Tour of Latvia and Lithuania (starting out from St. Petersburg)
A Cultural tour of Riga (Latvia) and Vilnius (Lithuania)
The Tour includes: Riga, Mitava, Vilnius, Trakai, Kaunas, Klaipeda, Liepaja
From the 15th century the two states of Lithuania and Poland were a commonwealth but over the course of the next two centuries, both Poland and Russia became military threats to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. By 1795, Lithuania was under total Tsarist Russian rule and despite numerous rebellions for independence, Lithuania remained oppressed by the Russians and then Soviets until 1991.
Under Soviet rule the Lithuanians suffered terribly until 1991 when Lithuania, together with Estonia and Latvia, finally gained freedom from Communist rule - freedom taken for granted by those of us living on ‘this Sceptred Isle’. . . Vilnius was fortunate to escape war damage during World War 2 so Vilnius’ uniquely rich architectural heritage remains mainly intact and beautiful.
Lithuania endured all the major historical events of the 20th century Europe: both World Wars and the dramatic Collapse of Communism in 1989 which led to independence and subsequently joining NATO and the EU in 2004.
Day 1, Wed
Transfer to 4* Hotel Europa Royal Riga (all rooms with en suite bathrooms and baths)
Riga, UNESCO World Heritage Site (population 642,000) One of the Hanseatic League ports, the capital of Latvia situated on the Daugava River dates from 1201 and remains the most beautiful of the Baltic cities with a stunning skyline of gothic church spires and medieval towers, reflecting a confluence of cultures and religions in Latvia’s rich history.
Enjoy a walking tour of Riga - European Capital of Culture (2014). Tour to include the picturesque Alberta Street, famed for its stunning colourful Art Nouveau buildings. See St. Jacobs’ Church, and the food market — the largest covered market in Europe dating from 1922 (mainly built from disused German Zeppelin hangars).
Dinner in Benjamin’s hotel restaurant. Stay overnight in Riga
Day 2, Thurs
Breakfast and checkout and drive south (2 hrs) to Mitava to see the magnificent 140 room Rundale Palace built by the architect Rastrelli whose buildings are so characteristic of St. Petersburg (the Winter Palace, in particular).
Rundale Palace was built by the Russian Tsarina Anna (1730–1740) for her lover Count Biron. The interiors of the 18th century Palace are richly furnished and embellished with paintings, chandeliers and works of art (largely funded by the Headley Trust — The Sainsbury Family Trust).
Lunch close by
Drive to Vilnius (2.5 hrs)
Check in 4* Hotel Europa Royale Vilnius
An orientation walk in the nearby streets, time permitting
Dinner at Hotel restaurant
Optional: Visit to the Opera
Stay overnight Vilnius
Day 3, Fri
Walking day in Vilnius’ Old Town viewing all the highlights of the city, which was nominated European Capital of Culture in 2009. Undamaged during WW2 the city is testimony to its unmatched architectural heritage — unique in central Europe. The heart of the city is intact (except for the entirely destroyed Jewish district). Enjoy the fusion of charming medieval, gothic and the baroque architecture lining attractive cobbled streets. See Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Orthodox churches representing cultures, nationalities and religions since 14th century. Also, see the fine University buildings dating from 1579.
Lunch in the Old Town
Optional: Ballet/Opera at Vilnius Opera House (built 1974)
Stay overnight Vilnius
Day 4, Sat
Breakfast and checkout and Drive (1,30 hrs) to Trakai National Park, a vast forested nature reserve with countless lakes. The dramatic 14th century Trakai Castle itself is set on an island and was the summer residence of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania.
Lunch in Trakai
Afternoon: Drive to Pajaislis Monastery (founded in 1662). The monastary has remarkable architectural features as well as impressive frescoed interiors. Napoleon based his army here and during 19th century the church became Russian Orthodox (under Russian domination of the Lithuania) and later under the Soviet authorities, the church was used as an archive, a hospital and finally an art gallery. At present, the Monastery has become an active place of worship.
Drive to Kaunas
Check in 4* Hotel Europa Royale Kaunas
Dinner at Hotel Restaurant
Stay overnight Kaunas
Day 5, Sun
Walk through the historic heart of the Old Town of Kaunas - see the 14th century fortification: Kaunas Castle, Vytautas’ Church and the gothic Kaunas Cathedral and the 19th Century Russian Orthodox neo Byzantine church of St. Michael the Archangel.
Lunch in Old Town
See the Museum of Western Art - which shows many works donated since 1991 by Lithuanian oligarchs.
Day 6, Mon
Breakfast and checkout and drive (2 hrs) to Klaipeda (formerly Memel) — the eastern Baltic’s most important ice free port dating from early Teutonic times. Described in the Encyclopædia Britannica (1815) as "the finest harbour in the Baltic", Klaipeda prospered during the 18th Century from its immense timber trade, also exporting corn, hemp and flax but mainly vital timber for the Lithuania Royal Navy (imports were salt, iron and herrings). Today, industry thrives from the gigantic Soviet-built port and related industries. The heart of the city remains intact and still contains many charming timbered buildings.
Klaipeda City tour
Drive (1.5 hrs) to Liepaja, another important, ice-free harbour since early settlement times. In the Soviet era (1918–1991), Liepaja was a secret military base but has since reopened as a trading port.
Liepaja City tour
Tea/coffee break (at your own expense)
Drive to Riga (2.5 hrs)
20:00, arrive Riga and check in to hotel
Day 7, Tue
Breakfast and check out
Visit to the Art Museum Riga Bourse (opened in 2011) in the Art Nouveau centre of Riga — a grand 19th century 'palazzo' with ornate interiors - which exhibits silver, Meissen porcelain and Western European art.
Visit to the Museum of Soviet Occupation — a small but well stocked museum that shows the extreme soviet measures taken against the suppressed Lithuanian population in the period 1940–1991. Established in 1993, this moving exhibition shows up the successive occupations by the USSR in 1940, by Nazi Germany in 1941 and then again by the USSR in 1944. The visit will encapsulate much of the history of the whole tour.
Transfer to the airport
The cost of the Latvia and Lithuania Tour is available on request, as it depends on the number of guests and the date of the tour. We are also happy to arrange tailor-made tours for you to one or more of the Baltic countries. Please contact us to discuss your preferences.