Spanning three capital cities throughout Europe's Baltic region, this weeklong itinerary is your key to the charms of Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn. In each of these capitals, you'll take walking tours of the historic city center and visit medieval castles, ancient churches, and historic monuments. You'll also make day trips to the Baltic coast and visit art museums and romantic parks.

Highlights

  • Enjoy guided tours of Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn
  • Visit Trakai's 14th-century island castle
  • Walk along the famous white-sand beach at Jūrmala
  • Stroll romantic cobblestone streets and discover historic sites

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Vilnius - Explore Vilnius
Day 2 Walking Tour of Vilnius - Optional Trip to Trakai Vilnius
Day 3 Bus to Riga - Enjoy Panoramic Views of the City Riga
Day 4 Walking Tour of Riga - Optional Day Trip to Jūrmala Riga
Day 5 Bus from Riga to Tallinn Tallinn
Day 6 Walking Tour of Tallinn - Stop at Café Maiasmokk Tallinn
Day 7 Depart Tallinn Tallinn

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Vilnius - Explore

Vilnius at Sunset
Vilnius at Sunset

Welcome to the capital of Lithuania! Like many European capitals, Vilnius has a rich history.

This city, which sits on the Neris River, dates to the 14th century and in its heyday was a melting pot of cultures. People flocked here from as near as Poland and as far as Eurasia, many of them coming to attend Vilnius University. Founded in the 16th century, this was one of the premier learning institutions in Europe. Over the next few centuries, Lithuania was conquered by everyone from Napolean to Hitler, and it fell under Russian rule after WWII until it seceded from the Soviet Union in 1990. 

Head to Vilnius´ Old Town and you can see its rich medieval history exemplified in the well-preserved architecture. All told, there are 1,200 medieval buildings and 48 churches in this city that have earned historic status. Architectural styles run the gamut from Gothic to Renaissance to Baroque, and religious denominations include Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox. Judaism, Lutheran, and Protestant. 

But Vilnius is more than medieval history. This forward-thinking city has a modern edge to it. Former residential areas once home to drab communist-era apartment blocs have been given a facelift and turned into bohemian enclaves splashed with street art. The downtown area is a financial nerve center filled with banks and tech startups. The nice thing is that you can see Vilnius' central neighborhoods on a day tour, as this city is easily navigable on foot.

Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will meet you at the terminal and transfer you to your hotel in the city. After checking in, you'll have the remainder of the day or evening free to spend however you wish.

Day 2: Walking Tour of Vilnius - Optional Trip to Trakai

Trakai Castle

Spend the morning getting to know Vilnius on a guided walking tour of the city. It begins in Old Town, the medieval heart of Vilnius. Throughout the morning you'll visit historic landmarks of varying architectural styles.

One highlight is Vilnius Cathedral. Consecrated in 1783 and sitting on the expansive Cathedral Square, this is Lithuania's premier Roman-Catholic church. Moreover, its mausoleum is the final resting place of some notable figures throughout history including grand dukes of Lithuania and even King Alexander of Poland. 

Other stops include Gediminas Tower, a 15th-century defensive castle on the banks of the Neris River; the Church of St. Peter and Paul, a 17th-century Lithuanian Baroque cathedral; the 15th-century St. Anne's Church, another Baroque gem; Vilnius University, which, having been founded in 1579, is the oldest university in the Baltics; and the Gate of Dawn, the city's medieval defensive fortification, which was built around a chapel that remains a major catholic pilgrimage site in Lithuania.  

Afterward, you'll transfer a half-hour west of Vilnius to the town of Trakai. Situated on a peninsula on Lake Galvė, this village, home to about 5,000 people, is as much a scenic national park as it is a town. Here, amid the unspoiled woodlands and lake islands, rises medieval Trakai Castle, the star landmark of the area. You'll visit this handsome fortification, which was built in the latter half of the 14th century out of red brick and stone and is done in the Gothic style. 

You'll then spend some time in the town of Trakai. You can discover this village on your own or join a kayaking tour around the lake. On the latter excursion, you'll paddle through tranquil waters around islands while enjoying great views of the castle, the Užutrakis Tyszkiewicz Mansion, and the ruins of Peninsular Castle, a fortification located on the south end of the lake and commissioned by the Duke of Trakai in the 14th century.

Afterward, you can take a swim in the lake and relax on the shore before heading back to Vilnius.

Day 3: Bus to Riga - Enjoy Panoramic Views of the City

The Riga skyline

After breakfast at your hotel, enjoy one final stroll around Vilnius' Old Town. In the afternoon, you'll catch a bus north to Riga, the capital of Latvia. This city was founded in 1201 by the German bishop Albert of Riga, who later went on to found the city's cathedral in 1221. It's the largest of the three Baltic capitals and its historic Old Town features an array of architectural styles. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel. 

