Explore the eastern Baltic in depth, from the days of the medieval Hanseatic trade network and the centuries of struggle for dominance between Sweden and Russia, into the modern era, where great design and architecture make for compelling destinations. This 17-day tour from Stockholm to St Petersburg combines visits to excellent collections, historical and architectural walking tours, and the quiet beauty of the Baltic landscape. The itinerary includes two crossings of the Baltic, a train journey into Russia from Helsinki, and an opera at the Riga Festival. An extension tour to Moscow is also available.
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The remarkable interaction of peoples of the Baltic: Vikings, missionaries, merchants and maritime empires
The golden age of Sweden in the 16th and 17th centuries
Tsarist Russia’s empire in the Baltic: the Grand Duchy of Finland, Estonia and Latvia
A striking tradition of architecture and design, from the birth of modernism in the early 1900s to cutting-edge contemporary work
From the art of empires to modern nations: the superb galleries of Sweden and St Petersburg
Stockholm’s Vasa museum, a testament to the country’s former maritime glory, and the delightful Drottningholm Palace
The beauty of the Stockholm archipelago, surrounding the city and admired on our Baltic crossing
Great Art Nouveau architecture in Riga, and the medieval old town of Tallinn
Stunning modern and contemporary buildings in Helsinki, including Alvar Aalto’s Nordic modernism
The glories of imperial Russia in St Petersburg: palaces, gardens, cathedrals and great art galleries
An opera at the Riga Festival
Days 1–4: Explore Stockholm’s royal and maritime history, plus its modern architecture and design.
Days 4–5: Overnight ferry from Stockholm to Riga.
Days 5–6: In Riga, investigate the heritage of this former Hanseatic port and enjoy an opera at the Riga Festival.
Days 7–8: Drive to Tallinn, the superbly preserved Estonian capital, and tour the old town.
Days 9–12: Ferry to Helsinki. Visit Russian and Swedish imperial sites and sample Finland’s remarkable design and architectural scene.
Days 13–17: Train from Helsinki to St Petersburg. Visit galleries and palaces from Russia’s imperial period and explore Russia’s extraordinary history.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
Finnair offers well-priced flights via Helsinki. Emirates has direct flights into Stockholm and home from St Petersburg. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Monday August 26: Arrive Stockholm
Flights from Australia arrive at various times during the day. In the afternoon there will be a brief orientation tour of the area near our hotel. This evening we gather in the hotel for a light dinner. (D)
Tuesday August 27: Stockholm and the Baltic
After a morning talk we take a ferry to Djurgården island to visit the Vasa Museum, perhaps the city’s most famous attraction. The centrepiece is the 64-gun warship Vasa, which sank on her maiden voyage in 1628 and was recovered in 1961, almost intact. Built at the height of Sweden’s naval power, she has become a symbol of the period when the Baltic was ruled from Stockholm. We continue to the nearby Waldemarsudde, a beautifully preserved royal residence, completed for Prince Eugene in 1905. Eugene, himself an artist, amassed a fine collection of mainly Swedish paintings, and the surrounding garden houses many sculptures. This evening we visit a local restaurant for our welcome dinner. (B, D)
Wednesday August 28: The Queen’s Island
On an island 12km inland from Stockholm is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Drottningholm, the historic and current residence of the Swedish royal family. First occupied in 1580, Drottningholm reached its peak splendour in the 18th century. This is when the gorgeous 400-seat court theatre was built. After a morning tour of Stockholm’s town hall, a masterpiece of early 20th-century architecture, we take the ferry to Drottningholm, with lunch on the way. A guide then shows us the court theatre, after which we can enjoy the extensive neo-classical gardens and main palace building. We return to Stockholm by ferry. (B, L)
Thursday August 29: Free day – ferry to Riga
After a morning talk, today is free for individual exploration. You might like to stroll the Gamla Stan – the old city. The cobblestone streets date back to the 13th century and the influence of North German architecture is evident in the coloured merchants’ houses that line the main square, as well as the stock exchange and cathedral. Skeppsholmen Island houses a well-regarded modern art museum and an architecture museum Stockholm’s outdoor museum is also recommended. It preserves historical buildings from around the country and gives an ethnological survey of Swedish customs. In the mid-afternoon we transfer to the ferry terminal for our 5.00pm departure for Riga. We have dinner on board. (B, D)
Friday August 30: Riga orientation
