From eccentric churches to singing trees, the Baltic cities are home to many hidden gems. On your Baltic cruise, you’ll get the chance to visit beautiful cities such as Copenhagen, Helsinki and St Petersburg, and while there are plenty of world-renowned attractions to explore, it’s worth taking time to seek out some of the lesser-known places. In this guide, we’ll talk you through the hidden gems of the Baltics, so you can see a different side to these popular cities.
Swim in Allas Sea Pool, Helsinki
Since opening in May 2017, Allas Sea Pool has welcomed visitors from all over the world. The attraction comprises both a cold sea pool and a more comfortable open-air pool. We were fortunate enough to speak to Pia Kaipainen of Allas Sea Pool to find out more about the idea behind this beautiful hidden gem:
“The sea pool has proved to be a much appreciated addition to the cultural environment in Helsinki. Already, the number of visitors exceeded all expectations.
“The concept of Allas Sea Pool is by no means novel, instead, it should be considered an updated version of the old historical sea spa culture in Helsinki; a social experience combined with wellness and events. For the people in Helsinki it is a welcomed opportunity to enjoy the closeness of the sea while strengthening Helsinki’s reputation as a spa profiled destination within the travel industry.
“At the moment, the establishment consists of three swimming pools, three saunas, a side-building with a roof terrace and a pavilion-like cafeteria. The main building also houses a Baltic sea-centre and additional restaurants.” Pia told us that when ready, the spa’s roof terrace will provide an oasis in the city centre, with views over Helsinki.
The whole building is made out of Finnish pine and the focus on safety, energy efficiency, pool technology, water purification and (rather importantly) winter durability, has made Allas Sea Pool a huge success. Lastly, we asked Pia why people should visit the spa during their Baltic cruise:
“Allas Sea Pool is a garden-like oasis in the heart of Helsinki with a large pool area and magnificent saunas. In addition to swimming, bathing in the saunas and also good food, Allas Sea Pool offers many options for wellness. Allas is full of events and things to do – good modern life right at the shore of the Baltic Sea!”
Check out the website for opening times and further details about dining at Allas Sea Pool.
Dine in a former prison, Helsinki
Formerly a county prison, Hotel Katajanokka has transformed a once bleak, sterile space into a beautiful contemporary establishment. It’s worth noting that although its function has changed dramatically, it’s still easy to see remnants of the building’s previous life. The oldest part of the hotel dates back to 1837 and the main section to 1888, serving as a county prison and pre-trial detention centre. The prison closed in 2002 and, following extensive restoration work, it reopened as Hotel Katajanokka in May 2007.
On your cruise stopover in Helsinki, you can visit the hotel’s spectacular Linnankellari Restaurant, serving authentic Nordic cuisine. Once the prison canteen in the building’s basement, the restaurant now serves delicious food in a truly unique environment. If this isn’t a hidden gem, we don’t know what is.
See the world’s largest collection of bottled beer, Copenhagen
Since 1968, Leif Sonne has been collecting unopened bottles of beer. His remarkable collection now includes over 22,000 bottles, and it’s housed in Copenhagen’s Carlsberg Brewery. Mr Sonne’s collection fittingly includes several early Carlsberg bottles, however the display includes bottles of beer from all over the world. This hidden gem within Copenhagen’s most famous brewery is certainly worth a look on your Baltic cruise.
Wander through a city oasis, Copenhagen
Designed by landscape gardener Jens Peer Andersen and castle architect Thorvald Jorgensen in 1920, the Royal Library Gardens are considered an oasis in the heart of Copenhagen. Blossoming flower beds and towering trees provide the perfect picnic spot, so if you’re looking from some respite from the city streets, you couldn’t find a better place. Look out for the 1918 bronze statue of Danish philosopher and poet Soren Kierkegaard, as well as the spectacular eight-metre-high copper water sculpture which shoots water into the air every hour, on the hour. You can find the gardens on Slotsholmen, an island in the harbour of Copenhagen, near Christiansborg Palace.
