Discover Old and New Tallinn

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Komandandi Garden Above Freedom Square

Strangely, the further north I went into the Baltics, the less comfortable the intercity coaches became. At least they were fairly empty which allowed me to stretch out on every ride. This time I had travelled from the Latvian capital of Riga to the Estonian capital of Tallinn. Now it was time to discover old and new Tallinn.

As I exited the bus, I saw ‘Tallinna Bussijaam’ written on the top of the building. While I presume that this is Estonian for bus station, ‘bussijaam’ is also very close to the Cantonese for bus stop. Aren’t languages fun?

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Tallinna Bussijaam

I had decided to walk the 4 kilometres from the bus station to my accommodation near the old town. I’d already been sitting down for several hours so a bit of physical activity was in order. I’m not sure if it was because I was finally acclimatising to the northern European winter weather but Tallinn didn’t seem to feel as cold as Vilnius and Riga had.

Discover Old and New Tallinn – Finding the Old Town

As I do in many places I visit, I’d decided to head straight for the old town. It’s no secret that I love old towns but the old town in Tallinn is particularly special. It’s one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in Europe. This was probably a huge factor leading to its inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. First Taste of the Old Town

When approaching from the west or the south, Vabaduse väljak or Freedom Square marks the beginning of the Old Town. The Independence War Victory Column can be seen looking over the open-air square.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Freedom Square Independence War Victory Colomn

If you follow the small set of stairs up to behind the column, you can look back over the square from the Komandandi Garden and see St John’s Church. Actually, if you’re feeling lazy you could take the ramp to the left of the stairs. But seeing as there are less than 50 stairs, it has to be the easiest climb to a viewpoint that I’ve ever encountered!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. St John's Church at Freedom Square

The ratio of effort to awesomeness-of-view factor here is pretty low. Stepping even further into the garden will give you a view over a lot of the new city. You’ve really got to love low-rise cities!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. City View from Komandandi Garden

Freedom Square at Night

It’s also worth revisiting the square at night. The whole area gets lit up and has a completely different feel.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover old and New Tallinn. St John's Church in Freedom Square at Night

Even some of the trees in the area get to shine at night.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover old and New Tallinn. Trees With Lights near Freedom Square at Night

Discover Old and New Tallinn – Toompea Castle and Russian Orthodox Church

The Komandandi garden and its viewing area are on Toompea Hill. An historic castle, Toompea Castle (Toompea loss in Estonian) sits behind the garden. The Castle has been standing since the 9th century! It currently houses the Estonian Parliament.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. City Wall Near Toompea Castle
City Wall Near Toompea Castle

Right next to that is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Aleksander Nevski Katedraal). It quite obviously stands out in the area, as a Russian style building.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox Cathedral

The building was left to rot during the USSR rule over the area, but since Estonian independence in 1991, it has been lovingly restored and looked after.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover old and New Tallinn. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral at Night

It actually forms quite a stark contrast to some of the other buildings of the old town.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox Cathedral From the Old Town

Walking Around The Old Town

As mentioned before, the Tallinn Old Town is one of the most well-preserved in the world. So it is literally like stepping into another century.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Centre of the Old Town

The first things to capture your attention are the cobbled streets and stone walls.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Stone Wall in Old Town

Locals have definitely capitalised on the old-world feel of the town. This has ensured that the Tallinn Old Town is the most touristy of all the Baltic old towns. That’s really saying something considering I was there in winter. I would guess winter is not the high tourist season in the Baltics.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Touristy Centre of the Old Town

While this town board is cute, it’s definitely heading towards cheesy. The cheesiest thing about this old town was all the locals dressed up in medieval clothes. At first, I thought it was rather endearing. Then they just seemed to be everywhere and it started to feel too gimmicky. Especially as many of them were just trying to get you into their establishment.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Stone Tunnel in the Old Town

That doesn’t mean that the town was without charm. In fact, it was quite lovely walking through the cobbled streets and admiring the buildings. Once you get away from the centre of the town, the gimmicky stuff disappears.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Cobbled Street of the Old Town

