If the World Were Like Tallinn -
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If the World Were Like Tallinn

Tallinn Estonia

 

If the world were like Tallinn
you could see it all on foot

 

Tallinn Estonia

 

shuffling down cobblestone paths
or overlooking a vista.

 

Tallinn Estonia

 

Barriers would look like castle walls
perhaps a bit daunting to begin with

 

Tallinn Estonia

 

made of rough and weathered stone
but with plenty of openings for admittance.

 

Tallinn Estonia

 

You’d hide in a cavern and sip mulled wine
when the weather got thick and heavy

 

Tallinn Estonia

 

then emerge to find quiet and calm
in a white wonderland of fantasy.

 

Tallinn Estonia

 

You’d eat simple food
that came from the land

 

Tallinn Estonia

 

pure, local, and wild
made art by a man.

 

Tallinn Estonia

 

You’d appreciate the moments
and let them linger longer

 

Tallinn Estonia

 

you’d smile at tender faces
and feel your heart grow stronger.

 

Tallinn Estonia

 

You’d be sad to say goodbye
but let it go until next time

 

Tallinn Estonia

 

you’d know it didn’t belong to you
but would always be there to turn to.

 

Tallinn Estonia

 

The whole world may not be Tallinn
but you can channel it from within

 

Tallinn Estonia

 

find that place within yourself
that’s where the magic lives.

 

 

Tallinn Estonia

 

How to Get to Tallinn

 

Boat From Helsinki
$20-$40 each way, 1.5-3 hours

Big cruise ships connect Helsinki and Tallinn 20 times per day, run by several operators. I took Tallink, which was well organized and stunned me with its opulence. I spent my two hours onboard the ship ravaging the all you can eat buffet, which had shockingly healthy options. For breakfast I had raw salmon, cucumber salad, sauerkraut, plain yogurt, and black sourdough bread. This is probably the easiest, most comfortable transport option.

 

Fly 
Flights from throughout Europe 

If you’re coming from a further distance in Europe, check flights between your destinations. Low cost carriers RyanAir and EasyJet have service from London and other major cities. A variety of other airlines also have flights to Tallinn.

 

Bus

Buses connect Tallinn with other destinations in Estonia, check Tpilet for schedules. International bus companies Ecolines, BalticShuttle, Hansabuss, and Lux Express run to and from cities like Riga, Lithuania, and even St Petersburg.

 

 

Tallinn Estonia

 

Where to Stay in Tallinn

 

By far the most charming area to stay in Tallinn is within the old city walls. Some of the bigger chain hotels are just outside the old city, but for the real Tallinn charm, find a small boutique hotel or rent a local apartment. Here are my favorite spots:

 

Tabinoya Traveler’s House
$13 dorm, $30 private, includes breakfast

This sweet, homey hostel is a great budget alternative for those who want a quiet sanctuary rather than a party hostel. The location is great, in the old town, and the ultra affordable rate includes breakfast and sauna use!

 

Munkenhof Guesthouse
Dorms start at $12, $30 privates 

On a quiet, narrow street in the old town, this hostel has beautiful, clean rooms and communal spaces. It has a nice shared kitchen to help you save money on meals. The vibe is great for meeting other travelers while still having space away from the party if you want it.

 

The Merchant’s House Hotel
Rooms start at $87, includes sauna and breakfast

For a classic Tallinn experience, book a room in the quaint yet elegant Merchant’s House in the old town. Rooms have old stone walls with modern updates and include breakfast. They also have spa services and free sauna use.

 

Luxury Old town Apartment
$130 per night, 2 bedrooms 

I’m a strong believer that the best way to experience a place like a local, is to live like a local. So rather than stay in a hotel, I opted for this incredible apartment in Tallinn. The location is very convenient, just a couple of blocks from the trams and the main square. I loved the open floor plan, especially the upstairs loft with a glassed in bathroom, fireplace, chair swing, and even an exercise ball. You can actually sleep 6 people in the apartment, which makes it a phenomenal deal.

 

The Three Sisters
Rooms start at $150 per night, includes breakfast 

A luxurious splurge, The Three Sisters is located in the old town, but has had some serious updates. In three old merchant style houses, each of the rooms has a completely unique decor. The hotel has a romantic fireside lounge and a 300 wine bottle cellar to peruse.

 

 

Tallinn - 17

 

Where to Eat in Tallinn

 

I was amazed by the abundance of fresh, farm to table cuisine available in Tallinn. Here are my favorite spots for local ingredients with a modern twist.

