8 Things to See and Do in Estonia

Lonely Planet’s 2016 Best of Travel has included the country of Estonia and it’s not hard to see why. Its uniqueness is what sets it apart, although sharing a similar geography and history with Latvia, it’s cultural worlds away. The sparsely populated countryside is drawing visitors from all over the globe to explore its medieval towns, swathes of forests, beautiful national parks, sandy white beaches and incredible museums and galleries. Discover 8 things to see and do in this hot new tourist destination.

8. Visit the Alatskivi Castle

This castle originally dates back to the 16th century and was rebuilt between 1876-1885 by Baron von Nolcken, who was inspired by the royal residence of Balmoral in Scotland. The building is thought to be one of the most beautiful neo-gothic manor houses in the Baltics with its protruding towers with cone-shaped roofs. The surrounding estate encompasses 130 hectares of parkland which is open to the public, filled with oaks, ashes, maples, and alders.

This tourist site boasts a visitors center which gives an overview of the castle and its renovation along with a nature center, museum, and a great restaurant. Visitors will be privy to tour guide services, hiking trails and heritage guides to keep you informed about the surrounding area. Tours take about an hour and opening hours vary, depending on the season.

7. Discover Viljandi

This quaint little town sits in Southern Estonia and happens to be the capital of folk music. The town looks more like a postcard than real life as it overlooks a picturesque lake and is home to the impressive hilltop ruins of the 12th-century castle of the Teutonic Order. Think cobblestone streets, ancient oak trees, and charming locals.

Visit during the last weekend of July to attend the country’s largest annual music festival, during which concerts are held both within the castle and other venues around town. This small town doesn’t just appeal to folk music lovers, but for those visitors who enjoy parks, beautiful views and an atmosphere that feels both ancient and modern at the same time.

6. Visit Saaremaa Island

The territory of Saaremaa has been inhabited for the past eight thousand years, and the people have seen battles and been ruled by many different countries. The only city on this island is home to an intact medieval fortress, which has been turned into a museum where visitors can learn about the history of the city, explore the interior of the castle and learn about torture instruments and dungeons.

Expect to see plenty of stone fences, thatched roofs, and working windmills on this island as this island has retained its uniqueness thanks to its location and isolation. Visitors can stay at awesome spa resorts, explore national parks, visit the meteorite crater or attend one of many cultural events that happen on the island all summer long. It’s hard to stay away from this island for very long thanks to its beautiful views, stunning castle and friendly vibes.

5. Explore Tallinn

Tallinn’s medieval old town is known all over the world for its well-preserved completeness and authentic Hanseatic architecture. Expect beautiful surroundings, a rich cultural scene, an abundance of restaurants and cafes, plenty of galleries and an enchanting atmosphere. Wander the cobblestone streets that are dotted with medieval churches, merchant houses and barns, and warehouses that date back to the 11th century.

If you visit during the summer make sure you make your way to the Town Hall Square where it is home to several outdoor cafes, concerts, and fairs. In the winter the town square is transformed into a beautiful Christmas market. Head to the History Museum where you will find a permanent collection entitled “Spirit of the Survival”, an exhibit that traces the history of Estonia over the past 11,000 years with a series of interactive displays. Or head to the Seaplane Harbour Museum, one of Europe’s most exciting museums.

4. Explore Lahemaa National Park

It is Estonia’s largest National Park, sitting at 725 sq. km of unspoiled land featuring coastal and inland scenery. It is here where you will find stony and sandy seashores, pine forests, rivers cut into limestone cliffs, picturesque bogs and many geological, historical and architectural monuments. Exploring the national park by bicycle is the recommended way as the nature trails are truly incredible.

Stop by the visitor’s center in Palmse, look at the forest museum in Sagadi or take part in the activities at the nature center in Oandu. There are cozy guesthouses, remote campsites and restored manors to stay at throughout. Wildlife is abundant here and includes brown bears, lynx, wolves, 222 different types of birds and 24 species of fish. A true wilderness adventure.

