The Baltic Sea rolls its waters on the shores of nine different countries in Central and Northern Europe. With high quality beaches recognized by the Blue Flag for sustainable tourism, and a plethora of resorts and spas, these underrated destinations across the Baltic Sea may well become the next on your travel list. So pick just one, or pick a few and prepare your own Baltic Sea tour; you’ll be swimming in a (chilly) sea of rich cultural heritage, surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty.
Want to go to the beach without leaving the city? Check out Europe’s best city beaches.
Gotland & Öland, Sweden
With 500 miles of coastline, the Swedish island of Gotland is an obvious Scandinavian vacation destination for sunbathing Swedes in the summer, but all throughout the year, the island is a charming place to visit as well. At any season in the medieval town of Visby, known as “the city of roses and ruins”, you’ll be able to choose between visiting the stone walls and cobblestone streets or the botanical garden, open year-round.
Being relatively flat, Gotland is an easy island to get around by bike, but the sights can be pretty distant from each other, so take advantage of the public bus system and ferries to reach the must-sees, like the Rauks in Fårö – ice age stone formations on the shore, or the Tofta Viking Village – a reconstructed 9th century village.
Don’t hesitate to visit the neighboring island of Öland, reputed for its natural splendor. Both islands are accessible by ferries leaving mainland Oskarshamn, but Öland has the advantage of being connected to mainland by the bridge in Kalmar. In a 20-minute car ride, you’ll be enjoying the fresh winds of Öland, as do the 350 windmills that turn here. Try kite-surfing or go hiking to UNESCO Heritage site Gettlinge, a Viking burial ground, and don’t be surprised if you run into some camels at a ranch in Äleklinta – they, too, seem to love the island’s wonderful climate.
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Jūrmala is the place to be whether you’re from nearby Riga or just looking for a lively place to spend your time off. In this beachfront strip composed of 14 townships, stay in Majori, the central town where the main beach awaits and you’ll be able to admire the famous wooden architecture or the pale blue former bathhouse. In the summer, bars and nightclubs stay open into the wee hours of the night.
You can’t miss Jomas Street, a half-mile pedestrian street lined with restaurants and shops, that connects Majori to the neighboring township Dzintari, known for its concert hall. A suburban train connects all the townships and leads you as far as the Kemeri National Park, a territory known for its bog of therapeutic mineral waters and mud often used at local spas and resorts.
During the months of spring and fall, if you keep a sharp eye while strolling on the beach, you might find a piece of amber or two and come home with your very own Baltic amber necklace as a souvenir of your Baltic travels.
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Curonian Spit, Lithuania
Although it may look like a tiny sliver of an island, the Curonian Spit has had its share of historical inhabitants, and continues to this day to share a border with the Russian exclave Kaliningrad Oblast. Tourists from all over flock here to admire the Parnidis dune, an ever-changing dune that rises to about 170 feet. The recently renovated sundial nearby often attracts couples and families that come to watch the sun dance on the waves of the Baltic Sea.
Many visitors choose to stay in Nida or Palanga for the resorts and abundance of summertime activities, but a visit to Klaipeda is a good cultural alternative to a day at the beach. As the oldest city in Lithuania, the city is heavy with diverse influences most notable in its “fachwerk” (timber framing) architecture of Germanic style in the Old Town of Klaipeda. See one of the largest ports in Lithuania and watch the giant Baltic Sea cruise ships float by just like the sculpture you’ll find here of a young boy waving them off with his hat.
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Åland Islands, Finland
Composed of around 6,700 islands and atolls, you should have no trouble finding your own spot of beach in the Finnish archipelago of Åland. The beauty starts the second you board your ferry from Sweden, Finland, or Estonia – the views along the ferry trip are impressive and give you a first taste of the extent of the archipelago. Mariehamn, the capital and your entrance to the rest of the main island, boasts lush nature and almost endless summer nights, perfect for a relaxing trip.
To get around to the other islands, buses are available allowing you to explore the likes of the 14th century Kastelholms slott castle, or the municipality of Eckerö where you can sit on the red-granite rocks and gaze into the Baltic Sea while sea eagles soar above. At the beach and campgrounds of the old fishing town Käringsund, dare to jump in the brisk water or enjoy the warmth of a sauna.
Note that this Finnish archipelago is known as the Islands of Peace, being that it is a demilitarized zone. It also has its own parliament, its own flag (red, blue, and gold compared to the blue and white Finnish flag), and its official language is actually Swedish!
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Ah, Rügen island, with its romantic 1920’s style Sellin pier and its white chalk cliffs. On this charming island some might call the coastal town for Berliners, it is no surprise the summer season attracts Germans trying to get away from it all. If you plan on spending your day at the beach, rent a striped “strandkorb”, a lounge chair with built in awning for strategic shade all day long.
The best view you can get of the cliffs, especially the emblematic “King’s Chair” at the Jasmund National Park, is from the two-and-a-half-hour boat ride along the Baltic Sea that leaves from the port of Binz .
Back on solid land, take a stroll through the streets of Binz to admire the typical architecture of beachside resorts, or catch the Rügensche Bäderbahn (nicknamed the Rushing Roland), the seaside steam train, and get off at Putbus. This “white town”, former residence of the Prince Wilhelm Malte I, is now open to visits and quite the attraction – a stop by the 1819 theater is a must as well as a bite of cake to eat at the Rosencafé.
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Welcome to Estonia’s summer capital, Pärnu. During the day, families find their fix on the Pärnu beach and promenade, while at night the beachfront nightclubs attract party animals from Germany, Sweden, and Finland, making it a guaranteed success for just about anyone looking for a nice trip. Other crowds come here for the wellness spas using Estonian peat, a treatment based of mud and mineral water. Although Pärnu is a hit in the summer, its winter charm attracts tourists who enjoy ice-skating and winter fishing on the Pärnu River.
Even though it is a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride, your trip around the Baltic Sea would not be complete without a visit to the neighboring island of Muhu, where traditional Estonia stands still in time. Explore the folkloric cottages, visit one of the oldest churches in the country, Muhu Church, and admire the colorful prints on the traditional clothes adorned with characteristic Muhu patterns.
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The Baltic Sea did wonders for Møn, this tiny treasure of an island. The waves crashing on the coast for thousands of years have formed the fascinating landscape that is Møns Klint – white chalk cliffs that throw themselves abruptly into the azure sea. The chillier months are great for bird-watching, admiring (not touching!) the island’s protected flora and fauna, and appreciating the clear night skies while the summer months attract impatient bathers ready to dip into waters oscillating around 72 degrees.
The peaceful charm of Møn is discernible in its single main-street cities like Stege or Klintholm Havn, often dormant in the winter months. The oldest church on the island, Elmelunde Kirke, also conceals the island’s treasures with its fresco-covered walls probably painted around the end of the 15th century as were the frescoes in other local churches.
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