Estonia is the perfect get-away travel destination, located in Northern Europe it is easily accessible and inexpensive to reach.
Known for its perfectly preserved medieval old town, the vibrant capital Tallinn is perfect for travellers who enjoy culturally enriching holidays.
Built in the 13th century by the German Teutonic Order, the buildings resemble iconic European gothic architecture and tourists have described the old town as like “stepping into a fairy tale”.
The old town is located in the heart of Tallinn, adjacent to the city’s main shopping centres and hotels. As you enter the Viru gates, you’re greeted with a vibrant row of restaurants and shops.
The main road leads to the heart of the Old Town, Raekoja Plats, otherwise known as the town hall; surrounded by weathered, yet timeless buildings.
During the early to mid-summer season, you can enjoy local businesses through their pop-up market stalls selling handmade jewellery, clothing, souvenirs, toys, street food, and beverages.The markets offer unique handmade items that would make a memorable present or a souvenir, sold for a great price. Most notably this includes, jewellery made from authentic Baltic amber, stylish hats, bags, carefully crafted magnets, and artwork.
When exploring you’ll notice the old town streets are filled with secret locations – at times it can feel like a maze. This only amplifies the excitement of wandering around.
Local tour guide Kelly suggests: “My three favourite locations include the Kohtuotsa viewing platform, St. Olaf church, and the Danish King’s garden.”
St. Olaf church is the tallest medieval building in Tallinn, and if you are looking for the ultimate view of the city, this is the place. For only €3 (£2.50), you can climb the 232 steps and feel like you have truly stepped back in time.
Tourists also love the Kohtuotsa viewing platform, as it is famous for the ‘The Times We Had’ stamp on the wall, this bittersweet phrase is bound to resonate with everyone differently.
“I recommend going to Kohuotsa in the evening, during the golden hour. It is less busy then, and the view becomes magical,” Kelly tells us.The Danish King’s garden blooms beautifully in the summer – it was named after the Danish reign that lasted over a century in Estonia, according to Visit Estonia. This is a perfect location to take a break from walking and enjoy a cup of coffee. When considering dining, the Old Town has a vast number of restaurants, cafes and other places to eat. Kai, an Estonian food product manager, advises “Dominique for those who enjoy fine dining, the menu includes Estonian style meat and fish dishes. I recommend the Lambchop with beet puree at €17 (£14.30). They also have a fancy collection of wine.”
“Controvento is a cosy medieval Italian-style restaurant, serving delicious dishes. For under 15 euros (£12.60), you can get spaghetti with clams or risotto with truffle salsa. Beef fillet steak with porcini mushrooms-cream sauce at €27 (£22.75) is a great option for grill lovers. During the summer, it is great to sit outside and enjoy the atmosphere.”
Vegan Restoran V was the first exclusively vegan restaurant to open in Estonia, and the unique dishes they serve include: spicy oven-baked seitan tacos for €10.90 (£9.18) and chickpea, sweet potato, and cauliflower coconut curry for €8.30 (£7.00).
The Creative City Telliskivi District
Telliskivi is known as the creative hub of the city, just a fifteen-minute ride on the Number 3 tram away from the centre, it is the cultural hotspot of the city. Before, it was a bleak industrial area. However, in the last ten years, modern renovations have made it popular amongst young people and artists.Decorated with picturesque street art and innovative sculptors that cleverly contrast with the grey factory architecture, this unique aesthetic makes for great photographs.
During the summer season there are constant events in the area, such as festivals, outdoor exhibitions/galleries, flea markets, and film events. The calendar event can be found on the Telliskivi website.Fotografiska is a notable gallery that holds around ten exhibitions a year, featuring foreign and native artists. The exhibitions vary from purely artistic to raising awareness about social, political, or environmental issues.
Past showcases include: Sea of Artifacts by Mandy Baker, which explored the eerie consequences of the overuse of plastic, and Bryan Adams’ Exposed – showing raw portraits of the biggest names in the Hollywood industry. Typically, there are multiple exhibitions held at once, on the Fotografiska website you can view the events. Regular tickets are €15 (£12.64), for students €12 (£10.11), while children under 12 can attend for free.
If you have a sweet tooth or a love of coffee, Fotografiska cafe prides itself in sustainable and organic desserts. Pastries, cakes, and pies are freshly baked in the mornings, and there is a different selection daily. You can also indulge in freshly squeezed smoothies and sourdough sandwiches.