 

Leib
Dinner entrees start at $15

Once the home of The Scottish Club, today Leib, named after the traditional Estonian black bread, stands for pure, wholesome food, just like its namesake. They walk the talk with locally sourced, organic, sustainably sourced ingredients that elevate traditional Estonian cuisine. I sipped on a mimosa made from seabuckthorn juice and apple wine; the flavor evolved endlessly on my tongue like a treat from the Wonka factory. My favorite dishes included the duck prosciutto salad with crispy friend carrots and the mushroom ragout with light ricotta gnocchi. And let’s not forget about the famous black bread. Normally I try to avoid bread, but this one was made from a sour starter of pure rye. If you only eat one nice meal in Tallinn, let it be at Leib!

 

Umami

Dinner entrees start at $12

Leib’s hip little brother, Umami just opened in a suburban neighborhood outside of the city center. The old converted Victorian home create an ultra modern, cozy, and adorable vibe, designed with recycled materials and vintage furnishings. The food was organic, locally sourced, and out of this world. I got adventurous and ate bull balls, which were actually quite good fried and served with a truffle mayo. My favorite dish was the perfectly seared white fish with butter soft leeks. To seal the deal I had a shot of house made currant schnapps and a dessert from the heavens, with a fluffy souffle called “bird’s milk”, kefir ice cream (if you read my blog you know how much I love kefir!!), black currants, and delicate crispy phillo dough. Hands down the best dessert I’ve ever had.

 

Sfaar

Breakfast starting at $6, lunch and dinner for $20 

Growing up in Seattle I know hipster culture through and through, but I wasn’t expecting to find it in Estonia. Sfaar shop and restaurant, in classic brick building outside the old town, is the hippest place in Tallinn. They had a super chic shop and amazing food. I’ve probably eaten eggs benedict 100 times in my life, and this was one of the best ever with a perfectly poached egg and salad greens dressed in pesto for some tangy bite. For breakfast I also recommend the homemade granola with fresh yogurt and berries. Other standouts were the fried local cheese with homemade jam and the local Estonian beef with beetroot puree. Every dish I tasted was a work of art and used locally grown, organic ingredients. Love it! I also recommend checking out their sister restaurant, Rucola, for inexpensive and delicious Italian breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

 

Chakra

Entrees start at $13, appetizers around $6

This super sexy Indian restaurant in the old town is dark, candlelit, and underground. Big colorful pillows transport you to another world as do the smells of spice wafting from the kitchen. When you get tired of black bread and cured fish, treat yourself to some curry here.

 

Neh

Dinner entrees around $20, $300 for a full degustation menu

Featuring the local ingredients of the Estonian islands, Neh offers a serious culinary adventure. Splurge on the entire tasting menu for a journey through Estonia via your taste buds.

 

Von Krahl

Entrees start at $15

This theater venue and concert hall has some of the freshest, edgiest, realest entertainment in Tallinn along with spectacular food. Restoran V has an entirely vegan menu with inventive dishes like beetroot ravioli with cashew cheese, and Aed features locally sourced elevated Estonian classics like reindeer stew.

 

 

Tallinn Estonia

 

What to Do in Tallinn in the Winter

 

While summer is certainly the high travel season in Tallinn, as it is in most areas of Europe, I loved seeing it blanketed in a layer of snow! Here are my favorite ways to enjoy to enjoy Tallinn in the winter:

 

Wander the Old Town

Tallinn has one of the most adorable Old Town’s I’ve ever seen, with pretty buildings painted in lovely pastel hues. Old churches, castle walls, and town centers make you feel like you’re living in a storybook. My favorite thing to do in Tallinn is simply wander the small streets, climb up the hill overlooking the city, and get lost. Places to make sure to visit include Toompea Hill with its many churches and lookout points, Town Hall, and walk along the old city walls at the Viru gate. Inside of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral you can listen to beautiful singing during services.

 

Tour the Art Museum of Estonia

$8, open Wed-Sun

This beautiful gallery has a massive collection of Estonian art from many periods in history as well as contemporary international exhibitions.

 

Get Tipsy at the History of Drinking Culture Museum

$4 entrance, includes free mulled wine 

Once upon a time this old brick building housed the first wine and spirits purveyor in Estonia. During the war with Russia, they were forced to close down, but a few years ago a man named Peke reopened the space in hopes of reviving Estonian wine culture. He now operates this museum, with a fascinating story of the evolution of wine, beer, and spirits in Estonia, along with a sweet wine tasting bar. In the summer months he arranges visits to his winery on a nearby island.

 

Drink at Olde Hansa 

It may be ultra touristic, but there’s something undeniably charming about Old Hansa. With employees dressed in traditional Estonian costumes, serving classic food and spirits, it will take you back to another time. Enjoy the kitsch, throw back some schnapps, and let yourself feel like a king.

