VILNIUS: BAROQUE JEWEL WITH A HUNDRED CHURCHES
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania. It is located in the south-east of the country, more than 300 km from the sea. It is recognisable by its many Baroque structures. It is a very green city where it is pleasant to live in its historic districts. Vilnius also has its own city, the business centre of Šnipiškės, where skyscrapers stand next to 19th century wooden houses. It is a very cosmopolitan city, and in previous centuries it was home to one of the largest Jewish communities on the continent. Today, Polish and Russian minorities account for just under a third of the population.
Its university is among the oldest in Eastern Europe and is a must for lovers of libraries and Harry Potter atmospheres. Have you heard of the independent Republic of Uzupis? Founded in 1997 by a group of artists, it is still one of the smallest autonomous institutions in the world with its own constitution (which you can read on its walls, largely decorated with street art) and its own currency.
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RIGA: CAPITAL OF ART NOUVEAU
Riga is the capital of Latvia and is also the largest of the Baltic states. It is crossed from north to south by the wide Daugava River which flows into the Baltic Sea. The famous beaches of the seaside resort of Jūrmala are located 25km from the city.
Riga is a city unlike any other and each district has its own character.
On the right bank, the Vecrīga (Old Riga) district reminds us of the city’s medieval past with its cobbled streets, numerous squares and churches. Behind its historic facades, numerous restaurants invite you to taste contemporary Latvian cuisine.
Continuing on to the neighbouring Centrs district, separated from the old town by large parks and a canal (the starting point for a nice cruise), one discovers the daily life of the locals sitting on the terraces of trendy cafés. Around Alberta Street, you will notice a very rich and elegant architecture dating back to the pre-war period, the Jugendstil (equivalent to art nouveau in German). In all, more than seven hundred art nouveau buildings were built between 1899 and 1914, a world record.
The hipster district of Riga is located around the Tallinn courtyard, a former ambulance depot that has become a paradise for street art lovers. In the evening, you can find the Latvian youth in the numerous bars and around the food trucks while listening to the latest local DJs.
A little further on, you can see the skyscrapers of Skanste, the city in the making of Riga, where luxury flats and high-class offices (finance, IT) are located.
On the other side of the river, you can easily spot the National Library of Latvia, an impressive 68-metre high liner. Nearby, the wooden houses dating from the Russian imperial era in the Kalnciema district host exhibitions, workshops and wine bars. Numerous concerts are held here in summer.
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TALLINN: PEARL OF THE MIDDLE AGES AND CRADLE OF START-UPS
Tallinn’s wealth is based on its strategic position on the Gulf of Finland, which made its port one of the key points of the Hanseatic League. Today it is one of the most popular cruise destinations on the Baltic Sea.
The Old Town consists of two parts: Toompea (Upper Town), the seat of power that dominated the rest of the city with its castle and Orthodox cathedral, and All-linn (Lower Town), which was then controlled by the merchants from the town hall on the Old Town Square and where you can find such wonders as the oldest still functioning pharmacy in Europe (1415) or the Black Heads House, the seat of an old merchant guild established in the 14th century.
Lovers of Baroque architecture will appreciate Kadriorg Castle, built by Tsar Peter the Great in honour of his wife Catherine. Today it houses the foreign department of the Estonian Museum of Art (KUMU).
Just a short walk from the Old Town, Telliskivi is the city’s trendy district with its many cafes, bars, restaurants, designer shops and museums.
Tallinn is also a modern city that has even become one of Europe’s leading technology hubs. It is the home of many innovative start-ups in the past (Skype) as well as today (Bolt, Wise), so it is no coincidence that Tallinn is home to NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence.
HELSINKI: THE CAPITAL OF THE AGE
Finland is known for its outstanding quality of life and Helsinki is a perfect example. It is a modern, green city that prioritises the daily well-being of its inhabitants and yet is dedicated to ensuring good quality housing and public transport – with an eye always on environmental issues.
A young city whose present appearance only emerged in 1809, Helsinki lived under Swedish and Russian rule until 1917, when Finland declared its independence.
