funky, young, old, enchanting Tallinn - Estonia

Monday, May 19, 2014

While visiting 'too perfect' Helsinki last month hubby and I couldn't resist the opportunity to take a trip to the medieval city of Tallinn in Estonia, just a one and a half hours by ferry away across the Baltic sea.

We were lucky enough to have some great recommendations from one of hubby's workmates who is from Estonia, so armed with her list of 'must sees and eats' we woke early on the Saturday morning, stumbled to the ferry terminal and made our way to Tallinn.

After the perfect, quiet (and expensive) streets of Helsinki it was love at first sight! Ahhh, funky, young, old, enchanting Tallinn. We strolled our way to the Old Town for a nosey about...

View of Tallinn city on arrival in Estonia from the ferry terminal
view of Tallinn city on arrival in Estonia from the ferry terminal

Entering Tallinn's medieval Old Town
entering Tallinn's medieval Old Town

From the moment we arrived I knew I would like the medieval Old Town. Twisting cobblestone lanes, iron street lamps and Gothic spires set the scene for this pedestrian only area of the city. But mixed in with the old we found a lot of new too - including readily available WiFi and café culture galore.

Since it was still quite early we decided to grab a quick energy boost and settled into a gorgeous little outdoor café, with brightly coloured floral tablecloths, hanging picture-frames and most importantly - snugly blankets to fight the chill.

Morning caffeine boost - Tallinn, Estonia
morning caffeine boost - Tallinn, Estonia

Outdoor café - Tallinn, Estonia
outdoor café - Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia has a interesting recent history, and only recently gained independence from Russia in 1991. Since becoming independent the country has thrived, and Tallinn is currently listed as one of the top 10 digital cities of the world, a fact which I didn't find to surprising to learn after watching a BBC documentary last year about how all primary school aged children in Estonia are being taught out to code! 

Estonia is also known to be one of the least religious countries in the world. However - there are still some churches in the cityscape - including the impressive Nevsky Cathedral (Russian Orthodox Church) that literally sits on top of the city today. 

walkway up to Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn
walkway up to Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn

Hare Krishnas walking through Freedom Square, Old Town Tallinn
Hare Krishnas walking through Freedom Square, Old Town Tallinn

Tallinn Old Town is also listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. It's Town Hall Square is surrounded by elaborate merchant houses and lined with rather expensive cafés. We took in the view but decided not to linger as we had a pocketful of recommendations for places to eat...

Town Hall Square, Old Town Tallinn - Estonia
Town Hall Square, Old Town Tallinn

We acted like children and laughed at some of the signs around town... 'FARTIST TALK' and 'chocolate pood' (pood is 'shop' in Estonian).

Fartist Talk, Old Town Tallinn, Estonia
Fartist Talk, Old Town Tallinn

shop window, Old Town Tallinn - Estonia
shop window, Old Town Tallinn

By now it was lunch time, so we decided to leave the Old Town and follow our friends' recommendation: "Eat at Sfäär - a good place for lunch in city centre and if you decide to walk to Old town from the ferry port then the place is literally next to Old town. Lamb patty is my favourite there."

And, well it was amazing... the perfect mix of artistic, minimalist chaos (if there is such a thing) with friendly staff and delicious food...

Sfäär - great food just out of Old Town Tallinn - Estonia
Sfäär - great food just out of Old Town Tallinn

And to all my kiwi and aussie friends out there - look what they had on the menu...

Pavlova in Sfäär - Tallinn, Estonia

I started with the crepes, followed with the lamb patty and finished with a good ole kiwi favourite Pavlova. The food was as good as it looked...

crepes - Sfäär, Tallinn
crepes - Sfäär, Tallinn

lamb patty - Sfäär, Tallinn
lamb patty - Sfäär, Tallinn

pavlova - Sfäär, Tallinn
pavlova - Sfäär, Tallinn

After such a big lunch it was time to get active so we went for a stroll along some of the remaining Tallinn Old Town wall. Today only half of the original wall that once surrounded the Old Town remains (about 2kms), and of this you can only walk along a very small section.

view from the top of Tallinn Old Town wall
view from the top of Tallinn Old Town wall

walking along the top of the wall
walking along the top of the wall

One of the things I really loved about Tallinn was just how busy the streets felt. There were lots of people out and about, and the atmosphere of the Old Town felt very lively and happy.

Old Town Tallinn
Old Town Tallinn

Old Town Tallinn
customers lining up for roasted nuts

To burn off a few more calories we walked up to the Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform, a well known spot to see sweeping views of the Old Town against the blue of the ocean and the new city in the distance.

view of Tallinn from Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform
view of Tallinn from Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform

It was getting late in the day and sadly it was almost time for us to head back to Helsinki. On our way to the ferry terminal we decided to have 'one or two for the road' and follow another recommendation: "Hell Hunt in Old Town - the only real pub as such in Tallinn. Serves good snacks and different types of beer. Relaxed atmosphere. Have a hotshot :) They serve local Estonian beers too - most common are Saku, Ale Coq."

Hot Shots from Hell Hunt, Tallinn
our Hot Shots (indeed they were hot!)

And then it was time to say farewell to Tallinn...

Heading back to Helsinki via ferry from Tallinn
heading back to Helsinki via ferry from Tallinn

If you have the opportunity to visit Estonia I would thoroughly recommend visiting Tallinn. We spent three days in Helsinki, Finland and one day in Tallinn, Estonia. However if I could go back in time I would have switched this itinerary around choosing to spend more time in Estonia.

Have you been to Helsinki and Tallinn? Would love to hear your thoughts...

You Might Also Like


  1. What another beautiful place, with more beautiful food. Again, I am too jealous.

    Charli | Charlotte Rose

  2. Wow this looks like such a charming and interesting city. Your lunch looked great and I'm curious about what is in that hot shot.

    1. The hot shots were espresso (hot in temperature) and sambuca topped with cream. Delicious!!

  3. Hehe, did you ever think you would be sitting in a café in Estonia eating pav? Most important question: was it good?

  4. such lovely photos. i would love to visit! :)

  5. Tallinn is relatively close to where we live in Vilnius and it is so on our list of places to visit next academic year. I will have to follow your recommendation of restaurants. That food looks incredible!

  6. A few years ago I meet some girls from Tallinn and every since I have wanted to visit. They made it sound so beautiful and your pictures have me convinced I need to visit, looks like such a charming place.

  7. Oh I waited ages for this post! ;) Love the pictures and although some of them definitely remind me of Riga, others look totally different! I really need to do another Baltic cruise to visit this city!

  8. Wow Tallinn looks so great! I definitely want to visit soon. Love the pav!

  9. when I was planning a trip in Scandinavia I planned on spending a day in Tallinn because flights from there flew back to Edinburgh. It never happened sadly. But this post is making me realise how i absolutely underestimated Tallinn. Wow, it looks so beautiful and interesting! Very nice pictures :) thanks for sharing!

  10. The hot shots look amazing! You were lucky to get some great recommendations as to where to go from a local. Makes such a difference.

  11. Gorgeous photos!! Tallinn looks like a really neat place!