The Old Town becomes even more appealing at night.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover old and New Tallinn. Old Town at Night

Churches and Religious Diversity of the Old Town

There are quite a few churches and cathedrals representing different religious denominations throughout the Old Town. The aformentioned Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and Lutheran St John’s Church are two of them. Then there’s the Baptist St Olaf’s Church and the Roman Catholic St Peter and St Paul Cathedral near the centre of town. To name just a few.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. St Paul and St Peter's Cathedral

All have amazing interiors showcasing different ornate styles. Some even have towers you can climb to get a view over the old town. Visiting them is, of course, restricted during services. To find out more about the churches of the old town, go to the Visit Tallinn website.

Viru Gate

One of the most important and prominent features of the old city is the Viru Gate. This 14th century gate was once a major defensive feature of Reval. That’s Tallinn’s historical name, used until 1918.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Viru Gates in the Old Town

The Viru Gate essentially represents the start and the end of the Old Town, depending on which side of the gate you stand. From inside the gate, you can look out onto modern Tallinn and the markets just outside the gate.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover old and New Tallinn. Viru Gate Looking Out to Modern Tallinn

Discover Old and New Tallinn – Modern Tallinn

Beyond the walls of the Old Town is a vibrant, modern Baltic city. The transport options in the city are amazing. With modern buses and trams running regularly.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Modern Tram

There are also quite a few green spots around the city. Although, they’re more like grey spots in the winter.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Kadrioru Park

I would assume that the Kadrioru Park, pictured above, would be lovely and green in Summer and Spring. A walk through this park will bring you to the Kadriorg Palace (Kadrioru loss) which contains the Kadriorg Art Museum.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Kadriorg Palace

Behind the palace are some gardens, which I’m sure look lovely in summer and spring. In winter they are a work in progress.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover Old and New Tallinn. Kadriorg Palace Garden

Discover Old and New Tallin – The Port Area

Perhaps one of the most surprisingly happening areas in Tallinn is the port area. Although everything is quite spread out, there are several waterside restaurants and pubs dotted throughout the area. There’s also a local fresh produce market, Sadama Turg or Harbour Market, at Terminal C.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover old and new Tallinn. Nautica Centre at Tallinn Port

In front of the port area there’s a decent size shopping centre called Nautica. It has around 60 shops, including a cinema, cafes, restaurants, bars and a mini golf course!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover old and New Tallinn. Patterned Building

Something else that caught my attention when leaving the port area was this building. So much so that I just had to stop and stare for a while.

Ferry to Helsinki

I was told by a ticket lady at Terminal B that there were only two options for sailing to Helsinki. Viking Line and Tallink. They also happened to be quite expensive for a two hour ferry ride. So I walked to Terminal A where I found out that there was in fact a third company, Eckeroline, with ferries serving the route. They were much cheaper too! It’s best to purchase the tickets online as the ticket offices at the port seem to have very short opening hours.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Discover old and new Tallinn. Terminal A at Tallinn Port

The ferry ride was comfortable enough and there was free WiFi onboard.

Stay tuned as the adventure continues into Finland

Final Thoughts

The northernmost Baltic country of Estonia has a lot to offer, both scenically and historically. I think the only thing left to say is, if you get the chance visit Estonia!

You might want to have a look at our list of Free Things to do in Tallinn

and

Check out all the destinations visited on this trip –
Vilnius
Riga
Tallinn
Helsinki
Kemi
Oulu

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Free Things to do in Riga

The Latvian capital city of Riga has a lot to offer budget travellers. This list of fun and free things to do in Riga will really help you experience the city’s nature and history without spending a penny!

Walk Along the Pilsētas Kanāls/City Canal

Located in the heart of Riga, the Pilsētas Kanāls canal is leftover from medieval times. The moat was once for protection from invaders, but now its location at the centre of the city makes it popular with visitors. Many of those visitors will pay €18 for a 1 hour ride down the canal in a small boat. But you can take it all in at a slower pace, by walking along the banks of the canal!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Riga. City Canal

The canal runs for 4 kilometres and is flanked by parks, memorials and Vecriga or Old Riga. Each bank of the canal offers a different experience. You can access the east bank from the Riga Central Market and follow it to Kronvalda Park. You’ll pass through quite a few of the city’s green spaces and see a lot of pieces of history. Perhaps the most interesting place to see some history is the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. It’s right near the canal and entry is free.

