Baltic Sea Winter Magic in Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Latvia (15 – 21 December 2017)

Eastpackers is back with a new edition of its English language winter magic trip to some of the most beautiful cities in Northern Europe. You will not only discover Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga, but also cross the Baltic Sea on two nocturnal voyages, explore the excellent café culture and nightlife, enjoy a traditionally Latvian Christmas dinner, do some iceskating or sleighing in Tallinn and take pictures of the all-white old towns of Europe’s most beguiling winter cities. Participation is possible from only € 349 and includes all transport, accommodation (including two overnight cruises), excursions (including ice skating) & daily breakfast.

Founded by University College Utrecht students in 2008, Eastpackers has since familiarized throngs of students and young professionals with lesser known countries in Eastern Europe and the EU neighbourhood. Over 1500 young people have already visited with us the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania or countries such as diverse as Russia, Sweden, Hungary, Kazachstan, Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Turkey.

In our Baltic Winter Magic Trip, we take you on an unforgettable journey through the snow covered capital cities of four of the Baltic’s most fascinating countries: Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Latvia. Apart from city walks and excursions to the best museums, there will be meetings at the Estonian parliament and Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs about current developments and challenges in these relatively unknown countries, lots of time for winter walks in the unspoiled nature, ice skating (included in participation fee), shopping at Christmas markets, and great evenings out in the beautiful old towns.

This trip is specifically targeted at students of University College Utrecht, University College Roosevelt in Middelburg and other international students living in The Netherlands. Our dedicated tour guide, who is available 24/7 during the trip, is happy to offer tailor-made itineraries or personal suggestions. All tours and activities are in English.

More about this trip

Stockholm, the starting place of this trip, is the capital of Sweden and the most populous city in the Nordic countries, with around 1.5 people living in the urban area. The city stretches across fourteen islands in the Baltic Sea. Just outside the city and along the coast is the island chain of the Stockholm archipelago, which you will see on this trip as the ferry to Helsinki navigates its way from the city into open water. Stockholm was founded as a city in 1252 by Swedish statesman Birger Jarl.

Today, Stockholm is the cultural, media, political, and economic centre of Sweden. The Stockholm region alone accounts for over a third of the country's GDP and is among the top 10 regions in Europe by GDP per capita. It hosts the annual Nobel Prize ceremonies and banquet at the Stockholm Concert Hall and Stockholm City Hall. The city is known for its high quality of living (and admittedly high prices too), its clean air, beautiful people and great nightlife, but increasingly also for modern urban and social challenges related to multiculturalism and segregation. Clearly, the wealth of the city centre is a world apart from the daily struggles of Stockholm’s large, and ever growing, suburban communities.

When arriving from Stockholm, thoroughly planned, rational and modern Helsinki airs an altogether different vibe. Situated on the northern shores of the Baltic Sea, Helsinki is a relatively young city, which was founded only in the late 16th century. Little came of initial development plans as Helsinki remained a tiny town plagued by poverty, wars, and diseases. The plague of 1710 killed the greater part of the inhabitants and it was not until Russia defeated Sweden in the Finnish War and annexed Finland as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in 1809 that the town began to develop into a substantial city. During the war, Russians besieged the Sveaborg fortress, and about one quarter of the town was destroyed in an 1808 fire.

Russian Emperor Alexander I of Russia moved the Finnish capital from Turku to Helsinki in 1812 to reduce Swedish influence in Finland, and to bring the capital closer to St. Petersburg. This move consolidated the city's new role and helped set it on a path of continuous growth. This transformation is highly apparent in the downtown core, which was rebuilt in neoclassical style to resemble St. Petersburg, mostly to a plan by the German-born architect C. L. Engel. As elsewhere, technological advancements such as railroads and industrialization were key factors behind the city's growth. Much later, Helsinki became a magnet for international designers (clothing, jewellery and household appliances) and the city has remained one of Europe’s top shopping destinations, a clean and rational metropolis, and a good stop on our way to romantic, medieval Tallinn.

Estonia’s capital city is only a short ferry hop away (although nocturnal cruises purposefully take much longer to allow Fins some extra time for cheap drinking and dancing on board), but once again an entirely different world. Here, high rise buildings have been limited to a few dedicated business districts on the fringes of the old town. What strikes most visitors, is the quaint and almost fairytale like atmosphere in one of Europe’s smaller capital cities (400.000 inhabitants). Small, but certainly lively, Tallinn is an upbeat city, home to a future-oriented, young population of tech savvy hipsters, certainly not the grim soviet-era industrial wasteland you might expect from a place where entrepreneurship and democracy are only recent innovations.

Tallinn's Old Town is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tallinn is the major political, financial, cultural and educational center of Estonia. Frequently dubbed the Silicon Valley of Europe, it has the highest number of startups per person in Europe and is a birthplace of many international companies, including Skype. The city also houses the headquarters of the European Union's IT agency and the NATO Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. It is ranked as a global city and has been listed among the top 10 digital cities in the world. Free wifi is ubiquitous, not just in the city, but in the sparsely populated countryside as well.

Latvia’s capital Riga, our final stop on this trip, increasingly resembles Tallinn, particularly in terms of ICT innovations, perfectly managed public transportation and hipster restaurants and cultural venues. Riga, though, is significantly larger, home to over half of Latvia’s modest 1.9 million population. Increasingly, Riga soaks up all the wealth in a country plagued by emigration and an ageing population.

The city was founded in 1201 and is a former Hanseatic League member. It’s old town reminds visitors of the days that Riga was a wealthy trading city, frequently the battleground of Germanic, Swedish and Danish tradesmen, who fought for influences, before the Russians kicked them out in the early 18th century. Riga's historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, noted for its Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture and 19th century wooden architecture. It’s an incredibly diverse city, where Soviet style brutalist architecture mingles with frivolous art nouveau palaces, stern modernist sculptures and the gothic splendour from medieval times. Riga, frequently covered in snow between December and March, is the perfect backdrop for a traditional Nordic Christmas dinner and the start of your well-deserved Christmas holidays.

