Our recommendation to visit Baltic States and neighboring countries
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Baltic States Travel guide
Events and festivals in Baltic States
The popular festivals of the Baltic Republics, which are held in Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius, pay homage to religious or historical situations. Natural cycles such as solstices and equinoxes are also of special importance. The folk tradition of Latvia has been recognized by UNESCO as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Religious holidays are usually marked by the Catholic calendar, but we cannot forget that there is a large percentage of Orthodox citizens who celebrate their events on other dates.
Popular festivals of the Baltic Republics
Anniversary of the Tartu Peace Treaty
It takes place in Estonia, every 2nd of February. On that day in 1920, the country signed a treaty with the USSR, which set the border limits and recognized the independence of Estonia.
Festival of the National Language of Estonia
This is on 14th March and it celebrates the language itself, its literature and its poetry.
In June, the longest night of the year is celebrated and people go out to make bonfires and sing while they dance around. At nightfall, citizens should go to find the mystical fern flower, which will bring them prosperity and good luck. This is one of the most beautiful popular festivals of the Baltic Republics.
15th May is the day in which the city received the state, in 1248. The festival takes place in the main square of Tallinn and processions are held with a very medieval atmosphere, as well as concerts. The museums open and offer free visits.
Days of the Old City
It is celebrated in Tallinn at the end of May and is a party which lasts a whole week. In its streets, you can enjoy concerts, theatre, and games.
Grief Day in Estonia
June 14 commemorates the memory of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces Johan Laidoner and the presiding candidate Konstantin Päts who were deported to the USSR in World War II.
Night of the Ancient Lights
This is one of the most peculiar events in Baltic Republics. It refers to an ancient tradition in which fires were set to indicate the way to fishermen. A kind of camp is prepared where typical food is made and a sailing regatta is held.
Christmas in Latvia has special importance. It starts on 24th December and lasts 12 days. Thousands of candles are lit, lamps are hung in the windows and everything is filled with garlands. The decoration is especially beautiful and traditional sweets are sold.
This is an appointment to enjoy a few days of Latvian music. It takes place at the beginning of February.
Day of the Restoration of the Independence of Latvia
I could not miss this celebration which is so important for the population of the country. 4th May marks the anniversary of the independence of Latvia which was won in 1991.
This is one of the popular festivals of the Baltic Republics which best reflects the ancient folklore of this country. It is celebrated at the summer solstice, outdoors. Fires are lit and people sing, drink beer and eat the typical dishes of that date. The women put pretty crowns on their heads made with oak leaves. Live music is also played.
Festival of Folk Music of the Baltic
Another must-see festival which is celebrated only every 5 years and during which you can enjoy the best folk music of Latvia.
The Gadatirgus Handicraft Fair
It takes place in Riga, in its ethnographic museum and is an event which delights tourists who are interested in the history and art of the country. It is another of the popular festivals of the Baltic Republics which is preferred by travelers.
This is one of the most appreciated events in the Baltic Republics in Lithuania. It is celebrated in Vilnius, on 4th March, which is the day of St. Casimir, the patron of Lithuania. That day there is a craft festival, with street markets where all kinds of local products are sold, such as toys, clothing, footwear, paintings, decorative items, everything artisan and handmade.
Anniversary of Kaunas
From 18th to 20th May, it is another important and solemn festival in the country. It is celebrated in the town of Kaunas. The mayors of the twin cities and heads of state also attend.
International Folklore Festival
At the beginning of July, a great folklore festival takes place in Vilnius. Three days of traditional music in which the streets of the capital are filled with rhythm and joy.
Day of the Restoration of the Independence of Lithuania
Like the other countries of the Baltic Republics, the day in which Lithuania's independence was restored is celebrated. In this case, it is 11th March.GO TO EVENTS
Food in Baltic States
The options on what to eat in the Baltic Republics are marked by a gastronomic history which has been shaped by its location. First of all, the three countries, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, are bathed to the west by the Baltic Sea, which means that fish is a very important ingredient in the typical dishes of the Baltic Republics. If you're going to travel to these regions, get ready for some big and strong dishes.
What to eat in the Baltic Republics
In the three countries, cod is especially important along with cold meats. Soups are an essential first course on most occasions, especially seljianka or potato soup. They also eat many vegetables accompanied by meat. Salads to accompany smoked fish, fishcakes, and some spirits are typical of these northern regions.