The west bank will also take you through some green spaces with monuments. Then you can take a detour into Vecriga/Old Riga and literally walk into history.

Free Things to do in Riga – Discover the Cobbled Streets of Vecriga

Vecriga/Old Riga was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997 and it is Riga’s historical centre. The best thing about Vecriga is that it’s made for pedestrians, which makes it lovely to walk around. Upon entering Old Riga, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another century. It’s jam-packed with historical buildings.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Riga. Vecriga
Image by Makalu from Pixabay

You could easily spend a whole day wandering around the narrow cobbled streets just checking out the history and architecture. There are also no less than ten museums within the confines of Vecriga. These include the Cosmos Illusion Museum and the Literature and Music Museum. Most have admission fees of €2-8. The Latvian War Museum however is free and will give you insight into Latvia’s political and military history.

City Parks

There are a surprising amount of small parks located within a 10 minute walk of the old town. Once you step inside these parks, the buzz of the city fades away and it’s very easy to forget that you’re still in the city. Many contain sculptures, historical monuments and other points of interest.

Vērmanes Garden Park

Riga’s second oldest public garden, Vērmanes Garden Park, is spread over 5 hectares. This tiny park is full of things to occupy your senses. From sculptures, gardens and fountains to historical monuments and a flower market. There’s even a play area for kids, an open-air stage and cafes where you can sit down and relax. The walking paths running all through this park are well-maintained and easy to follow. There are also plenty of benches around if you get tired or just want to stop and take it all in for a bit.

Esplanāde

At 8.75 hectares Esplanāde is the second largest of the inner city parks in Riga, taking up a whole two city blocks. Like the other parks in Riga, it has monuments, fountains and many well-maintained paths running through it. What’s a little bit different about this park is that it has a cafe in the middle of it. Furthermore, it contains one of the city’s biggest attractions; the Riga Nativity of Christ Cathedral.

Bastejkalns Park

Bastejkalns Park is a thin strip of greenery running along both sides of the Pilsētas Kanāls/City Canal, between the bridges of Krišjāņa Valdemāra iela and Krišjāņa Barona iela. It is home to some of the most unique flora in Riga, as well as fountains, bridges, important sculptures and monuments. Three of the city’s most recognisable sites, the Freedom Monument, Peace Dance Sculpture and the Laima Clock stand within the park.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Riga. Nymph Fountain Bastejkalns Park

Bastejkalns Park is lovely to walk through both during the day and at night. At night there is the added bonus of bridges been lit up. The lights of the city also cast surreal reflections on the impossibly still waters of the canal.

Kronvalda Park

The largest of Riga’s inner-city parks can also be found on the banks of the City Canal. Aside from memorials and fountains, the 11.92 hectares of Kronvalda Park include walking paths and a cafe. For the more active among us there is a playground, rollerskating tracks and bicycle hire.

The unique thing about this park is that it contains some of Latvia’s largest willow, oak and beech trees. Additionally, the Chinese Pagoda in the park was an anniversary gift from Riga’s sister city Suzhou, China.

Viesturdārzs

As Viesturdārzs is on the outskirts of the city centre, it is the quietest of all the parks in Riga. It’s not near the City Canal like the other parks, but it has its own tranquil bodies of water. Like the other city parks, Viesturdārzs has monuments and playgrounds for the kids. And also for dogs! Viesturdārzs is a dog-friendly park.

Aside from being furry-friendly, something that sets this park apart from the rest is its art. There are permanent art installations all around the park.

Free Things to do in Riga – Visit the Castle of Light/Gaismas pils

The Castle of Light is the combination of two significant ideas from Latvian culture; the Glass Mountain and the Castle of Light. The Glass mountain represents obstacles faced by creative folk while the Castle of Light symbolises human creativity and freedom. So it’s quite apt that the combination of these two ideas should house the National Library of Latvia (Latvijas Nacionālā bibliotēka).

