Visit The Baltics This Christmas: Beautiful Markets, Snow, And Affordability
Christmas in the Baltics -- Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia -- is a beautiful time of year. There's often snow on the ground, twinkling lights hanging above cobblestone streets, and the smell of mulled wine wafting through the crisp air. And to top it all off, there are beautiful Christmas markets selling artisan goods, food, and free entertainment.
My suggestion is to see all of the Christmas markets in the Baltics in one go, so start in Vilnius and head north by bus to Riga then Tallinn.
Christmas Markets in the Baltics
If you want to visit the Christmas markets in the Baltics, shoot for visiting in early to mid-December to avoid businesses and stores being closed over the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Christmas Markets in Vilnius, Lithuania
The Christmas market in Vilnius changed over the four years I lived in the capital and I'm sure it will be different this year as well. And I guess that is the charm of visiting the Vilnius Christmas market -- you never know what you'll get the chance to see.
Over Christmastime in Vilnius, you'll find Pilies Street, Vokieciu Street, and Gedimino Ave. decorated in Christmas lights and hear festive music being played in the shops and restaurants. The main event of the whole season is a massive fake tree as well as a surrounding Christmas market in Cathedral Square. Numerous events are schedule each year, typically including movies shown on the side of Vilnius Cathedral, story time for children, a Charity Christmas Bazaar (one day only in early December), and parades.
There is also a Christmas tree and activities (sometimes a market, sometimes an ice skating rink) in Town Hall Square.
To stay near the Christmas market in Cathedral Square (to avoid freezing during your explorations of the city), I'd suggest staying in Shakespeare Hotel*, which is in a great spot just near Bernardine Park and St. Anne's Church. It is about a 2 minute walk from Pilies Street and 5 minute walk from Cathedral Square. It is a gorgeous hotel with a great restaurant and bar!
Christmas Markets in Riga, Latvia
Riga is perhaps my favorite city in the Baltics since it has such cool surroundings with amazing breweries and cafes. Though I prefer the old towns in Vilnius and Tallinn to Riga's, it becomes magical in the winter when the buildings are dusted with snow and the streets are lined with twinkling lights.
During the winter, there are numerous Christmas markets set up throughout Riga: a small market by the Wellton Centrum Hotel*, another near the Cat House, and others dotted throughout the old town. At the market in Riga, you'll want to grab a hot beer to drink (and warm your hands) while listening to folk music. Traditional Riga Black Balsam is also a delicious warming drink!
I've stayed in four hotels in Riga, and my favorite by far is the Wellton Centrum Hotel*, which is conveniently located near the train station yet still in old town. The hotel also features an amazing free breakfast, pool, and comfortable rooms.
Christmas Markets in Tallinn, Estonia
Heading further north to Tallinn, you'll be amazed by the beautiful medieval city and how it transforms to become a real winter wonderland in December. Tallinn's Christmas market is located in the historic Town Hall Square, and radiates out in lines from the towering real Christmas tree. Lights are set up over the market and connect to the Town Hall.
After visiting the Christmas market, hit up the great restaurants in Tallinn's old town then head for more Christmas shopping in Telliskivi Creative City.
When in Tallinn, I really like staying in the simple but clean Tallink Express Hotel*. It is located near the old town and close enough to Telliskivi Creative City.
For more information to help you plan your Baltics trip for the Christmas season, check out the Baltics section of In Search Of for tons of restaurant and sightseeing suggestions!
Sorry for the super early Christmas post! I wanted to give you enough time to plan a trip to the Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn to experience the holidays there! Have you been to the Baltics at Christmas? Where are you thinking of going for Christmas markets this year?