The Baltics: Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius

I haven’t posted in a while because life has been a little crazy lately. I’m currently on summer break which means I’m busier than ever before I leave for vacation in August! It’s been crazy hot here which has me dreaming of cooler weather (to be fair, I dream of warm weather when it’s cold too). Warning: long post ahead.

Over Easter break this year I went to the Baltics! It wasn’t really high on my list of places to go but I’m glad I went because it was super pretty. Even though it was spring, it was cold (and rainy) there. We flew from Madrid to Helsinki then made our way down.

Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki

We were only in Helsinki for a day because time was limited and we really wanted to go to the other countries. The center of Helsinki wasn’t too big and we were able to enjoy our day there even though it rained. We didn’t have enough time to go inside anything, but it was nice walking around looking at the sights.

Kauppatori – Helsinki Central Market
Uspenskin Katedraali – Finnish Orthodox Cathedral
Helsingin Tuomiokirkko – Helsinki Cathedral

It started to rain while we were out so we ended up going back to relax at the hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Indigo Bulevardi which is a nice boutique hotel. They had a Finnish sauna for guests (Finnish people LOVE saunas) and it was completely empty so we had the place all to ourselves (separate facilities for men and women though). We also ate at the hotel restaurant, Restaurant Bröd, which was actually really, really good. Food in Helsinki is insanely expensive (we had 2 lattes and croissants for 17€ for breakfast) so since I got a restaurant discount, we took advantage.

Seared scallops and fresh fish with pasta.

The next day we took the ferry ( Linda Line Express because it’s the fastest!) to our next destination…

Tallinn, Estonia

View of the city from the Kohtuotsa viewing platform

Tallinn was my favorite city we visited (look at the main square pictured at the top of this post!). It was super small and had cute buildings everywhere. The old town is really well kept, especially the wall around the old town. We stayed there for about 3 days which was more than enough time to see everything (pretty sure we walked down every street). The tall tower at the left of the picture is St. Olaf’s church. One of my favorite things though was the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, I had never been inside an Orthodox Cathedral before and it was so different! The cathedral sat on a hill which made it look so majestic.

side view of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

We also went to the Kiek in the Kok Museum and Bastion Tunnels which was nice because it explained the history of the city. Because the old town is so small, we were able to spend time exploring the city and all the yummy food!

A medieval restaurant – not the best food but a fun experience to dine by candlelight!
Giant pancakes at Kompressor (bigger than it looks!)
The oldest operational cafe in Tallinn – they had yummy hot chocolate and desserts!
We ventured to Creative City, outside of the old town, and found some cool restaurants and bars. C enjoying his (one of many) beer.

On our last day there, we ventured out of the old town again to visit the Pirita Convent Ruins. Uber is super cheap there so we took an Uber to the ruins then walked back to our airbnb in the center. On our way we stopped at a grocery store and bought some sandwiches which we enjoyed in front of the Kadriorg Palace in the park.

So pretty!

After this, we took the bus (Lux Express – only 5€ and the buses have screens with movies so bring your headphones!) to our next stop…

Riga, Latvia

Dumplings from one of the restaurants at the Riga Central Market

Riga was a lot bigger compared to Tallinn but it had some of my favorite food of the trip. We ate a lot of dumplings like the ones pictured above. Our airbnb was close to the Central Market so we had cheap breakfasts there in the mornings. Another restaurant I recommend is Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs, a restaurant and bar located underground with good food and a great selection of beer (C likes beer). My favorite restuarant though was Restaurant Petergailis (get the mango and avocado salad and the Latvian pork chop). We were able to get a last minute reservation on our last night there and it was so, so, so good.

Restaurant Petergailis – the best restaurant in Riga with some interesting chicken decor.

Again the old town is easy to explore and we went to a few museums but my favorite was the KGB Corner house and the Museum of Occupation. I didn’t know much about the history of the Baltic states so it was a little shocking. Make sure you book a tour of the KGB house so you can see the prison. We were lucky enough to book one for the morning we left and it was so worth it. It was a little scary to see where they housed the prisoners and the killing room. If you’ve watched the TV show The Americans, you would think that they dramatized everything but apparently not that much.

Outside of the KGB Corner House – looks so normal right?
Inside of the KGB Corner House – the prisons located inside were dark and scary.

After Riga, once again we took a Lux Express bus to our last destination…

Vilnius, Lithuania

View of Gediminas Castle Tower

Our last stop was Vilnius because there was a direct flight back to Madrid. Vilnius is much bigger than Tallinn and Riga. I absolutely hated the food in Vilnius, but the city had so many interesting things to do it redeemed itself (we also went to the spa, which I highly recommend no matter where you are). We spent one rainy afternoon inside the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania to learn all about Lithuanian history. There’s another KGB museum also, but we decided not to go because it’s kind of a bummer learning about all the people who died. Our Airbnb was right by St. Anne’s Church which is a beautiful Gothic church. My favorite church though was outside of the old town, St. Peter and St. Paul’s church, which has the most beautiful interior I have ever seen! Nearby the church is also the War Machinery and Transport Museum, which is a chance for you to climb on tanks so i DEFINITELY recommend that.

The inside of St Peter and St Paul’s church – so pretty!
I’m on a tank!

Even though the food in Vilnius wasn’t very good, we did find some great places for beer. Close to the Cathedral was this place called Craft and Draft and on our last night, we found this place after dinner called BeerHouse & Craft Kitchen which had little rooms that were all beautifully decorated.

One of the beautiful rooms at BeerHouse & Craft Kitchen

Our flight home was on Easter Sunday and we woke up to the city being covered in white! I was super excited because when you’re from LA, seeing it snow is a treat! I’m glad it snowed on our last day though because it would’ve probably been miserable walking in the snow for the whole trip. The day before we had walked up to the Three Crosses for a view of the city and we decided to go back up to see the city covered in white. It was cold, but worth it.

Happy Easter from the Three Crosses!
View of Gediminas Castle Tower covered in snow on our last day.

…and just like that another trip on the books! Flying back to Madrid in the snow wasn’t so fun though. We ended up with flight delays and got back super late. Now I’m making plans for my next trip…stay tuned for that!

 

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