*I spent 2 days in Tallinn in July 2013 and the city truly caught me by surprise! In this blog post, I am going to give you an overview of the city, and provide travel tips and recommendations for things like culture, attractions, food, nightlife and more. Everything you read is based off my own experiences.
I made a last-minute decision to go to Estonia when I was in Helsinki, Finland. It was only $50 (round trip) and a 2 hour ferry across the Baltic Sea to get to Estonia’s capital city — not a bad deal to visit one of the most unique and overlooked cities in Europe!
Tallinn is one of the oldest cities in Northern Europe. It is most notable for its historic Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) which is widely considered as the most authentic and untouched medieval Old Towns in the world. It is absolutely amazing.
Dating back to the 11th Century, this medieval town is truly an amazing site with an enchanting atmosphere, incredible architecture, and plenty of cafes/restaurants. Spend an afternoon exploring this area and you will quickly realize why everyone describes Old Town as mystic and mesmerizing. Just walking around the cobblestone streets and staring at the amazing buildings took me back hundreds and hundreds of years.
Tallinn, in general, is a charming place with incredible architecture, cute cafes and nice people. It’s also one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been to, and a place that I could see myself living for a few months!
Alright, let’s dive into some quick facts:
– Currency: Euro (EUR)
– Language: Estonian
– Population: 500,000 people
– Tallinn occupies an area of 159.2 kilometers (61.5 sq. miles)
– The Medieval Old Town is considered the best and most preserved in the world
– The first structure (fortress) was built on Toompea Hill in 1050, and laid down the foundations for the city
– The first traces of human settlement in Tallinn date back 5,000 years ago
– From 1549 to 1625, St. Olav’s Church was the tallest building in the world (159 meters high)
– Skype, the popular internet VOIP server, was developed in Estonia. Today, Tallinn is home to over 50% of the company’
– Tallinn is listed as one of the top 10 digital cities in the world
– 30% of Estonia’s population lives in Tallinn
– The city was recognized as Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2011
Culture & People
One awesome thing to note about Tallinn is the affordable prices everywhere! I was coming from a trip around Scandinavia (where it’s really expensive), so it was a nice break and I could fully enjoy everything this city had to offer.
It’s so cheap that I many Finnish people to take the 2-hour boat from Helsinki to Tallinn just to stock up on goodies, and they go back home!
I met one Finnish couple who bought $300 worth of booze in Tallinn and brought it back to Helsinki. They were preparing for their wedding and they told me that they saved about $500 by doing so, because booze is so expensive in Finland! Smart, eh?
I didn’t get much time to spend with the locals in Tallinn, but I got really good vibes everywhere that I went. The people that I observed seemed to be very nice and glad to have tourists come to their country. One night, I walked into a shisha bar to relax and enjoy some hookah. This local guy, who appeared to me by age, joined us at our table and he was so friendly. Despite not speaking much English, we managed to communicate and get along for well over an hour. He gave me a really good impression on the locals in Estonia.
It pays to just have an open mind and be receptive to their culture.
I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and make some new local friends! Click this link to learn the Top 10 Estonian Words to keep in your back pocket 😉
What to Do?
As mentioned before, the #1 tourist attraction is the Medieval Old Town. You can’t miss it because it is directly in the center of town.
Town Hall Square is another popular spot to hang out and take in Estonian culture. It is over 7 centuries old but it’s still standing strong. It remains the social area of Tallinn, where many activities/gatherings/events occur on a daily basis.
St Olav’s Church has an excellent viewing point from the top. Additionally, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral– the biggest orthodox church in Estonia- has incredible architecture with it’s golden onion roof and fancy decorated interior.
Lastly, take some time to enjoy the beautiful cafes located all around Old Town. Especially if you are there in the summertime, the atmosphere is so enchanting that you can stay for hours upon hours. Just take your time, relax, and escape reality in the beautiful city of Tallinn.
For a more complete list, check out my post on 10 Things to do in Tallinn.
Estonian Food was very interesting, to say the least.
The cuisine is largely based off meat (usually pork), soups, potatoes and lots of fish. I learned that the first course of an Estonian meal is usually based off cold dishes. Normally, this consists of meat and sausages with potato salad or cold vegetables. Then, it’s common to order some kind of soup and a fish/meat meal- usually fish or pork.
Traditional Estonian Dishes are sort of funky and nothing that I am used to eating. So, unless you are an adventurous eater, you might have some trouble finding your preferred foods. That being said, I recommend you to step out of your comfort zone and try everything!
If you want to know more of the crazy foods that Tallinn has to offer, read my post on 4 Wacky Estonian Foods to Try.
Believe it or not, there is a super fun nightlife in Tallinn.
For it’s small town size (less than 400,000 people), this city has a very high number of bars and nightclubs.
Whether you are in the mood to casually sip on a beer, lounge on a patio, or dance all night to techno music- you can find it all around town! Due to its small size, you will have no difficulties spotting the hottest places in town, because you can just follow the crowd. If you ever get lost trying to find a place, then just ask a local Estonian and they will be glad to help you (trust me, they are so friendly!)
Estonian’s take pride in their love for beer and wine, so don’t be afraid to put up a cheers and make some new friends!
*Thanks for reading! Have you been to Estonia before? Comment Below!