It’s so hard to know where to start, so I am making a BOLD Statement…
The best city break I have been on so far – gosh, there it is – in writing, I guess I had better explain!
I didn’t really know what to expect, Tallinn hadn’t been on our list of destinations to visit but thank goodness we ended up here by default. Wow… we stayed at the Schlossle Hotel in the heart of the old town ( see my favourite hotel blog on Facebook for more information about this hotel) all I’ll say is – it is beautiful and we would stay here again in a breath!
The old town of Tallinn is still tucked safely behind the original stone walls of the city. The walls themselves are part of the charm. With there hidden tunnels, imposing turrets and tales of Danish conquest – ‘if walls could speak’ I am sure they would have a secret or two to tell
Over the years the old town has been home to wealthy merchants that came to settle from all over Europe and this is shown in the architecture. Medieval churches and gothic spires overlook the cobbled streets, old mills, warehouses and ancient merchant homes – many dating back hundreds of years that are now home to bars, restaurants, shops and museums. The town is so well preserved it is no wonder that it was awarded an UNESCO World Heritage title.
The labyrinth of narrow streets seem to all lead to the ‘Town Hall Square’ The square looks like a film set! It’s an amazing setting for a lunch. There are loads of restaurants to choose from. We chose the ‘Bella Ciao Restaurant’ mainly because the host was such a good character and made us laugh! However the food was great – wild boar spaghetti and a glass of cider was the perfect match for the stunning surroundings. The ancient buildings in the square are painted in fabulous colours and over look the town hall which dates back to 1322 and has been lovingly restored and looked after all these years. Be sure to head up there during the evening – the hustle and bustle, fairy lights and colours make the square enchanting. The square used to be the setting where thieves and criminals were sentenced to death, luckily nowadays festivals and fairs are held here including a wonderful Christmas market! I can’t think of a nicer place to enjoy a mulled wine 🍷
I love a Birds Eye view of a town, it helps me find my bearings and also spot other areas I’d like to see. Tallinn has some incredible viewing points. One at the top of ‘Troompea’ (the upper town) which looks St Olav’s Church.
My favourite one though, was looking out from the top of that very church – St Olav’s. The 360 degree view is breathtaking and you can see all the neighbourhoods adjacent to the old town itself. A big part of the enjoyment though was watching Nick (as many of you know he is 6ft 6) climb though the dinky doorways and up the tiniest staircase to reach the top – I think even the ticket man was having a little giggle 🤭
There is quite a bit of what I’ll call ‘dark tourism’ here and it’s all the rage! Again by default we fell upon these. The KGB Prison Cells were definitely worth a visit. The stories being told from past prisoners and tales of what happened in those very cells was very sobering, it’s unbelievable that things like that happened not very long ago! There is also the Patarei Sea Fortress and Prison in the Kalamaji district. This is open seasonally and is now known for being one of the best places in the world to see a glimpse of Soviet- era prison life. Even if you don’t go in, walking around the outside of this damp, sea weathered building is pretty eerie!
To ‘lighten’ the mood we booked a private ghost stories walk! It was AMAZING – I loved it. I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit scared at some points ( well jumpy). It was such a great way about to learn about the different buildings, move around parts of the city we wouldn’t have visited and learn some ‘very’ alternative history. Dancing with the devil, black cats in the well, jilted lovers and faceless monks were amongst some of the stories. One of the many things I love about Tallinn is that there is a tale to tell about everything, it really is like being in a fairytale book!
We visited Tallin for 4 nights so we had loads of time to head out of the city and explore some more! We jumped on a ferry to Finland and spent the day in Helsinki. What a fantastic day trip. The ferry port is a five minute drive from the centre ( you can walk if you wanted to) and in just two hours your are there! As always we have a bit of drama and literally got lost. We wondered around thinking, what an earth is everyone raving about- it’s not all that good. After visiting the design museum (very strange but interesting) we all of a sudden stubbled onto the coastline walk, stunningly beautiful and exactly as you would imagine. We followed the sea path stopping for a delicious hot chocolate and cake before reaching Vanhakaupunki which is the Old Town of Helsinki. Here you will find the market square (we picked up a couple of hand crafted fridge magnets here- Nick was delighted), the Helsinki Cathedral and the Uspenski Cathedral amongst lots of museums and gorgeous buildings. The one thing I was amazed at was the shopping! I wouldn’t say that Tallinn was huge for designer shopping, but Helsinki! No wonder the ferry was busy. It was like being on Oxford Street in London (less crazy) Alexander Street (Aleksanterinkatu) begins at the Presidential Palace and is home to fabulous eateries, boutiques and the famous Stockmann Department store. A day was plenty enough to visit Helsinki and we would definitely go back in the summer to explore more of the coast.
We met a lovely guy on the plane who came from Tallinn. He mentioned that there were some amazing parks and green spaces in Tallinn. Lucky for us we had booked a trip to explore some of the different neighbourhoods of Tallinn and what an eye opener! So we started with a craft beer tasting- trying beers from a local brewery accompanied with a tasty deep fried pigs ear 😱 then headed out to Kadriorg Park. Kadriorg Park is the most palatial parks in the whole of Estonia. It was established in 1718 when Peter the Great constructed Kadriorg Palace and beautiful flower gardens. I could have stayed here for hours looking around the swan lakes, Japanese gardens and acres of woodland.
We were whisked away to a completely contrasting area – to the trendy Balti Jaam Market – wow! Three floors of fresh produce antiques, vintage clothing and cool places to eat and drink. There are nearly 300 hundred traders here so you can imagine the variety of things to buy! Crossing over the road you enter the Telliskivi Creative City. This is the former industrial area and is now full of galleries, independent shops and start ups. The street art is great too. In the evening there are gin bars, night clubs and some great places to eat. It reminded me that Tallinn really is a city for everyone.
Unlike me, I haven’t mentioned the food! There are just so many restaurants and so much choice. I would recommend eating away from the square as you can imagine it’s a bit of a tourist trap – lunch is a good idea rather than evening meal.
We had some amazing meals … Controvento Restaurant in St Catherine’s passage- Italian and amazing service – Mega busy so definitely book!
For a fine dining experience book into the Stenhus Restaurant in the Schlossle Hotel. Try the smoked Eels and Elk.
Want something a bit quirky? Head downstairs into Rukkilill Cafe, which translates to cornflower in English. This cafe is tiny, family run and very homely. We tried wild boar dumplings washed down with great wine. The whole menus is homemade and looked delicious.
Something special – book in advance ( before to travel) Rataskaeuvu 16. Great food, lovely cocktails and fab service.
So after all that, make sure you don’t miss the Estonian Martime museum at Fat Margaret’s tower. That’s was really interactive and lots of fun. You can buy a double ticket here that also allows you access to the Seaplane Harbour along the coast. We walked along the coastal path which was lovely. This area would be amazing in the summer. Nice beach bars and access to the sea.
We really did have the most amazing trip and will definitely return in the near future. Don’t let the flight from Liverpool put you off! It was an easy journey and a fab airport – lots of facilities and easy parking!
As always please get in touch if you would like anymore information about this fabulous city!