THE TRAVELLER’S ULTIMATE CITY GUIDE TO TALLINN
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Estonia’s capital city, Tallinn has long been a destination on my radar with the growing desire to explore the Baltic States more since my visit to Riga last year. This June I finally had the opportunity to make my wish come true and experience the land of Baltic fairytales and what I’m calling, the exquisite gem of the Eastern block.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored article where Visit Tallinn also provided us with VIP PLUS Tallinn Cards for 48 hours to explore the city and museums as well as make full use of the public transport. As always all views, opinions and photography are my own and therefore remain a copyright of be-lavie.
Prepare to look on in awe at the old town, the architecture, be educated by the museums and blown away by the gargantuan gastronomy scene Tallinn has to offer. For this Eastern European jewel is only four hours by flight from the UK and packed full of incredible history and culture.
The Tallinn Card
I was gifted two VIP PLUS Tallinn cards by the Tallinn Tourist board, Visit Tallinn, which can be purchased from Visit Tallinns website or can be purchased at their office in the Old Town of Tallinn.
The cards are available for 24, 48 or 72 hours and give access to Free entry to over 40 top attractions and museums, free travel on public transport, discounts to sightseeing tours, activities, shops and restaurants. Additionally with Tallinn Card PLUS you also get free entry to the hop-on hop-off buses. I would thoroughly recommend the card as it is a very cost effective, allowing you to plan an organised itinerary.
Tallinn Tourist Information Centre Niguliste 2, 10146 Tallinn, Estonia Tel +372 645 7777
Where to Stay
I chose our base for the four and a half day trip to be The Medieval Schlössle Hotel, located in the Old Town of Tallinn, nestled at the bottom of a picturesque cobbled-stoned street. This traditional but luxurious hotel is part of the Leading Hotels of The World group and has hosted many VIPs including HRH, the Prince of Wales, Bon Jovi, Sting and Mel C to name a few. It’s decorated in open stone work, original wood beams and large low hung chandeliers, giving it a authentic 13th century ambience. To find out more about my stay, have a read of my review of the hotel below.
Points of Interest and What to see
THE OLD TOWN
BE-LAVIE FACT: The old town can get incredible busy especially as it’s an important port call for cruise liners. Therefore plan your visits early morning and mid-late afternoon. We headed out of the Old Town boundaries to the coast and surrounding parks or visited museums during the middle of the days. This way you’ll make good use of your Tallinn Card and miss the cruise liner tourists.
My recommendation would be to do a City walk of Tallinn’s Old Town as outlined in the Lonely Planet Estonia Guide but tailor this with some personal points of interest such as museums as I have below. It takes roughly three hours and is four Km without stopping to enter spots of interest. This way you can go back and climb the towers / walkways, which are suited to you.
Below is a photo journey of my Old Town must-dos…
Aleksander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral
St Mary Lutheran Cathedral
Court Square Lookout
Danish King Garden
Short Leg Gate Tower
Long Leg Gate Tower
Lower Town Wall Hellemann Tower & Town Wall Walkway
Great Coast Gate Paks Margareeta
Brotherhood of the Blackheads
St Olaf’s Guild Hall
Holy Spirit Church
Raekoja plats (Town Hall Square)
Tallinn Town Hall and Tower
Raeapteek (Tallinn’s oldest Pharmacy)
Kiek in de Kök Museum & Bastion Passages
Kalamaja is a very short walk from the Old Town of Tallinn, just follow the railway tracks past Balti Jaam Market and you’re there when you see the bohemian, cool and hip vibe of the area
The heart of Kalamaja is filled with colourful wooden houses with bright panel doors. These are the former living quarters of the area’s factory workers, mainly dating from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, now homes to young professionals and families.
Spend a couple of hours meandering the streets of Kalamaja and look at its transformation from once a fishing community (it’s located close to the port) and its factory working class background to one of the sought-after places to live in Tallinn.
There are some incredible places to eat and drink in the Kalamaja area right next to Telliskivi such as Schvips Wine bar, F-Hoone (which is actually at the entrance of Telliskivi) and Peatus.
