3 weeks in the Baltics itinerary

When I was traveling around the US and Canada, I was homesick for the first time since becoming a digital nomad. For the first time in two years I missed home and I missed Europe. As I traversed these huge countries, I once again appreciated the cultural richness and diversity of Europe. And I realized how much of it I hadn’t seen yet.

So when I managed to get a gig as volunteer at the Women in Travel Summit in Riga, I jumped at the chance to explore a part of Europe unknown to me: the Baltics.

As I’ve been making a conscious decision to travel greener, I knew I wanted to avoid flying at all cost. Traveling over land means traveling slower, so I gave myself three weeks for this trip. Since I needed to be in Riga at a certain date for WITS, I carefully planned my trip around it.

To be able to do a loop, without flying, meant extending my trip to go around the whole Baltic Sea: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. A bit rushed in three weeks, so I limited myself to the capitol cities. The result was an exhausting, but very rewarding adventure through one of the most underrated regions of Europe.

When they think of Europe, most people think of the big hitters: Italy, France, Spain. But the Baltics offer just as much in terms of history, culture, nature, art, architecture and cuisine. Without the mass tourism. These countries have become more popular in recent years and are somewhat crowded in summer. But in the fall, you get whole cities to yourself.

For anyone looking to get off the beaten track and explore a different side of Europe, I highly recommend visiting the Baltics. Here’s how I did without a single flight:

Stop 1: Warsaw

Warsaw Old Town Poland Royal Castle travel guide city guide Warsaw travel tips things to do sights highlights

What I did there:

I’ll be honest, I had pretty low expectations for Warsaw. People kept telling me that it wasn’t as nice as other cities in Poland, such as Krakow.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I started to walk around Warsaw. Sure, it doesn’t have the same gorgeous old architecture, but I still thought it was a beautiful city. Warsaw has a fascinating history and tons to see and do. Lots of interesting museums and a beautiful rebuilt historic city center.

Here are a few things you can’t miss

How long I stayed:

I arrived late in the evening and spent two nights in Oki Doki OLD TOWN Hostel. I really liked this place, it was clean and comfortable and there’s a good social atmosphere. The staff organize something every night, I did a free pierogi class which was both fun and delicious! The location is also perfect right next to the Old Town.

How I got there:

As I mentioned, the idea of this trip was to do it all without flying. That meant a 24-hour transit from where I live in the Netherlands to Warsaw. I took the train to Amsterdam, from where I traveled with FlixBus to Warsaw. It was a night bus to Wroclaw, a 1.5 hour layover, and another bus to Warsaw. Not the most comfortable way to travel, but I managed to get some sleep and only paid 40 euros for the whole thing.

Think that’s long? Read my post about a 50-hour transit from Luang Prabang to Koh Lanta

Stop 2: Vilnius

What I did there:

From Warsaw I went to my first true Baltic city: Vilnius. Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, a country I’ll admit I knew basically nothing about. To learn more about Lithuania and because I had limited time to explore the city, I joined the Vilnius With Locals Free Walking Tour. It turned out be a really fun and informative tour. Our guide took as to all the highlights in Vilnius Old Town and Uzepis, an “autonomous republic” within the city (but it’s really more a artist enclave).

Here are the things you absolutely have to see in Vilnius

Vilnius is a beautiful city with a charming historic city center full of elegant Baroque architecture. There’s lot to see here, from churches to castles and plenty of interesting museums. You don’t really need a lot of time to explore Vilnius, as it’s quite small, but it’s definitely worth two days at least.

How long I stayed:

I arrived early in the morning and Couchsurfed in Vilnius for one night

How I got there:

From Warsaw to Vilnius, I took another night bus. Luckily, this one only took 9 hours. FlixBus is my usual go-to for long distance bus travel, but they don’t operate in the Baltics (yet). So I opted for a regional company: LuxExpress. And to be honest, it’s one of the best bus companies I’ve ever traveled with. Very comfortable seats, onboard entertainment and Wi-Fi and free coffee and tea! And at 9 euros, super affordable.

Dreading a night bus? Here’s how you survive them!