After getting settled, you can head out and explore. To get a better feel for the city's layout, visit the Panorama Riga observation deck on the 17th-floor of the Latvian Academy of Sciences building. Here you'll get a 360° view of Riga and can look down on the buzz of tourists and locals enjoying the city center.

Then enjoy a stroll through the city's main green space, Bastejkalns Park. Stop to view the Laima Clock, which dates back to 1924 and serves as a popular meeting point with locals. Perhaps treat yourself to a bit of culture with a tour or a show in the spectacular Latvian National Opera, a 19th-century, neoclassical theater. Enjoy dinner in Old Town before heading back to your hotel for the night.

Day 4: Walking Tour of Riga - Optional Day Trip to Jūrmala

Jūrmala

In the morning, you'll see the highlights of Riga on a walking tour of its historic Old Town. Medieval landmarks here include the 14th century Riga Castle; the Lutheran Dome Cathedral, which was built in 1211; the 15th-century St. Peter’s Church; and the Swedish Gate, a fortification built in 1698 as part of defensive city walls.

Other historic buildings you'll see include Three Brothers, a trio of homes dating to the 15th/16th/17th centuries, and the Large and Small Guild House, a merchant organization built in the 14th century and later redone in the English Gothic style. You'll also visit the Freedom Monument, which is located on the waterfront and memorializes soldiers killed in the Latvian War of Independence (1918-1920).

In the afternoon, you'll have the option to head west of Riga to the coastal resort town of Jūrmala. This popular holiday destination on the Gulf of Riga is famous for its elegant wooden homes done in the Art Nouveau style plus its long, white-sand beach. It's the perfect place to spend an afternoon relaxing, and in the evening you can enjoy a traditional Latvian dinner at a local restaurant. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel in Riga.

Day 5: Bus from Riga to Tallinn

Aerial View of Tallinn, Estonia

After breakfast, you'll catch a bus heading north into Estonia and its capital of Tallinn. Estonia is known for its incredible natural scenery that includes rocky beaches, remote islands, protected wetlands, and forests with beech, spruce, and pine trees. In total, about 50% of Estonia is covered in forest and about 18% of the land is protected in the form of national parks.

The capital of Tallinn is located on the north coast of Estonia and is the country's most populous city. After checking into your hotel, you can feel free to visit many historic sites in Tallinn's Old Town. You could also take an excursion to Kadriorg Park, a 172-acre (70-hectare) green space home to gardens, promenades, and museums, including KUMU. This award-winning Estonian Art Museum houses collections of classic and contemporary fine art.

In the evening, make your way to Town Hall Square to enjoy a traditional Estonian meal featuring folkloric dancing and singing.

Day 6: Walking Tour of Tallinn - Stop at Café Maiasmokk

Tallinn's Medieval Skyline
Tallinn's Skyline

After breakfast, you'll meet your guide for a walking tour of Tallinn's picturesque and charming Old Town. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in the Baltic and Nordic countries.

Today's tour will take you within the Walls of Tallinn (defensive walls dating to 1265). You'll visit historic gems like Toompea Castle, a stately Baroque castle now home to Estonia's parliament; the 13th century Dome Church (St. Mary's Cathedral), which is the city's oldest church; the Russian Revival Alexander Nevsky Cathedral; and the Great Guild Hall, a guild for merchants and artisans in the 14th century and which is now the Estonian History Museum.

The tour begins at Toompea Castle, a 9th-century castle that houses the country's parliament. A quick walk through Šnelli Park will take you to 13th-century St Mary's Cathedral and the impressive Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a must-see in Tallinn.

Another essential stop on the tour is St. Catherine's Passage, a charming brick alleyway where artists of the St. Catherine guild present their work. After the tour, you can rest your legs with a visit to Café Maiasmokk, which, having opened in 1864, is the oldest operating café in Tallinn. Stop for a coffee and sample their pies, cakes or handmade candies. There's even a marzipan museum featuring a resident artist who makes and decorates marzipan figures. 

Afterward, you'll return to your hotel. You'll then have the remainder of the day free to enjoy the city. For dinner, consider heading to Pikk Street. It's filled with trendy cafes and restaurants, as is Rataskaevu Square. After dinner, you can go for a nightcap at one of the bars along Suur-Karja Street.

Day 7: Depart Tallinn

Bustling Tallinn in the Summertime
Tallinn in Summertime

Enjoy one last leisurely breakfast in Estonia. At the appropriate time, a driver will pick you up for the drive to Tallinn Airport, where you'll catch your flight home. Until next time!

Map

Map of Exploring the Baltic Capitals - 7 Days
Map of Exploring the Baltic Capitals - 7 Days