Spread out on a peninsula surrounded by 315 islands, Helsinki is a merchant port open to the Gulf of Finland – a city strongly characterised by the presence of water.
The architecture of Helsinki is very interesting. The city has several works by the famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. You will have heard of Finlandia House, the concert and conference centre where in 1975 the Helsinki Accords were signed, which led to major advances in the recognition of human rights.
It is an open and international city, with more than 140 nationalities among its inhabitants. It is a city that is always looking to the future, paying great attention to technological development and environmental conservation. Its city centre has become completely pedestrianised and Helsinki wants to ban cars by 2025 and become carbon neutral by 2035!
Entourée par les eaux profondes de la mer Baltique, Stockholm est une ville surprenante et chacune des 14 îles qui la constituent présente une nouvelle facette de la capitale suédoise.
Que ce soit les rues pavées de la vieille ville (Gamla Stan), le quartier hipster de Södermalm, la forêt urbaine de Djurgården, le célèbre hôtel de ville de Kungsholmen, les boutiques raffinées de Östermalm ou le centre-ville animé de Norrmalm, où que votre regard porte il rencontre l’eau. Une excursion en bateau s’impose naturellement pour visiter l’archipel de Stockholm et une de ses îles.
La population suédoise, et celle de Stockholm tout particulièrement, est une société tolérante, inclusive et ouverte sur le monde extérieur. Même la monarchie suédoise (dynastie Bernadotte) est considérée comme la plus moderne du monde. Elle est très présente dans la ville, avec ses 2 palais majestueux.
Ville innovante et avant-gardiste, Stockholm mise de plus en plus sur l’innovation technologique et abrite un nombre croissant de start-ups tel Spotify – dont la densité est telle que seule la Silicon Valley peut rivaliser. Hammarby Sjöstad, un écoquartier situé dans la périphérie sud-est de Stockholm, est considéré comme une référence mondiale dans le domaine des solutions écologiques appliquées à l’urbanisme.
Ville jeune dont l’aspect actuel ne surgit qu’en 1809, Helsinki a vécu la domination suédoise et russe jusqu’en 1917, quand la Finlande a déclaré son indépendance.
Étalée sur une presqu’île entourée de 315 îles, Helsinki est un port marchand ouvert sur le Golfe de Finlande – c’est une ville fortement caractérisée par la présence de l’eau.
L’architecture de Helsinki est très intéressante. La ville compte plusieurs œuvres du célèbre architecte finnois Alvar Aalto. Vous aurez entendu parler de la Maison Finlandia, le centre de concerts et de congrès où en 1975 furent signés les accords d’Helsinki qui permirent des avancées majeures sur la reconnaissance des droits de l’homme.
C’est une ville ouverte et internationale, qui compte plus de 140 nationalités parmi ses habitants. Une ville toujours tendue vers l’avenir, qui prête beaucoup d’attention au développement technologique ainsi qu’ à la préservation de l’environnement. Son centre-ville est devenu complètement piéton et Helsinki souhaite interdire les voitures d’ici 2025 et atteindre la neutralité carbone en 2035 !
Danes are among the happiest people in the world. When you visit Copenhagen and the surrounding area, you will immediately understand why. The capital combines cultural riches and modern architecture with an eco-friendly lifestyle and creative and original gastronomy.
Indeed, the new Nordic cuisine has made Copenhagen one of the world’s gastronomic capitals. It boasts no less than 15 Michelin-starred restaurants, while offering many organic dining options in all price ranges.
The centre of Copenhagen is one of the greenest, cleanest and most sustainable urban centres in the world, where cycling has a natural place as a means of transport. However, the city does not neglect public transport, which is particularly plentiful and efficient here. And as the city is a port, you can take a refreshing dip in its waters. Copenhagen is a city on a human scale, which makes it a very easy place to explore.
Here, the morning ballet of cyclists is more like a fashion show on wheels. Few people manage to combine natural freshness, respect for simplicity, and understated beauty as well as the Danes. These principles form the basis of Danish design, which can be seen in its architecture, furniture and lighting, ceramics and glassware.
As Denmark’s monarchy is the oldest in the world, there are many and varied historical testimonies to this in the capital.