3. Estonian Open Air Museum

Located just a short drive away from the city of Tallinn is the Estonian Open Air Museum, a museum that showcases the country’s rural architecture and way of life. This life-sized reconstruction of an 18th century rural/fishing village comes complete with a church, inn, schoolhouse, a fire station, and many farms. The 14 farms in the museum provide an overview of how families from different strata of society lived in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

The museum is open year-round and visitors can buy handicrafts, ride horses and even try traditional Estonian dishes at the tavern. There are traditionally dressed guides throughout the museum to answer any questions and give demonstrations of traditional Estonian dances.

2. Visit the AHHAA Science Centre

This fun and interactive science center has been attracting visitors since 2011 and promises to be a day full of learning and fun, no matter what age you are. This isn’t a place where you spend your time looking at things hidden behind glass, this is an interactive experience, one that starts as soon as you buy your ticket and they scan your fingerprint for biometric access. Expect to take a turn on the cable-riding bike, a photo booth that activates when a rubber balloon bursts, a hoist for kids and much more.

Discover the rooms that house mirror mazes where one can get easily lost, numerous aquariums, large ant farms and more. Head to the Science Theatre where young folks in lab coast cause fires and explosions, all in the name of education. The Planetarium Show costs extra but is definitely worth it as the projector shows stars not only above you but under your feet in a 360-degree display.

1. Visit Parnu

This beautiful historic seaside city is located in the southwestern part of Estonia. It is here where you will find white sandy beaches, shallow waters, concerts, festivals and more. Parnu is often referred to as Estonia’s summer capital and it’s easy to see why. The beautiful beach promenade is the perfect place to walk or rollerskate while plenty of playgrounds and water fountains attract families.

Parnu is where visitors will find versatile architecture, beautiful parks and courtyards, numerous art galleries and centers, handicraft workshops and easygoing locals. There are numerous festivals that take place here during the summer months from music festivals to art festivals. Make sure you book your accommodations and reserve your tickets early if you planning on visiting Parnu during the summer as the number of people increases six times higher in the hottest beach time.

10 Memorable Places Best Visited By Cruise Ship

When planning your next vacation, there are a variety of trips you can go on. Will you fly to an all-inclusive resort and lay on the beach? Will you rent a car and go on a road trip down a beautiful coastline? How about a backpacking adventure? One of the options that is always present, is going on a cruise. Cruises are a great way to see a variety of locations in a short amount of time, while travelling in comfort and class. The best part about a cruise, is that you only have to unpack once!

 

1. Alaska

Visit this isolated and chilly part of the world from the comfort of a cozy cruise ship cabin. You are able to see Humpback Wales, Bears, Hawks and Moose, just to name a few of our animal friends that will be waiting for you in Alaska. Denali National Park is also one of the sites you can explore on some Alaskan cruises and it features the highest point in North America.

Photo By: Shutterstock

 

2. Hawaii

With so many islands and a limited amount of holiday time, cruises are a great way to get a taste of each Hawaiian island in a short time span. Many Hawaiian cruises will feature a lot of the Hawaiian culture and traditions to help you feel like you’re on an island, even when you’re cruising through the ocean. When the boat makes stops, there are so many once in a lifetime opportunities to try out on each island such a helicopter tours, hiking, rafting and so much more. The scenery is to die for!

Photo By: Shutterstock

 

3. Caribbean

If you are wanting to go on a trip to the Caribbean, it can be difficult to decide where to go and what island to see. On a cruise ship, you can see a wide variety of the Caribbean islands. Then, in a few years you can fly to the island that was your favorite on the cruise and make the most of that location. Another winning factor of going on a cruise here, is that it is very family oriented.

Photos By: Shutterstock

 

 

4. Mediterranean

Are you looking for a visually stunning location with tons of history? Take a Mediterranean cruise, and I promise, you will not be disappointed! These cruises are ideal for mature, adult travellers who are looking for some enriching experiences and peacefulness.

