When thinking of Digital Nomad hot spots, one doesn’t typically think of The Baltics. Well, think again! The Baltics (AKA the countries bordering the Baltic Sea on continental Europe: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) are no longer tied to images of Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia. They are developing rapidly, embracing everything modern, and fast becoming the it-place for tourism in today’s Europe. Because of this, The Baltics are a fabulous place for digital nomads to set up shop for a while, be it a few days, a few months, or even years.
I visited The Baltics last September 2016, over the time span of just under two weeks. I regret having so little time to spend in this part of Europe, but I made the most of what I had. I also only focused my time in the three main cities: Vilnius, Lithuania; Riga, Latvia; and Tallinn, Estonia, with one side tour into the more rural areas. For any digital nomad thinking of spending time in The Baltics, you will most likely be basing yourself in one of these three main cities. Just from a logistics perspective, living in a major city gives you the best chance of having reliable internet service, as well as a lively international social scene.
[If you just want to see a bunch of beautiful pics of The Baltics, check out my photo diary from my two weeks there!]
So let’s get into the solo female digital nomad’s guide to The Baltics, city by city:
When you tell a fellow traveler you’re about to embark on a trip to The Baltics, you will most likely meet with a wide array of opinions. “Oh, Tallinn is the best, don’t even bother going to the other two.” “Riga is so much more interesting than Tallinn, I would spend all of my time there.”
Vilnius never seems to get much love, neither online while doing research, or in person during hostel common room chats. So imagine my surprise when Vilnius turned out to be my favorite of the bunch!
Why did I love Vilnius so much? The quaint, winding cobblestone streets couldn’t have hurt. A bevy of beautiful, modern cafes in which to get my work done certainly endeared me to this charming city. And it absolutely helped to have a studio Airbnb all to myself. Perhaps it was the rapidly changing fall colors, the vegan and vegetarian restaurants, or maybe all of the above. Though I can’t pin down exactly what I loved most about Vilnius, I am excited to share with you my recommendations of things to do, places to eat, and coffee to drink.
Where to Stay:
As I mentioned above, I stayed in my own little studio apartment in Vilnius, which I booked via Airbnb. After taxes and other fees, it ended up being $33 per night. As a solo female digital nomad, I am fronting the bills entirely myself. Obviously, it would be less of a financial burden if I was part of a couple ($16.50 per night to share a studio sure does sound great), but finding cheap Airbnb accommodations for one is entirely possible in The Baltics. I went the studio apartment route because, as a traveling introvert, I need time occasionally away from other people. Especially while working, if I stayed in hostels every single time, I would go crazy. Plus, most apartments will have reliable WiFi (make sure to check reviews before booking!) so your accommodation can double as a workspace.
What to Eat:
Vilnius is chock full of delicious food. From traditional Lithuanian grub to modern donut shops, you will find what you’re looking for. As food is an important part of traveling for me, I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity and wealth of good food to eat in Vilnius.
Namai was right around the corner from my Airbnb, and I was so pleased to stumble upon it after a long bus ride from Poland to Lithuania. At the time I was a Vegetarian, and Namai served up some delicious meat-free meals. It felt a bit like someone’s home, in that you could eat at the counter and watch the chefs at work. I also had a chance to chat with the woman who runs Namai, who was so pleasant and helpful in giving suggestions for places to go.
Hands down the best donuts I had in my entire time traveling as a solo female digital nomad. With flavors like salted caramel and lucky charms, these donuts were NOT playing around. Add a beautiful, bright space in which to take multitudes of Instagrammable pics? Um, I was downright giddy. I’m not ashamed to admit it. If you love donuts, you must go here when in Vilnius.
Another great vegetarian restaurant in Vilnius. This one errs more on the side of unhealthy vegetarian meat-substitute dishes. But wonderful if you need some good old fashioned, meat-free comfort food.
For more restaurant suggestions, I recommend the website Kur.
You know I love a great cup of coffee, and coffee shops are where I get most of my work done as a digital nomad. There are plenty of cafes to check out in Vilnius, but I only have a few to recommend. Mostly because I found one I loved and I stuck with it.
Yes, I fell in love with Strange Love. The bright, blank interior was the perfect setting for me to write in. The coffee was well-sourced and delicious, and just look at this latte art:
I can highly recommend everything I tried there: from espresso drinks to pour over brews, and pastries to croissant sandwiches.
I had one cup of coffee here on my last day in Vilnius, and it was delicious! Not much seating to be had, but a great place to relax with a book and a delicious cappuccino.