K in Motion Travel Blog. Free Things to do in Riga. Castle of Light
Image by Nikolaus Bader from Pixabay

With its striking design and 68 metre height, it has become a dominant part of Riga’s cityscape since it’s construction in 2014. The Castle of Light is said to be one of the most beautiful modern libraries in the world. It was even included in the BBC list of the ten most beautiful modern libraries in the world in 2017.

The thirteen floors of the library are home to over 5 million titles, including manuscripts from the 14th century! So it has something for the book worm in all of us. Did I forget to mention that it has free WiFi?

Finally, if you’re planning a trip to Riga in the future, here’s a downloadable Free Things to do in Riga Itinerary just for you!

Related Post: Reflections of Riga



Check out our other Northern European guides –
Free Things to do in Vilnius
Free Things to do in Riga
Free Things to do in Tallinn
How to Prepare for Finland in the Winter

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Reflections of Riga

Unfortunately, my luxury bus ride from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius had to come to an end. I was now in the Latvian capital of Riga. In this article I’ve included photographic reflections of Riga as well as my own experience of the cosmopolitan capital city.

The hours seemed to have flown by while I was on the bus and it was now dark. Very dark. But it wasn’t even 7pm yet. I don’t think I could ever get used to these crazy European winters!

There was something that struck me about Riga straight away. It instantly seemed more modern and happening than the Lithuanian capital city that I had just left. I had arrived in both cities at similar times, yet Riga was a lot more lively. More lights, more people, more traffic and more open stores.

Reflections of Riga – Confusing Subway Tunnel

I was hungry but as it was already dark I decided to drop my bag off at my accommodation first. Navigation through the city seemed rather easy. Except at the intersection of two main roads near the train station. Pedestrians had to use a subway to pass under the intersection. A subway that confused my map. Stupid GPS!

So imagine being tired then having to try to get your bearings in a subway tunnel that seemed to have far too many exit options. There should have only been four but there were at least 10. To add to the fun, the subway tunnel had an ever so slight curve that threatened to turn me around completely. I was not willing to give up like my map did. So I made an impromptu decision to take the exit that looked the nicest. That’s tired logic for you. Luckily, it turned out to be the right exit. Sort of.

I had actually taken the exit just after the one I needed. It wasn’t a major problem seeing as it has still taken me to the right road. Just the opposite of it.
I was able to rectify that problem at a ground-level crossing a few minutes up the road. Once I finally made it to my accommodation, I was in a very tired and hungry state.

Chatty Chick and Local Eats

The receptionist at my accommodation was the opposite of everyone I had encountered in the Baltics so far. She was chatty. Extremely chatty. I’m normally always up for a chat but I’d had a long day and was very hungry. I asked her for recommendations for good places to eat local food. She advised that a chain called Lido would be a good choice.

There was a Lido nearby, so I made my way there. I was surprised to see that it was ‘buffet style’. Not only that, instead of a normal buffet, where you pay a set price and eat what you want, you had to pay individually for each thing that you ate. Furthermore, there were only a few local looking dishes on the buffet. It mostly seemed like American kind of food. That’s not what I came to Europe for!

I was not interested in walking around town looking for some local food, so I settled on a €1 beef wrap from the place next door. It hit the spot and didn’t break the bank. My favourite kind of food!

Reflections of Riga – Beautiful Buildings and a Blue Bridge

Now that I’d got some food in me I was feeling much better and was ready to explore the town a bit!

While walking to my accommodation from the bus station, I had noticed a few things that I had decided to go back take a closer look at. Firstly, there were a crazy amount of Christmas decorations adorning trees on the side of the road. That wouldn’t be too strange if it weren’t the end of January. More than a month after Christmas was over!

The main attraction for me was the blue bridge I’d seen earlier. This bridge is the path of Krišjāņa Barona Iela over Pilsētas Kanāls or City Canal. Of course, it looks like any normal boring bridge during the day. But at night it’s mesmerising. Especially with the reflections on the canal.