Photo By: Shutterstock

 

 

5. Norway

Throw on a thick sweater, a good book and some slippers and cruise around Norway. These cruises are special because of the amount of daylight that is present for a large portion of each day. It allows you to see the maximum amount of scenery in a good amount of time. You also get to experience entering the Arctic Circle where there is a noticeable change in the water, temperature and overall climate.

Photo By: Shutterstock

 

 

6. The Cook Islands

When you see islands like this, you probably think it’s in the Caribbean. The actual fact is that this set of islands is halfway in between Hawaii and New Zealand. It has an untouched quality about it and the best part about it is that there is no bad time to visit! The lowest temperature in the winter is 18 degrees Celsius. See all of the Cook Islands on a breathtaking cruise to ensure you won’t miss a thing.

Photos By: Shutterstock

 

 

7. The Nile

Have you ever considered cruising down the Nile River? The best time to go is between October and April for between 3-7 days. These cruises allow you to visit many historical sites such as the Valley Of The Kings and countless temples. You also have the opportunity to hire a private tour guide to show you all the sites along the way.

Photo By: Shutterstock

 

 

8. Australia and New Zealand

Aside from the stunning views and peaceful locations, this cruise will lead you and your loved ones to the Great Barrier Reef to see incredible fish and other wildlife. Your experience of a lifetime will also be highlighted by cruising through the Tasmanian Wilderness where you will see more wildlife and breathtaking locations.

Photos By: Shutterstock

 

 

9. The Baltic

Where does a Baltic cruise go you ask? It travels to Russia, Estonia, Poland and Germany, just to name a few locations. The incredible architecture and historic locations are enough to convince you to sign up for one of these tours. One advantage is that there is very short distances between ports because there is so much to explore. You will be transported to a fairy tale when you are walking through these magical old towns.

Photos By: Shutterstock

 

 

10. England, Scotland and Ireland

When you think of a cruise, you probably don’t think of these countries first. As someone who has been on a ship in the Irish Sea, I can say it is completely worth it. See ruins of castles and heart stopping landscapes that make incredible photos. These cruises also feature culturally accurate cuisine so you won’t miss out on the perks of the mainland.

Photos By: Shutterstock

 

5 Overlooked Eastern European Destinations Worth Exploring

Western Europe is more common with European tourists; the travel is easier, the landmarks more popular, the language barrier less frightening. But Eastern Europe is a multicultural haven for seasoned travelers and tourists alike. For years it was the undiscovered part of Europe; it is less traveled, and thus less crowded- but that is what makes it so exciting! And it is relatively easy to get around too, with people as friendly as the locals in Eastern Europe, getting lost should be no problem! So next time skip London, and head instead to one of these awesome destinations!

5. Tallin, Estonia

Tallin is a vibrant, cultural hub located on the Baltic Sea in Estonia. Tallin feels very much like a European capital city-; it is clean, historic and interesting- but there is something pulsating and unique about it too. It is frequently named one of the top 10 digital cities in the world, and as such is ultra-modern and brimming with all the new technology, yet it’s still rich in years of history and culture! The people in Tallin are very friendly and eager to show you around, and it is super easy to get around the capital city. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and best explored on foot. Tallin is a vibrant city with a unique and inviting culture.

Tallin, Estonia

4. Riga, Latvia

Riga, the capital of Latvia and the heart of the Baltics, is a cultural and historical blend of the old Europe and the modern, new Europe. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a long time location of international trade, Riga has developed into a multicultural mecca and a tourist destination for European travelers and tourists from abroad. This city has impressively managed to maintain its heritage and historical status- the colorful buildings and intricate architecture take you back in time- and yet, represent forward thinking at the same time managing to create a harmonious, cultural destination, inviting for all walks of tourists.