Gastronomy of Latvia
The Latvian culinary culture is based especially on fish, whether cooked or smoked. Caviar, pike, sardines or herring are the most common. The meat is usually served with potatoes, peas, and mushrooms. They are experts in cheeses and big enthusiasts since they include them in many meals, and they eat it until dessert. The preferred sweets are those that are made with puff pastry and berries.
These are some of the most typical dishes:
Piragi: a cake prepared with puff pastry and stuffed with bacon and onion.
Zirni ar speki: a tasty stew made with bacon, peas, onion, pepper and curdled milk.
Pelmeni: This dish is originally from Russia and consists of pasta stuffed with minced meat, very similar to ravioli.
Zirnu Pikas: a typical food consisting of meatballs made with grey peas, butter, bacon, and onion.
Putraimdesas: sausages prepared with barley.
Skabu kapostu zupa: if there is something typical in the gastronomy of the Baltic Republics, it is soup. This is specifically cabbage, pork, sour cream, onion, and carrot.
Rupjmaizes kartojums: this typical Latvian dessert is made with rye, cream, cranberries, and cinnamon.
Sklandu rausi: another very popular sweet are these carrot and potato tarts which are an essential dessert to eat in the Baltic Republics.
Black Balsam of Riga: if there is a typical drink of the country, it is this. It is a very rich liquor made with plants, roots, and flowers.
The cuisine of this country is greatly influenced by the cuisine of other regions such as Germany, Russia, and Scandinavia. In Estonia fish is the protagonist of most dishes as, in addition to having access to the Baltic Sea, they have many rivers and inland lakes.
Potato is another star ingredient, along with swede and turnip. If the Estonians have an ancient, traditional and unique food in the region, it is the kama flour, which is a mixture of grains (pea flour, rye, oats, and barley), which is used to prepare desserts. And of course, the Estonians are beer lovers, but they are also producers of other beverages such as vodka or herbal liqueurs.
Some of the most typical dishes of Estonia are:
Keel hernestega: an appetizer which is served cold and which has a tongue as the main ingredient.
Mariners angerjas: consists of marinated eel.
Silgusoustt: a small herring which is caught in the Baltic Sea.
Mulgikapsad: sauerkraut cannot be lacking in the gastronomy of the northern European countries. This is cooked with pork and accompanied with cooked potatoes.
Sült: a stew made with pork.
Verivorst: a black pudding, similar to how it is prepared in other countries. It is a sausage which is traditionally eaten on Christmas night with an accompaniment of jelly made with berries.
Karask: this is the typical bread of Estonia, food to eat in the Baltic Republics which everyone likes.
Vaesed rüütlid: in Estonian, it means "poor gentlemen" and it is a dessert made with bread, very similar to French toast.
Kali: a sweet and very soft fermented drink.
It could be said that the Lithuanian diet is based on potatoes, dairy products, and meat. The dishes are strong and high in calories. This is due to the harsh winters of the country. What are the caloric dishes typical of the country's cuisine?
Cepelinai: a kind of empanadillas with a dough made with potatoes. They are filled with meat, mushrooms or cheese. It is one of the most representative meals of Lithuanian gastronomy.
Kugelis: it's a dish taken from German cuisine. It is prepared with grated potatoes and carrots which are baked and covered with sour cream.
Saltibarsciai: soups are never lacking among the typical dishes of the Baltic Republics. It is served cold, so it is eaten more in summer. It is made with beetroot and served with cooked potatoes which are dressed with sour cream and dill.
Koldünai: basically consist of ravioli which are stuffed with mushrooms or meat.
Kepta duona: it is the favorite bread of the Lithuanians. It is black bread fried and seasoned with garlic.
Siupinys: a stew of some parts of the pig (legs, snout and tail) with beans and peas.
If you are not sure what to eat in the Baltic Republics, this little glossary will be very useful.GO TO GASTRONOMY
Shopping in Baltic States
The Baltic Republics are composed of the three countries Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which were part of the USSR until 1991 when they regained their independence to become the Baltic States. They quickly recovered their own identity and moved forward with determination and effort to join the European Union.
