Tallinn is without a doubt one of the most underrated destinations in Europe. Not many capital cities are as picturesque and as enjoyable as this little pearl and Tallinn should therefore definitely feature on your next European adventure. Here is a mini guide giving a few suggestions on what to do in Tallinn.
Historical Overview: Tallinn’s origins date back to the 11th century when the first wooden castle was build on the hill Toompea. Since then Tallinn has been part of the kingdoms of Denmark and Sweden as well as the Russian Empire before becoming the capital of the Republic of Estonia from 1918 to 1940. After that Estonia was incorporated into the Soviet Union and thereby into the communist bloc.
Estonia regained independence in 1991 and joined the European Union in 2004. In 2011 Estonia adopted the the Euro as its currency
All those historical periods have influenced and shaped the architecture and urban structure of the city as well as the mentality of the locals.
Language & Population:
Estonian is one of the oldest languages in Europe, it is close to nothing apart from Finnish and both languages are completely unintelligible. Most people have an excellent command of English tough, except the large proportion of Russian people living in Tallinn, but communication is usually not an issue neither with Estonians nor with Russians
Estonia is a technology crazy country, free wifi is extremely widespread and every Estonian will remind you of the fact that an Estonian invented Skype, congratulations 😉
Estonia considers itself a Nordic country because of its close ties to Finland even tough their flat tax system and history underlines the differences between them and the other Nordic nations.
The best area to stay is in and around the Old Town where most of the city’s attractions are located.
Sokos Hotel Viru: the first ‘intourist’ hotel that allowed tourists in during Soviet times. The history and atmosphere of this redeveloped Soviet institution make this an authentic place to stay with all the new era facilities. As a bonus, the KGB museum on the last floor will give you the opportunity to learn about Soviet tourism and how the rooms were bugged to find potential spies. Book your stay here
Hotel St Barbara: a nice little mid range hotel that has everything you need for a very reasonable price. Book your stay here
Old town hostel Alur: the budget option for solo travellers Book your stay here
Tallinn has numerous cultural sights a traveller should see, located mainly around the Old Town
Old Town: in itself a sight, a medieval masterpiece, one of the most beautiful old towns in Europe.
KGB Museum on the last floor of Viru Hotel: a guided tour definitely worth doing, a chance to see how the KGB worked and recorded hotel guests during soviet times
Seaplane Harbour Museum (Lennusadam) : an enormous museum exhibiting ships, weapons and other military vehicles, you can simulate flying an old fighter plane, board an original Soviet submarine and much more.
Contemporary Art museum of Estonia (KUMU): near the presidential palace, well worth a visit for art lovers
Toompea Hill: the limestone hill on which St. Mary’s Cathedral is located, a favourable viewpoint for photographers and travellers equally
Wine and dine:
Olde Hansa (Vana Turg 1) is a great medieval style restaurant in the heart of the old town where you can try all the local dishes and a wide variety of local beers in a medieval tavern atmosphere
Tallinn’s nightlife has flourished in recent years with drink tourism being a problem but far less than in Riga. Here are a few spots for nights owls and party animals:
Mad Murphy’s Pub: a good place where Estonians only make up a small proportion of the customers but nice to enjoy a pint in a cosy atmosphere
Hell Hunt Bar: a nice bar to taste craft beers and meet some locals.
Most Puudel Bar: FWB’s favourite bar in Tallinn, definitely worth a visit, it also features a disco in the basement which I unfortunately missed
Hollywood Club: a sizeable club which attracts a young, hip crowd, definitely recommendable
Venus Club (not a stripclub): the locals’ favourite, a perfect club to party in style with the locals.