Riga, Latvia

3. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Hercegovina

Not too long ago, Sarajevo was on the brink of near extinction; a war ravaged city with a dim looking future. Today, it is a bright, inviting city, brimming with history and an intoxicating atmosphere. Both Austro-Hungarian and Turkish influences are felt here, in the architecture, the people and the food, and that is what makes this place such a world class destination. The mix is almost eclectic; old bullet holes adorn the walls of many of the cafés and shops, yet those very same walls are covered with a variety of colorful and vibrant pictures, fabrics and all sorts of neat trinkets. There are many walking tours available, which are great for people looking for the story of each building and monument in town, but you would be perfectly content strolling along the cobblestone streets absorbing this friendly and cultural town ideal for an Eastern European visit.

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Hercegovina

2. Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade isn’t traditionally beautiful; it isn’t colorful, or overly clean, but it is tough, gritty and a bit wild- which is what makes it one of the best places to explore in Europe. The people in Belgrade are loud and over-the-top; a personality trait that has seeped into every cultural aspect of the city. Belgrade is proud of its history and it’s residents are eager to move forward; while sometimes intimidating, the locals can’t wait to show off their beautiful city. The architecture is dark and astounding, and the streets are filled with large coffee shops and history and heritage loom at every corner. Belgrade is one of the most happening places in Europe, and the atmosphere is palpable from the minute you arrive.

Belgrade, Serbia

1. Minsk, Belarus

For many, the only reason Minsk is even on their radar is due to the frequent Friends references, and there it is referred to as a dark, drab, isolated place. And yet as hilarious as those references were, they carried little truth to the Minsk of today. Minsk will surprise you, that is for sure; at every corner a new layer is pulled away and something new, vibrant and wonderful is uncovered. There are many posh cafés and restaurants adorning the pedestrian filled streets, and the loud and rhythmic music from the various nightclubs can be heard into the early morning hours. Minsk is actually very modern and cosmopolitan; because most of the city was destroyed in WWII, very few traditional buildings are left, yet you can still catch some historical and cultural nods to the Soviet Era scattered around the city.

Minsk, Belarus

Lonely Planet’s 10 Best Value Destinations for 2016

It’s that time of year again, when world renowned guidebook publisher and travel advocate Lonely Planet publishes their predictions and recommendations for the coming year of travel in what’s know as the “Best in Travel 2016” The entire guidebook is filled with top 10 lists with varying themes from Best Animal Adventures to Most Accessible Destinations. In this article however, we will take a look at Best Value. Lonely Planet knows that no matter how deep your pockets are, every traveler loves a deal, and for some, traveling on a strict budget isn’t just a lifestyle; it’s an art form. So without further delay, let’s take a look at the 10 best value destinations for 2016:

10. Western Australia

Typically Australia has been a place that for many, seemed out of reach if not for its geographic location than for its high costs due to a strong Australia dollar. But recently, the AUD has taken a dive, especially in comparison to the US dollar, while that means many Australians might be forced to limit their overseas travel plans, it also means that for many North Americans, a trip to Australia is cheaper than its ever been. Western Australia in particular offers better value than other parts of the country but with all the Australian culture and scenery one could want.

the pinnacles western australia

9. Timor-Leste

Not straying too far from the number #10 destination, the Southeast Asian nation of Timor-Leste occupies half of the island of Timor north of Australia in the Timor sea. This beautiful, lesser-known country is surrounded by coral reefs teaming with marine life of all shapes and sizes. Lonely Planet suggests venturing outside of the country’s capital of Dili and all its pricey international hotels and checking out the bargain beach shacks that can be found on the islands pristine beaches. If you’re not afraid to blaze your own trail and mix with the locals, Timor-Leste might be just the deal you were looking for.

Timor-Leste

8. Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast

While the west side of Costa Rica has been sufficiently explored by tourists, expats and Americans looking for their next vacation home, the east side of the country is still left mostly to the locals. Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast has plenty to offer in comparison to the well known towns of the east but with a much less touristy vibe, which also translates to better deals as well. The town of Tortuguero is famous for nesting sea turtles and the reefs of Manzanillo make for an excellent dive spot, but one of the biggest draws is the famous Costa Rica Sloth Sanctuary located south of Limón.