Thrifting, or shopping second-hand, has become the new trend in fashion consumption. Telliskivi’s clothing markets and the Humana vintage shops are the best places to purchase some of the most sought-after vintage pieces.
Market sellers ethically source clothing and are reasonable when it comes to the price, there you can find an outfit for every occasion from contemporary brands like Zara, Adidas, or H&M for half price.
The second-hand chain Humana is the style central, there you can find carefully chosen timeless pieces that are of excellent quality, yet still affordable.
The clothing is unique and sourced from around the globe and the majority of the stock is authentically vintage. Welcoming staff and the easy browsing system (the clothing and accessories are sorted by size and colour) makes the thrifting experience enjoyable and comfortable.
What makes Humana even better is, all items are further discounted at the end of the month. So, if you are looking for a new outfit, this is the place to go! You will also be helping a wonderful charity that tackles “humanitarian, social and environmental challenges”.
Hungry? Whether you are a vegan, a meat-eater, or a lover of world foods, there is something for everyone in Telliskivi.
Kai, an Estonian food product manager, recommends “F-hoone, which serves Asian-inspired food and grill with an Estonian twist. For under 10 euros (£8.42), you can try Nasi Goreng – Indonesian fried rice; duck fillet with millet, chanterelles, and Poltsmaa blackcurrant wine sauce or the vegan option, Vegan Furger.”
“Kaja Pizza Köök is a popular eating place for pizza. All of their ingredients are organic, and you can even book a workshop to make your own. All their pizzas are under 10 euros. Lastly, La Tabla, a colourful restaurant serving South American cuisine, nice dishes include XXL wrap and the notorious caesar salad both for €7 (£5.90),” she continues.
Tallinn’s city centre has three major shopping malls – Viru Keskus, Solaris, and Nautika that have a variety of shops and restaurants.Sustainable fashion is an important part of Estonian design, and the Estonian Design House, located in Solaris, showcases the country’s talent, anything from fashion, textiles, interior design, jewellery, and furniture.
Kirke Tatar, the creative director, told us that “At the beginning (in 2010) we were a small showroom, and we presented around ten to twenty designers. Estonian Design House was at its baby stage, but then designers began to quit their jobs and for many, it was turned into a lifestyle. Now, we represent more than 100 designers of all backgrounds.”
The Estonian Design House is open seven days a week. The team is educated on every product and can suggest the right item for you.
Stella Soomlais is one of the creators showcased at the Estonian Design House, she is an accessories designer specialising in leather.
“I began my company in 2011, and slowly from custom-made orders, I went to ready-made items. All the bags are made in our studio in Telliskivi, Tallinn. We source our leather sustainably from European countries such as Sweden, Italy and Spain,” Stella told us.
If you are in the search of a stylish durable bag that will last you for years, head to the Estonian Design House or Stella Soomlais’ studio in Telliskivi. The staff will ensure to provide the best advice to find the perfect bag or an accessories piece for you.
Stella explains that to tackle the problem of fast fashion they aim to “ensure that the customer is comfortable with their choice.” The company also offers the ‘rent a bag’ service, which allows the consumer to rent three different styles of bag for three days, one week, or two weeks.The center of Tallin also holds Nurri Cat Café, the cutest location in the city, home to around ten furry cats and kittens.
The friendly cats are all rescued from animal shelters, and will inevitably lighten up anyone’s day. Hugely popular with tourists, as well as locals, for €5 (£4.21) you can play and enjoy the company of these fluffy creatures. For students/pensioners entrance costs €2.50 (£2.11) and children under 19 go in for free.
“I love the atmosphere in this café, it is really fun to play with all the cats. The staff are very friendly and always make sure everyone is comfortable. The drinks are refreshing, and the hot drinks have cool cat designs sprinkled on them.”, shares Kelly, the local tour guide.
Nurri Cat Café has the highest standards of hygiene – the cats are well-groomed, and the interior is cleaned regularly.
To further support the rehabilitation of these adorable cats, you can purchase a cat-themed gift for an affordable price. Gifts vary from magnets, mugs, postcards, stationery, and toys.
Other dining does not have to be expensive in the city center, for an affordable meal Kelly suggests Lido, which is located in Solaris, it is a cosy buffet-themed restaurant offering homely Estonian food with big portions.
