Whilst you can see Tallinn in a day, it’s really worth spending a little more time to get to know Estonia’s capital.
Estonia might not be your first choice when booking a weekend break but think again; its capital, Tallinn, offers a broad range of attractions, cultural distractions and historic diversions that can keep you fully occupied.
Once the home of wealthy merchants who settled from across Europe, Estonia’s capital on the Baltic Sea is the country’s cultural hub that has now evolved into a vibrant focal point of the arts.
In the centre of Tallinn is its walled, cobblestoned Old Town – the best preserved medieval city in Northern Europe, with Gothic spires, winding cobblestone streets and enchanting architecture;
such as Kiek in de Kök, a 15th-century defensive tower and its towering Gothic Town Hall amidst the restaurants, bars, museums and galleries that inject new life into this historical walled city.
Arriving on a misty grey morning it would have been easy to discount the ‘former soviet’ city as living up to historic expectations of the eastern block – but with the first rays of sunshine came a burst of colour and vitality that we hadn’t expected – the city came alive.
For us, the true character of a city tends to be reflected in its old quarter, which usually retains some of the fabric of what made a place great – before city centres the world over became clones of consumerist brand development.
Tallinn’s mediaeval centre is set on and around the Toompea, or Dome Hill, hill top surrounded by old fortifications – so if you want to really explore the walled and cobblestoned old town fully, be prepared for some serious up and down hiking in order to see the best of it.
It’ll only take you a day to embrace the Old Town fully; including stopping at some of the many restaurants and bars to watch the world go by and getting lost amidst the alleyways and streets, which is all part of the novelty of discovering Tallinn.
You’ll inevitably find Alexander Nevskyy Cathedral, an onion domed testament to the Russian era as well as numerous other churches and cathedrals that provide landmarks, or discoveries, as you walk the streets.
Hunt out some Marzipan for a sweet diversion – the almond confection was invented here for medicinal purposes – you’ll find it in any number of confectioner’s windows or alongside the handicraft workshops of Muurivahe Lane.
We were in the city on a sunny summer’s day and although the central square was busy, which is full of bars and restaurants, the surrounding streets soon absorbed any crowds to the extent that we were often the only couple strolling along the cobbles.
Instead of being a lifeless museum, Tallinn old Town is very much an active and energetic centre, both in terms of residential housing, small businesses, government offices and embassies – so a fascinating diversity to pique your interest whether you’re after architecture or art.
Tallinn once had a reputation as one of the ‘stag party’ capitals of Europe but thankfully we saw no evidence of this and normality appears to have returned, whilst the fun and party atmosphere seems to have prevailed.
Well worth taking the time to see Tallinn.
Tallinn Card gives you free entry to over 40 of Tallinn’s best attractions, museums and tours, unlimited free use of public transport and over 30 bonus and discount offers