A Weekend in... Tallinn
ANNA PARKER'S LATEST INSTALMENT OF 'A WEEKEND IN..." CONTINUES WITH TALLINn.
One of our lesser planned trips in 2017 was taking a long-weekend in Tallinn, Estonia.It turned out to be one of our most enjoyable city breaks – exploring a part of Europe we knew nothing about we couldn’t help but be impressed. Mr P was over in Eastern Europe doing a team visit tour with work and rather than just flying home on the Friday night, instead I flew out to meet him.
One can now fly with British Airways or Easyjet daily. At the time it was just Easyjet and I was sat right in the middle of a rowdy stag do. It worried me that Tallinn was going to be a rowdy place full of Brits abroad... Thankfully it couldn’t be further from the truth, when we got off the plane that side of things vanished!
The city is the perfect spot for a weekend visit, if you get to stay a little longer then definitely head out of the city too. On our third day a work colleague took us off to a pretty village by the seaside. There are so many options though, and in the summer there are even some islands you could visit for a total change of pace. Even taking a trip by ferry to Helsinki!
We visited at the end of April – beautiful blue skies and warm sunshine one day, a snow storm the next! When packing for this trip I would definitely say to assume for 4 seasons in one day!
I would suggest you spend one of days exploring the old town and another seeing the city more widely.
In and around the old town:
The main city square is picture perfect. Tall little colourful buildings painted in pastels. Little outdoor bars with heaters and rugs all around the edge. Excellent buskers and fantastic people watching. We went straight here after I arrived for a Friday sundowner and it was the perfect start to the weekend. Through the weekend, Mr P discovered that the beer and ale lists in Tallinn put everywhere else to shame. So. Much. Choice. Wandering around the old town and the little alley ways two things struck us. The high quality of all the goods in the shops, especially locally made textiles. And secondly just how interesting a medieval town is to explore. Turrets, little bridges and narrow passageways. Particular favourites were St Catherine’s passage and the Master’s Courtyard.
Toopmea Hill needs climbing. Up at the top you will find the parliament buildings as well as the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The cathedral was almost torn down as it is a reminder of the soviet era, whilst it is a dominant reminder on the skyline it is stunning. We enjoyed wandering around up here as it had a really old world feel to it. With its height there are many great view spots to enjoy. Thankfully we found the ‘times we had sign’. The view from here across the city is astounding, right out to sea. There’s almost too many spires and lookout towers to count.
The Soviet Era wasn’t something I learnt much of at school as it only came to an end at the same time. There is a fascinating Museum of the Occupations that I urge you to spend time in. A really thought-provoking place, it’s only small but it takes you through what happened in bite sized chunks. I found it quite disconcerting how people my own age that now live a life like ours had lived just a matter of years ago under Soviet rule. A very difficult history few know about.
The wider city:
There’s also a modern side to Tallinn. This is out in Telliskivi and it is definitely where the cool people go to hang out. We arrived there in a blizzard so first we relaxed (and warmed up) in one of the many coffee houses, enjoying vegan cake (it’s that hip)! The highlight to this area is the conversion of disused warehouses to form a creative centre. There is excellent street art and inside the warehouses countless little pop up shops with local wares and stunning household goods.
We hired a couple of Sixt sponsored bikes to see the wider city. As sailors we wanted to go out to Pirata which was the venue for the 19080 sailing at the Olympics. Looking at the list of medal winners it was clear this was the games boycotted by non-Soviet countries. It was nice to cycle along beside the sea, during a city break. There’s two other places to stop at, and it’s easy flat cycling on cycleways. The Maarjamae Soviet WWII memorial is an eery place but fascinating to see the former dominance. It is being left to rot, but is striking nonetheless. For balance, the second place I would recommend is Kadriorg. The house is stunning Baroque and the immaculate gardens were springing into life. It couldn’t be more different to Maarjamae or the old city. Tallinn really is a place of many faces.
Where to stay?
We split our time between two great hotels. The first night we were in the Radisson Blu Sky Hotel where Mr P had been for his business visit. 2 great reasons to stay here. First up is sunset from the top floor bar. It is absolutely spectacular. The city is littered with spires and turrets and in the red light as the sun goes down it really is one of the prettiest cityscapes I’ve seen. The second reason is that it is widely touted to be the best breakfast in town. I have to say, as hotel buffets goes i’ve never seen anything to bit and varied. Even dairy free porridge!
Our second hotel was the Telegraaf hotel, just on the edge of the old town. It’s a pretty little boutique hotel and it is littered with history inside from its days as the telephone exchange. It’s highlight for us was the pool, hot tub and sauna. We were expecting cold weather so wanted somewhere with space inside. In fact we had it to ourselves, perfectly peaceful with a gorgeous living wall too! Our room was an upgrade into the new wing and was spacious and quiet.
Where to eat?
We did some research before our trip as we didn’t really know what to expect. Porgu was the most touristy place we visited – it was traditional Estonian food in a cellar, very atmospheric! We found a lovely Asian restaurant called Chedi that I would strongly recommend. Mekk was another highlight – on the pricey side but serving excellent modern Estonian food. Our favourite meal was at Tschaikovsky in our second hotel – the surroundings are beautiful, with another living wall and swan origami napkins. It really was the ‘symphony’ of Russian cuisine that the menu promised, with excellent service too.
We really did enjoy our time in Tallinn. It was long enough for a taste of Eastern Europe that has left us wanting for more!