City Rumble – Vilnius versus Riga versus Tallinn

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Time for three cities to step into the ring in the Baltic showdown to end all showdowns! Okay well, not quite. However, the three Baltic capitals are all cities with something special and indeed different to each other. And it’s been ages since I did a city rumble so it was well overdue!

The Baltics are a great region of Europe. They see their fair share of tourism these days, and the city that sees the most would have to be Tallinn. The Estonian capital is a wonderful city with a simply beautiful old town that is great for exploring and getting into the back alleys and discovering the sqaures as well, walled up a lot of tourists probably don’t even get outside it. The more modern part of Tallinn I ventured into briefly when I was there. I took a bus along the bay to get to old church ruins which were pretty atmospheric.

Central square in Tallinn at night

Central square in Tallinn at night

tallinn-church

Old City Gates in Tallinn.

Old City Gates in Tallinn.

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Tallinn rooftops.

Tallinn rooftops.

Speaking of atmospheric, the Bastion Tunnels underneath the old city of Tallinn are a must-see whilst you’re there. You see them via a tour, which is an awesome way to spend a couple of hours.

Exploring the tunnels under Tallinn.

Exploring the tunnels under Tallinn.

Latvia’s capital Riga I also enjoyed, although I only had a couple of days in it. It feels like the biggest of the three. In fact it is with a population of 700,000 to 550,000 for Tallinn, which surprised me even though it felt busier, I somehow thought Tallinn was the biggest.

Daugava River Riga.

Daugava River Riga.

riga-fountain riga-square

Riga is on the Daugava River, which is picturesque in of itself. It probably has the most interesting mix of architecture of the three, with medieval misexed modern and Soviet.  One of the most interesting is the House of the Blackheads in a sort of square near the river. On another side of the square is the museum of the Occupation of Latvia. A solemn but worthwhile place to visit. There are also a number of monuments and statues worth a snap or two.

House of Blackheads, Riga.

House of Blackheads, Riga.

Stalinesque building in Riga.

Stalinesque building in Riga.

There’s a lively night club scene and cafes to boot! Riga is a city with a fair bit of spunk.

Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, has some charm of its own. Very much an ‘old town’ feel through much of the place, its alley ways and cobblestone streets are particularly atmospheric. It’s the least known of the three, but is a rewarding place to visit.

Gothic looking church in Vilnius.

Gothic looking church in Vilnius.

vilnius-street

It has a great castle on the hill overlooking the old town, the famous Hill of Three Crosses is a decent uphill hike but also has great views. It’s not as expensive as Riga and Tallinn, which is a great positive, and sees less visitors too.

Three crosses in Vilnius.

Three crosses in Vilnius.

Trakai Castle.

Trakai Castle.

Not too far, an easy half-day trip from Vilnius, you will find Trakai Castle, a very picturesque old castle definitely worth a visit whilst you are there.

So each city has its own charm and plenty to see and do. Wonderful vibes from all three. To choose the winner of such a ‘City Rumble’ is not easy. I think Tallinn still wins it for me. It’s so much fun – I had a great night out there, and it’s wonderful to walk around the Old Town at night and explore. But’s it’s just by a nose – both Riga and Vilnius are places I’d recommend. If you’ve the time and you’re in the Baltics, well, I think it’s great to visit all three! What do you think? Please do comment – and May the Journey Never End!

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