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The best of the Baltic summer sun

The Baltic coastline ranges from wild, windswept pine-fringed dunes lined by forest to long stretches of calm, white sandy beaches.

Yet somehow it remains pristine, uncrowded, and cheaper than much of Europe. It could be the region’s low population density, it could be the fact it’s off the typical Eurotrip path. Whatever the reason, right now the so-called ‘Baltic Riviera’ is a savvy summer destination.

A swan swims up to the Trakai castle, Trakai

A swan swims up to the Trakai castle, Trakai

Trakai, Lithuania

Built on water in a national park of the same name, Trakai is unlike other cities. It sits on a strip of land between two lakes, with a whimsical, red-brick island castle whose terracotta-tiled turrets provide views of the forest for miles around. During summer you can hire a sweet little primary-coloured rowing boat and take yourself to the castle, or explore more of the calm, navy waters. You can also sail, fish, hike, or cycle around the protected marshlands and rolling hills.

Medieval winding lanes and squares in Tallinn

Medieval winding lanes and squares in Tallinn

Tallinn, Estonia

You’ll quickly tell that Tallinn was a medieval town, as you move through winding lanes and cloistered yards past aged houses and churches. Its historical relics are well-preserved, there’s a strong cultural scene, and there is greenery everywhere. Even though it’s the capital, the ambience is as breezy and cheerful as a small town, particularly in summer.

There's a strong cultural scene in Tartu

There's a strong cultural scene in Tartu

Tartu, Estonia

Come summer, Tartu’s cultural scene becomes even more lively than usual, with festivals and performances celebrating everything from street art to jazz. Take a sunny walk over the Angel’s and the Devil’s bridge to explore the peaceful Old Town and visit the town square to see its salmon-coloured town hall.

Parnu's beautiful, long stretch of sandy coastline

Parnu's beautiful, long stretch of sandy coastline

Parnu, Estonia

Known as Estonia’s Summer Capital, Parnu is a popular Estonian seaside resort with a delightful Old Town and a long stretch of sandy coastline. Visitors first arrived in the 19th century, following the opening of the town’s first beach health spa. These days, nature and nurture are inextricable in Estonia, so wellness is very much a part of a visit. Even if for you, that just means lounging on the beach and relaxing on a café terrace.

The Venta waterfall shrouded in mist, Kuldiga

The Venta waterfall shrouded in mist, Kuldiga

Kuldiga, Latvia

The main attraction in Kuldiga is the Venta Rapid, a magnificent, wide waterfall on the River Venta as it heads to the Baltic. It’s just outside the town, is easy to get to, and is absolutely blissful on a summer afternoon.

Riga, capital of Latvia

Riga, capital of Latvia

Riga, Latvia

Riga, Latvia’s capital, meets the ice-blue Baltic Sea at the mouth of the River Daugava. It’s known for its architecture and cultural prowess, and for its historic and art nouveau buildings, as well as for its cosmopolitan nature. And given that half of Latvia is made up of preserved ecosystems, there is plenty of unspoilt scenery to enjoy in warm weather, not far outside the confines of the city.

Take a day trip from Tallinn to Haapsalu

Take a day trip from Tallinn to Haapsalu

Haapsalu, Estonia

Haapsalu makes for a great summer day trip from Tallinn, or a stop off on the way to the Baltic islands. Historically, it was an important retreat for the Russian tsars and members of the elite, including Russian composer Peter Tschaikovsky. These days it’s lost its exclusive luster but in exchange boasts a pleasant, rustic charm. You’ll find fascinating architectural relics of the Soviet era and a beautiful, wooden Old Town that includes a promenade lining the bay. But the main attraction has to be the 13th-century Haapsalu Castle.

**Booking.com defined the Baltic States as Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Destinations chosen had to be within those three states. Destinations were chosen based on their recommendation score for ‘summer’. Destinations needed to be more highly-recommended for summer than they were for any other season.

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