TELLISKIVI CREATIVE CITY
Telliskivi Loomelinnak or Telliskivi Creative City (Telliskivi 60) is a collection of former factory and railway buildings transformed into a centre for creative enterprises: an entire quarter filled with offbeat eateries, trendy cafés, and hip bars along with design, antique and vintage shops. Telliskivi is also home to the internationally renowned photograph museum Fotografiska Tallinn and several event venues, such as Vabalava or Erinevate Tubade Klubi, that regularly host concerts, parties, expos and other performances.
The Creative City is also home to many regular outdoor and community events, such as the Telliskivi Flea Market (every Saturday), Street Food Festival (in June) and the Telliskivi Flea Market Festival (in August).
If you’re a street art fan, Telliskivi is your place with many murals, graffiti work and stencils adorning the factory buildings.
Located in the North Western district of Tallinn is Pirita, also known as the seaside district due to its coastal location. It’s a short bus/taxi ride from Old Town Tallinn but well worth a visit to firstly see the phenomenal views from the Teletorn (TV Tower) over Tallinn and as far out as Finland, which is actually 42 miles away.
Tallinn Botanical Gardens
Virtually next door to the Teletorn is the Tallinn Botanical Gardens are well worth a visit. A beautiful greenhouse space, café and the most impressive collections of my favourite flower, Peonys I’ve ever seen, period!!
St Bridget’s Convent
A very short bus ride down the road from the botanical gardens, Pirita (St Bridget’s Convent) Convent was a monastery for both monks and nuns dedicated to St. Brigitta. It was the largest convent in Livonia and one of the largest in Northern Europe. It’s a beautiful site with hardly any tourists, we in fact had the place to ourselves for the whole time we were there.
If you fancy a bite to eat, one of my favourite restaurants in the world, Noa is located on the coast in Pirita and you can read all about it here…
The Maarjamäe Castle located in Maarjamäe Park with views of the Bay of Tallinn is a great place for those wanting to educate themselves on the History of Tallinn. It’s a fascinating place with various exhibitions and really immerses you into the culture of the city.
A five minute walk from the castle is the Maarjamäe memorial, which commemorates those who fell whilst defending the past Soviet Union. It was designed by A. Murdmaa and sculptor M. Varik and stands tall under a crumbling concrete bluff overlooking Tallinn bay.
One of the most beautiful parks in Tallinn, Kadriorg houses the stunning Kadriorg Palace, which was the palace of Catherine I of Russia. The Baroque Style palace was ordered to be built by Peter the Russian Tsar and construction began in 1718. The park also has many smaller gardens to visit, one of my favourite areas is the Swan Pond with a bandstand in the distance.
Located a few minutes from the park are the beautiful mansions of this area. I call it the ‘Mayfair’ of Tallinn. Due to the proximity of the palace and wealth in Kadriorg, it was only the aristocracy and upper class who could afford to buy houses here. Today Kadriorg is still one of the wealthiest parts of Estonia.
Port Noblessner is situated close to the centre of Tallinn, next to the Maritime Museum, just 15 minutes’ walk from the Old Town. The history of the port dates back to 1912, when Alfred Nobel’s nephew Emanuel Nobel and a torpedo manufacturer by the name of Lessner established a submarine plant on the site to serve the navy of the Russian Tsar.
It’s definitely worth a visit as the port area offers, a marina and yacht club, bars and restaurants, one being the very prestigious 180 degrees restaurant, which as the name suggests has 180 degrees views of the water.
There also creative boutique shops as well as some swanky apartment complexes renovated from the existing buildings.
Kalamaja, Telliskivi and Port Nobelssner are located quite close to each other along the coast and I would recommend setting aside a day to visit all three in leisurely fashion.
Where to Eat & Drink
For an extensive guide on coffee shops, bars, and dining in Tallinn, please refer to my Tallinn: Food & Drinks Guide below. The majority of establishments are located in the old Town however some are a short walk or taxi ride away from the Old Town.
Plan your Trip…
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Read More About Tallinn
- Schlossle Hotel Tallinn: A Luxury Hotel Review
- Tallinn: A Food & Drink Guide
- Dining at Noa Chef’s Hall
Tell me, has this Tallinn guide firmly put this fairy tale city on your list of must-visits?