The Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia are gatekeepers to history, marking a line in the sand where Soviet ambition met Western democracy; two beautiful cities with turbulent pasts. An exciting tour with a historical focus, contact us now for more details.
Phil Stott Head of HistorySee all
- Russian Language
- Art & Design
- Religious Studies
- Tsarist Russia, Peter the Great
- History of the Russian Empire
- Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917
- Rise of Lenin, the Bolshevik government and Communism
- Creation of the Soviet Union
- The Great Patriotic War
- Stalin's USSR
- The Cold War
- The Fall of Communism and the Dissolution of the Soviet Union
- Developing Russian language, listening, speaking, reading and writing skills
- Learning about Russian culture in former Soviet states
We are excited to launch this tour as an alternative to Russia. This tour is for all teachers who believe Russia is a difficult sell at school, but who still want to run a trip based on the 1855-1964 Russian history course. This trip is very relevant to your studies, no visas are required, it's cheaper than Russia, the hotels and meals are of a high standard, the museums are small and well presented with descriptions in English and apart from being educational, it's a lot of fun too!
As a teacher who led a group on our inaugural Baltics school tour rather succinctly summed up: “The students left with a clear understanding that history is real life and not an abstract academic subject”. For the full interview click here.
And that's our main aim – bringing your course work to life through a tailored tour that turns concepts into experiences. Your students' new-found understanding of how Russia shaped the politics, economics and culture of huge swathes of Eastern Europe, and how her impact is still felt today in two countries which turned their back on communism and embraced Western-style democracy, will help to display the depth of influence this vast country had on others that once fell within the boundary of the seismic Soviet Union but also felt the pressure of russification long before the spread of communism.
From the moment students step inside the National Museum of Latvia in Riga on the tour’s first day, history will be brought into the present in an engaging and memorable way. The Secret Soviet Bunker in the heart of the country will remind your group of the chilling reality of where pan-European political struggle may have led humanity.
Once in Tallinn, a face-to-face meeting with a local historian or politician such as Lagle Parek - an Estonian stateswoman who served as Minister of the Interior in the first post-Soviet occupation government and who was deported to Siberia as a young child – will add a human dimension to the learning and great background for the visit to the Estonian History Museum later on your tour.
There, your group will see how a nation was shaped not by one great dictatorship but two – with the Nazi occupation during the Second World War.
Visits to the KGB Museum and the Occupation Museum will help to bookend the students’ understanding of this fascinating part of the world where political ideologies battled for supremacy and shaped the nations we see today.
It's a fascinating and thought-provoking experience for those who have been on a school tour to Russia already, to get a sense of the other side of the story. For those who haven't been to Russia and are reticent to go there in the current climate, visiting the Baltics is a superb alternative.
What is Included
- Return flights
- 1 piece of hold luggage per person
- Airport taxes and security charges
- ATOL Protection Contribution
- School group travel insurance policy
- Airport transfers upon arrival and departure with your local TCBC guide
- Experienced local TCBC guides in Riga and Tallinn for all your excursions
- Transportation to all scheduled activities by coach fitted with seat belts
- Coach transfer between Riga and Tallinn
- 5 nights accommodation at 3 or 4 star hotels
- Multi rooms for students and single rooms for teachers
- Breakfasts and dinners daily
- Guided walking tour of Riga Old Town
- Latvia National History Museum
- Salaspils Concentration Camp
- Rumbula Memorial
- Secret Soviet Bunker
- Guided walking tour of Tallinn Old Town
- Guided tour of Soviet Tallinn
- KGB Museum
- Meeting with local historian or politician
- The Occupation Museum
- Estonian History Museum
- Kadriorg Park
- Seaplane Harbour Museum
- TV Tower
- Entrance fees to all included activities
- Free staff places as requested
- 24 hour emergency contact numbers
- Donation to charity - we support the Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund and make a small contribution to their organisation from each tour that travels with us
What is not Included
- UK airport transfers
- Public transport tickets
- Gratuities for guides and drivers
- Tickets for evening activities
6 DAYS - AT A GLANCE
- Day oneArrive Riga; guided tour of Old Town and National History Museum of Latvia
- Day twoSecret Soviet Bunker, Salaspils Concentration Camp and Rumbula Memorial
- Day threeTransfer to Tallinn, guided tour of Old Town and meeting with local historian or politician
- Day fourGuided tour of Soviet Tallinn including KGB Museum and Museum of Occupation, Seaplane Harbour
- Day fiveEstonian History Museum, Park of Fallen Statues, guided tour of Kadriorg Park and Palace
- Day sixDeparture home
SUGGESTED 6 DAY ITINERARY
Below is an itinerary we believe will allow your students to discover all there is to learn about both Latvia & Estonia's rich heritage and history, and tailored to enhance their course study with particular focus on Russia 1855-1964. All our tours are fully customisable.