The canal starts and finishes at the Daugava River which flows 1020 kilometres, all the way from Russia, through Belarus and Latvia to the Gulf of Riga. Pilsētas Kanāls is flanked on both sides by lovely parks and green spaces. But who cares about that, how about that bridge, eh?

Day Trip to Sigulda

One of the main things I was looking forward to doing in Latvia was bobsledding at the international track in Sigulda. The town is about an hour from Riga by train. The train runs quite regularly throughout the day. I didn’t want to leave it until too late but I also wanted to leave after sunrise. Would you believe sunrise was around 9:40 am? I settled on the 10 am train.

Unfortunately, I had miscalculated the time it would take me to walk to the train station. I nervously approached the ticket window at 9:58 am. I half expected the lady behind the counter to refuse me the ticket as it was so close to departure time. She didn’t. She took my €2.10 then gave me the ticket with a smile and no hint of urgency. I still needed to get to the platform though!

Most people would run at that point, but I’m not a runner. I just started walking faster. To be fair, my fast walking is faster than some people’s running. I made it on to the train and was comfortably seated just before the train started moving. The train ride was quite relaxing and the scenery was very green. I was especially impressed with the pine forests where all the trees seemed to line up in perfectly straight lines. For kilometres upon kilometres.

Reflections of Riga – Sigulda

Just over an hour later I had made it to Sigulda. It felt like the temperature had dropped between Riga and Sigulda by at least 5 degrees. I might’ve thought this was all in my head if it hadn’t been for all the people dressed in snowsuits and ski gloves. This was amusing to me as I’d never seen people walking around in snowsuits when there was no snow.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Reflections of Riga. Path in Sigulda.

I stopped for a quick eat in a cute little cafe near the station where they served soup in a bowl made of bread. Then I made the freezing walk to the international bobsled track. I was excited about the adventure on which I was about to embark. Things didn’t quite go to plan.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Reflections of Riga. Bobsled Track in Sigulda.

I saw many people walking around adorned with colours of different countries. Canada, Russia, Korea. Uh oh, it was a competition day! That meant that bobsledding was closed to the public for the day.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Reflections of Riga. View of Bobsled Track in Sigulda.

I had gone all that way, so I decided to take a walk around the complex. It was rather impressive actually. After watching a few of the teams fly past me from a viewing area, I couldn’t stand the cold any longer.

Reflections of Riga – Train to Sunset

As I had decided to leave earlier than planned, I got back to the Sigulda train station rather early. More than 40 minutes before the next train was due. I was happy to wait inside the station where it was much warmer than outside!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Reflections of Riga. Sigulda Train Station

The wait didn’t really seem to be that long, even though I was having problems accessing the free WiFi at the station. There was no announcement when the train had arrived. Luckily I’d seen it pass the station building on the way in. Once I was back in Riga, the sight that I saw was nothing short of amazing.

You know the strange thing, it wasn’t even night time yet! I had arrived at the Riga Train Station just after 5 pm! It was still afternoon.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Reflections of Riga. Train Station Clock at 5:20 pm

Leaving Riga on Another Luxury Bus

I had learned my lesson from having to pay extra by purchasing my bus ticket at the last minute in Vilnius. So I had pre-purchased my ticket online the day before. This was a weird concept to me, as transport prices are generally set, or negotiable, no matter when they’re purchased in most other regions that I’ve travelled in.

After I showed the bus lady my ticket she motioned for me to get on the bus and said that I could sit anywhere on the bottom deck. The service was going all the way through to St Petersburg in Russia, but it was almost empty until Tallinn, which was my destination. This bus also had a swanky hot drink machine like the Vilnius to Riga bus. The seats weren’t as comfortable though.

We made some random stops along the way. At one of the stops, we seemed to just be waiting, as no one got on or off. One of the passengers decided to take the opportunity to pop off the bus to have a quick smoke. The driver wasn’t having it, but as he didn’t speak English, the best he could come up with was, “No bus stop please”. Can’t argue with that, I guess.

