Tallinn has the population of Bristol, the age of York and the punch of Canary Wharf.
The capital of Estonia is a beautiful fusion of medieval and 21st century. Walk along the ancient city walls and you will see why invaders haven’t succeeded in battle here since 1343. Within the walls lies plenty to explore: quaint cafés, candle-lit churches and cobblestone streets, which are far too narrow, steep and winding even for bicycles, let alone for cars. The cathedral at the top of the Old Town has intricately-carved wooden coats-of-arms from all the Baltic-German families that ruled here for 500 years.
Tallinn is home to the magnificent “Tall Hermann Tower”, which sits proudly at the top of the Old Town. This medieval piece of architecture is an important symbol of national independence. Every day at sunrise, the Estonian flag is raised up with the national anthem playing atmospherically in the background. If you climb the tower’s 215 steps to the viewing platform, you will be rewarded with heavenly views of the city… perfect for your instagram feed.
The city’s sturdy stone buildings look to have hardly changed since medieval times. Stop at one of the many viewing points to gaze into the distance at the some of the skyscrapers that make up modern Estonia, where Skype was invented and where @estonia now rules supreme… (no Estonian would now ever dream of writing a cheque or posting a letter, this is a Country that takes their technology innovation seriously). Keep looking and you’ll see the Song Festival Stadium, where 30,000 singers regularly gather and enthral an audience four times larger. Wander down to Medieval Town Hall Square, and see where public executions used to be a major attraction; luckily it’s the tempting dishes from local restaurants that get finished off these days.
Old Town Restaurants
If you are craving a fine-dining experience, book a table at Art Priory. The finest quality ingredients, which are all sourced within Estonia, are exhibited like artwork on your plate. The creative restaurant also invites acclaimed guest chefs to join the kitchen for special events, as well as live musicians to add to the one-of-a-kind dining experience.
Those seeking a little more cosy and relaxed ambience must head to Restaurant Pegasus. This hipster-style restaurant stretches over three storeys and offers simple, mouth-watering Nordic cuisine.
Some serious Tallinn tourists may be pressed for time when it comes to lunch… there’s just too much to see and do! Solution? A trip to Kuldse Notsu (The Golden Pig) at Dunkri 8, just below the luxurious St Petersbourg Hotel restaurant. Despite its name, the restaurant has a large vegetarian menu: start with thick pea soup and croutons, and continue with a delicious onion and mushroom casserole. The quick service and friendly-prices make Kuldse Notsu the perfect pit-stop for lunch.
Step back in time at Maiasmokk, (Pikk 16) meaning “Sweet Tooth”, the oldest café in Estonia. The charming building has a particularly nostalgic atmosphere, thanks to its untouched and antique, 1930’s decor. The 30s were of course a time when chemical additives and artificial sweeteners had yet to be invented, and you should expect no less from the treats you will taste at Maiasmokk! Pay the café a visit not only for the icing on their cakes, but even more for their mouth-watering marzipan, which makes a lovely, easy-to-carry souvenir.
UNESCO-listed Old Town
Visit one of the beautiful viewing platforms at Kohtuotsa, Patkuli or Dom Church, that offer magnificent views of the city and the medieval wall. The Bastion Tunnels are also well worth a visit. When the Swedes ruled Estonia in the 17th century, they rightly panicked at the thought of a Russian invasion. They built a network of tunnels under the city walls; enough to provide a year’s supply of food and gunpowder. Now the mysterious subterranean world offers impressive train rides and eerie excursions. Turn back time and discover the tales of the tunnels.
Telliskivi Creative City
This former industrial complex is now the creative hub of Tallinn. There are plenty of unique shops, cool cafés, and glorious galleries to explore, as well as the 400 events that take place here every year. This area represents innovative-Tallinn in all its glory.
This magnificent maritime museum is another must-do whilst you’re in the capital. Explore submarines, flight simulators, sailboats and the aquarium, as well as the the “Short 184”, the oldest ship in Estonia. Seaplane Harbour makes for a great daytime activity.
BA fly directly to Tallinn from Heathrow twice a week, on Tuesdays and on Saturdays, with a flight time of just under 3 hours. Tallinn airport describes itself as the “cosiest” in Europe due to its petite, yet modern design. It only takes ten minutes to get into the centre of town by bus, which will soon be replaced by a tram in the autumn of 2017.
A three-day travel pass, valid throughout Tallinn, only costs five euros. Use it for a day trip to the Tallinn Television Tower, where you can experience some awesome panoramic views of the city. The centre also has plenty of fun activities for kids, including a mini TV studio. Or you could travel to the famous Open-Air Museum, full of unique farm-houses, old windmills, rustic shops and quaint chapels, all gathered from different parts of Estonia and re-assembled here.
Modern buses and trains seamlessly link Tallinn with other towns and also with Riga and St Petersburg. All public transport offers wifi free of charge. (Did we mention they take innovation seriously?)