Kind of the ‘Starbucks’ of Lithuania, Coffee Inn has all the fun, festive flavors you would expect from a chain coffee shop. And the coffee is actually really good! As it was fall when I visited, I tried the Coffee Inn version of a Pumpkin Spice Latte and it was surprisingly not as syrupy as the Starbucks version, and autumnally delicious.
What To Do
Wander the winding streets
One of my favorite activities to do anywhere, but bonus points for winding cobblestone streets in Vilnius’ old town area. Just watch out for construction! When I was there, half of the streets were construction zones (meaning, dirt ditches instead of roads).
Walk along the river
The Neris River cuts through Vilnius. On my walk along the river, I didn’t pass a single soul, which was mildly disconcerting. Probably because I went in the middle of a weekday. I imagine the river is more populated on weekends in nice weather.
See a Movie @ Pasaka Cinemaboutique
I love independent movie theaters, and this one looks especially interesting. Playing films from around the world, including popular American movies, seeing a movie here is a great idea for one of those rainy Baltic days. I didn’t end up seeing anything here, but I went inside to ask if they showed movies in English, which they do. You’ll want to make sure (in any non-English speaking country at any rate) that the particular showing you’re going to is either in English or has English subtitles.
Browse Blusos Flea Market
To be honest, I’m not sure how to tell you to get here, as I can’t find a website, and I just stumbled upon it. What I do know is that it’s in the Old Town, in a popular touristic section. So if you’re doing the above wandering of winding streets you will most likely come across this gem of a flea market!
Walk Along The Old City Wall
This dilapidated old city wall makes for some wonderful photography, especially with fun graffiti such as ‘Sing Out Your Heart.’ Also, check out the views!
Visit The Republic of Užupis
Declared an independent republic in 1997, The Republic of Užupis even has it’s own constitution and president! Like many similar artsy and hippie communities, The Republic of Užupis had its start as a Jewish ghetto. When most of the Jews in Lithuania were killed or deported during the Holocaust, other marginalized folk moved in to squat in the remaining homes. Now, of course, the area has been revitalized into one of the hippest places in Vilnius. Make sure you bring your passport for one of the most unique stamps you may ever receive during your travels!
As with almost anywhere in Europe, church hopping can be a highly rewarding architectural activity. I never went into a cathedral here, but the outsides were enough for me to admire.
I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t do much in Riga. Even though I spent the most time here out of all three Baltic cities, I mostly used the extra time to do extra work. Vilnius saw me spending most of my time wandering about, playing tourist, so in Riga, I had to put my nose to the grindstone to get some work done. Such is life as a digital nomad! Some cities just don’t get as much tourist love as others. Regardless, I lived in Riga like a true local. And I did do SOME stuff after all a girl can’t subsist solely on hostel breakfasts and the click-clack of a keyboard.
Where to Stay:
The Tree House Hostel (which I was able to book via Airbnb) ended up being one of my favorite hostels I’ve EVER stayed at, and that’s saying a lot. It was so cozy, it made leaving to go explore Riga all the more difficult. If you’re a digital nomad, you know how important (and rare) it is to find a place like that. I felt like I was staying at a bed and breakfast instead of a hostel, with fresh flowers everywhere, a cozy living space and kitchen, and a delicious free breakfast in the morning. One night the woman on-duty even baked a cake for us!
What to Eat:
There were so many cute and delicious vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Riga! Here are three that I ate at and recommend:
Raw Garden (Veg) (Note: it looks like they’ve changed their name to The Beginnings)
Exactly as it sounds, Raw Garden features plenty of raw food, and healthy plant-based dishes.
The Fat Pumpkin (V)
I ate a vegan version of a traditional Latvian dish, potato rosti, here and it was delightful!
Part cafe, part restaurant, part boutique, Galerija Istaba was one of my favorite finds in Riga. The eating area is upstairs on a catwalk around the boutique that lies below, so you can peer down at people doing their shopping. Creepy/amazing.
I loved this sleek coffee shop that also doubles as a bike shop (I think? Or maybe there’s just bike paraphernalia everywhere) Either way, the pour over coffee was amazing and I got TONS of work done here.
Serving up international darling, Illy coffee, Innocent cafe seems popular with the business lunch set. I felt a bit silly camped out with my laptop enjoying breakfast in the afternoon, but no one died and we all got over my faux pas!
What To Do:
St. Peter’s Basilica
This old basilica in the old town of Riga is probably going to be the landmark for everywhere you’re trying to go. The winding old cobblestone streets of Riga are hard to navigate, and I found myself passing by St. Peter’s at least once or twice a day. Why not take a break from work and actually go inside? I didn’t, but I’m sure it’s lovely!
