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Treasures Of The Baltic - What Will You Find?

23 May 2014

Lake in Finland

There are not many days that pass without me thinking about being at sea, and after someone asking me this week where my favourite cruise destination is, it lead me to reminisce about my time in the Baltic.

Beautiful Baltic…

The word 'Baltic' to some people instantly evokes thoughts of a frosty chill, but these are two words I refuse to put together in a sentence when talking about the Baltic.

A sense of travelling to the unknown is a feeling common to those who embark on a Baltic adventure. Home to some of the world’s best kept secrets, it exploits mystical wonders and intense beauty.

Showcasing the most captivating cities in the world, it is a treasure chest of history-enriched culture, fascinating architecture and stunning landscapes. Immersing yourself in this dynamic part of the world will mesmerize you at every turn.

A place where cathedrals stand higher than surrounding mountains, colours illuminate small towns, and coastlines are as beautiful as the friendly locals. The Baltic truly took my heart.

Where is the Baltic?

The Baltic Sea is the area located between Central and Northern Europe. The main countries visited on a Baltic cruise are Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Sweden.

One of the reasons I love this area so much is how the striking coastlines act as runways up to breath-taking cities. All the countries that border the Baltic offer something different, which is why a cruise to this region offers such a diverse and unique experience.

A Baltic Surprise…

I believe the Baltic region can most thoroughly be explored on a cruise. Sailing past the dazzling coastlines, before stopping in these endearing regions, allows you to delve into a different culture every day, all on the same holiday.

I could talk about my favourite Baltic regions forever, but the below are my top highlights that should not be missed:

Helsinki, Finland

In my eyes Helsinki is underrated and is not shouted about enough. Easily one of the most intriguing cities I have visited, it is somewhere I could definitely go again and again and discover something new each time.

Named 'The Daughter of the Baltic', the city is like a year-round winter wonderland. Its vibrant character invites you to explore its many wonders, and likes to show off its beauty.

Although Helsinki has a quintessentially Scandinavian flare, its graceful buildings and spacious boulevards differentiate it from other Baltic regions.

The locals of Helsinki love nothing more than the outdoors, and their connection with nature is evident; no matter what the weather, they are outside. The winter sees them wrapped up head to toe, fishing in iced covered lakes, and summer sees coats retired to hooks and outdoor bars and cafes heaving with smiles.

Although it is a fairly large city - home to over 600,000 - it still exposes a small Nordic town feel that welcomes every visitor with open arms.

When can you cruise here: Normally between May – October

Cruise lines that stop here: Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, P&O Cruises

My highlight: The Helsinki Speedboat Blast Excursion

Look out for: Locals preparing fresh fish at the seafood markets

Tallinn, Estonia

A mixture of contemporary modern city life combined with a medieval old town makes a visit to Tallinn a unique experience that cannot be had at many other cities.

Surviving a turbulent history, the quaint city of Tallinn is a story that waits to be read. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site that showcases some of the most beautiful old buildings I have ever seen. The winding cobbled streets lined with quirky shops and cafes create a scene that takes you back in time. People watching from a sidewalk café is an event in itself!

Art and architecture play an important role here, and is apparent in the unusually designed buildings that stand out around you. Ancient cathedrals, century-old houses, and iconic monuments are all features that are sure to fascinate you when walking around.

With so much to see it is hard to plan your time - especially if you only have a day here. Explore the Lahemaa National Park, discover the history behind the Estonian Maritime Museum, or be amazed by the Valaste waterfall. Simply spending the day exploring on foot is also a great option, and you never know what you are going to discover next.

When can you cruise here: Normally between May – October

Cruise lines that stop here: Cunard Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Azamara Club Cruises, Princess Cruises

My highlight: Walking around the Lahemaa National Park (honestly like something from a fairy tale!)

Look out for: The Town Wall

Riga, Latvia

Latvia is the Baltic’s best kept secret, and is rapidly becoming a cultural favourite for tourists and holidaymakers. Although the love for Riga is growing, it hasn’t lost its untouched charm, and its historic wonders are what still makes it a unique destination.

Its historic importance is displayed everywhere you turn - most of the architecture is centuries old, and every building appears to have a story to tell. Situated at the mouth of the Daugava, its entrance is an amazing sight to capture, perfect when sailing in by cruise.

Home to one of the largest collections of art nouveau in the world, its 17th century streets are bursting with personality that entice you from the minute you start your Latvian adventure. Wandering around is a brilliant activity in itself, as every corner you turn presents a new mystery.

The local Latvian women are unarguably glamorous, and spend hours strolling around the stylish boutiques that line the cobbled streets. Why not embrace the atmosphere and enjoy the Latvian way of life, starting with eating fresh pastries in cafes on a daily basis.

Riga has one of the most vibrant nightlives in the Baltic, and past 6.00pm the city comes alive with lively pubs, exciting cocktails bars, and cosmopolitan nightclubs.

When can you cruise here: Normally from May – October

Cruise lines that stop here: Star Clippers, Princess Cruises, P&O Cruises, MSC Cruises

My highlight: The view of Riga from St Peter’s Church Tower

Look out for: The Freedom Monument

Stockholm, Sweden

One of my favourite cities in the world - not just the Baltic - Stockholm is a haven of picture-perfect scenery that looks better than any postcard.

Its stunning approach is only a taster of the adventure to be had here. Stockholm lies where the Baltic meets Lake Malaren, making it an awe-inspiring sight to sail in to, and even more incredible as you sail out in the evening.

A necklace of canals bisect parts of the city, adding to its individuality. Strolling around Stockholm is unlike walking around any other city - it creates a serene feeling that makes everything appear almost unreal. With boats sailing up the river one side of you, and rows of lavish cafes the other side of you, it showcases the best in Scandinavian lifestyle.

Although walking around Stockholm is exciting and full of fun discoveries, my advice would be to make time to explore some of what the city has to offer. Stockholm Palace stands boldly with its striking design, and you might even be lucky enough to experience the changing of the guards. Explore the Vasa Musuem, put your dancing shoes back on at the ABBA Museum, or take a glass-topped boat along the canal to get the best views of Stockholm’s enchanting architecture.

When can you cruise here: Normally May – October

Cruise lines that stop here: P&O Cruises, Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises

My highlight: Eating lunch al-fresco in Stortorget Square

Look out for: The changing of the guards at Stockholm Royal Palace

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