A Tour of Northern European Capitals by Train

The lesser-traveled Baltic countries offer fascinating locales and beautiful cities. With vibrant, ancient traditions and new economies, these destinations make for unique European breakaway experiences.

Explore these beautiful capitals by train. With the help of a Eurail Global Pass (for European residents), this itinerary can be completed in comfort and style, without breaking the bank!


The capital of Lithuania, Vilnius, is a fascinating destination with an offbeat elegance and a unique cultural scene. Its well-preserved medieval Old Town is a bewitching ensemble of cobblestone alleyways lined with lovely 18th-century townhouses and stately churches. A free walking tour of the city is one of the best ways to discover its highlights.

While many travelers from Western Europe expect to have direct and fast train connections between the Baltic countries, this is not true. Unlike the rest of Europe, the Baltic states have old Soviet-era rail tracks with a width of 1520 mm and a maximum speed up to 90 km/h. The only solution to connect the three Baltic capitals with the rest of Europe is the new Rail Baltica project.

In the meantime, a visit to a Cold War museum is a must-do in Vilnius. The private tour includes round-trip transportation and a guide who will tell you about the secret military base that was hidden beneath the city during the Cold War. The tour also includes a visit to the Paneriai Holocaust Memorial Park and the beautiful Trakai Castle.

Another great way to get acquainted with the Baltic states is to take a hot air balloon flight. This activity can be booked in Vilnius or Trakai. Depending on the weather conditions, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the region from above. During the trip, you will be able to see the historic monuments of Vilnius from above, as well as the majestic Trakai castle and the natural lake landscape with its picturesque villages.

Alternatively, you can explore the historical sights of Lithuania and Latvia by car with the help of an experienced local guide. This tour is ideal for first-time visitors to the Baltic states and includes a range of activities, including a guided walking tour of the historic Old Town of Riga. The tour also takes you to the famous Paneriai Holocaust Memorial Park and the impressive Trakai castle, as well as the Rumsiskes Ethnographic Museum. It also offers the opportunity to try traditional Lithuanian dishes and wines.


Embark on a whirlwind tour of the Baltic shore capitals of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. In each destination, take advantage of guided walking tours that hit the highlights, as well as exploring on your own to see a less-visited side. Taste traditional Baltic wines and cheeses in Vilnius, sample local produce at Riga’s Central Market, and explore an island castle on day trips. This trip, which is operated in partnership with a trusted travel operator, strikes the perfect balance between a busy city break and relaxed solo exploration.

Your first stop is Vilnius, where you’ll wander around the Old Town — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — with its jumble of architectural styles. Renaissance and neo-classical buildings sit alongside Art Nouveau masterpieces. Afterward, make the short journey to Riga, the largest of the three Baltic capitals and a veritable kaleidoscope of styles. Founded in 1201, its medieval Old Town is a maze of cobbled alleys and soaring turrets, while the center features a magnificent spread of Art Nouveau architecture.

On the next day, leave Vilnius to visit Riga’s impressive Central Market, one of Europe’s biggest markets, built from five World War I zeppelin hangers. You’ll also have a chance to learn about the city’s history during a walk with a guide, and see the 13th century St. Peter’s Church and a portion of the city’s restored wall.

Heading north, cross into Latvia and discover the medieval castles of Sigulda and Cesis. In Riga, enjoy a private tour of the city’s historic centre with a local guide, and get to know this enchanting UNESCO World Heritage Site through its famous House of Black Heads and the famed 13th-century Riga Castle.

If you want to see more of the region, you can take a bus tour to Trakai, where the round towers of its castle are reflected in the waters of Lake Galve. You can also add a visit to the baroque Rundale Palace, which is conveniently located on the border between Lithuania and Latvia. If you’re traveling on a budget, consider taking a private transfer between the cities instead of a scheduled bus.


The three Baltic states have unique histories, alive ancient traditions and modern economies. Traveling by train is one of the best ways to experience this beautiful region and its pristine cities. The Baltic Capitals Express is a special train that connects the three Baltic capitals – Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius. It offers a convenient alternative to flights and saves time by connecting all the capitals in one week. The trains run daily and the tickets start at $25. The Eurail Global and Scandinavia passes include the train ticket. The trains have a comfortable interior and offer a variety of sleeping options including first class cabins with full-length couchettes that can be converted into two beds, and reclining seats in second class.

Begin your tour in Tallinn and explore its medieval charm, with red rooftops and round turrets. Walk through its narrow streets and visit 14th century churches and merchants’ homes, atop Toompea Hill. Observe the contrast between its upper town and lower town, where Toompea Castle houses government and town hall buildings, and the Lower Town was once a bustling Hanseatic trading center. Visit the Great Guild Hall and the 13th-century Dom Church, which showcase the city’s rich history and architecture.

Next, stroll through Riga’s UNESCO-listed Old Town with its Art Nouveau and Baroque architecture. Then, visit the ruins of the Great Choral Synagogue and admire the wooden hevra kaddisha that marks the site. During your stay in Riga, take a day to enjoy the city’s vibrant cafe culture and admire its many Art Nouveau masterpieces.

Afterwards, spend the evening in Vilnius with its Baroque splendour and color-washed houses. Then, cross the Gulf of Finland to Helsinki, Estonia’s compact capital, where neo-classical grandeur meets cutting-edge design.

While it is possible to explore the Baltic States on a point-to-point basis, using a rail pass can save time and money by eliminating the need for advance reservations. For example, you can book a seat in the second class of the Baltic Capitals Express for just $18 per trip, saving you the hassle of arranging your own tickets.


Visiting all three Baltic States is an adventure you can enjoy on an escorted tour or self-drive trip. These countries are closer than you think and offer beautiful nature, complex history, and great value. While the region’s capital cities are all worth a visit, the countryside and small towns are just as interesting. A detailed travel itinerary is key to planning a successful trip to the Baltics.

The best time to visit the Baltics is summer, when the beaches are at their peak and the capitals are at their busiest. The summer crowds aren’t nearly as bad as those at other popular destinations, but you can expect long lines at attractions and higher rates for accommodations. The winter, particularly in the lead up to Christmas, can also be a rewarding time to visit the Baltics.

If you choose to stay in the capitals during your trip, a private transfer is an excellent option for getting around. It can save you time and money by eliminating the need to deal with crowded public transportation. Private transfers can also take you to places that aren’t part of the regular tour schedule, like Hill of Crosses, Rundale Palace, and Sigulda Castle.

Traveling by train in the Baltics isn’t as easy as it is in other parts of Europe, but it still offers a convenient way to get around the country. In addition to the trains that run across the borders, there are plenty of local buses that can take you between smaller cities and towns. If you’re unsure about which type of transport to use, ask your guide or the local tourism information center for recommendations.

The Baltic States are home to beautiful and historic cities that are filled with unique architecture, interesting museums, and incredible cuisine. Many visitors choose to explore these small countries on an escorted tour that lets them experience the best of what Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have to offer. With a little bit of planning, it’s easy to see why more travelers are choosing to travel to the Baltics.

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