Keep an eye out for the continuing Baltic adventure in Tallinn, Estonia
Check out all the destinations visited on this trip –
Vilnius
Riga
Tallinn
Helsinki
Kemi
Oulu

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Experience The Old World Charm of Vilnius

What happens when a warm weather person ventures into the Baltics in winter? A lot of complaining about loss of feeling in the extremities of the body. I will never understand how people can live in such horrible temperatures! But I had heard that the old world charm of Vilnius in Lithuania was something that I really needed to experience first-hand. So I put on 20 layers and got myself on a plane.

Experience The Old World Charm of Vilnius – Airport or Train Station?

As far as international airports go, the Vilnius International Airport, or Vilniaus oro uostas in Lithuanian, is a bit on the smaller side. It is still the largest of four airports in Vilnius and sees about 5 million passengers through its halls a year. Upon entering the terminal, you could be excused for mistaking it for a train station.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Airport

The nice lady at the tourist information centre indicated which bus went to the old town and where it left from. Luckily the bus stop was just outside the terminal building. So I waited inside, away from the cold, where I could see the bus stop. It was already dark at 5pm.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Airport Bus Stop

The number 88 bus didn’t take long to arrive. Unlike what I’m used to at home, where you enter a bus through the front door, this bus took passengers through the back door. In my tired state, I just sat down without paying. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I realised I hadn’t paid. The driver didn’t seem fussed about this at all and nonchalantly took my €1 when approached later.

The Old Town At Night

Upon arriving at the bus stop near the old town, a short walk from the main road took me to a cobbled street. As lovely and old-worldy as it looked, it really wasn’t easy to walk on. The cobbles were the biggest I’d ever seen. A few metres of walking on that was annoying enough to make me switch to the narrow footpath to the side of the road.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Cobbled Road

I went to the old town centre to search for some food. Almost everything was closed except a small supermarket, that looked like a convenience store, and a Hesburger. Hesburger is like a Finnish version of McDonald’s. It actually outsells McDonald’s in Finland and the Baltic states. As options were running low, I settled on the €1 Cheeseburger. It was as disgusting as I thought it’d be.

I grabbed some supplies from the convenience store/supermarket. I didn’t want to eat another cheeseburger the next day. Most groceries were reasonably priced, which was great for the budget. The old town did have a certain charm about it, but it was also a little boring. At the time I thought it could be because it was night and many things were closed.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Empty Streets During the Day
Maybe it’ll be a bit more lively during the day, I thought. It was not.

Exploring the Old World Charm of Vilnius by Day

I was struggling to get myself out into the cold, but I really wanted to see the city. Just as I was ready to go, it started snowing! I wasn’t going out in that, so I decided to stay inside a bit longer. I ventured out about 20 minutes later to find not one trace of the recent snow anywhere. Where did it go? Did I imagine it was snowing? No, I’m 100% sure it was snowing. Obviously snow works in mysterious ways incomprehensible to the mind of a warm weather person.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Where's the snow?
Where’s the snow?

Magic snow aside, the cloudy skies seemed to accentuate the beauty of some of the buildings. But they didn’t seem to do much for the mood of the locals. I’m quite used to people being friendly and approaching me wherever I travel. Things were a little different in Lithuania. People just didn’t seem to want to talk. I mean, they would interact with me if I asked for directions, but they’d give the shortest answer possible. They would constantly look like they were uncomfortable with the situation and waiting for any opportunity to get out of it.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Cloudy Sky

This happened with just about every Lithuanian I tried to engage with. All except the smoking lady at the bus station. She never actually spoke to me but her interactions with others were quite hilarious. She shamelessly interrupted conversations smokers were having with their friends to get a cigarette.

The hilarity leveled up when she approached a smoking tourist. She didn’t speak English, so she just stood near the tourist and his friend. Then she started nodding her head and looking at them while they were talking. When they stopped to look at her, she pointed to the guy’s smoke and put her hand out in a ‘give me’ kind of fashion. Needless to say, the poor guy was a bit dumbfounded and handed her a cigarette. He then watched her walk off towards her next victim.

