Summer holidays in the Baltics

Ask anyone from the Baltics, and they’ll say that summer is the best time to visit the region. The streets are filled with events, the forests abound with nature’s bounty, and there’s always a seaside nearby to cool off.

Whether you’re journeying around the Baltic Sea or planning just a quick weekend trip, here’s how to make the most of these beautiful countries with unspoilt nature, sandy beaches, vibrant cities, and a creative food scene.


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Spend days by the beach without crazy crowds

About a third of Latvia’s borderline runs along the Baltic Sea, so the country has a diversity of seaside landscapes.

Those who prefer solitary spaces and unspoilt nature will enjoy Latvia’s western coast and the open Baltic Sea.

Golden sandy beach with trees and grass on the Pāvilosta shore

Photo source: Unsplash

The wild, rugged Jūrkalne Seashore Bluffs, the surfer’s favourite town of Pāvilosta, and Cape Kolka sharply jutting out from the country’s contours are just some of the highlights of the beloved western coast.

Pāvilosta - is the surfer's choice in Latvia

Photo source: Unsplash

Yet the eastern shore is no less alluring, with large rocks peppered along the coastline and also the stunningly red Veczemju Cliffs.

A beach day is possible even if you’re visiting Riga for just a weekend, because there are several wonderful beaches near the capital (Vecāķi being one of them).

Also, the resort town of Jūrmala lies just a 30-minute drive or train ride away from Riga.

The resort town of Jurmala with its unique wooden architecture

Photo by Artis Veigurs on Instagram

Its unique wooden architecture calls to mind the spa culture of the 19th century, and its almost 26 kilometres of white-sand beaches are full of life and energy in the summer.

Enjoy a white-sand beach and memorable sunset in Jurmala resort

Photo source: Instagram


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Experience the magic of the nationwide Song and Dance Festival

The Song and Dance Festival is the most Latvian cultural event one can attend. It celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2023.

This celebration takes place once every five years and brings together generations of singers and dancers in a spectacular show gathering around 40,000 participants.

Included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list, the festival will take over the capital with large-scale performances, parades, and impromptu street concerts.

The Song and Dance Festival in Latvia

Photo source: Dziesmu svētki

The city is abuzz with people in their national costumes, festival participants walk in an hours-long parade down Brīvības bulvāris (Freedom Boulevard), and the central parks host large handicrafts markets and free open-air concerts.

Summer holidays in the Baltics

Photo by Jānis Romanovskis / Wind Films


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Explore splendid palatial treasures

Impressive castles and charming manors can be found scattered around the country, each with its own allure and often also accompanied by a mysterious story.

Medieval history buffs can’t go wrong with Cēsis Medieval Castle and Turaida Museum Reserve. There you can even try your hand at medieval skills such as archery.

Turaida Museum Reserve will be a great choice for Medieval history buffs

Photo source: Unsplash

For more elaborate edifices, head south from Riga to the cherry-red Jelgava Palace and lush Rundāle Palace – both outstanding examples of Baroque architecture.

Like Rundāle Palace’s well-manicured garden, many such properties in Latvia are surrounded by beautiful gardens and parks perfect for a relaxed stroll.

Rundāle Palace – an outstanding example of Baroque architecture

Photo source: Unsplash

The country’s hundreds of manors are no less magnificent. Many of them have been repurposed into spa hotels, such as the fairytale-like 18th-century Liepupe Manor and the aristocratic Berķene Manor.

One of the Liepupe Manor's luxurious rooms

Photo source: Liepupes Muiža


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Try an authentic sauna ritual

Going to a sauna is the most local experience you can have in Estonia

Photo source: Instagram

Like all northern Europeans, Estonians are generally reserved and introverted people, but not in the sauna.

As the unofficial motto of the Year of the Sauna 2023 states, when the stones heat up, Estonians open up! Going to a sauna is the most local experience you can have in Estonia, regardless of the season.

Enjoy luxury spas such as the historical Hedon Spa & Hotel in Pärnu

Photo source: Instagram

Because saunas have traditionally been built next to lakes, ponds, or swimming pools to cool off, sauna rituals are perfect for a balmy summer evening.

While Saturdays are considered sauna days, you can enjoy this centuries-old tradition on any given day and all around the country, from luxe spas such as the historical Hedon Spa & Hotel in Pärnu to an out-of-the-ordinary experience at the Sambliku tree-house sauna or the ice-cellar sauna at Sagadi Manor.

Have you ever spent the night in the treehouse, in Estonia you can experience that

Photo source: Sambliku treehouse

For the ultimate countryside experience, consider Mooska Farm, which operates a smoke sauna.

This ancient yet invigorating variety of sauna is a South Estonian specialty and also included on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.


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Enjoy Michelin-starred fare

In the year 2023, Estonia earned a well-deserved spot on the global culinary map when 31 of the country’s restaurants were included in the Michelin Guide, two of them even earning a Michelin star.

While most of these restaurants are located in Tallinn, those that aren’t are well worth the trip.

The Michelin-starred NOA lies a mere ten kilometres outside Tallinn. This sleek and slightly mysterious restaurant offers a multisensory seven-course menu and uninterrupted views over Tallinn Bay.

