Tallinn, Estonia

Set Your Sites on the Baltic

Zegrahm Contributor|December 19, 2016|Blog Post

For many, a European cruise evokes images of Greco-Roman ruins and sun-soaked rivieras. Yet more adventurous travelers are now turning to the Baltic region, and for good reason. Few destinations boast such a concentration of history, heritage, cultures, and natural phenomena, as evidenced by its vast number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Indeed, among the nine countries that border the Baltic Sea—Germany, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Sweden, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, and Finland—more than 30 attractions have been granted UNESCO status.

Our upcoming Best of the Baltic expedition visits a number of these sites while calling on all nine Baltic countries. In fact, three of them comprise the entire historic centers of former Hanseatic League cities (see Old World Order: The Hanseatic League). Visby, built upon a former Viking site on the Swedish island of Gotland, was the League’s Baltic hub between the 12th and 14th centuries. Beyond its well-preserved ramparts and defensive towers lie some 200 warehouses and merchant homes from the period, along with the ruins of 12 ancient churches.

Another major Hanseatic trading post, and Estonia’s principal seaport, Tallinn stands as the quintessential medieval walking city. Its main square is ringed by the beautiful Town Hall and apothecary shop, dating from 1422 (which still operates a pharmacy). Other musts: Toompea Castle, which houses the Estonian Parliament; and gothic St. Olav’s, once the tallest building in the world. Latvia’s capital, Riga, is one of the Baltic States’ best-kept secrets, with the finest collection of art nouveau buildings in all of Europe. The best view over its spired Old Town is from atop the 235-foot-high tower of St. Peter’s Church. And there’s cobblestoned Rozena Street which is so narrow, you can touch both opposing walls at once!

Built upon some 100 islands connected by canals and more than 340 bridges, St. Petersburg is another Baltic city whose historic center has received UNESCO designation. A number of its structures have been recognized in their own right, including the Winter Palace, former residence of the Russian tsars; the Admiralty, headquarters for the country’s navy; and the massive Hermitage museum complex, which houses more than a million works of art in six buildings (including the Winter Palace) covering some 57 acres.

Finally, the 18th-century Suomenlinna Fortress, which guards the entrance to Helsinki’s harbor, was granted World Heritage status as “an especially interesting example of European military architecture of the time.” The fortress comprises 200 buildings and nearly four miles of defensive walls spanning six separate islands.

 

For more information, visit Best of the Baltic.

Related Blog Posts

  • Milford Sound, New Zealand
    Blog Post

    20 Intriguing Christmas Traditions Around the World

    November 20, 2017 | Blog Post

    Christmas has become an almost ubiquitous celebration found all around the world. Nearly every country—even those not traditionally steeped in Christianity—acknowledges the holiday in some fashion.

    Read More

    Island Sky
    Blog Post

    What Are Expedition Cruises? Proof That Not All Cruises Are Created Equal

    November 10, 2017 | Blog Post

    Cruises have gotten a bad rap lately, and some would argue that’s justifiably so.

    Read More

    Grimsey Island
    Blog Post

    Tips for Surviving a Long Layover

    November 7, 2017 | Blog Post

    Ah, the dreaded long layover… We all love the convenience of direct flights to our destination. But there are times when long layovers are simply unavoidable, especially when you’re traveling internationally.

    Read More

  • Berber Drummer, Morocco
    Blog Post

    The Importance of Cultural Geography: A Q&A with Zegrahm Expert Ron Wixman

    October 26, 2017 | Blog Post

    It’s tough to know where to start when you’re talking to a guy with a resumé like that of Zegrahm’s cultural geography expert, Ron Wixman.

    Read More

    Bordeaux, France
    Blog Post

    5 Must-Sips in Western Europe

    September 19, 2017 | Blog Post

    Sailing aboard the newly refurbished Ocean Adventurer, guests on our upcoming Discoveries of Coastal Europe journey can drink in Western Europe’s dramatic coasts from Lisbon to London.

    Read More

    Sahara Desert
    Infographics

    Sea to Sahara [Infographic]

    September 18, 2017 | Infographics

    Take a glimpse into our brand-new itinerary, Sea to Sahara, showcasing far-flung islands and exotic ports of call, including Cape Verde, Canary Islands, and Morocco.

    Read More

  • Sylt, Germany
    Field Report

    Best of the Baltic, 2017 Field Report

    August 29, 2017 | Field Report

    Saturday & Sunday, July 15 & 16, 2017 - London, England / Embark Island Sky

    Read More

    La Gomera, Canary Islands
    Video

    Sea to Sahara: A Brand-New Small-Ship Cruise Expedition

    August 29, 2017 | Video

    Watch as Director of Operations Jon Nicholson and Cruise Director Kelsey Simmons, talk about our brand-new expedition, Sea to Sahara, that explores Cape Verde, the Sahara Desert, the Canary Islands, and Morocco.

     

    Read More

    European Crested Tit
    Blog Post

    European Birds: 10 Endemic Species

    August 28, 2017 | Blog Post

    The birds of Europe include around 700 different species, many of which are similar to those found in northern Asia and North America. In fact, there are only 10 endemic species of European birds that you won’t see anywhere else in the world.

    Read More

  • Lanzarote Island, Canary Islands, Spain
    Blog Post

    10 Things to Do on Canary Islands Holidays

    August 7, 2017 | Blog Post

    From lush forests to daunting volcanoes, Canary Islands holidays offer unexpected variety and dramatic, dynamic landscapes.

    Read More

    Antarctic Sunset
    Blog Post

    The Best Places for Stargazing Around the World

    July 25, 2017 | Blog Post

    On August 21, the moon will pass in front of the sun and the sky will turn completely dark in the middle of the day. Total solar eclipses like this occur approximately once every 18 months, but they’re usually only visible from less than half a percent of the Earth’s surface. This will be the first total solar eclipse visible in the United States since 1979.

    Read More

    Tenerife Blue Chaffinch
    Blog Post

    Birds of the Canary Islands Checklist

    July 5, 2017 | Blog Post

    Located 62 miles west of Morocco, the Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago revered around the world for its beautiful beaches and unspoiled natural attractions.

    Read More