Why visit three countries when you can go to five? A Baltic road trip is epic, but added with St Petersburg and Minsk, they are an insight in to a totally different side to the Europe you know. Here are the places not to miss on a road trip through the Baltic’s as well as how to do two more cities totally Visa Free!
Start your Baltic road trip from Tallinn
Tallinn feels more Scandinavian than Eastern European. Hipster district Telliskivi is filled with street art, trendy bars and pop up restaurants whilst the state of the art Seaplane Museum shows off its place as an important sea port throughout history.
The old town is postcard perfect with colourful houses and wonky cobblestone streets. A walking tour is a great way to see the sights and learn the quirky facts that make the city unique. Don’t miss the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and Patkuli viewing platform for the best photos of the city.
Top tip – Buy a magnet from a souvenir stall and find the matching house in the city for a great photo and fun way to explore.
Top eats – F-hoone is the trendiest spot in the city to grab a bite. Rukis is a great place for lunch and mouth watering delicious cakes.
Day trips from Tallinn Estonia
Estonia is home to a population of approximately 700 bears and has the highest brown bear population density in Europe! Visit Alutaguse in the northeastern region for a chance of spotting one. Find out more here.
Ever dreamt about visiting Russia but thought the visa process was too complicated? Not anymore! A cheap overnight ferry from Tallinn to St Petersburg can get you up to 72 hours Visa Free in Russia. Read more on how and what to see once you get there below.
How to get from Tallinn to Riga
Getting from Tallinn to Riga Latvia is easy via public transport, if you can’t afford the hefty one way car rental fees for a Baltic road trip. Take a bus from Tallinn to Riga like the Lux Express, a quick and comfortable 4 hour ride. Alternatively spend a day exploring with a one way tour, breaking the journey up with sights along the way.
Things to see in Riga
Latvia immediately feels a lot more ex Soviet than Estonia. Big concrete buildings, large boulevards with imposing monuments. There’s a lot going on and no wonder as it’s the largest city of the three Baltic countries.
Visit the Central Food market to feel the buzz of local life as well as sampling the food at some pop up restaurants from around the world.
Take a cruise for a different view of the city. For €15pp you can see the main sights of Riga in a 1hr round trip starting just opposite from the University of Latvia. Visit the Three Brothers believed to be some of the oldest buildings in the city.
Top tip– Head to the Latvian Academy of Sciences Observation deck at sunset for a great view over the city for just €5.
Top eats – Some of the best local cuisine can be found at Lido, grab a beer and some potato pancakes while taking in the atmosphere.
Day trips from Riga
An hour east of Riga is the small town of Sigulda in Gauja National Park, an easy day trip from Riga. Visit castles like Turaida, a Bobsleigh, Luge and Skeleton track and even an Aerodium (think skydiving but on the ground).
Riga to Kaunas/ Riga to Vilnius Lithuania
There’s plenty to see on the way down to Vilnius and it’s well worth having your own transportation for this section of the Baltic road trip.
Make a stop at the Hill of Crosses near Siauliai to see a unique memorial dedicated to the many unknown deaths of the uprising against Russian rule.
Visit an old nuclear missile silo in Lithuania, one of only three left in the world, that’s been turned into a Cold War Museum. It’s deep within Žemaitijos nacional park, down bumpy gravel roads, where you can also get a chance to spot wild animals such as Lynx.
Klaipeda is the base for heading out to the Curonian spit, a large sandbar covering Lithuania’s coastline. The town is famous for it’s spa’s and long open beaches.
Kaunas is Lithuania’s second largest city and is becoming well known for its street art. The Ninth Fort Museum is worth a visit for an insight into the countries dark past while the Devil museum is a lighter look at evil if you’ve had enough death and despair for one day.
Top tip – A great place to stay near the Hill of Crosses is Hotel Žvejų Užeiga which overlooks a beautiful lake near Siauliai and serves up some amazing dinners.
Top eats – Uoksas in Kaunas serves up typical Lithuanian dishes with a modern twist. Save room though as the desserts are outstanding!
