For a lot of people the words ‘Estonia‘ or Tallinn‘ don’t ring any bells. And in a sense it’s understandable; the country has been independent for under 30 years, it’s very small, and it has been shadowed by its enormous neighbours, Russia and Finland.
But last year Lonely Planet chose Tallinn “the best value destination in the world“ to visit. And as someone who currently lives in the city in question, I have noticed the increase in the number of international tourists roaming the UNESCO World Heritage site, Tallinn Old Town.
But what most tourists don’t know (perhaps fortunately) is that Tallinn has dozens of intriguing places other than just the beautiful Old Town.
Right between the harbour and the Old Town there is the serene Rotermanni square, which has a unique architecture about it, seasoned with wonderful restaurants and bars. And RØST, oh my lord, you must get a cinnamon bun from this place!
Behind the Old Town there are 2 trendy areas called Telliskivi and Kalamaja. These are former suburbs with old factories that have now been transformed into most amazing loft apartments and restaurants with artsy cafés and little boutiques everywhere.
The “gate” to Telliskivi is a brand new market hall where you can find second hand shops, art, delicious food and local delicacies. Definitely worth a visit!
To the other direction, East from the Old Town, you will find the most delightful, and the least known area of Tallinn; Kadriorg. It’s a leafy area with gorgeous, well looked after wooden houses, beautiful parks, and the former imperial palace with the President’s castle behind it (pink!!).
In the park you will find a swan lake with a gazebo in the middle, and a bit further into the woods there is a secret Japanese garden donated to Tallinn in its entirety by Japan. This is my ultimate favourite place in Tallinn (in addition to the seaside): ultimate zen and peace.
Right after Kadriorg you will find yourself by the Baltic Sea. There you can follow the cruise ships sailing back and forth between Helsinki and Tallinn, chill on the beach or enjoy some delish food on a terrace.
I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t overly excited when I moved to Tallinn 3 years ago. But during Summer the city is exceptionally beautiful and nothing beats having lunch and a glass of wine on a terrace in the Old Town.
There’s one thing where Tallinn beats many other big cities running along the Baltic Sea: food culture. There’s a variety of global cuisines, but the best restaurants are the ones that focus on local production and ingredients. Simple but tasty.
The restaurants that I recommend with all my heart are:
- Rataskaevu 16
- Kolm Sibulat
- Leib Resto & Aed
Book a table beforehand! Restaurants here are small and very popular, so walk-ins are often left outside.
Also, architecture here is something you can’t find anywhere else. It’s a mixture of St. Petersburg’s decorative and imperial style next to ultra modern and simplistic buildings influenced by Scandinavia.
But where Scandinavian architecture is plain boring, Estonians have managed to make it interesting and surprising.
Tallinn is quickly becoming busier and busier, so if you want to see this Baltic pearl, you’d do better to go see it soon.
Summer is the best time with the city blooming and all kinds of events taking place every week. Or another good period would be Christmas. Like many European cities, also Tallinn has a proper Christmas Market.
For a truly authentic experience and expert tips on all the secret locations, you could also contact me ;)
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