Last month I visited Tallinn for a conference. It was my first time in the city (and Estonia) and needless to say I was excited. Visiting in the summertime meant that I had plenty of daylight to explore the city. The sun set at 10.30pm (whereas in Athens it sets at 8.40pm).
Tallinn is a charming town and the old city surrounded by walls, towers, and all that jazz remained intact throughout the years. Another thing that amazed me was the kindness and friendliness of Estonians. From the conference organizers to the waiters in the restaurants, I visited everyone was very helpful and friendly! Case in point: one waitress helped me dig in for Euro coins in the till (I collect them), while another waiter wrote on the receipt that I am sweet. Ahh!
Now let’s get on with the places you must visit inside and outside the Old City walls. As always I’m including places to eat and where to stay.
What to see in Tallinn
I started the exploration from the Town Hall Square, which is in the middle of the old town. It’s a large square, surrounded by pastel colored buildings. Most of them are restaurants. My favorite road to walk in the city was Pikk, which is the longest street in the old town. I also liked walking along the town’s western walls.
If you’re looking for a quirky little street, then check out St. Catherine’s Passage (Katariina Käik). It reminded me of Harry Potter’s sets to be honest. Hogsmeade and all that!
One thing you’ll notice in Tallinn is the abundance of churches. The grandest one has to be the Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox Cathedral on Toompea hill. I took so many photos of that church trying to find the best angle and light! Entrance is free and no photography is allowed inside. The other church I visited was St. Olaf. The main reason was to climb up 258 stairs and see the city from the church’s observation deck. The climb was steep but definitely worth it. If you’re looking for the best views in Tallinn here’s where you’ll find them.
Another viewpoint, with less hassle, is Kohutsa viewing platform on Toompea Hill. The platform faces to the east and looks over the old town. There is another platform facing west named Piiskopi. Toompea Hill is where the city’s nobility resided. The Estonian Parliament is also located here (next to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral). The hill was connected to the lower town with a couple of gates. One of them can be found at the Maiden’s Tower, which houses a cafe and is said to be haunted! Next to the Maiden tower, lays Kiek in de Kok, a cannon tower that houses a museum about the town’s fortifications, weapons, and medieval-era life.
The old town is walkable and I was able to explore it in one afternoon and evening (they are long after all!).
Outside the Walls
On my second day in Tallinn right after the conference, I decided to visit Telliskivi Creative City and Balti Jaam Turg. The latter is a farmer’s market located next to Balti Jaam railway station. Unfortunately, I visited late in the afternoon just before the market closed. I was able to pop in Kalev chocolate store though and buy some chocolates to bring back home. I also spotted some flamingo cupcakes at Vahvlihaldjad, which I didn’t end up trying!
Next, I made my way to Telliskivi Creative City and realized that 7 pm on a weekday is not the best time to visit it! Telliskivi is a former industrial complex, which now consists of ateliers, studios, creative companies and offices of artists and NGOs. The creative city also houses restaurants, cafes, and shops. It has a large open space area and street art. I’m sure that it is more busy and vibrant on weekends (and warmer days). On my way back to the city I stopped by Towers’ square park.
On my last day in Tallinn, I ventured to the east of the city. I visited Kadriorg park, which houses an art museum, the Presidential Office, and Peter the Great House museum. I walked around the park as the day was sunny and pleasant. I didn’t get in the museums but took photos of Kadriorg Palace which is very pretty. On my way back to the city, I stopped at Rotterman Quarter. Rotterman quarter used to house factories and mills in the 19th century. Today it is full of shops and restaurants.
Last but not least I walked over Linnahall, which is an abandoned music hall and ice skate rink. It was located next to my hotel so it picked my curiosity. It provides you with beautiful views over the Baltic Sea and the port. It’s also a prime place to watch the sunset!
Where to Eat in Tallinn
Tallinn’s old city is full of restaurants. Especially the Old Town Square. I decided to dig a little deeper and avoid the central square. I ended up dining at two restaurants on Rataskaevu street which were top rated and totally worth it.
Vegan Restoran V, Rataskaevu 12, Tallinn
Vegan restoran has a very homey feeling. I sat indoors as it was getting cooler, but outdoor seating is also available. I got a green salad with guacamole and vegan tacos. Everything was delicious and budget-friendly (for me at least). I definitely recommend it, even if you’re not vegan.
On my second night in Tallinn, I decided to hit up the top-rated restaurant on Tripadvisor. I should have booked a table the day before.I managed to find a spot in the garden and prayed it didn’t rain. I went for the grilled pork tenderloin that came along with broccoli and potato cake. I was also served a generous amount of bread that they didn’t charge as service. I was amazed. The food was delicious and the staff very friendly. I totally get why it is top rated. If you plan to dine there, do book a table so as to be on the safe side!
On the pedestrian road, that connects the old town with Toompea Hill, you’ll come across Cortile ice cream parlor. I stopped there for some ice cream as it was hot on my first day in the city.
At the conference, I discovered Kalev chocolates. Kalev is Estonia’s largest and oldest confectionery manufacturer. You will find the chocolates in their stores in Baalti Jam Turg and Rotterman Quarter. They are also available in supermarkets. I loved the Tiramisu flavored milk chocolate and the white chocolate with blueberries.
Where to Stay in Tallinn
During my visit in Tallinn, I stayed at Tallink Express Hotel. The hotel was recommended by the conference organizers. The location was perfect for me as it was a 2-minute walk from the conference venue and 5-minute walk from the bus stop. It is also an 8-minute walk to the Old Town’s closest gate. The hotel itself was minimal and clean. The breakfast had a lot of options, which is always a plus.