10 reasons to visit: Tallinn

Tallinn is one of the prettiest cities I have visited thus far. It is easy to enjoy – unspoilt by mass-tourism and small enough to get the best of in a long weekend. It was a chance visit to Estonia and a last minute booking. Mr P was touring the Baltics on business and we latched on a long weekend in Tallinn. These unplanned mini-breaks, to Milan and Stockholm, have been some of our best trips! Minimal planning was undertaken, although Pinterest offered plenty of tips and the Wallpaper guide book was an excellent resource.

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Tallinn old town is dinky and you can navigate by looking up at the spires to triangulate your location. The hotel scene offers excellent choices and the foodie scene was a delicious surprise. The more eerie side to the city is its Soviet past, something I embarrassingly knew very little about, despite it only coming to an end in my lifetime. It is something I would recommend investing time in understanding, alongside the picture perfect medieval history.

On my flight over to Tallinn I was a tad worried what I was getting into. Wedged into an EasyJet flight predominantly ferrying (drunken) stag do’s (at 10am) was quite an awakening. Much to my horror, I was sat in the middle of a 24-man strong gathering (😳) but it was actually pretty amusing and I had the measure of them. Clearly growing up around sailors prepared me for it well…

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Rest assured if you are planning a cultural visit to Tallinn, within 15 minutes of landing you’ll be in the city with no sight of stags again. Confidence in the location was restored. Let me take you on a tour of our best bits:

Watch the sunset

This was what we did first as Mr P was staying at the hotel with the highest bar – Lounge 24 at the Radisson Blu Sky. It is hands down one of the most epic city sunsets I have seen.

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

The aspect is ideal and the sheer number of spires along with incredibly clean air sets up sundown perfectly. It is also a fascinating skyline – dotted with medieval spires, concrete soviet monstrosities and quirky modern architecture. Like a ‘Where’s Wally’ picture as there is so much to find.

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Toompea Hill

Climbing the steps up Toompea Hill is, I promise you, the only altitude you must address and the short climb is worth it.

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Toompea houses the parliament buildings as well as the impressive Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The cathedral was to be demolished as it is a stark reminder of the soviet era – the onion-shaped domes loom on the skyline. However the funds weren’t available and so it stayed. It is beautiful, but I can see why Estonians wouldn’t appreciate this particular grandeur. There are also many other churches – each is tall and each is different. One of our highlights were the many viewpoints looking across the city of Tallinn. There’s a famous one with a ‘the times we had’ sign and a couple of others. See them all and enjoy the view. Then, take the photos!

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Tallinn old town

Tallinn old town is just gorgeous. I think the reason why it really won us over is because it isn’t spoilt by shops selling tatt. There are of course souvenir shops, but they are discrete and predominantly sell high quality locally made odds and ends (read: excellent Christmas decorations). Most of the things we saw to buy were truly local – hand-made textiles, woods and figurines.

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Always look up – there are so many beautiful old buildings, lovely features and pretty pastel colours. There are too many city wall defence towers to count and numerous little passage-ways to wander along. St Catherine’s passage is very pretty and the Master’s Courtyard is the place to go for local souvenirs.

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Telliskivi

This is where the cool kids of Tallinn hang out. It is only a short walk away from the old town. Disused warehouses have been converted to form a hip creative centre.

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

There are excellent pieces of street art as well as a plethora of pop up shops and restaurants. We sheltered here from a raging blizzard. Reval Café not only does the best latte art I have seen on a soya coffee but also it had vegan cake. Happily you will not see a single Starbucks or Pret. Tallinn is all about going local, hallelujah!

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Museum of the occupations

This was Mr P’s choice, as I am not a history lover. However it is only a small museum and, I think, essential to visit. At school I was taught about the tearing down of the Berlin wall, as well as the Tudors, Elizabethans, WWI and WWII. But what went on in the Soviet Era and how the union came to an end was skipped. This museum took us through those challenges in bite sized chunks and it was a thought-provoking place. The Baltic States have a short history in their current form, but a difficult time before then. Downstairs in the museum were some excellent art exhibitions too, modern and showing the resilience of Estonia.

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

We also stumbled across a museum of Estonian drinking culture, but sadly it was shut. There are countless museums across the city – so much more to see on a longer trip.

Local beer

Mr P was a happy boy as there is an extensive selection of ales and such like, making the choice in Waitrose look positively paltry. Fizz on the menu for those of us that aren’t too keen on beer!

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Porgu was a particular favourite (for lunch and beer, hidden in an underground cellar), but all the bars and restaurants around Town Hall Square appeared to have outstanding choices of beers not to be found elsewhere. We enjoyed sundowners in the square and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It wasn’t even chilly, but if it was there are fleece and sheepskin blankets. Touristy yes, but chocolate box buildings to ogle and music from near professional buskers to enjoy. Buzzing.

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Eat your heart out

We inadvertently took a foodie tour of Tallinn. On our first night we ate at Mekk – modern Estonian food that was as beautiful as it was tasty. We were sent to Porgu by an Instagram recommendation and enjoyed a light lunch there whilst beer tasting. Porgu apparently means ‘hell’ but the food was anything but… although the ‘lard chips’ were exactly what they said they were. Lard on chips! My love of the Chedi hotel in Muscat meant I was always going to visit a namesake – thankfully it served excellent Asian food. Given the roads were a snowy slush – it was also usefully just moments from our hotel! Tchaikovsky was our hotel restaurant and it met its slogan of being a symphony of Russian cuisine. Service was excellent everywhere and all food was impressively high quality.

