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

  • Island Sky
    Infographics
    Kyoto, Japan
    Infographics

    2017: 34 Countries, 90 UNESCO World Heritage Sites [Infographic]

    February 14, 2017 | Infographics

    In 2017, Zegrahm will be visiting 90 amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites in over 30 countries! The United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the UN that maintains a list of important natural or histroical sites, whose preservation and safe-keeping are deemed important for the world community.

    Read More

    Gdansk, Poland
    Blog Post

    What a Wreck - Baltic History on the Sea Floor

    February 7, 2017 | Blog Post

    In 1961, the 17th-century Swedish warship Vasa was recovered from the Baltic Sea. King Gustavus Adolphus had spared no expense in building what was to be one of the most powerful warships of its day, carrying more than 60 cannons on two gun decks and decorated with exquisite sculptures of mythic gods and mermaids.

    Read More

  • Kiel Canal, Germany
    Blog Post

    Channel This - 5 of the World's Most Important Canals

    January 11, 2017 | Blog Post

    With all the gridlock on our roadways, we forget that some of the world’s busiest transportation routes aren’t even on dry land. The oldest-known canals date back to 4000 BC in Mesopotamia, where they were used for irrigation. Yet these artificial waterways have played an even more crucial economic role in the development of civilization.

    Read More

    Bornholm Island, Denmark
    Blog Post

    Top Reasons to Travel to the Baltic with Zegrahm Expeditions

    December 28, 2016 | Blog Post

    For centuries, various groups sought dominance over the lucrative trade route in the Baltic region. Between the 12th and 17th centuries, the German-based Hanseatic League established and maintained a trade monopoly in the Baltic and throughout northern Europe, ensuring the safe passage of goods for every member country.

    Read More

    Visby, Gotland Island, Sweden
    Blog Post

    A Better Way to See the Baltic

    December 19, 2016 | Blog Post

    Viking lore and vivacious cities, opulent palaces and onion-dome churches, fairytale castles and fantastical natural wonders—it’s easy to see why nearly every major cruise line offers a Baltic itinerary.

    Read More

  • St. Petersburg, Russia
    Field Report

    Best of the Baltic

    December 16, 2016 | Field Report

    Wednesday & Thursday, July 3 & 4, 2013 Stockholm, Sweden / Embark Island Sky

    Read More

    Istanbul, Turkey
    Field Report

    Circumnavigation of the Black Sea 2016 Field Report

    December 5, 2016 | Field Report

    Wednesday & Thursday, October 5 & 6, 2016Istanbul, Turkey / Embark Island Sky

    Read More

    Tripe Soup, Romania
    Blog Post

    A Romanian Feast

    November 29, 2016 | Blog Post

    Situated on the crossroads of East and West, Romania has been conquered and occupied by a variety of different civilizations over the centuries—Greek, Roman, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian—while trade with other European countries, such as France, Italy, Poland, and Russia, have also had a profound effect on the language and culture of Romania.

    Read More

  • Bay Islands, Honduras
    Blog Post

    Happy Thanksgiving from Zegrahm Expeditions

    November 22, 2016 | Blog Post

    At this time of year, as we join our family and friends and reflect on what we're thankful for, a common thread that unites the staff here at Zegrahm is, of course, travel. Here are just a few of the moments—across all seven continents—we're most grateful for experiencing over the past year: 

    Read More

    Klaipeda, Lithuania
    Blog Post

    Amber Alert - On the Lookout for "Baltic Gold"

    November 16, 2016 | Blog Post

    Like silk, amber was once considered so valuable that it earned a namesake trade route. Stretching from the Baltic coast across Bohemia to the Danube—then forking on to Greece, Italy, the Black Sea, and beyond to Asia Minor—the Amber Route dates from the Bronze Age, when merchants exchanged the semi-precious stone for ceramics, glassware, copper, and coins of silver and gold.

    Read More

    Sapporo, Japan
    Blog Post

    Voting for 2018 is Underway!

    November 3, 2016 | Blog Post

    This election season, we at Zegrahm vote for a straight ticket to adventure with this informal ballot of top expeditions for 2018. It’s a competitive race, stretching across three continents with a referendum on nature and new cultural experiences.

    Here’s a look at our 2018 candidates:

    Read More