 

 

 


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Comments

  1. Oh my goodness, I LOVE that there is a History of Drinking Culture museum. Definitely a must-see!

    • Camille Willemain Says: January 22, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      For sure! It’s a lot of fun and the staff are sooo welcoming and will tell you lots of stories :) Hopefully one day I can go in the summer and experience their winery too!

  2. I lived in Warsaw and arrived there in the dead of winter, actually, about this time and this reminds me SO much of what that felt like. Oooooh, the memories you brought back for me. So beautiful!

  3. I love how Estonia and Tallinn are recovering from their time of being occupied by Russia. They’re not done yet, but it’s coming along nicely. And nicer now, apparently, than two years ago when I was there.

    Excellent review. I’ll remember it when next I plan a trip to Tallinn!

    • Camille Willemain Says: January 22, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      Totally! Thanks so much. I hope to explore more of the Baltics in the summer one day 😉

      • I’ll be visiting that part of the world again in the early summer of 2016, if all things go well. I’ll be sure to try to tempt you to join me for part or all of my explorations…

    • I suppose it is a joke because Estonia wasn’t occupied by Russia. It was just a part of the Union. Nowadays it’s like Russia because people are not changed – they still speak Russian.

  4. tallinn is a fantastic city and people around the world are starting to finally realize that :) i went twice in 2014 and enjoyed the food, drinking culture (their craft beer scene is sick for such a small country), scenery, nature, and just about everything else. glad you enjoyed your time there!

    • Camille Willemain Says: January 22, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      Totally! What are some of your favorite spots that I didn’t include? I imagine it must be a very different place without the snow 😉

      • it definitely is! although i think i prefer it during the colder months. the city is deserted and not packed with tourist groups.

        i love sfaar, but also in the old town i like vegan
        http://www.veganrestoran.ee/ as well as clayhill’s pub (they brew own beer and its quite tasty). i also had some moldavian food one time at a place that was great but i cant recall the name of the place!

        i also recommend climbing the old church tower in old town. sooo touristy, but seriously the best views of the city. not for the claustrophobic, though :) it costs like 2 euros or so.

        hope youre getting along well with finland!

  5. Hi again! Let me know when you plan a summer trip. Come in the beginning of July, it’s nice and warm (usually, last year around +30C) and you can swim in the Baltic or in many many pristine lakes (over 1500 of them in Estonia). Also, islands are totally worth a visit. During this time, we also have the white nights – so it’s still daylight around 10-11 pm. And naturally the small eco-communities and cottages and such actions. You need to experience what connection Estonians have with nature. That’s something untypical for the rest of Europe (Northern countries are more connected, I’d say). Mushrooming, berries picking, etc in the forest – we all do that every year in summer and in autumn. So write me any time when you need help with planning the trip to more hidden sides of Estonia. I am also connected to ancient sacred natural places of Estonia (over 3000 of them in Estonia). Ancient Estonians used to talk to and “worship” lakes, trees, forests and most places can still be visited for a special energy and “meditation”.

    • Camille Willemain Says: January 24, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      Wow Meelika this all sounds amaaaazzing! I will definitely let you know when I come back. Right now I’m kinda going day by day, but we will see what summer has in store :)

      • Day by day is not a bad way to go 😉 We should all do it more often. In case you need local people to show you around, drop me a line. I am involved in a civic movement that started in Estonia and has gone international and thanks to that have a friendly face almost everywhere 😉 Amazing how many people care and do something good with a lot of passion. But as I also like to travel by myself, I don’t mind at all when you do it your way and let yourself to be lost – this is often the best way, even though can also mean you end up in a ‘tourist trap’ or a clishe place somewhere. Both are a part of the traveling experience after all :)

  6. just one estonian Says: January 23, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Hi, nice reading and shots :)
    one interesting museum You sould see is Marine museum – Seaplane Harbour and next time, go outside from Tallinn also :)
    Where to go or what to see might be foundthere

  7. Lisa Martin Says: January 23, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    Thank you for your post–Tallinn is indeed a fairytale land come to life. I feel grateful to have served as a US Peace Corps Volunteer just 10KM from Tallinn 1996-98. It was a challenge to live there during the long, dark winters having grown up with palm and citrus trees in my yard in San Diego, California. But grew to love Estonia–even more so over the years. I appreciate the authenticity, respect, gentle nature and dignity of the people, as well. I just returned in summer 2014 to sing in the Laulupidu/Song Festival and had an amazing time. The country and her people have come a long way since gaining independence. It’s really heart-warming and inspiring to witness their transformation after so many years of oppression. The world can learn a lot from this peaceful, little country in Northern Europe.