DAY 1 - FLY TO RIGA
Arrive in Riga and transfer to your hotel, followed by a comprehensive city tour with coach and guide, including the Victory Memorial to the Soviet Army, the National History Museum of Latvia and Riga's beautiful Old Town. Dinner at the hotel.
DAY 2 - RIGA
This morning travel to the heart of the Latvian countryside to a spa, underneath which their lies a superbly maintained Secret Soviet Bunker. Your students will benefit from an expert guide who will help their understanding of the measures taken by the political elite to protect their administration in the event of nuclear war. In the afternoon, travel to Salaspils to visit the sombre concentration camp, established at the end of 1941 18km southeast of Riga. About 12,000 prisoners went through the camp during its existence. In addition to the German Jews who perished during the construction phase about 2,000 to 3,000 people died here. Nearby is the Rumbula Memorial, the site of one of the biggest mass killings of Jews in Europe. In November, 1941 the Nazi Administration decided to destroy all the Jews imprisoned in the Riga Ghetto. 25,000 people were shot in two waves on November 30 and December 8, 1941.Dinner in a traditional Latvian restaurant in the Old Town.
DAY 3 - RIGA/TALLINN
Today travel through the Baltics by coach to Tallinn. Stop for lunch in Pärnu, the official summer capital of Estonia and popular beach resort, then continue on to your hotel in Tallinn.
After check in your guide will take you on a walk of Tallinn's truly stunning UNESCO listed Old Town, through the mazy cobbled streets and up to the Upper Old Town for amazing views over the famous red roofs below and Tallinn's busy port. On a clear day you can see Helsinki! Time will be scheduled today to meet and talk with a local historian or politician such as Lagle Parek, an Estonian stateswoman who was deported to Siberia as a child and who eventually served in the first post-Soviet government. Dinner in a restaurant in the Old Town.
DAY 4 - TALLINN
Today, your students will take a step back in time to the era of Soviet occupation where they will learn exactly how life changed for Estonians during this tumultuous time. Guided visits to The KGB Museum and the Occupation Museum will make sure they gather a better understanding of this era from the perspective of occupiers and the occupied.
In the afternoon, enjoy a visit to the impressive Seaplane Harbour (Estonian Maritime Museum) housed in hangars initially constructed as part of the naval fortress of Peter the Great in 1916-1917. You will also have the opportunity to visit Suur Tõll, the biggest icebreaker in the world, which once flew the flags of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union and also survived two world wars. Dinner in the Old Town.
DAY 5 - TALLINN
This morning visit the Estonian History Museum, which has some interesting and relevant exhibitions such as the 'Will to be free - 90 years of the Republic of Estonia' and 'Castles and pawns: German occupation of Estonia 1941-44'. Behind this museum, unbeknownst to many, lie several discarded stone statues from the Soviet period, a hidden memorial to the fallen, including two well-preserved statues of Lenin.
Following lunch enjoy a guided tour of the beautiful Kadriorg Park and Palace, an Imperial summer residence for Peter the Great built in the early 18th century in honour of the Tsar's wife Catherine I. Dinner in the Old Town at a traditional Russian restaurant including folk show.
DAY 6 - DEPARTURE
After check out, and some free time depending on flights, head to the airport for your journey home.