Street Art

I’d heard that a famous political mural with Trump and Putin kissing was near where I was staying. I wanted to find it! Of course, things didn’t quite go to plan. All I had was a street name, so I found that street. The mural was nowhere to be seen. I did find some other art along the way.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Street Art

That mural was right across the road from this interesting statement hung on the side of a train..
K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Train Statement

Was it a sign of a dystopian future? Or are the people of Vilnius really not able to express opinions after 10pm? It would explain their stoic demeanors and standoffish ways. Anyway, back to the art. Once I’d given up on finding the famous mural, I came across this in a back street.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Alien Street Art

If it hadn’t been for this, I’d have never noticed the drainpipe next to it. The thing I had been searching for was there. Sort of.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Putin Trump Mural Sticker

As I couldn’t find the original, this was the closest I’d get to seeing it. Then I spotted an embroidered car. I wondered, how many months would that take to make?

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Embroidered Car

The last arty thing I spotted, while not strictly street art, was still cool. What’s the best way to make something stare-worthy? Use coloured lights!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Light Art

Bernardine Park/Bernardinų sodas

On the west banks of the Vilnia River lies Bernadine Park. It has an interesting history that has seen it closed and reopened under different names by different regimes. These days it’s mainly full of manicured beds of flowers and fountains. From there you can access two historical monuments. The Trys Kryžiai or Three Crosses and the Gediminas Castle Tower.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Three Crosses K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Gediminas Castle Tower

I had intended to climb the hills for both of these. The path to The Gediminas Castle Tower from the Bernadine Park was closed for repair. This was also the path that was needed to access another path that led to the Kalnų Parkas and the Three Crosses. That meant that both required a longer walk around the outside of the park to reach their other access points. So I chose to just do the castle tower as it was rapidly approaching sunset.

Experience the Old World Charm of Vilnius – Gediminas Castle Tower at Sunset

The tower is actually a part of the Lithuanian National Museum, the main building of which is a few minutes walk from the tower. The path up to the tower is short, but steep.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Path to the Gediminas Castle Tower

A lot of the path is cobbled too, which makes it a little bit more difficult to navigate. I guess that’s why a funicular has been built to take people to the top of the hill for €1, or €2 for a return trip.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. City View From Gediminas Castle Tower

You can see almost the whole city from the top of the hill. I’ve got to admit that it was a pretty amazing view. The top of the hill was very windy. It was already quite cold without the wind. So you can imagine how difficult it was to take pictures with numb hands. But I just had to get a shot of this amazing sunset!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Sunset View From the Gediminas Castle Tower

Experiencing the Old World Charm of Vilnius at Night

Winter in Lithuania brings about an early sunset. So it starts getting dark before 5pm. The cold seems to really kick in after the sunset too. But that didn’t stop me from checking out the city after dark. Well, that and the fact that I was on the other side of the city from my accommodation and had to walk back.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Vilnia River

The river looked so pretty and peaceful after sunset, even though there was a main road running either side of it. It actually looked quite amazing at dusk.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Vilnia River After Sunset

I walked alongside the river for as long as I could, before heading back into the city via an intersecting road. It wasn’t long before I came upon another park, so it seems like there’s a fair amount of green spots in the city.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Lights in Park

This park was lit up with lights that changed colours at intervals. You don’t want to know how much time I spent staring at them! Let’s just say that I was so distracted by the lights that it took me a while to realise that there was an ice rink right behind me. Complete with a disco ball!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Old World Charm of Vilnius. Ice Skating at Night

Luxury Bus

Once it was time to leave Vilnius, I got myself a €16 bus ticket to Riga. I was not at all happy about paying that much for a 5 hour trip. But I guess that’s just par for the course in Europe. I remember wondering, when I purchased the ticket, what was so special about this bus? Was there a reason it cost so much?

Well, it was the most luxurious bus that I took in all of the Baltics. Or anywhere for that matter! The seats were roomy and comfortable. The heating was set at just the right temperature. And there was a hot drinks machine that dispensed coffee, hot chocolate and tea! I tried to drink €16 worth of tea, so I think I got my money’s worth!

Stay tuned for the continuing adventure in Latvia and in the meantime check out our list of free things to do in Vilnius.

Check out all the destinations visited on this trip –
Vilnius
Riga
Tallinn
Helsinki
Kemi
Oulu

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