    • Camille Willemain Says: January 24, 2015 at 1:07 pm

      Thank you for your heartfelt comment. I really hope to return to Estonia and experience more of this beautiful country and its beautiful people <3

  8. What beautiful photos! And a comprehensive post with some great tips. Thanks for sharing!

  9. The way you constructed this article, Tallinn seems like a magical place. I especially liked the poem that accompanied the spectacular photos at the beginning of your post. You got talent, Camille, and that’s a fact.

  10. Although it goes a bit past from the topic and I’m not pushing or anything :) but Camille – you should definitely visit our islands, at least the bigger ones – Hiiumaa (http://www.hiiumaa.ee) and Saaremaa (http://www.saaremaa.ee)
    Probably easiest way to get to either of islands is by the plane. From Tallinn Airport some 20 min. or so, but you can also use the buss and have nice ferry trip on the way.
    As I said – I’m not pushing or anything :)

    • Camille Willemain Says: January 26, 2015 at 2:42 am

      Thanks for your tips :) I only had a weekend to spend in Tallinn as a short trip over from Helsinki. I hope to return in the summer and will definitely check out the islands :)

  11. Nick Knight Says: January 26, 2015 at 3:39 am

    All the Baltics are unique and crazy beautiful. Its like Scandinavia on the cheap, but more fun.

  12. Reet Villig Says: January 26, 2015 at 5:10 am

    Dear Camille,
    thank You for a wonderful post! Next time You are planning to come, write me and I will help You with planning or take You outside of Tallinn.

  13. Loved the intriguing title, the photos, the fact thatyou made the most of your stay despite what seems as challenging weather conditions :) also the advice about the accommodation options in Tallinn “find a small boutique hotel or rent a local apartment” it is a really the way to go.

  14. HI! Great post :) Also next time I recommend to visit Telliskivi Creativity Centre and Kalamaja/Pelgulinn regions, it is just outside Old Town near the train station, lots of restaurants and hipster cafes, shops, live music events and flea markets 😀 http://telliskivi.eu/en/ Feel free to contact me if you need any help.

  15. Well it only speaks about the city center, mostly old town. Tallinn is a lot bigger and there is a lot more to do.

  16. Another fantastic post. We lost track of history when we first arrived, traveling from Helsinki to Tallinn, and popped into the first pub we could find – Hell Hunt – merely glancing at the since that said “Tallinn’s oldest brewpub, ’94.” Being an American I was impressed that a brewpub had been around since 1894…until later in the day that I realized it was 1994 (which is what the sign actually says). What snapped me back was the tour of the underground tunnels, which I expected to be bored, but really enjoyed. I’d really like to return to Tallinn and see the countryside. Thanks again.

  17. Bumping an old one here aren’t I?

    Anyway.
    I feel like most travelers and tourists only see the Old Town part of Tallinn, not even the whole downtown area. But that’s the same like going to NYC and only visiting Central Park. I’m not saying there’s a lot to see in Lasnamägi or other similar areas, and I would not recommend going to Kopli, since that area could be dangerous, but places like Kadriorg, Kalamaja, Uus Maailm, Pirita. The fact that tourists see merely a fraction of Tallinn and think that’s all there is to it, well it frustrates me. Sometimes when I see cruise-ship-tourist-groups in the Old Town, I feel like they are sort of wasting their time, possibly not knowing where exactly they are. Guess you could call it conveyor belt tourism: off the boat, take a few photos for a few hours, back on the boat.

    Actually, when visiting Estonia, why only visit Tallinn? Everything is only a few hour’s drive away.

    I guess what my point is, when travelling abroad, one should try to visit as much of it as possible for as long as possible (Except when it’s a booze-cruise from the neighboring country, then I understand fully). I’m sure the owner of this blog agrees.

    Sorry for that bit of a ramble, but as an Estonian from Kuressaare now living in Tallinn, I felt like I had to get this off my chest.

    Also, don’t ask us to say “kaksteist kuud”. We hate that fucking joke.

  18. Great photos and an interesting blog! Keep up the good work! :)

  19. A beautiful post for a beautiful city. We loved our time there, and even managed to pull ourselves away from the old town visiting Kadriorg, Kalamaja, and Lahemma national park. Excellents words and photos, definitely added to our blogroll. Checkout our time in Estonia

  20. Wonderful wonderful pictures. We want to visit Tallinn some day and we hope one of the low cost companies will launch a flight there, or somewhere near. Right now it is a bit complicated and costly to organize our trip there. But we will find a way. :-)

  21. Relly nice pictures and article! I’m going to travel there for a while – around the baltic countries! Thank you for that article :)

  22. So breathtaking of all photos that I have to say ‘to die for Tallinn in Winter’
    I was there in summer and after I saw these pictures I could not believe that how it was with the hotter weather. And Tallinn has its distinct that everyone should try here once and want twice!