• For a sample Tour Schedule of this trip please click here
We're sure the itinerary we plan for you will prove to be an extensive and perfect fit for your students' needs but there is so much to see and do in both Riga and Tallinn in addition to our suggested itinerary, some of which may be more relevant to your studies. Please see below for the best of the rest. Evening attractions are listed at the bottom of the page.
The museum was established in 1993 and is dedicated to the 51-year period in the 20th century when Latvia was successively occupied by the USSR in 1940, then by Nazi Germany in 1941, and then again by the USSR in 1944.
The Latvian War museum is one of the oldest and largest museums in Latvia. It was founded in 1916 as the Latvian riflemen museum.
August 1991 marked the return to independence for Latvia and this museum explores the impact of this historic moment and the background to a momentous time in the country's history.
This venue is a project of the Museum of the Occupation and gives an opportunity for students to see the former KGB headquarters in Riga. The museum's exhibition shows the KGB's activities in Latvia and the impact they had on the everyday lives of the people who lived under its iron fist and all-encompassing control.
Riga Ghetto Museum is located in the historic area bordering the former ghetto. More than 70,000 names of Holocaust victims and a photo exhibition, focusing on anti-Semitic propaganda and the Holocaust in Latvia are set on a piece of land, covered by cobblestone taken from the streets of the former ghetto.
The foundation stone of Riga Dome Cathedral was laid on July 25, 1211. The last large-scale restoration took place in the late 19th century. It has been one of the major venues for concerts in Riga for hundreds of years.
Love chocolate? Well, enough said because if you do, you'll really love this attraction!
►The Russian Cultural Centre (website in Russian)
The centre is an eye-catching neo-classicist building. It was constructed after World War II, when Tallinn was still home to the headquarters of the Baltic Fleet. Its beautiful interior houses a large collection of navy-themed paintings.
In 1828 Nicholas I of Russia mandated the building of the sea fortress of Patarei. It was completed in 1840 and over the years it has had different functions – in 1867 it was a barracks, in 1920 a prison and since 2007, a Culture Park.
Discover hidden wonders amidst the wilderness, including Estonia's most romantic waterfall, coastal limestone cliffs, Paldiski military town, the lunar landscape of the Murru prison quarry and more. You will also have a chance to sit in the cockpit of an old Soviet army transport airplane.
During the summer season, passenger ferries make regular trips to this small island just off the coast of Tallinn. The extensive military history of Naissaar stretches back to the Tsarist era. During the Soviet era in Estonia, the island was part of a tightly-controlled border zone.
The earliest tunnels were constructed in the 1630 and offered shelter to men, ammunition and supplies but especially to hide soldiers from the enemy. It gained the name Kiek in de Kök from the ability of tower occupants to see into kitchens of nearby houses. The passages also served as observation posts to spy on opposition forces.
►Old Technology’s Shelter House (website in Estonian)
A collection of historical vehicles, agricultural equipment, roadwork machinery and firefighting equipment.
The exhibition is divided into two parts: interesting models with a long history from different countries and producers, plus the so-called nostalgic cars, vehicles used in Soviet times.
The museum showcases the country's rural architecture and way of life. The 12 farms in the museum provide an overview of how families from different strata of society lived in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. As you might expect to find in any proper village, there is a church, a tavern, a school house, mills, a fire station, a shop and fishing sheds by the sea. You can buy handicrafts, ride horses and try traditional Estonian dishes at the tavern.
Before Kadriorg Palace was complete, the Russian tsar stayed in this humble, 17th century cottage, now restored to fit his era. Peter the Great’s Cottage, also known as 'the old palace' (Kadriorg Palace being 'the new palace'), has a long and fascinating history. Alexander I and several tsars' courtiers frequented the relatively simple dwelling.
►Tallinn’s Russian Museum (website in Estonian)
This small museum on Pikk Street is dedicated to Russian culture in Estonia. They usually feature a different Russian-Estonian artist every few months or a Russian artist who spent part of their life in Estonia.
►Museum of the Popular Front (website in Estonian)
This museum on Freedom Square is dedicated to the political organisations key to Estonia’s regaining its independence in 1991. Established for the 25th anniversary of the Popular Front, it displays items that are important to understanding the course of Soviet Estonia's push for liberation.