Sloth Costa Rica

7. Québec City, Canada

If a trip to Europe has been on your wish list but you lack the time and funds to make this a reality, Lonely Planet suggests North Americans head to Québec City. No, it’s definitely not Europe but they suggest it has enough of a foreign francophone vibe and old world charm to make you feel like you’re a long way from home. The city’s Old Town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and with the cobblestone streets, historic buildings and little French bistros, you might just get that taste of Europe for less than you thought.

Chateau Québec City, Canada

6. Galicia, Spain

Being a well visited country by many tourists, you wouldn’t think Spain would have a lot of deals left to be had, but head to the country’s northwest region of Galicia and you’ll find rocky coastline and villages relatively unexplored by tourists. Lonely Planet says that the value of this region comes not only from being a place relatively unexplored by tourists but also from the quality of meat, cheese and seafood that can be found in the many tapas bars throughout the Galicia region. They also suggest booking self-catering accommodations to save money even further.

Redes Galicia, Spain

5. Bosnia and Hercegovina

It is no secret that Europe has a bit of a reputation with travelers as being a pricey place to explore. While that is definitely true of the more major cities like Rome, Venice, London and Paris, it’s the lesser known cities and countries that offer the best value.  Hence, the #5 entry on this list: Bosnia and Hercegovina. The Balkan country encompasses all the major values you look for in budget travel including inexpensive accommodations and cheap eats and its historic cities of Sarajevo and Mostar offer the kind of history and charm you’d expect to pay a price for.

Mostar Bosnia and Hercegovina

4. New Mexico

Even with travel to America looking rather expensive to everyone except those who live there, Lonely Planet stresses the value that can still be found in the state of New Mexico. Cheap eats, affordable accommodations and free activities and attractions abound in this outdoor lovers paradise. With dry sunny conditions almost guaranteed, there are few better states where you can cram in as much time in the great outdoors (an activity that’s essentially free of charge.) Take a Breaking Bad tour in Albuquerque, hike the Apline forest or explore a free wild hot spring. The possibilities for value are endless in this state.

Bisti Badlands New Mexico

3. East Africa

Thanks to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, many tourists are sufficiently scared of the continent as a whole, and thus bookings for 2016 are on the low side. You can probably guess that means good deals are readily available for travel to the continents safer half; East Africa. Lonely Planet advises that the cities of London, Paris and Madrid are hundreds of miles closer to the outbreak region geographically than East Africa’s prime tourist spots are, and reminds travelers just how large a continent this is. So if you’ve ever felt compelled to have an African animal encounter, or explore Africa’s spectacular scenery, the time to head to places like Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania is now.

Blue Nile Falls Ethopia Africa

2. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Vietnam

Backpackers have known for years that Vietnam is a budget travelers best friend and a recent study by priceoftravel.com confirms the fact placing Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi third and second in a list of the cheapest destinations in Asia. Lonely Planet says that in both cities, $20 USD or less per day will get you food, lodging and sights but the guidebook publishers say at that rate you’ll be living like a local (which we say isn’t a bad thing!) But if you want an experience that’s a sight step up, your authentic Vietnamese experience still won’t cost an arm and a leg.

Aleksandar Todorovic / Shutterstock.com
Aleksandar Todorovic / Shutterstock.com

1. Estonia

Lonely Planet says this year’s #1 best value destination will almost seem like the promised land compared to other popular European destinations. That’s because your Euros go a little farther in Estonia, a Northern European country where Nordic meets old-world Eastern European. If you’ve been getting around Europe by sleeping in hostel dorm rooms, you’ll be happy to know that upgrading to a hotel room of your own will seem quite affordable here, as will the food, drinks and nightlife. It’s not like there’s nothing to see either; the preserved Old Town in the capital of Tallinn has history and museums galore while the enchanting forests of Lahemaa National Park will amaze any traveler.

