and clothes. It also has roughly 100,000 people pass through its doors every day the majority of which are locals doing their weekly shop!