  • Friday 15 December Departure from Schiphol to Stockholm. Departure time is after 21.00h.

  • Saturday 16 December Stockholm: Morning walk in Stockholm including Royal Palace and Old Town, Swedish Christmas market, traditional Swedish lunch, in late afternoon cruise to Helsinki (dinner, bars and nightlife on board)

  • Sunday 17 December Full programme in Helsinki, including optional visit to modern art museum. In evening cruise to Tallinn (nightlife on board)

  • Monday 18 December Arrival in Tallinn, city walk, visit to parliament, christmas market, ice skating, Estonian dinner, free evening

  • Tuesday 19 December Study visit, bus transfer to Riga, evening walk Riga, escape room (optional), cocktails in skybar Riga.

  • Wednesday 20 December City walk Riga, Study visit Ministry of Foreign Affairs, traditional Latvian christmas dinner, pub crawl

  • Thursday 21 December Early flight back to The Netherlands
  • Applications are accepted until November 15
  • The discounted low budget price (€ 349) is only available for the first 10 applicants.
  • There is a minimum of 9 and a maximum of 20 participants. If the minimum of 9 is not met before November 5, the trip will be cancelled and all paid amounts will be refunded.
  • You are between 17 and 29 years old.
  • A copy of your valid passport or identitycard is required to travel on this trip.
  • Special requests, for example arriving/departing earlier or later can be dealt with inidividually by sending us an e-mail.
  • Eastpackers offers different packages to suit your needs. Pick the package that fits you best in terms of comfort and flexibility.

  • Low Budget € 349 - full payment within 7 days after applying, no refunds possible
  • Basic € 399 - pre-payment of 25 % of the participation fee within 7 days of applying. Remaining amount should be paid 30 days before departure. After a payment deadline, no refunds are possible. However, if you cancel before a payment deadline (i.e. before 15 November), you will only lose the pre-payment.
  • Premium € 429 - pre-payment of 25 % of the participation fee within 7 days of applying. Remaining amount should be paid 30 days before departure. Cancellations are possible. If cancelled no later than 14 days before departure, 50 % of the participation fee will be refunded. If cancelled no later than 24 hours before departure, 25 % will be refunded. An additional 50 % discount applies on optional checked in luggage and 25 % on optional activities such as the escape room.

    The price includes direct flights to Stockholm and from Riga, all transfers between and in the various cities, two Baltic Sea cruises from Stockholm to Helsinki and from Helsinki to Tallinn with private bathroom facilities, all other accommodation costs, all city tours, walks and talks, entrance to museums, study visits and daily breakfast.

    The participation fee covers all mentioned expenses, but excludes optional travel insurance coverage and optional checked-in luggage in airplanes.
  • Why choosing Eastpackers?

  • The guide is knowledgeable, fluent in English, enthusiastic and of your own age
  • Lots of included activities and study visits you wouldn't organize on your own
  • You get to know more about the history and culture of a diverse set of countries.
  • Unique fast-paced introduction to a lesser known part of Europe
  • You make new friends with similar interests and (study) backgrounds.
  • Frequently Asked Questions

    1Who are the participants?
    Most participants on this trip are students from various universities in The Netherlands. A majority of the participants is from University College Roosevelt in Middelburg, University College Utrecht and various other university colleges in The Netherlands. The average age of participants on this trip is around 22. Most participants are between 18 and 29 years old. Our groups are usually a good mix of Dutch and foreign students. Most participants apply individually, though around 25 – 40 % of our participants signs up with a friend or colleague
    2Will all excursions be in English?
    Yes, our tour guides are fluent in English and all tours, museum visits and excursions will be in English. We expect participants to be reasonably fluent in English too.
    3How tiring is this trip?
    Not that much, but considering the full programme, be aware that there will be quite a bit of walking and – depending on your personal preferences – a few relatively short nights. Be prepared for some very cold weather. Bringing warm clothes, gloves and sturdy shoes is definitely recommended. This is a real winter trip, so even though we can't promise, be prepared for lots of snow and icy temperatures. Of course, there will be plenty of breaks in warm, cozy café's and restaurants.
    4Can I upgrade to private rooms?
    If you prefer to stay in a room without fellow travelers, or just with one or two friends with whom you’ve signed up, we can upgrade you to private rooms. If you want this, you have to send us an e-mail within five days after submitting your application form. There is a surcharge of € 10 per person per night for private rooms.
    5How much money do I need to bring?
    Traveling in Eastern Europe is not very expensive. All excursions are included in our low participation fee. You only need some money for lunch, dinner and personal expenses. Depending on your spending habits, we advise you to count on € 10 – € 20 per day. Be advised that, contrary to most of our other destinations, Stockholm and Helsinki are quite expensive cities. Your tour guide will know where you'll get the best value for your money. You do not need to exchange money before the trip. Just bring a bankcard or creditcard and take out money from local ATM machines. In Finland, Estonia and Latvia, the currency is the Euro.
    6Do I need a visa?
    All countries belong to the Schengen Zone. Normally, if you have a residence permit for The Netherlands, you won't need a visa to participate in this trip, but check with the respective authorities if you are unsure. Visa related costs are not included in the participation fee.
    7Who is the guide?
    We work with a group of expert tour guides, who are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the places we visit. Most guides are UCU or UCR alumni or recent graduates in history, politics or related fields with ample international experience, both as a student and a tour guide. Our guides are available 24/7 during the trip and will accompany the group on all transfers, excursions and activities.