I'm thinking of going to Vilnius (combined with Riga) and was wondering if anyone who has been can let me know what they thought of it. I like the sound of it but a friend who has been was not particularly impressed and thinks it's worth a day at best.
Vilnius is a fantastic city, especially in winter. I spent Christmas there when I was living in Berlin. There are nice places nearby as well. Riga is also a great city and activities such as husky dog sledding and bob sled are at a very cheap price! I loved all of North Eastern Europe and would recommend it to anyone! At least one night...maybe 2 in each and if you could make it up to Tallinn that is also a beautiful city! Good luck and have fun, the hostels there are always willing to help as well!!
We made Kaunas our base and day-tripped Vilnius by train after hearing mediocre reviews but we loved the place and regret only having had one day there. We were left wanting more, which is always good. :-)
The KGB museum impacted on me more than any other "dark" attraction has, eg Auschwitz.
Personally I'd plan to fill two or three days there and the same for Riga. Tallinn has much more mediaeval architecture to see as well as the Tsars' palaces so worth trying to visit.
When you're in Riga look out for a restaurant chain called Lido; they have a number of sites but one is called Lido entertainment centre and is a very large Russian milk bar type eatery with a basement bier kellar with live entertainment - when we were there it was of the oompah band folk music variety. Highly recommended.
Loved Riga & Vilnius - going to agree with other posters about Tallinn, though. When are you going? Note that the daylight hours are quite short in those locations at this time of year, and you will need to dress warmly.
KGB museum was good - although I don't think it impacted me more than some of the other historical places. I also recommend the free walking tours! There are plenty of milk bars, etc. around. Check out the like a local maps (google them, if you don't know what i'm talking about) as they will give you lots of local tips that I can't remember at the minute.
Are you planning on staying in hostels? If so, Feel good hostel in Tallinn was really quite nice, as was old town backpackers. I loved Cinnamon Sally's in Riga, and stayed at Home Made House in Vilnius, which was OK, but I've heard better things about Jumping Jimmy's from friends that were there. (they were full when I went).
IF you make it to Tallinn, there is a small shop on the edge of the main square that sells soups and things as they were done in medieval time - including without utensils - for extremely cheap. If you offer to sing or dance they'll give you a spoon though. Otherwise, bring one on your own.
Main busses between the cities are lux / simple express, although you can also catch ecolines, and maybe, eurolines (it's been a couple months since I was there). This will be your cheapest / most direct means of travel between the cities - they all have wi-fi on board, and are quite comfortable.
Thanks everyone - it's really good to get your feedback. I think I'm going to book Vilnius combined with Riga on the basis of this (in April/May) and get the lux express between the 2 cities.
I went to Tallinn earlier this year and loved it, and that's one of the reasons I'm keen to go back to the region.
Bex - if you have the chance, try to get out of the main cities, as well. I didn't make it to Kaunas or the hill of crosses, but hear really great things. I can definitely say that Tartu and other cities I visited in Estonia more than lived up to their expectation though.
Yup Mapsandmoxie is right there are lots of smaller places worth seeing.
From Riga we went to Sigulda - nice castle, forest walks in a steep river valley. Also enjoyed heading out of the city centre to the ethnographic museum which was brought alive with folk dancing, crafts and people in costume much more than we've seen at these things in other Baltic/Scandinavian countries.
Kaunas has the 9th Fortress museum, and for small-town Lithuania we found Birstonas sanatorium-spa town.