Since its restoration in the 1980s, St. Nicholas's Church has functioned as a museum specialising in works of religious art, most famously Bernt Notke's beautiful but spooky painting Danse Macabre (Dance with Death). Exquisite altarpieces, baroque chandeliers and medieval burial slabs are also on display, while the Silver Chamber is home to stunning works by members of town's craft guilds.
The Estonian War Museum was founded in 1919. After almost half-a-century-long occupation, the museum was restored in 2001. Today, it serves as the leading military history research centre and museum, offering an overview of Estonia’s military history and recording the present-day history of the Estonian Defence Forces.
The first elections to the Riigikogu took place in 1920. Since 1922 the sessions of the Riigikogu have taken place in Toompea Castle. In 1992, when Estonia finally regained independence after 50 years of occupation, the democratic elections took place according to the constitution adopted in the summer of that year.
Great Coastal Gate and Fat Margaret's Tower were built to protect the city from the seaside, but also to impress guests arriving by sea. The Great Coastal Gate is located in the northern part of the Old Town of Tallinn near the port. In the 16th century, during the reconstruction of the gate, Fat Margaret's artillery tower was built nearby. Today, Fat Margaret houses the Estonian Maritime Museum. The Museum exhibits a remarkable collection of ship models from different eras.
►Hellemann Tower and Town Wall (website in Estonian)
The tower was named after Laurentius van der Helle, who used the plot behind the tower between 1390 and 1398. The oldest sections of Tallinn's city wall were built in the 13th century. During the next three centuries, it became one of the largest and strongest defence systems in entire Northern Europe. More than a half of the magnificent defence system has been preserved as a city wall; this includes 1.85 km of the wall, 26 defence towers, 2 gates and fragments of two front gates.
Maiden's Tower was first mentioned as early as 1373. The tower has been reconstructed several times but its unique architecture is still based on its trapezoid floor plan. Over the centuries, the edifice has been used as a defensive tower, a residential building and a cafe – some say it is still haunted. Artists Kristjan and Paul Raud have worked here; a stone plaque dedicated to them stands in the Danish King's Garden next to the Tower.
Take your pick from opera, ballet and live music concerts in both Riga and Tallinn. English language flims are also available at cinemas to give your group the chance to wind down after enjoying their day touring the cities.
Below are details of the hotels we recommend for this trip. Both benefit from a superb central location and represent an excellent standard of accommodation.
Hotel Avalon Opened in June 2007 and perfectly located on the edge of Riga's old town, this award-winning modern 4-star hotel offers 111 rooms of all configurations and free wifi throughout. The hotel restaurant is recognised as one of the best in the city and serves buffet breakfast daily. ►Hotel Avalon
Park Inn by Radisson Central Right in the heart of things, this modern recently-renovated hotel is a 5 minute walk from the Old Town. The 245 good-sized, clean rooms all have free wireless internet. A buffet breakfast is served at the on-site restaurant. ►Park Inn by Radisson Central Tallinn
Below are some handy links to help you plan your trip. If you find a broken link or have a good addition to this section, please let us know. Please note that we are not responsible for the content of any external links.
Advice from the British Foreign Office on travel to Estonia
Advice from the British Foreign Office on travel to Latvia
Vaccination information for people travelling to Estonia from the UK
Vaccination information for people travelling to Latvia from the UK
The NHS site dedicated to Healthcare abroad with handy tips and information on the free European Health Insurance Card
A wealth of information about Estonia from a geographic perspective
A wealth of information about Latvia from a geographic perspective
BALTIC MEDIA & RESOURCES
Information on what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint whether at home or when you are travelling.
How do I get more information or make a booking?
Please contact us here
Where can I find your booking conditions?
Please click here
Are flights included and what is your ATOL number?
Yes, ATOL 10834
What is your free staff ratio?
We normally include 1 free staff place for every 10 paying participants, but we are flexible with this. Please contact us for more details.
Can you arrange travel insurance?
A fully comprehensive school group travel insurance policy is included as a matter of course in all our quotes. For more information please see our booking conditions.
What is my luggage allowance?