Lahemaa National Park Estonia

The 10 Most Beautiful and Underrated Cities in Northern Europe

When people think of a European getaway, they tend to name off places like London, Paris, and Rome. While each of those cities has earned its spot on various travelers’ bucket lists, there are many cities that are just as worthy of “must see” status that are a little more off the beaten path. Northern Europe tends to get the short end of the stick when it comes to tourism, despite its rich, long and varied history. With small populations, limited influence and often harsh climates, the northern countries, including Scandinavia, Finland and the Baltics don’t exactly seem like havens for travelers – but these underrated escapes are also home to some of the most beautiful, diverse and storied cities in all of Europe. Here are 10 of the hidden gems in Europe’s Northern kingdoms.

10. Roskilde, Denmark

Roskilde is a city with only 50,000 inhabitants, but it’s easily one of the most important cities in Denmark; in fact, it was the Danish capital for many generations. The city dates back to the Viking Age and, according to medieval sources, was the site of a royal palace and a cathedral built by Harald Bluetooth, the legendary founder of Denmark. Though the Roskilde Cathedral that stands today dates from 12th and 13th centuries, Harald Bluetooth’s tomb is here, along with the graves of other Danish monarchs. Attached to the cathedral is Roskilde Palace. Roskilde is also famed for its Viking Ship Museum, which houses the remains of 5 well-preserved Viking ships, which were unearthed from the Roskilde Fjords surrounding the city.

Jaroslav Moravcik / Shutterstock.com
Jaroslav Moravcik / Shutterstock.com

9. Turku, Finland

Before the capital moved to Helsinki in 1812, Turku was the most important city in Finland. Today, it’s still an important center and one of the largest cities in Finland. Situated at the mouth of the Aura River, Turku is integral to both Finnish tourism and business. Of the notable sites, the Cathedral of Turku, erected in the 1300s, is a must-see, along with the Castle of Turku. Due to its location on the Baltic, Turku boasts scenic coastline and access to many small islands in the Archipelago Sea. Like its much-larger Swedish counterpart, Stockholm, the city’s maritime culture encourages day trips to the islands. And yes, there are tours highlighting the design and architecture that the Finns are famous for.

Lasse Ansaharju / Shutterstock.com
Lasse Ansaharju / Shutterstock.com

8. Kiruna, Sweden

How far north can you go? In Sweden, the answer is Kiruna, an Arctic Circle town that is home to the world’s very first ice hotel. Here, the aurora borealis put on a spectacular display during long winter nights and the midnight sun dominates summer days. A train will take you north to the land of cloudberries, the traditional home of the Sami. In the winter, 2 nearby mountains, Kiirunavaara and Luossavaara, provide excellent skiing and the nearby lake Luossajarvi can be used for ice skating. Dog sledding is another popular activity and every winter, the town holds a Snow Festival. Kiruna Church, built in Gothic Revival style in 1912, is one of Sweden’s largest wooden buildings and was voted Sweden’s most popular pre-1950s building.

Kiruna Church Sweden

7. Tampere, Finland

The “Manchester of Finland,” or “Manse” in Finnish, Tampere is located between 2 lakes, Nasijarvi and Pyhajarvi. The lakes are at different levels and the Tammerkoski rapids that link them run through the city. Founded in the 18th century by the Swedish King Gustav II, Tampere is renowned as a center of cultural life in Finland. The third largest city in the country is home to multiple theaters, an international theater festival, a short film festival, an urban rock festival and the Tampere Floral Festival. Tampere is also home to many museums, including a spy museum, the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame and a shoe museum, as well as one of the last museums in the world dedicated to Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin.

Tampere, Finland

6. Aalborg, Denmark

Built at the narrowest point on the Limfjord, Aalborg rose to prominence as one of the most important harbors in Northern Europe during the Middle Ages. Today, it’s become an important hub of culture, even hosting one of the largest annual festivals in Scandinavia. Aalborg has many theaters, performance venues and museums, along with an orchestra and opera company. Budolfi Church, now a cathedral, was consecrated in the 1300s, and in 1550 a royal residence was built in the city. Aalborg’s most famous buildings, however, may be the half-timbered mansions, built by the city’s prosperous merchants such as Jorgen Olufsen. Also notable is Jomfru Ane Gade (Virgin Anne’s Street), noted among travelers for its cafes during the day and clubs at night!