Stop 3: Riga

Riga Latvia Old Town Baltics beautiful destinations 2019 travel wishlist

What I did there:

Riga was sort of the main event of this trip and what I built my whole itinerary around. I planned this trip to attend the Women in Travel Summit, the first one in Europe. I snagged a spot to work as a volunteer, which was super fun and a great learning experience. It was great to meet so many inspiring female travel bloggers, influencers, marketing moguls and travel agents.

Thankfully, I did also have some time to explore Riga itself. It’s a really pretty city with both really old Medieval and Renaissance architecture in the Old Town and beautiful Art Nouveau buildings. Did you know that Riga has the biggest collection of Art Nouveau architecture in the world? Me neither, but it was a very pleasant surpsise.

There is so much to do and see in Riga!

The highlight of my visit to Riga (and probably the whole trip) was a Foodie Tour organized for us by Live Riga. A famous Latvian chef took us on a guided tour to the Central Market, where he told us about the Latvian culinary traditions and we got to taste a bunch of delicious Latvian food.

I had no idea that Latvian food was so delicious!

I really enjoyed my time at WITS and will definitely see if I can make it to the next edition in Gdansk. Riga really stole my heart and I think it is a must-visit city, especially if you want to see a totally new side to Europe.

In fact, I loved Riga so much that it even made my list of favorite destinations of 2019!

How long I stayed:

I spend four nights in Riga at Cinnamon Sally Hostel. It wasn’t the most comfortable hostels I’ve ever stayed at, but the staff was friendly and the price and location good. And they make you waffles in the morning!

How I got there:

Riga is only a short bus ride from Vilnius (4-5 hours). With LuxExpress (my new favorite bus company), I easily got through it by watching movies on their onboard entertainment set and taking a nap. And it again only cost me 9 euros.

Stop 4: Tallinn

Tallinn Estonia Old Town medieval city architecture city guide travel guide travel tips

What I did there:

Tallinn is a completely underrated gem. I truly think it is one of the most beautiful and special cities in Europe! Tallinn’s historic city center is one of the best preserved Medieval cities and a UNESCO World Heritage Sit. Walking through Tallinn Old Town is like stepping back in town. Every little street is so charming and atmospheric and there’s a beautiful view around every corner.

There are so many great things to do in Tallinn!

But Tallinn has more to offer other than history! It is also a super hip and modern city. Outside the historic city center, you enter a hipster paradise! Lots of cute boutiques, hip cafés and delicious street food. I had no idea, but apparently Estonia is the Silicon Valley of Europe. They are miles ahead in terms of cyber security and full of tech startups. This means that the city is really modern and well-equipped. The public transport is state of the art and easy to use and there’s a lot of great tourist facilities.

How long I stayed:

I Couchsurfed for two nights in Tallinn

How I got there:

From Tallinn to Riga took 4 hours by, you guessed it, LuxExpress. I originally booked with Ecolines for 5 euros in the morning, but decided to stay a few hours longer Riga in order to do a food tour. The ticket was non-refundable, but I found one at LuxExpress for 9 euros, so no harm, no foul.

Stop 5: Helsinki

What I did there:

Helsinki is a really interesting city. It’s a rather young city and you definitely notice that. You won’t find any Medieval architecture here. But the city center does have lots of beautiful buildings. Even though Helsinki is just a short boat ride away from Tallinn, it’s definitely a different place. As soon as you get to Helsinki, you become aware that you’re in the Nordics. Everything just feels a bit more Scandinavian. And not just because of the grey and gloomy weather.

Helsinki isn’t the most exciting city I’ve ever visited, but there’s plenty to keep you occupied. Helsinki is a place of contrast. An interesting mix of old and new architecture, a mix of nature and city and traditional and modern Finnish culture.

These were my favorite things to do in Helsinki

How long I stayed:

I Couchsurfed for two nights in Helsinki

How I got there:

The quickest, cheapest and easiest way to travel from Tallinn to Helsinki is by ferry. It’s just a 2-hour ferry ride from port to port (you’ll need to take the tram/bus into the city though). I booked my ticket on the Eckerö line for 20 euros. It could have been cheaper, but I forgot to book it in advance. It was a really smooth and comfortable ride and both ports are easily accessible with public transportation.