Marvel at Grundtvig’s Church, Copenhagen
Built in commemoration of Danish priest and poet N.F.S Grundtvig, this exceptional church is unlike any other in the country. It was the brainchild of architect Peder Vilhelm Jensen Klint, though he sadly passed away before the church was completed. His son, architect and designer Kaare Klint, finished the build in his name. Kaare Klint also designed the beautiful chairs for Grundtvig’s Church, which are made of beech wood with wicker seats, considered to be a classic example of Danish furniture design. The church is truly remarkable and worth seeking out on your trip to Copenhagen. Don’t forget your camera!
Visit Edvard Munch’s house, Warnemünde
Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, perhaps most famous for his work ‘The Scream’, spent some time in the peaceful seaside town of Warnemünde, Germany, between 1907 and 1908. Plagued with a troublesome and stressed mind, it’s said that Munch longed for a more tranquil environment. According to the Edvard Munch Haus, Munch suddenly left the town in October 1908, leaving many of his belongings behind. However his 18 months in Warnemünde touched the local residents, and to preserve his memory, his former home is now open to art enthusiasts.
Discover the Russian Vodka Museum, St Petersburg
Discover the story behind Russia’s national drink at this private museum. Leading you through the history of Russia’s international vodka industry through beautiful old bottles, and some waxworks, the Russian Vodka Museum is sure to interest any Baltic traveller. We spoke to Jeff of luxury travel magazine Travel Squire about his experience at the museum: “The Russian Vodka Museum was one of the best experiences of my trip to St Petersburg. I enjoyed seeing the evolution of vodka through the history of Russia.
“The highlight of the visit was seeing all the Russian vodka that is not distributed in the US. Also the tasting at the end with the appetizer pairing my favourite part of the visit. There is a restaurant attached to the museum where you can get many Russian specialities like Borscht and Beef Stroganoff. Travellers should plan extra time to enjoy the restaurant.”
Step into the mind of Sigmund Freud, St Petersburg
Explore the work of Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, at this bizarre attraction in St Petersburg. Occupying two rooms in the city’s Eastern European Institute of Psychoanalysis, the museum hosts two installations. The first hall is devoted to the 12 stages of personality development according to Freud, illustrated with photography and surreal paintings of his dreams. The second hall is designed to stimulate the subconscious using visual aids. Regardless of your knowledge of Freud and his work, the Dream Museum is an unusual experience that is sure to leave you deep in thought
Get creative in Estonia’s art district, Tallinn
In the heart of a former industrial complex in Tallinn’s alternative Kalamaja District, Telliskivi Creative City is the artistic hub of Estonia. Home to artist studios, creative companies, design and craft stores and artisan food producers, this is the place to go if you’re looking for Tallinn’s contemporary and creative side. Wander through the district and take in the many pieces of street art and beautiful murals and stop for some street food along the way. The district also hosts hundreds of events every year, so you’re likely to visit when there’s something exciting happening.
Sarah and Kris of JetSetting Fools were eager to visit Tallinn’s lesser-known Kalamaja District during their holiday to the Baltics. We caught up with the duo to find out what they thought of the area:
“We have only been to Tallinn once, but were intent on checking out the Kalamaja District during our visit. The hip district varies drastically from the historically-preserved Old Town and offers a glimpse into how today’s Tallinn residents are adding their own story to the city.
“Once we crossed into Kalamaja, we felt an undeniable vibe of culture and community. We enjoyed our time at Telliskivi Creative Hub where we pondered street art murals and joined locals for a craft beer at Pudel Bar. We highly recommend visitors take a break from the history-packed centre, tuck the map away and simply wander the streets of Kalamaja.”
Listen to the trees, Aalborg, Denmark
In the peaceful city of Aalborg, one seemingly typical park is hiding a tuneful secret. Visitors to the Kildeparken can listen to some of the world’s biggest artists through the trees. Over the years, musicians and bands visiting Aalborg have been asked to stop by the park to plant a tree to commemorate their visit, with Sir Cliff Richard being the first to do so in Kildeparken. Since then, around 80 artists have left their mark on the park. Now, each tree has a button which when pressed plays a song from the artist. You can hear Guns N’ Roses, Andrea Bocelli and Tom Jones blaring out of the trees in this weird yet wonderful park. The Park of Music has to be one of the most unique hidden gems in the Baltics.
Interested in visiting these spectacular cities on your next holiday? Our Baltic cruises give you the chance to explore this remarkable part of the world, with plenty of time on each stopover to really get to know the destination.