Things to see and do in Vilnius
Vilnius has all of the charm of any old town in the Baltic’s with an added dash of style. Climb to Gediminas Castle Tower for a panoramic 360 view of the city (€5 entry). Sights like the Three Crosses and St. Francis of Assisi Church are all very impressive but, for something truly unique, head to the autonomous region of Užupis. A community separated from Vilnius with their very own constitution and world heritage status, inhabited mainly by artists and free thinkers.
For another slice of culture cross the river to find Halle market. It’s been around since the early 1900’s providing locals with meat and veg but now houses some modern twists. With jerk chicken, bagels and BBQ on the menu there’s something for every taste bud.
Day trips from Vilnius Lithuania
Trakai castle is awesome. If you do just one castle on this Baltic road trip make it this one. It sits on an island out on a lake where you can pedalo and paddle board in the summer months. The museum itself is stacked with all sorts of artefacts and recreations telling you everything you need to know about Lithuanian history at that time.
Top tip – Visit the most popular bar in Vilnius, Piano Man, for the best cocktails around and to learn how to party like a local.
Top eats – Try kibinai at Markizas restaurant when you visit Trakai castle, a local pastry filled with sausage meat or vegetables.
Visit Minsk visa free from Vilnius
You can fly from Vilnius to Minsk in just 40 minutes, so why not? It’s not strictly part of the Baltic road trip as you can’t enter visa free by land, but it’s an easy side trip by air. As one of the least visited cities in Europe you have to work a little harder to find things to do in Minsk. While getting there is easy now, you can travel 5 days visa free if you enter and exit via the airport, there aren’t a heap of tourist magnets ready to welcome visitors. It’s more a collection of cool Stalinist Architecture with some trendy cafes and street art.
There’s a KFC which doubles as a Soviet monument, the Belarusian war museum and Liachaŭka. An old industrial suburb hidden on the peninsular in the city centre. Head to October Street with its huge street art murals where you can enter into abandoned red-brick factories that have become top rave destinations and hipster hangouts.
Things to know before visiting Minsk visa free
Probably the best way to experience Minsk is with a local with a walking tour.
Or check out this page for all the best tips!
Just make sure not to take photos in certain places as their are strict censorship rules. Read the rules here.
Top tip – Download the app Yandex Taxi, Russia’s version of Uber. A fun game is to see who can spot the most hammer and sickle images while exploring the city (as I said, you have to make your own entertainment!)
Top eats – Depo sell the most amazing pancakes with all kinds of filling while Enzo has the burger market covered with some of the best buns in the city no to mention carrot fries!
A Baltic Road Trip – St Petersburg, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania & Minsk
For all of the places mentioned above and more check out the map below and start planning your trip on Wanderlog;
This Baltic road trip itinerary took around two and a half weeks with two night stays in most of the major cities and a night here and there in places like the Hill of Crosses and Kaunas. I would definitely recommend doing this Baltic road trip in the summer as tourist numbers are much smaller than in Western Europe. We did this Baltic road trip in October, it was viable but got down to -6°c some mornings!
It’s a really interesting region with both a shared and unique history in each country. Visits to St Petersburg and Minsk “Europe’s last dictatorship” really enhance what you can gain in the understanding of life in this region. It’s Europe meets Russia, which often has negative connotations, but it also has beautiful architecture, hearty food and vibrant districts with creative art. Definitely a road trip not to miss.
How to travel better for less
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Air BnB – Sometimes you can find great local places to stay on Air BnB. In some countries, like Cuba, it’s the only way to book!
Transferwise – A debit card you can use all over the world and get great exchange rates with no hidden fees. This bank has saved me £100’s in bank fees!
Monzo – A similar travel card to the above with additional features like joint accounts and bill splitting.
Ethical Superstore – My go to site for cleaning products, eco clothing and even groceries. All ethically tagged and delivered free from plastic packaging. Plus eco friendly alternatives to your toiletries.
Omio – The place to go for all of your public transport needs in Europe. Save a bundle!
G Adventures – A sustainable, fun, responsible travel company. I’ve travelled with them many times and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of their amazing trips.
Contiki – The day job. Group travel for 18/35 year olds and memories to last a lifetime.
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