9 Reasons You'll Want to Add Tallinn to Your Travel Bucket List, Now!

I recently returned from a long weekend in Estonia’s capital city, Tallinn.  With a forecast of snow and the promise of Christmas markets in one of the most well-preserved and complete examples of a medieval trading city in Europe, I had high hopes.  And let me tell you, Tallinn did not disappoint!  Here I detail the reasons for that and for why you might just want to pencil in this city for a visit very, very soon.

1.     The Airport. When was the last time you arrived to your destination in wild anticipation only to be kept waiting at security and baggage before finding out the transfer to the city will take another hour on top? Well, not Tallinn. A rapid 30 minutes after touching down, my 15-minute taxi from the airport had pulled up at my hotel right in the centre of the city. Transit can be stressful and confusing, but not here.  The efficiency of the arrival process is enough to get any break off to the right start!  But don’t take my word for it – in 2015 Airports Council International (ACI) awarded the airport silver in its category. It’s easy to see why.

2.     The walking. Tallinn is the ideal city for walking – whether you spend a day meandering through the cobbled streets of the Old Town or head to the commercial district for a spot of shopping or even further afield, everything feels doable by foot. Not only does this make it cost and time efficient, but you’ll also pass and spot things that you would have never seen from a car window! For the perfect introduction to the city, join a walking tour with Traveller Tours where you’ll learn more in an hour than a guidebook could ever tell you. 

3.     The culture. Abundant in museums and attractions, Tallinn offers something for everyone, of all interests and backgrounds.  From the history of the Town Hall and the Great Guild Hall to the craft of the Estonian Handicraft House and the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design. And if all that wasn’t enough, pop into the working Town Hall Pharmacy, open since 1422, where a room at the back displays medicinal paraphernalia from days of old!  Or, why not get nautical and climb aboard a submarine and an icebreaker ship at the Seaplane Harbour?  Grab a Tallinn Card and you’ll be able to enter all of these and many more for free as well as free city public transport and discount at a variety of restaurants and bars.  What’s not to like?!

The Seaplane Harbour under its impressive concrete shell roof

The Seaplane Harbour under its impressive concrete shell roof

4.     The food. Whatever your budget and whatever your taste you’ll find something to match them in Tallinn. For a laid-back lunchtime bite at very reasonable prices, head on down to F-Hoone and take a black bread burger (Furger) and dust it off with the Pistachio-cream Cheese Cake or one of the many other cakes out on display.  Then for dinner, book a table over at Leib Resto & Aed – founded on the principal ethos of serving seasonal locally sourced produce, the whole experience truly is a treat for the senses with their beautifully presented and ultimately very tasty dishes. Oh, and don’t leave without trying the dried egg yolk and yoghurt sorbet desert (yes, you did read that right) – you will not be disappointed!  And if you happen to find yourself in the Old Town one evening with a rumbling stomach, do yourself a favour and duck into the beautifully appointed Mekk with their take on modern Estonian cuisine. With such an alluring menu, though, just be prepared to take a while making a decision. Still hungry? OK, OK! Situated in a stunning old building in the Old Town is Rataskaevu. On top of a popular traditional Estonian menu, you can also expect service of the highest and friendliest of standards - cue knowledgable waiting staff who are happy to share their tips for Tallinn as well as surprise personalised handwritten notes under coffee mugs and on leaving. It makes for a truly memorable experience!  Do book ahead, though, tables go fast!

Leib Resto & Aed

Leib Resto & Aed

F-Hoone, arguably the cosiest eatery in town!

F-Hoone, arguably the cosiest eatery in town!

5.     The views. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right, Tallinn is one place you’ll want to pack your camera for.  Adorned in spires, winding magical streets and pastel shaded buildings; there is something at every street corner to treat your sight. And with a number of viewing platforms, you’ll be spoilt for chances to get that perfect holiday snap!

6.     The districts. Tallinn is more than just its Old Town area; indeed, a couple of kilometres northeast of the city centre, you’ll be greeted by a sandy beach and a smothering of uniformly arranged pine trees in Pirita. Nature at its very best! An even shorter walk from the centre is the up and coming neighbourhood of Kalamaja, formerly populated by fishermen during the Middle Ages (Kalamaja translates to ‘fish house’). Here, colourful wooden houses straddle the quaint streets in what is becoming an increasingly desirable area for locals to move to. And perhaps the highlight of this area is Telliskivi Creative City. Born out of 11 former industrial buildings and factories, this creative hub is now home to some of Tallinn’s finest eateries, shops, businesses and events. Founder and CEO, Jaan Juss, explained how important it was to house businesses that would benefit each other and would also serve and engage with the local community. The complete transformation of this area and the promotion of collaboration and interaction make this an example that cities around the world could all learn from. For more information and to see the latest event listings, see the Telliskivi website.

My favourite coffee stop in Tallinn (Telliskivi) - aboard an old Soviet train carriage!

My favourite coffee stop in Tallinn (Telliskivi) - aboard an old Soviet train carriage!

Lily (Joli House Blog) getting a much needed coffee to ward off the nippy temperatures.

Lily (Joli House Blog) getting a much needed coffee to ward off the nippy temperatures.

7.     The port. For those with more time to spare, and a healthy dose of wanderlust in their bellies, Tallinn is ideally situated to visit nearby countries too. A short hop across the Baltic Sea and you’ll be in Helsinki in a few hours. Or an overnight cruise will weave you through the archipelagoes to the port in Stockholm. Just make sure you’ve got a good spot on deck as you arrive back in Tallinn to catch the Old Town skyline coming into view.

8.     The atmosphere. Standing amongst the Christmas markets in the Old Town Square with a dusting of the snow on the cobbles and a steaming coffee in hand was a special feeling. Some places just have that indescribable charm that hits you and stays under your skin for a very long while. This was one of those places.

9.     The journey home.  Oh no!  The end of a visit to Tallinn! But fear not – as mentioned earlier, it’s only a 15-minute taxi from the centre to the airport. And again, compared to many other large capital city airports, the check in process was hassle free, quick and easy. Have some time to kill whilst waiting in departures? Opt for Tallinn Airport’s very own library where you can discover a new book and reflect on your time in this unique, welcoming and magical city.

Still seeking further inspiration for your visit to Tallinn?  Drop by the Visit Tallinn site for a comprehensive collection of resources, travel advice and ideas.  It’s got it all!

Now, time to get planning that trip…

The Old Town Square complete with giant tree and Christmas market!

The Old Town Square complete with giant tree and Christmas market!