Each airline has different policies on luggage allowance and it is best to visit your airline’s website to check the latest allowance. Below are links to airlines serving our Baltics Tour:
What are the current hand baggage restrictions?
This handy site details what you can and can't carry in your hand baggage, including current restrictions on the quantities of liquids and size and type of hand baggage allowed.
Where can I get the latest travel advice?
For the latest travel advice please visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website
Will I need any vaccinations?
Please click here for up to date travel health information provided by the NHS
What money should I take?
It is preferable to take some Roubles with you to Russia which are now easy to get a hold of in the UK. This will save the whole group needing to withdraw money on arrival, although ATM’s are not difficult to find. Credit cards can be used in many shops nowadays also.
What is the current exchange rate?
Please see this handy currency converter for the latest rates
How much should we budget per day?
All breakfasts, dinners and entrances are included, so you will only need additional money for lunches, souvenirs and snacks. We suggest allowing around £5-£10 per person per day to cover the lunches, snacks and bottled water.
Do we need to tip anybody?
We ask that you recognise the service you receive from your local guides and drivers. We will provide you with a gratuity guideline in our quote.
Are there any hidden expenses?
Never. Our aim is to include as much as possible in our quotes so you can work out exactly how much money your students will need on tour. There will be no hidden costs - everything will be explained clearly beforehand. There are, however, some items we cannot include this far in advance, for example tickets for evening activities, as these are dependent on schedules and ticket availability which we usually will not know until two months before departure. Nearer your departure time we will look at all the options for your group and inform you of ticket prices. The only other items your students will need extra money for on tour will be their lunches, snacks and any souvenirs they may wish to buy. Gratuities are not included, but we suggest you collect this money in advance of departure.
Do you organise UK airport transfers?
Yes we do. Just let us know of this requirement at the outset.
How will we get around?
You will have the use of a coach fitted with seat belts for your scheduled excursions outside of the city and when transferring between Riga and Tallinn. There are no subway systems in Latvia or Estonia and you mostly be walking or occasionally taking a tram when visiting sites in and around the Old Towns.
What is the time difference between the UK and Estonia/Latvia?
Both are GMT +2hrs
Do I need to take an adaptor plug?
You will need to take a two pin adaptor plug
What clothes should we bring?
If your tour takes place during Easter or over October half term, the weather can be unpredictable. It's advisable to pack a good warm coat, hat, scarf and gloves, plus a water proof jacket and sensible shoes. If you are travelling between December and February then we advise you to take those thermals with you. February is generally the coldest month and the thermals will be well used, but the best way to beat the cold is layers, layers, layers. Remember you are likely to be outside a great deal so it's important to bring the correct clothing.
Summers can be surprisingly warm so it is possible to pack lighter clothing, however always be prepared for the rain. Again, sensible footwear is essential.
Will there be hairdryers in the rooms?
Some hotels do provide hairdryers, but they won't be of the standard you are used to back home. We suggest you bring your own, and to save on luggage space and weight, it's best to get together with your room-mates and bring one hairdryer per room.
Can I drink the water?
You can, but as you aren't used to it, it's better to drink bottled water. It's fine to do your teeth at the hotels using the tap water.
What will the food be like?
The food options are excellent in both Riga and Tallinn. There are many cool, modern and traditional cafés to sample at lunch time - no need for fast food! Your local guide will point out the options and make recommendations close to your lunch location and meeting point.
Breakfasts are included daily at the hotel and are buffet style with a good selection of food.
Dinners are either at your hotel or at a city centre restaurant, depending on your sightseeing programme. Hotel dinners are usually buffet style whereas dinners at a restaurant are more likely to be set menu. All cater for vegetarians and any other dietary requirements as long as we can inform them well in advance.
Checklist of essential items to bring
- Passport & visa
- Photocopies of passports
- Spending money (Euros converted before trip)
- Standard European continental power adaptor 220v
- Camera (perhaps suggest not to bring expensive video cameras)
- Hairdryers if not supplied by your hotel (one per room)
- Toiletries and travel tissues
- Medications and supporting prescriptions or letter from your GP
- Food supplements if you are on a special diet
- Small suitcase and daypack