If the world were like Tallinn
you could see it all on foot
shuffling down cobblestone paths
or overlooking a vista.
Barriers would look like castle walls
perhaps a bit daunting to begin with
made of rough and weathered stone
but with plenty of openings for admittance.
You’d hide in a cavern and sip mulled wine
when the weather got thick and heavy
then emerge to find quiet and calm
in a white wonderland of fantasy.
You’d eat simple food
that came from the land
pure, local, and wild
made art by a man.
You’d appreciate the moments
and let them linger longer
you’d smile at tender faces
and feel your heart grow stronger.
You’d be sad to say goodbye
but let it go until next time
you’d know it didn’t belong to you
but would always be there to turn to.
The whole world may not be Tallinn
but you can channel it from within
find that place within yourself
that’s where the magic lives.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.