Free from the great Soviet power, they proudly showed the rest of the world their culture, their history, their nature, and their people. From then on, tourism was growing in the Baltic Republics, their capitals being the most visited. Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius are World Heritage cities with incredible places to discover. And as all tourists like to take some souvenirs of their trip, we will tell you what the typical products of the Baltic Republics are.
Shopping in Tallinn (Estonia)
Estonia is not a region which has a great culinary tradition, although there are some typical products which can be a good gift. When Tallinn joined the commercial federation of the Hanseatic League, back in the 13th century, it became a rich city of merchants. These are some really traditional and typical things to buy in the Baltic Republic of Estonia.
Tallinn is another of the many cities which are attributed to the creation of marzipan. According to legend, it was manufactured for the first time in the City Pharmacy which, by the way, is still in operation. It is a very popular product in Tallinn, and it does not look like our marzipan.
This means "Old Tallinn" and it is a liquor which is considered the country's national drink. It has a sweet flavor and is quite strong (with a degree of alcohol of 40% to 50%) and is drunk alone or mixed with coffee. In addition to the original, there are other versions with orange, chocolate or Vana Tallinn cream.
Woolen fabrics are one of the typical products of the Baltic Republics, specifically Estonia. Garments are still sold with the traditional patterns of the different regions of the country. Gloves, hats, scarves, jumpers, etc. can be found in the craft markets which are located near the city walls.
The Kalev chocolate factory was founded in 1806 and offers a huge variety of chocolates with an impeccable presentation, perfect for gifts. From the same house, there is also a nice cafeteria-shop and a peculiar marzipan museum.
Shopping in Riga (Latvia)
If we're looking for traditional products to buy in the Baltic Republics, in Riga we can find a wide variety of options.
The Baltic Republics have the largest reserve of amber, no more or less than 80% of the world's supply of amber. It dates back 40 million years. With this beautiful material pieces of decoration and jewellery are made. Be careful to make sure that the amber is authentic.
Called Rīgas Melnais balzams as its Latvian name. It is a traditional liquor made with a wide variety of herbs which are mixed with pure vodka. It has a high alcohol content of 45%. It is usually sold in precious handmade ceramic jars.
Products of markets
On Saturdays of each week, in the neighbourhood of Kalnciema, a large market is organised with a fun bohemian atmosphere where you can find local products of all kinds at a great price.
Shopping in Vilnius (Lithuania)
This capital is not well known and yet its historic centre is the largest of the three capitals of the Baltic countries. In this amazing city, we can also find interesting souvenirs of the Baltic Republics.
In Lithuania, the wood is worked masterfully, and weather vanes and religious icons are specially made which are excellent gifts to buy in the Baltic Republics. With equal skill, artisan works are made with other materials such as ceramics, silver and glass.
Amber also has a great presence here, as it is very appreciated for its beauty and its quality. It is usually sold in delicate sizes or as a decorative element in many objects.
The Lithuanian beer tradition is quite unknown to the rest of the world, however, there is a deep-rooted culture around this rich and ancient drink. Traditional beer is characterised by its slightly bitter and slightly sweet flavour. It is made with locally produced barley.
Dziugas is a traditional Lithuanian cheese which its people are very proud of. It is traditional in the families of the country, to finish the celebrations by eating a bit of dziugas. Its consistency is hard and grainy in texture and it has many awards for being one of the best cheeses internationally.
These are some of the products to buy in the Baltic Republics, three countries which are proud of their tradition and which have much to offer tourists.GO TO SHOPPING
Baltic States tourist attractions
More information about Baltic States
Sat on the brackish waters of the Baltic Sea, straddling the cultural spheres of both Scandinavia and Europe, the Baltic Countries are composed of three modestly sized countries: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuanian. From Tallinn to cosmopolitan Vilnius and the party-haven of Riga, the Baltic Republics boast a vibrant array of historic attractions, untouched landscapes and medieval old towns, offering the traveller a distinctively different travel experience in comparison to other popular European city-break favourites.
Formerly part of the Soviet Union, today the three Baltic Republics are members of the European Union. A tour of the Baltic Countries is a journey through a diverse fusion of cultures, be it the Finnish flair of Estonia or the romantic German architecture of Lithuania. Fairytale forests and countryside, idyllic beach resorts, such as Jurmala in Latvia and quaint medieval old towns characterise a trip to the Baltic States, although it’s important to keep in mind that each sovereign nation has its own unique identities and traditions.