Our ferry arrives at 11.00am and we head immediately to a walking tour of Riga’s striking old town. Since the time of the Vikings, Riga’s strategic position has made it an attractive possession, and its complex history is told through structures such as the medieval castle, the ornate ‘Blackhead’s’ guild house, the Lutheran cathedral and ornate 19th century opera house. The later afternoon is free, with dinner in a local restaurant. (B, D)
Saturday August 31: Art Nouveau Riga
Roughly one third of the buildings in Riga’s old town are built in the Art Nouveau style, built from 1904-1914. This style is consciously modern, rejecting 19th century historicism and seeking a style that was inspired by nature but forward looking. After a morning talk, we explore some of the best examples of this style in Riga on a walking tour, at the same time learning something of the social history of the city. This afternoon is free, but you might like to join the tour leader on an optional visit to the Riga Motor Museum, a well-loved institution containing over 100 antique vehicles, including a priceless collection from the Soviet era. If cars are not your thing, then the Latvian National Art Museum, housed in several historic buildings, is also available. This evening there is a strong chance of a performance at the Riga Opera House. Details will be available in early 2019. (B)
Performance details Venue: Riga Opera House Program: to be announced, April 2019 Performers: to be announced, April 2019
Sunday September 1: To Tallinn
Today is a transit day. We leave Riga by coach after breakfast and travel along the Gulf of Riga directly to the historic town of Pärnu, located just across the border in Estonia. An important trading port for the Hanseatic League, Pärnu was founded in the 13th century. There will be time to visit the charming orthodox church and other attractions before continuing to Tallinn. There will be time to familiarise yourself with the old town of Tallinn before our dinner in a local restaurant. Estonia is famous for its choral traditions, and we will see if we can catch a performance either in Pärnu or Tallinn. (B, D)
Monday September 2: Old and new Tallinn
Tallinn is justly famous for its remarkably well-preserved old town, a major trading hub since the 13th century and today Estonia’s capital. Historically, Tallinn was fought over by Swedish, German and Russian colonisers, all of whom have left their mark on the city and on Estonian culture. After a talk, a guide takes us on a walking tour of the city, culminating in the exuberant Alexander Nevsky orthodox cathedral overlooking the city. Not many tourists venture beyond the old town, so this afternoon we explore some of the modern city, renowned for its technology start-ups. We visit the Kadriorg Palace, built in the Baroque style for Peter I of Russia and today an art museum. We also call in at the contemporary Kumu art museum, and time permitting, the KGB museum, remembering the decades of Soviet occupation. (B)
Tuesday September 3: To Finland
This morning we take the two-hour ferry ride across the Baltic to Helsinki. As we enter Helsinki harbour, we pass by the vast Suomenlinna fortress, built by the Swedes and enhanced by the Russians. After checking-in at our hotel, we take a walking tour of central Helsinki, admiring the mix of Russian colonial, National Romantic, Art Nouveau and contemporary architecture. There is dinner in a restaurant on Helsinki’s elegant Esplanadi this evening. (B, D)
Wednesday September 4: Modern art and architecture
After a morning talk, we travel by coach to some of Helsinki’s architectural highlights. This includes the Olympic Stadium, the home and studio of legendary Finnish modern architect Alvar Aalto and the mid-century modern Didrichsen House and museum, an elegant private museum overlooking one of Helsinki’s countless harbour inlets. This afternoon there will be time to further explore some of Helsinki’s architectural marvels, such as the 1960s ‘rock church’. (B)
Thursday September 5: Artists on the lake
This morning we travel north from Helsinki to Lake Tuusula. In the early 20th century, the shores of this lake hosted an important community of artists and musicians whose houses reflected the nature-loving traditions of the Finnish. First, we visit Ainola, the composer Jean Sibelius’ beautiful country home, before making an extended lunch stop at Villa Kokkonen, which was designed by Alvar Aalto for his composer friend Joonas Kokkonen. The current curators of the villa will host us to lunch and perform for us in the beautiful piano-shaped music room. We return to Helsinki this afternoon, stopping in at the lakeside studio of painter Pekka Halonen, built like a Russian dacha. The studio contains dozens of the artist’s works. (B, L)
Friday September 6: Art museum and a fortress
This morning we call in at the Atheneum Art Museum, close to our hotel. The museum contains many key works of the Finnish National Romantic Movement, based on legend and celebrated in the music of Sibelius. We then head by ferry to Suomenlinna fortress. Occupying several islands at the entrance to Helsinki harbour, this massive piece of military engineering – a world-heritage site, opens our eyes to the centuries of struggle for control of the Baltic region. This evening we hope to catch the opening concert of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2019-2020 season. The orchestra is extremely highly regarded. (B)
