Where Soviet meets Scandinavian; Tallinn, Estonia is a hidden gem in northern Europe.
- Language: Estonian (33% of Estonians consider themselves fluent in English)
- Currency: Euro
- Climate: Warm, dry summers & severe winters. Chances of snow from October-April.
A (brief) history of Tallinn
Tallinn has been a city since the 13th century. Because of it’s strategic location on the Baltic sea, it was a major trade hub leading to the construction of the medieval city walls and towers you can still visit today. Today, Tallinn is a fascinating mix of Scandinavian and Soviet culture, largely due to the shifts in power over the years.
Estonia was governed by Sweden for nearly two hundred years before it was captured by Russia in 1710 and did not gain independence again until 1918. This independence was short lived- Estonia joined the USSR in 1940. Estonia became an independent country in 1991.
Today, you can see Estonia’s medieval old city surrounded by Soviet construction. On a walking tour of the city, I learned that Tallinn was close enough to Finland to its radio signals and had a significant underground resistance to Soviet rule. It’s a fascinating city and truly unlike anything I’ve visited.
Tallinn is perfect for
- Stag / Bachelor Parties: cheap alcohol & lots of microbreweries.
- Romantic Getaways: cozy up over a coffee after spending hours wandering the old city streets
- Backpackers & Students: even though Tallinn uses the Euro, local prices remain quite affordable
How To Get There
You can travel to Tallinn by air, land, or sea.
Tallinn’s airport has nonstop flights to most European cities including London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and Berlin. Some routes are seasonal. AirBaltic, who is hubbed in Tallinn, has code shares with KLM, Britsh Airways, Ethiad Airways, and Iberia, among others.
The rail network has connections with Russia and Latvia. You can also take the bus with either Infobus or Ecolines.
There are ferry routes available from Stockholm, Helsinki, or Moscow.
When to Go
Tallinn has warm, dry summers and severe winters. I recommend going in the late spring, summer, or early fall. I went in April and the temperature was still in the low 30s with the occasional snowfall.
Where To Stay
The Old Town is crammed with medieval churches, traditional pubs, and gourmet restaurants. This is the perfect place to feel like you woke up in a Disney movie. The upper town, Toompea, is located on a small hill and was the center of nobility and clergy. The lower old town features the famous Raekoja Plats (town hall square)
Kalamaja is just northwest of the Old Town. Kalamaja- which translates to Fish House- was historically a fisherman’s village but today the area is flooded with students. This area has lots of cafes, restaurants, and microbreweries.
I stayed in Monk’s Bunk hostel which is located 5 minutes away from the Old Town. It is a very social hostel with nightly activities, a bar, and large common room.
Where to Eat
Traditional Estonian cuisine features lots of meat, potatoes, and black bread. Modern Estonian cuisine features these heritage ingredients served in innovative ways like duck with crab apples and berries or rhubarb cake with goat cheese icing
- III Drako ($) near Town Hall, is famous for their soup. The elk broth is perfect on a chilly day and it has cheap beer and wine too if that doesn’t do the trick.
- Kaerajaan ($$) was my favorite meal in Tallinn! The interior is whimsical and stylish. The food, described as “modern Estonian”, is incredible.
- Farm ($$$) serves locally sourced products served with an innovative twist. I recommend a reservation for dinner service. If you’re lucky, some tables have a view of the kitchen