to do in the Baltics
Perhaps you’ve been to this part of the world before or prefer to venture deeper than a country’s capital and top attractions. We’ve got you covered with our tips on alternative things to do in the Baltics. Keep in mind, Baltic Nature Travel is always happy to arrange a bespoke tour, should you wish to explore specific areas or themes such as Soviet architecture, local design, military heritage or residential neighbourhoods.
Smaller cities in the Baltics are not all sleepy and quaint
Baltic people have a great taste for culture. No matter the size of the town or city, you’ll often find it has at least one events venue and a jam-packed cultural agenda. Try:
Home to a purpose-built concert venue and host to the annual Cesis Art Festival. This medieval gem of a town has welcomed the likes of Lithuanian filmmaker Jonas Mekas, Icelandic singer songwriter Högni and Inese Galante – the Latvian opera talent of New York Met and La Scala fame. Nearby is the town of Ligatne with its secret Soviet bunker.
With its very own coffee roastery, one of Latvia’s top 30 restaurants and a selection of holiday apartments which wouldn’t look out of place in Wallpaper magazine, Kuldiga has become a favourite among Latvian weekenders. They’re happy to share this gorgeous town with travellers interested in architecture, history and the arts. Annual highlights include the Design Film Festival and the town fair.
World class performers frequent the stages of the stunning Great Amber Concert Hall. After an evening of culture, join the locals hanging out at Juliannas pagalms (Julianna’s Courtyard) creative quarter. During the day, explore the eerie former military prison and sea forts in the Karosta area, which tell of Latvia’s history from Tsarist times in the late 19th century through the Soviet years.
Well worth spending a few days in the charming port city before a trip to the popular Curonian Spit. Get a true feel for the city’s maritime history and architecture at Friedrich’s Arcade and on a stroll along the Dane riverfront. In February, Klaipeda hosts its annual Festival of Lights.
Kaunas was once Lithuania’s capital and will be the European Capital of Culture in 2022.
The city’s modernist architecture is a big draw. Roam the streets and drop by Kaunas Photography Gallery or Mykolas Zilinskas Art Gallery for exhibitions by local and international artists.
Estonia’s second largest city and a students’ favourite. The Aparaaditehas (The Widget Factory) creative quarter houses two galleries. After exploring, browse the nearby design shops. In August, city visitors should definitely attend the darling tARTuFF love film festival taking place outdoors.
Viljandi’s world-renowned Folk Music Festival and medieval fair draw visitors every year. The town is known for its wooden architecture and scenic lakeside.
Creative quarters in the Baltics - a hive of activity
Urban regeneration is in full swing in the Baltics. A number of entrepreneurial visionaries have given a new lease of life to previously derelict spaces such as Soviet era factories by transforming them into creative quarters, which host events like arts and crafts markets, street food festivals and gigs. Get a feel for the local creative scenes at spots including:
Estonia | Tallinn
Formerly used for fixing locomotives. Nowadays, the rejuvenated industrial area is one of the trendiest hangouts for creatives young and old. Housing design shops and studios, bars and world cuisine restaurants, there’s never a dull moment at Telliskivi whose hotspots are also host to concerts during the annual Tallinn Music Week festival. Make sure to check out the nearby Kultuurikatel creative hub for pop up events such as crafts markets as well.
Latvia | Riga
A cosy enclave of lovingly restored wooden buildings from the 19th century. Every Saturday, farmers and craftsmen gather here from all over Latvia to sell their wares. In summer, this is the place to be seen on Wednesday and Thursday nights when the courtyard hosts street food and live music events.
Not quite a quarter, but rather a whole neighbourhood or republic as its bohemian residents have declared! Uzupis even has its own constitution, which you can read on the wall panels lining Paupio Gatve. The area is often compared to Christiania in Copenhagen thanks to its liberal spirit. Look out for events taking place here!
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