Performance details Venue: Musiikkitalo, Helsinki Program: to be announced, April 2019 Performers: to be announced, April 2019
Saturday September 7: To St Petersburg
This morning we depart Helsinki by train and head to St Petersburg, a journey of just under four hours. After arriving and checking in our hotel, we stroll to the little visited Kunstkamera, to explore the collection assembles by Peter the Great and demonstrating his interest in the Baltic and western Europe. This evening we dine in a local restaurant. (B, D)
Sunday September 8: Peter the Great
Peter the Great laid the foundations for Russia’s interest in the Baltic states, and engaged with Sweden, Russia’s main competitor in the region. After a morning talk we visit Peterhof, the Tzar’s celebrated palace overlooking the Gulf of Finland. We continue to Kronstadt, the Swedish fortress on an island in the gulf, reminiscent of Suomenlinna in Finland. The afternoon is free. (B)
Monday September 9: Russia and Europe
This morning’s talk surveys relations between modern Russia and the Baltic. Our Peter-the-Great themed sightseeing continues with a visit to the Peter and Paul Fortress and the Summer Gardens, both walking distance from the hotel. In the afternoon there is the option of a visit to the nearby Russian museum, whose magnificent collection of old Rus icons reflects a time when Russia was interacting with the Hansa cities of the Baltic. This evening, if available, we will attend a performance at the legendary Mariinsky theatre. Details will be available in May 2019. (B, L)
Performance details Venue: Mariinsky, Theatre Program: to be announced, May 2019 Performers: to be announced, May 2019
Tuesday September 10: The Hermitage
The morning is set aside for a guided visit to the Hermitage Museum, one of the world’s great repositories of art. Our focus will be on the excellent Dutch collection assembled by Peter the Great and indicative of his admiration of the seafaring nations of northern Europe, but there will be plenty of time to explore other parts of the collection. This afternoon there is the option of a visit to the Menshikov Palace, once the residence of Peter’s chief minister, and today a branch of the Hermitage Museum, dedicated to 17th and 18th century fine and decorative arts. This evening we share a farewell meal in a local restaurant. (B, D)
Wednesday September 11: Departure
The tour ends after breakfast. A late check out is available for passengers departing on flights leaving later tonight. Robert will be happy to advise on optional activities during the day. (B)
Holds a Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Education. He is a director of Academy Travel and leads tours to Europe, Scandinavia, the US & Australia.
Robert Veel is a cultural historian with over 20 years’ experience leading tours to Italy, the USA, Scandinavia and Turkey. He has a strong personal interest in the visual arts, architecture and music, and is a founding director of Academy Travel.
Robert holds a BA, Dip. Ed and M.Ed, all from the University of Sydney. He worked as a lecturer at the University of Sydney before a long stint at the University’s Centre for Continuing Education, lecturing in Italian history and culture and working as Assistant Director. Robert continues to teach occasionally in Continuing Education courses.
Robert’s historical and artistic knowledge stretches from the Middle Ages through the early 20th century. In Italy he has led many tours focusing on the Medieval and Renaissance periods. In the United States he likes to focus on the founding of the Republic and the Gilded Age of the early 20th century. In Scandinavia he is particularly interested in national identity and its role in Scandinavian literature, design and architecture. Robert speaks fluent Italian.
Robert led his first tour to Italy in 1990 and has not looked back! He has led more than 50 tours and designed many of Academy Travel’s most popular tours, including Sicily, New York, Rome and Venice residential tours, and our Scandinavia tours. More recently Robert led the first offering of Academy Travel’s tours to Tasmania and New Zealand.
We asked Robert, what do you enjoy most about leading tours?
“I really enjoy travelling with like-minded, interested travellers who are up for a bit of an intellectual adventure. It’s often the unexpected things that create the ‘shared joy’ of group travel”, says Robert “a wonderful, but little-known painting, a great performance or a fabulous meal. These are the things we travel for.”
“Over the years travellers have commented on my seemingly boundless enthusiasm. It’s true that I am curious about most things – people, places, history and artistic expression. There’s a kind of alchemy when this enthusiasm rubs off on others – hopefully with a bit of useful information as well!”
What is included in the tour price? Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price? Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.