Stop 6: Stockholm

Sweden Stockholm Gamla Stan Old Town city guide travel guide travel tips things to do must see highlights sightseeing

What I did there:

Stockholm was the only stop on this trip that I had been before. I visited it years ago when a friend was studying abroad there. From what I remembered it was beautiful but expensive. Clearly nothing has changed 😉

Stockholm is one of the most expensive cities you can visit in Europe. Seriously, a single far metro ticket is 4 euro and a beer 8! But that shouldn’t keep you from visiting, because it such a cool city. I spent three nights and easily could have stayed longer.

There is so much to do and see in Stockholm!

The city itself is gorgeous and cozy, even when it’s dark and rainy. And if the beautiful architecture isn’t enough to entice you, you can always look at the gorgeous, tall, blond Swedish people instead. Stockholm is überhip and filled with trendy cafés and eateries. Be sure to treat yourself to a fika every chance you get.

How long I stayed:

I Couchsurfed for three nights in Stockholm and one in Turku

How I got there:

The best way to get from Helsinki to Stockholm is by ferry. There are direct services from Helsinki to Stockholm, but there’s a much cheaper way to do it. I took the 2-hour train to Turku for 8,90 euro, stayed overnight and boarded the Silja Line ferry there. Instead of over a hundred euro, this ferry only cost 12 euro! Beware that it is a 10-hour ride, so if you care about comfort over cost, definitely book a bed on a night service instead. The upside of the day service, is that you get to enjoy the beautiful views of the Finnish and Swedish islands.

Stop 7: Copenhagen

Denmark Copenhagen Nyhavn Old Town city guide travel guide

What I did there:

Just like Stockholm, Copenhagen is an intensely cool city. I felt completely drab and basic next to all those hip Scandinavians. Copenhagen has a similar vibe to Stockholm and unfortunately also a similar price tag. Neither city is a particularly affordable destination, but can be done omn a budget if you’re smart about where you spend your money.

Copenhagen is very walkable and it’s a bike city, so I definitely recommend renting a bicycle for the day to get around. There are several really cool areas to explore: the old city center, Nyhavn, Christiana, Vesterbro and Norrebro. The Old Town is filled with elegant historic architecture, whereas the other neighborhood as really hipster. Whether you’re a history buff or a shopaholic, Copenhagen has got you covered.

Here are a few highlights you can’t miss in Copenhagen

Copenhagen is also a great foodie destination. Indulge in the fantastic New Nordic cuisine and multicultural street food. There’s a lot of interesting food stuff hapening here!

How long I stayed:

I Couchsurfed for two nights in Copenhagen

How I got there:

The ride from Stockholm to Copenhagen was the most comfortable one of the whole trip. There is a direct train service between the cities, which takes about 5 hours. You can also do it by bus, but takes much longer and isn’t necessarily cheaper. A second class ticket, booked in advance, set me back only 18 euros. The train was great, with Wi-Fi and comfortable seats.

From Copenhagen, I traveled home using FlixBus with a quick stop in Hamburg to visit family. Even though the whole trip was a bit rushed, I loved every minute of it. It really confirmed what I already knew, how beautiful and diverse Europe is. It’s also made me super excited to go back to each of these countries and explore them further.

Have you visited any of the Baltic States? Which places were your favorite? Would you do a trip like this? Let’s talk about it in the comments.
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14 thoughts on “3 weeks in the Baltics itinerary

  1. Wow, you really enjoyed the full experience in the Baltic region! I have not yet been but am now convinced to spend time city hopping in that portion of Europe!

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  2. Really interesting read. I’m also trying to fly a lot less this year, and that comes with some challenges but can also be very rewarding. I haven’t been to any of the cities on your list, but I’m most interested in the ones I know least about: Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn. I normally avoid capital cities, but I would imagine that in the Baltics they are still incredibly unique cities, especially outside of the normal high season!

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  3. I’m curious to know as to how did you get an opportunity to visit Women in Travel Summit? Do you need to buy a ticket or special invites only? Also, your Baltics itinerary looks incredible. I had no idea that Tallinn is such a splendid destination. I hope to visit that part of the world soon!

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  4. I love greenery travel beacuse not too rush for everything as same as this city Baltics. The place I like at most is Vilnius which is a charming city and beautiful Baroque architecture. I love the quiet and peaceful place.

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