Aalborg, Denmark

5. Reykjavik, Iceland

Although not “Europe” in the strictest sense, Iceland is often included in discussions of Northern Europe thanks to its Norse heritage. The capital, Reykjavik, is situated on a peninsula. The hills Öskjuhli∂ and Skolavör∂uholt are former volcanoes and the mountains of the Blafjöll range for the city’s backdrop. Also nearby is the famed Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa. The city is home to the largest church in Iceland, the parliament building, and several museums and art galleries. Iceland is renowned for its natural beauty, and Reykjavik boasts Hofdi, a nature reserve; a cluster of red volcanic craters; and a geothermally heated beach. Reykjavik is most renowned for its nightlife, with over 100 bars and clubs, many of which are open until 4:30 am on weekends.

Arseniy Krasnevsky / Shutterstock.com
Arseniy Krasnevsky / Shutterstock.com

4. Vilnius, Lithuania

Although Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and the second-largest city in the 3 Baltic states, it’s often passed over by tourists, if only for the fact that, for much of its history, it has been under the rule of one country or another, most recently as part of the Soviet Union until 1990. Nonetheless, this beautiful city has centuries of history to share with visitors. Lying at the confluence of the Vilna and Neris Rivers, Vilnius was founded during the Middle Ages. It soon became the capital, in part because its geography made it less vulnerable to attack. Vilnius boasts ancient churches and palaces, many in Baroque or Eastern Orthodox styles. A trip through the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, won’t disappoint!

Vilnius, Lithuania

3. Trondheim, Norway

Founded in 997, Trondheim served as the capital of Norway during the Viking Age, until 1217. Long the seat of the Norwegian royal family, the city is situated on the River Nidelva, which flows through Trondheim and supplies water to the surrounding fjords. Munkholmen, a small islet, is a popular tourist destination, and the Stiftsgarden, a 17th century royal palace, is quite possibly the largest wooden building in Northern Europe. The Nidaros Cathedral, the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world, dominates most views of the city. The cathedral is only one of many historic churches in the city, although many buildings have been lost in fires over the centuries. Surrounded by wetlands, it’s not uncommon to see animals like foxes and moose in the city.

Trondheim, Norway

2. Uppsala, Sweden

This quintessentially Swedish city was, for centuries, incredibly important in Swedish culture. Just an hour by train out of Stockholm, Uppsala features the medieval Domkyrka cathedral, a 17th century royal palace, the oldest university in Scandinavia, the house of Carl Linneaus, Viking graves at Gamla Uppsala and runestones scattered about the city. Uppsala is relatively small compared to cities like Stockholm, but that makes it all the more pleasant. The slower pace of life, along with fantastic scenery and parks along the River Frysen, make Uppsala one of the most underrated cities in Northern Europe. At the end of April, students celebrate Walpurgis Night (Valborg in Swedish) by floating homemade boats down the river and drinking copious amounts of champagne.

Uppsala, Sweden

1. Tallinn, Estonia

Like Vilnius, Tallinn is a beautiful Baltic city that has been overlooked by travelers, although tourism to the city has been growing. Tallinn is Estonia’s largest city, with 32 percent of the population calling it home. The capital is situated on Estonia’s northern coast, across the Gulf of Finland; it’s just 50 miles from Helsinki, Stockholm, and St. Petersburg. Never razed or pillaged (although bombed during World War II), Tallin’s Old Town is one of Europe’s best preserved medieval towns. Sites include the city walls, 2 towers, and numerous medieval churches. On Cathedral Hill, the main attraction is the medieval Toompea Castle, which houses the Estonian Parliament. Kadriog Palace, built by Peter the Great just after the Great Northern War, is another popular tourist destination.

Tallinn, Estonia