Tallinn is the capitol city of Estonia, the most northern country of the Baltics. The Baltics are not widely known as a suitable travel destination among travellers, but deserve to be so. Tallinn boasts one of the most well-preserved historic city centres in the world and is perfect for a midweek city trip.
You can fly to Tallinn directly from many major European airports, but it is also possible to take the train from St. Petersburg in Russia or the ferry from Helsinki in Finland. When I visited Tallinn, I came by ferry, which takes you to Tallinn in about 1,5 hour. Arriving at the port, you will question your choice for Tallinn, as a huge concrete structure rises up right on the shore.
“Stay away from the touristy restaurants, but look for tiny hidden bars and restaurants”
After a 5 minute walk however, you arrive at the old city centre of Tallinn. This is probably the moment butterflies will start making their way to your stomach, as it feels like you’re walking right into an old Disney-style town.
TALLLINN’S OLD CITY – FAIRY LAND
The old city centre of Tallinn is built on the slope of a hill and surrounded by perfectly-preserved city walls. You can easily walk around the old centre in a day and see it all. The beauty of the city is in the little alleys and pubs around the city. Stay away from the touristy restaurants (the staff is usually wearing medieval outfits), but instead head into little bars and restaurants that are hard to recognize as such from the outside. These are usually the best places to go to. One restaurant I can recommend isKarja Kelder, hidden in a small and old cellar. There is place for about ten guests, the food is amazing and cheap as well. Another must-try is a little bit less hidden: the little cafe underneath the main town hall. Once again tiny, but definitely big in deeds. Try out their vegetable soup. I have never tasted any soup better than this one. Also perfect for the occassional hang-over.
“Latvia’s capitol Riga is only 10 euros away.”
Tallinn offers a great combination of nightlife and culture. The old town is beautiful, the city park just outside the old town is just as great. Estonia is a small country, which makes it possible to run into the president in the city park or grocery store and even take a selfie with him. Where else would you be able to do this? If you’re staying in a hostel, the Monk’s Bunk, Tallinn Backpackers and The Red Emperor are great. They offer trips to the countryside, pub crawls and even trips to a shooting range.
TRAVELLING FROM TALLINN
From Tallinn the other two Baltics can be reached by bus. Eurolines offers a 4-hour bus ride to Riga (Latvia) for just € 10. From Riga you can take another 4-hour bus to Vilnius (Lithuania) for the same price. If you have the possibility however, visit the sunken prison on the Western shores of Estonia. This old prison was used until the 80s and then left behind. In the past decades, water from the nearby Sea has taken control over the prison, resulting in a surreal scenery with a partly-sunken prison and great views over mountains and lakes.
Average hostel: € 12,50 per night (8-bed dorm)
Ecolines bus to Riga (Latvia): € 10 (may be higher in peak season)
Ferry to Helsinki: € 30 – € 50 (depending on season and company)