History of the Baltics States
Travel to Baltic Countries and uncover a vibrant and complex history. The Northern Crusades targetted the Baltic Republics in the 13th-century, although Lithuania emerged as a dominant power in the region, establishing the Kingdom, and later the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which held dominion in the Baltics until the 16th-century. This mighty kingdom stretched all the way from the Black to the Baltic Sea. The German-founded Hanseatic League played a huge role in the region during this period, dominating Baltic maritime trade along the coasts of northern Europe.
The Baltic Republics had close ties with their Nordic neighbours during the days of the Swedish Empire, still seen in elements of Baltic culture today, such as in the national cuisine, a highlight of any trip to the Baltic Republics. It was in the 18th-century that the Russian Empire expanded into the region, although following World War One they relinquished their claim, giving birth to the emergence of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania as we know them today.
This freedom would not last for long as the Soviet Union occupied and installed pro-Soviet governments in the Baltic Republics in 1940, with the region suffering the tragedies of Nazi occupation over the following years. It was not until the late 1980s, following huge civil resistance against Soviet rule, culminating in the ‘Baltic Way’, a two-million strong human chain that stretched from Tallinn to Vilnius, that the Republics gained independence. Although not an official union, the three Baltic nations engage in intergovernmental cooperation and are often visited as a trio on a tour of the Baltic States.
Nature in the Baltic States
Despite their small size, the Baltic Republics are home to a dizzying array of pristine natural landscapes. Imagine glistening lakes, long stretches of sandy coastline, wildlife-rich wetlands and dense forests. The Baltic Countries exemplify the idea of a pure, fairytale wilderness, where wolves, bears and lynx can be found in the most isolated corners of the republic. In fact, more than half of Estonia and Latvia are covered with dense forests, rich in legend and folklore. A holiday to the Baltic Countries is great at any time of year, depending on your prefered travel itinerary.
The seasons are distinct and travelling during the snowy winter months reveals the ornate beauty of the medieval old towns, whilst visits to the coastal resorts along the Baltic Sea or exploring the rich forest ecosystems are best suited to the glorious summer months. From the sand dunes of the Curonian Spit to the beach haven of Jurmala, the Baltic coast offers a distinctly different coastal landscape; idyllic, wild and breathtaking. A trip to the Baltic Republics is incomplete without exploring one of the 14 national parks, scattered throughout the three nations. Gauja National Park in Latvia is known for its epic cliffs and mysterious caves, whilst the watery wonderland of Aukštaitija National Park, in Lithuania is home to an amazing 126 lakes.
Culture in the Baltic States
Finnic, European, Russian, Scandinavian and Germanic influences make the Baltic Countries a fascinating travel destination. Throughout its vibrant history, allegiances, occupations and crusades the Baltic Republics have weaved a rich cultural tapestry. Each nation has its own official language, although the second language of most of the population is Russian. Whereas Lithuania and Latvia posses closer cultural ties with their German and Polish neighbours, Estonia has a distinctively Finnish flair, with the capital, Tallinn, said to share similarities with Helsinki, situated just across the Gulf of Finland.
Baltic peoples are known for their warm hospitality, their strong sense of community and their vibrant folklore, seen in the abundance of folk songs, dances and superstitions. Each state has its own traditions and customs, such as Lithuania’s elaborate Shrove Tuesday celebrations and cross carving, the Latvian enthusiasm for the annual summer solstice, known as Jāņi, and the Estonian art of bonfire jumping, performed on Midsummer Day. A tour of the Baltic States is the best way to experience the variety of each country in its own right.
Lesser-travelled, yes, but the Baltic Countries are where fairytale castles, enchanting forests and dreamy coastlines combine. From forward-looking cities to medieval enclaves, complete with story-book turrets, the Baltic Republics fuse heaps of culture and history into an easily accessible area. Travel to the Baltic Republics, a destination not to be missed!
Valid passport or identity card.
Visa not required.
UTC + 02:00.
Lithuanian, Latvian & Estonian.
Tourist Office website
https://www.visitestonia.com/en, https://lithuania.travel/en/, https://www.latvia.travel/
Other useful information
A third of the population also speak Russian.
There are no mandatory vaccinations for travelers from the US.
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