Walk Along the River
Yes, another river! The river in Riga was a lot more populated than the one in Vilnius, thankfully. The leaves had just begun to change, and when the weather was nice (spoiler alert: not too often!) a walk along the river is just what you’ll need to give your poor eyes a rest from all the screen time.
Take a Yoga Class @ Tree House Hostel
Ah yes, how could I forget the best part of the Tree House Hostel? Yoga classes! These classes are popular not only with hostel-goers but with residents of Riga, too. I took a class in Latvian! And another in English.
Unfortunately, by the time I got to Tallinn, I only had a weekend to spend in the capital of Estonia. Fortunately, I met my friend Dave, who lives in Helsinki, Finland, there and we made the most out of the few days we had. Whenever Dave and I get together we mostly like to eat, so we did a lot of that!
Where to Stay:
I chose to stay in an Airbnb, as I was sharing with my friend so I knew it would be more affordable. Tallinn is the most expensive city of the three, so if I was staying by myself I would have probably chosen a hostel instead. I can’t recommend the Airbnb we stayed at, though it was in a desirable location to all the hot eating spots in town.
What to Eat:
Speaking of my favorite thing to do while traveling, the restaurants in Tallinn were certainly memorable. We stayed in the neighborhood of Telleskivi, outside of the Old Town, in what would probably be deemed the “Williamsburg” of Tallinn (every city seems to have one now). We didn’t get the chance to eat at every delicious-sounding restaurant in this area, so suffice it to say you’ll have your pick of tasty food to eat. And these weren’t only traditional Estonian spots, there were cuisines of all kinds from Latin American to Asian. Just make sure to get a reservation ahead of time, because most of these spots book up quickly!
After wandering around from place to place trying to get a spot (Yes, I was serious about that whole reservation thing) we snagged a couple bar stools at this French(y) bistro. Copious amounts of wine was drunk, cheese, and other delectable morsels that come to mind when you think of French cuisine were eaten. Highly recommend!
An immensely popular spot, my friend and were able to get a reservation in the highly desirable 10PM slot. It was worth the late dinner, though, because of the buzzing ambiance. The food wasn’t as good as we THOUGHT it was going to be, given the hype, but it was still very tasty.
Kivi Paber Kaarid (GF)
Translating in English to Rock, Paper, Scissors, this restaurant is great for anyone with food allergies, specifically for those of you who are gluten free.
The V stands for, you guessed it, vegan! I didn’t actually eat here, though my friend had before and was eager for me to experience it. But due to us not getting reservations (sensing a theme?) we weren’t able to check it out on this go around. However, I trust my friend’s taste and feel confident in recommending it to you anyways!
Reval seemed to me to be more of a traditional Estonian cafe than the third wave coffee shops I more commonly frequent. When we went on a busy Saturday the place was packed with people enjoying a classical music performance. The coffee was excellent!
If I had to choose a favorite cafe in The Baltics out of the ones I went to, this would be it!
The interior at Renard was more my style, a sleek white space with a barber shop upstairs! They tout their slogan ‘best nordic coffee,’ and it really lived up to the name. Just be prepared to pay for your cup of excellence!
What to Do:
The Konteiner Park is, you guessed it, a Container Park! Restaurants and shops inhabit various Containers, my favorite being the cupcake shop.
Shopping at the Telleskivi Flea Market
Abandoned warehouses have been converted to shops and restaurants inside. In fact, that’s where a majority of the restaurants and coffee shops mentioned above have their home. Wander from room to room enjoying the various shops and pop-up stores. There’s also another section, beyond the Konteiner Park, with a more traditional flea market setup, pictured below.
The Old Town of Tallinn gets a lot of love from bloggers, and I immediately could see why. I mean, just look at that Medieval architecture:
Wander around, snap photos, and be sure to climb up the winding cobblestone hills for magnificent views of surrounding Tallinn.
Well, there you have it, The Solo Female Digital Nomad’s Guide To The Baltics. To SEE my adventures in The Baltics, check out this video of all my Baltics Snapchat stories.
If you want to get a glimpse of life outside of the city, consider taking the Riga-Tallinn Sightseeing Bus, like I did. You can take it either from Riga-Tallinn or the opposite way, from Tallinn-Riga. Unfortunately, there is no such bus to get from Riga-Vilnius or vice versa. You’ll have to take a bus. Check out Lux Express for a relatively pain-free ride.
Have you ever been to The Baltics? What were your favorite things to do, see, and eat? Let me know in the comments!
Happy Exploring, Wherever You Are!
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