When visiting the Baltic states for the first time, if you are like me, you would probably not know or confuse which Baltic capital city belonged to which country or which country is next to which country. To put you out of your misery, this is the list of the capitals and the countries of the 3 Baltic states Tallinn in Estonia, Riga in Latvia and Vilnius in Lithuania.
The reason why it’s called the Baltic states is because they are all located by the east coast of Baltic Sea that separates them from Finland in the north and Sweden to the East. Coming from Finland, the first country you will arrive to is Estonia. Latvia is Estonia’s neighbour to the south. Heading further south of Latvia, you will arrive in Lithuania.
In this short write up of my trip from 9-11 July 2016, I start with the places I visited in Tallinn followed by my expenses followed similarly for Riga and lastly Vilnius.
After around a 5 hour ferry ride from Helsinki, I finally arrived in Tallinn around midday to begin my express trip to the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania where I spent one days in each capital city of the 3 countries.
The ferry trip from Helsinki felt like it was going to take forever. They had a swimming pool and sauna which I paid €8 for a 1.5 hour access to pass the time. It was sunny and warm when I arrived at the Tallinn Silja ferry terminal. I walked to my hostel which was around 20 minutes away near the entrance to the old town (Fat Margaret Tower entrance).
I spent my time walking around the Old Towns of Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius. I visited so many churches and cathedrals in these cities I can’t remember the names but it looked nice. The main tourist points in these cities were the old market squares. These countries were also cheaper by around 30-50% than Helsinki.
A few churches and attractions that I visited in the Tallinn old Town were :
1. Great Coastal Gate and Fat Margaret Tower.
You can go up the tower but the St Olaf’s Church tower nearby is higher. So I thought might as well go there and get a view from a higher vantage point.
2. Old Town Hall Museum just next to the Old Market Square
3. St Nicholas Church
4. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
5. Parliament Building just in front of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
6. St Olaf’s Church Tower
There’s an observation deck at the top. No elevator so you have to take the narrow flight of stairs up. Took 20 minutes with my level of fitness and it’s pretty narrow so there will be times that you have give way to other people. You will need to catch your breath anyway.
7. Stroll along the newer part of Tallinn
8. I only managed to take some pictures from outside the Maiden Tower Museum ( Neitsitorni muuseumkohvik ) as it was already closed when I got there.
To get to my express bus terminal, I took city bus number 2 from the ferry terminal A. The bus also goes to the airport. The central bus terminal is a bit hidden from where you alight from the city bus. Once you alight the city bus, you need to walk back for around 100 – 150 metres, then make a left turn. Once you turned left, you should be able to see the bus terminal.
Fat Margaret Hostel : €14 ( 1 night )
St Olaf’s Church Tower : €2
Town Hall Exhibits : €2 (student tix)
City bus from the old town to the central bus terminal : €2
Tallinn to Riga bus (Eurolines) : €16.40 (bought it 1 day before departure)
Frozen meal dinner : €5
Additional personal expenses/flag pin : ~ €13 ( had to buy a new phone cable)
Total : €55
The bus ride from Tallinn took around 4 hours to arrive in Riga. First glance, the buildings looked like the Soviet buildings you see on television. Similarly the trams that operated in the city looked rather old and from the Soviet days. The Riga IT Demo Centre stands out prominently across the Daugava River that runs next to the city centre.
The central bus stop is conveniently located next to the Riga Central Market. I had 1 day to stroll around the city and went to :
1. Riga Central and Flea Market
Being the closest to my hostel as well as the bus stop, it was my first destination to go in the city. It’s just a normal market selling fresh produce such as seafood, vegetables and fruits. Outside the market, there are vendors selling various merchandise like clothing, belts, shoes etc. Some of the market structures looked like they were converted from old warehouses.
2. Old Town/Market Square
Just like Tallinn, Riga also had an old town. Apparently, they have those free city tours too but since I arrived in the afternoon, I missed it and the next day I had a morning bus so I wouldn’t be able to join it. Ask your reception about it when you are in town.
3. Museum of The History of Riga & Navigation
Weird pricing of €1.42 for students. . Didn’t find it particularly interesting though.
4. Walk through the new city.
5. Promenade by the river (“I LOVE RIGA” sign)
It’s located on the same side of the river as the huge IT Demo Centre building. When you cross the bridge, the IT centre will be on your left and the promenade will be on your right. During sunset, there will be people exercising, fishing as well as taking photos. It has a good view of the city skyline. Walk until the end and you will see a “I LOVE RIGA” sign. Note that after the sign, it’s the end of the promenade and you will have to walk all the way back.
Seagulls Garret Hostel : €10 ( 1 night )
Museum of The History of Riga & Navigation : €1.42
Riga to Vilnius bus (Eurolines) : €15.70 (bought the day before)
Fastfood : €5
Flag pin : €5
Total : €40
The journey from Riga to Vilnius took around the same time as Tallinn – RIga which is around 4 hours. The central bus stop was around 1 kilometre or 15-20 minute walk from the old town and signage was initially quite hard to find. It’s not too hard once you figure it out the first time. I still had mobile data from my Swedish number so I could still use my map. I arrived at around 1pm and I had a bus leaving for Warsaw at 10pm the same day. So I did not stay the night in Vilnius.
During my daytrip to the city, I visited the :
1. Old town
There’s a tourist walking route of the city that you can follow. It highlights which attractions especially churches that you should visit. You can also get a map from the tourist centre near the old town square.
2. Vilnius University
3. Observation area of the Bell Tower
There’s a luggage storage facility at the bus station but it has a closing time. Make sure you pick up your things before it closes. Spaces are also limited. I got the last spot and my bag was small. A couple that was behind me in the queue couldn’t store their bags. Cost me €1 for the whole day.
Vilnius to Warsaw bus (Eurolines – booked the night before) : €17.60
Visit Vilnius uni (student tix) : €0.50
Luggage storage at the bus station : €1
Bell tower observation deck : €2.50
Kebab dinner : €3
Personal expenses : ~ €14
Total : €38.60
Grand Total : €133.60 for 3 days
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