If you love exploring markets when you’re on holiday, you’ll be surprised to find just how distinctive these markets are in three Baltic countries.
From Lithuania to Latvia and Estonia, there are plenty of interesting markets, each with their own national food, drink, clothing, and designs. There are trendy markets for the fashion-conscious as well as street food vendors for foodies.
We take a look at some of the most popular examples in each of the three Baltic countries and recommend a few things you absolutely must try. The currency in each of the countries is now Euros, which makes traveling between them simple enough.
Remember to pack your camera and bring a rucksack, as there are plenty of great souvenirs and bargains to pick up.
1. Riga’s Central Market
Housed in what was originally designed as Zeppelin hangars, Riga’s Central Market is close to the main bus station and Moscow District. The site was redeveloped for the purpose of storing food, and was, in the 1930s, Europe’s largest market.
Today you can get everything from delicious Uzbek plov to Russian Olympic tracksuits, and in the summer, strawberries are sold until late at night. A new street food section opened in January, with stalls dedicated to Latvian traditional dishes such as grey peas, Russian pelmeni dumplings, Caucasian khachapuri and dolma, and hemp oil soups.
The pleasant old ladies working the food stalls are happy to speak to you in Latvian, English, or Russian, and are quite knowledgeable about their products. Take your time when walking around as there’s plenty to discover. Each section of the market has specialties from across the former Soviet Union.
In 1997 the wider area around the hangars was listed by UNESCO, and it remains a vibrant marketplace at the heart of the city’s social life.
2. Tallinn’s Telliskivi Flea Market
Telliskivi was once a thriving industrial area just a stone’s throw from Tallinn’s distinctive old town. After the industries were shut down, a group of enterprising individuals repurposed the district as a creative quarter.
Now almost 600 events take place in the district each year, and the bustling flea market opens every Saturday. There are studios, office spaces, artist residencies, and all kinds of shops.
The flea market is located at Telliskivi 60a/10 and offers a wide variety of antique goods, vintage odds and ends, clothing, books, records, and all you would expect to find at a traditional market.
The district is itself worth a visit for the singular atmosphere and animated nightlife. Many travelers don’t make it down to this former industrial area, and that’s a shame because it is a fine cultural hub.
3. Hales Market in Vilnius
This is the oldest market in Vilnius and an immense source of local pride. Most families will shop here at least once a week, and when you walk around, it is clear that this is as much a site for social gatherings as it is a place to buy your groceries.
The Horse Market, as it was called way back in the 15th century, has come a long way since then. The market now stocks craft beer, bagels, and coffee, and is a trendy hangout for the city’s youth.
We love a market with a good backstory, and Hales is no exception. The structure was designed by architect Vaclovas Michnevičius and is over 100 years old. It has witnessed Soviet occupation and liberation.
Locals say the market reminds them of the markets of Budapest and Krakow. Be sure to take some photographs of the distinct architecture, as well as the bustling interiors, and compare it to other places you have been.
This guide to the top markets in the Baltic countries is by no means complete, and there are other great markets in Tartu, Liepaja, and Kaunas. But for a first visit to the Baltics stick to the three main capitals and you won’t go wrong, there’s plenty there to explore.