5 reasons why you should visit the Baltics
Estonia and Latvia might not be on top of your list when you think about a summer holiday destination. But think again. Those two Baltic countries are probably more digital, cheaper and more modern then you would have thought. Here’s why you should consider a trip to the very north-east of Europe.
- It’s digital
I know – being on holiday is not the time to check your phone all the time. You’d actually need some time to ‘de-connect’ from everyday office life.
But: we all know that at least having access to the outside world can be very convenient. Remember all those times that you wanted to find that nice shop, the name of a restaurant that a friend recommended or simply just checking on GPS if you’re heading in the right direction. The Baltics are the place to go if you want to have 24/7 Wi-Fi access.
I can’t remember that I ever visited a country where even taxi drivers are looking up the address of a hotel on Google Maps rather than on their satnavs. But no worries, even for those people thinking about switching off their smartphones: both countries are very well signposted too.
- It’s cheap
With Brussels’ prices in mind, probably all other EU countries are relatively cheap, but paying 6 euros – yes, you can pay with euros! – for a hot meal (and a drink included) is still possible in Riga, Latvia’s capital. While Tallinn, in Estonia, has higher prices on average, you’re still better off doing your shopping there.
Train tickets, museum entrance fees and groceries are all a lot less expensive than in most Western- European countries. So if you’re going for a holiday on a budget, look no further.
- It’s relaxing and green
A city trip to a Baltic capital will be less of a stressful experience than going to London or Paris. Walking around in parks, along the waterfront or in small alleys in the old town: you will not see massive crowds or long queues.
And imagine how quiet the country’s’ smaller cities and rural areas are. Take a train from Riga to Majori and go to the Baltic Sea where you can have a proper beach holiday, combined with hiking trips through the forest with its traditional wooden houses.
Travel to Laheema national park in Estonia, not far from Tallinn, and you can spend a relaxing day walking around among the trees – which people say covers 40 percent of Estonia’s territory.
- It’s both medieval and modern
Riga and Tallinn have old town centers, with the main sights (castles, towers and cathedrals) all in walking distance. But certainly also look into the areas just outside the city centre.
In Riga, you’ll find a large Art Nouveau neighborhoods at one side of the city, but if you head in the other direction, you’ll end up at Rigas Central Market, a large traditional, daily market where people would approach you in Russian and you can buy fresh products such as fish, fruits and cakes.
Tallinn offers big parks with Kumu, a modern art museum, and Kadriog palace, a summer residence built for Peter the Great’s wife Catherine in the east. And head to the northwest where you’ll find Kalamaja, an upcoming Berlin-like neighborhood with nice cafés, bars and shops.
- It’s easy to combine
Riga Airport is well connected to many European capitals. From Riga take an international coach to Estonia which will bring you in four hours to Tallinn. Get your ticket in advance you’ll pay 15-20 euro one-way. So even if you have just a couple of days to spend, you get to see two countries in one trip.
Both Estonia and Latvia have not attracted mass tourism yet. So, don’t wait and go see them now!
Article and photographies by Cynthia Kroet