Day 1: Vilnius - Arrivals and Welcome Dinner
On arrival at the Vilnius International Airport, you will be met by a private chauffeur for your transfer to your historic luxury hotel on Cathedral Square in the heart of the city. You will have some time to rest and enjoy your new surroundings with impressive landmarks such as the Gothic church of Saint Anne and the newly reconstructed Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. In the evening, you will meet the rest of the group and we'll enjoy a welcome dinner at a local gourmet restaurant, where we'll get a chance to know our fellow travelers and enjoy a lighthearted discussion about Vilnius and Lithuania.
Day 2: Vilnius City Tour
After a lavish, Lithuanian breakfast, we'll start our Baltic adventure with a private city tour of Vilnius, starting with the Cathedral Square and its Gediminas Tower, and continuing to the Old Town with its mixture of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical architecture. We'll visit the Vilnius Cathedral Basilica, the Gothic churches of St. Anne, St. Bernardine, and St. Michael, and the 16th-century Gate of Dawn, one of the most important monuments in the city. The gate was once part of the defensive fortifications of Vilnius and houses an icon of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, said to have miraculous powers. Our tour will end at the Bell Tower of Vilnius University, from where we'll admire some of the best views of the city. Afterwards, we'll relax over a lunch of authentic Lithuanian cuisine, and the afternoon will be free to pursue our individual interests in Vilnius.
Day 3: Trakai Castle
In the morning, we'll head out to the iconic Trakai Castle. Built in the 14th century by Duke Kestutis to please his wife Birute, whose wish was to have a home surrounded by water, the castle was the main seat of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. The castle retains its truly medieval character until today. We'll first take a private boat tour on the picturesque Lake Galve, as we admire the scenery lining the shores and views of the castle island itself. Afterwards, we'll have a guided tour of the medieval structure, with its donjon, the Ducal Palace, the interior courtyards, and the medieval knights' chambers. After a leisurely lunch, we'll continue to the shores of Kauna Lagoon, where we'll find the Lithuanian Open Air Museum, one of the largest of its kind in Europe and featuring fascinating exhibits of daily life at the end of the 18th century. After touring the Open Air Museum, we'll return to Vilnius, and the rest of the evening will be at leisure.
Day 4: Vilnius to Riga via Hill of Crosses and Rundale Palace
Today, we'll say goodbye to Vilnius, as we set out for the Latvian capital of Riga. On the way, we'll stop at the revered Hill of Crosses, where ever since the November Uprising of 1831 both Lithuanians and foreign visitors have placed over 100,000 crosses and religious artifacts. After visiting this moving sight, we'll cross the border into Latvia and visit the beautifully restored Rundale Palace, surrounded by stunning gardens and landscaped meadows. Built for the Dukes of Courland in the 18th century by Bartolomeo Rastrelli who also designed St. Petersburg’s Hermitage, the palace stands as a magnificent example of Baroque and Rococo art. We'll have a private guided tour of the palace and its gardens, then enjoy lunch on the palace grounds, before continuing to Riga. After we arrive at our opulent hotel in the heart of the city, just across from the National Opera House. we'll have some time to relax, before enjoying our first taste of fine Latvian dining at dinner at the hotel's rooftop restaurant.
Day 5: Riga City Tour
Riga is affectionately known as the "Paris of the Baltics" for its unparalleled elegance and proliferation of both medieval and Art Nouveau buildings throughout the city. In the morning, we'll start our exploration of the city with a guided walk through the Old Town's 13th century cobblestone streets, passing the grand Riga Castle, the immense Dome Cathedral, the Church of St. Peter, the Swedish Gate, and the many lovingly restored guild and merchant houses along the way. After an atmospheric lunch at an Old Town café, we'll continue with a boat tour to appreciate the city from the perspective of its canals. Afterwards, we'll venture out to the New Town, famous for its Art Nouveau architecture and its golden-domed Russian Orthodox Cathedral. After returning to the hotel, the evening will be free to further explore Riga's wonders according to our own interests.
Day 6: Sigulda
After breakfast today, we'll venture outside the city and travel back in time to the Middle Ages, as we visit the town of Sigulda. Situated in the primeval Gauja River Valley, among pristine birch and pine forests, dotted with red sandstone caves, Sigulda is home to 13th century Crusader ruins as well as the Neo-Gothic, meticulously restored Sigulda Castle. We'll have a private tour of the castle and its grounds before crossing the river to the medieval Turaida Castle, where we can learn about its interconnected history and legends surrounding it. We'll also ascend the main tower and witness spectacular views of the beautiful Turaida Reserve. In the afternoon, we'll return to Riga and enjoy another gastronomic delight, as we dine at a renowned Old Town restaurant.
Day 7: Riga to Tallinn via Parnu
This morning, we'll leave Riga and travel to Estonia's capital Tallinn, distinguished by its modern and innovative business district as much as by its remarkably well-preserved historical Old Town. En route, we'll stop at the seaside resort town of Parnu, Estonia's summer capital. Here, we'll take a guided walk past the town's 19th-century timber villas and neoclassical spa buildings to end at the wide, sandy Pärnu Beach, with its shallow waters and boardwalk promenades, as we enjoy the festive atmosphere of this popular vacation spot. We'll have an elegant spa-inspired lunch just steps from the beach, then continue on to Tallinn and check into our beautiful hotel right in the center of the medieval Old Town. In the evening, we'll celebrate the city's seamless blend of past and present with a dinner combining traditional Estonian fare and contemporary international influences.
Day 8: Tallinn City Tour
Today, we'll be introduced to the contrast of modern life pulsating within a medieval setting, as we take a guided city tour through layers of Tallinn’s tumultuous history. We'll start from the bustling Old Town, founded in the 13th century and divided into the Lower Town and Upper Town. The Lower Town has richly decorated merchant and guild houses, towering churches, and the distinctive Gothic Town Hall; the Upper Town, also called Toompea, was the seat of German landlords in the 18th and 19th centuries. We'll visit the active Russian orthodox Alexander Nevski Cathedral as well as the old Dome Church, which for centuries served the local German nobility. After some free time for lunch, we'll continue to the Petrine Baroque Kadriorg Palace, built for Catherine I of Russia by her husband, Peter the Great. We'll tour the palace and its art museum, displaying works of artists from the 16th to the 20th century, before returning to the city center to immerse ourselves in the medieval Hanseatic dining experience during dinner at a restaurant converted from a 15th century wealthy merchant's house.
Day 9: Helsinki
This morning, we'll cross the Gulf of Finland to Helsinki, the capital of Finland. On arrival, we’ll enjoy a guided driving and walking tour of the city, including the Mannerheimintie, Helsinki’s central avenue, flanked by institutions including the National Museum, the imposing Parliament House, and the Senate Square, dominated by four buildings designed by Carl Ludvig. We'll see the Esplandi Park, the Old Market Hall, the equestrian statue of Marshal Mannerheim, and the Sibelius Monument. We’ll also see the ornate Eastern Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral whose golden domes and the red-brick façade overlook the atmospheric harbor and the impressive Temppeliaukio Church carved inside solid rock. After some free time for lunch and for individual exploration of the city, we’ll take the afternoon ferry back to Tallinn, and in the evening, we'll celebrate our Baltic adventures and toast our new friends, as we share our favorite memories of the Baltic Renaissance tour during a festive farewell dinner.
Day 10: Departures
This is our last day in Estonia, and we will have arranged for your private transfer to Tallinn International Airport, according to your flight's departure time.