“My go-to meal is the homemade beef style cutlet with garlic sauce and mashed potatoes with rye bread, costing around €6 (£5), with an Estonian lemonade Limpa. It is great because you can personally customise the meal,” explains Kelly.
Reval café is a comfortable and peaceful place that serves delicious food, such as Eastern European style lamb meat dumplings, spicy vegetable curry with chickpeas, and brioche beef burgers.
For desserts, the rooftop Kohvik Komeet has exclusive cakes and a fine selection of teas and coffees. Kelly’s favourites include: “Cappuccino cake with ‘Vana Tallinn’ (Estonian liquor) for €4.90 (£4.13), a light cottage cheese and blueberry cupcake, and the organic ‘Komeet’ locally grown herbal tea”.
The ethereal Kadriorg park is located 20 minutes away from central Tallinn, it can be reached on the taxi app Bolt for around €4 (£3.37) or on tram Number 3.
The breath-taking greenery and the blossoming summer flowers create a tranquil scenery to remind visitors to relax and enjoy their trip to the fullest.Kadriorg’s natural attractions include a swan lake and the magical Japanese garden, with a koi fishpond. The Japanese garden is decorated with willow and blossom trees.
If you are lucky, you may even spot the red European squirrel, however, you shouldn’t feed them human food.Kadriorg is also home to Kumu (contemporary), Mikkel (international art), and the Kadriorg (early Estonian and Russian art) museums, which are all part of the official Estonian Art Museum. The entrance fee is €10 (£8.42).
Kumu is great for tourists who enjoy contemporary art, this summer the Up All Night: Looking Closely at Rave Culture exhibition curated by Kati Ilves is being held until August 2021. Permanent exhibitions include Estonian Art of the Soviet Era (1940-1991), Landscapes of Identity: Estonian Art (1700-1945) and The Future is in One Hour: Estonian Art in the 1990s.
Those who enjoy traditionally historic art must visit the Kadriorg, built by “Tsar Peter the Great of Russia in 1718”. The Kadriorg Museum holds “two or three temporary exhibitions annually” their permanent exhibitions include Estonian, Russian and Western art from the 16th-20th century. The From Memling to Rubens: The Golden Age of Flanders showcase is being held until October 2021.
After exploring Kadriorg, you can take the nature’s catwalk that leads to the Pirita seaside, where you can enjoy the Baltic sea’s refreshing air and clear your mind by listening to the soft waves.
Standing at the Pirita seaside, The Russalka Memorial, (mermaid in Russian), is an iconic statue “built-in 1902 by Amandus Adamson in memorial to those who lost their lives on the Russian navy vessel called Russalka,” according to Visit Estonia.
The perfect time to take a stroll on the beach is during the twilight hour, as the sunsets are picturesque – reminiscent of a painting. There’s a swimming spot a thirty-minute walk from the Russalaka monument, if the walk sounds too long, you can rent a Bolt scooter for 10 cents (8p) per minute, or take the Number 8 bus.There are many ice cream booths scattered along the Pirita road, Kelly suggests trying the Sipsik jäätis (ice cream) to cool down on a hot day.
If you feel hungry for a big meal, Kai recommends “Tuljak, which during the summer has outdoor seating. Great dishes include Baltic herring salad, stroganoff, tiger prawns, and a vegetarian option of roasted goat cheese, all priced around €15 to €19 (£12.60 to £16).
“Riviera, the Palais Brasserie is brilliant for seafood, my favourites include grilled tiger prawns with spicy ratatouille for €16 (£13.48) and Grilled Canadian lobster for €24 (£20.22).”
Ultimately, Tallinn is a great place for a city break. There are activities that cater to everyone’s interests for an affordable price.
Loodan teid varsti näha! (Hope to see you soon!)
With safety measures imposed, Estonia is keen to welcome tourists back this summer. Individuals that are vaccinated (against COVID-19) are not required to isolate, although proof of this must be shown when entering the country. Additionally, when present in enclosed spaces (such as supermarkets, shopping malls, public transport, and entertainment venues), it is compulsory to wear a mask and follow the 2+2 system, which allows “up to two people to move around together, but they must keep at least two metres away from other people” as advised by Visit Estonia (click the link to see more information about staying safe from COVID-19).
Featured image by Uno Raamat via Unsplash