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Sauna time

We “enjoyed” full blizzard conditions during our stay… Apparently it is unusual for the end of April (of course)! Saunas are very popular in the Baltics on account of winters being, er, Baltic. Putting real meaning to the ‘it’s baltic’ phrase! I would recommend if you feel the cold, ensuring that your hotel has a sauna. I do feel the cold.

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker 10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

We made the most of ours at Hotel Telegraaf. The jacuzzi was my particular favourite – sat in the bubbles watching the snow fall on the glass roof of the pool conservatory!

City bikes

A tried and tested formula from our stay in Cascais, it is the best way to get out of the city centre and see a wider variety of places at pace. The Sixt bikes are easy to hire, you just need to download the app. We took ourselves west from Tallinn towards the seaside town of Pirita – particularly enjoying the waterfront cycle. We found the Maarjamae soviet WWII memorial. Another eerie place which was largely deserted and in a state of disrepair. It was evident just how dominant that era had been, strikingly so.

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

We continued to Pirita to see the 1980 Olympic sailing centre – more concrete in weird shapes. The TV Teletorn tower that was constructed to beam back the sailing to Moscow loomed on the horizon. On the way back we swung through Kadriorg to see the palace – picture perfect baroque and a world away from the concrete-based morning!

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Day trip along the coast

We were very lucky that Sam’s colleague invited us on a day trip out to Haapsalu – a quaint seaside town west along the coast. Taking the scenic route to Haapsalu, we visited the Keila-Joa Loss waterfall, the Padise medieval monastery as well as stopping on the cliffs to enjoy the sea views.

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Haapsalu itself reminded us a little of Maine and Sweden, with wooden houses and quiet streets, as well as medieval cloisters. Exploring with locals is also a grand way of really getting a feel for the locale as well as the history of a place. Of course lunch was a success too – the Karme Kuulit was rammed with locals. The food was superb, and the fresh focaccia bread from the pizza oven was addictively good!

10 reasons to visit: Tallinn - Travel with Penelope & Parker

Thankfully BA (two words I didn’t expect to be putting together!) will be flying the route from London to Tallin from the summer because Estonia is going to be chair of the EU. So options for more civilised flights are just round the corner! 😂 Of course on our flight home the stags were mere shadows of their former selves. Even so, Mr P was sent to sit in amongst them in my seat and I took his up front. Driving him home from Gatwick was a small price to pay for a peaceful flight!

Tallinn was truly a treat of a weekend away. It has given us a real taste to explore more of Eastern Europe.

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16 Comments

  1. May 15, 2017 / 7:54 am

    There are so many beautiful cities in Eastern Europe and Talinn is certainly one of the ones I want to see. They are getting more popular too, so best to visit before it gets too touristy. You proved that the ocasion for a visit doesn’t need to be a stag due.

    • May 15, 2017 / 2:29 pm

      Haha, love that – the stags got there before the serious tourists but thankfully have been kept outside the old city! Where next is the question!

  2. May 15, 2017 / 11:44 pm

    Oh wow Anna you had me at number one – never mind the rest! I’m a sucker for sunsets and this one looks absolutely epic!

    • May 16, 2017 / 5:17 am

      I am normally a beach kinda sunset girl but this one was well worth not being on a beach for, the spire silhouettes made it stunning

    • May 18, 2017 / 5:10 am

      The best ones are the unexpected ones right?

    • May 21, 2017 / 5:42 pm

      It has left me wanting to explore of that bit of Europe – perfect flight length and fascinating cities!

  3. May 21, 2017 / 3:36 am

    Really did not know anything about Tallin before reading your terrific post. What a beautiful piece of Estonia. Street art, a charming old town and great food, all the things I like to find in a destination. Thanks for putting together all the highlights, you’ve made it so easier for anyone planning a visit.

    • May 21, 2017 / 5:42 pm

      It really is the full list of what a mini-break needs!

  4. May 21, 2017 / 3:17 pm

    I arrived in Tallinn after a long coach trip and regretfuly, I don’t feel I made the most of my time there due to tiredness – but the stand-out (if touristy) experience was dining at Olde Hansa, the famous medieval restaurant – now THAT was different!

    • May 21, 2017 / 5:43 pm

      We walked past it a few times – it looked pretty quirky, but we snuck off down side streets instead (I was worried we’d see the stags!)

  5. May 21, 2017 / 5:36 pm

    Tallinn is such a beautiful little city – almost like stepping into a fairytale and so walkable. I like the look of Haapsalu just down the road which would make for a nice outdoor contrast to the town. You sought out some lovely restaurants too.

    • May 21, 2017 / 5:43 pm

      We did so well on the food with very little research, I think the quality of food in the city must be high all round – as soon as you leave the tourist spots behind

    • May 26, 2017 / 10:13 am

      Excellent, thank you! It is definitely an under the radar gem!

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