The first word that comes to my mind when thinking about our trip to Tallinn, Estonia is eye opening. It’s modern and cool yet quaint and old. Converted warehouse apartments are set next to still used, old soviet buildings. An underrated and under-spoken about city that is worth visiting, not only for the cheap beer!
We visited Tallinn from Helsinki, Finland so a large chunk of this blog provides information about the ferry trip.
WHAT’S COOL TO KNOW?
Whilst Tallinn is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also dubbed as the Silicon Valley of Europe having the highest number of start ups per person in Europe, including Skype. Tallinn is home to the NATO Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence and is to house the headquarters of the European Union’s IT agency.
It is easy to walk around the Old Town of Tallinn and incorporate all the main attractions. The cute cobbled streets make it a pleasure to walk and it is signposted fairly well if you know what you’re looking for!
Taking the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn is super easy and makes a fun and interesting day trip. Firstly, make sure to book tickets online where you have a choice of the Tallink Silja or Viking lines. We went with Viking as they were much cheaper however I believe you get what you pay for – Tallink Silja have nicer ships with more amenities plus they depart more often.
For Viking, after filling in your details online, just print off your tickets and make sure you have them (plus your passport) with you when arriving at the ferry terminal.
I would recommend getting to the Helsinki ferry terminal about 35-45 minutes beforehand as you have to check in, have your passport details checked and then scan your ticket through to get onto the boat. It’s not a troublesome procedure but it does take a little time, plus boarding closes 20 minutes before departure time. The ferry ride takes 2-2 ½ hours which isn’t super quick but when you consider the distance it’s covering it is reasonable.
Once on board there are two main levels; one mainly for food in an open food court style with a children’s play area and the other for entertainment, bars and light food.
The word “entertainment” should be taken with a pinch of salt in this context. I don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone but let’s just say the music and dancing was tackier and worse than any cruise ship I have ever been on. It was however, entertaining. There is also free bingo and sing-a-long in Finnish if you fancy trying that out! By the time you arrive in Tallinn, most people are quite merry!
Viking provide a free bus that takes you into the city so make use of this – unless you want to walk off some of the alcohol or get some fresh air after all the singing and dancing.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
We found this fantastic walking tour guide on Smithsonian.com and pretty much followed it throughout, the only difference being we started at Viru Gate as the bus dropped us off nearer there.
This walk takes in all the major hot spots which are not to be missed: Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, St Mary’s Cathedral (also known as Dome Church), St Olaf’s Church, Kiek in de Kök (not what it sounds like!), Fat Margaret Tower (also not what it sounds like!) and Toompea Castle.
Two places which are a must are Patkuli Viewpoint and Kohtuotsa Viewpoint. They both provide vast, grand views of the city, plus they are free! They are easily accessible on the walk and provide great photo opportunities to get a nice perspective of the city.
FOOD & DRINK
Seeing as we were only in Tallinn for the day we didn’t get a chance to try many different foods but we found a warehouse style restaurant come café come bar just outside of town called F-Hoone. This place has a really cool vibe to it with vibrant styling mixed with soviet era additions. The fresh, modern food was delicious (we tried quite a few different dishes) and super cheap, which was a relief after being in Scandinavia for so long! It is a little walk out of town but it’s worth it – make the effort and enjoy something a little different.
Estonia is renowned for its cheep bear but in recent years their micro brewery industry has boomed. Whilst we didn’t have time to check any out, take a look at this blog for the top five craft beer pubs in Tallin. Raise a glass and say Terviseks!
Estonian is the official language of Estonia and is similar to Finnish.Most of the younger generation speak English but don’t expect that the grandmas selling trinkets in the street will – it’s one of the things I loved about Estonia that has kept it’s historic feel.
Estonia uses the Euro so no need to change any money before arriving. Most places also take Visa and MasterCard.
Tallinn has typical Northern European climate being warm in the summer and cold in winter. Make sure to bring the appropriate clothing, especially in winter as it often hits below zero!