The Michelin-starred NOA restaurant offers a multisensory seven-course menu

Photo source: Instagram

The other Michelin star was earned by Matthias Diether’s 180°. It’s named after the U-shaped open kitchen that allows guests to marvel at how the chefs execute the restaurant’s innovative and rich dishes.

Restaurant 180° allows guests to marvel at how the chefs execute the dishes

Photo source: Instagram

While exploring other corners of the country, keep in mind the bohemian Fellin bistro in Viljandi as well as Pädaste Manor on serene Muhu Island. Both places serve exquisite meals that abound with local, seasonal produce.

The bohemian Fellin bistro in Viljandi

Photo source: Instagram


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Discover revamped neighbourhoods

Titled the European Green Capital of 2023, Tallinn’s sustainable mindset is illustrated in its approach to derelict industrial heritage – here, instead of demolishing old buildings, they’re being revamped into creative melting pots.

The grounds of a Tsarist-era submarine factory are now the hip Port Noblessner, which houses some of the city’s best restaurants, cafés, bars, galleries, and museums.

Tsarist-era submarine factory are now the hip Port Noblessner

Photo by Janis Jekabsons

Equally chic is the Rotermanni Quarter, where the former starch, spirit, pasta, bread, and other factory buildings are now filled with trendy shops and oat milk latte-serving establishments.

But perhaps the most renowned of the repurposed spaces is Telliskivi Creative City – an industrial playground filled with vivid murals, art installations, hipster bars, and the Estonian outpost of the famous Fotografiska museum.

Telliskivi Creative City – an industrial playground

Photo by Janis Jekabsons

For something less explored and more edgy, head to the Kopli district, which is the home of Põhjala tehas, a former rubber factory. The colossal factory hangars are now inhabited by some of the city’s most creative spirits, and the warm months of the year are the best time to explore them.

End your tour with a refreshing drink in the Botik bar’s summer garden.


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Get active on the water

With an enviable coastline and around 3000 lakes, it’s no surprise that Lithuanians are big on watersports, particularly wakeboarding. In fact, the country has more cable parks per capita than any other European country.

Wake with all of the cool kids from Vilnius at the Wake Way park just a 30-minute drive from the city, or head to Zarasai, the ‘Switzerland of Lithuania’, which boasts no less than 305 lakes.

Lithuanians are big on watersports, particularly wakeboarding

Photo by Leonardas Borotinskas

The best place to catch the wind is in and near the beach town of Nida, where you’re sure to see some colourful kite- and windsurfing enthusiasts.

In order to experience the real vibe of Nida, take a walk to the magical Parnidis Dune, which is the largest dune on the peninsula and undoubtedly one of the country’s most spectacular sights. Because of blowing winds, the dune is constantly moving and has even swallowed up nearby villages and settlements.

Experience the real vibe of Nida, taking a walk to the magical Parnidis Dune

Photo source: Unsplash

While Lithuania’s rapid rivers are fit for canoeing and kayaking, if you’re looking for something less extreme and more romantic, consider renting a boat at Lake Galvė and enjoying the stellar Trakai Castle set on an island in the middle of the lake.

Rent a boat and enjoy the stellar Trakai Castle set on an island in the middle of the lake

Photo source: Unsplash


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Immerse yourself in nature

Who doesn’t love a good bird’s-eye view? Lithuania boasts many observation towers from which to marvel at the country’s diverse landscape and take pics for the ‘gram.

The 36-metre-high observation tower in Labanoras Regional Park boasts stellar views of the Baltieji Lakajai and Juodieji Lakajai lakes and their many islands and peninsulas.

The 36-metre-high observation tower in Labanoras Regional Park

Photo source: Instagram

Equally impressive is the view from Kirkilai Observation Tower (30 metres) in Biržai Regional Park. It’s considered one of the most picturesque towers in the country.

Kirkilai Observation Tower is considered one of the most picturesque towers in Lithuania

Photo source: Lithuania travel

Another picture-perfect site is the unique walking trail above the Anykščiai Forest. But there’s much to marvel at on ground level, too, such as the Kernavė Archaeological Site, the so-called the Pompeii of Lithuania.

Experience a unique walking trail above the Anykščiai Forest

Photo source: Instagram

Or hike along the Grey Dunes on the Curonian Spit, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


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Come and celebrate Vilnius 700

‘700 years young’ is the official motto of this, the Lithuanian capital’s big anniversary year. The celebrations are spread out over the course of the entire year, with many exciting events happening in summer, such as the Vilnius Performance Art Biennial (July 23 – August 6). The first edition of this biennial will gather local and international performance artists to perform at various sites around the city.

In the Music for Vilnius project, you will be able to hear songs written especially for Vilnius

Photo source: 700 Vilnius

From May to July, as part of the Music for Vilnius project, several world-renowned contemporary composers will perform specially written works in their favourite places throughout Vilnius, from historical landmarks to bustling squares.

Fans of popular music, for their part, should mark July 25 on their calendar, because that’s when Vingis Park will host the Vilnius Summer Festival with free entry and performances by global stars.

In the year 2023, Vilnius will celebrate its 700th anniversary with a wide range of cultural events

Photo source: Facebook


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Cover photo source: Pixabay
Text by Ilze Vītola

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